9. Victory Assured

Meditations on “Fear Not”:  9. Victory Assured

Num 21:33-35    And they turned and went up by the way to Bashan. So Og king of Bashan went out against them, he and all his people, to battle at Edrei. Then the Lord said to Moses, “Do not fear him, for I have delivered him into your hand, with all his people and his land; and you shall do to him as you did to Sihon king of the Amorites, who dwelt at Heshbon.” So they defeated him, his sons, and all his people, until there was no survivor left him; and they took possession of his land.”

It is perhaps so obvious that it hardly needs saying, but every time the Lord says, “Fear not” or “Don’t be afraid,” He gives a reason.  The above verses occur when Israel is moving northwards, up the east side of the Dead Sea, to prepare to cross the Jordan and enter the land near Jericho, but to do that they had to pass through or near the lands of various other rulers. Some of them they were told not to touch, for example in respect of the Ammonites, they were told not to attack them (see Deut 2:19), but others, possibly ones the Lord wanted chastised, as in the case above of Og, king of Bashan, they are told to defeat. Some of those were ones openly hostile to God and His people.

For example, they had already defeated Sihon, king of the Amorites who had rejected their friendly overtures and attacked them (Num 21:21-24, also Deut 2:26-36), and so the Lord reminded them of this when they are confronted by the large army with Og. Studying the travels up the east side of the Dead Sea by Israel, we observe different approaches: enemies who just attack them, people they are told to leave alone, and people they are told they will triumph over because the Lord is with them.

The overall lesson of this is that there is no ABC of spiritual warfare. We do what God tells us to do, and no more, for every situation and every enemy is different. When we are attacked spiritually, we need to seek His will to know how He wants us to respond. Sometimes it will be to remain silent and sometimes it will be to speak words of wisdom and grace. When we are confronted with enemies (and everything that is sin-based, ungodly and unrighteous is an enemy of Jesus to eventually be subdued and overcome – see 1 Cor 15:24,25 – and they are all around us) our intent should not be to randomly lash out at every wrong thing we see, but to seek the Lord to know what He wants us to do about the things He puts on our hearts as matters on His agenda to be dealt with.

Where He does place before us enemies that He wants to overcome, it is not with the weapons of the ways of the world – political maneuvering, slander, malice etc., – but the ways of righteousness, truth, the word of God, and prayer (see 2 Cor 10:4,5) and wisdom and grace (see Col 4:5,6) and faith. These are His provisions for us and we can feel completely secure in the knowledge that He has given us everything we will need. Note and memorize 2 Cor 9:8, Phil 4:19, 2 Cor 12:9, Phil 4:13.

But the big lesson, in the midst of this, is that when we move at the Lord’s bidding we need have no fear of that enemy. Yes we are to be “as cunning as a snake, inoffensive as a dove,” (Mt 10:16 Message version) constantly exercising and expressing the grace of Jesus, but we are not to be fearful, remembering that “the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power,” (1 Cor 4:20) His power. So when He says, “Fear not,” we can rest secure in that! Hallelujah!  His will means our security. Hallelujah!

4. God in the Wilderness?

Meditations in Isaiah 40: No.4. God in the Wilderness?

Isa 40:3   A voice of one calling: “In the wilderness prepare the way for the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God.

We cannot leave this thought of God coming to the wilderness. It is an amazing thought and dare I suggest, one I have never heard preached about, perhaps implying we take it for granted. But that is what the prophet is saying here, that a highway is to be made in the desert so that God can come along it, in the desert. This is God in the desert. To catch the full impact of this we need to remember how we finished the previous study, with this thought about ‘desert’ or ‘wilderness’ being pictures of those spiritually dry times of life, times that are sometimes frustrating as we look for blessing and all we see is disorder, grumblings and lack of vibrant power and life in the church.  It is to such times that this word now comes.

There are a surprising number of times in the Bible when God turns up in the desert or wilderness. We concluded the last study with mention of Moses at the burning bush. There God comes to the desert with revelation, so first, desert can be a place of fresh revelation, fresh direction, fresh calling and sending, when God turns up.

Second, we find God leading Israel through the desert to the Promised Land (see Ex 15-19) – the journey through the desert had to be taken before Israel could reach the Promise Land BUT the Lord was with them throughout their journey. So, second, we can know the Lord’s presence with us in such desert times.

Third, we find God providing manna for Israel, food that kept on appearing for forty years there in the desert. Bread is sometimes a picture of God’s word on which we have to learn to feed. So, third, the desert experience can still be a time and a place of feeding on God’s provision, His word – yes, there in the desert!

But, fourth, water was also an issue in the desert and there they had to learn that although the environment was dry and arid, they would still, nevertheless, have provision from the Lord of water. Water so often is a picture of the Holy Spirit and so, fourth, even in the desert (before the circumstances change) we have to learn that the supply of the Spirit is there for us. Rely on Him, seek Him, receive of Him.

Yes, there was also, fifth, a time of battle while in the wilderness – against the Amalekites and God gave them victory. So surprisingly, fifth, the desert can still be a place of victory with God over our enemies.

Now remember, these are all illustrations of what can happen when God turns up in the wilderness, but there is yet a further dynamic picture to be considered.  In Ezekiel 47, the prophet has a vision of a river that flows out of the temple and down into the land and he is told, “This water flows toward the eastern region and goes down into the Arabah, where it enters the Dead Sea. When it empties into the sea, the salty water there becomes fresh. Swarms of living creatures will live wherever the river flows….. where the river flows everything will live. …. Fruit trees of all kinds will grow on both banks of the river. Their leaves will not wither, nor will their fruit fail. Every month they will bear fruit, because the water from the sanctuary flows to them.” (Ezek 47:8-12) This river is the river of life that flows out of the presence of God and here is the incredible thing – it transforms the desert!

As God comes down this highway in the desert, His presence transforms the desert, your life and mine and the world around us through us.  Can you grab that truth by faith and live it?  He turned the desert into pools of water and the parched ground into flowing springs” (Psa 107:35). “I will turn the desert into pools of water, and the parched ground into springs. I will put in the desert the cedar and the acacia, the myrtle and the olive. I will set junipers in the wasteland, the fir and the cypress together.” (Isa 47:18,19) Your life and mine?

18. To Jehoshaphat

“God turned up” Meditations: 18 :  To Jehoshaphat

2 Chron 20:14,15 Then the Spirit of the LORD came upon Jahaziel …Levite and descendant of Asaph, as he stood in the assembly. He said: “Listen, King Jehoshaphat and all who live in Judah and Jerusalem! This is what the LORD says to you: `Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s.

Perhaps now that we have done a number of these mediations in God ‘turning up’, it is worth noting the different ways. In the earlier ones we found God coming personally to individuals and speaking directly into them. Sometimes He came in the form of an angel or some other divine figure. But then as Israel developed, more and more it came about that He ‘turned up’ when His Holy Spirit came upon someone and released a prophetic word in and through them.

Jehoshaphat was a rather mixed up king. We read of him: The LORD was with Jehoshaphat because in his early years he walked in the ways his father David had followed.” (2 Chron 17:3) The crucial words are ‘early years’ indicating that he started out well but became mixed up. In his early years he made sure the word of God was taught throughout Judah and the Lord blessed him, but therein came the stumbling block it seems. “Now Jehoshaphat had great wealth and honor, and he allied himself with Ahab by marriage.” (2 Chron 18:1)  Now that was a bad move because Ahab was an ungodly and unrighteous king. As a result of this Jehoshaphat was drawn in to fighting alongside Ahab. A young prophet by the name of Micaiah prophesied Ahab’s death in battle and Ahab tried to avoid it by making Jehoshaphat stand out and he himself would be in disguise. In desperation in the midst of the battle Jehoshaphat cried out and the Lord saved him (2 Chron 18:31) but a random arrow struck Ahab and he died. There are many lessons here to ponder upon.

When Jehoshaphat returned to Jerusalem he was rebuked by Jehu the seer. Jehoshaphat continued in turning Judah back to the Lord (2 Chron 19:4-11). When a large army came from Edom against Jehoshaphat he and all the people sought the Lord ( 2 Chron 20:3,4). It was after he had prayed for help publicly that the Lord turns up and the Spirit of the Lord came on Jahaziel and brings this word of strong encouragement. The word goes on to say that all they need do is turn up and the Lord will do the fighting. They respond with faith and worship and praise the Lord. In the event the enemy turned on themselves so that when Jehoshaphat’s army turned up they just found dead bodies.

What is sad is that in the latter part of his reign Jehoshaphat made another alliance with Israel, this time with Ahaziah, another bad king. As a result of this a fleet of Jehoshaphat’s ships were utterly destroyed. It was not a very glorious end to his reign. It seems, for whatever reason, Jehoshaphat had this tendency to make friends with bad people and incurred the displeasure of the Lord.

That perhaps, is what makes this incident that we have just considered all the more remarkable. In the middle of his reign and the end of his reign he aligned himself with bad kings of Israel. His heart had been to serve the Lord and lead Judah before the Lord, yet he seemed to have this weak point, this inability to discern wrong in the northern kings and to put his trust in them. But despite this – and the Lord knew it would happen again in the future – the Lord blessed him with His presence and His victory. This is the Lord who comes and gives us every chance to succeed. He only has to see glimmerings of a good heart in us, it seems, and He is there encouraging us.

We may feel weak and we may feel frail but all the Lord looks for is a heart that is inclined towards him. Yes, here is Jehoshaphat who has this tendency to lean upon other kings instead of the Lord, but the one time he does lean on the Lord, the Lord is there for him!   If it had been us, we’d probably have been sulky about his weak friendship and tendency to make friends with those who are our enemies, and so refuse to be there for him, but that’s not the Lord’s way. The Lord’s grace looks for any and every opportunity to draw the hearts of people to Himself. Even though we have been weak previously, and He sees we will be weak again later, as soon as He sees us turn even for a moment to Him, He’s there for us! That is grace! We can never say He didn’t give us every chance.

If He does give you another chance, don’t squander it. Be blessed by it, learn from it, and stick with Him. Don’t drift again into your old ways but instead hold fast to the Lord all the years of your remaining life. That is what the Lord longs for. Let’s not disappoint Him!