44. Daniel (2)

Meditations of Old Testament Highlights: 44.  Daniel (2)

Dan 1:8,9   But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way. Now God had caused the official to show favor and sympathy to Daniel,

So we come to the prophetic section of Daniel, chapters 7 to 12. If encounters with God are sometimes referred to as mountain top experiences, here we have another mountain range with a few peaks. It is a confusing area of Scripture with a variety of interpretations given by commentators, so let’s satisfy ourselves with identifying the sections and picking up some highlights within them.

Vision 1: The Four Beasts (7:1-28  Probably 553BC). Possibly the most spiritually significant one of the visions, Daniel is lying down (v.1) when he sees fours beats, representing four kingdoms (v.2-8) but immediately following he is given a picture of heaven with God ruling over all things, shades of the book of Revelation: As I looked, “thrones were set in place, and the Ancient of Days took his seat. His clothing was as white as snow; the hair of his head was white like wool. His throne was flaming with fire, and its wheels were all ablaze. A river of fire was flowing, coming out from before him. Thousands upon thousands attended him; ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him. The court was seated, and the books were opened.” (v.9,10) Shortly after, in this vision, is one of the clearest Messianic visions in Scripture: In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.” (7:13,14) A human figure in heaven, led before God given supreme authority over the world, an everlasting kingdom. None other than the Son of God. Wow! The four beasts represent kingdoms of men on the earth BUT “the saints of the Most High will receive the kingdom and will possess it forever–yes, for ever and ever.” (7:18) Yes, kings will come and go, but the rule of the kingdom of God through His people is supreme in importance and significance in God’s eyes.

Vision 2: The Ram and Goat and horn (8:1-27  About 551BC)  A vision about ‘the time of the end’ (v.17)

Daniel’s Prayer & Answer: (9:1-27 About 539/8BC) Daniel understands Jeremiah’s seventy years (9:2) so prays and fasts for Israel and confesses the sin of his people (9:3-19). That prayer is a highlight. While praying and fasting, the angel Gabriel comes and reveals something of history’s future. Within it we may surmise the coming of Jesus (v.25), the anointed one, who will eventually be cut off (v.26) and the ruler of the land (Rome) will destroy Jerusalem and the Temple (v.26b as happened in AD70).  Wars and desolations will characterize history of this fallen world (v.26c) until a time of upheaval and change when the Lord will decree the end (v.27). If the talk of ‘sevens’ is confusing, rest in the knowledge that the Lord knows how history will pan out.

Prayer & Revelation of Spiritual Warfare: (10:1-21 Probably 539BC) Daniel prays for three weeks (v.1) until a divine figure appears (v.2-9) who reveals that from the moment Daniel started praying he had been heard (v.12), but there had been resistance from the demonic authority of Persia (v.13) until help had arrived to take over from him to release him to go to Daniel (implied in v.20). Although he says he will explain Israel’s future, he says nothing yet beyond he has to go back to continue fighting the power of Persia after which the power of Greece will come. It is an unclear passage but has insights similar to the apostle Paul’s, “rulers… authorities …. powers of this dark world and … spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Eph 6:12) and which few but intercessors  seem to become aware of.

Vision 3: The Four Kings: (11:2 – 12:4) This is a continuation of chapter ten in as far as it is the explanation by the divine figure of what will happen. There is much detail and some commentators follow it through showing how it corresponds to all that took place in the period from here until the coming of Christ, of which the Scriptures are otherwise silent. Again the message has to be, the Lord knows! It is all according to plan! The final part of the vision – 12:1-4 – some suggest is a reference to the death and resurrection of Christ and the salvation that follows.

Vision 4: The Two Men:  (12:5-13) In this final ongoing vision Daniel sees two men who he questions about all this. He is told, “Many will be purified, made spotless and refined, but the wicked will continue to be wicked. None of the wicked will understand, but those who are wise will understand.” (v.10)  A good description of the period of the Church when many get saved and sanctified while many others continue to do evil.

As I look back over these chapters, I ask myself, where are the highlights? Well, it depends. If you want the wonder of God and of heaven, it is 7:9,10. If you want a vision of the coming Messiah, it is 7:13,14. If you want spiritual warfare it is 10:1-20, but the truth is that as you might meditate on individual verses that come alive to you, they might become your highlight verses.

Again and again throughout it all, with the talk of enigmatic ‘sevens’ there filters through this sense that a) God knows all the periods of history and b) He has a program of history. It is a combination of the working of the enemy, the working of powerful people (‘kings’) and the working of the Lord Himself. Much of the time the visions spell out orders of events, the unrolling of history, so often focused on rulers, the powerful people who so often appear to influence history, but there are ‘time’ or ‘duration’ elements in some of them but given in very enigmatic ways, e.g. “a time, times and half a time,” (7:25), “seventy ‘sevens’” (9:24), “seven `sevens,’ and sixty-two `sevens.’” (9:25), “a time, times and half a time,” (12:7). Yet, also, there is the occasional sense that everything is happening to a set timetable, for example, “the appointed time of the end,” (8:19, 11:40, 12:4,9) and “an end will still come at the appointed time.” (11:27,29,35) Confusing, yes, but even as the book of Revelation indicates, the supreme authority rests on a throne in heaven. He is the Lord of all, despite the turmoils of history. Perhaps this is THE ‘highlight’ truth that shines through in all this strange prophetic and visionary talk.

2. Thinking about Visions

Meditations from Ezekiel: 2.  Thinking about Visions

Ezek 1:1  In the thirtieth year, in the fourth month on the fifth day, while I was among the exiles by the Kebar River, the heavens were opened and I saw visions of God.

In our first study in this new series we considered Ezekiel, a thirty year old exile from Israel, taken prisoner to Babylon, together with many of his countrymen. We pondered briefly in this catastrophe in his life, just as he was approaching the age to start in the priesthood, carried away from all that was familiar to all that is unfamiliar. We perhaps rarely think about what it must have been like for such people. At the age of thirty it is probable that he had a wife and a family. We know nothing of them. Did he lose them in the exile? We don’t know. All we do know it that it was a time of immense turmoil.

Visions? And then it was at that we read, “and I saw visions of God.” This expression, “visions of God” occurs at two other significant places in the book: “He stretched out what looked like a hand and took me by the hair of my head. The Spirit lifted me up between earth and heaven and in visions of God he took me to Jerusalem, to the entrance to the north gate of the inner court, where the idol that provokes to jealousy stood,” (Ezek 8:3) and much later, “In visions of God he took me to the land of Israel and set me on a very high mountain, on whose south side were some buildings that looked like a city.” (Ezek 40:2)

A ‘vision’ is a picture formed in the mind that is so strong that everything else falls into the background of experience. It is not mere imagination but almost, we might say today, like a video being run in our mind that blanks out everything else. There are a number of such instances in the Bible.

Examples:  At one point in earlier history God’s word came to Abram in a vision (Gen 15:1), as it also did to Israel (Jacob – Gen 46:2). The apostle Peter had a clear vision when he was being sent to share the Gospel for the first time to the Gentiles (Acts 10:9-) although it was referred to as a trance (and yet he does later refer to it as a vision in a trance – Acts 11:5). This, of course came after Cornelius had received a vision (Acts 10:3-) telling him to send for Peter. The apostle Paul had a vision of a man from Macedonia calling him to come to them (Acts 16:9). The Lord also later spoke to Paul in a vision to encourage him not to be silent (Acts 18:9). The implication from these examples seems to be that the Lord speaks through a vision at particularly important times of people’s lives, times that are particularly significant.

Sometimes the prophetic word of God comes in such clarity about the future that it is referred to as a vision, as in the case of young Samuel (1 Sam 3:15) but the distinction from the former use is that there is no visual picture. It may be that in such cases the reality of the contact with God is so strong that although there is no reference to a picture of what is seen, nevertheless everything else fades into the background in the face of the reality of what the person was hearing. This also appears true of Ananias in Acts 9:10-12.

Heavenly strangeness: And so now we read, “the heavens were opened and I saw visions of God.” We note this was specific revelation of heavenly things with heaven being opened. Although we will see specific pictures that we can at least partly relate to, they are nevertheless revelations about what is in heaven, or express the will of God that comes from heaven. Perhaps we might suggest that such was the chaos and confusion in Ezekiel’s life at this time, being carried away into exile, that it needed something as dramatic as a vision, or series of visions, to break into his awareness, which take us back into the historical context.

Time overview: Although verse 1 and later verses come in the first person – “I” – for a moment there is a break in verses 2 and 3 that come in reporting mode in the third person – speaking of Ezekiel as from an observer: “On the fifth of the month–it was the fifth year of the exile of King Jehoiachin—the word of the LORD came to Ezekiel the priest, the son of Buzi, by the Kebar River in the land of the Babylonians. There the hand of the LORD was upon him.”  (v.2,3) Indeed this is the only third-person narrative in the book. Perhaps its purpose is to clarify the date in v. 1.

The historical books tell us in respect of King Nebuchadnezzar, “In the eighth year of the reign of the king of Babylon, he took Jehoiachin prisoner,” (2 Kings 24:12) and “He carried into exile all Jerusalem: all the officers and fighting men, and all the craftsmen and artisans–a total of ten thousand. Only the poorest people of the land were left.” (2 Kings 24:14) which was probably April 597BC. But we read that the word came to Ezekiel in the fifth year of their exile which, it is suggested corresponds to 593BC.

Settled in exile? Now we almost implied earlier in the previous study that this had only just happened to Ezekiel but the truth is that he’s been here for somewhere between 4 to 5 years already. If you have ever watched the film Ben Hur (the earlier version conveyed this better than the remake) the sense of terrible sense of futility and hopelessness that must come on a slave in chains is absolutely terrible, Barring a disaster (which happens in Ben Hur) there is nothing but nothing that you can do to free yourself. You are in this position until you die and there is absolutely nothing you can do about it. That must have been the sense felt by these exiles; the unthinkable has happened because Jerusalem has been taken (and is later destroyed). This is the background for this book.

God possibilities: We suggested this before but it bears repeating before we get into the text of the visions. This background should challenge us, that with God the future is NOT set in impossible concrete, we do not know what God might come and do with us. Centuries before he had come to an aging shepherd in the backside of the desert in Midian and said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians …. So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.” (Ex 3:7-10) A most incredible message of deliverance but devastating for Moses who after forty years in the wilderness had lost every ounce of self-confidence. Is that us? Has life done that to us? It is NOT the end.

For Ezekiel, it is slightly different; he is going to remain with his people in exile but he is going to bring God’s word to them that will no doubt filter its way back to Jerusalem. He is going to act as the confirming prophet to Jeremiah and he is going to set markers in history for the will of God. He is no longer ‘just an exile’; he is about to become a man with a mission. Bear all this in mind as we enter into the wonder and complexity of what is about to follow – and never say, “I am stuck in these unchanging circumstances.” With God you can never know!

1. A Man in Crisis

Meditations from Ezekiel: 1.  A Man in Crisis

Ezek 1:1  In the thirtieth year, in the fourth month on the fifth day, while I was among the exiles by the Kebar River, the heavens were opened and I saw visions of God.

Aim: We have entitled this new series, ‘Meditations FROM Ezekiel’ because we are not intending to cover the book verse by verse but simply dip into it to see what the Lord draws our attention to. It is a mysterious book and yet a book well and truly anchored in history as we will see in these first few verses.

Ezekiel, the man: You will see in your Bible a footnote suggesting an alternative for the first sentence: In the (my) thirtieth year, in the fourth month on the fifth day.” In the second verse Ezekiel is referred to as a priest and Num 4:3 suggests that priests and other workers would have to be aged thirty before they started work and so this first sentence probably refers to Ezekiel’s age. The book opens when he is 4 months and 5 days into his 30th year.

Ezekiel in exile: Next we get our first hint of the time frame of this book: “while I was among the exiles by the Kebar River.” We’ll see more of this verse 2. Ezekiel had been carried off by the Babylonians and is now one of the exiles. The Kebar River was a canal off the great River Euphrates, near the city of Nippur, south of Babylon, and possibly a place of prayer for the exiles. In Psa 137 we find one of the psalmists of that time writing, “By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion.” (Psa 137:1)

A Crisis Time: Before we go any further, we might observe that Ezekiel is in a place and time of crisis in his life. He is a priest and priests are supposed to serve in the Temple in Jerusalem, but he has been carried away in one of Nebuchadnezzar’s attacks. The practice was to take prisoners and dump them in a foreign land where they may or may nor act as slaves. Whatever they were, they were being changed from being Israelites, yet we observe through history, we might say, ‘Once a Jew always a Jew.” God’s chosen people may have been going through a chastising but they would one day, within the next half century, come back to Israel and some half a millennia later, when they were cast out for two thousand years, it was still not the end of them. They are still there. Such are the plans of God!

Heavenly visions: It was in this place of apparent hopelessness that we then read, “the heavens were opened and I saw visions of God.” We may be in a place of apparent catastrophe but that doesn’t mean that the Lord cannot speak, that He cannot reach through into the midst of our circumstances to declare His will. There are various instances in Scripture where the Lord speaks into a crisis situation.

It was in a similar situation that Isaiah records, “In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple.” (Isa 6:1). Uzziah had been a great and prominent king and so his death would have left a massive hole in the psyche of the nation, no doubt like that which will occur when Elizabeth the second, who has reigned for so long at the heart of British life, eventually dies. It was into that void that the Lord spoke and revealed Himself to Isaiah.

Back, earlier in their history, young Joshua must have been feeling devastated at the death of his elderly mentor, Moses, and again it was into that void that the Lord spoke: “After the death of Moses the servant of the LORD, the LORD said to Joshua son of Nun, Moses’ aide: “Moses my servant is dead. Now then, you and all these people, get ready to cross the Jordan River into the land I am about to give to them–to the Israelites….. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Josh 1:1,2,6).

It must have been into a similar void that the elderly priest, Zechariah, found himself the recipient of a word from heaven after over four hundred years of silence. We may take the example of Zechariah to note something that is shortly going to confront us: “the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to give him the name John. He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord.” (Lk 1:13-15) Apart from the fact that it was an angel (and God’s ways of communicating are sometimes nerve-racking if not downright confusing – consider Moses’ burning and talking bush!!!) everything about this message flew in the face of all he knew – he was old with an old, barren wife, and God has not been on the scene for over four hundred years, and this angel talks about them having a son as if they were young people. No wonder he struggled to receive that word.

We need God’s help: Now I say this because the book of Ezekiel is, I believe, one of the more stranger books of the Old Testament and later on especially, there are many pages which leave you wondering why they are there. The Bible, the word of God, the word from heaven, is not always easy to comprehend at first sight and so we may well need to pray even more than we usually do, to really get to grips with this book. But that should not leave us surprised because life is often like that. Bluntly we need to hear from God and indeed we need to hear from God to understand what God has already said!

The Challenge of Chastening & Suffering: There are, I suggest various challenges that confront us straight away as we ponder on this book, and they will only be clear as we meditate on what we find here. First, there is this whole area of suffering and, more particular, suffering as a child of God. Ezekiel is a thwarted priest. Verse 3 tells us he was a priest and our first verse suggests he had now just arrived at the age to enter into the role of a priest – but had been carried away into captivity miles away from Jerusalem. How unfair! Well, actually, no, this is all part of God’s chastising of the people of God in Israel and it comes with decades of warnings from Jeremiah back there in Jerusalem and it is about the be added to by Ezekiel in the land of the oppressors. Ezekiel thinks he is going to become a priest but God has plans for him to be a prophet, a very, very significant prophet! Very often when the circumstances come crashing round our ears, it is not the end of the world but simply the beginning of something much greater that God has on His heart for us.

The challenge of strangeness: The second thing is the complexity and strangeness of what we are going to find in this book. There are going to be strange things but there will also be glorious things and we will, almost certainly, need the grace of God to understand them. But think back to the first days when you came to Christ, the strangeness of it all. I remember going out and buying my first Bible, a little King James version which struck me as being very strange, yet something had happened that propelled me along and I persevered with it, moved on to an RSV and later to an NIV and today even often use an ESV, not to mention one or two of the paraphrase versions. It is worth the effort. There is going to come an awesome sense of holiness in this book that is rarely found in the historical books of the Old Testament and if we let the Lord touch us with it, we may never be the same again. Are you ready? Then let’s do it!

8. Lack of Revelation

Meditations in 1 Samuel   8. Lack of revelation

1 Sam 3:1-4   The boy Samuel ministered before the LORD under Eli. In those days the word of the LORD was rare; there were not many visions.  One night Eli, whose eyes were becoming so weak that he could barely see, was lying down in his usual place. The lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the temple of the LORD, where the ark of God was. Then the LORD called Samuel.

I find this particular passage one of the most poignantly symbolic passages of the Old Testament. The setting, as we have recently observed, is that the young boy Samuel has been left by his mother in the care and under the instruction of Eli the chief priest. We have just pondered on the whole business of the two sons of Eli who are abusing their positions as under-priests and Eli’s failure to do anything about it. From that we might rightly assume that those in charge of the nation of Israel at this time were not in a good spiritual state.  Now look at the words that pile up in these verses above that speak to this situation.

First, “the word of the Lord was rare”  Now I have a horrible feeling that most Christians when looking at these words take them for granted but they bring a tremendous assumption to the people of God – that God is a communicator and that He speaks on a regular basis to His people. Now we are going to think more deeply about this in the next meditation but for the moment can we note this assumption, that the expectancy is for God to speak on a regular basis – but at this time He wasn’t or perhaps, to be more accurate maybe, there was no one with an ear open to Him, to hear His words. What an awful picture that would be – God speaking to His people Israel and no one taking a blind bit of notice about it, no one hearing, no one responding, a spiritually static people. How terrible! Are we different today?

But then it is repeated but in another way: “there were not many visions”. Visions are simply one of the ways that God speaks to His people and thus for our era Joel being quoted on the Day of Pentecost said, “Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams.” (Acts 2:17) Prophecy, dreams and visions, all ways God communicates with His people in every age.

Who has visions? Those with eyes to see. Of course we mean spiritual eyes which makes the next words so poignant: “Eli, whose eyes were becoming so weak that he could barely see.”  Yes, that is physical but actually it also describes exactly what he was like spiritually: he could barely see because he had allowed his spiritual vision to become clouded by old age. We aren’t told any other reason for it and it that is so, how sad: “The righteous will flourish like a palm tree ……  They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green, proclaiming, “The LORD is upright; he is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in him.” (Psa 92:12,14,15)  That is the challenge for those of us in older years.

But it gets worse for it continues about Eli that he “was lying down in his usual place.” Again,  now this is a physical description but again it describes his spiritual state. The call is to “Stand!” (Eph 6:11,14) not to be lying down spiritually. You lie down when are going to sleep and sleep is the way of the sluggard, the lazy person (Prov 6:9), or the person who has given up. Spiritually Eli has given up. He still knows what is right and what is wrong but when it comes to his sons, he just hasn’t got the spiritual energy to bring the changes that are needed, he is lying down on the job. “in his usual place”. Yes, again it is physical but also true spiritually; he is in the same old place he always is in, spiritually indifferent or spiritually impotent, and so nothing changes.

Then we find a word of hope: “The lamp of God had not yet gone out,”  Yes, yet again it refers to a physical lamp, probably the lamp-stand  in the Tabernacle, but spiritually it was true as well. God had not been pushed out of this situation and He had not left Israel (as we see in Ezekiel where the glory of the Lord was seen to be moving in stages away from its place in the Temple in Jerusalem, as a warning of what was about to happen to Jerusalem). There is a glimmer of hope yet in this situation. What was it? “Samuel was lying down in the temple of the LORD, where the ark of God was.”  Yes, the young boy was there. Yes, he was lying down reminding us that as yet he had not moved into a position of spiritual ministry for he hasn’t yet had his encounter with the Lord (that is coming next) – but he IS in the right place, he is there in the Tabernacle which was where, in the inner place, the ark resided, the ark that represented the presence of God.

This is why all that talk about the providence of God was so important. If change is to come about in Israel, it will happen when someone in the leadership gets in contact with God, listens and then obeys. Where are they most likely to make contact with God? Where He resides – in the tabernacle. Samuel is in the right place and so very soon God is going to initiate the contact and it will all change, the leadership will change from a blind, inactive, ineffective, worldly and dissolute leadership, to one that is holy, one that hears from God and is able to impact the nation accordingly. Now I believe that is all so clear that I really don’t have to labour the point. How is your spiritual leadership?

21. In the last days

Meditations in Acts : 21 :  In the Last Days

Acts 2:16,17    this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: “`In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams.

Again I work on the basis of what I know is true for me and true for many of us who read the Bible regularly – that familiarity has robbed me of so much of the truth that is here. It is so easy to bundle up these words or Joel’s prophecy and skim by them saying, they just describe what God is now doing, and leave it at that. This is the benefit of meditation; we can slow up, pause and reflect on the words before us.

Peter is first saying to us that we are in “the last days”. Don’t confuse that with “the end times”. The “end times”, I would suggest, refers to the closing time of earth’s existence before Jesus winds it up. The “last days” refers to the period of Church history between Jesus’ first coming and his second coming. The word ‘last’ adds a slight note of urgency to it. It is a period of last chance, the Gospel has been made very clear and if you don’t take advantage of it you have thrown away any hope. If you look up uses of the phrase “last days” in the New Testament, it is clear that it is referring to the period of the life of the church, and not the closing times of history.

So, says the prophecy, in this period of time God will pour out His Holy Spirit on all people. Now do those last two words mean upon every human being on earth, or is there something else? It is fairly obvious that it cannot mean upon every human being for God will not impose Himself on unbelievers and it is also clear on the day of Pentecost that the Spirit did not fall on every person in Jerusalem, only the believers. So “all people” must surely mean from every people group in the earth; there is no people group that is excluded from God’s love and from God’s blessing. The only condition is that they hear the Gospel and believe it.

What then follows is the outworking or expression of this outpouring of the Spirit. There is an interesting threefold description of what happens which I think we normally miss. There are three clear groups of people. First there are young men and women, then there are young men only, and then there are old men only. Now please bear in mind that this is Peter preaching the first sermon under the anointing of the Holy Spirit and he reiterates words originally spoken by Joel, and although the order is different in the quote here, the content is the same. Let’s consider what these three groups do and ponder on why they are the groups they are.

The first group are young men AND women who will prophesy. It is interesting to note from the outset that the fruit of the coming of the Spirit will be revelation. All three expressions here are about revelation from heaven. So this first group will prophesy. Paul was later to say, everyone who prophesies speaks to men for their strengthening, encouragement and comfort.” (1 Cor 14:3). That is the role of Church history prophecy – to build up the church by strengthening, encouraging and comforting the church – and any Christian, including young ones (!) can do that. Remember sons and daughters implies youth! Do we teach our young people to have this freedom in the Lord, to be open to hear Him and use what they hear to build up and strengthen one another and the church generally? Does this imply that no one else can prophesy? No, it simply puts an emphasis where it had not been before. Previously it had been the elders who did all the encouraging and strengthening. Now the Lord says everyone can do it whose heart is open to Him to inspire them.

Next young men will see visions. Why not young women? Well, whether we like it or not, and despite modern norms, the Bible clearly indicates that God holds men responsible for leading the church and obtaining vision. Visions are all about the future. Visions share God’s heart for the future and young men burst to achieve stuff in the future. Thus when the Holy Spirit comes, the Lord looks for submitted children, young Christians who will catch His heart, who will be open to receive fresh visions (to be tested, I suggest, by their elders).

But then old men dream dreams by the Spirit. This is still in the realm of revelation. Someone has said that dreams are built on the past, dreams tend to be less dramatic than visions, dreams are accepted by the wise and experienced in the faith. Younger men might question a dream and their young faith perhaps needs the drama of a vision coming to convince them. Old men wake up with a dream still clear in their mind and say, “God has spoken” (when He has, and it wasn’t just eating cheese last night). Their mature faith accepts such thing that much more readily.

Well here are just some reasons that I suggest are reasons why different people groups will receive revelation when the Spirit comes. When God turns up, we may expect revelation because He is a God who communicates. Have we got that truth well and truly under our belts?

But now, as we have concluded each of these last meditations, consider the preaching of this first sermon and what it says to us. If we didn’t make it clear enough in the previous meditation, let’s do it here: this preaching took the revealed word of God and applied it into the present situation. We see the present situation and are moved by God to speak. As He inspires us we consider His word and let Him shine His Holy Spirit on it, and then by His enabling we declare what it there are bring the two together to make sense of life today. That is New Testament preaching.

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!