“Watching & Waiting” Meditations: 4. Don’t be misled or distracted
Judg 9:36 “You mistake the shadows of the mountains for men.”
Gaal, a revolutionary is at the city gate watching for ‘enemy’ attack. Zebul, the city governor, is against him because he still supports Gaal’s enemy, and when Gaal sees the attack coming over the horizon, the governor rubbishes it and tries to distract him by wrong ideas. Whether it is impending enemy attack or impending coming of the Lord, the enemy will seek to confuse us, distract us, throw us off course.
The Bible is full of deceptions. It starts of course with Satan coming to Eve to confuse her, change her thinking about what God had said (see Gen 3). Then there are the Gibeonites (see Josh 9), locals who pretended they were foreigners, to save themselves from destruction by Israel. Then there are little deceptions, called lies, like that of Elisha’s servant (see 2 Kings 5) or Ananias and Sapphira (see Acts 5) or the big distractions and attempts at deception that came through Satan to Jesus in the wilderness (see Mt 4). Paul warned the Ephesian elders about those who would come to ‘distort the truth’ (Acts 20:30). Jesus warned about coming false messiahs and false prophets (Mt 24:24). The battle is so often a battle of the mind – or of the spirit.
But for our thoughts in this present context, the big question is will we put aside all human thinking and focus ourselves on God’s thinking. Millennia ago, the Lord warned through Isaiah, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord.” (Isa 55:8). Again the apostle Paul spoke of the distinction between human thinking and spiritual thinking when he wrote, “This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words.” (1 Cor 2:13) For some of us, this sort of language may seem another world, and if that is so, then indeed we have things to learn through these meditations. For others they will come as dew that falls on the spirit and nourishes and refreshes us.
As we have pondered these things so far, we have observed that seeking God’s rule, God’s will, is of foremost importance, and that if we are to discern His will for the coming days and our part in it, we will need to learn to ‘get up on the ramparts to watch’.
But I believe these things will come in stages. If you are like me you’ll go through various stages in this enterprise. The first stage is to catch sight of the enterprise – I could become a visionary of God’s, one who sits on the ramparts to watch and wait. Awareness of the possibility. The second stage is to put it into operation, which in itself may be a struggle. For some of us, especially those with young families or a spouse, to be able to take time out somewhere in a place of solitude will, at first sight at least, appear a near impossibility and so this stage for you becomes a battle ground in prayer to even achieve this possibility.
But I suspect that sometimes the Lord will take us along a path we never saw coming. I have a picture of a young woman with a young child and instead of cutting herself off from that child, she explains to her what she is wanting to do, and the child snuggles down beside her, content to just be in her company, while she quietens herself before the Lord, and as she does the peace of the Lord descends on the two of them. Perhaps you?
So if the second stage is attempting to do it, the third stage is battling the distractions that come. So often people say to me, “Well when I sit down to pray, my mind is full of other things, things I need to do in the day. Well, two things: if they are things of your life, just offer them one by one to the Lord, committing each thing to Him and asking for His blessing on it. Second, realize you are embarking on a course of action that may be foreign to you and it is going to take time. Part of this stage may be to learn to fill your mind with God thoughts and yesterday I wrote of how I go about that; I read a passage of the Bible, sometimes out loud, sometimes silently. I read a paragraph or maybe a short chapter of some devotional book. I listen to a reflection online. These are all ways to take us out of the daily realm of hustle and bustle and slow our hearts, minds, and spirits down.
The fourth stage, and this may surprise you, is not to looking for great revelation. God may give you that but initially don’t go seeking it, there is something more important to seek in your watching and waiting tower – His presence. This morning as I just sat there and sought to focus in the stillness on Him, I just sensed Him saying, ‘come and sit with me and look’. I ‘saw’ a bench on a hillside where we sat together. What now Lord? Nothing, just sit here and look. Look at what? Whatever you see. I didn’t see anything particularly significant. I just sat with Him. I stirred. No, stay still, keep watching. So I did until I sensed it was time to stop and turn to His word, but then I became aware of something else. The most important thing of this experience was the awareness that I was sitting next to HIM. Nothing else mattered, and as I stepped out of it, I suddenly became aware I was different. His peace permeated me. Not the peace of the experience but of HIM and as I started to read His word out loud, it came with a new sense, a new reality, this was God speaking, it really was HIM. Our watching and waiting is first and foremost to know Him, to experience His presence. I needed that reminder again. The revelation can follow, but He has saved us to be with Him. Just as in that little picture I shared earlier, the child delighting in just snuggling up to her mother, so He encourages us to snuggle up to Him. The rest will follow.