2. Delighting in God (2)

Meditating on the Gems of the Bible:   2. Delighting in God (2)

Psa 37:4  Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Whenever writing a meditation I have always sought to be real and for this reason I (unusually) let a day go by without writing because as I reflected at other times in the day on this verse it worried me and I am not sure how real it is to say that I (or you) actually ‘delight’ in the Lord. Do we really take pleasure in Him? It is for this reason that I continue with the same verse (aware also that I haven’t touched the second half of it either).

In the Law it was quite simple: Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” (Deut 6:5) It was a command, an instruction to love God. Somewhat formal perhaps. When we come to the Psalms, there is a more emotional feel: “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God.” (Psa 42:1). That speaks of a deep yearning in the psalmist to know and encounter God. Then that same psalmist speaks again: “Send forth your light and your truth, let them guide me; let them bring me to your holy mountain, to the place where you dwell. Then will I go to the altar of God, to God, my joy and my delight.” (Psa 43:3,4) He speaks about being drawn to the place of God’s dwelling, to the place where he will encounter “God, my joy and my delight.”

There it is again, this idea of God being our delight. It is a word that seems to shout strong emotion about God who has so touched him that he is thrilled by God’s wonderful presence. He is able to say that he enjoys the Lord. Yes, that is the amazing aspect of this whole thought about delighting in God, it speaks of enjoying God and that is not a concept or idea that we normally think about when we think of the Holy One of Israel, the God who lays down laws and requires His people to obey them, and holds them accountable when they fail.

Yet here it is, this thought that the psalmist in Psa 37 brings to us, that we can (and should) delight in God, take great joy and pleasure in Him. This surely must be one of the most challenging verses in the Bible for it calls us into an intimacy with God that many of us would doubt is possible, a relationship whereby His presence (not just His name) brings us great joy and pleasure. Is this something we really attain to? I ask the question in fear and trepidation of being presumptuous.

And yet, yes, there are times when He has spoken His word and I have been thrilled with it and with Him.  Yes, there have been times when He has drawn particularly close and I have known the warmth of His love. It’s not like it all the time, but there have been those times and I am sure there will be those times again. I can’t delight in an abstract figure the God of pure information that is understood by the intellect, but I can delight in the very real person.

Some of us (many of us?) may delight in learning about Him and we delight in what we know about Him, but this challenges us to go beyond the intellect, this challenges us to focus all that we are on all that He is – when He reveals Himself. Everything about Him must come by revelation, it must be because He shares it with us. But then we respond to the calling. He speaks, it seems, so quietly that we probably don’t even realise that it is Him, but we pause up like Moses before the burning bush and we start thinking and maybe even start searching from within our spirit. And so He shares some more of Himself and we respond again but with the revelation of Himself comes the revelation of what we are like, and we don’t like that. But we have heard His call and so we surrender our lives as we have heard of His wonderful love through Jesus. And now we have His own Holy Spirit within us and from time to time we catch a special sense of His leading or His teaching or His simple revelation of the presence of the Godhead – and we marvel.

Sin within us shouts that this cannot be possible and as the revelation grows, that He can’t love us like that, but He keeps on speaking and gradually our hearts are won over to the truth and we understand He loves us exactly like we are but, even more, He loves us so much that He wants something better for us. Gradually – so slowly – that becomes a reality and our inner being is transformed to believe, it is true, He loves me, He is for me, He accepts me just as I am and loves me just like this, and love melts hearts and my heart is melted and I realise that I have feelings for Him that can only be described as pleasure and joy.

Along the way I find I can call Him daddy because He is a loving father to me, and even more my heart is melted. But it is all a matter of revelation. It is also a matter of transformation and it is me who is being transformed. On a good day – and not every day is like that because we are still people in a fallen world struggling to put sin to death, to challenge self, and to resist the enemy – but on a good day I hear His voice, I catch glimmers of His heart and I am left wondering and marvelling and I thrill over Him.

In this transformation process I realise I am thinking differently. I want the things He wants. I hate the things He hates, I desire the things He desires. I find my desires are different from what they were before I met Him. He has changed them. He has given me new desires and as I walk the path with Him I find He leads me in new paths and find it is enjoyable because I am doing new things, thinking new thoughts, speaking new words, and all these things, I realise, are  a way of receiving those desires that have been formed in me. As I have come to a place by His leading where I can delight in Him, I find he puts new desires in my heart and then brings those things into being. How amazing.

29. The Lamb Revealed

Short Meditations in John 1:  29.  The Lamb Revealed

Jn 1:29    The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!

We come to what I believe is the pinnacle of this chapter. The questioners from Jerusalem have had their day. Whether they have hung around to see what happens is not clear, but John continues his ministry and the day after Jesus appears. Is it coincidence that it is after they have been that Jesus comes? Perhaps, or perhaps he knew they were coming and waited so as not to be interrogated by them. It’s not his time for that yet.

So Jesus comes, as the other Gospels tell us, to be baptised by John and, as John sees him approaching, he says to those around him “Look the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” Now that is incredible in what it says. It answers so many of the questions that the academics had argued over in the ensuing years of prophecies about the Coming One. First John declares who he is and then what he will do, and both in such a clear way that they can be no doubt.

A lamb featured very largely in Israel’s history but never the phrase before, “the lamb of God.” A lamb first featured in the story of Abraham sacrificing Isaac: God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” (Gen 22:8) A substitute sacrifice for Isaac. Then of course there was the Passover Lamb (and this is probably the main reference): “Tell the whole community of Israel that on the tenth day of this month each man is to take a lamb for his family, one for each household.” (Ex 12:3) It was the blood of the lamb that was a sign to the destroying angel of judgment that stopped him killing anyone in the house. In the famous Isaiah prophecy about the Messiah we read, “he was led like a lamb to the slaughter.” (Isa 53:7) The thought of one giving their life for the sake of others was strong in the Old Covenant, pointing forward to the Coming One.

But it continues in the New Testament. Philip the evangelist clearly saw that Isaiah prophecy as apply to Jesus (see Acts 8:32-35) Paul also applied the imagery to Jesus (1 Cor 5:7), as did the apostle Peter (1 Pet 1:19) and of course John himself in his amazing vision on Patmos saw “a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the centre of the throne.” (Rev 5:6) Thirty times in the book of Revelation there are references to “The Lamb” who is clearly Jesus who came to take away the sin of the world –  but we will see more on that in the next meditation.

9. Understanding Coming Together

Motivation Meditations in Acts : 9 :  Understanding coming Together

 Acts  2:23    This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross.

In an earlier meditation we considered the tight-rope walk of balancing between not living according to the Law and yet honouring and responding to the word of God as found in the Bible, and especially in the New Testament as far as we Christians are concerned. When we come to Peter’s message, given under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost, we find Peter is speaking with an amazing understanding of the purposes of God, an understanding that could only have come through a combination of the teaching of Jesus while he had been with them, and then by the enabling of the Holy Spirit on that day.

He has explained the phenomena of the gift of tongues as a prophetic fulfilment, and now he continues to put all that happened to Jesus in the context of God’s eternal plan which involved God using the sinful actions of men to bring about the sacrifice of the Lamb of God. However, rather than focusing on the details of what Peter preached, here we simply want to note the level of revelation that he brings. This revelation at that moment in his explanation of all that had happened, led on to requiring repentance of all his hearers and, as a result, some three thousand people turning to God. The revelation brings about change.

Now that incredibly simple principle is at the heart of all motivation of spiritual acts. Everything we do as Christians comes about because of the revelation we receive. The first revelation that we had was of our sinfulness and our need for God’s forgiveness and salvation and that ‘conviction’ was brought about by the Holy Spirit taking either the Bible or a person to bring those truths to the person in question (us), in such power that they (we) responded to that conviction with repentance.

We may take so much of what we read in the Bible for granted but the truth is that there have been times when different parts of it have come alive and brought about great changes in the church. For instance we may take ‘justification by faith alone’ for granted but it took Martin Luther in the early 1500’s to preach it and bring about the start of the Reformation.

Similarly today we may teach about the church being the body of Christ and take that for granted but I have lived through the 1960’s and 70’s’ when that was being taught as a new doctrine by teachers in the Church. What had been there for centuries suddenly came alive and was taught and a new understanding of it received.

We might say the same thing of the doctrine of the Holy Spirit, brought into the Church by Pentecostal churches at the beginning of the 20th century and then appropriated on a much wider scale in many denominations through the charismatic movement of the 1960’s and 70’s.

In the 1970’s and 80’s the whole of the so-called Restoration Movement sought to take hold of a fresh understanding of the Church and of ministries and of discipleship. Some of us at least, may take these things for granted but before that period there was little understanding of these things. This was not adding to the word of God in any way, just a coming to understanding of it.

This ‘revelation’ received by the individual, comes in main two ways (and there are probably others). First of all revelation comes when the individual is reading their Bible and suddenly the truth of what they are reading strikes them in a new way and with a fresh strength and vitality and when they say, “I see it!” they mean that although they may have read it many times before, suddenly it came alive to them at that moment.

I believe that is part of John Wesley’s testimony. At a Moravian society meeting in Aldersgate Street in May of 1738, while someone was reading Luther’s statement of the change which God works in the heart through faith, Wesley went on to say, “I felt my heart strangely warmed. I ‘felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone, for salvation; and an assurance was given me that he had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.” It was like light broke in on him and he ‘saw’ the truth as never before and it brought about his conversion. In his case it wasn’t so much the raw Scriptures that did it, but the truth found in them that did it.

Nevertheless there are plenty of testimonies of people who had been reading particular passages when suddenly it came alive as the Holy Spirit impressed on them the truth of what they were reading.

The second main way, I believe, that it happens, is when the word is being preached or taught through anointed ministry. How many Christians must have the testimony that as the preacher brought the word, they realised they needed to bring change in their lives to conform to that word. Again it is a simple work of the Holy Spirit and without Him the word would remain dead information.

It is for this reason that whenever we teach about Bible reading we always emphasise the need to pray first. Don’t just read it; ask the Lord to bring it alive to you and He will. Similarly when you are listening to a preacher or teacher, ask the Holy Spirit to bring God’s word alive to you.

Revelation brings understanding and understanding brings change – an ongoing process in our lives – and it is as we receive it, we are changed. This is part of the process we call sanctification, the ongoing process throughout our lives changing us into the likeness of Jesus. The change is brought about by the truth and the truth is brought to bear on our will by the Holy Spirit. We are convicted, we respond and He enables us to change. Hallelujah!

65. Freedom

Meditations in 1 John : 65 : Freedom

1 John  5:18-19    We know that anyone born of God does not continue to sin; the one who was born of God keeps him safe, and the evil one cannot harm him. We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one.

Perhaps one of the reasons that cynical unbelievers reject the Gospel and the teachings of the New Testament is that it is so explicit in its revelation, and it is ‘revelation’ for we could neither know it nor teach it if it had not been revealed by God. The other thing about it, which is often missed, is that it answers the questions of the world and, in fact, without it these questions go unanswered, such questions as what is evil, why is there evil in the world and why do we need laws to protect the poor and weak, why do people do wrong, and why are people self-centred?

These questions respond to a state of affairs in the existence of life on this world that is highly questionable. In personal terms, why is it that I have aspirations to be good yet so often fail to be so? As the apostle Paul wrote, I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” (Rom 7:15) and “I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do–this I keep on doing.” (Rom 7:18,19) This doing evil that he spoke about is what the Bible calls ‘Sin’, that propensity to be self-centred and godless resulting in wrong living, resulting in individual sins, individual acts of wrong doing and that, we find, we are stuck with and cannot break away from. Why, the earnest seeker might ask, am I like that? Why is life like this?

It is to these questions that the Bible speaks and explains we are all sinners because we were born tainted with this propensity called Sin. It was because of this that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, came and died on the Cross to pay the punishment for our wrong doing and offer us a new way of life as children of God empowered by God’s Holy Spirit. Paul again described this: “For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins,” (Col 1:13,14) explaining that there are two rulers and that the individual lives either under the domination of Satan or in the freedom of the kingdom or rule of God. Those are the ONLY two options.

When we come to Christ we are delivered out of that dominion of darkness and, as John now says, “anyone born of God does not continue to sin.”  i.e. anyone under the rule of God no longer is driven by that old power called Sin, is no longer self-centred and godless, but is Christ and God-centred and is led by God into right living.

But John also picks up this other aspect that was referred to in Paul’s verse as ‘the dominion of darkness’, the domination by Satan, when he says, “the one who was born of God keeps him safe, and the evil one cannot harm him.”  Satan is still there domineering over unbelievers, and wanting to lead astray the children of God, but Jesus is there, seated at God’s right hand ruling, and he protects and guards the children of God, and his Holy Spirit within us is there countering the lies of the enemy. All we have to do is listen to Him. The enemy can no longer pressurize us into going his way and disobeying God and doing wrong; we have been freed from that and from him.

When John goes on, “We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one,” he is, like Paul, making a distinction between the children of God and the rest of the world. The children of God, Christians, are under God’s protection and are no longer under the control of Satan and so, as he said earlier, do not have to sin, but the rest of the unbelieving world still are under Satan’s sway and so he is able to make wrong suggestions to them (as he did to Eve – Gen 3) and lead them astray and into wrong living.

This is one of the fundamentals that the world does not like, this claim that it is being led by the nose by an evil force, even though it cannot break free from self-centredness and godlessness and thinking, saying or doing wrong things. Indeed this way of life is so common that the unbeliever doesn’t even think about it. It is so normal to think badly about others, to speak badly about them or to them, and to do things that are utterly self-centred and harmful to others, that that is all they know and expect. They might consider it normal – accompanied by the stress, worries and anxieties that go with that lifestyle –  but that is a long way from God’s design for humanity

Sadly in recent decades in the West, standards in the Christian community have fallen and so often it is difficult for the world to see the distinction that should be there. So we see divorces, we see drunkenness, we see over-eating, we see self-centred materialistic lifestyles, we see angry upsets and divisions, and it is no wonder that the world fails so often to see the distinctive lifestyle of love and goodness that should characterize the Christian community.   It is time for it to change! John reminds us, we are children of God, different (or we should be!) from those who are under the control of the evil one. Check it out: are you?

 

 

54. Son of God

Meditations in 1 John : 54 : The Son of God

1 John  4:14,15    And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God.

For those of us who have been Christians for any length of time, the fact that Jesus is described as the Son of God comes as no surprise and, more probably, we take that for granted and give it very little thought, but it is actually an amazing thing and John testifies here that this Son is the Saviour of the world, and acknowledging that is another of these things that speak of the relationship we have with the Father.

Let’s unscramble our minds for a moment about this ‘Son’: These are the words of the Son of God, whose eyes are like blazing fire and whose feet are like burnished bronze.” (Rev 2:18) Wow! That doesn’t sound like the Jewish carpenter, but it is; he’s just in another form.  Earlier in that book John had seen Jesus: “among the lamp stands was someone “like a son of man,” dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest. His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, and out of his mouth came a sharp double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance.” (Rev 1:13-16)  Again a far picture from the Jewish carpenter who walked the shores of the Sea of Galilee.  Later in the same book we have yet a further picture of him: “Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the center of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders. He had seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. He came and took the scroll from the right hand of him who sat on the throne. And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb.” (Rev 5:6-8)

In the first and second quotes above we know this is Jesus the Lord of the Church, for he is described as ‘the Son of God” because he goes on to describe himself: “I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever!” (Rev 1:18). In the third quote we know it is Jesus the Saviour of the world, because those around the throne worship him and sing, “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.” (Rev 5:9) Remember John the Baptist had described Jesus as “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (Jn 1:29)

The fourth picture of the Son of God in Revelation is even more incredible: “I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and makes war. His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. Out of his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. “He will rule them with an iron scepter.” He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.” (Rev 19:11-16)  The clue here is the name “Word of God” which is how John described him (Jn 1:1,14) Here he comes as the judge of the whole world.  The apostle Paul had spoken of Jesus is a similar way: “Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Phil 2:9-11)

Jesus himself gave us clues to his true nature when we find, “At this the Jews began to grumble about him because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” (Jn 6:41) Again and again in that passage he says it and reveals that he is the One who previously lived in heaven and has now come to earth. We also see it as Jesus prayed: “Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.” (Jn 17:5)  Yes, when Jesus is described as the Son of God, don’t just think of him as a human who was born of a human woman; he was and is the One who had existed in eternity with the Father, part of what we call the godhead. The incredible thing is what John then wrote in his Gospel: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.” (Jn 3:16-18)  Have you ever thought of the separations that this entailed? First it meant the Son of God leaving heaven, for the first time in history. Then when Jesus hung on the Cross and the sin of the world came upon him, there was an even greater sense of separation from the Father as the human in him cried, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” for that is what it felt like. Those are the lengths that the Father and Son went to in their love for us. Amazing!

72. Use it!

Short Meditations in Mark’s Gospel: 72. Use it!

Mk 4:24,25  “Consider carefully what you hear,” he continued. “With the measure you use, it will be measured to you–and even more. Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him.”

Remember, Jesus has been talking about responding to God when He speaks, and the importance of revelation. Revelation – the truth – what this is all about, about how we hear and what we hear. Hence Jesus instructs, “Consider carefully what you hear.” He is still focusing them on what they hear from God. What follows is still all about what we do with what we hear. Previously it had been the different responses to hearing; now it is to those who apparently do hear and it challenges them as to what they do with it.

You must hold on to this: it is the truth or revelation from God that Jesus is talking about here. When he says “With the measure you use it” he is saying that if you receive it and respond to us and allow it to have its work in you and change you and maybe you even pass it on, THEN you will receive even more. The crucial question or vital issue here is how much we DO with the truth. If we just hear it on a Sunday morning, or we casually read it in the Bible, and we remain untouched and unmoved and unchanged, then we will become stagnant water and receive no more.

We should be using what we have received and then receiving more from God. The old illustration of the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea is a good illustration. Water flows into and out of the Sea of Galilee and the sea is fresh and alive. Water flows into the Dead Sea but not out of it and so it is dead. This IS the truth and it is a challenge!  How many Christians are neutral about the word of God? Yes, it is the word of God and it is important and I do read it and I do hear it on a Sunday morning – but nothing more.

It is supposed to change us and transform us; it is supposed to be passed on to others, to seekers and to new younger Christians. The word is not to be listened to; it is to be responded to, it is to change us and change others. But there is a terrible negative in what Jesus says. If you don’t do all we have been saying about God’s word, what has been given to you will be taken away. Yes, you will start to lose the significance of what you have heard and the truth will start to cease being important to you and it will soon stop being a deterrent against sin in your life. It is a downward slope. Beware!

 

60. Lessons in Love

Meditations in Job : 60. Lessons in Love

Job 33:14,17,18 For God does speak…… to turn man from wrongdoing and keep him from pride, to preserve his soul from the pit, his life from perishing by the sword

Now I know the word ‘love’ is not mentioned in this chapter but I would suggest that everything the Elihu says about the way God works, describes God as a God of love.  Elihu has listened (33:8) and heard Job say that he is pure and without sin (v.9) yet Job has blamed God for finding fault with him and for making him an enemy (v.10), the way He has dealt with him (v.11), and with this Elihu has a problem (v.12)

Now the truth we know from earlier in the book is exactly the opposite: God hasn’t found fault with Job, He has praised him for his righteousness and there is no way that God considers Job an enemy.  In fact, without realising it, he is God’s emissary, displaying faithfulness on behalf of God in the face of Satan’s attacks.  There has been a wrong assessment of the situation by Job.

But then comes Elihu’s second complaint: Job says he’s cried to God but the Lord hasn’t answered him. Elihu launches into a declaration that God does speak again and again, “though man may not perceive it.” (v.14b)  The Lord speaks in a variety of ways (v.14a), in dreams or visions (v.15) or directly into our ears (v.16).  The REASON God speaks is then given: to turn man from wrongdoing and keep him from pride, to preserve his soul from the pit, his life from perishing by the sword.” (v.17,18)  When God speaks He is trying to get man to turn away from those destructive attitudes and ways of behaving so that he will be saved.  If we refuse to heed his voice we may simply end up in hell, and we may even go there through a violent means brought on by our own folly.

Another way that the Lord ‘speaks’ to us is through personal suffering that brings us to the edge of death (v.19-22), yet Elihu is aware that God sends angels as personal messengers “to tell a man what is right for him” (v.23c) and also to remind the Lord that He has provided a ransom to save this man (v.24) so that this man might be saved and restored (v.25).  Now whether that ransom is reference to the sacrifices made for sin (see 1:5) or whether it is a prophetic reference to the Lamb of God, Jesus, is unclear.  Such a man will pray and be restored (v.26) and then he will go and confess to others that he had sinned but had not received what he had deserved (v.27) because God has redeemed him (v.28).

He reiterates that God does this sort of thing, “twice, even three times– to turn back his soul from the pit, that the light of life may shine on him.” (v.29,30)  Yes, God uses this sort of thing to bring people to their senses.  We see this exactly in Jesus’ parable to the Prodigal Son (Lk 15:14-17) where the bad circumstances drive the son to his senses.

Elihu concludes this chapter with a call to Job to answer up if he has got an answer.  Now the only trouble with all this is that, of course, Job doesn’t have an answer because neither he nor Elihu know what has gone on in the courts of heaven (ch.1 & 2) and they don’t know that this actually has nothing to do with Job’s sin.  Everything Elihu has said has been absolutely correct – except it doesn’t apply to Job, because he is a special case and he is going through trials for no other reason than God has chosen him to go through them – and that because he IS righteous!

So, having looked at this chapter, there are various things we need to check out in ourselves.  Elihu maintains that God does speak to us in a variety of ways.  Are we open to believe that?  Do we believe that the Lord speaks to us personally – and if so, what have we done with what He has said?

Second, are we aware that in God’s sanctifying processes, making us more like Jesus, He uses physical suffering and circumstances generally?  Can we, therefore, when things aren’t going well, be open to learn from Him?

Third, do we realise that whenever God ‘speaks’ it is to extend our experience of salvation and keep us away from things that would harm us or draw us away from Him?  Are we so aware of God’s love that we can be utterly secure in all that happens to us, secure in the knowledge that He loves us and is working to bless us?

Finally, can we learn that lesson that we have observed previously but which arises again here, that unless we have had revelation from God we should be slow in assessing people negatively (judging them).

Moses asked the Lord, “teach me your ways so I may know you.” (Ex 33:13). In this meditation new have been touching on the ‘ways’ of God, the way He works and why He works as He does. May we learn these things!

37. Redeemed

Meditations in Job : 37.  A Redeemed Relationship

Job 14:15b-17 you will long for the creature your hands have made. Surely then you will count my steps but not keep track of my sin. My offenses will be sealed up in a bag; you will cover over my sin.

I have a feeling that in reality the measure of where we are boils down to two things: the revelation we have received and what we did with it. There was once a fascinating dialogue between Jesus and his disciples: The disciples came to him and asked, “Why do you speak to the people in parables?” He replied, “The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. Whoever has will be given more, and he will have an abundance.” (Mt 13:10-12). Jesus spoke in parables so that only those with hearts that yearned to know and understand would receive what he was saying. As they received it and lived it out, so he gave them more revelation.

Jesus spoke another simple principle of spiritual life: “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” (Lk 12:48). When we get revelation, the Lord expects us to respond to it. The Lord also measures accountability on the basis of revelation received. The Israelites at Sinai (Ex 19-) received an incredible revelation and so after Sinai the Lord held them to a stricter accounting than before. Job had very real revelation and, as we’ve noted before, if his book is one of the oldest in the Bible, he would not have had any of the revelation of God’s dealings with Israel and he certainly didn’t have the revelation of His Son that we have. That’s what makes some of the words in the next passage before us, so amazing.

“If only you would hide me in the grave and conceal me till your anger has passed! If only you would set me a time and then remember me!” (v.13). These two ‘if only’ desires are quite amazing. Job believes that he is experiencing the anger of the Lord, for surely, as his friends have been saying, suffering is a sign of God’s judgment, or God’s anger against sin. Yet he believes God’s anger will pass and then there will be a renewing of their relationship – then remember me. Until that anger abates, Job is quite happy to rest in death but what this clearly suggests is that Job believed in a life after death where it was possible to experience and know the Lord! Job is wiser than many people today!

Listen how he continues: “If a man dies, will he live again? All the days of my hard service I will wait for my renewal to come.” (v.14). The big question is all about whether there is something more beyond this life. This is Job in the midst of his pain and anguish, in the face of the negatives from his friends, who catches something in his spirit of the wonderful truth that we now know so surely through Scripture. Life may be tough on this earth, he feels, but there is going to come a time when he will be renewed by God; there is going to come a time of resurrection! This is incredible! Later he will refer to one who he considers will be his defender or redeemer before God (19:25). He, in the midst of his anguish, is catching something of reality that many people, even today, struggle with: God’s desire is to redeem or restore and reconcile people. Death is not the end.

He imagines this time of life after death, when God’s anger has passed and their relationship has been restored: “You will call and I will answer you; you will long for the creature your hands have made.” (v.15) There will be a future interaction when the Lord desires to communicate with the one He has made, after the trial of earth has finished. In all this there is a clear and distinct and gradually emerging future hope. Listen: “Surely then you will count my steps but not keep track of my sin. My offenses will be sealed up in a bag; you will cover over my sin.” (v.16,17). That is incredible! He believes there will come a time when the Lord will look over his whole life (count my steps) but will not be concerned with Job’s sin. What revelation is this? Job’s friends have been going on about the God of Judgment but Job is speaking about a God who puts away sin and takes no more notice of it. How can this be? Is it because of the redeemer we referred to just now? Whatever it is, it is an act of God who will seal up his sins so they can’t be seen or referred to again, an act of God whereby He will cover or deal with those sins by some act of divine justice perhaps. God will deal with Job’s sin so that it will not hinder their relationship. THAT is the wonderful revelation Job is teetering towards.

There is a major lesson here. It is that we don’t have to wait until everything is right and the sun seems to be shining on our life until we receive revelation. This incredible truth that Job is receiving and speaking out, is coming in the midst of his anguish, in the midst of a time when he feels that God is against him. That is amazing. He is sensing truth in the most adverse of circumstances!

What do we fill our minds with?  Paul said, “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.” (Phil 4:8) If we do this we find our minds harmonizing with God. As Paul exhorted us, “Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” (Col 3:1). When we do this, we find the Father sharing His heart with us. If you never think on these things, don’t be surprised that you have so little understanding of these things – but be sad about that! Job didn’t have the Bible, but he sensed amazing truths. He was receiving revelation. We have a whole book of revelation. What do we do with it? Remember, as we said earlier, “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” (Lk 12:48).

26. Need for Focus

Meditations in Job : 26 :  A Need for Focus

Job 9:22,24 It is all the same; that is why I say, `He destroys both the blameless and the wicked.’ ……… If it is not he, then who is it?

We struggle to understand our world. Science, in its simplest form, is simply the observation of what is and how it works. We make great endeavour to find out and sometimes it is not easy. A scientist comes up with a hypothesis but then finds they have to readjust it in the light of new evidence.  We have ‘world views’, personal outlooks on how the world works. Some people have a world view that the world is purely material and there is nothing else. Others, such as Christians, realise the world is both material and spiritual and we understand that God exists, angels exist and demons exist. We believe in Satan and sin, and these help us understand some of the things that happen in life, but it is all about observing what is, and drawing conclusions from it. The only trouble is that we don’t have all the evidence and so we jump to wrong conclusions, and those are seen in the forms of other so-called world religions. Most world religions are mankind reaching out for the unseen God. When we come to Judaism and Christianity we find God reveals Himself. The fuller picture only comes with revelation.

One of the difficulties about revelation is that you have to go looking for it, so here is the whole Bible available to us, but few of us take the time and effort to read it and find out what is being revealed through it. If the commentators are right, and the book of Job is one of the oldest books in the Bible, then Job had a problem – he didn’t have all this revelation that we now have through The Book.  Job is looking at the world through the fuzzy eyes of pre-revelation, and he needs to have his eyes focused by The Book so that he can see more clearly. It is because he didn’t have this revelation, I suggest, that God didn’t hold it against him what he says in these passages. As the apostle Paul said, where there is no law there is no transgression.” (Rom 4:15) and sin is not taken into account when there is no law.” (Rom 5:13)

Let’s see what Job was saying, picking up from where we finished in the previous meditation: Although I am blameless, I have no concern for myself; I despise my own life.” (v.21). He comes to the point where essentially he says, “I’m sure I’m blameless (I’ve searched myself) but to be quite honest, I’ve just given up and I’m past caring about myself and I despise my life and wish I were dead.” It’s then that he makes this rather strange comment:It is all the same.” (v.22a). Do you see why I spoke about ‘focus’ earlier on, because if a person is short sighted and they lose their glasses, everything becomes a blur and it is all the same, nothing is distinct, nothing is in focus.

Now he continues, that is why I say, `He destroys both the blameless and the wicked.” (v.22b) Without revelation, this is his eventual conclusion, having observed the events in his life, that God seems to destroy both the blameless and the wicked, everyone seems to come under the same hammer. He observes what he sees in life: “When a scourge brings sudden death, he mocks the despair of the innocent.” (v.23).  When the Black Death, as it was called, came to London in the Middle Ages, it swept away all before it, innocent and guilty. Albert Camus wrote The Plague, a book that struggled with this problem, that God seemed to be a killer God who did not discriminate. Indeed Job goes further as he thinks about it:When a land falls into the hands of the wicked, he blindfolds its judges.” (v.24). In other words, when unrighteousness takes over a land, there is no justice and the innocent suffer alongside the guilty. Around the world in a variety of countries there is persecution against the church, and the innocent are imprisoned, beaten and killed. When there is no focus, it is all blurred and it seems like this is all the work of God, for as Job concludes, If it is not he, then who is it?” Now THAT is a good question!

It is here that we come face to face, yet again, with the great dilemma that faces us as we observe the world. Is this the work of God to sweep away the innocent, or is He powerless to stop it happening?  It is at this point that we might be helped to think of God’s inactivity as ‘voluntary self-control’ or even some of his activity as ‘loving anguish’. Let’s take the former first. Of course God could step in and stop all evil. He is God and He has unlimited power, but that doesn’t mean He always uses it. If He did we would cease to be human beings. We would cease to be beings that can make choices, make decisions and take sovereign action – and this independence we value very highly. Where would we want God to draw the dividing line? With murders and rapists, with thieves, with people who beat and abuse their children, with those who cheat on their taxes, with those who tell lies, with those who speak slander, or with those who think wrong thoughts? Where do you draw the line? It is an impossibly for this line to be drawn. You either permit free will or you create a race of robots. It IS as simple as that.

But you say, this isn’t all about God sitting back and doing nothing! Job’s situation is provoked by God. It may have been Satan who did it, but it was God who authorized it! Well yes, God authorizes everything that happens and sometimes He authorizes distress and even death but whenever He does, the Bible hints that it deeply distresses Him. The parent who goes to smack his child for a serious and dangerous rule infringement is heard to say, “This will hurt me more than you.” The child doesn’t believe that but then he doesn’t understand the anguish of the loving father who hates to see anything painful happening to his child, but who yet knows that for the child’s further safety this is the only way that the child will remember and stay away from the harm. We venture out onto a whole new area of thinking here, if we dare to stretch out our minds and realise that in a fallen world, sometimes the difficulties and pain work for a greater good – and the Cross is the classic example of that.

Make sure you get the focus of the Scripture. God does not create evil or do evil. God does not tempt us into doing wrong. Those things come from Satan and from sin in human beings. If sin never existed, none of the rest would follow, but ultimately everything goes back to the subject of a fallen world. This side of heaven we live with it, but we have the comfort that comes through the revelation that, Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” (Heb 13:5). The Lord is always there with us in it, and He feels (see Jn 11:35) with us in it and, moreover, His grace (His resources) is there for us (see 2 Cor 12:9, 2 Cor 9:8, Phil 4:19) in it. The day may be difficult, but the Lord is in it with us, feeling it with us, and there to help us in it. That is the clear perspective of life in this fallen world.

39. John on Patmos

People who met Jesus : 39 :  John on Patmos

Rev 1:9,10,12,13 I, John, your brother and companion in the suffering and kingdom and patient endurance that are ours in Jesus, was on the island of Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. On the Lord’s Day I was in the Spirit, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet… I turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me…. someone “like a son of man,” dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest.

I never intended writing this meditation until I was doing the previous one and realised that, like Paul, John had encountered the risen and ascended Lord Jesus. Now I know that earlier in this series I covered the apostle John but never touched on this incident. This is as much a time-space historical incident as any other and is a legitimate meeting between John and Jesus. Each of these encounters has told us something about the person and something about Jesus, and this one is no exception.

Most scholars date the book of Revelation as being written by John about AD95 which makes it something like 62-65 years after the death of Jesus. John must be in his eighties or even his early nineties. As noted in the earlier meditation we consider John is the apostle who became a senior elder in the Church and probably settled in Ephesus where eventually he was arrested in a time of persecution and was exiled to the prison island of Patmos, where he stayed for possibly a couple of years before being returned to Ephesus to see out his remaining years. He is an elder statesman of the church, one who knew he was especially loved by his Lord. He isn’t going to be martyred but he surely has only a few years left on this earth before he goes to meet his Saviour in heaven.

It is a Sunday (as the Christians had now designated it the first day of the week, or the Lord’s Day). Presumably he has been praying and is caught up in the Spirit when he suddenly hears an incredibly loud voice. He turns to see who is addressing him in such a way and receives a revelation that has astounded men ever since.

There before him stands one in the form of a man who stands in the midst of seven Lampstands which are later shown to be the seven churches of Asia Minor (v.20). He holds in his hand seven stars which are shown to be the angels or leaders of those churches (v.20).  He is clearly coming as Lord of the church. He is dressed in the manner of a priest or judge of that day. In that form his characteristics are even more significant. His white hair indicates age and wisdom. His eyes penetrate and see everything.  His mouth speaks words that cut right through to the heart of the matter and destroy all opposition. His face shines with absolute purity, there is no doubt whatsoever that what this Being says will be absolutely right. We see Jesus here in a very different form from that seen in the Gospels, as the Lord of the church, one who comes on behalf of the church of God (see 1 John 2:1,2), and yet one who comes with corrective and challenging words to His church. He is Lord AND Saviour (judge and priest)!

His effect on John is similar to that which we saw in Saul – he fell at his feet as though dead. Such was His awesome presence!  He then touched John, apparently to restore him, and encouraged him with one of the Bible’s 366 “fear not’s”.  He described himself as one who exists in eternity (first and last), who is living, but was dead, and who, because he was resurrected, now lives for ever.  Without a doubt this is the risen and reigning Lord Jesus. Because of what he has done and who he is, he also has the authority to say who enters death, who enters Hades (hell) and when.  He is the supreme overseer over life and death.  He has earned that right.

Jesus comes to reassure and the way He does it is by revealing the wonder of who he is himself. Before he commissions John he reassures and strengthens him. Then he goes on to instruct John to record a) what he has seen, b) what is happening [Revelation 2 & 3] and then c) what he will be shown will happen later on [Revelation 4 onwards]. In conclusion He reveals Himself as the one who speaks as Lord over the church, and what follows in the next two chapters is His word to these churches.

So, to conclude our series, we have two very different people from the ones we have seen previously. John is an aged and revered elder who is still to be a mouthpiece for his Lord. It is almost as if he is being rewarded for his long-term faithfulness by being given this revelation. Jesus is no longer the itinerant preacher but the risen Lord and Saviour of the world. He is head over the Church and comes with words of both correction and encouragement. He comes now as a figure before whom no man will stand. Now he is awesome, now he is to be revered and worshipped. This is the Jesus who today is reigning at his Father’s right hand in heaven, before one day we will stand. This is a very different Jesus from the man who walked in Galilee. This is the Son of God as he really is. How wonderful. Worship him!