23. Total Security

Reaching into the Psalms:  23. Total Security (end of Psa 4)

 Psa 4:8   In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety.

Process: This psalm starts with David calling to the Lord to answer him in his distress and ends in him declaring his complete sense of peace. In the New Testament, the apostle Paul wrote, “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Phil 4:6,7) There is a process there: anxiety, prayer, peace, and we see the same thing in the process of this psalm.

David cried out to the Lord with request (v.1), and yet affirms his sure knowledge through experience that when he prays, the Lord hears (v.3). In between he addresses those who are causing his grief, those who demean the Lord and worship idols (v.2) and counsels them to check themselves out as they lie in bed (v.4) and to be faithful to the covenant and offer right sacrifices, trusting in the Lord’s mercy (v.5). He focuses on their wrong thinking, implying that the Lord is not there for them (v.6a) and so he prays that the Lord will let His face shine on this people (v.6b) and bring blessing that will transform grumbling into joy (v.7).

It is difficult to know exactly what is personal testimony and what is challenge to his detractors, but whatever it is, by the time he has off-loaded it all to the Lord, he is left with a sense of complete peace, total security. Yes, the opposition is there, but so is the Lord! Moreover he knows that the Lord is not only with him but also for him, and that means total security so at the end of the day when he goes to lie down, he is at peace.

Product = Peace: It is always good to unburden ourselves by sharing our concerns with someone near us, and the Lord is the obvious starting place to do that and, as Paul said, when we do that there comes a peace that goes beyond understanding. I think the very process of unloading to another lifts the burden, but as we do it in prayer, there comes a mystical exchange.

The Message paraphrase version puts it quite well, “Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the centre of your life.” Look at that. A ‘sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down’. That’s a nice way of putting it.

Beyond Explanation: Well that is nice but actually the translations speak about a peace “which surpasses all understanding,” (ESV & NKJV & NRSV) or transcends all understanding” (NIV). Surpasses means exceeds or goes beyond, while transcends means rises above. The product of our offloading our anxieties to the Lord in prayer is a peace that is inexplicable, you can’t explain it. For us it should be rooted in what the Message ended with: “Christ displaces worry at the centre of your life”, i.e. encountering him means we encounter the very source of our peace, the One who is, the One who is ruling in the midst of his enemies (Psa 110:1,2), who is in total control and who is for us (Rom 8:31). Rooted in that, when it happens we just find this peace coming which just is and is beyond understanding or description.

Approaching Sleep: How we go to bed at night is quite significant. I know someone, a friend, who has to have an audio-book story playing quietly in the background to still their over-active mind. For many the thought of going to bed at night is not greeted with pleasurable anticipation. Many go with the worries of the day bearing down heavily upon them. For others, like my friend, they have had a day full of mental (or perhaps spiritual) activity and their mind is still full of it. The experts say beware the blue screen syndrome, the need to play games on some hand-held device for that lit-up screen works against sleep. Perhaps we should learn from David and Paul: off-load the day to the Lord, pour it all out before Him but remember, with Paul, to add thanksgiving for all the good bits of the day.

The possibilities of sleep: Sleep (after having offloaded to the Lord!) can be a time of recreation (Gen 2:21), even a time of revelation (Gen 28:11-), a time of guidance (Mt 1:20), a time of learning (Mt 27:19), a time of the Spirit’s blessing (Joel 2:28). It is interesting in the last quote that it is ‘old men’ (repeated by Peter on the Day of Pentecost – Acts 2:17). Young people tend to sleep more deeply and therefore dreams tend not to be so near the surface to be remembered on waking, but older people tend to need less sleep and it is often broken or shallower and dreams are nearer the surface, able to be remembered. All of these things – blessings in sleep – are rare when the mind is filled with worries, so good dreams become nightmares and not a blessing. Thus our suggested approach to sleep – offloading the day to the Lord – is an approach of wisdom that perhaps many should heed.

David – and us! David has prayed, has expressed his concerns, addressed his detractors, affirmed the Lord’s goodness and ends the day retiring to bed in peace with a strong assurance of complete security in the Lord. Perhaps we might add to end-of-the-day prayer the suggestion of reading a short passage of scripture that releases faith and encouragement. Some may drink certain sleep-helping beverages – fine! – but what cocktail could be better than a time with the Lord, offloading concerns, giving thanks for the good, and declaring the truths of His word?  As we pray, like David and like Paul, peace descends and so sometimes we may not be able to get to the reading part, the peace just sweeps us into unconsciousness and a time of refreshing and blessing. May it be so.

32. Listening and Speaking

Lessons in Growth Meditations: 32. Listening and Speaking

Jer 1:12,14  The LORD said  to me….

Present Goal: In the past two studies I have made a variety of comments and given several testimonies about ‘hearing’ God. Moving on into yet a third one about the same subject you might, quite understandably, be asking yourself, why is he keeping on about this, especially if you feel unsure about it yourself. I have two reasons. The first is exactly that: in the modern church there is almost a fear about daring to say, “The Lord said to me,” and when it comes to church services the communication is all one-way. The second reason is that the matter of ‘hearing’ God is vital to all other activities in our position of being seated with Christ in the heavenly realms, as he works in and through us to bring the kingdom of God to the earth. I will go on to ‘listening evangelism’ in a later study as well as ‘listening to His written word’ as well as listening for healing or deliverance and listening for changing the community, but for the moment I really want to confront us with this matter of hearing God.

Look out for ‘said’: There is a word in the Bible that my concordance says occurs over 3000 times, a word I am absolutely certain most of us read without any thought to the wonder of it, and it is the word ‘said’. Yes Satan speaks, and men and women speak but the wonder is the fact of the Lord speaking. From now on, every time you read your Bible, when you come to the words, “and God said….” or “and the Lord said”, pause up there and consider the wonder of that. It’s not only that God spoke but SOMEBODY HEARD Him! For it to be recorded, somebody actually HEARD God and there are hundreds and hundreds of times when it happens. It is the norm for the Bible.

Excuses: “Ah, but with the completion of the canon…” Hold on before someone rolls out that unbelieving old Chestnut, do you realise that if you hold that view you are worse than the unbelieving Jews of Jesus day, because they had the entire set of scrolls that we call the Old Testament and yet were open to the fact that a new prophet could be in their midst, e.g. John the Baptist, and then Jesus. God’s communication did not stop once the last of the minor prophets had been written down.

There is nothing in the New Testament, seen in context, that says God has ceased to be a communicating God. It doesn’t diminish the value or worth of the New Testament, in fact it says believe every word of it and don’t put time stops on any of it, so when Paul says, I would like every one of you to speak in tongues, but I would rather have you prophesy,” (1 Cor 14:5) it is only our unbelief that says all that stopped when the canon was agreed. A study of history shows it continued somewhere in the church throughout the Church age. What is the point of you and me seeing ourselves as being seated with Christ in the heavenly places if it means he cannot communicate with us and we can’t communicate with him?

Ah but he can communicate through his written word, comes the reply. Er how? Well it is all truth, so we obey it all. Agreed. And he can highlight specific verses and make them stand out to speak specifically to us. Right! Hold on, isn’t that just as subjective as ‘hearing God in your mind’, you could be making it up, that ‘specific application’ couldn’t you? The moment you start talking about God speaking specifically through His written word, you’ve inadvertently climbed into the boat of faith with me. Why is this important? Let me tell you a simple little story I heard from a preacher-teacher who I respect and trust. I will repeat it as accurately as I can, but it was a long time ago – but the main point was exactly as below.

A Christian steps out: There was a lowly Christian at a Bible conference and he understood the idea of hearing God but wouldn’t say that he fitted into that understanding. However, in the middle of the worship and prayer he had this almost overwhelming desire to speak out a word from God, as he felt it must be. He wrestled with it and eventually when there was a pause in the prayers, he stepped out in ‘faith’ and started, “The Lord says, ‘Do it…” and to his horror his mind went blank and he dried up. He nearly died with embarrassment. A few minutes later after the worship and prayer continued, he felt the same feeling and prayed, “Lord if this is you please give me the whole word,” and at an opportune moment he launched out again, but exactly the same thing happened. More embarrassment. To his horror it continued and was exactly repeated a third time. He nearly died.  At the end of the meeting he slunk away as quickly as he could but was stopped by a man who came rapidly up behind him and took his arm.

Understanding: “Please stop,” the man asked. “I want to say thank you to you. For the last few weeks I have been catching a sense that the Lord is calling me to (and he named a ministry in eastern Europe, I believe it was) and I came here looking for confirmation. When you first spoke out it went straight to my heart, and I felt sure it was for me, but I am not strong in these things and so I prayed, “Lord, if that is you, please will you say it again,” and you did! And that was wonderful, but I still doubted and so prayed, “Lord, please forgive me for my doubting but if that was you – and I know it was wonderful the same man said it twice – but if it is you sending me, then please get him to say it just once more and I will go without question – and you did, and I am going. Thank you so much.”

Facing the Problems: As we said in a previous study, we can have a multitude of immediate needs and although we know the truth of His written word, we need something personal and God loves being personal. I was in another church recently where I was just visiting with family, and the young pastor at the end of the meeting said, “If anyone has a word to share, while we sing the last song, come and share it with me.” Nobody came. I know him quite well, having visited there a number of times on holiday staying with family abroad, and I spoke with him afterwards.

Where I was located, with the layout they had, it was almost impossible for me to get out and get to him but I am certain there were at least five people in his congregation who ‘heard’ words of strengthening, encouragement or comfort, either for the congregation at large or for individuals, but they just needed encouraging to come out, to be reassured that they had ‘heard’ but a) they weren’t laid out for movement (they didn’t expect it and so hadn’t made access and movement easy) and b) he didn’t follow through and bring a further encouragement.  My ‘five people’ was a word and the Lord didn’t want me to be the main message bringer, just the encourager, but it wasn’t possible.  So why did He speak to me like that?  To teach, to face the inadequacy of the situation (sharing it with the young pastor) so we can learn and get it right next time, and there will be a next time, and next time will still require us to be people of faith and ‘risk it’. You may not be in a place where this is acceptable, and change won’t come (but talk with your leaders to make sure it won’t come) so go somewhere where it will. Will we confront the truth of His word and seek for a church where Jesus speaks, lives change, and the world is changed?

3.5 Security or Supply

Short Meditations in Psalms: 3.5  Security or Supply

Psa 3:5  I lie down and sleep; I wake again, because the LORD sustains me.

Whether David means this is the Lord’s response to his prayer or is what he normally knows as the Lord’s provision is unclear. It is perhaps both; he normally knows the Lord’s provision but when he prays that provision is intensified if you like, for that surely is how it is so often.

As a verse it sounds so simple – unless you are someone who is kept awake by worries!  Worries must be one of the prime reasons we cannot sleep. When we have anxieties they seem to go round and round and round and just do not stop. When your life is under threat, as David’s is at this time, that must be doubly so.

Worries, concerns, anxieties, call them what you will, are a natural response when life turns bad, when things go wrong, when accidents occur and when people turn hostile. All of these things are difficult to handle and so all of them raise the emotional temperature of life. This is especially so when we can do nothing to change the situation except wait. If you read David’s story in respect of Absalom, he had to run, but he also trusted an old counsellor back in Absalom’s court to slow things down. There will no doubt come a battle sometime as Absalom will bring his forces against David but until then all he can do is wait, and waiting times are sometimes the worst; uncertainty is a real cause for concern, i.e. worry!

So, yes, David has every reason to sleep badly! The thing is with life, we need sleep! We can cut back on the hours we sleep but only for a limited time before it starts having a physical impact on us in our waking hours. But now, whether it is the result of his prayers or his long term knowledge of the Lord, he is able to say, “I lie down and sleep.”  That is actually a testimony. It says, “I have peace”. If you are someone who really sleeps well, don’t take it for granted; thank the Lord for it.

But he adds, “I wake again.” Again, so simple, but it says, ”I have survived the night.” It sounds so obvious but knowing his own experience in the past with Saul, he knows it is possible for an enemy to creep in during the night and kill. But, no, he is secure!

And why? “because the LORD sustains me.”  The word sustains suggests not so much protection as a supply that resources him. The Lord as his shield (v.3) is his protector, but now there is something more than that, the Lord is the provider of peace and peace is the assurance of security, isn’t it. When we are at peace we feel secure. Perhaps part of it is the assurance that the Lord is in control and He will look after me. With that sure knowledge I can sleep.

24. Don’t Forget

Meditations in Deuteronomy : 24 :  Don’t Forget

(Focus: Deut 8:6-20)

Deut 8:6,7 Observe the commands of the LORD your God, walking in his ways and revering him. For the LORD your God is bringing you into a good land–a land with streams and pools of water, with springs flowing in the valleys and hills

Let’s quickly catch the context again:  at the beginning of the chapter the command had been, Be careful to follow every command I am giving you today, so that you may live and increase and may enter and possess the land that the LORD promised on oath to your forefathers,” (8:1) and we commented that this was a command and conditional promise, obedience and success in taking the land were linked.

So it now is that Moses reiterates that command and spells out the blessing of the promise: “Observe the commands of the LORD your God, walking in his ways and revering him. For the LORD your God is bringing you into a good land–a land with streams and pools of water, with springs flowing in the valleys and hills;” (8:6,7) The previous expression in verse 1 had simply referred to entering in and possessing the Land, but now Moses elaborates on that, for it is a “good land” with plenty of water. How different it will be from the desert they have known for forty years!

But he doesn’t leave it there; the water he has just referred to will enable them to grow crops and fruit in abundance, and where the ground will yield many minerals: “a land with wheat and barley, vines and fig trees, pomegranates, olive oil and honey; a land where bread will not be scarce and you will lack nothing; a land where the rocks are iron and you can dig copper out of the hills.” (8:8,9)  Remember, this is Moses encouraging the people and the encouragement is two-sided. Here the emphasis has been on the goodness of the land that they are about to take, but that was the outworking of their obedience to the Law. Keep all the laws and God will bless you in taking this wonderful land. The Law is still there in the background.

But the very thought of the goodness and fruitfulness of this land raises a concern about the future which Moses needs to present to them: “When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the LORD your God for the good land he has given you. Be careful that you do not forget the LORD your God, failing to observe his commands, his laws and his decrees that I am giving you this day.” (8:10,11) There is a grave danger when they enter the land, settle it and enjoy the fruits of the land, that they will settle into apathy and neglect their relationship with the Lord. In countries that are prosperous this is always one of the greatest dangers for the church. Who needs the Lord when you have everything? How foolish!

Moses expands on this danger: “Otherwise, when you eat and are satisfied, when you build fine houses and settle down, and when your herds and flocks grow large and your silver and gold increase and all you have is multiplied, then your heart will become proud and you will forget the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.” (8:12-14) There it is!  When you are doing well and living in abundance, the danger is that you start thinking how well you have done and forget that it is the Lord’s blessing that has brought all this, and thus you turn from Him and start on a downhill slope!  Seven times in Deuteronomy Moses warns Israel not to forget where they have come from and who it is who is the source of all their blessings!  He, has prior to this chapter warned them not to forget in 4:9,23 and 6:12. In this chapter he warns in 8:11,14 and 19, and then later in the book in 25:19.

They need these warnings! They need to be reminded of their past experiences of the Lord: “He led you through the vast and dreadful desert, that thirsty and waterless land, with its venomous snakes and scorpions. He brought you water out of hard rock. He gave you manna to eat in the desert, something your fathers had never known, to humble and to test you so that in the end it might go well with you.” (8:15,16) Yes, these are just some of the things the Lord did, examples of His goodness to them.  There are, of course, many more things that they could remember. Don’t forget!

In their affluence in the future there is a very real danger: “You may say to yourself, “My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.” (8:17)  How foolish we are to so easily forget and attribute our blessings to our activities. It is all because of the Lord’s goodness! So, “remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your forefathers, as it is today.” (8:18). This is vital. Keep a right perspective. The Lord is our provider!  There is a terrible danger lurking behind all this: “If you ever forget the LORD your God and follow other gods and worship and bow down to them, I testify against you today that you will surely be destroyed. Like the nations the LORD destroyed before you, so you will be destroyed for not obeying the LORD your God.” (8:19,20)

If you abandon your relationship with the Lord, if you cease to rely upon Him, you will shortly become like all the other nations in their sin, and will incur the judgment of God. He seeks to deliver you from that but if you go the way of the rest of the world, why should you not be judged for your wrong doing?  It is a sober warning!

46. Opposing God

Meditations in James: 46 : Opposing God’s will

Jas 4:16,17 As it is, you boast and brag. All such boasting is evil. Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins

What I find one of the most amazing things in life, is that God seems to allow us to go on in the way we live and tolerates our godlessness, often for many years, without apparently doing anything to correct it. The apostle Peter understood this: do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” (2 Pet 3:8,9). For instance I didn’t come to the Lord until I was nearly twenty two, my mother until her late fifties and my father until his early sixties, and a friend of mine until his early sixties.  Examples abound of people who the Lord allowed to go through decades of their lives before He drew them to Himself.  Yet, as I have pondered this I have thought two particular things. First, I suspect that the Lord had been speaking many times but we had just not heard. Second, the Lord knows there will be a time when we will be most open to Him and He may have to wait many years for that. He doesn’t mind waiting because He knows that our time here on earth is but a prelude to eternity with Him. Of course there are many people who seem never to hear and who never respond, yet God doesn’t want that, but will still not force our wills.

Now I say this in the light of where James has brought us to. He has spent the last chapter calling us directly and indirectly into relationship with the Lord, and away from the world. As we questioned before, we’re not sure if he had specific people in mind when he wrote who he knew were like this, or whether he was speaking generally because he knew that we are all prone to this sort of thing. We’ll again assume the latter. He has just written about our tendency to plan life ignoring God, and now he sees people even bragging about what they do. ‘Christmas letters’ come to mind in this respect. An article in the paper commented on the trend of sending out Christmas letters that tell of all the holidays the senders have had that year, making those who can’t afford such things feel bad when they are recipients of such letters. To display such activities of the past year must be a form of boasting, however naïve the senders may be. “Look at what we have done” is clearly the sense of these letters. Such letters must evoke comparisons and even envy. Indeed that has got to be a form of boasting.

However James’ comments have more of an edge to them than merely chiding against pride – although he is not averse to doing that as we’ve seen previously in his comments about favouritism in church. Yes, he says, boasting is evil, pride is evil, doing your own thing is evil, making others feel bad is evil, but there is something more. He speaks of anyone who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it. There is an implication here that there is more to this flitting around, doing what you will, going where you will. There is the implication that Christians – for remember, he is writing to Christians – know within themselves that there is another way they ought to be living, but don’t. Because we have the Holy Spirit living within us, He will be speaking to us to guide us, correct us, and lead us to be doing other things, things that are not just self-centred, things that bless others in the will of God.

Of course these things raise far bigger issues, issues about use of time and money and other people.  We have spoken about it being the well-off members of society who can afford a variety of holidays, afford to spend their surplus money on self. Isn’t it right to take times away to recharge our batteries? Yes, of course it is. That isn’t the point that James is making. His point is the origin of our travels or our activities. Is it the Lord? Do we refer all our activities to the Lord, recreational as well as work, and especially work?

James is right in our face on this issue. Look, he says, if your conscience or the Holy Spirit within you is bugging you about other possibilities, other ways to live your life, other things to do with your life, and you disregard either of them, if you disregard what you know is right, don’t you realise that that is sin.

Can it be that many of us are inadvertently sinning, simply because we carelessly disregard the quiet voice of God speaking to us, seeking to lead us into a less self-centred, more God-centred lifestyle, one that is far more fruitful, that impacts and changes the world instead of allowing the world to change us, as this chapter has been saying?

When it came to Communion, the apostle Paul had to chide the Corinthians: Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep.” (1 Cor 11:27-30). He was chiding them because they were not caring for one another, and the result was that some of them were being taken to heaven prematurely!  If that applied then, how much more in the context of what James has been saying. Put in its simplest form it says that God may often tolerate non-Christians slowness of response, but once we are in the kingdom, we are answerable to the King who will hold us accountable. Food for thought?

67. The Conclusion

Meditations in Job : 67. The Conclusion

Job 40:1-6 The LORD said to Job: “Will the one who contends with the Almighty correct him? Let him who accuses God answer him!” Then Job answered the LORD: “I am unworthy–how can I reply to you? I put my hand over my mouth. I spoke once, but I have no answer– twice, but I will say no more.” Then the LORD spoke to Job out of the storm

There is a pause and the Lord looks Job in the face and challenges him to speak up and correct God – if he can! Answer up, He continues!  I can’t, Job replies, I am unworthy (or small and insignificant). I’ve spoken but I should say no more. So the Lord continues to speak and to challenge. Previously it had been on the grounds of Job’s lack of knowledge as compared with the Lord’s, but now it is on the grounds of his smallness and weakness, first as compared to God and then simply as compared to some of the creatures he sees on earth.

First, compared with the Lord: “Do you have an arm like God’s, and can your voice thunder like his? Then adorn yourself with glory and splendor, and clothe yourself in honor and majesty.” (v.9,10) i.e. does your power and splendour match that of God? “Unleash the fury of your wrath, look at every proud man and bring him low, look at every proud man and humble him, crush the wicked where they stand.” (v.11,12) i.e. can you bring down and humble the proud and the arrogant? Is this within your domain? Of course not!

Then the Lord refers to creatures on earth: “Look at the behemoth, which I made along with you and which feeds on grass like an ox.” (v.15). A note in your Bible suggests that this may refer to a hippopotamus or an elephant. The Lord describes him and ends with, “Can anyone capture him by the trunk, or trap him and pierce his nose?” (v.24) The implication is that in comparison we are puny and weak.  He moves on to the next creature in chapter 41: “Can you pull in the leviathan with a fishhook or tie down his tongue with a rope?(Job 41:1) Again a note in your Bible suggests that this may refer to a crocodile. The Lord describes him and concludes, “No one is fierce enough to rouse him. Who then is able to stand against me? Who has a claim against me that I must pay? Everything under heaven belongs to me.” (41:10,11)  i.e. if you can’t stand against such a creature how can you dare think you can stand against God who is so all-powerful and who made all things?  Almost tediously, to make the point, the Lord continues in verses 12 to 34 to describe this creature that is beyond our handling. The point is simply made: Job you are small and insignificant even in comparison to some of the other creatures that share the earth with you. Get yourself in perspective!

In the final chapter, Job eventually answers: “I know that you can do all things; no plan of yours can be thwarted. You asked, `Who is this that obscures my counsel without knowledge?’ Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know.” (v.2,3) i.e. I know you are The Great One, and you can do anything and I acknowledge I spoke out about things I don’t know about. He concludes, “My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.” (v.5,6) At last Job has a right perspective. Note he hasn’t all the answers and it hasn’t been explained to him what had taken place in the courts of heaven, but he is satisfied that God is so much greater – all-wise, all-knowing and all-powerful – and therefore it is foolish to argue with Him. What becomes assumed is that God is also all-good, for this is not just a mindless submission to a harsh dictator.

The Lord then turns to the three friends and chides them, After the LORD had said these things to Job, he said to Eliphaz the Temanite, “I am angry with you and your two friends, because you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has… You have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has.” (v.7,8) He tells them to offer sacrifices for their folly and to get Job to pray for them. Perhaps more than their chastening, we should note the Lord’s affirmation of Job – Job had spoken rightly about God! Wow!

But the Lord doesn’t leave it there, “After Job had prayed for his friends, the LORD made him prosperous again and gave him twice as much as he had before. All his brothers and sisters and everyone who had known him before came and ate with him in his house. They comforted and consoled him over all the trouble the LORD had brought upon him, and each one gave him a piece of silver and a gold ring. The LORD blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the first. He had fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, a thousand yoke of oxen and a thousand donkeys. And he also had seven sons and three daughters.” (v.10-13) Yes, this is restoration. No, his previous sons and daughters cannot be brought back but he’s given a new family and immense prosperity.

The point of all that, surely, must be that any doubt over Job has been taken away. Here is a man who had been righteous and who had weathered this terrible storm and is declared still righteous by God and is rewarded accordingly.

Righteousness is possible and it is possible to maintain it in the face of immense suffering. That must be one of the obvious lessons that comes through this book. May you and I hold on to Job’s example as we live out our lives in this Fallen World where things go wrong.

26. Rescuer

God in the Psalms No.26

Psa 17:13 Rise up, O LORD, confront them, bring them down; rescue me from the wicked by your sword.

In this verse we see a very different aspect of the Lord – One who acts against His enemies and does something about them! But we must take it piece by piece.

David starts with this call to the Lord to Rise Up”. This has two aspects to it: first that the Lord is in a place of rest as he rules, and second there is a need to move to bring change. This is a common call:

Psa 3:7  Arise, O LORD! Deliver me, O my God!” One thing precedes the other by necessity.

Psa 7:6 Arise, O LORD, in your anger; rise up against the rage of my enemies. Awake, my God; decree justice.” There is a double call implying the same thing.

sa 9:19 Arise, O LORD, let not man triumph There it’s a case of rise up to take action to stop something.

Psa 10:12 Arise, LORD! Lift up your hand, O God”. There it’s rise up so that you can act. In every case it is a call to the Lord to change from a state of inactivity to a place of action.

In our verse here, the call is to come from a position of inactivity to face up the people David is concerned about (the wicked) with their wrongs and then to bring them down so that they will  no longer prevail over David or dominate him.  Again this idea of the wicked being brought down is a common one:

Psa 36:12 See how the evildoers lie fallen– thrown down, not able to rise!”

Psa 52:5, speaking of the wicked, Surely God will bring you down to everlasting ruin

Psa 55:22,23 he will never let the righteous fall. But you, O God, will bring down the wicked There are many more similar references.

The picture that is conveyed is of the wicked who are full of pride and think they are in a strong and secure position as they carry on their wicked acts. It’s like they think they are in a high unassailable position and they impose harm on others and appear to be getting away with it.  Thus we look at well known figures in the news and wonder how long they will get away which is clearly unrighteousness. From our hearts must come a similar cry, which is the cry of righteousness – bring them down Lord, pull them down from their high place of scorning you, your laws and indeed, scorning goodness, bring them down. It is a righteous cry because they are offending God and they are offending justice and they are offending the weak and the good. They continue to harm God’s world by what they say and do. It is right that we cry for their downfall. Now that may include, hopefully, them turning to the Lord in repentance and receiving a new life, but if they won’t they need stopping because they are not only doing harm, they are leading others astray.

But there is a simple, central truth here that sometimes those of us who are Christians question:  God does deal with the wicked! David knew it, experienced it and now asked for it. God DOES act into His world and He does bring discipline and judgment upon those who flout His design for His world. The Lord does not just sit back and let people get away with it. If He does He is doing it for a purpose and because He wants to use people to achieve His ends and that means taking time of He is not to offend the right He’s given them of sovereignty of will. It may take time and, indeed, it may be the other side of the grace on occasion, but the Lord WILL deal with the unrighteous and the wicked and the evil of this world. Establish that clearly in your belief system!

6. The Eternal One

Lessons from Israel: No.6 : The Eternal One

Ex 3:13-15 13Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?” 14God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’ ” 15God also said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites, ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers–the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob–has sent me to you.’ This is my name forever, the name by which I am to be remembered from generation to generation.

In the Israelite culture, names were important. Moses is in questioning mode. His first question was “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh?” (v.11) and God’s answer was simply, “I will be with you.” (v.12). Essentially God was saying, it doesn’t matter who you are; the big question is who I am, to which Moses then asks the question in verse 13 which is a very cultural question. Names in their culture so often had meaning and that meaning often conveyed things about that person’s background or their destiny. Thus it is, that when Moses wants to know about God, about what he can say to the Israelites back in Egypt if he returns (for he clearly isn’t sold on the idea yet!), he asks about God’s name. We would be more likely to ask for a description but for him the name was all important.

Now we often talk about the enigmatic way Jesus spoke, the puzzling way he gave answers, and in that way, he was very much his Father’s Son. God often speaks in ways that require the listener to really think about what He has said. So now the Lord names Himself as, “I AM WHO I AM” or as your footnote with tell you, “I WILL BE WHAT I WILL BE.” Now if someone said that to you today your first thought might be that they were refusing to tell you who they are. The shortened version that follows, makes it more specific: “you are to say to the Israelites, ‘I AM has sent me to you.'” Now again that sounds rather enigmatic but when God says, “I Am” it’s like He is stepping outside of time – there is no time connotation to that statement. It’s like He’s saying, whenever, in all of history (long-time past, present or long-time future), you look for me, “I Am” or I will be there. It’s like He is saying I am timeless or I am eternal.  To claim to be the “I Am”, therefore, is to claim to be the Eternal One, the only one.  This sets the mind spinning and this takes Moses’ understanding into a different dimension.

But the moment the Lord does this, He pulls Moses’ mind right back into history: God also said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites, ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers–the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob–has sent me to you.’ This is my name forever, the name by which I am to be remembered from generation to generation.” There is it again the references to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, as we saw in a previous meditation. God is both the God of the eternal who exists outside of time, AND the God who steps into time-space history and interacts with us who do live in time.

But just a minute; there is a reference at the beginning of those verses which has a note next to it that you will find at the bottom of the page in your Bible which reads, “The Hebrew for LORD sounds like and may be derived from the Hebrew for I AM in verse 14″. From now on in your Bible whenever you see the word ‘LORD’ in capital letters you can take it to mean, “the I AM” or the Eternal One. From now on that will almost be the only way that God is identified. It is a continual reminder that the God we are talking about is utterly unique, there is no other like Him; He is the Eternal One, the One who exists for ever with no beginning and no ending, the One who is utterly unchanging. Everything else in the world may change, but He won’t! That is the extent of the revelation here that is being given to Moses. The One he is now communicating with is One outside of time who never changes, who is utterly unlike us in that respect and is therefore scary (hence ‘fear of the Lord’).

So let’s recap what we have learnt so far about God from this early chapter in Exodus. God is the One who initiates interaction with mankind, He steps into history, He sees all and feels for us, and comes to help us, but actively involves us with Him in that deliverance, and yet He is still the One who is outside of time and space, One who is completely unchanging. That may be quite a lot, but it still leaves us with lots and lots of questions about God. Hopefully as we progress through these meditations in the life of Israel, many of those questions will be answered. The Bible will not give us answers to every question there is about God because the truth of it is that, as today’s verses show, it take us outside of human understanding. Yes, it is true! We have described God as the Eternal One, One who is outside of time and space, but really that description defies our imagination. We can grasp a little of what it means perhaps but the reality is that we will never grasp the enormity of it until we see Him face to face in eternity. However, because He is also the God who interacts with us in history, He does give us sufficient for faith to be built. That which I understand of God, helps me cope with that which I don’t understand.