7. Loved

Studies in Isaiah 54: 7. Loved

Isa 54: 10  “Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,” says the Lord, who has compassion on you.

 Grace Prevailing over Justice: In the previous study we saw how the Lord was using the analogy of Noah and the Flood to explain His faithfulness, we should say, in respect of Israel. Even as Noah had moved His heart and brought a promise of grace prevailing over justice, so that same grace would prevail today so that, although He had indeed cast them away for a moment because of their disobedience, now He would come to them and restore that previous relationship. We did go into verse 10 as we mentioned the covenant of peace, but there is something even more wonderful there that we must take hold of.

In a Shaken World: The first phrase of this present verse may be skimmed over by many (me included often) but it is highly significant: “Though the mountains be shaken and the hills removed.” In other words it doesn’t matter how disastrous the world seems, God’s love is going to be there. Now don’t take this casually because very often (along with Chicken Licken) we feel the sky is falling down as things around us seem to deteriorate. At the time I write, the political landscapes of the UK and USA have been transformed and in the UK in particular (although some in the USA say they feel the same) chaos seems to ensue. For many this has created a world-weariness, almost a mental and emotional exhaustion that is only helped by turning off and ignoring the news.

But it is more than just than the political landscape. Older generations feel lost in a world that has been utterly transformed in their lifetime. The world has been shaken for them by technology. Younger generations complain that because of the self-centred carelessness of older generations they have been put into a situation where financially they are disadvantaged; their world has been shaken.  But this ‘shaking’ can be much more personal; when illness strikes or downsizing comes to your workplace and the job you have held for thirty years is suddenly gone, it comes like an earth-shattering loss. In many ways it feels like the earth is being shaken and things we have taken for granted for so long (the hills) are removed from our lives, and it makes us feel very vulnerable.

Need of Security: It is at such times that we desperately feel we need security. When the ‘ground is shaking’ and when ‘the hills are being removed’ we suddenly start thinking about these things. While everything was going along fine, we just took life for granted.  There was food on the table, the sun shone and day followed day without a worry or care in sight. And then the ground shook. We felt it but it would pass quickly. But then it continued shaking and then ‘the hills were removed’ and suddenly everything was different. It happens all the time in the Fallen World, especially this modern world where change is the name of the game every day it seems. It can be highly disconcerting but such shaking can wake us up to the realities of our life – we have taken so much for granted, we had become complacent with our relationship with the Lord, almost superficial if we are honest. Then comes the shaking – usually a loss, of a job, of health or of a loved one – and we start praying, we start crying out, “Are you there?” Of course He is but we had become things-focused instead of God-focused and so lost that sense.

The Word Comes: Then comes the word of the Lord: my unfailing love for you will not be shaken.” The psalmist says the same thing: “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea.” (Psa 46:1,2) He doesn’t mention the word ‘love’ there but that is what it is all about and why he does not need to fear. The earth may be shaken but God’s love will not be shaken. David knew this same love: “save me because of your unfailing love.” (Psa 6:4) Whatever else might change, God’s love would not. All other resources might run out, but God’s love will never fail, will never be exhausted. Jeremiah was prophesying against the same thing when he declared, “My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.” (Jer 2:13) Not only had the people turned away from God who was an everlasting source of life and love, but they had tried to manufacture their own forms of provision and security and those always failed! No, God’s love is unfailing, that is why He is so often referred to as ‘faithful’ because He is unchanging.

Beware Appearances: I often teach on the fact that Jesus is seated at the Father’s right hand ruling in the midst of his enemies, and will continue to reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet, and it is at such times that I sense that readers or listeners have the same query as Gideon had that we considered in the previous study. It is so common we need to repeat it here: if God is around, why are all these things happening? In another context recently I wrote the following:

Point One: we live in a Fallen World where, because of sin, things go wrong and people say and do nasty things because they have free will.

Point Two: God does not override our free will and so permits the world to proceed as it does with things going wrong and people acting badly BUT He does expect us, His children, to act as His representatives and to be salt and light in it.

Point Three: He a) expects us to change the circumstances and b) be changed by the circumstances. We are to be one of His means of bringing change in this world while being changed into Jesus’ likeness as we do it.

That is the ‘big picture’ that we need to remember. Jesus IS ruling but he doesn’t do it with a heavy hand; he uses us (yes, he does sometimes move sovereignly without us as well) and sometimes waits for us to catch on to that, but the Father’s love IS always there, it is unfailing and it does not change because we are slow to understand or slow to act. It is still there despite whatever we do. “God is love” (1 Jn 4:8,16) the apostle John declared. Hold that truth firmly, never let it go, despite the appearances of what is going on around you. He IS there for us at all times, every day. Hold that, rejoice in it and be at peace in whatever is going on.

9. Human Glory

Meditations on Isaiah 40: No.9.  Human Glory

Isa 40:6   A voice says, “Cry out.”  And I said, “What shall I cry?” “All people are like grass, and all their faithfulness is like the flowers of the field.

The significance of the passing of time in Scripture is fascinating.  For instance, there are periods of waiting, waiting for seeds to grow, waiting for the right time, waiting for time to pass. Sometimes when we are waiting we think it is the end. Israel must have felt that when they went into the Exile.  Israel might have wondered about it in Jesus day when there has been silence from heaven for over four hundred years. The disciples thought it when Jesus body lay in the tomb until the third day.

One of the things about time passing is that it is so easy to forget what God has said when His word comes, or even to be led into doubt that we have heard aright. That must have been the case when Sarai urged Abram to take the servant girl, Hagar, to use here to continue the family line (Gen 16:1-4). Time passing challenges our faithfulness.

Now Israel are in a ‘desert state’ or ‘wilderness state’ as the word of the Lord comes to comfort them. No doubt time has passed but now the Lord has said He is coming’ it seems their period of waiting is coming to an end, but for God to be rightly received there needs to be a right perspective, a right way of thinking about Him, and that right thinking always has to start with a recognition of what we are. In comparison to the Lord we small and insignificant and in the verses to follow in this chapter we are going to be reminded of something of the Lord’s greatness, but before we do that we have to see our smallness, and our frailty. Humility requires right understanding.

That is where I got to as I approached these verses but then I realised something. There is a difference between verses 6 and 7. If verse 7 was absent, we would think that verse 6 is really good; it is only when the balance or counterpart of verse 7 comes that we find our aspirations dashed. So think again. The truth is that there are two sides to revelation about mankind and the way God thinks about us, and it is important to consider them both and so we will take verse 6 here and verse 7 in the next study.

The prophetic word rolls out: A voice says, “Cry out.”  And I said, “What shall I cry?” (v.6a) Isaiah hears the word, the instruction to call out to his people and his instinctive reply is to ask what he is to call. It could be anything. It could be about their sinfulness, it could be about God’s greatness, it could be about judgment, it could be about blessing, it could be about another nation or people, but instead it is a general declaration about mankind: All people are like grass, and all their faithfulness is like the flowers of the field.” (v.6b)

Right, stop right there. Think about this description as it stands. We are like grass. Grass? Grass covers a lot of this earth.  God must like grass. Grass is useful for feeding cattle and when it turns into straw it has other uses. There are also many sorts of grass, and some of them are purely ornamental (we have at least five different sorts of ornamental grasses in our garden apart from the grass on the lawn.) Grass is quite a good picture.

But then he speaks about “the flowers of the field”. I don’t know if you have ever observed a ‘meadow’   Listen to Wikipedia’s definition of a meadow: “A meadow is a field habitat vegetated by grass and other non-woody plants. Meadows are of ecological importance because they are open, sunny areas that attract and support flora and fauna that could not thrive in other conditions.” Those ‘other non-woody plants’ are either flowers or other plants we often refer to as weeds. There is a big thing in the UK about growing ‘meadows’ specifically because of the wild flowers that grow in a meadow. There is something quite special about the wild flowers that grow in the midst of grass.

Now, there is a key word in the midst of picture language, ‘faithfulness’ and we said above that the passing of time challenges our faithfulness. Some versions have the word ‘beauty’ instead but incorporate a note about ‘constancy’ or ‘faithfulness’.  The versions that lack ‘faithfulness’ have just half the picture, I believe, because it is not only about frailty, it is about faithfulness and when we go on into verse 7, frailty shown in failing faithfulness. We will consider some more about that aspect in the next study, but for the moment consider our faithfulness as a flower that stands out in the midst of a field of grass. It is beautiful in the eye of the Lord.

Elsewhere in Scripture we find, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them? You have made them a little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honour” (Psa 8:4,5) and the writer to the Hebrews takes that quote and slightly extends it: “What is mankind that you are mindful of them, a son of man that you care for him? You made them a little] lower than the angels; you crowned them with glory and honour and put everything under their feet.” In putting everything under them, God left nothing that is not subject to them.” (Heb 2:6-8) Before we let the enemy put us down, let’s remember this is how God sees us, this is what He designed us to be, and in the present prophetic picture our faithfulness (when it is there) is something beautiful to behold, something that blesses the Lord. Let’s make sure we hold on to it.

Application for further thought and prayer: Lord help me remain faithful to you in every area of my life. Thank you that you have a plan for my life, you are blessed by it and yet have more for me. Open my eyes to your possibilities for me.

15. Aspiring to Faithfulness

Aspiring Meditations: 15.  Aspiring to Faithfulness

Gal 5:22   the fruit of the Spirit is ….faithfulness

Num 12:7  my servant Moses; he is faithful in all my house.

Deut 7:9    Know therefore that the LORD your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commands.

When I started looking up verses about faithfulness, the next in our list of things to aspire to, I found something I had never noticed before: most of the verses about faithfulness are about God and I could find hardly anything that calls us to be faithful. The meaning of ‘faithful’ is, in its simplest form, ‘remaining true’. That is how it is in respect of God Himself and for us it means “remaining full of faith – faith-full” or remaining true to God. There is an echo of this in Jesus’ words, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” (Lk 18:8) i.e. will he find us remaining faithful to God.

When we look at faithfulness as a fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22), there is a certain ‘chicken and egg’ thing about it; which comes first? We’ve said several times that the fruit comes as we hold true to the Spirit, open to Him, being led by Him. In a sense we might say the fruit grows when we remain faithful to Him, and yet faithfulness is actually one of the fruit He brings in us. So faithfulness to Him releases faithfulness in us in much wider ways. The first reference to faithfulness in the Bible is in respect of Moses (Num 12:7 – see above) which the writer to the Hebrews picks up on (see Heb 3:2). In other words, Moses was true to his calling and remained faithful to the Lord and to Israel.

But let’s see some references to the Lord’s faithfulness and that will help faithfulness grow in us. First of all, “God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.” (1 Cor 10:13) i.e. when temptations come from the enemy, the Lord will not leave us on our own but will remain true to the relationship we have with Him and will be there for us.

In a similar vein, “He will keep you strong to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful.” (1 Cor 1:8, 9) i.e. the reason we can be assured that we will stand blameless on the final day of accounting has a twofold dimension to it. First, God will remain true to the principles of the salvation He has provided for you through Christ and so, because of the Cross, you will appear before Him blameless, because Christ has taken all the blame. Second, we will stand blameless on that day because He will have kept us true to Him by the presence of His Holy Spirit working within us on a daily basis, and the presence or Jesus seated at His right hand ruling over our affairs. In all of this He will have remained faithful and true in respect of us.

Exactly the same thing is conveyed to the Thessalonians: “May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.” (1 Thess 5:23,24) The focus here though is not so much the final accounting but the actual return of Jesus, but the same thoughts are conveyed – we will be kept by God’s faithfulness. He will remain true to us and be there for us.

But not only is it in respect of being ready for Jesus’ return and for the final accounting, it is also in respect of our daily lives and the warfare we encounter here: “pray that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men, for not everyone has faith. But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen and protect you from the evil one.” (2 Thess 3:2,3) Paul acknowledges this spiritual warfare, especially noting that it can involve people who are hostile to us, but he has this same confidence he has spoken of elsewhere, that God is for us and will remain faithful and so can be relied upon to strengthen us and protect us.

Now this has brought us to a key issue – we can RELY on God BECAUSE He IS faithful, He will always remain true to us, He will always be there for us. There is a hint of this in “Because God wanted to make the unchanging nature of his purpose very clear to the heirs of what was promised, he confirmed it with an oath.” (Heb 6:17) God’s unchanging purpose is because He Himself never changes. Because the plan of the Godhead made before the foundation of the world is perfect, it never changes. God never changes and His purposes never change and His feelings and His plans and His purposes towards us, never change. We can rely on this, He is faithful, He is unchanging. Rejoice in this, be secure in this.

Now I said there appear few calls to remain faithful to God but really everything in the teaching in the New Testament is summed up in this. It is inherent in our calling. We did not surrender to Him just for ten minutes to receive His salvation; we gave our entire lives to Him. That is how it works. We remain faithful to Him because we have to, for without Him we are nothing, without Him we have no present and no future. I don’t have to try to be faithful, I just HAVE to be. The moment I cease to be, is the moment I fall into disobedience and rebellion.

But if He is faithful to us and we are faithful to Him, then by necessity we must remain faithful to one another in the body. Peter denying Jesus for a horrible few moments in the grounds of the High Priest’s palace, and Judas betraying Jesus for thirty pieces of silver are the quintessential examples of absence of faithfulness and those two incidents should act as spurs to us to be alert and ensure we never go down the same path.  He is faithful; we will be faithful – to Him and to our brothers and sisters in Christ (including those we know little of in persecution zones?) May it be so.

12. Faith against the odds

Meditations on ‘Focusing Faith’ : 12.  Faith against the odds

Heb 11:11,12   By faith Abraham, even though he was past age–and Sarah herself was barren–was enabled to become a father because he considered him faithful who had made the promise. And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore.

In unpacking these verses there are various aspects to be considered. First of all God made a promise. We find it first in Gen 12: I will make you into a great nation.” (v.2a) There is more to the promise but that is the basic aspect of it. The significance of this promise is only realised when you read a few verses earlier, “Now Sarai was barren; she had no children.” (Gen 11:30) So here is Abram, this simple pagan who appears to hear God telling him to leave his homeland and go to Canaan and, ‘oh, by the way, I’ll make you into a great nation.’ Not just a little nation, but a great nation. But my wife is barren; we cannot have children. Now that may have gone through his mind at some point and all the more because Sarai was past child-bearing age, but in the long-term it did not put him off.

The promise of a land and of becoming a nation seem to come together and we are told, “Abram was seventy-five years old when he set out from Haran,” (Gen 12:4) and so if the word had come to him back in Ur, it may have been some years before that, but it would seem he was at least seventy when the promise first came. Later we read, “Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him.” (Gen 21:5) At least twenty five years, if not more, passed between the word coming and the word being fulfilled.

Now not wanting to be too indelicate about it, to have children a couple need to have sexual relations  and if you have been promised you’ll have children, you keep on and keep on – for twenty five years. I cannot think what Sarai must have felt about this. The more the years pass the more impossible it must seem and therefore the more futile it appear, and yet Abram carried on hoping. Yes they go through the disaster involving Hagar (Gen 16) but the actual fulfillment that involves Sarai doesn’t happen for a long time! Yet, for some reason, Abram is sure he has heard God and he believes what he has heard and acts upon it. So first of all they start out from Ur and second they start trying for a child again. This is double faith.

The Hebrews writer marvels over this, “even though he was past age–and Sarah herself was barren,” and “as good as dead,” (which sounds a bit hard but was essentially the truth as far a child-bearing was concerned). Those were the facts, they were both too old, humanly speaking. These facts that make this impossible keep getting put before us as if to say, it doesn’t matter how impossible a situation appears, if God speaks into it, it is no longer impossible!

But this is the thing about faith, “faith is being sure of what we hope for,” (v.1) and it is a hope that is based upon something. Most of the time we focus on the end product – “was  enabled to become a father” and with “descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore” – but the reason that came about was “because he considered him faithful who had made the promise.” What kept Abram trying throughout those twenty five years or more? He trusted in God’s faithfulness. How incredible!

It is indeed incredible. We have the whole Bible that builds our faith but Abram had nothing – except what he was hearing directly from God. Next time you doubt what you are hearing, remember Abram.  Now of course the truth is that after that initial hearing from God that resulted in Abram leaving Ur, there were a reasonable number of times when God spoke and moved on Abram’s behalf and each of these would have built this sense of security, this confidence in God’s faithfulness, this sureness that if God says something He will do it.

The Lord acted on their behalf down in Egypt (Gen 12:17-20), he had a reassurance from the Lord about the land and his offspring (Gen 13:14-17), and reassurance about his son in a dream (Gen 15:1-5) and it was at that point that we read those famous words, “Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness.” (Gen 15;6) After this the Lord reassured him about the land again (Gen 15:7-19) making a covenant with him that was quite spectacular.  After the birth of Ishmael the Lord again came and reassured Abram (Gen 17:1-8) about being a mighty nation and then instigates the covenant of circumcision with him (Gen 17:9-14) and then reassures them both about the child again (Gen 17:15-22). All this happened while Abram was 99 and the Lord changed his name to Abraham and tells him his son is to be called Isaac. Subsequently the Lord appeared to them in the form of three men and yet again reassured them about the child who will be born in a year’s time (Gen 18:1-15). By my counting that is seven times (the perfect number in scripture) that the Lord came and reassured Abram.

There are three points to make here. First, the time between a promise and a fulfillment may be lengthy and in that time the Lord simply looks for your faithfulness – “full-of-faith-ness”. You go on believing and you go on acting in the belief that it will come. The second thing is that the Lord will bring reassurance and encouragement along the way. Very often, I have found, the same prophetic word may come to a person three times, if not more. The Lord knows we need the encouragement. The third thing is that in the waiting period it will be a time in which the Lord will go on teaching you and changing you. They will not be wasted years. You will be a different person by the time the word is fulfilled. Sometimes the word cannot be fulfilled unless we are changed. At other times our being changed is just part of God’s general plan for us and the fulfilment is not dependant on it.

There are two verses that may help you if you are in a waiting phase. First, “His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms.” (Eph 3:10) The heavenly powers look on with wonder as they see God’s grace being worked out in you and they praise Him for it. Your faithfulness brings praise to God in the heavenly realms. Second, “Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Heb 12:2) Jesus coped with the Cross by looking beyond it. You and I can cope with waiting by looking to and beyond the fulfillment. See it and praise the Lord for what will come. That is faith.

53. Reassurance

Ephesians Meditations No.53

Eph  6:21-24 Tychicus, the dear brother and faithful servant in the Lord, will tell you everything, so that you also may know how I am and what I am doing. I am sending him to you for this very purpose, that you may know how we are, and that he may encourage you. Peace to the brothers, and love with faith from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace to all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with an undying love

And so we come to the closing verses of this wonderful little book. We hope you have been blessed by it. Unlike many of Paul’s other letters, he doesn’t send  lots of personal greetings at the end, but if this was supposed to be a letter sent to Ephesus and then circulated among all the other churches of the area, that is understandable.

Only one person gets a mention here, the man who presumably was entrusted with actually taking the letter to them:Tychicus, the dear brother and faithful servant in the Lord, will tell you everything.” We find Paul referring to him when he wrote to Timothy: “I sent Tychicus to Ephesus.” (2 Tim 4:12). He also mentioned him when he wrote to Titus, “As soon as I send Artemas or Tychicus to you, do your best to come to me.” (Titus 3:12) and also when he wrote to the Colossians: “Tychicus will tell you all the news about me. He is a dear brother, a faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord.” (Col 4:7) Look at these descriptions of this man – dear brother and faithful servant in the Lord and dear brother, a faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord. Wow! There is a clear sign of affection there. This man means a lot to Paul. His faithfulness or ‘stickability’ is mentioned twice as is his servant-heartedness. He’s a good man! Could those descriptions be applied to us?

What is intriguing is Paul saying he “will tell you everything,” implying there is a lot to be told, and as soon as he says that you realise that this letter (or book, as we have referred to it) is largely devoid of any ‘news’. If we were writing a letter to friends we would probably fill it with things that have happened to us, but this isn’t that sort of letter. It is virtually all teaching. Paul has been imparting understanding of doctrine for the church. If you want the ‘local news’ you’ll have to ask the messenger, which is why he adds, so that you also may know how I am and what I am doing.”

Now Paul doesn’t just leave it there, he adds something that makes us think about the obvious depth of relationship that he has with the Christians in Ephesus: I am sending him to you for this very purpose, that you may know how we are, and that he may encourage you.” He anticipates the concern of the Christians at Ephesus for him. When he was with them he wasn’t some ‘distant’ or aloof preacher;  he got involved with them. Thus there was a mutual concern, and so he takes pains to acknowledge that concern and says that Tychicus will bring them up to date with all that has been happening to Paul so that they will not worry about him. That is pastoral concern. Tychicus will thus encourage them. Even more pastoral concern.

He closes his letter with a blessing: Peace to the brothers, and love with faith from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace to all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with an undying love.” See the things he wants for them: peace, love with faith and grace. Peace is the thing he almost invariably asks for whenever he writes to anyone, because he is aware that living in a hostile world means that there is often an absence of peace. Peace is an absence of worry or concerns. The causes may still be there, but peace means that we have come to a place of leaving them with the Lord (see Phil 4:6,7). But then there is love linked with faith that Paul says comes from heaven. Faith, we often say, is responding to that God says, and so here it is the recognition that true love comes through God’s revelation to us. Surely, reading this book, there must come that awareness, of God’s incredible love to us that has brought about all the wonderful things spoken about in the book. Our love comes through the knowledge of Him and all He has done for us!

Finally he asks for grace for all who love the Lord. Grace is simply the supernatural ability to cope in life, to live as Jesus. Note the little prod at the very end: this grace comes to all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with an undying love. That love will imply a closeness, and grace is actually the expression of the Lord himself in us. The love we have for him came because of what he did for us, is experienced and expressed daily through the empowering and prompting of his Spirit, and will continue into eternity. It is simply part of who we are, united with him.

Well, there we are, at the end. May you be blessed by this book. To conclude, may we recommend that, if you’ve never done it before, you make some time and read it out loud in one go. Be blessed.

Walk in God’s Ways

WALKING WITH GOD. No.29

1 Kings 3:14 And if you walk in my ways and obey my statutes and commands as David your father did, I will give you a long life

There are phrases in the Bible that we come across and, I believe, mostly take for granted. In our verse today we have one of those phrases: if you walk in my ways. What do the ways of God mean? It is a highly significant phrase. Moses at a crucial point asked of God, “If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favor with you” ( Ex 33:13). In the Law of God we find the same reference: “Observe the commands of the LORD your God, walking in his ways and revering him” (Deut 8:6) and then, “And now, O Israel, what does the LORD your God ask of you but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to observe the LORD ‘s commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good?(Deut 10:12,13). Indeed it became a condition of blessing: “If you carefully observe all these commands I am giving you to follow–to love the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways and to hold fast to him ….” (Deut 11:22)

Touching on this phrase goes to the very heart of the whole concept of these meditations about walking with God. As we’ve said previously, when you walk with someone you start to learn about them. There is a mutual sharing and a relationship grows. At the heart of relationship is learning about one another, about how each other thinks, about what they like or dislike, about what they enjoy doing, about how they do different things in life. The ways of God are personal things about Him. Moses father-in-law instructed him to, “Teach them the decrees and laws, and show them the way to live and the duties they are to perform” (Ex 18:20). That sounds very impersonal, a set of rules to be followed – and that is what many Christians today would prefer to have, an impersonal set of rules to follow, but we are called to personal contact with the Lord so that we learn His ways, the things that please Him, the things that grieve Him, the way He does things. In a sense all of these meditations are about different facets of the ways of the Lord, the different way He deals with different people and different situations, which then reveal what He feels. That is the most intimate level of fellowship, when you understand what the person you are walking with feels.

When we spend time with the Lord, and when our heart is turned toward Him, so that He is the first person we think of or turn to, when we either have cause to be thankful or cause to be concerned, He starts sharing His heart with us. First of all he shares through His word, the Bible. This is our greatest source of starting to learn His ways. As we read and as we ponder on His dealings with those we encounter in the Bible, we begin to catch something of His heart and the way He acts. But actions are simply the outward thing. So, we also start to learn how He thinks, but thinking is purely a mind thing and so, as we go deeper, we begin to catch what He feels. The Bible is His book. If you look up the word LORD you will see it is used nearly seven and a half thousand times! It’s all about Him!

How might we sum up the ways of the Lord? An almost impossible task! Yet perhaps the Lord’s own words do it: “And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin.” (Ex33:6,7). When it comes to God expressing Himself through His Son, Jesus, the apostle John perhaps encapsulated it by describing Jesus as: “full of grace and truth.” (Jn 1:14). Yet even these descriptions, as wonderful as they are, seem to fall short and the only way to describe His ways, is to say, you read the Bible, you read and study it and see what you see. If you want a short cut, read of Jesus who described himself as “the way and the truth and the life” (Jn 14:6). Jesus is the perfect expression of the ways of the Father and as much as he does that he becomes THE way. Is it any coincidence that the Christian faith was referred to as the Way? (Acts 9:2, 22:4). Living on the Way we are called to walk in the ways of God, learning to see what He does, learning to think as He thinks and, yes, learning to feel as He feels. What an amazing walk!