1. Introduction

Motivation Meditations in Acts : 1 :  Introduction

Acts  1:4   On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about.

We have previously written a meditation series entitled, “Why?” but that asked questions of God about why things happen like they do.  This series is slightly different in that we will be examining why we act like we do, what is it that motivates us to act like we do, and to do that we are going to use the book of Acts as our basis for consideration.

Our opening verse give us one obvious reason why we, as Christians, do things – because Jesus or God has told us to do so, but that is only a starting point because, as we so often say in these meditations it is important to look at verses in context. So what have we actually got here at the beginning of Acts?

First of all we have a bunch of men and women and they all have history. They are all, we believe, beyond teenage years at the very least. We might guess that they are mostly in their twenties or thirties but we aren’t told. They all have family backgrounds and some of them at least (maybe most) have families of their own. That we may surmise from what we read in the Gospels.  So each of them is a unique personality and they bring that personality to the Gospel accounts, and we mustn’t forget that. We are first and foremost the people God and our families and life has made us to be.

But this particular group of people have a unique history, at least in respect of the last three years, and it involves being called by and then following Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God. Those three years must have been the peak of human experience as they walked and talked and ate with the Son of God, and then watched him perform healings and miracles, often dozens if not hundreds a day. They saw him raise people from the dead, they saw him walk on water, and three of them saw him transfigured. And then he drew them into what he was doing so that they were the ones who broke bread and fishes to feed five thousand and then four thousand people. They were sent out and they saw healings and signs and wonders and came back full of joy.

But then they had gone up to Jerusalem with him on that last occasion and gone through that nerve racking week when again and again he taught and healed in the temple precincts under the very noses of the authorities who felt threatened by him. They had been with him in the upper room for the Last Supper and they had been with him in the Garden of Gethsemane and fell asleep when he prayed, and then they had seen him arrested and then he had been crucified and buried. They had been utterly miserable and fearful and had hidden away until after three days, when he had been raised from the dead, he came searching them out. Then he had sent them up to Galilee and had eventually come and joined them there – and that is where we find them.

All of these things we need to take into account when we consider these disciples – about to be apostles – as we observe them in Acts.  We are similar to them in that we have unique personalities and we have history but we are very different from them in that we have not been through the wonders and the terrors that were unique to their experience. For us our experience of Jesus started differently. We didn’t have an encounter with this compelling human-cum-God figure. Our encounter came through another human being, yes, and it was Jesus by his Spirit operating through them, but from then on our experiences were different and yet they are the same in as far as they have flowed out of our response to the call of the Son of God to “follow me”.  We are different from our neighbour who has not had this experience in that they have not (yet) come to crisis point in their life where they were faced by their failure and their need and surrendered to God and received His love and forgiveness and regeneration by His Spirit.

That is where we come from but we may be very similar in a number of ways to these disciples with Jesus at our starting point: we hope we are open and available to the Son of God and will therefore be obedient to his calling and his directions, and yet like them we probably have questions because life isn’t as clear as preachers would sometimes like us to believe. So we’re going to stop here in this first meditation and leave the questions to the next one where we can more fully consider them.

For the moment, as we get ready to step out in these new areas of consideration, hold onto that thought about context and background. Yes, we may be motivated in a whole variety of ways that I believe we will see as we get into this series, but behind it all and perhaps limiting or even enabling it, is our personal history. We are what we are because of where we’ve come from and the experiences we’ve had so far in life and all of that will impinge on the things that then press in on us in further life experiences to motivate us to do what we do. Pray for revelation and insight into who you are and how the Lord works in and through these things as we progress in this new series.

27. Chastised?

‘WHY?’ QUESTIONS No.27

Psa 80:12 Why have you broken down its walls so that all who pass by pick its grapes?

In the psalms especially we find some amazing truths about spiritual life. The psalms are full of human experience and experience that touches on God. We take it for granted but the psalms are all cries to God, prayers if you like. Some of them appear more like straight declarations and others like pleas from the heart, but they all speak of the human experience with God. Some of them are powerful praise while others seem almost whimpers of the down trodden. Perhaps because they get referred to so much or read so much in church services, we take them for granted but they each say something significant about the human condition and the human experience of God.

As we come to the end of this short series, it is something to observe, this matter of prayer that arises in the human heart in the face of conflict. Especially, in the light of this particular series of meditations, it is important to note that these prayers are not merely declarations of love, but many of them are cries from the heart that involve questions. The Hebrew psalmists are not afraid to ask questions of God. Perhaps it is a measure of the depth of their anguish that they are past caring, or perhaps it is a case that they have come into such a depth of relationship with the Lord that they know they can ask things of him. It would be many centuries later that a church leader by the name of James would write,If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.” (Jas 1:5), but that is what the psalmists are so often doing.

What seems even more incredible is that the psalmists are not afraid to ask these questions of God, even in the face of God’s apparent anger and judgment. We’ve recently been looking at psalms written during the Exile where many thought God had given Israel up. In this psalm today there is a sense that God has acted powerfully against His people. You might think that the psalmist would be too scared to speak to God on such issues, that he might think he would become a focus of God’s anger, a target for his judgment, but there is no such reticence apparent in these psalms.

In this psalm the psalmist acknowledges that God’s anger burns against his people (v.4) and the Lord has made them a source of mockery for their enemies (v.6). He speaks of Israel as a vine (v.8) that God brought out of Egypt and planted in this land. It grew and spread (v.11) and indeed, by what follows, Israel is pictured not merely as a vine but a walled vineyard, well established. Walls speak of protection, stability and security. But then we find,Why have you broken down its walls so that all who pass by pick its grapes? Boars from the forest ravage it and the creatures of the field feed on it.” (v.12,13). The question here for God is, why have you taken away our protection, our stability and our security so that we have become prey of all and sundry? But it is worse than that; it isn’t merely the removal of security and protection, it is the destruction that has been wrought as a result: Your vine is cut down, it is burned with fire; at your rebuke your people perish.” (v.16)

Three times in this psalm the psalmist cries,Restore us, O LORD God Almighty; make your face shine upon us, that we may be saved.” (v.3,7,19) and yet no acknowledgement of sin or reason for God’s judgment is given. The nearest thing to a clue why this has happened is found in verse 18 when, after the Lord’s restoring work is done, he adds, Then we will not turn away from you; revive us, and we will call on your name.” with the implication that they had turned away from God and needed reviving. Perhaps the fact of the psalm is evidence of contrition but otherwise there are no such signs in this psalm. It is simply a plea to God to come and restore the fortunes of Israel. It is an acknowledgement that only the Lord can do this, otherwise they would have done it themselves and this psalm would have not been needed. They are in a state where they acknowledge God’s anger (v.4) and acknowledge that He has brought them to tears (v.5) and made them a mockery (v.6). He has broken down their security (v.12) and brought great destruction to them (v.16).

Yet the Lord is still the “Shepherd of Israel” (v.1) and therefore the plea is to bring a redeemer: Let your hand rest on the man at your right hand, the son of man you have raised up for yourself.” (v.17). This is a somewhat enigmatic verse, unclear as to whom he refers. Is it the Lord’s anointed on the earth, the king in the line of David, or is it the one who sits at the Lord’s right hand, the one who will one day come to earth to be the Saviour of the world? Whoever it is, there is an acknowledgement of need for one to come and save them. In this respect this is a psalm of pure reliance upon the Lord.

The question here,Why have you broken down its walls so that all who pass by pick its grapes, seems almost rhetorical. It seems it is not so much asking for a deep answer, as simply part of a plea for God to come and restore. Sometimes it seems it is better not to worry about answers to questions but instead look and call for the presence of God to come and do the transforming work that only He can do. Sometimes we just have to trust that part of the restoring will involve putting right whatever caused the downfall. Sometimes the childlike call to God is just that, childlike! Children aren’t so much concerned with the details as the need to be restored to daddy. Knowing Him and knowing a closeness to Him is surely the greatest thing we can ask for. Let’s not be afraid to ask Him for wisdom about the questions that arise in our minds in the face of difficulties, but let’s ensure our greatest desire is not self-centred comfort, but to know Him and to be able, with His help, to do His will at all times.

19. Forgotten?

‘WHY?’ QUESTIONS No.19

Psa 42:9 I say to God my Rock, “Why have you forgotten me? Why must I go about mourning, oppressed by the enemy?”

There is in one sense a commonality in many of these particular studies, a question mark over God’s behaviour as it is seen from our standpoint; it’s just that it comes in a variety of ways. But that is the key: it is from our standpoint. Standpoint is very important. For instance someone once pointed out to me many years ago, the phrase that crops up again and again in Ecclesiastes, “under the sun”. Now “under the sun” means as seen from down here on earth. Ecclesiastes is an earthly assessment of life and as such is very jaded. It was the assessment of Solomon after he had been led away from the Lord by all his foreign wives, an assessment that had little of God in it. As such it is brilliant at helping us see the meaningless of life without God, but it is a very limited viewpoint. The apostle Paul had the exact opposite, a tremendous insight in God’s purposes, but contrary to popular belief, being very heavenly minded doesn’t make you of no earthly use. If makes you far more effective in your use on earth, this side of heaven.

Jesus had the incredible ability to see everything from the heavenly perspective because he had come from there (Jn 6:32 -) and, even more, knew that he was going back there to receive the glory as the Saviour of the world (Heb 12:2). Every time we come up with a “Why?” question it means we have lost perspective. Somehow something has happened which makes us feel one thing that is contrary to the truth.

In the same psalm we looked at yesterday, the psalmist expresses the feeling that he has. He is not only feeling disturbed, he is feeling forgotten. Imagine you were a little child and you were taken by your parents to visit another family and when you arrived at their home, they left you in the front room and said, “We’ve just got to go upstairs and visit Aunt. Your cousins will come and play with you in a minute and we won’t be long.” and they leave you there. Minutes pass, and then an hour and then two hours and no one comes. You have been forgotten. Do you sense the feeling of the little child? Two hours with love and companionship absent. Or perhaps you are an adult and at work your boss has promised you a promotion, but it never seems to come. You feel forgotten. Hopes for something better denied. Or suppose you have a serious accident and they rush you to hospital. You are wheeled into ‘Casualty’ (or ER) and left at one side. No one comes near you. Everyone is hustling and bustling with other patients and you are left there unattended in pain. You are forgotten. Your needs are being unmet. Or suppose you are part of a small army troop sent on special operations in a foreign hostile country. You fight your fight and make for the rendezvous where you will be picked up by helicopters. You arrive at the pickup point and wait, and wait. It is likely the enemy will pursue you. You have only limited time. Where are our helicopters? Time passes and they don’t come. You have been forgotten. Hope of salvation dwindles.

The sense of being forgotten is a sense that someone somewhere doesn’t care. You are not important enough to be in their thoughts and so they have simply forgotten you! The sense of being abandoned is a demeaning one, a belittling one. You are so small that you don’t warrant the attention of someone else. There are a lot of other feelings associated with this feeling of being forgotten! And that is how it seems with God sometimes. Or perhaps we should say, that is how Satan suggests it is with God sometimes, for the truth is that God sees everything, God knows everything and God misses nothing. But perhaps that makes it worse, this thought that He sees me in distress and still doesn’t seem to do anything about it. Why?

The answer of faith has to be that God has a reason, a perfect reason that we may never fully understand this side of heaven. That’s why, as we saw yesterday, sometimes all we can do is say, Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him.” (v.11). Without God we would be stuck in a hopeless situation anyway. At least I know that in the past God has always been there for me, He has always turned up and saved me. I also know what His word promises. His word and His past actions on my behalf can give me confidence for the present. That is what Isaiah knew when he cried, To the law and to the testimony(Isa 8:20). When God seems out of sight and we feel forgotten, we need to restate the truth: Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” (Heb 13:5) and we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him.” (Rom 8:28 ). We may not sense Him but He is there and He is there always working for my good. That is the wonder of the Christian life. Hallelujah!

17. Forsaken?

‘WHY?’ QUESTIONS No.17

Psa 22:1 My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning?

Rejection is one of the most horrible of human experiences. Rejection occurs when someone you love and who has professed love to you, turns away from you and leaves you. In human terms it is usually linked with them turning to someone else, but it can simply be a giving up by the other on our relationship. It leaves a horrible feeling of loneliness, isolation and inner hurt. At the heart of rejection is the cry of “Why have you done this? What have I done to you that has made you treat me like this?”

Before we look at this verse, I want to take the unusual step in these meditations of stating from the outset my conclusion: God never abandons us! I have the feeling that I need to say that from early on for some who might read this. God has NOT abandoned you. As many of these meditations show, there are many times in life when God seems at a distance and the reasons behind that feeling vary. Your sense of being alone may not have anything to do with what I am just about to share. It is right and proper to ask the Lord why you are feeling as you are and seek answers and solutions.

This cry in today’s verse is probably the most significant prophetic cry in the Old Testament, which is literally heard in the New when Jesus cried out to God on the Cross. (Mt 27:46, Mk 15:34). The whole of Psalm 22 is littered with prophetic utterances in respect of Jesus and his redeeming work on the Cross. This, being the most significant of his words on the Cross, starts the psalm off, which then reflects other aspects of it.

Let’s take it at face value first of all, as how it appears in the human sense. It is the cry of one who feels rejected and abandoned. In the psalm he cries,O my God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, and am not silent.” (v.2) He cries to God day and night and seems to get no answer. It seems like God has abandoned him. God has rejected and left him. For a moment, at least, that is how it seems. It is the worst of feelings. It is a real heart cry, this cry of anguish. There is no pretence about it; it is utterly genuine, this cry of anguish.

And of course that is exactly how it was with Jesus on the Cross. Throughout the sacrificial law of Moses, is the picture of the one sacrificing the innocent creature placing their hands on its head in identification, with the idea of their sins being transferred to it. In 2 Cor 5:21 Paul said, God made him who had no sin to be sin.” Even if we take the alternative here, to be a sin offering,” the sense is the same: Jesus had your sin and my sin put on him! The writer to the Hebrews (Heb 9:28) wrote, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.” If you bear something, you carry it. The picture is of Jesus carrying the sins of the world as he hung there on the Cross. Imagine every individual sin as a little bit of blackness, and then imagine every sin that is every committed in the entire history of the world coming on Jesus in that three hours. It says that in that time, he was enveloped in the most horrible blackness imaginable.

Imagine this utter darkness of sin coming down upon Jesus, imagine him utterly surrounded by the hoards of hell. The Father has not moved; He is still there, nothing has changed, but for the man-God hanging on the Cross enveloped in this blackness, surrounded by the demonic world, it is impossible to see or sense anything else. All he can sense is blackness and evil. At that point the fullness of Sin put upon him means that his awareness of the Father’s presence (which was still there) was denied to the man so that he cries out, My God, why have you forsaken me?” because that is exactly what it feels like.

That’s why there was this terrible cry piercing history. It was the Son of God himself sensing the awful separation that sin causes. Sometimes it is like that for us. God hasn’t moved, God hasn’t abandoned us, He hasn’t left us – but it feels like that because we are more conscious of other things. It may be our own failure; it may be the pain of attack by the enemy through others. All we know is that it feels, from our perspective, like God has gone away. He hasn’t, He’s still there for you with arms open wide to you.

Do you have a sense of failure and feel like the enemy is crucifying you? Don’t let him! There is no sin, no failure that is too great to be able to be dealt with by Jesus’ work on the Cross. Confession, the acknowledgement of it and the cry out to God for forgiveness, is the prayer that will always reach the Father’s heart, and He responds instantly with words of love. Jesus was the perfect sacrifice for sin so, as Paul said, nothing will be able to separate us from the love of God (Rom 8:38,39). Know that as a truth and experience it.

14. God far off

‘WHY?’ QUESTIONS No.14

Psa 10:1 Why, O LORD, do you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?


Small children, child-rearing experts tell us, need the presence of their mother. As they grow, we’re also told they do best when they have the presence of a father around as well. The reason is fairly obvious; you hardly need an expert to tell you this, but we get comfort and security as children when a loving adult is there for us, to protect us, care for us, and encourage us. It’s all fairly obvious really. As God’s children we naturally feel the same. Something within us expects God – especially when His word tells us that as Christians He has become our Father – to be there for us. This especially comes to the fore when we find ourselves getting ‘beaten up’ by the enemy. It may be in the form of direct Satanic attack, or it may come in the form of people oppressing us, abusing us, attacking us, or generally harming us. At that time we want to run to ‘daddy’ and cry for Him to do something and redress the situation. Sometimes when this happens it seems like God is miles away.

The experience of God seeming like He is standing far off, is not uncommon. On a bad day it seems like He is in another universe and we are left with a sense of loneliness. Where is He, why doesn’t He appear? These are the natural cries of the young children when troubles come. Where is my dad?

In this psalm, the reason for this cry is spelt out in the following verses all about the wicked who “hunts down the weak” (v.2), boasts about what he wants and speaks out against God (v.3) is proud (v.5,6), has a mouth full of abusive language (v.7), ambushes the innocent weak (v.8,9), knocks down his victims (v.10) and declares that God is helpless to do anything (v.11). This is the playground bully at his worst. But he’s also the bully at work, or over the fence, or at college. This person is bigger and stronger and more powerful than you, and they abuse you, and so, as a Christian you pray and cry out to God, but He doesn’t seem to answer. It doesn’t seem like He’s around, in fact it feels like He must be off visiting another universe! For some reason He’s doesn’t seem to care. He seems to stand at a distance. Why Lord?

Now the psalmist, frustratingly we might think, doesn’t come up with an answer, and in this he is being absolutely true to life, for at the time at least we often don’t seem to get answers. It is almost as if the Lord is waiting for us to declare truth anyway, which is what the psalmist does: “The LORD is King for ever and ever.” (v.16). Whatever the circumstances appear to be saying, he knows that ultimately God is THE ruler who is over everything. He may not understand why these things are happening or why God seems to be standing at a distance, but one thing he is sure about, one thing he is certain hasn’t changed, and that is the God is the ruler of all things. There is a sense here of needing to declare trust in who God is, even when we don’t understand His apparent reticence to turn up on our behalf. I am personally convinced that when we get to heaven, if the Lord allows us to look back over our lives and see perfectly what happened and why it happened, we will not be able to find anything over which to criticize Him. Nothing! If the Lord allows the sky to drop on me, I am convinced He will be allowing it for a reason. I am realistic enough to be sure that I will cry out, “Why Lord,” and feel deeply distressed by it all, but coming through the other side will know, He is “King for ever and ever.”

But the psalmist says more: “You hear, O LORD, the desire of the afflicted; you encourage them, and you listen to their cry.” (v.17). He may be standing afar off (at least that’s how it seems) but He still hears and He will encourage us. Somehow in the midst of it, His quiet whisper will come through in an encouraging way. We may not have a great sense of His presence, but somehow in ways we cannot define or even anticipate, He will speak to us and it will act as an encouragement to us.

But he adds more: “defending the fatherless and the oppressed” (v.18). Somehow in the midst of it all He will actually be defending us. We may not be aware of His presence, we may not have the comfort of His strong arm around us, yet He will defend us. ‘Defending’ speaks of standing against the enemy to protect us. ‘Fatherless’ speaks about the loneliness, the absence of relationship we feel. We feel we have no one there for us. ‘Oppressed’ speaks of the action of an enemy coming against us. When we feel lonely, without loving relationship, and in the sights of the enemy, somehow in some intangible way, the Lord will come through for us and defend us against these attacks against our vulnerable state. Have you noticed how these things seem to come upon us when we are feeling particularly weak and vulnerable?

So, the Lord may seem distant, but our role is simply to speak the truth: He is the Lord – still – nothing has changed, even though it feels like it. This is a time for speaking out in faith! Moreover, even though He seems to be miles away, that doesn’t stop Him whispering simple words of encouragement into our hearts in the midst of it all, and it doesn’t stop Him standing against the enemy and defending us while we feel down, weak and vulnerable. Thus far and no further! Take comfort in the truth.

Challenging Present Limitations

‘WHY?’ QUESTIONS No.5

Ex 6:30 But Moses said to the LORD, “Since I speak with faltering lips, why would Pharaoh listen to me?”

You may be tempted to think we are covering the same verse as yesterday. Look again, this is a repeat of the content of v.12 that we looked at yesterday, but today we have a different emphasis. Yesterday we considered how we sometimes allow the past to hinder our present or future faith. Now we focus on what we feel about our own abilities.

There are those fairly rare individuals who feel they can do anything, but mostly most of us are diffident about our abilities, especially when it involves something ‘out front’ in life or in church. Ask someone to come out front at church and speak about something and so often there is a very diffident response. “Oh, I’m not sure what I could say,” or “well I haven’t anything worth saying that people would find interesting,” or “suppose I make a mess of it.” All of these responses say, “Well, I’m not very good, I’d much rather you asked someone else to do it.” How very much like Moses we are. Sometimes we read about Moses and think how weak and washy he was with all of his excuses to God, but the truth is that when we start thinking about doing something that is not overtly easy, many of us immediately look to our own inabilities. “I can’t do this,” or “I’m not very good at this,” are common responses in the average Christian.

This is the third time Moses is recorded as saying this. We’ve already noted v.12 of this same chapter and back in 4:10 we find, “Moses said to the LORD, “O Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.” It may be that lacking social contact for forty years wandering in the wilderness with sheep meant that Moses just felt utterly out of his depth at being asked to do this thing. It is perhaps the equivalent of asking a Trappist monk who has lived with a vow of silence, to go to the big board room of a major corporation and argue with the Managing Director. He is genuinely out of his depth. At this point you might be starting to think, so why ever did God send Moses? Surely there must have been other people? I believe there are three answers to that and they all apply to you and me.

The first answer is that the Lord knew Moses’ potential. Yes, his previous experience was not going to help a great deal when it came to arguing with the world’s number one despot, but there’s a lot more to the future than just Pharaoh; there are going to be forty years of wandering in the wilderness looking after the people of Israel, and the wilderness is the place where Moses is most at home now and, more than that, looking after silly sheep is his forte. So, yes, the Lord knows his potential in the bigger picture.

The second reason is that the Lord seems to love choosing the weak to confound the wise, as Paul said, “think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things–and the things that are not–to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.(1 Cor 1:26 -29). God wants the world to know that this was His activity. God wants Israel to realize and remember this. Yes, Moses came through as the great law-giver, but all he was really, was an obedient messenger boy. God was the boss, God was the one who would do the mighty things that would sort Pharaoh and Egypt out, not Moses.

The third answer is that God can enable us to do whatever He places before us. After Moses first query about his ability to speak, the Lord said, “Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.” (Ex 4:12). Now, in our present context, the Lord tells Moses to use Aaron has his mouthpiece and He, the Lord, will back up all they say by signs and wonders. Jesus taught, “When you are brought before synagogues, rulers and authorities, do not worry about how you will defend yourselves or what you will say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say.” (Lk 12:11,12). The apostle Paul knew this very well: “And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.(2 Cor 9:8) You can’t get more positive about it than that! Also – “my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” (Phil 4:19), and, “I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” (Phil 4:13). The promises of God for provision to enable you to do what He calls you to do, are there in abundance.

So, to answer Moses question, why would Pharaoh listen to me?, the answer is because God will enable you to speak and keep on speaking and God will back up what you say by what He does. The issue is not our ability, but His!

Upheavals in Life

‘WHY?’ QUESTIONS No.1

The Old Testament is a rich source of human experience and especially experience in respect of God. Human life is full of questions and so in this new series we will consider a wide variety of questions raised by people from the Old Testament, that people still ask today.

Gen 25:22 The babies jostled each other within her, and she said, “Why is this happening to me?”

Life in this Fallen World often seems a roller coaster. One minute it is the slow climb to the heights of blessing, which is followed by a period of peace and you rejoice in the goodness of God and how wonderful life is. The next minute you are on the downward rush and everything seems out of control and you find yourself screaming (inwardly at least), “God where are you? Why is this happening to me?” Uncertainty is a most common characteristic of this world. This is not being pessimistic to say this; it is just being realistic, for this is just how life is. It is a mix of ups and downs.

Gen 25:21-24 reveals a classic ‘roller coaster of events. Let’s check it out. It’s the story of Isaac and his wife Rebekah. Isaac is forty when he marries Rebekah (v.20) and sixty when she has her children (v.26), so they waited twenty years for her to conceive. That’s a long time and in that time it is easy to lose hope and give up the thought of ever having children. Now we are not told a great deal about Isaac in the Bible but one thing we should note: “Isaac prayed to the LORD on behalf of his wife, because she was barren.” (v.21a). We aren’t told when he started praying but it would appear that he probably prayed for a long time before we find, “The LORD answered his prayer, and his wife Rebekah became pregnant.” (v.21b). Now these two things put this pregnancy on a special footing. As far as they were possibly concerned, it was just a nuisance to have to wait that long, but the reality was that this was not just a normal, casual pregnancy; this was a pregnancy that for some reason had been held back until God stepped in and enabled Rebekah to conceive. There has now a divine element to it which is significant.

Now we have to remember that this was not a day when they had scans and were able to see what was going on in the womb. All Rebekah knows is that she is now pregnant and then suddenly it’s not just a case of “The baby is kicking!” but there seems total turmoil within her. Suddenly she is concerned and suddenly we arrive at the question with which we start this series: “Why is this happening to me?” [No superficial answers – “Because you’re pregnant!”  No she wants to know what is going on and why.]

Unfortunately it is so easy to read these things and skim over the words without taking in what is going on. It is the cry in the face of unexpected and upsetting circumstances. We are not omniscient like God, and so we don’t know everything; we don’t know why this is happening and we don’t know where it is leading, so it leaves us in a place of concern. That is a very gentle way of putting it!  Actually sometimes the circumstances can bring extreme anxiety with them. It’s funny really, when we cry, “Why?” it almost assumes there has got to be a clear reason or purpose behind what it going on. We actually don’t think things happen randomly. We believe that actions have consequences and if we are suffering the consequences we want to know what brought this about.

If the circumstances are illness, accident, infirmity etc. our cry might be, “Why me?” which implies, why I have I been picked out for this to happen to? Now do you see that there is implied here, a hand behind what is happening.  If life was pure blind chance, such questions are meaningless, but we ask them because we don’t want it to be that.   Solomon had a sense of this when he wrote: “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” (Eccles 3:11). What he was saying was that God has put something in us that has a sense that there is more to life than this materialistic moment. We have a sense that there is something much more yet, when we struggle to reason it out on our own, we cannot see it.  Oh yes, every cry of “Why?” implies a rational reason, a reason that suggests there is a purpose to what is going on – and I don’t know what it is!

Now Rebekah is an excellent example to us. If we can face the implications of our cry, then Rebekah’s response is the only response, the logical response: “So she went to inquire of the LORD.” (v.22). If God is behind this, why not ask Him what He’s doing? Then see something beautiful: “The LORD said to her….” (v.23). She gets an answer! The Lord explains to her, somehow, what is going on. There are two boys struggling within her, not one. Suddenly Rebekah is no longer on the outside, she is on the inside of understanding, she knows what God knows, she knows this is God’s activity. He’s on her case!

So, can we recap? When circumstances occur that are unexpected and upsetting, and we cry, “Why?” realize that you are assuming there is a rational explanation for them, there is a hand behind them, and that hand must be God.  Now if that is true and God has a purpose for my life, then it must include what is going on, and the obvious thing to do is ask Him about what is happening. And if you ask what is happening, expect an answer. Take time to sit quietly before the Lord and ask and listen, and dare to believe you are getting an answer. Sometimes the answer may take a while to come, or perhaps it may take a while for your way of thinking to be changed so that you can hear and take in God’s answer, but it will come. How do I know that? Because he’s said so! “Ask (and go on asking) and it will be given to you.” (Mt 7:7). So, talk to the Lord about your, “Why?” and expect an answer!