“Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind and said, 2 "Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?” Job 38:1-2 (NASB)
These are probably not the words any of us really would want to hear, let alone the situation in which we’d want to hear them. Yet God posed them to Job – and recorded it so that we could “get in on the fun!” I am hoping that by describing to you the way that God chose to reveal Himself and the words He spoke will get your attention – as they have truly gotten mine.
Here we see God speak out of the whirlwind to Job. God and the whirlwind are often revealed together. This particular passage in Job 38 was preceded by Elihu’s description of God drawing near in chapter 37. It is a disconcerting chapter to read. God was approaching in a massive storm that made Elihu tremble. He describes a storm that includes lightning, thunder in amounts that should get our attention. He speaks of clouds with ice (hail maybe?) as well as clouds loaded with moisture. These clouds are described as thick and seem to be described as swirling or at least changing direction all over as they approach.
The word “whirlwind” means a windstorm – and can be tied to several kinds of storms in that region. There are the massive wind storms (shaboob storms) that can sweep up massive amounts of water and form a waterspout over the sea – and dust storms that take your breath away as you see them darkening everything on the horizon as they reach heights of 6000 feet or more. The main aspect of them, of course, is the wind involved. There was also another storm, the one that terrified the disciples when they were in the boat with Jesus in the gospels. The description of such storms that came off of the mountains to the north and hit the Sea of Galilee relate them as if a giant hand had come from heaven and hit the surface of the sea so that it seemed instantly consumed by hurricane force winds and a turbulence that shakes everything around it.
This is what was approaching Job in chapter 37 – and has arrived in chapter 38. If such a storm itself was not disconcerting enough, the sound of the voice of God coming from the midst of it had to be utterly terrifying. But then again God and the whirlwind were often seen together in Scripture.
Whatever this is – it is awesome and fear inspiring as we read of it. Job must have been terrified as this storm approached – and petrified as it slowed and God’s voice came from the midst of it.
Forgive me – but as someone who grew up in “tornado alley,” I’ve seen the arrival and effect of such storms. My house was destroyed by one when I was 4 years old and we huddled in our basement hoping we would survive it. I remember my father describing it to me. The storm itself was unbelievably powerful with winds whipping every way – and the sound of sheets of rain pelting the windows. Then he said it suddenly became quiet – and he ran with my two brothers in hand for the basement. He said behind him it sounded like a dozen freight trains all descending on the spot where we were.
In the movie “Twister” the final scene focused on a force 5 tornado that was being tracked. When they moved toward it – they were shocked at a tornado that was over a mile in width as it destroyed everything in its path. Now imagine such a thing coming toward you no matter which way you turned. As you were ready for your life to be crushed by its power – it slows as it reaches you. Then if that were not enough to scare you to death – you hear the mighty voice of God speaking to you from the midst of it. That is a pretty astounding situation – and the level of fear Job must have felt could not be measured.
Even more terrifying is what God has to say to you. The words had to thunder to be heard over the raging of the storm. “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?” Suddenly Job knew this was about him and the words that he had spoken without a full understanding of Who God is. You see we have a tendency to speak such words when we feel that we could do a better job of managing our own providence – that the sovereignty over our days would be in better hands if it were placed into ours. We might even complain of the things we experience in life – and gripe and moan a little at circumstances that are – how do I say it – difficult.
Honestly – our circumstances cannot come within miles of those that Job experienced. His is an epic story of suffering and hardship as God was working out His perfect will – and Job’s absolute best. Yet, when things get very difficult – we can be very difficult people to deal with as we speak with and of God. So it is with a less than thrilled acknowledgement that we see ourselves in the same light, albeit far, far less severe than that of Job.
Here He comes. God is showing up at the perfect time to do and say what only he can say and do. His timing is perfect and His ways are perfect. We may not want to hear that at the start of things – but by the end of it we will have no more critical comments about Him. He will reveal Himself – amazingly in questions we cannot fathom answering – and – it will be over. We will repent (if we are wise) and He will be praised.
Maybe you, like me, need such a meeting. Maybe you are not all that sold on your current providential situation in the hands of a loving, all-wise God. Maybe we need the Lord to approach us in a way that will leave us speechless and motionless in fear and trembling. Maybe in such a setting we will once again realize how infinitely small we are in this world – and how unbelievably lacking in wisdom and perspective we can be. Maybe – just maybe – we need to field all of God’s questions here – so that we grasp how very little we know. Maybe – just maybe we need to come away humbled, repentant, and focused on knowing Him, walking with Him, and yes – even loving Him as we are reminded why we need to trust Him with absolute trust as He works out and in our lives during the short time of our stay on this earth.
“I will give thanks to You, O Lord among the heavens,
I will sing praises to You among the nations,
For your steadfast love is great,
Is great to the heavens,
And Your faithfulness, Your faithfulness, to the clouds!
Be exalted, O God, above the heavens,
Let Your glory be over all the earth!
Be exalted, O God, above the heavens,
Let Your glory be over all the earth!”
We would probably refer to this praise song as “an oldie.” The funny thing is until many of us read Psalm 57 this week; we may not have grasped just how much of “an oldie” it is! It is not just a song that was written in 1977 – the Holy Spirit through His servant David gave it to us. What may tend to astound us a little is the music studio in which it was written.
There he sat in a dark cave, wondering what possibly could be next. What had it been – 4 or 5 years he had been on the run? A fugitive from justice – at least the royal excuse for justice at the present moment. He could hear his own breathing – as well as the breathing of a small band of men who were with him in the place where light would not betray their presence.
What would today bring? Another close call with death – another sprint up the side of a mountain with our pursuers barely out of sight? It was a lonely existence and often a frustrating one. But before his thoughts could turn to another thing there was a noise at the entrance of their hideout. Silence – absolute silence had to be observed. Did someone see them come in? Did they not cover their tracks well enough? Even worse – were these their final moments before a flood of battle-hardened warriors would begin what would be literally the fight of his life?
No it was only one person – wait – it was one very recognizable person from his attire. The king was entering the cave – and remarkably – he was alone. It was soon evident that he was there to relieve himself. A lone soldier silently came to his side and whispered in his ear. “David – this is it – you can end all this now. God has led your enemy right to you where you can strike him down.”
The stealthy voice was hushed as David took only a moment (but it felt like a year) to know what he should do.
“This is God’s anointed!” He thought, “How can I stretch out my hand and kill him without guilt? He moved as if a small wisp of wind and cut just the corner of Saul’s garment off of the robe. Soon Saul was finished and began to depart from the cave.
David waited a few minutes and then followed him. His men crept behind him to see what would happen. David called out to Saul and apologized.
APOLOGIZED! What was he doing, his men thought!
He isn’t going to kill him?
He’s apologizing – and he’s giving away our position!
We’re all dead men now!
But soon after they heard Saul weep and apologize to him!
What an amazing thing to see and hear.
What a strange day it was.
That night they sat around the fire and David pulled out his lyre. They loved when he did this – for few if any could write and sing like their captain. What prayer would he weave with his music and words tonight? This was a new one – and from what he said – it about today’s events in the cave.
“Be gracious to me, O God, be gracious to me,
For my soul takes refuge in You; And in the shadow of Your wings I will take refuge Until destruction passes by.”
Sounds right – sounds like what we’ve been going through – that is for sure! But David continued with more.
I will cry to God Most High,
To God who accomplishes all things for me.
He will send from heaven and save me;
He reproaches him who tramples upon me.
Our captain is so good at telling the story! We were praying too! It is truly amazing how he turns to God in every situation. It is amazing that he looks to Jehovah to deliver him – and – us! Reproach? Yeah – Jehovah needs to do a little reproaching and rebuking! We are being trampled. The thoughts of what he just sang ran wild in their heads as he went through a little break from singing and the music played by itself.
A flourish of music seemed to be leading to some kind of revelation.
“God will send forth His lovingkindness and His truth.”
Send love and truth? What we need to be asking for is a few more soldiers – no – a lot more soldiers! Maybe even a batch of angels!
“My soul is among lions;
I must lie among those who breathe forth fire,
Even the sons of men, whose teeth are spears and arrows
And their tongue a sharp sword.”
As I turned and elbowed a buddy next to me – we both had that look in our eyes. Yeah – David – tell it like it is!
Lions – yep – they’re like lions – fire breathing lions – with teeth like spears and arrows! Absolutely David – their tongue is like a sword – a very sharp one! We braced ourselves longing for a little more judgment talk! We wondered how God was going to deal with our persecutors? This was going to be good!
“Be exalted above the heavens, O God;
Let Your glory be above all the earth.’
Looked at my buddy and shrugged. Where did THAT come from? He’s started praising God.
We were kind of used to this. It was like one moment he is concerned – maybe even a little mad. Then – boom – it’s like God does something to his heart and his tone changes.
You know - It’s like he sees something we don’t. Almost like God was in the midst of all this mess. Kind of like – no matter what God is still in control of it all? Whatever the case – it may be disturbing – but it sure is amazing and enlightening!
They have prepared a net for my steps;
My soul is bowed down;
They dug a pit before me;
They themselves have fallen into the midst of it.
YESSIR David! It was like they were hunting us with a net and a pit!
Right again! Our souls were bowed down too! And its about time for someone to knock them into their own pit.
Then – there is was again – that flourish in the music that meant a conclusion – or maybe some kind of insight. Oh how we loved how he did this!
“My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast;
I will sing, yes, I will sing praises!
Awake, my glory! Awake, harp and lyre!
I will awaken the dawn.
I will give thanks to You, O Lord, among the peoples;
I will sing praises to You among the nations.
For Your lovingkindness is great to the heavens
And Your truth to the clouds.
Be exalted above the heavens, O God;
Let Your glory be above all the earth.
There he goes again – praising and worshipping God. Was hoping for fire and judgment – but he turns to God and wants to awaken the morning.
Boy - how he views things so very differently than us! Oh – and there it is again – that same chorus.
Be exalted above the heavens – Let Your glory be above all the earth.
Not exactly what I was expecting after that harrowing experience! Then it was done – the song was over. Like all of his songs – this one left us thinking – wondering – considering things.
“You know – there is something about these songs,” I thought. Strange – but the more I hear them – the more I trust in God. The more any situation becomes Jehovah’s situation. The more I see God ultimately in control – no matter how bad or how good it gets.
Then there is also that steady drum beat of everything being for God’s glory.
I looked over at my buddy one last time before I lay down to sleep. “Eh – pretty good song,” I said. “And weird as it may seem – it makes me want to trust God right along with him.”
As I turned my head and lay on the ground I thought of the words of the song I just heard – and drifted off into a restful night’s sleep. My last conscious thoughts were – “With a God like that – doesn’t matter what your situation is – a man can sleep peacefully at night.”
What are we to do when a society becomes so toxic that every decision you make is taken as some sort of political statement or stance? Unfortunately, this is what is happening before our eyes – as businesses are starting to develop political profiles. Many are doing this so that buying their product or purchasing something from them is transformed from shopping to “making a political statement.” Eventually we will face holding a certain kind of cup or bag and being judged by others because of it. How are believers in Jesus to respond in a world like this? It is my hope that in a series of articles over the next several weeks I can give a few biblical principles to help guide us through the increasing minefield of our ever-politicizing marketplace.
First of all – I realize I have made a statement with a purchase I recently made. When I went to Wal-Mart recently, I made the following statement. “I need pants – oh, and I also need food.” Just on a personal note as we start, I don’t want every purchase I make to be a political statement. Honestly, after this most recent election – I’d like to not think about politics for a long time. And as I pick my next pair of Wrangler jeans, which I buy because they are inexpensive and they cover my lower body, I don’t want the thought in my mind that I am helping to advance some sort of agenda. I am buying a pair of jeans – sheesh! Yes, I realize that I am advancing the horrific agenda of older men not really giving a flip that they look frumpy in their “dad-jeans,” (cue the evil laugh track). Seriously though – if you don’t like my Wrangler jeans wearing statement in support of frumpiness among older dads – you don’t have to roll your eyes at me as I walk by. Ok – end of personal rant and sad attempt at humor. Here is the first of what I believe to be three principles that will help us live in a world like ours – without being dragged into its spirit.
Principle #1 – Everything for the Glory of God
Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. 1 Corinthians 10:31 (NASB)
The core principle above everything is to live my life for the glory of God. Since this is true, I live for the advance of the gospel – and to be rich in good works so when people see them – they will glorify God. Even the purpose of those works is to stimulate people to ask why we live this way. The answer . . . the transformation of my life by the Gospel!
When you search the Scriptures for the things that bring glory to God, you will find that at the top of that list is the proclamation of and transformation by the Gospel of Jesus Christ. By the way – the end of this passage in 1 Corinthians 6 speaks of not offending Jews, Greeks, or the church of God. The ultimate goal of this admonition – was that by seeking the profit of others – the gospel might go forth and people would be saved. THE AGENDA for the Christian is the advance of the glory of God through the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Here is what greatly concerns me in regard to our overall topic here and I will express it in a couple of questions. Is the dominant thought in your mind God’s glory? Are you and I as consumed with the proclamation and advance of the Gospel as we are with the current political battle? (You do realize that regardless of who is in power, there is always one going on – right). Is your mind and heart being co-opted for these battles rather than for the battle of getting the Gospel to every tribe, person, and tongue on our planet – for the glory of God? Let me put it another way. When is the last time (or maybe how often) you shared the Gospel of Jesus Christ with someone and continued in a relationship with him or her so that they would be saved? Now, compare that to how often you have spoken, written, or argued with someone (or shared your thoughts on social media) about politics. What was your result? Did the Gospel and the salvation of the lost win a resounding victory?
Please hear my heart. This is not a rant against politics – but it is a call for us to put the gospel and the glory of God ahead of politics. I want my concern to be first and foremost whether someone has received Christ in their lives. I want to know whether or not they have been justified by faith! I want to judge my own actions, words, and attitudes through a grid that puts God’s glory infinitely ahead of any party or political action or shopping list. And what I hope will reign in my heart and yours is not what some bag or cup says about a person’s political views. I hope that we are far more concerned with what someone’s choice concerning Who Jesus Christ is and what He’s done through His death, burial, and resurrection says about their eternal destiny.
May God give to you a view of sin that is consistent with the one He Himself has. This week I want to talk about something our culture has all but abandoned – and that is the exceeding sinfulness of sin.
Our society is one that has downplayed the idea of sin over the years. We’ve moved from a Biblical Worldview that equates the problems in the world to the sinfulness of man, to one that is moving away from calling anything sinful. The modern age is one in which every other “ology” is turned to rather than Theology. We desperately want to blame everyone except ourselves for the maladies of our day. The sinfulness of the human heart, inherited from Adam and inherently tied to original sin in the garden, is either considered too simple or too stupid to the modern populace of the modern thinkers of our time. We prefer to solve our issues with politics, psychotherapy, and pills.
Recently I have been reading The Sinfulness of Sin, by Ralph Venning, and it has been reminding me of a far more Biblical view of sin. If someone had asked me if my view of sin needed strengthening, I probably would have said no. But after reading the first few chapters of Venning’s book, I have been corrected on that matter. As God, through the pen of this able wordsmith, has addressed sin and its sinfulness, I’ve been amazed at how much my view of sin has deteriorated over the years. Let me quote from the book to help me on this point.
"The works of sin are deformed and monstrously ugly, for it works disorder, confusion, and everything that is abominable. Sin may be arraigned for all the mischiefs and villainies that have been done in the world; it is the master of misrule, the author of sedition, the builder of Babel, the troubler of Israel and all mankind. So contrary is sin to the works of God, that it sought and still seeks to undo all that God does, that there might be no seed nor name, nor root left Him in all the earth . . . Sin is evil and does evil, indeed, it does nothing else.” (The Sinfulness of Sin, by Ralph Venning, pgs. 32-33)
As I’ve read Venning’s book I have realized that too often such much needed descriptions of sin are usually laughed at today – and the speaker of writer is written off as some crazed “evangelist” type – or hell-fire and brimstone preacher who needs more grace and kindness in his presentation. But that is not the case with what I’ve read so far. The desire of this author is not to elicit “amens” from a Sunday morning crowd or from a evening Revival meeting. He speaks of the holiness and glory of God with glowing affirmations and does not spend his time denouncing “pet sins” of his generation. Venning is genuinely concerned that men do not grasp how pernicious and horrific sin is. That is why he writes with such passion about sin and sinfulness.
One of the marvelous benefits of reading this volume is the way it is aiding me in seeing sin and utterly sinful and terrible. I am not being urged to rail against sinners whose sins grieve my sensibilities. Instead I am being led to God Himself, in whose presence sin is seen as the ultimate blight of MY OWN soul. His holiness only makes my sin that much more awful and hated – even as His grace forgives and His Spirit enables me to turn from it.
One might wonder why this is important to us? Why make all this fuss over a right comprehension of sin. The problem comes from a diminished view of God that rises up in our hearts when we make our peace with something with which God will never make peace. Sin, when seen properly is an odious and disgusting thing. We want nothing to do with it and retract in horror from it in our own lives and choices. This is true at least with those who grasp how terrible sin is in God’s eyes. The practice in our current time is to make little of sin – and much of conditions we have. Our conditions are named and others are blamed for them. In the end – sin – is now repackaged as something others should feel sorry for us over. We are not held responsible for our actions, attitudes, or messes. We have a syndrome – not a sin-choice. We have a condition – not a corruption. We are battling a social disease – not a sinful decision. In renaming sin and redefining it – we absolve ourselves of responsibility and can blame everyone and everything else for what we are doing.
Sin is a choice – a choice to ignore God’s Law and rebel against it. That rebellion is also against God Himself. Sin hurts us most assuredly, but much more than that, it grieves the heart of God. It incites His wrath and requires punishment. It is against the true order of things God purposed and it opposes His reign over all things at all times. But the worst thing of all is that sin falls short of the glory that God Himself is – and the glory which should characterize our lives as we are called to live for Him. May God in His mercy open our eyes to the sinfulness of sin – helping us to abhor it even as He does. May we see the malignancy of it as well as the destructive path that is portends to those who choose it. May we remember the price required to pay for it on our behalf, and thus learn to hate it and see it as the dangerous and horrific thing it is. And may we have grace to apprehend such things so that we learn to fully o embrace holiness with all that is in us – now and forevermore.
Awe and wonder . . . two words that perfectly fit any view of God. But in a world that thinks too highly of itself, populated with fallen people who seriously think too highly of themselves, awe and wonder do not describe the average response to God, Who has revealed Himself to us in Scripture - and His creation. And if I were to be completely honest (which hurts as I admit to my own sin of pride and over-aggrandizement of myself personally - and humanity corporately) I do not respond to Him nearly enough with the kind of awe and wonder that He deserves. At times I sing songs about His greatness with little more than yawning excitement - and even more sinfully - with a sense of wanting to get on with it so I can move on to other things more exciting to me. In an age where we make much of man - and even more of ourselves - the whole concept of being lost in wonder and awe of God is dangerously waning. And please understand I speak not of the world at large - but of those of us in the church.
There are two words that should show up often in our vocabulary when seeking to give any kind of description of God. The first of these words is the word "awe." We speak of things that, when we see them or experience them leave us awe-struck. That means the shear magnitude and majsety of them render us speechless because we are not sure there are words adequate to describe what we are seeing or experiencing. God, being both infinite and eternal, should be One who leaves us utterly speechless because His majestry and limitless magnitude are beyond human words or concepts. That is where we reach back to get our second word, "wonder." When I looked up wonder at Dictionary.com, the following definition began to take shape in my mind. Wonder means to be filled with admiration, amazement, or awe. This sense of wonder often illicits surprise, astonishment, and in some cases worship or adoration of what has caused our wonder. The God Who has revealed Himself in the Old and New Testaments - and Who is also revealed in what He has created, is a God Who can fill our hearts and our minds with both awe and wonder.
There is no way to adequately define or describe Who God is. One way that we can touch the fringe of His boundless, infinite magnitude is by looking at nature - most specifically - the heavens. Since the discovery of the telescope, we've enjoyed a view of the heavens that expands as quickly as we can upgrade the ability of our telescopes to see further and further into space. The information below was originally printed in John MacArthur's commentary on the book of Matthew.
"The more man delves into the universe, the more amazing and awesome the wonder of creation becomes. Telescopes can take us some four billion light years—about twenty-five sextillion miles—into space, and yet we have not come near the edge of the universe. We have discovered certain gravitational principles that keep the stars and planets in their orbits, yet we are far from fully explaining those principles, much less duplicating them. The earth spins on its axis at a thousand miles an hour at the equator, travels in a five-hundred-eighty-million-mile orbit around the sun at about a thousand miles a minute, and, with the rest of its solar system, careens through space at an even faster speed in an orbit that would take billions of years to complete. The energy of the sun has been estimated to be equivalent to five-hundred-million-million-billion horsepower. There are at least one-hundred-thousand-million other suns in our galaxy, most of them larger than ours." (John MacArthur, Commentary on Mark)
What is even more amazing to me after reading that again, is that MacArthur's statement is just a small paragraph, because there is enough to know about our universe to fill an entire library of books. That is after we've spent 100's of years looking into space. The truth is our knowledge of the universe is ridiculously limited at the present time. If we had instruments and ships that could take us far out into the universe (even into our own galaxy to be honest) our knowledge would grow exponentially!
To give you a perspective on how much we should be in awe and wonder of the God who created our universe, allow me to focus on one star within it. Granted, at the moment (due to our lack of a telescope powerful enough to see it) it is the largest star we know. Nevertheless, let's talk about the star Sirius, or Canus Majoris. This largest of all stars known was most recently measured at around 1500 solar radii. If you were like me, you had no idea what a solar radii was. It is the measurement of how big our sun is. That measurement is approximately 432,450 miles (to go from the outer edge of the sun to its center). If you want to know how far it is around our sun - that would be approximately 2.72 million miles (quite a walk - and take sunblock over 50 because you might get a sunburn!) Just our sun is so huge that it blows the mind to comprehend its size. But we speak of Sirius (Canus Majoris) which is now approximately 1500 times the size of our sun. Now I know that you are tired from that recent walk around the sun (and a little burnt probably) but you need to suck it up - because now we're going to walk around Sirius - which would be 4.1 billion miles give or take a mile or two.
Forgive me for using this comparison - but it will give you a little better grasp of how large this star is. Imagine our earth is a basketball. Compared to our sun earth is a little smaller than a popcorn seed. In order to get something as large as Canis Major you would have to have a ball that is over half the size of the Empire State Building. Let me put that into perspective for you. That height is larger than the full height of the Superdome. So we are talking about a ball bigger than the Superdome itself (try jumping high enough to dumk that sucker into a basketball rim that can fit it!). Another way of describing the size of Sirius is that if we put it into our solar system (starting at the center of our sun) its outer edge would reach beyond the orbit of Saturn (although some think it extends beyond that to about the orbit of Jupiter). That is HUGE! But . . . this is only 1 star, albeit the largest one on record to date. There are trillions times trillions more stars in our universe - all of which have been placed in orbital movements that conicide with each other with greater precision than that of a well choreographed ballet. It truly is incredulous to an infinite degree how men can think this is all a random cosmic accident!
I've taken all this time - and verbiage - to hopefully get you to stand in awe and wonder of a single star - in a galaxy filled with billions and billions of starts - which is in the midst of millions of other galaxies - all moving in such synchronization that we set our clocks by its movement. God created all this by His infinite power and wisdom. He did it so that they would proclaim the glory of His great name! Thus this mere creation of the genius and limitless strength of our God is itself infinitely inferior to Him - the One who spoke it into existence. It required no over-exertion on His part and its creation was no drain on either His intelligence or His might. He is beyond its existence and could as easily consume it entirely with one additional word spoken to utter remove it to little more than an afterthought flying quickly through our minds. So please . . . the next time you consider the God of your salvation - the God of creation - the God of eternal, timeless existence and infinite, measureless magnitude . . . do so with awe and wonder . . . oh, and a little reverence might be in order too (just as an infinitely understated suggestion). And one other thing . . . this coming Sunday when you meet with the saints to sing of the God of your salvation - remember Sirius, Canus Majoris - or by its common name, "The Big Dog!" When you do - and you also meditate on the fact that God created this giant ex-nihilo (meaning out of nothing) as He spoke the world into existence (By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible. Hebrews 11:3, NASB), we will be moved by His Spirit and the truth to sing and worship Him with both awe and wonder! Or, in a euphamism more familiar to our current age, "Let the 'big dawg' speak, and when you feel him - get crunk as you worship God off the hinges." (Yes, I know that just exposed me as a really old white guy trying to look cool - sorry, couldn't help it with the star being named, "the big dog.")
Greetings in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. May the Lord remind you this week that He has NOT forgotten you - nor will He ever forget you as one of His redeemed children!
Have you ever thought that maybe God has fogotten you? Have problems arisen and surrounded you to the point where you really wonder if God has just forgotten you and no longer remembers you or hears your cries? Some might be tempted to think I only say this from a lack of faith - or from not seeing the facts (the biblical ones) properly. But the truth is that many of God's choicest saints came to this point in their lives. In fact, I have come to the point where I am a little shocked if those who are following hard after the Lord have not experienced this.
David experiened this when he wrote, "Why O Lord do you forget me? Why O Lord do you hide Your face from me?" in the Psalms. Moses cried out to God, "Do not take us up from here unless You Yourself go with us!" Job had searchings of heart that go beyond anything any of us have experienced - and many of them had to do with whether God had left him or not. This is far from a rare experiece. In fact, the godly men and women of earlier times called these experiences, "the dark night of the soul."
What do you do in these "dark nights of the soul" so that you do not give up in your pursuit of the Lord? The main thing you do is turn to Scripture and find reassurance in the promises of God that even as He hides Himself for a period of time - He has not - nor will He forsake you.
Today I was reading in Isaiah and came upon this amazing promise.
"But you have said, 'the LORD has forsaken me, and the LORD has forgotten me.' Can a woman forget her nursing child and have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, but I will not forget you. Behold I have increibed you on the palms of my hands . . ." Isaiah 49:14-16, NASB
When God's people had wondered if God has forsaken and forgotten them, God made it clear that even if a brand new mother could forget her nursing child - He would not forget His people. What this means is that you would see all the mothers in the world forget their newborn infants before you would see God forsake and forget His people! What a wonderful promise. That means every time you look at a mother with her newborn - and note how much she loves that little baby - you can be assured that God feels similarly about you. When you see the light on at 2 or 3 in the morning because that mom is totally committed to caring for that little one - you can walk out into the night or day knowing that with an even greater commitment God cares for and loves you!
But there is an even more amazing statement made here in Isaiah 49. In verse 16 God tells us that He has "engraved" or "inscribed us on the palms of His hands. The word that God uses here for this means to cut, inscribe or pierce. How do we know that God has not forgotten or forsaken us? Literally - there are inscriptions on the hands of God Himself that will forever remind us of how much He loves us! What are those marks? They are nail prints in his hands that God chose NOT to heal as His Son, Jesus Christ, was raised from the dead. The disciples saw those glorious wounds of eternal love after He rose from the dead. Jesus told Thomas to put his fingers into those nail prints to realize that it was truly Jesus that was before him. The price of our forgiveness and salvation is forever etched into the hands of our Lord Jesus Christ. If we ever need proof that God has not abandoned or forsaken us - all we have to do is look there. That statement - that commitment - that price that was paid - and those wounds that He bore and bears to this day - forever speak to us that He will never leave us or forsake us!
Let me close this article with the words to a hymn that we sing.
Crown Him the Lord of love
Behold His hands and side,
Those wound yet visible above
In beauty glorified.
All hail redeemer hail,
For Thou hast died for me!
Thy praise and glory shall not fail
- Matthew Bridges -
Dearest redeemed ones of God, know that He loves you! He will not forsake you - nor will He forget you! He has loved you with an everlasting love, and has drawn you to Himself with lovingkindness. He loved you long before you ever thought of even acknowledging Him. While you were yet a sinner - even in the moment when you were your very worst - Christ died for you! (Romans 5:8). His love for you is and never has been because of your performance or your level of recent obedience. You are forever graven on His hands. Those wounds - now glorified in heaven - are there not as a reminder of your shame and disgrace. They are there for the glory of God - who has loved you forever - and who will love you for an infinite number of forevers as time marches outward to the vanishing point and beyond! If you ever doubt this - just remember to look at His hands - and know and rejoice that you have been inscribed there for all eternity!
It is a new year - and with that comes the feeling that you are making a new start - or at least you can make one. This time of year results in massive sales of exercise equipment as well as a large increase in the enrollement at health clubs. We charge into each new year with a sense that maybe this year we can make the changes that will bring us greater joy. The sad reality is that these good intentions or new year's resolutions are often short lived. Very few actually change in the way that they desire or initially intend. How do we take the excitement and freshness of a new year and turn it into the kind of change that will last beyond the end of the month - or for some - even the end of that first week?
If we are going to experience true change we need to begin with our motive for change. For most of us that involves wanting to look or feel better. If we were to be brutally honest - most of our new year's resolutions center around us. I'd like to be slimmer and be in better shape . . . why? Because I'd like to look good - and the compliments from others are not too bad either. Very few of our resolutions have at their core the glory of God. Most of mine - if I were to be brutally honest - are for the glory of pastor John. Real change will have at its core God's purposes - God's will - and God's glory.
This examination of our motives brings us to the second important point about real change. By what power are we expecting to accomplish these changes? If our motives reveal that we want change for our glory, comfort, or convenience - guess whose power is going to be foremost in achieving it? If you guessed your own - you are right! This is where most change short-circuits. Our ability alone is not able to make changes - if it was - we would have been able during the year. Just because it is a new year - does not change the lack of power with which we struggle. What we need to a power surge - or a power change. That is where God comes into the picture. He is the One with the power to change our hearts and live. When we put His will at the center of our desires - as well as His glory at the center of our purpose - real power will be released in our lives.
The last aspect of change is honestly the MOST IMPORTANT. Most changes we seek to make on our own involve the principle of "Law." We begin to make a promise - or a list of things or actions we are going to do to bring about change. The list seems helpful to us until we mess-up for the first time. Then the list seems to condemn us for not conforming to it. We failed - the change did not come - after a few failures add up we become discouraged and give up. That is what the principle of Law does in our lives. Change that is entered into by grace is much different. Grace urges change just like Law does. The difference comes when we have a failure or two. Law does nothing to encourage us - in fact it looms ever higher after each failure. Grace calls us to change - but meets us with - well, with grace when we fail. Think about how often God forgives us - dusts us off from our failures - and lets us know that God chose to love us. We are reminded that God's love is based upon grace and what Christ did - not on our performance. This frees us to get back up and continue seeking to love and honor and obey God - even though we don't always do it perfectly. Even when we become discouraged, grace urges us to get back up and trust God anew to change and transform us.
Each year we have an opportunity given to us - by nothing more than a change of calendar. The problem we've faced is thinking that the calendar alone can help us to make the major changes we desire - only to find that these changes rarely if ever come. My hope is that by looking at this in a more biblical way - there has been opened to you a fresh opportunity with God to see change in your heart and life. The best thing about this is that with God - this change is not limited to once a year in January. It can happen any time you choose to turn to the Lord and access the grace He offers to you.
Most of these articles are taken from the Calvary Courier, a weekly newsletter that is sent to the folks who attend Calvary Chapel Jonesboro. Due to the response to these articles, we've decided to print some of them which proved to be very helpful to God's people at the fellowship.
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