17. Chosen

Short Meds in ‘Living the Life’: 17. Chosen

Eph 1:4 he chose us in him before the creation of the world.”

It is not uncommon for children to question their parents, “I wasn’t adopted was I?” It is a question that underlies our insecurity and need to feel we belong. It is also quite likely that it is the motivating force that energises some of us to ‘do’ things to earn God’s love. Perhaps it is the biggest challenge that the enemy whispers to us, “Oh he doesn’t really love you, you’re not worthy of his attention.” Or maybe it is, “See he’s paying no attention to you, you’re on your own, he doesn’t care about you.” Lies.

When God wants us to pay attention to something He says it a number of times. This verse above is just one of seven references in the New Testament to God’s plan involving Christ, that was conceived by the Godhead BEFORE Creation (Jn 17:24, 1 Pet 1:20, Rev 17:8, Rev 13:8, 2 Tim 1:9, Tit 1:2).

The life we are living out today was conceived by God before He made anything. He knew sin would come to Eden and His world, He knew the only way for justice to deal with it was through the Cross and, as He looked into the future, He knew that you would be a responder, and in that sense, even right back then He ‘chose’ you. Today you are walking a path that was planned before anything else came into being. Nothing about your life is an accident, it was known, it’s ‘in the Plan’. Live it secure in that knowledge and rejoice in it.

Now here’s something else about the plan which, as you personally are concerned, kicked into being when you were born again: not only did God conceive it and see you in it, He didn’t just start it off in you, He’s going to do all He can to ensure you finish it and ‘get the goods’ at the end as you enter heaven to a fanfare of angelic trumpets. he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Phil 1:6)

But not only has He got the end in mind for you, He’s actively working day by day right through to that end: in all things God works for the good of those who love him.” (Rom 8:28) That’s all things EVERY day, He there watching over your life.

Check out Psa 121 again. Five times (v.3,4,5,7,8) it says He watches over you. He didn’t choose you to abandon you and leave you on your own. Being chosen means much more than that; it means He is there for you providing you with protection (v.5-7) and he will do it, “both now and forevermore.” (v.8) But back to Ephesians 1, He chose us, “to be holy and blameless in his sight.” (v.4b)  That’s how He sees you. Yes, He knows about your foibles (and will be working on them) but when He looks at you and feels for you, it is as a son or daughter who is spotless as far as the Book of Life is concerned, as brought about by Jesus. Not only that, in v.11 He says you were chosen “for the praise of his glory,” (v.12b) or as another version puts it, so that “we would bring praise to God.” That’s it, chosen to be His kids (yes adopted! v.5) who will reflect their Dad. Awesome! Amazing! Wonderful!  

25. God has spoken and sees

Meditations in Hebrews 4:    25.  God has spoken and sees

Heb 4:12,13   For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

The two verses before us now give us even greater pause for thought. They are ones often quoted in respect of the Bible or God’s word, and because of that may appear familiar, but the question arises, why are they here, how is this part of the ongoing flow of the writer’s teaching and argument?

The starting word, ‘For’ is another of those link-words we so often come across that show us that in the writer’s thinking this is a logical ongoing flow of thought. The use of the word, ‘word’ has not been seen except very briefly in the opening prologue in chapter 1 but as we have noted as we have gone along, this writer’s teaching has been full of references from the Old Testament, mostly from prophetic psalms.

Now we tend to think of ‘the word of God’ as written words in the bigger text which evangelicals believe is actually all the word of God, but in the writing of Hebrews there has been this constant use of Old Testament quotations which, we emphasise, are prophetic in nature and the writer uses them in that sense; they were spoken by God specifically referring to His Son who would one day appear on the earth. But here is the thing, the writer considers ‘the word of God’ to be vibrant and alive, active and having effect and they come directly from God and cannot be seen separately from God, they are God expressing Himself.

In the beginning at Creation we see, God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.” (Gen 1:3) It is God speaking by fiat, He speaks it and immediately it is done. His authorization also creates. There is no distinction between Him, His authorization (His word), and His act of creating. And so it is, that the writer has been placing all these ‘words’ before us, spoken by God prophetically through His servants in the Old Testament.

The apostle Peter clearly caught something of this process when he wrote, “the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow. It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when they spoke of the things that have now been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven.” (1 Pet 1:10-12) but that tends to show more the yearning that the prophets found within themselves that brought forth the divine utterances of what would come. In his second letter he wrote, “For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” (2 Pet 1:21) This was God urging His people to speak out His word, and when it is spoken as from Him, it comes with power and effect.

So, to emphasise it yet again, this book so far has been peppered with prophetic quotes from the Old Testament and the writer is pointing that out, somewhat indirectly, as he speaks of the general effect and power of God’s words, and the implication must surely be that if this is so – and it is – then we should surely pay all the more attention to it. This is not just a nice little theological treatise that he is writing, but a call to faithfulness because of what has been revealed by God.

Look what it does: “For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” (v.12) Let’s do it the easy way and see how the paraphrase version put these all too familiar words:  For the Word that God speaks is alive and active; it cuts more keenly than any two-edged sword: it strikes through to the place where soul and spirit meet, to the innermost intimacies of a man’s being: it exposes the very thoughts and motives of a man’s heart.” (JBP version) and “God means what he says. What he says goes. His powerful Word is sharp as a surgeon’s scalpel, cutting through everything, whether doubt or defence, laying us open to listen and obey. Nothing and no one is impervious to God’s Word. We can’t get away from it—no matter what.” (The Message version) Wow! God’s words penetrate to the innermost being, cutting through our defences like a surgeon’s scalpel or we might say today, like a hot knife through butter.

Yes, this is the point, we may put up all these defensive barriers, making excuses galore, reasons why the truth should not apply to us and God speaks and it goes like an arrow and pierces deep in our hearts and we are changed. Indeed, says the writer, Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” (v.13) i.e. not only does God’s word penetrate to the depths, but it can do that because God can see to the depths, He knows exactly what we are like on the inside.

Perhaps the greatest illustration of this truth is seen on the story of Samuel being sent to Bethlehem to anoint a new king who God will reveal, from Jesse’s family. When Samuel started assessing by size and age the Lord told him, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” (1 Sam 16:7)  God looks on the inside and He sees and knows what we are like and He sees and knows the excuses we make and so speaks a word that penetrates and pierces the excuse and we fall in submission.

That is the power of the word of God, but sometime God speaks it and still we fend it off and sometimes we shrug it off by lack of concern (and what is terrifying is that the Lord allows us to do this!) and so it is almost as if the writer is saying, “Look, I’ve been presenting you again and again with the word of God and those words should be impacting you and releasing faith in you, but if you are just reading them casually, God will not force you, it’s up to you!”  Hence such words as we saw in verse 11 – “make every effort.”  i.e. YOU do it. Or there was “let us be careful,” in 4:1 or “See to it,” in 3:12 and “fix your thoughts,” in 3:1 and “pay more careful attention,” in 2:1. All of these were calls to heed the word of God that had been coming and DO something about it. May we do it!

20. Living & Dying

Meditations in Ecclesiastes : 20 :  A Time for Living and Dying

Eccles 3:2     a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot,

We started out this new section yesterday reflecting on the truth that timing is important, that life is built around timing. Our starting point now, and it is the obvious place to start, is with being born. There is a time to be born. Being born and dying, the two ends of our life, and we have a say in neither of them. We speak about free will and all the choices God gives us, but that excludes the start and finish of our lives. We had absolutely nothing to do with our coming into this world. For some of us, our arrival was a surprise to our parents. For some, our parents wish we hadn’t been born, yet the truth is that when God looked into the future from the beginning He saw us, knew us, and saw and knew that we would respond to Him and rejoiced over us.

With God there is this strange difference, that we struggle to understand, the difference between knowing we are coming and then seeing our arrival. It is strange because sometimes we say that God is outside of time and looks down on time and thus knows and sees everything all the time. Confused? Don’t worry, the important thing is to remember that when we arrived on this earth, when we were born, the Lord rejoiced at our arrival because He knew we would become one of His children. David understood something of this when he wrote, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” (Psa 139:16) God knew what you would be like, knew that you would respond to Him, and He eagerly looked forward to the moment of your arrival – the potential that was you had arrived and would soon grow into that person who would, one day, turn to Him and become a child of God.

My arrival came in the fullness of time. It needed my two parents, who needed two parents, who needed two parents…..  That why the genealogies in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke are so important. They speak about a flow of history. That history had to flow as it did before I could come into being. There was indeed a time for me to be born, this unique person made up of the genes of preceding generations. For the person to be who I am today, I had to come into this particular part of history so that I would react to all the unique circumstances of this time, and those circumstances would react with my genes so that nature plus nurture plus God’s activity would produce the unique person that I am today.

How much did God direct life and people to produce me as the person that I am today? That is probably one step too far for us to understand, but we are moving towards the understanding that God spoke and acted into life to help direct and bring about the person who is me, the person who is temporarily clothed with a human body of flesh and blood. It was this body that is the vessel in which the real me develops and who, one day, will leave this body for a new one (1 Cor 15:43,44). The mystery of the real me is indeed a mystery. How life was imparted at conception, how a new spirit being came into being, is a mystery more than physical cells. When we move into eternity, will we find out that the real ‘me’ was a spirit injection at that point of conception, a real genuine injection by God that produced what we call life, and which we take for granted? Did Job understand that? The breath of the Almighty gives me life.” (Job33:4)

From that point it needed nine months (give or take a few days in most cases) to form me and prepare this body to be able, with some help, to survive on this earth. Then at the right time, my mother’s body ejected me and my life on earth began. To achieve what this little baby is, an almost infinite amount of things had to happen on the earth beforehand. Now it begins.

Time passes and an almost infinite number of things (well a number of things beyond counting!) and this body slows down and one day stops. Again Job said, Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised.” (Job 1:21) The psalmist wrote, The length of our days is seventy years – or eighty (Psa 90:10). As history has developed and health has improved, that may have even increased – yet none of us knows when death will come. All we know is that it will: man is destined to die.” (Heb 9:27). Yes there are serious illnesses and people die, there are accidents and people die, wars and people die, but most of the time we don’t know why it is that the body just stops and heart beat and brain waves, the two usual measurements of the presence of life, cease.

Sometimes the very elderly seem to give us a clue when they say, “I’ve had enough of this life; I think it’s time to go.” The Lord alone knows, but is there indeed within the divine plan, a length of life that is right for this particular body, this particular person? Yes, we know the Lord knows when we will leave here, but is there an optimum time for us to go, when all He has wanted of us has been achieved, and all the resources He has given our bodies are used up? The Lord can clearly extend life when He wants to (see 2 Kings 20:6, and Jesus raising people from the dead in the Gospels). He clearly removed people in judgment or discipline (see Acts 5:5,10, 12:23), so is it that at the appointed time, it is the Lord Himself who stops our bodies and takes the real us on into the next world?

When we came into the world at the right time, we were helpless. As we grew we were able to make our own choices and our own decisions. We lived the life we chose and that God gave. When the time comes for us to leave, will we be able to look back and say, “It has been good. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”? (2 Tim 4:7). May it be so!