Category Archives: BIBLE STUDY

Where are you planted? Part One

Image result for Public Domain Picture Of Car on Street. Size: 184 x 206. Source: www.photos-public-domain.com“Do not call conspiracy [or hard or holy] all that this people will call conspiracy [or hard or holy]; neither be in fear of what they fear, nor [make others afraid] and in dread.” (Isaiah 8:12, AMPC)

“Well, Father, I am not sure what the first part of this verse means but you are surely telling me that my fear can make others fear.”

Midmorning traffic was light as I drove down Manchaca, past the high school, the community college, and the string of small businesses, repeating my current Bible verse. At the light, I glanced at the next phrase on the printed page spread on the passenger seat, next to my purse.

“The Lord of hosts—regard Him as holy and honor his Holy name [by regarding Him as your only hope of safety].”

As I made the left turn onto Jones, a little side street lined with homes, conviction came so strong I almost pulled into a driveway to stop and think.

“Oh, forgive me, Father! I see that I dishonor You when I do not depend on You alone as my only hope of safety. Oh, forgive me, Lord!”

I sped up along the entrance ramp and then the slow, arcing single-lane turn, ignoring the unsettling feeling of being suspended in midair. Although focused on driving, part of my mind repeated “The Lord of hosts—regard Him as holy and honor his Holy name [by regarding Him as your only hope of safety.” All the while, a familiar undercurrent of gratitude flowed along at a semiconscious level, gratitude for the path the Good Shepherd had led me to follow.

“Thank You, Lord, for all the times the boys and I drove along this road on our way to the gym back when they were preschool. Thank You that diligent Bible study and meditation in my areas of need healed the depression and fear when nothing else worked. Thank You, Father, for the thirst You have given for Your Word! What an unspeakable gift!”

Image result for public domain picture of handwritten noteA personal message of deep love and concern. Friend, this piece of writing came about, with a strong awareness of God’s presence. It interrupted work on another subject. I do not, of course, claim to hear God’s voice perfectly, but I do know when I feel His presence especially strong, as I did when writing this. I plead with you to receive these words in the spirit in which they are written– keenly aware of my own weaknesses and with deep love and concern for your spiritual welfare and your life eternal. So, I ask you today. . .

  • What are you doing with the Word?
  • Are you planted in a desert?
  • Are you planted in a fertile area?
  • Do you have deep roots? Any?
  • Do your roots seek a cistern or the Source Himself?
  • Blinders?
  • Do you know about two more dangers?
  • Do you hear “The full counsel of God”?
  • Do you do personalized study for personal needs?
    • God wants to teach you personally
    • Only God knows my heart and what my heart needs
  • A personal regret

What are you doing with the Word? Are you purposefully studying the Word, diligently, and in your areas of personal need? Are you purposefully meditating on the Word you find each day, all day? If so, press on!  But if diligent Bible study and diligent, purposeful meditation are not part of your daily routine or if your Bible study consists only of trying to absorb Truth others have mined, I beg you, consider – where is the tree of your heart planted?

Image result for public domain picture of tree in desertAre you planted in a desert? Are you planted in the desert of rebellion and disobedience regarding God’s command to “study and show yourself approved to God?” (2 Timothy 2:15)? Do you consider personal, serious Bible study and meditation unnecessary? While listening to preaching and teaching, do you play with your phone? Do you think about the week ahead? If so, if you seldom study or even read the Word for yourself and if you do not pay close attention to what preaching and teaching you do hear, then you rarely get rain and your heart is shriveling as is your soul although you do not perceive it.

You remain spiritually alive only by His grace, and, like a cactus, your trifling bit of life-sustaining moisture is hoarded deep inside, with thorns blocking the way of any fellow parched soul seeking sustenance. You bear no good fruit and provide no shade under which weary ones may rest. You are in grave danger.

Image result for Public Domain Picture of Rainforest Trees. Size: 137 x 100. Source: www.flickr.comAre you planted in a fertile area? You say, “No! I am like a tree planted where it receives abundant rain. I regularly study my Bible and gather with others for preaching and teaching.  I eagerly stretch out my branches and let the rain revive my leaves and, thus, I am watered abundantly. My roots bring water to my soul and I bear good fruit.”

Ahh! That is well and good and you may be a fruit-producing tree but receiving life-giving water through leaves and shallow roots drawing on pooled rain water is a “backward sort of way for a tree to absorb water . . . At least 70 different species of trees in seven different ecosystems have been identified as using a back to front water transport mechanism like this. This is most common in rainforests where mist forms near the treetops, making an environment suitable for this type of water consumption.” (www.wildlifeinformer.com)

Friend, are you getting your spiritual nourishment—like trees feeding on the moisture in the treetops–only from the rain and from the atmosphere created by other believers as you discuss the Word that has been fed to you?

See the source imageDo you have deep roots? Any? God obviously intends for us to be instructed. Every tree does indeed get some of its necessary moisture from rain and from close proximity to fellow believers as well as via shallow roots drawing on rainwater held in the ground. However, God also intends for every believer to diligently study the Word individually and to meditate on His Word continually. It is not God’s plan for believers to be watered with the Word only by what they hear from others, no matter how sound. What happens during drought, when water from rain fails?

Friend, I must ask: Do you have deep roots? Any at all? Do you take time regularly and consistently (not perfectly, but consistently) for diligent Bible study and diligent meditation? Or is your sustenance only from that treetop mist and shallow soil soaked with rainwater?

With love, I must ask again: Do you have any deep roots? Think about it. What if your source of water, of God’s truth, is now tainted or becomes tainted?  God wants you to fully, from the heart, obey Scripture and become like a tree “planted by streams of water” (Psalm 1), so that you will be continually watered not only from others but from below, from the unseen depths of the Spirit directly. God wants you to have deep roots. And He wants your roots to connect to the spring, the Source Himself, of Living Water.

Do your roots seek a cistern or The Source Himself?  Spiritual roots must not only burrow deeply into the soil but they must burrow in the right location. Otherwise, you will draw from a source that, like rain, is secondary to the True Source.

What do I mean? You may be drawing from a cistern. A cistern is an underground reservoir to hold rain. You may get good water, from sound teaching and your own diligent study and meditation upon about what you have heard, but you still are not getting water from the Source Himself. Why?

Roots grow toward water. If a tree, even a deeply-rooted tree, is planted far from a river, its roots will grow toward and inevitably draw from secondary underground sources, like cisterns or ground water.

See the source imageIf I establish myself, if I plant myself, in the habit of getting all my spiritual water from the teaching and preaching of others, I am planting myself above a cistern or a water table.  Even though my roots do go deep, if my mind is open only to what I have been taught—all my roots reach sideways, into that cistern or groundwater, into that reservoir of the teaching of others. I will not hear from God through His Word directly. Friend, every human, no matter how holy, is but a “broken cistern” (Jeremiah 2:13). God wants us to hear from Him directly.  

Unless I am planted close to the water so that my roots connect directly to the underground water that is part of the river itself, the Living Water cannot do His full work in me. The Living Word cannot uncloak truth as I study new Scriptures and He cannot reveal new depths of familiar Scriptures. He is limited to the interpretation of the person who taught me.

Suppose someone taught me that one has to be baptized in water to be saved. When I read that Jesus told the thief on the cross “Assuredly, I say to you today, you will be with me in Paradise. (Luke 23:43, KJV)”, I will not perceive that this verse shows water baptism is not mandatory for salvation. If someone teaches me that the gifts of the Spirit demonstrated in the New Testament are not for today, I will read with that veil over my eyes.

Suppose my pastor only preaches Romans 13:1 (“be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established”). Study Romans 13:1-6 for yourself, and you will see God is saying obey rulers who do right, not wicked rulers. Was it right for God’s people to worship King Nebuchadnezzar when they were commanded to do so? No!  And what did the apostles say when the governing authorities commanded them to stop preaching in the name of Jesus? The apostles said “We must obey God rather than men!” (Romans 5:29b)

Further, we are not to say silent in the midst of evil, as so very many are doing today. Proverbs 25:26 is clear. “Like a muddied fountain and a polluted spring is a righteous man who yields and compromises his integrity before the wicked.” (AMPC)

Image result for public domain picture of horse with blindersBlinders? A horse with blinders walks where he is allowed to see, blind to all things except what is right in front of his eyes, which is what his master has chosen for him to see. This was the sin that kept most of Israel from perceiving Messiah for Who He was and is and will ever be—God Himself. They believed someone else’s teaching, were blinded to all else, and rejected the teaching of the Living Word Himself.

In Matthew 23, Jesus called the teachers of the law and Pharisees, “hypocrites, blind guides, snakes and a brood of vipers”.  Jesus told them:

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.” (Matthew 23:13-14, NIV)

Jesus was addressing teachers of the law and Pharisees who were blocking the way to salvation. Why were they doing that? They were enslaved, controlled, by their own fleshly lust for power and wealth.

Beloved, today’s pastors and teachers are made of the same flesh as those teachers and Pharisees more two thousand years ago.

I am not saying the pastors or teachers you hear are teaching you lies or using you or purposefully leading you away from Truth, but I must ask: if you do not search the Word yourself, how will you tell? A child accepts whatever his parents tell him because he trusts his parents. Who does God tell you to trust, Him and His Word or those who claim to know His Word?

Selective Focus Shot Of A Male Standing And Speaking From The PulpitAgain, I must ask, is it not possible that, though they have good intentions, some pastors and teachers are not connected with the Source of Truth and so are speaking only revised versions of what they themselves have been taught? Is it not possible that their own blindness and pre-judged interpretations cause them to err and, thus, lead you into error?

Suppose one is following another down the road and they both fall into a ditch. The leader says, “Oh, we are fine right here. This is the best place for us. No, no, don’t try to climb out. I know best.“ If the follower believes what the leader says, both will remain cold, wet, and miserable, mere inches away from the bright, warm, sunlit path God prepared for them.

Besides that dangerous kind of pastor and teacher, sadly, many so-called Christians today use and abuse God’s people and serve Satan just as much as the teachers of the law and Pharisees.

I beg you: let God open your eyes. Let Him teach you from the Word directly, not through the filter of anyone else’s understanding.

Two more grave dangers. As stated, if all I hear an know of the Word comes through someone else’s interpretation, I am planted above a cistern. Holy Spirit will not be able to show me fresh understanding of familiar Scriptures nd will be unable to open unfamiliar Scriptures.

Besides those grave dangers, (1) I will not hear the full counsel of God and (2) God will be unable to fully cleanse my heart of sin, bring full healing, and bring me to full maturity. Why? Let’s look first at the matter of hearing the full counsel of God.

Image result for free clipart Of holy fire. Size: 150 x 208. Source: clipground.com“The full counsel of God, Acts 20:27”. There are many kinds of sin. We are ignorant of most of them until we learn God’s laws and He personally teaches us how His laws apply to our individual lives.

Most preaching and teaching in the United States today focuses on self-improvement and other humanistic self-centered themes. Most preaching and teaching does not call sin sin. Think. When was the last time you heard a sermon on sexual immorality, homosexuality, abortion, jealousy, or lying? These sins are so obvious that even most unbelievers know Christians are not to do such things, but how often do you hear preaching on these sins?

Even rarer are sermons and teaching against filthy language, immodesty, self-centeredness, the consequences of neglecting the Word, the need for holiness and our responsibility as believers to shine into the darkness of our current wicked culture and to fight for the Kingdom and our freedom.

God has called us ALL to live “upright and godly lives” in this current dark world.  But if we do not hear preaching or teaching against sin—in all its forms—and if we fail to diligently study and meditate on the Word for ourselves, letting Holy Spirit speak to us personally, how will we live holy lives? How will we be changed from glory to glory? How will we gain a renewed mind? How will we conquer “the world, the flesh and the devil?” How will we hear God explain, through Biblical principles, what is happening in our world and what we must do about it?

Do you want to merely wipe the outside of the dish or do you want to clean the inside as well? (Matthew 23:25) The Great Physician has filled the Bible with His prescriptions for “everything we need for life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3)—right living in each aspect of human life.  God has called us ALL to be holy because He is holy.

(14) [Live] as children of obedience [to God]; do not conform yourselves to the evil desires [that governed you] in your former ignorance [when you did not know the requirements of the Gospel].

(15) But as the One who called you is holy, you yourselves also be holy in all your conduct and manner of living.

(16) For it is written, You shall be holy, for I am holy. (I Peter 1:14-16, AMPC)

Part of holiness is maturity. In many places and with persuasive words, God urges us to press on to maturity, in verses like 2 Peter 1:5-11, Hebrews 6:1 and Colossians 2:6-8, to name a few. We can only do that if we hear what He says about each aspect of life—His full counsel.

Do you do personalized study for your personal needs? Finally, fellow sojourner, unless I seek unfiltered, fresh truth directly from the Word, through the teaching of Holy Spirit, for my particular needs, I remain—unknowingly—vulnerable to the enemy’s attacks. I remain enslaved by (and reaping the consequences of) sin and iniquity concealed from my own awareness. And this can be in spite of decades of following God. (I stumbled at that point for many years)

Merely listening to teaching from others is like blindly grabbing a shirt from a huge rack holding every possible size. My need will be met only marginally and possibly not at all. Letting God teach me is like having the world’s best tailor make a garment for me.

Image result for public domain picture of two people studyingGod wants to teach us personally. Pressing on to maturity—until Christ is fully formed in us–is essential for every believer and possible only by the Living Word of God.  Our loving God longs to speak to you personally, through His Holy Spirit opening His Word to you, about your personal troubles, like fear, temper, depression, or addiction. He wants to give you victory over every “trouble, trial, distress and frustration” (John 16:33). God invites us to reason together with Him, and to let Him cleanse every crimson stain of sin until we are white as wool (Isaiah 1:18). Holy Spirit longs to study the Word with you. If you seek Him, He will be as clear as if you were studying with a human friend.

Only God knows my heart and what my heart needs. Pastors and teachers do not know my heart. Neither do I–because “the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked; who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9).

It is part of human nature to conceal sin. Consequently, so very much of our sins and iniquities are hidden. Thus the psalmist cried: “Who can discern their own errors? Forgive my hidden faults.” Psalm 19:12, NIV).  God does use sound preaching and teaching to convict us of much sin—glory to God!!—but most of every iceberg is hidden.

You have never and never will hear a pastor or teacher tell you the precise occasion when you committed adultery as you allowed lustful thoughts, like birds, to build a nest in your hair. But God knows and His Word will convict you of that.

Image result for public domain picture of an earYou have never and will never hear a pastor or teacher tell you that you are holding resentment and unforgiveness toward someone from 25 years ago – but God’s Word will.

Despite nearly four decades of weekly preaching I never heard a pastor explain how lies I believed about myself and God had created depression. But studying and meditating on the Word exposed those lies and replaced them with Truth, which set me free indeed. (John 8:31-21)

Sometimes prophets do bring God’s conviction to individuals, as Nathan did for David, but for most, God convicts us of our sins and iniquities through teaching and preaching AND personal study and meditation of His Word.

God says “I search the heart and examine the mind, to reward each person according to their conduct, according to what their deeds deserve.” (Jeremiah 17:10). In that same passage, in verse 13, God sternly warns us through Jeremiah who said,

“Lord, You are the hope of Israel; all who forsake you will be put to shame; Those who turn away from you will be written in the dust because they have forsaken the Lord, the spring of living water.” (NIV, emphasis added)

Only washing with the Word, from the inside out, will reveal and cleanse hidden sin. Only washing with the Word, from the inside out, will bring living water to hidden areas of weakness and needed growth, transforming dust into malleable clay, useful for the Potter. Only truth can expose and destroy lies and tear down strongholds (2 Corinthians 10:4). Only the Word can shine light in caverns in your soul where, despite your best efforts, darkness yet reigns.

God longs for us to be healed and whole and living in peace as we labor, joyfully, in our work with Him.  And He has made the way. That way is through the cross, the way of letting God’s Living Word crucify your flesh and then wash you and keep you clean.

Image result for public domain picture of desert

A personal regret. With deep regret I confess that I did not truly study and meditate diligently—and in my individual areas of need—until two years of deep depression forced me to. Then I began studying passages phrase by phrase, slowly, carefully and digging deep to see the complete thought God was expressing. Often that involved the entire chapter as well as chapters before and after. And, finally, because God had put me in a dessert and I was desperately thirsty, I not only studied diligently but I also meditated diligently. I thought all day about truths God had revealed, repeating those passages and verses until I “accidentally” memorized them.

Only diligent Bible study and diligent meditation healed the depression and fear. Why? Because although I was outwardly obeying everything I knew about God and every command I heard and (thought I) had studied, the enemy’s lies living in my heart kept me in bondage to hidden sin, sins like doubting God’s faithfulness, His power for my life and His good intentions toward and promises to me.

Until I dedicated time and energy—and all my heart–to letting God teach me personally from the Word regarding my personal sins and weaknesses, until I then meditated on truth He revealed, until those truths renewed my mind, many areas of healing and needed growth remained hidden. So did many sins of which I was unaware – because I had heard no preaching or teaching about them even though I had pursued God with all my heart for nearly four decades.

Praise God that through diligent Bible study and meditation, Holy Spirit used the Living Water of the Word to reveal the precise portions of Truth I needed. Some need to have God’s truth flow in their hearts regarding a temper or lust or whatever. But I needed to have certain of God’s truths imprinted on my heart, the truths hat God loves me just as I am, that He truly will take care of all my needs, and that when I perceive His presence, His peace and love always drives out all loneliness and fear. I had heard those things but until I personally searched out Scriptures then studied and meditated upon them, letting the Living Word show me—or judge—which of my thoughts and intentions were true and which were false–I remained in darkness.

See the source image

Let’s review. In Part One, we have seen some conditions regarding the Word in which believers may be trapped. Believers, even with good intentions, may be:

  • Planted in a dessert – Not paying attention to the Word they hear and doing no personal study.
  • Planted in a fertile area – Paying attention to the Word and doing some personal study but drawing strength and light mainly from the Word they hear taught and interactions with believers.
  • Growing deep roots . . . but planted above a cistern – doing serious Bible study on their own but unknowingly interpreting all they study through the lens of what they have been taught.
  • Not hearing the full counsel of God – Hearing and studying only what is taught in sermons, group study, or what others have written.

I pray that you and I will ever pursue the path of:

  • Personalized teaching from Holy Spirit – Thirsting for and satisfied by teaching from Holy Spirit through the Word that reveals and heal personal sins and weakness and leads one to maturity.  Then we will joyfully live as that “living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.” (Romans 12:1b, NIV)

In Part Two, we will continue investigating this vital topic, starting with these questions:

  • Where is God telling you to look?
  • “Where can you get this living water? (John 4:11b, NIV)

 

See the source image

 

I will not fear – Isaiah 41:10 – Part Three

Image result for Jesus Reaching Out Art

“ Fear not [there is nothing to fear], for I am with you; do not look around you in terror and be dismayed, for I AM your God. I will strengthen and harden you to difficulties, yes, I will help you; yes, I will hold you up and retain you with My [victorious] right hand of rightness and justice.” (Isaiah 41:10, AMPC)

Review of Parts One and Two: In Part One we talked about diligent Bible study and meditation and the historical context of Isaiah. We surveyed Isaiah 40 and 41, which show what happened to Israel when they were taken captive by the enemy of our souls, led to idol worship and, because of that, were taken into exile. They were taken out of the location where God’s promises were fulfilled. They were taken out of Jerusalem, the focal point of the land God had put them in and sustained them in when they obeyed and served Him. We highlighted the main threads of thoughts in Isaiah 40 and 41, setting the stage for a deeper look at Isaiah 41:10, which is one of God’s sure cures for loneliness and fear.

In Part Two, we saw that God understands fear and He has a sure cure for loneliness and fear, no matter the circumstances because God is Creator and King over all that is, ever has been, and ever will be. Keeping our mind on Him and recalling Who He is and what He is like brings peace. This works even though we are surely living in the terrible times described in 2 Timothy 3:1-9. Now, more than ever in our lifetimes, people are

“lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God—having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.” (NIV)

How to live in the present darkness of our world. Paul’s next words tell Timothy how he is to live in this kind of climate, which is to continue in Paul’s teaching and study the Word. Why? Because “All Scripture is God-breathed and useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16, NIV). That last phrase “so that servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” reflects the message in Psalm 1. Psalm 1 promises blessings if we do not live like the evil and wicked ones around us but rather live righteously and keep our minds on and follow the Word.

Image result for Public Domain Picture of Grazing Sheep. Size: 170 x 104. Source: pxhere.com Another passage with the same idea is Psalm 37, which says do not fret about the wicked things and people around us. Rather, God says we to “Trust (lean on, rely on, and be confident) in the Lord and do good; so shall you dwell in the land and feed surely on His faithfulness, and truly you shall be fed (Psalm 37:3, AMPC).  Notice: God says if we whole-heartedly trust God and do good we will live in the land and feed on His faithfulness. God says “truly you shall be fed.”  Pondering all of Psalm 37 is a great weapon to use against fear and panic that desperate situations can bring, situations like the current condition of our nation.

The second half of Isaiah 41:10. Recall the context of Isaiah 41 and recall that in Isaiah 41:10 God tells His exiled people: “Fear not [there is nothing to fear], for I am with you; do not look around you in terror and be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen and harden you to difficulties; Yes, I will help you; Yes, I will hold you up and retain you with My [victorious] right hand of rightness and justice.” (AMPC).

Look at the promises God gives in Part B.

  • I will strengthen you and harden you to difficulties;
  • Yes, I will help you;
  • Yes, I will hold you up
  • And retain you
  • With My [victorious] right hand of rightness and justice.

Let’s consider each of these promises.

“I will strengthen you and harden you to difficulties.” The Word abounds with promises of God’s strength for His obedient children. One of the most often-quoted verses is Isaiah 40:31, which is in the same context as 41:10.

“But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” (NIV)

Notice the condition in Part A of this verse which we must meet if we want the promises in Part B – we must hope in the Lord.

“But those who wait for the Lord [who expect, look for, and hope in Him] shall change and renew their strength and power; they shall lift their wings and mount up [close to God] as eagles [mount up to the sun]; they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint or become tired.” (AMPC)

Think of times in Scripture when the enemy attacks the hope of God’s people, times when there seems no way out and Satan tempts them to give up, or as Job’s wife put it “Curse God and die.” (Job 2:9, NIV). Think of Israel at the Red Sea, Elijah after Jezebel threatens his life, Jonah after his shading vine withered, Nehemiah who rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem and Ezra who restored worship. All faced direct attacks on their hope. And the enemy uses the same attack today. We must know the Word and use it, for in the Word we have God’s promises of help and deliverance and a multitude of stories of deliverance in the face of impossible odds.

We can have God’s strength IF we believe in Him, adhere to Him, trust and rely on Him. We must exercise our faith as did our spiritual ancestor Abraham “[For Abraham, human reason for] hope being gone, hoped in faith that he should become the father of many nations, as he has been promised, So [numberless] shall your descendants be.” (Romans 4:18, AMPC)

Study and meditate on verses about strength. Ponder—and believe–Deuteronomy 33:15 where God promises “As the days, so shall your strength be” (NKJV)

Image result for public domain picture of lifting weights “. . . and harden you to difficulties.” The hardening in the second half of this phrase is a good thing because God is saying He will change us so that we can endure hardships with grace and peace. As we obey Him and seek to grow, He will help us become more like Paul so that, we too, can say: “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down but not destroyed.”  (2 Corinthians 4:8-9, NIV.) God will equip us to not lose heart so that we, as did Paul, will know

“. . . though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly, we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So, we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:16b-18, NIV)

Arming ourselves with the right attitude toward troubles. The right attitude, like Paul had, is armor for our mind. Consider First Peter 4:1:

So, since Christ suffered in the flesh for us, for you, arm yourselves with the same thought and purpose [patiently to suffer rather than fail to please God]. For whoever has suffered in the flesh [having the mind of Christ] is done with [intentional] sin [has stopped pleasing himself and the world, and pleases God]. (AMPC)

See the source imageGetting that right attitude. How do we get this attitude, so that we have the same mind, or attitude, that was in Christ and which Paul had acquired? Paul tells us in Philippians 2:1-13. Pause and prayerfully consider that passage now.

In Philippians 2, Paul says we are to make God glad by considering others (not just ourselves) and by imitating the humility of Christ. Just as Christ humbled Himself and carried his obedience to the extreme, so are we to carry our obedience to God to the extreme, with whole-hearted fervor, holding nothing back.  Part of that is completing our salvation, working it out, realizing that it is God who is working in us and that He will give us His strength.

 For it is [not your strength] but it is God who is effectively at work in you, both to will and to work [that is, strengthening, energizing, and creating in you the longing and the ability to fulfill your purpose] for His good pleasure (Philippians 2:13, AMPC)

<<When we are exiled, for any reason, we are to keep on obeying and serving God—to the extreme—and we are to press on to even more maturity right in the midst of hard circumstances.>>

Mediate on these passages about the process of maturity and the right attitude toward trials: James 1:1-16, 2 Peter 1:5-10, Romans 5:1-5. As you do so, keep in mind that God promises He will ‘harden us to difficulties.” Does God ever, ever, ever lie? Does God ever, ever, ever have favorites? That means God will change you so that you can bear up under trials.

“Blessed (happy, fortunate, to be envied) is the man whom You discipline and instruct, O Lord, and teach out of Your law, that You may give him power to keep himself calm in the days of adversity, until the [inevitable] pit of corruption is dug for the wicked. (Psalm 94:12-13, AMPC)

“Yes, I will help you.” Recall again that Isaiah 40 thru 56 are promises of divine deliverance for Israel. Reread Isaiah 40, where God tenderly comforts His people, reassuring them of His omnipotence and pleading with them to remember what they have been told: that if they wait, expect, look for and hope in Him, He will give them strength, like an eagle’s. He will help them. And consider Isaiah 41. God repeats “I will help you” three times (verses 10, 13 and 14) and the entire chapter gives details of how He will help them.

Think about what help means. To help is “to give assistance or support to (someone): to provide someone with something that is useful or necessary to achieving an end”. Also, “to make more pleasant or bearable”, to improve or relieve. Also “to change for the better” and “to keep from recurring.” (Webster’s 1828 online dictionary).

Help is one of the things God promised when He commissioned Joshua to lead Israel into the Promised Land. (See Joshua 1:1-9) God told Joshua the Promised Land was already his, that no one would be able to stand against him, that God would be with him as He was with Moses, but Joshua was to be strong and very courageous, he was to do all that God had commanded through Moses and he was to meditate on the Word day and night. God ends His charge to Joshua by saying, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not be terrified or dismayed (intimidated), for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” (AMPC). Notice why God told Joshua not to be afraid—because God promised He would be with Joshua – everywhere he went!

The writer of Hebrews 13:5 (believed to be Paul) refers to this same promise of never-failing Divine help. Paul says we must learn to be content with what we have because God has promised help. Listen to how detailed God is about the help He promises:

For He [God] Himself has said, I will not in any way fail you nor give you up nor leave you without support. [I will] not, [I will] not, [I will] not in any degree leave you helpless nor forsake you nor let [you] down (relax My hold on you)! Assuredly not!” (Hebrews 13:5b, AMPC)

That means that in every situation, in every aspect of every situation, God will support, help, and be with us. Know that, hold that in your heart, and keep standing in faith. With that verse in mind, we can do like Paul says in verse 6. “So, we take comfort and are encouraged and confidently and boldly say, The Lord is my Helper, I will not be seized with alarm. [I will not fear or dread or be terrified]. What can man do to me? “

Image result for public domain picture of father and teenage daughter One final thought about the phrase “Yes, I will help you.” Can you hear that God is aware of our doubt? Imagine a father, who, having told his seven-year old daughter she can stay up late responds to her quizzical expression with “Yes, you can stay up late.”  God is telling us, YES, I will help you. He will make your life more pleasant and bearable. He will help you, yes you!

“Yes, I will hold you up and retain you. . . ”  Notice that God uses the same sentence structure for this next phrase. He wants to convince us that He will hold us up and that He will retain us which means to “keep something in place.” The phrase “to hold up” implies that the one being held is about to fall. God says of the righteous that “Though he falls, he shall not be utterly cast down, for the Lord grasps his hand in support and upholds him.” (Psalm 37:24).  Can you see a baby learning to walk, holding on to his parent’s hand? Does that parent ever let go and let that baby fall to the ground?

In Psalm 139, David tells God he knows that God is with him always and understands his every thought. In verse 9 David says to God: “If I rise on the wings of dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.” (NIV) In speaking of a time when his feet had almost slipped, another psalmist—Asaph—said that even when he was embittered, senseless and arrogant “Nevertheless I am continually with You; You do hold my right hand.”

Even when we lack strength to go on, when we cannot find our right attitude, God still holds us.  “He tends His flock like a shepherd. He gathers the lambs in His arms and carries them close to His heart. (Isaiah 40:11, NIV). His promise to carry us is forever. God says “Even to your old age I am He, and even to hair white with age will I carry you. I have made, and I will bear; yes, I will carry and will save you.” (Isaiah 46:4, AMPC).  And how will this wonderful One help and hold us up and retain us? With His righteousness.

Image result for Public Domain Picture Of Justice. Size: 143 x 101. Source: www.public-domain-image.com “with My [victorious] right hand of rightness and justice.” (AMPC) The KJV says “with the right hand of My righteousness.” Righteous means “acting in accord with divine or moral law: free from guilt or sin” (Webster’s 1828 online dictionary). In proclaiming the name, or explaining the nature of God, Moses says ‘He is the Rock, His works are perfect, and all His ways are just. A faithful God Who does no wrong, upright and just is He.” (Deuteronomy 32:4, NIV) And what is justice? Justice means “being what is merited” or “deserved”. In a word, justice mean fairness. Although God is exceedingly merciful (Psalm 145:8) He is also just and fair, which means we get what we deserve.

Consider these verses.

  • Romans 2:7-8: “To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, He will give eternal life. But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger. (NIV)
  • I Peter 4:7-8 “For the time [has arrived] for judgement to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will [be] the end of those who do not respect or believe or obey the good news (the Gospel) of God? And if the righteous are barely saved, what will become of the godless and the wicked?” (AMPC)

The Word is filled with promises that those in right-standing with God will be rewarded according to their deeds—with eternal life and eternal blessings beyond what we can imagine now and after this earthly life. The Word is also filled with promises that the wicked will be judged according to their deeds, here on earth and for all eternity. “If the righteous receive their due on earth, how much more the ungodly and the sinner!” (Proverbs 11:31, NIV).

Stand strong in your faith! God will judge the evil and wicked people who are now freely strutting about because “what is vile is honored by the human race.” (Psalm 12:7, NIV). Do not listen to the enemy’s whispers that things will continue to get worse. God is already judging the wicked and exposing what they have been doing. But you will not hear about that if you listen to mainstream media. Start listening to Victory News and Flashpoint, read the praying citizen and the Mario Murillo blogs. Check out the “What is God doing?” page on this website for more resources and use them!

If you are not already, get in the fight! Do not let the enemy lie to you that your prayers for our nation and our world do not matter! They do! Get informed and do something! Write or email your government representatives, speak the truth of what is happening to those you know, ask God what else you can do, and pray, pray, pray with faith! The greatest awakening in human history is starting to unfold, and we must stand strong and take our place in the battle.

“Let not your heart be troubled! (John 14:1) Do not get discouraged when, besides the things we see in the world, you have personal trials! Dust yourself off, encourage yourself in the Lord like David consistently did and get back in the fight! We win because the battle is the Lord’s and God NEVER, NO NEVER, NO NEVER FAILS!!  Do not neglect this privilege of joining with the heavenly hosts and God Himself to fight against evil. Gird up your loins, take up your weapons, strengthen your weak arms and knees, and after you have done everything – keep standing. Sound the alarm on God’s holy mountain and say with me, “Let God arise and His enemies be scattered! (Psalm 68:1)

The God Whose we are and Whom we serve is the same God who threw the horse and rider into the sea, closed the mouth of lions, kept His children through the fire, opened prison doors, and turned the world upside down with a handful of people filled with holy fire. This is our God!

This is the One whom the devil once defied and mocked through Goliath. And what did God’s servant David say to Goliath?

(45) “You are coming to fight against me with a sword, a spear and a javelin. But I’m coming against you in the name of the Lord Who rules over all. He is the God of the armies of Israel. He’s the one you have dared to fight against.

(46) This day the Lord will give me the victory over you. I’ll strike you down. I’ll cut your head off. This day I’ll feed the bodies of the Philistine army to the birds and wild animals. Then the whole world will know there is a God in Israel.

(47) The Lord doesn’t rescue people by using a sword or a spear. And everyone here will know it. The battle belongs to the Lord. He will hand all of you over to us.” (I Samuel 17:45-47, NIV) (emphasis added)

And God did exactly that through a young, unknown, outwardly unimpressive shepherd. Many today have listened to the taunts of Satan and have backed down and stopped fighting. Let us not be among those who shrink back and displease God (Hebrews 10:38). Rather, as we fight, let us take courage and let our hearts be stout and enduring!

“Wait and hope for and expect the Lord; be brave and of good courage and let your heart be stout and enduring. Yes, wait for the Lord!” (Psalm 27:14, NIV)

Listen! Do you hear the shofar? Join the fight and keep fighting! God is with you and He will help you. Yes, He will help you! He will never, no never, no never forsake you, or leave you without help – never, no never, no never! Most assuredly not!

When the Israelites rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem faced great opposition from their enemies, Nehemiah told them:

Do not be afraid of the enemy; [earnestly] remember the Lord and imprint Him [on your minds], great and terrible, and [take from Him courage to] fight for your brethren, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your homes.”  (Nehemiah 4:14, AMPC) (Emphasis added)

Do whatever it takes to get this truth imprinted on your mind and engraved in your heart:

God HIMSELF is with you, and because of that – there is NOTHING to fear!

“ Fear not [there is nothing to fear], for I am with you; do not look around you in terror and be dismayed, for I AM your God. I will strengthen and harden you to difficulties, yes, I will help you; yes, I will hold you up and retain you with My [victorious] right hand of rightness and justice.” (Isaiah 41:10, AMPC)

 

 

 

I will not fear – Isaiah 41:10 – Part Two

Image result for Public Domain Picture of Driving Car at Night. Size: 147 x 95. Source: www.actiosecurity.com“You gave my love, when nobody gave me a prayer.” I leaned over, put my hands on my knees and breathed. Sweat ran into my eyes as I straightened and walked, slowly, hands on hips, cooling down. Running in early evening dusk was better than late afternoon’s blazing heat when I usually came to the park after picking up Sharon. Tonight, she was with her father. After a few stretches, I got in the car and drove down Himes then Hillsborough Avenue, toward Parkview Apartments, fighting back tears.

Having taken up serious running two years earlier, I was familiar with emotions being stirred up after a hard run, but that night opened a geyser. Extreme shyness and the need to work long hours and take work home on nights and weekends since the divorce had created isolation from any but shallow work relationships. One close friendship—that I had thought would be so much more than mere friendship—had vanished when Joseph, whom I’d dated, finally admitted he was still in love with his ex-wife. The buried pain of that loss, now a month old, burned fiercely.

I glared into the darkness above the yellow arc of headlights, silently asking “Why, why, why? Will I always be alone? Will it always hurt this bad?” Then I heard it, the song and the words that God used to draw me to Himself.

You Gave Me Love [When Nobody Gave Me A Prayer]You gave me laughter, after I cried all my tears.
You heard my dreams while the rest of the world closed it’s ears.
I looked in Your eyes, and I saw the tenderness there.
You gave me love, when nobody gave me a prayer.”

 God used the lyrics and melody of “You Gave Me Love” (written by Claire Cloninger and Archie P. Jordan) and the rich, masculine quality of B. J. Thomas’s voice to open a secret place in my heart that He has occupied ever since. Searching for the source of the Love I heard in that song led me to a Christian bookstore and, eventually, giving my heart to this One Who gave His life for me and gave me His love to me while I was yet a sinner (Romans 5:8). Listen and let God touch your heart, as He did mine, 41 years ago. . . 41 years in which He has never once failed my in any way.

BJ Thomas – You gave me love – Bing video

The comfort of His presence. Before I began obeying God and living for Him, I was desperately lonely, fearful, and unhappy. However, the intimacy of His presence I felt that night—though I was lost—steadily grew.

In seasons of trial, my awareness of His presence often flickered but the One who is our Living Hope steadily pushed darkness away as I kept loving Him and turning to Him. The blazing light of His peace and His joy now garrison my heart from within. I can only gratefully say with the psalmist:

“Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you, who walk in the light of Your presence, LORD. They rejoice in Your name all day long; they celebrate Your righteousness. For You are their glory and strength.“ (Psalm 89:15-17a, NIV)   

Review of Part One: In Part One we talked about the blessings of diligent Bible study and meditation and saw the historical context of Isaiah and an overview of Chapters 40 and 41. These chapters show what happened to Israel when they were taken captive by the enemy of our souls, sinned greatly through idol worship—depending on and honoring things rather than God—and were taken into exile. We surveyed the main threads of thoughts in Isaiah 40 and 41, setting the stage for a deeper look at Isaiah 41:10, one of God’s sure cures for loneliness and fear and for living in victory through the great trial the whole world is currently enduring.

Part Two Outline. Here is what we will cover in Part Two.

  • God’s sure cure for fear and loneliness
  • Why fear and loneliness hurt
  • The power of presence
  • Isaiah 41:10 Ample provision for fear and loneliness
  • Fear not [there is nothing to fear], for I am with you;
  • “. . . do not look around you in terror and be dismayed, for I AM your God.”
  • Being Kingdom-minded
  • Remembering the nature of our great God.

See the source imageGod’s sure cure for fear and loneliness. Isaiah 41:10 is one of God’s many healing balms for fear and one of the verses I meditate upon often. I cling to the truths in this verse whenever the enemy tries to cause fear or loneliness. Isaiah 41:10 teaches us how and why we can trust this One, this Sweet and beautiful One who gives us His very own love and laughter, this One Who hears our dreams and wants us—wonder of wonders—to look into His eyes and see the tenderness there. This great and loving One does not want us in loneliness or fear.

Loneliness and fear, two painful human conditions, come to each of us. For some, it is a long-standing condition, whereas for others it is a blessedly brief state of heart and mind. Loneliness and fear happen to singles and marrieds, young and old, rich and poor, in every nation on earth. www.freedictonary.com defines lonely as “unhappy as a result or being without the companionship of others.” God created people for companionship—with Himself and with each other. We can all enjoy times of being alone but no one enjoys loneliness, that sadness that comes from feeling we are alone when we do not want to be.

Of all the feelings that accompany loneliness, the most dangerous is likely fear. I believe that loneliness is actually a kind of fear. Loneliness comes when I am aware that my God-given need for companionship is not met. Awareness of that unmet need can bring fear—because loneliness hurts and, alone, I might fear I cannot stop the pain. In that moment, I feel it will last forever. In the moment, I feel hurt, I am afraid, my need is not met now, and I am afraid it will not be met tomorrow.

Why fear and loneliness hurt. Loneliness—feeling unhappy when alone-comes often to those of us who struggle with intimacy but also to those of us for whom intimacy comes easily. We all need someone to talk with about the normal ups and downs of daily life and especially when problems come. We need the emotional support of talking with someone who cares, someone on whom we can occasionally lean and someone who will help carry our burdens. We also want practical support and help with the activities of daily life, help to buy groceries, cook, take care of the car, pay the bills, and make decisions. Most of all we all need love. We need to know someone loves us and accepts us just as we are. With that kind of love, we can face daily troubles as well as big ones. And we need that when we need it, which is not always convenient for those upon whom we depend.

See the source imageThe power of presence. Why does the presence of someone who loves us stop fear? Because, in their presence, we perceive their care and concern. We stop feeling alone. We know we will be helped. Why? Because that particular person has helped us before. Crying infants cannot, of course, say they are afraid and they cannot say they need their parent. They do not have to. Even before a feeding or diaper change, the mere presence of the parent and being held calm the infant at a visceral, instinctive level.

God gives newborn living things the instinct to cry out. That instinct helps keep the mewling kitten, the bawling calf, the whining puppy and the crying human infant alive because it draws the parent close. Science has “discovered” what mothers have known for centuries—that hearing their baby cry moves them powerfully to respond.  In one study MRIs documented that with moms and five-month-olds from eleven countries, “each mom, when hearing her baby cry, had virtually the same brain activity which spurred her to move, speak and respond to the child”. How a Crying Baby Affects a Mother’s Brain | Neuroscience (labroots.com)

I believe that, in some way, this reflects what happens when we cry out —in earnestness and innocence—to God. Our cry moves Him and He always, always, always responds to His children. God knows that being aware of His presence will calm His child. God wants us to understand and trust His great love for us. Although His love is unsearchable, in many Bible passages God clearly explains those facets of His love that we humans can understand.

For example, in Isaiah 49, when God is talking about how He will restore Israel, which can be understood to symbolize the believer, He asks:

“Can a nursing mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you. See, I have engraved you on the palms of My hands; your walls are ever before Me.” Isaiah 49:15-56, AMPC)

Ponder this. Do you hear God telling you that your needs move Him even more powerfully than her crying baby moves a nursing mother? A nursing mother and her infant have a physical as well as an emotional connection, a mutual need. The infant’s cry stimulates the flow of the mother’s milk, and the mother needs her baby to take that which her body has prepared.

God wants you to know: He is with you and He will meet your needs. He is compassionate—He feels with you, He feels what you feel. Your needs move Him. Everything you need is in Him, and He longs to meet your needs, to love you, and to shower upon you mercy and loving-kindness. Pause now and ponder Isaiah 30:18.

Image result for Public Domain picture of father Holding Toddlers Hand. Size: 171 x 100. Source: preachthestory.comIsaiah 41:10 – Ample provision for fear and loneliness. Whenever we are afraid, no matter the cause, we all need the peace that comes from being aware “I AM THAT I AM” is with us, from knowing that the One who has taken care of our every need and loved us is with us. When we are aware of His presence, THEN, we do not feel alone and we feel safe. God hears the cry of our heart every time we feel afraid or alone. He knows when we need peace. He knows that if we are aware of His presence we will feel safe.

As a father loves and pities his children, so the Lord loves and pities those who fear Him [with reverence, worship, and awe]. For He knows our frame, He [earnestly] remembers and imprints [on His heart] that we are dust.” (Psalm 103:13-14, AMPC)

He knows how susceptible all humans are to fear. It has been said that God speaks about fear 365 times in the Bible.

Let’s examine Isaiah 41:10, one of His many powerful antidotes for fear and loneliness that never, no never, no never fails. (Hebrews 13:5). Remember that this verse is set in the context of Isaiah 40 and 41 where God speaks to His beloved people who have been taken captive and separated—because of individual sin or the sin of those around them–from living in the peaceful place with God where promises are fulfilled. Can you hear His father heart?

Fear not [there is nothing to fear], for I am with you; do not look around you in terror and be dismayed, for I AM your God. I will strengthen and harden you to difficulties, yes, I will help you; yes, I will hold you up and retain you with My [victorious] right hand of rightness and justice. (Isaiah 41:10, AMPC)

“Fear not [there is nothing to fear], . . .” When we are consciously focused on the fact that God Himself is with us—the One who created all that exists and Who sustains all life, Who loves each of us individually—we grow calm. Why? Because when (we are aware that) He is with us there truly is nothing to fear. When we look at him—rather than at things causing fear—our hearts are flooded with the light that comes from perceiving truth—that is, the light that comes from perceiving that God Himself is actually right with us. Our emotions reflect what our mind is focused upon, whether that is the light of truth or the darkness of lies. Not only that, but God Himself is in us and is working in us. (I John 4:15-16, Philippians 2;13).

See the source imageWhen a loving parent hugs a small child, fear stops because the child is viscerally aware that the one who has taken care of its every need is touchably there. That child’s world becomes safe because the parent IS that child’s world.

“. . . for I am with you.” When fear attacks—and Satan is seeking constantly to use this weapon today—I recall verses I have meditated upon and memorized that reassure me God is right here with me and watching over me. Over and over I repeat, for example, 2 Chronicles 15:2 “The Lord is with you while you are with Him. If you seek Him [inquiring for and of Him, craving Him as your soul’s first necessity], He will be found by you.” (AMPC). As I repeat a verse, God often highlights one phrase and I talk about it with Him. “Lord, I am definitely trying my utmost to be with You and I am seeking You because my soul needs You above anything else! So, Father, I know You are here with me though I cannot see Your face or touch Your hand. You say You are here because I am doing my best to be with You and I believe You! You are with me”

“. . . do not look around you in terror and be dismayed, for I AM your God.” Notice the word LOOK.  There is incalculable value in keeping our eyes and minds focused on God and “things above.” (Colossians 3:1-2)

We must look to the Lord. When our mind is turned away from God, looking at earthly things, we see darkness. But when we look to God, when we turn our face to Him, the light of His love and awareness of His presence enlighten the eyes of our heart. When the light that comes from Him and that IS Him penetrates the eyes of our understanding (Ephesians 1:18), we take a bit of God Himself into our heart.

Think about it. When a parent embraces an infant, the infant receives a bit of the parent’s warmth which is actually a bit of the parent’s very physical being. There is an exchange of a part of life itself. I believe that, in perceiving God, in being conscious of His loving presence, our spirit receives a fresh bit of God’s very own Spirit.  In seeing Him, in perceiving Him, in being aware of His presence, we have all that He is – light, love, peace, joy, salvation, and all good and perfect things.

Image result for Public Domain Picture of Earth and Sun. Size: 148 x 100. Source: www.shutterstock.comGod is always with us, but we cannot perceive His presence so long as we turn our face away from Him. For half of each day, earth turns her face away from the light of the sun and, for that time, earth’s face is in darkness. As soon as earth turns toward the sun again, the life-giving light of the sun starts changing that darkness to light. The sun gives some of its very own warmth and light to earth.

In the light, or accurate perception, that comes from focusing on Him, we can say with the psalmist:

I sought the Lord and He answered me; He delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to Him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame. This poor man called, and the Lord heard him; He saved him out of all his troubles. The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him, and He delivers them. (Psalm 34:4-7, NIV)

Kingdom-mindedness. The more we have our minds on God and His Kingdom, the more good we do here on earth. Kingdom-mindedness increases our ability to do earthly good. Kingdom-mindedness also multiples our peace.

If I focus on circumstances, I soon experience overwhelming fear and terror. An entire morning fretting and calculating where to cut expenses because of inflation, without God in mind, leads to terror. Terror is “a state of overwhelming fear” and to overwhelm is “To cover over completely” or “to overcome by superior force or numbers.” (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary) Focusing on circumstances around me allows fear to increase and cover my soul with darkness.

Image result for public domain picture of crownSo, I can fret about things and do myself great harm or I can prayerfully plan the budget, pay bills and then get on with Kingdom business, with living my life for God right where I am. Psalm 37 tells us what our attitude must be when evil seems to be succeeding. I am to “Trust in the Lord and do good” (37:3a) As (in proportion to or to the extent that) I trust and do good, the Word promises I will ‘dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.” (37:b)

Keeping my eyes on Jesus, rather than troubles of this life, brings good cheer. I can take courage and be ”confident, certain, undaunted” as Jesus told us to be in John 16:33 BECAUSE Jesus has “overcome the world and deprived it of power to harm” us.

This is what Jesus says of those who believe in and trust in and rely on Him, who hear Him and listen to His voice, and who follow Him. Jesus says “I give them eternal life, and they shall never lose it or perish throughout the ages. [To all eternity they shall never by any means be destroyed.] And no one is able to snatch them out of My hand. My Father, Who has given them to Me, is greater and mightier than all [else]; and no one is able to snatch [them] out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” (John 10:28-30, AMPC)

Remembering the nature of our great God. In distressing circumstances, I do well to remember how powerful my Father is. This is what God reminded Israel of in Isaiah 40 and 41 when He explained His power. This unfathomable power is part of our God but His justice and equally immeasurable mercy and loving-kindness are also part of Who He is, as He revealed to Moses in Exodus 34:5-8.

“. . . and the Lord descended in the cloud and stood with him there and proclaimed the name of the Lord. . . The Lord! The Lord! a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abundant in loving-kindness and truth, keeping mercy and loving-kindness for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but Who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children’s children, to the third and fourth generation.”

See the source imagePeople who honor and work for anything or anyone but the One True God, are rightly filled with terror in hard times because what they are depending upon will fail. God repeatedly warns to worship and serve Him alone, and He warns of the consequences of trusting idols. When we break God’s laws, we get the consequences.

But when we keep God’s laws, we also get the consequences. So, when our mind is fixed on God, when we commit ourself to God, when we lean on Him, and hope confidently in Him, God “will guard and keep [us] “in perfect and constant peace.” As He promises in Isaiah 26.

“You will guard him and keep him in perfect and constant peace whose mind [both its inclination its character] is stayed on You, because he commits himself to You, leans on You, and hopes confidently in You.” (Isaiah 26:3, AMPC)

God never, no never, no never fails! (Hebrews 13:5). We can be confident, because God says that as–or to the degree that–we keep our minds fixed on Him we will experience His mercy and loving—kindness.

“Let Your mercy and loving-kindness, O Lord, be upon us, in proportion to our waiting and hoping for You.” (Psalm 38:22, AMPC)

In summary: Therefore—because of all we just saw–In fearful circumstances like today, let us turn our hearts and minds to God, recalling His message of comfort and His promises in Isaiah 40 and 41. Let us not look at circumstances, rather let us focus specifically on Isaiah 41:10–He IS with us! God Almighty, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of the Bible, IS with us and in us and working through us as we love and serve Him! This is the One Whose eye is on us!

(18) “Behold, the Lord’s eye is upon those who fear Him [who revere and worship Him with awe], who wait for Him and hope in His mercy and loving-kindness, (19) to deliver them from death and keep them alive in famine. (20) Our inner selves wait [earnestly] for the Lord; He is our help and our Shield. (21) FOR in Him does our heart rejoice, BECAUSE we have trusted [relied on and been confident) in His holy name. (22) Let Your mercy and loving-kindness, O Lord, be upon us, in proportion to our waiting and hoping for You.” (Psalm 33:18-22, AMPC, emphasis added).

Part Three: In Part Three, we will consider the second half of Isaiah 41:10, in which God promises:

“. . . I will strengthen and harden you to difficulties, yes, I will help you; yes, I will hold you up and retain you with My [victorious] right hand of rightness and justice.”

I certainly need His strength! This week, meditate on His truth, as God commanded us to meditate in Deuteronomy. Think about His truths as you wake up, as you walk through your day, and as you go to bed. Ponder Isaiah 41:10 and see what God shows you personally.

See the source image

I will not fear – Isaiah 41:10 – Part One

Image result for royalty free picture of gymFear not [there is nothing to fear], for I am with you; do not look around you in terror and be dismayed, for I AM your God. I will strengthen and harden you to difficulties, yes, I will help you; yes, I will hold you up and retain you with My [victorious] right hand of rightness and justice. (Isaiah 41:10, AMPC)

“Fear not, there is nothing to fear, for I am with you; do not look around you in terror and be dismayed, for. . . for. . . “

What was the next phrase? I finished the standing stretches and still could not remember. I walked by two young women doing sit-ups together and a man doing chin-ups.

“Father, please help me memorize. It is getting easier the more we do it but it still takes so many repetitions!”

“Do not look around you in terror and be dismayed, for. . . “ I took one mat of the ten or so suspended by two hooks to the wall, walked back to the stretching area, stretched out and leaned over to grab my toes, the smell of the rubber mat strong and slightly unpleasant.

Do You make doing many repetitions necessary so that the Word gets imprinted on my heart? Is many repetitions part of what You mean when You tell us to meditate constantly, like Joshua 1:8 and Psalm 1? You know, Lord, if I could memorize faster I would go to the next verse rather than deeply ponder each phrase, wouldn’t I? As always, Lord, You know what is best.

Thank You for the desperation of depression that created this habit. You know that when I began I was not trying to memorize or meditate. At first, I was just repeating a verse over and over because the only thing that stopped fear and negative feelings were verses You had unveiled for me.  Like this one, Lord. Please help me get it imprinted so I have a longer chain of verses to use when I can’t get to a Bible.”

As I turned sideways and reached behind me to stretch the lower back, the elusive phrase bubbled up. “For I am your God! That’s it! Thank You, Father!”  This was the eighth verse I had decided to include in my personal arsenal of Scriptures. Since I had learned the value of diligent Bible study and meditating-with-the-intent to memorize, I had studied many passages about peace and security. As I meditated on each one, God always gave deeper understanding but some verses and passages in particular stirred my soul to such depths that I can still see and feel where I was when God unveiled that part of Truth.

On the morning I am writing about, as I did twenty minutes of stretches and kept meditating, Holy Spirit guided the pondering, and I thought . . . the One who was with me was the One who made and sustains the entire universe, that this One was the One I was living my live for, pouring out my life for as a sacrifice. Just  as idol worshippers in ancient times trusted in their so-called gods to take care of them, I trusted in my God to take care of me but I had the God of all creation, God Himself, God Almighty, the great I AM, this God Who said to Moses:

“I AM WHO I AM and WHAT I AM and I WILL BE WHAT I WILL BE . . . You shall say this to the Israelites” I AM has sent me to you!” (Exodus 3:14, AMPC).

The understanding that day in the gym, so distinct I could almost touch it, continues today whenever I meditate on this and other blessed truths He has unveiled.

Outline of Part One:

  • The (blessedly) slippery slope of diligent Bible study and diligent meditation
  • Finding the big ideas in a passage of Scripture
  • Historical context of Isaiah
  • Overview of Isaiah
  • Captivity then exile – a frequent topic in the Bible.
  • Threads of thought in Isaiah 40 and 41
  • Isaiah 40
  • Isaiah 41

Image result for public domain picture of slippery slopeThe (blessedly) slippery slope of diligent Bible study and diligent meditation. When I first meditated on–and thus accidentally memorized— this verse, I was just starting down the blessedly slippery slope of diligent Bible study and diligent meditation. Initially, my effort at diligent Bible study consisted of using a concordance to find specific verses about personal needs. God greatly used those first few verses to start renewing my mind as, in proportion to, I kept those verses in my mind all day long. However, Holy Spirit quickly demonstrated the reward of scanning verses before and after the verse under consideration, carefully looking for connecting words and phrases. This led to scanning the chapters before and after and of pondering the message of the entire book.

Now, when I use my spiritual weapon of Isaiah 41:10, I consider all of Isaiah and specifically Isaiah 40 and 41, I think of the big ideas.

Finding the big ideas in a passage of Scripture. For me, part of learning to study the Word diligently was capturing the context and the big ideas in a passage. I urge you to ask God to show you how to make your own outlines of Bible passages.  I do not mean a formal outline necessarily. Just a list of main points can be effective. Summarizing the Word in my own words often reveals thoughts that, though not stated, are the underlying foundation of a passage. And struggling to identify the main ideas makes the mind dig deeper. By “accident” I discovered that printing out verses on sheets of paper presents more text at one glance and makes it easier to circle connecting words, enclose related verses in parentheses, draw arrows, etc. The website www.biblegateway.com makes it easy to print sections of the Word. With printed pages, you can erase mistakes from your first read-through as well make marginal notes.  God will lead you in the study method best for you.

Historical context of Isaiah.  With that said, let’s consider the context of Isaiah and the main ideas in Isaiah 40 and 41.

The name Isaiah means “Jehovah is salvation” or “Jehovah saves.” Commentaries agree that salvation is the main theme of the book. Isaiah prophesied in Judah, the Southern Kingdom. The Assyrians had already destroyed the Northern Kingdom, Israel. As Halley’s Bible commentary explains, prophets are “the spiritual conscience of the nation. They are appointed to remind kings, priests, and the people of their obligations to God and people.” (p. 363). Isaiah warned kings and the people that God’s wrath would bring condemnation and tribulation. He urged repentance from sin and returning to God.

For Isaiah’s entire life, the Assyrians threatened Judah’s existence. Isaiah witnessed the destruction the Assyrians inflicted on God’s people, including the captivity and exile of the entire Northern Kingdom, the taking by Sennacherib of 200,000 people of Judah, and the near capture of Jerusalem. Isaiah saw his entire nation ruined by the Assyrians. Throughout his life, Isaiah warned of coming judgement for sin but also gave words of comfort as he spoke of the coming Messiah.

Overview of Isaiah. The 1984 NIV published by Zondervan outlines Isaiah as follows:
Chapters
1-6      Judgement and hope of restoration
7-12    Hope in Assyria or God?
13-23  Prophecies about nations
24-27  Israel’s judgement and deliverance
28-35 Warnings and Zion restored
36-39  King Hezekiah withstands Assyria
40-56  Promises of divine deliverance
57-66  The final kingdom established

“Isaiah repeatedly warned the people that Jerusalem and Judah would be judged because of their wickedness . . . but he also held to the hope that the kingdom would be restored again.

Image result for public domain picture of isaiahBeginning in Isaiah 40 Isaiah offered comfort with these promises from God: 1) the Babylonian exiles would be allowed to return to Jerusalem; 2) a righteous, suffering servant would bring salvation; 3) God would set up a new, righteous kingdom.” (NIV, 1984, page 593).

Captivity then exile – a frequent topic in the Bible. I believe captivity is a picture of our condition when we allow the enemy to capture our will. Then—if we persist in our sin–exile comes when we are carried away from our position in the land of promise, where we walk in blessings that come from total love and obedience to our Master.

I believe we can apply this concept on every scale of time and to many situations. For example, if I yield to fear the entire morning, but then repent of that and return to active dependence and trust in God, I am restored, my Deliverer comes and I am rescued from that which took me captive and separated me from God. Or, I can persist in the sin of doubt and unbelief for days, weeks, seasons or years and remain captive.

Image result for public domain picture of chained handsBesides our own actions taking us captive, our life can be in captivity then exile because of the sin of those with whom we are associated, as happened to the prophet Isaiah. This is similar to what we saw in our study of affliction in Lamentations 3. Yet, though the outer circumstances of our life may be in captivity, inwardly (the only thing that matters eternally) we can be victorious and joyful. And we can be victorious and joyful in all circumstances, no matter how difficult, as we cling to the certain knowledge that God is using us right where we are and that He is still in control of our life and will preserve us until deliverance comes.

Threads of thought in Isaiah 40 and 41.  Isaiah 40 through 66 are “messages of Divine deliverance” from exile. Specifically, Isaiah 40 concerns preparing the way for the Lord and Isaiah 41 speaks of God’s help for Israel (Isaiah Outline (biblehub.com)  Both Isaiah 40 and 41 are essential for understanding Isaiah 41:10.

Remember: God is talking in these chapters to Israelites who have been taken captive, most because of their own sin but righteous Israelites have also suffered the same external consequences because they live in the same nation as the idolators and the wicked, just as believers do in our world today.

We can draw strength as we cherish these truths in our hearts, whether our trials are caused by our own sins and weaknesses or whether they are caused by someone else’s (a family member, employer, close friend) or some other thing (our nation, the economy, or the culture).

Isaiah 40—preparing the way for the Lord. Isaiah 40 is located in a passage (chapters 40 to 56) that addresses God’s promise of Divine deliverance. Here are the central thoughts I see in Isaiah 40.

See the source imageIn Isaiah 40, God says “Comfort My people tenderly, telling them help is coming. Tell them that, although man is ‘as frail as grass’, that My Word stands forever. Tell everyone God will deliver.” God pleads tenderly with His children to understand and trust and not fear. God reminds them that He alone—all by Himself—created heaven and earth and that all the nations are like a drop of water, or “small dust”, to Him, so how can we compare anything to God? God says ‘Can’t you tell that idols are mere things made by man? Haven’t you yet (despite all My teaching) understood that I alone rule heaven and earth and that I remove leaders as easily as wind blows away stubble?”

So, therefore (because of those facts), God says how then can we compare anyone to Him? God says “Just look and see how I keep the world in order. So “why, My people” do you think I am not taking care of you? Can you hear the pleading tone in God’s words when He says, “My people!”?

God says: “Hear this: The everlasting God—Who created the ends of the earth–never wearies and is beyond human understanding. He gives power and strength to those who need it. Even strong young men will fall but those who wait, expect, look for and hope in the LORD will be given new strength so that they can draw close to God and run without tiring.

Isaiah 41—God’s help for Israel.  This chapter urges God’s people not to fear because He guides “the destinies of the generations of the nations”. God says to His people “Let’s talk about this point of contention between us about the enemy you fear so much. I, the LORD, raised up Cyrus. The whole world depends on the idols they make but you, My servant Jacob, remember where you came from and Who created you and for what purpose.

God says “You are My chosen servant and I have not cast you off—even though you are exiled. Fear not, for I am with you (Me, not idols). Do not be dismayed (as those who depend on idols are) because I am your God. I will give you strength, harden you to difficulties, and help you. Yes, I will help you. All who come against you will disappear because I will help you and I AM the LORD.

I will make you into a new weapon and you shall destroy your enemies until they are as chaff the wind blows away. I will supply water where there was none for my poor and needy people SO THAT men will see that the Holy One of Israel has done this. Idols made by men can do nothing to show they are gods.

Image result for public domain picture desertThey are nothing and those who worship them are “an abomination [extremely disgusting and shamefully vile in God’s sight]. I have raised up Cyrus, who recognizes that I am giving him his victories. None of the idols predicted this. I, the LORD, announced to Israel that My people the Jews will be restored to their own land through Cyrus. No idol can say one word and their pagan priests and prophets are false, futile and worthless.”

These thunderous declarations are the context of Isaiah 41:10.

God lives in our hope. Fellow pilgrim, fellow captive and exiled one, we all are temporarily not experiencing some of God’s promises because of the sin of our nation and our world. But oh! What richness we have in and through Him—NOW—as we wait on and hope in Him!

God lives in and through (and He is perceptibly present with us because of) our hope, our faith, our trust, our belief in Him. When we have faith and hope in Him, we honor Him. How does a husband feel when his wife shows that she trusts him to take care of her, that she considers him capable, and worthy of her respect? How does he feel when she doubts him? Think about it. Which attitude draws him near? Which attitude deepens his love for her?

Beloved, trust your Maker! Honor Him by walking in faith and keeping your soul in peace as you wait—confidently—for Him!

“Blessed (happy, fortunate, to be envied) are all those who [earnestly] wait for Him, who expect and look and long for Him [for His victory, His favor, His love, His peace, His joy, and His matchless unbroken companionship]! (Isaiah 30:18, AMPC)

See the source imagePart Two: In Part Two, we will look in detail at Isaiah 41:10. Until then, ponder Isaiah 40 and 41. Summarize what you hear God saying in these chapters. I pray He speaks comfort and fresh hope and deliverance to you about areas in your life where the enemy of our souls has taken you or those around you “captive to do his will.” (2 Timothy 2:26, NIV)

 

God is good to those who wait – Part Seven

Image result for public domain picture of waiting with hopeThe Lord is good to those who wait hopefully and expectantly for Him, to those who seek Him [inquire of and for Him and require Him by right of necessity and on the authority of God’s word]. (Lamentations 3:25, AMPC)

Review of Parts One through Six: The afflictions Jeremiah saw “under the rod of God’s wrath” were so terrible that he was weak and had lost all hope. Remembering all the past troubles made Jeremiah sad BUT recalling God’s mercy and loving kindness gives Jeremiah hope. Because of that hope, Jeremiah’s heart chooses God; THEREFORE, he has hope and he will wait. Life in our present world requires like precious hope. Such hope comes from dwelling on and believing Truth! God promises to e good to us when we search diligently for Him in our times of need. We can know with confidence that our true needs will be met, because the Word says so.

We can, like Jeremiah, wait with hope and expectation of God’s goodness if we seek Him as He says to seek Him and if we know the power of the right of our need and the authority of His Word.  It is good to readily submit to the Father’s discipline because He lays the “yoke of divine disciplinary dealings” upon us for our ultimate good and, though He does cause grief, He will “be moved according to the multitude of His loving-kindness and tender mercy. (Lamentations 3:32, AMPC)

In Part Six, we saw that because God is sovereign, we must not complain but rather examine ourselves and pray. In Lamentations 3, God teaches us a godly attitude toward affliction, whether that affliction comes because of God’s loving discipline, our own sin, the sin of the people with whom we are connected or our nation and world.

Outline of Part Seven.  Lamentations 3:49-66 shows us that we can, like Jeremiah in the midst of great affliction, be confident that God will manage our affairs, protect us and our rights and rescue and redeem our life. (Lamentations 3:58)

  • Weeping until God sees
  • Recalling past afflictions
  • Recalling God’s faithfulness
  • The light of seeing what God has done for us
  • God HAS seen the wrongs
  • I know You will answer, O God
  • Am I a channel for God?

Weeping until God sees–verses 49-51.  Jeremiah is weeping and says he will keep weeping until God answers. He says “My eyes overflow continually and will not cease until the Lord looks down and sees from heaven.” (Lamentations 3:50, AMPC)

Image result for public domain picture of night

God has moved on Jeremiah’s heart to do just what Jesus would teach His followers hundreds of years later. In Luke 11, when Jesus’s disciplines asked Him to teach them to pray, He began with what is now known as the Lord’s prayer (Luke 11:2-4). Jesus then continued teaching them how to pray with the parable of the man who at midnight asks a friend for three loaves of bread because he has nothing to give his guest who has just arrived at his house. The friend replies at first, saying “Do not disturb me; the door is now closed, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot get up and supply you with what you [with anything]” (verse 7). Jesus emphasized that the man in bed would get up and give his friend as much as he needed not because of the friendship, but “because of his shameless persistence and insistence.”

To reinforce this idea, Jesus continues with the well-known ask, seek, and knock passage. The KJV, ESV and NASB use the words ask, seek, and knock, but it is instructive to me that the AMPC and NLT use say keep on asking, keep on seeking and keep on knocking.

(9) So, I say to you, Ask and keep on asking and it shall be given you; seek and keep on seeking and you shall find; knock and keep on knocking and the door shall be opened to you.

(10) For everyone who asks and keeps on asking receives; and he who seeks and keeps on seeking finds; and to him who knocks and keeps on knocking the door shall be opened to you.”

Image result for public domain picture of prayerI think it is an indication that Christ is being formed more fully in us (Galations 4:19) when we pray for more than just ourselves and those we know and when we persist in prayer, as Jesus told His disciples to do and as Jeremiah did. For more about persistence in prayer see Colossians 4:2, Ephesians 6:18, and 1 Chronicles 16:11 – and pray persistently!

Recalling past afflictions–verses 52-54. Halley (p 410) observes that it is difficult to specify the subject of each chapter of Lamentations. “The same ideas, in different wording, run through all the chapters, the horrors of the siege and the desolate ruins, all due to Zion’s sins.” (Halley’s Bible Commentary, p. 410).  After resolving to pray until God hears, Jeremiah’s thoughts seem to turn inward as he recalls the time his enemies tried to destroy him by putting him into a pit.  Read Jeremiah 38:1-13 and see how God delivered him that time.

Recalling God’s faithfulnessverses 55-57. But Jeremiah is not just recalling a time of great personal affliction – he is also recalling how God heard and rescued him during that affliction, when he was literally in a cistern. Jeremiah recalls that when he called on the name of the Lord, God drew near, delivered him, and calmed his fears. Jeremiah says:

(55) “I called upon your name, O Lord, out of the depths [of the mire] of the dungeon.

(56) You heard my voice [then]; [Oh] hide not Your ear [now] at my prayer for relief.

(57) You drew near on the day I called to You; You said, ‘Fear not.

Everyone who fears the Lord and hopes in his unfailing love (Psalm 33:18) can recall similar instances of God’s deliverances, times when He made a way through the Red Sea of impossibility, sent ravens of supply, shut the lion’s mouth of unjust accusation, walked beside us in the fire and illumined dark valleys with the light of His Word and His presence.

Image result for public domain picture of solomons templeWe who walk with God are a blessed people. We can, like the psalmist Asaph enter the sanctuary of praise (Psalm 73:17) and perceive God’s ways and be encouraged that, even though we foolishly get bitter at times, we still belong to God and He holds our hand and guides us (v. 21-24). When we enter the sanctuary of God’s presence, then we can say to God:

“Whom have I in heaven but you? I desire you more than anything on earth. My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak, but God remains the strength of my heart; He is mine forever.” (v. 25-26)

The light of seeing what God has done for us– verse 58. When we step back and gain God’s perspective on affliction, when we recall His previous works as Jeremiah did (and as Psalm 105-107 teach us to do), we can see how good God has been. We can say:

“Oh Lord, You have pleaded the causes of my soul [You have managed my affairs and You have protected me person and my rights]; You have rescued and redeemed my life! (Lamentations 3:58, AMPC)

As long as our mind is focused on misery, our own or others, we keep ourselves chained in the darkness of sorrow. But when we do as God says and fix our eyes on Jesus (Colossians 1), when we think on good things (Philippians 4), when we re-affirm and declare out loud our praise for God and our trust in Him–this mighty One Who never, no never, no never forsakes us—then we are free from the darkness.

Image result for public domain picture of light on a path

When we step into the light of truth, when we enter the house of praise, then we see our life and the circumstances of and surrounding our life accurately. Then we see that, even though previous times were hard, God was there and He was working all things out.  The one who focuses on external things is never satisfied, but “to the hungry soul every bitter thing is sweet.” (Proverbs 27:7, KJV)

When our heart is right toward God, when we “find wisdom and gain understanding (Proverbs 3) ah! Then we have treasure “more precious than rubies””! We have the treasure of His presence and the treasure of seeing things from the viewpoint of His wisdom. Then, along with Jeremiah, we recall all God has done for us in previous times of affliction. Then, we have strength to continue praying, as Jeremiah did, with confident expectation.

God HAS seen the wrongsverses 59-64.  In verses 59-64 Jeremiah continues his conversation with God. He says to God,

(59) You have seen the wrong they have done to me, Lord. Be my judge, and prove me right.

(60 You have seen the vengeful plots my enemies have laid against me.

(61) Lord, your have heard the vile names they call me. You know all about the plans they have made.

(62) My enemies whisper and mutter as they plot against me all day long.

(63) Look at them! Whether they sit or stand, I am the object of their mocking songs.

Jeremiah had been attacked by the evil people of his day, those evil ones in his own country and city, because of his messages from God. Yet, “Through all this God protected Jeremiah so he could continue to warn the wicked and comfort those who trusted in God” (Introduction to Jeremiah, NIV Bible, page 654).

Evil kings and people living in wickedness and rebellion hated the corrections and warnings of coming judgement given by God’s Old Testament prophets.  The Old Testament prophets lived in a period when God’s people had long worshipped idols and, because they refused to heed God’s constant warnings, then reaped what they had sown. They were enslaved by their own sin and taken captive, just as we are enslaved when we choose to obey Satan. The Word clearly says: “Don’t you realize that you become the salve of whatever you choose to obey? You can be a slave o sin, which leads to death, or you can choose to obey God, which leads to righteous living. (Romans 6:16, NLT)

Image result for Public Domain Picture of Ancient Shackles. Size: 199 x 106. Source: www.invaluable.com

Are we not in the same situation in America? And may we not be in places of personal affliction because God is either convicting us or else guiding us to higher, safer ground?

What is our appropriate response? Regarding affliction caused by our sin or God’s guiding, it is of course to repent and turn toward God.  Regarding affliction caused by the sin of our nation and world, it is to pray for our enemies and the enemies of our God, but–if they do not repent—to cry out to God for justice, as Jeremiah did.

I know You will answer, O God!–verses 64-66.  Jeremiah cried to the Lord for justice upon the wicked who opposed God. He said:

(64) Render to them a recompense, O lord, according to the work of their hands.”

(65) You will give them hardness and  blindness of heart; Your curse will be upon them.

(66) You will pursue and afflict them in anger and destroy them from under Your heavens, O Lord.”

Jeremiah pleaded for justice and he expressed his confidence that God would indeed bring justice. Jeremiah had given similar messages his entire life. So had the prophets who preceded him and who lived in the same time period he did.

Am I a channel for God? Let us, like God’s prophets of old, be a channel for God’s mercy and reach out to others by speaking the truth in love, in the hopes that God may, through us “by every possible means, save some.” (1 Corinthians 9:22) As we do so, let us be aware that it will sometimes mean suffering because of our beliefs. We know that “everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil doers and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. (2 Timothy 3:13-14, NIV)

Beloved, we are living in the days of the third chapter of 2 Timothy 3. We must be about our Father’s business – all day, every day!

See the source image

Let us cry out that our loved ones, our neighbors, our churches, and our nation will repent and learn to “hate evil, love good; (and) maintain justice in the courts.” (Amos 5:15)  And we must intercede for the Body of Christ and our world. Intercessors for America is a rich source of information on how and what to pray for.  See https://ifapray.org.

Father, while we wait in time of affliction, be it personal, national or world-wide, may we be in the company of those who “know Your name [who have experience and acquaintance with Your mercy]” so that we may lean on and confidently put our trust in You, for we know that “You, Lord, have not forsaken those who seek (inquire of and for) You on the authority of Your word and the right that our necessity gives us. (Psalm 9:10, AMPC)

 We see, Lord, how you are exposing evil everywhere and we rejoice that revival is even now breaking out across America and Your world. We say, “let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!” (Amos 5:24, NIV)

Image result for public domain picture of niAGARABeloved, our Mighty Father, the God of angel armies, has already released a niagara of justice on the evil of our world. Stand firm in your faith and be confident in the God Who created you and Who loves you with unfathomable, undying passion. You will see the salvation your God is bringing about for you! (Exodus 14:13)

 

 

 

 

God is good to those who wait – Part Six

Image result for public domain picture of hopeThe Lord is good to those who wait hopefully and expectantly for Him, to those who seek Him [inquire of and for Him and require Him by right of necessity and on the authority of God’s word]. (Lamentations 3:25, AMPC)

Review of Parts One through Five. The afflictions Jeremiah saw “under the rod of God’s wrath” were so terrible that he was weak and had lost all hope. Remembering all the past troubles made Jeremiah sad BUT recalling God’s mercy and loving kindness gives Jeremiah hope. Because of that hope, Jeremiah’s heart chooses God; THEREFORE, he has hope and he will wait. Life in our present world requires like precious hope. Such hope comes from dwelling on and believing Truth! God promises to be good to us when we search diligently for Him in our times of need. We can know with confidence that our true needs will be met, because the Word says so.

In Part Five, we saw that it is good to hope and wait quietly with confident expectation for God’s salvation, for His safety and ease, and it is also good to readily and meekly submit to God’s discipline BECAUSE God will not abandon us forever BECAUSE even though He does cause grief yet He will be compassionate without measure BECAUSE He does not enjoy hurting people or sending sorrow. In Part Six, Lamentations 3:37-48 remind us of God’s sovereignty.

Outline of Part Six.

  • God is THE Supreme Power.
  • Is God really in control? of everything?
  • God IS sovereign – verses 37-39
  • Let us examine ourselves
  • Let us pray
  • HE STILL REIGNS!!!

Image result for public domain picture of crownGod is THE Supreme Power.  Take time now to read Lamentations3:37-48 and listen to what God says to you.

Verses 37-48 tell me that, because God is sovereign, when we are in affliction we must examine ourselves and submit to Him. God sends evil as well as good and man must not get discouraged or complain when our own sin is punished or the sins of others or the world.  Rather, we must examine ourself and pray and return to God. We should pray to God, on our own behalf when we have sinned or, like Jeremiah, on the behalf of others, saying:

We have transgressed and rebelled and You have not pardoned. You have covered Yourself with wrath and pursued and afflicted us; You have slain without pity. (verse 42-43)

The love of God in Jeremiah moved him to feel compassion for Israel and to identify with sinful Israel. God moved through Jeremiah’s love to give correction and encouragement to His people. He can do the same through us today. We can intercede for others, and God may give us a message for them. The gifts of Holy Spirit are in operation today!

Image result for Public Domain Coffee Cup and Bible. Size: 158 x 105. Source: pixabay.comIs God really in control? of everything? I carefully carried my coffee from the kitchen to the bedroom and placed the chipped mug at the back corner of the desk, the same desk I had used as a child and which my parents had given me after the divorce. After glancing out the window at my daughter and her friend playing in the sheltered center of our apartment complex, I resumed reading the book of Job where I had stopped yesterday. A new believer, I was working my way through reading the Bible, carving out thirty minutes each evening while my daughter played in the long afternoon hours of early autumn in Florida. Every other waking moment was spent working or else focused on her, except for the hour or so before she woke when I had Bible study and prayer.

My eyes stayed wide open as I read the first two Chapters of Job. “Wow, Father!” I remember thinking. “You say clearly that You really are in absolute control of Satan! What a relief!” That question, which had arisen in Sunday School the previous week, had troubled me for days. But the truth of God’s Word planted in my heart that long ago evening, sitting alone with God, bore the fruit of peace immediately and has done so ever since, for more than four decades.

I pray that if you doubt this truth you will take time to study and meditate on God’s truths about His sovereignty until it is engraved on your heart. Certainty that God is sovereign and that He is working all things out for our good will keep us in His peace, even in the midst of dark afflictions, trials and distresses like Jeremiah speaks of in Lamentations.

God IS sovereign–verses 37-39. Reread verses 37 and 39 of Lamentations 3. With his questions, Jeremiah is stressing that God is the king of Kings and lord of Lords (Revelations 19:6). Jeremiah says “Who can command things to happen without the Lord’s permission? Does not the Most High send both calamity and good? (NLT) May we, like Jeremiah, keep in mind that God is sovereign in all affairs of men. Both Old and New Testaments verses clearly proclaim that God is Ruler of “all that was and is and is to come” as John declares in his prologue to Revelations. Just read Job 1:1 to 2:7, as I did years ago, and be grateful that God lets us see the truth of the matter. And consider Colossians 1:16-17.

“For in Him all things were created; things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rules or authorities; all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.”

In the NLT, the little word “then” connects Lamentations 3: 38 with verse 39. After proclaiming that God is sovereign, Jeremiah says “Then why should we, mere humans, complain when we are punished for our sins?” There again is that attitude of appropriate humility before God.

The amplifying phrases in the AMPC show that sometimes our afflictions are part of God’s loving discipline and sometimes they are punishment for our sin.

“Why does a living man sigh [one who is still in this life’s school of discipline]? [And why does] a man complain for the punishment of his sins?” (AMPC)

Image result for public domain picture of thinkingLet us examine ourselves–verses 40-41. Instead of complaining, Jeremiah urges us to examine ourselves and turn back to God. Notice the implication that if we have been complaining, we have turned from God.  God lovingly instructs His children to examine themselves in Psalm 119:59-60, 2 Corinthians 13:5, and James 1:22-24. We are to test ourselves, or ask ourselves questions about, our walk with God. Holy Spirit is our Counselor, our Helper, and He will speak to us and teach us (John 14.) God says we will find Him when we seek Him with all our heart (Jeremiah 29:13).

Let us pray—verses 42-48. Read verses 42 through 48. Sounds like the last two years does it not?  And how is Jeremiah affected as he thinks about his beloved people and city? Jeremiah is deeply moved, and in verse 48 he says “My eyes overflow with streams of tears because of the destruction of the daughter of my people.” We, too, must be moved to deep compassion because of the affliction of others, our nation and our world, not only because of our own afflictions.

In poetic language, Jeremiah says “Let us lift up our hearts and our hands [and then with them mount up in prayer] to God in heaven.” (verse 41, AMPC) Prayer is one of the most, if not the most, uplifting activities available to man. We have one heart and one mind. We can either let our soul and spirit stay mired in the clay of this earth or we can, like the eagle, mount up with spiritual wings to our Most High and awesome God.

And how are we who are in the midst of affliction to pray? We are to pour out our hearts about the situation, being honest because we are talking to our Best Friend and our loving and perfect Father. God despises complaining and made complaining, unbelieving Israel wander in the desert for forty years until all those who doubted and complained had died. However, God urges us over and over to talk with Him, to reason with Him, to pour out our hearts to Him.  I know clearly when I am complaining and when I am casting my cares on Him. I feel separated from God when I complain but when I just talk with Him, sharing my thoughts about my life and talking things over with Him, ah!

HE STILL REIGNS!!! We are indeed to be people of compassionate, prevailing prayer but it is essential, in times of affliction, to read about and ponder the magnificence of God. This helps keep us in peace. I still remember, from all those long years ago, the thrill I felt when I first read the last few chapters of Job, where God teaches about His wonders in nature. Job 36:24-26a says, let us “remember to extol His work, which men have praised in song. All mankind has seen it; men gaze on it from afar. How great is God—beyond our understanding!

Image result for Public Domain Picture Of Sunrise. Size: 165 x 100. Source: christianzennaro.blogspot.comThe last chapters of Job show us that God commands clouds, storms and lightning, He laid the foundations of the earth, gives orders to the morning, sets the borders of the sea, stores up snow and hail, leads out the constellations in their season, watches when mountain goats and the deer give birth, gives the horse his strength, tells the eagles when to soar and controls the great creatures of the deep. Read these chapters and know with me that:

The One who commands the eagles to soar
love you forever, forevermore.
Therefore, take heart! Be strong in your trust,
for the One Who has made you
is mindful you’re dust.

Yes, He knows your frame,
knows just how you’re made,
and He longs that you know
your price has  been paid.

Image result for public domain picture of soaring eagleThrough Jesus, we have power to live a joyful life of peace even in the midst of affliction. Ponder the power of God and worship Him with reverence and awe. Let His presence fill you with His peace, yes, even in the midst of the furnace of affliction! He is the Fourth man in the furnace – yesterday, today, and forever! He does not change!

In Part Seven, we will see that Jeremiah is moved to pray without ceasing until God “looks down and sees from heaven.” (v. 50)

 

God is good to those who wait – Part Five

Image result for public domain picture of waitingThe Lord is good to those who wait hopefully and expectantly for Him, to those who seek Him [inquire of and for Him and require Him by right of necessity and on the authority of God’s word]. (Lamentations 3:25, AMPC)

Review of Parts One through Four. The afflictions Jeremiah saw “under the rod of God’s wrath” were so terrible that he was weak and had lost all hope. Remembering all the past troubles made Jeremiah sad BUT recalling God’s mercy and loving kindness gives Jeremiah hope. Because of that hope, Jeremiah’s heart chooses God; THEREFORE, he has hope and he will wait. Life in our present world requires like precious hope. Such hope comes from dwelling on and believing Truth!

God wants us to diligently search for Him. He cares about our needs and He has made provision concerning our needs in His Word. Remember that God’s truths in Lamentations apply whether the affliction comes because of God’s loving discipline, our own sin, the sin of the people with whom we are connected, or the sin of our nation and our world.

Outline of Part Five:

  • It is good to hope in and wait quietly for God.
  • The appropriate attitude during affliction.
  • “The yoke of divine disciplinary dealings.”
  • A real-time example
  • An attitude of humility and meekness
  • Our compassionate, tenderly merciful Father
    • God will not let affliction last forever
    • Our God will be compassionate
    • It is not His desire to afflict us
  • God’s promises encourage His people
  • Weeping and praying.
  • Our world today

Verses 26-30. It is good to hope in and wait quietly for God. Keeping in mind what we learned in Parts One through Four (verses 1 through 25), take time now to read verses 26-30.

Did you see that verses 26 through 36 seem to be all one thought? Verses 1-25 assured us that God is merciful and kind and that His compassions toward us never fail.  Verse 26 tells us that for that reason alone, while we are in a place of affliction we can hope in Him and wait quietly. “It is good that one should hope in and wait quietly for the salvation (safety and ease) of the Lord. Lamentations 3:26, AMPC”

Verse 27-36 explain that it is good to hope in and wait quietly for God because God is using the discipline of affliction for our benefit. These verses tell us to endure affliction humbly, knowing that God “does not willingly or from His heart afflict or grieve the children of men.”

The appropriate attitude during affliction. Verse 27 demonstrates what our attitude is to be during affliction.

“It is good for a man that he should bear the yoke [of divine disciplinary dealings] in his youth.”

While we wait and hope, we are to “bear the yoke of divine disciplinary dealings” and, furthermore, to bear it meekly.  And the sooner we do that, the better. “It is good to submit at an early age the yoke of His discipline” (NLT).

Image result for public domain picture of yokeGod uses this metaphor of a yoke to demonstrate an appropriate attitude during affliction.  We are to bear the yoke of affliction as a humble beast of burden.  The humble ox submits to its master– who is the source of its life– with no questions, just blind trust and obedience. So are we to submit to our Master, the One who is the source of our life, knowing that—although life in this world is hard and filled with “troubles, trials, distress, and frustration” (John 16:33, AMPC)–our Master will always feed and care for us just as the master of the ox feeds and cares for it. As an ox must be trained to bear the yoke, so must we learn obedience through what we suffer, even as Christ did. Consider Hebrews 5:1-10, especially verses 8 and 9.

(8) Although He was a Son, He learned [active, special] obedience through what He suffered. (9) And, [His completed experience] making Him perfectly [equipped], He became the Author and Source of eternal salvation to all those who give heed and obey Him.

Where else but in the discipline of God’s stripping away the external do we learn to value the unseen but eternal and the “little” things in life?  The school of affliction, regardless of the causes of it, teaches lessons learned nowhere else.

“The yoke of divine disciplinary dealings.” Verse 28 says clearly that “the yoke of Divine disciplinary dealings” is for our benefit.

“Let him sit alone uncomplaining and keeping silent [in hope], because [God] has laid [the yoke] upon him [for his benefit].

Divine disciplinary dealings are indeed a yoke. They require us to carry the load our Master wants us to carry and to go where our Master wants us to go. As an ox must be yoked in order for its power to serve its Master’s purpose, so must there be a means for the power of God in our lives to be used for the Master’s purpose.

<<<The yoke is the connection and the controlling force between the power of the ox and the load to be moved. Discipline is the connection, the means, by which God’s power through us moves us to a new place spiritually and achieves His desired work in us and our area of influence.>>

See the source imageThe horse pulls the plow that tills the ground so its master can plant seed for hay that will feed the horse. Even so, as we submit to our Master’s yoke, He guides us so that our work turns out for our own benefit.

A real-time example.  Today, my recent yoke of affliction (breathing problems and fatigue) forced me to the couch, where I just rested and prayed and thought about this verse. In five minutes, God gave deeper understanding of this verse, understanding I would not have seen had I not been forced—by my yoke of the affliction of breathing difficulties and fatigue—to go where my Master wanted. God apparently wanted me to take more time to ponder this verse than I would have been had I been sitting at the computer. The yoke of His discipline is for our good.

An attitude of humility and meekness

(29) “Let him put his mouth in the dust [in abject recognition of his unworthiness]—there may yet be hope. (30) Let him give his cheek to the One Who smites him [even through His human agents]; let him be filled (full) with [men’s] reproach [in meekness].

Verse 29 pictures one falling down on one’s face. This recognition of our unworthiness is the attitude Jesus addresses in Luke 17:7-10. Jesus said that when we obey God, we should not expect thanks or praise for doing what God tells us to do. Rather, when we obey God, our heart should say “We are unworthy servants who have simply done our duty.” (Luke 17:10, NLT). That, I think, is one part of true humility.

Image result for public domain picture of the crossAnother part of humility is to bear insults meekly. To be slapped on the cheek is a humiliating insult that provokes the flesh toward retaliation. Yet, what did Jesus do? Jesus was no doubt aware that the Father was smiting Him through “His human agents”. Perhaps our Lord had this verse in mind in those cruel hours of His mock trial and torture before the cross. Jesus trusted His Heavenly Father during the horrors of His affliction because He knew His Father. He was One with His Father. And Jesus has given us the privilege of being one with Him if we love Him and obey Him.  “On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in Me, and I am in you.” (John 14:20, NIV)

And Scripture certainly suggests, in my opinion, that during His afflictions Jesus had the truth of Lamentations 3: 31 in mind – for the Lord will not cast off forever! Jesus knew the ultimate end of His suffering. (Hebrews 12:2)

Our compassionate, tenderly merciful Father. Verses 31 through 36 explain why we can wait quietly with hope during afflictions – because God will not let it last forever (31), He will be compassionate (32) and it is not His desire to afflict us (33-36). Let’s look at those three statements.

God will not let affliction last forever—verse 31.  To cast off means to throw something away. The NLT says “For no one is abandoned forever.”  To cast off or abandon (a modern term for forsake) means “to give up with the intent of never again claiming a right or interest in.” It also means “to withdraw protection, support, or help from” (Webster’s 1828 online dictionary.) God promises in Hebrews 13:5, that He will never, no never, no never, in any degree—and most assuredly not!—forsake us.

Let your character or moral disposition be free from love of money [including greed, avarice, lust, and craving for earthly possessions] and be satisfied with your present [circumstances and with what you have]; for He [God] Himself has said, I will not in any way fail you nor give you up nor leave you without support. [I will] not, [I will] not, [I will] not in any degree leave you helpless nor forsake nor let [you] down (relax My hold on you)! [Assuredly not!] [Hebrews 13:5a, AMPC]

In the midst of affliction, it is easy to feel abandoned or rejected by God and others as well. But if we meditate upon God’s promises, God’s truth will shine the light of hope into the darkness of our affliction, no matter how dark. He guides our steps through the dark valleys (Psalm 23) as well as on the dangerous heights.

“The Lord GOD is my strength [my source of courage, my invincible army]; He has made my feet [steady and sure] like hinds’ feet. And makes me walk [forward with spiritual confidence] on my high places [of challenge and responsibility].” Habakkuk 3:19, AMPC

See the source imageOur God will be compassionate-verse 32.  This verse shows clearly that sometimes God does “cause grief” but the word “yet” is an essential part of the truth in this verse. “Yet” can mean at a later time, in addition to what has been said” or “in spite of that” (www.merriam-webster.com)

“But though He causes grief, yet will He be moved to compassion according to the multitude of His loving-kindness and tender mercy.”

God is telling us that even though He sometimes does cause distress, He will also show great compassion on us and that compassion will be according to, or consistent with, the great number of His loving-kindnesses and tender mercies. God reminds us here that He shares our distress and wants to relieve us of it. And the ways He can relieve it are boundless. We may feel compassion for the homeless and give according to the finances we have, but a wealthy person, with the same degree of compassion, can give much more material help.

It is not His desire to afflict us–verse 33-36. And why will God be moved to such compassion? The NLT says “He does not enjoy hurting people or causing them sorrow.” On the contrary, God wants to do good for us; He is our good, good, good Father!  In Matthew 7:8-11, Jesus urges us to ask for what we need and reassures us He will give us good things.

Image result for public domain picture of father feeding child(7) “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. (8) For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. (9) Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? (10) Or if he asks for a fish will give him a snake? (11) If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to you children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask Him?” (NIV)

In Jeremiah 29, God speaks through Jeremiah to the Israelites who had been carried from Jerusalem into captivity in Babylon. God tells His people to settle down and live good, righteous lives right where they are because in 70 years, He will fulfill His promise to bring them back home.  Then comes the well-known verse 11: ‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future”

God’s promises encourage His people. God continues with these promises that His rebellious, wicked people do not deserve any more than we do. God says:

“Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you’ declares the Lord, ‘and will bring you back from captivity.” (12-14a)

Image result for public domain picture of father listening to childThe attitude of God’s heart is never to hurt us. God does not crush us completely and does not deprive us of justice or twist justice, as He is often accused of. God does not approve of these evils described in Verses 34-36 because He is altogether good. “The Lord is gracious and full of compassion, slow to anger and abounding in mercy and loving kindness” (Psalm 145:8, AMPC) If something or someone is full, that means there is no room for anything else. If a basket is full of wheat, there is no room for grass, hay or anything else. Our God is completely good and He overflows with mercy and tender, benevolent affection toward His children.

Weeping and praying. Halley’s Bible Handbook (p.409) says “the last chapter of Jeremiah should be read as an introduction to Lamentations.” Jeremiah is weeping over the city he tried to save but Jeremiah also “expresses his faith that Jerusalem will rise again.” Jeremiah wept over the great afflictions of his beloved city of Jerusalem and he delivered God’s directive to the people regarding how they were to live while under the affliction of captivity. In this case, the people were being disciplined by God for their repeated, willful sins. Jeremiah shared their affliction although he did not share their sin.

Pause and reflect. Are not we in America now suffering much affliction because the church in America for decades watered down the gospel, failed to preach Jesus and Him crucified, forsook holiness and embraced the wickedness of secular culture instead of working with God to redeem it?

Our world today. We, like Israel, are being led toward captivity by evil leaders who pass laws allowing the murder of babies and teaching our children that homosexuality and trying to change one’s gender are good. The entire world is reaping the consequences of sin.

When affliction comes because of our own sin, or when God is training us, let us examine ourselves, repent and/or refine our walk and obey God with greater purity of heart. When affliction comes because someone with whom we are connected sins or when God is using us to demonstrate His love to that person, we must hear from God and perhaps bear it silently or perhaps “speak the truth in love” but in any case we are live toward that person as Jesus would.

Image result for public domain picture of the worldHowever, in affliction that comes because of the sin of our nation and the world, we are to be doing our part to fulfill the purpose of Jesus in coming to earth. In “Vessels of Fire and Glory” Mario Murillo says:

“Jesus is the one with a purpose and we have an assignment within that purpose.”

“What is Christ’s purpose on earth? First John 3:8 says, “He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil.”

Your assignment in the army of God is your individual expression and extension of Christ’s destruction of the works of the devil. You are a destroyer of the works of the devil. God will give you a way to do it that is all your own.

Until that gets through to you—until you admit and agree to those terms—God will remain silent about your assignment.” (p. 116-117)

I urge you to read this book. It will put fresh fire in your life.

And how might we, as individuals, work to “destroy the works of the devil?”  Get and stay informed about what God is doing today and seek God for concrete action to take. You can start getting informed by listening to news from a Christian perspective. Resources are listed on the “What is God doing?” page of this website. God will certainly lead you o pray and may lead you to help in a political campaign of a righteous person, speak at your school board or run for a local office yourself.

May we, like Jeremiah, be moved to action and to compassionate prayer for our world, our nation and people we know who are undergoing affliction.

Image result for public domain picture of hANDS LIFTED IN PR AYEROh, our loving Father in heaven! Thank You for Your tender mercies and compassion that prevent You from consuming us when we sin. Open the eyes of our heart so that we may purge our sin and walk in holiness before you. Oh, Lord! Have mercy on our nation, our world and those who persist in doing evil. Shine the light of Your truth into every dark situation and turn hearts toward You and Your holiness.

Help us, Lord, have a humble and meek attitude toward whatever troubles we now face. We know You are working all things together for good. Help us wait quietly and with hope for Your safety and ease but also show us where to do our part to “destroy the works of the devil.”

We know and are deeply confident that You will yet be “moved to compassion according to the multitude of Your loving-kindness and tender mercy.” (Lamentations 3) Amen and so be it!

Part Six. In Part Six, we will examine what Jeremiah says about the sovereignty of our loving Father and why that gives comfort to those who follow Him whole-heartedly.

 

God is good to those who wait – Part Four

Image result for public domain picture of child waitingThe Lord is good to those who wait hopefully and expectantly for Him, to those who seek Him [inquire of and for Him and require Him by right of necessity and on the authority of God’s word]. (Lamentations 3:25, AMPC)

Review of Parts One, Two, and Three.  The afflictions Jeremiah saw “under the rod of God’s wrath” were so terrible that he was weak and had lost all hope. Remembering all the past troubles made Jeremiah sad BUT recalling God’s mercy and loving kindness gives Jeremiah hope. Because of that hope, Jeremiah’s heart chooses God; THEREFORE, he has hope and he will wait. Life in our present world requires like precious hope. Such hope comes from dwelling on and believing Truth!

Studying Lamentations will impart similar hope and clarity, even in our world’s present troubles and confusion, because Lamentations models a godly attitude toward afflictions. God’s truths in Lamentations apply whether the affliction comes because of God’s loving discipline, our own sin, the sin of the people with whom we are connected, or the sin of our nation and our world.

Outline of Part Four

  • The Second Condition of Lamentations 3:25 – seeking in a specific way, because our need gives us a right and His Word has authority.
  • What God means by “seek”.
  • “By right of necessity and on the authority of God’s Word”
  • The little word “by”.
  • Our need gives us a right.
  • On the authority of His Word.
  • Praying for specific needs.

Image result for public domain picture of bibleThe Second Condition of Lamentations 3:25 – seeking in a specific way, because our need gives us a right and His Word has authority. “The Lord is good to those who wait hopefully and expectantly for Him, to those who seek Him [inquire of and for Him and require Him by right of necessity and on the authority of God’s Word). Lamentations 3:25 tells us that God is good to those who (1) wait with hope and expectation, and (2) who seek Him.  In Part Three we examined the first condition. In Part Four, we will see that we can, like Jeremiah, wait with hope and expectation of God’s goodness if we seek Him as He says to seek Him, which is:

  • Inquiring of and for Him and requiring Him
  • By (through the power of or in accordance with)
  • the right that necessity gives us and
  • on the authority of His Word.

What God means by “seek”. If you are familiar with the AMPC, when you see the word seek (which appears 281 times in the AMPC translation) you are reminded that it speaks of diligent effort. The AMPC shows that in this verse when God says seek He means to “inquire of and for Him and require Him. . . “

  • to inquire OF” — God wants me to “reason together with Him” (Isaiah 1:18), to talk with Him, to inquire of When I inquire of someone, I am seeking information from that person.
  • To inquire FOR” — When I inquire for God, I am asking for God, just as I might go to a receptionist in a large office and inquire for, or ask for, my friend who works there.
  • And REQUIRE Him — God says we are also to require This means we will be satisfied with nothing less than Him. As bread to the body, so must God be for our daily life.

Image result for public domain picture of reportOther Scriptures tell us to specifically seek and require God as our “vital necessity.”  (1 Chronicles 22:19; 28:9; 2 Chronicles 14:4: 2 Chronicles 14:4 to name only a few). God really means it when He says we are to depend on Him, just as much as we lean on a cane when we have a weak leg.  In other words, we rely on God so much that if He does not come through, we fall and fail. When I refuse to omit important details from my report when my boss tells me to, I am depending on God. If He does not come through, I might lose my job.

In Psalm 14:2, God says it is wise to seek Him desperately and that He is looking for those wise ones who seek Him in that way:

The Lord looked down from heaven upon the children of men to see if there were any who understood, dealt wisely, and sought after God, inquiring of and for Him and requiring Him [of vital necessity.]

And David, the “man after God’s heart” declares in Psalm 27:8:

“You have said, Seek My face [inquire for and require My presence as your vital need]. My heart says to You, Your face (Your presence), Lord, will I seek, inquire for, and require [of necessity and on the authority of Your Word.”

And that takes us back to the last phrase of Lamentations 3:25.

By right of necessity and on the authority of God’s Word.” The Lord is good to those who wait hopefully and expectantly for Him, to those who seek Him [inquire of and for Him and require Him BY right of necessity and on the authority of God’s Word).” (Emphasis added)  (Lamentations 3:25, AMPC)

Image result for public domain Picture of Dictionary. Size: 201 x 106. Source: www.clipartkey.comThe little word “by”.   Webster’s tells us that “by” means through the power of or in accordance with, or through the effectiveness of or “through the agency or instrumentality of.”  Agency means: a “person or thing through which power is exerted or an end is achieved.” (www.merriam-webster.com)

So, when we seek God—which means to “inquire of and for Him and require Him”–we are to do so because our genuine needs gives us the right to seek Him and the Word is the “thing” through which God’s power is exerted and His ends in our life are achieved. Wow oh wow!

Our need gives us a right. A keyword search in Bible Gateway for “right of necessity” reveals seven results, most of which are linked with “the authority of God’s Word.” Think about it. Whenever we have a genuine need, we have a right, as an obedient child of God, to expect with confidence that God will supply that need. He says so in many Scriptures! For example, Philippians 4:19, 2 Corinthians 9:8, Psalm 23:1-6, Malachi 3:10 and Hebrews 13:5.

Today, we need protection from the maniacal, demonic evil in our world. On a personal level, we may need help with specific tasks, money to pay bills and buy food, healing, or strength to face another day of a continuing challenge. Or we may need help handling a specific emotion, like frustration or anger. Whether seemingly big or little, genuine need gives us a right to expect God to act on our behalf. He promises to supply all our needs. (Philippians 4:19; Psalm 37:25-27.)

Image result for public domain picture of police On the authority of His Word. We are to seek God for our needs on the authority of His Word. A city policeman or woman (and praise God for our workers in blue!) can arrest a person violating a law if that person is within the city limits. The policeman or woman knows they have the authority to do so. That authority is given to them by the law of their city.

I can pray, with confident expectation, about my needs when I know that the Word gives me authority over that need. For example, we can pray “Lord, I need Your strength to do all that must be done today, and You promised in Deuteronomy 33:25 “As your days, so shall your strength be”, so I am expecting that You will give me strength. How I thank You, Father!”

Praying for specific needs. I can use a concordance, or the computer, and find verses about my needs and I can pray and declare those promises out loud, with confidence. For example, if I need finances, I can pray:

Image result for public domain picture of pAYCHECKFather, in Malachi 3:10 you said ‘Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test Me in this,’ says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the flood gates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.’  Well, Father, I obey this command so I am waiting with hope and expectation for you to meet my financial needs because I have a genuine need and Your Word promises blessings for obeying this command, which I do.”

And if I need peace, about anything, I can pray:

“Father, this situation is stressing me out! I need Your help to react in a righteous and holy way. In Hebrews 4:16, You promised we can “approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”  You also promised in 1 Corinthians 10:13 that “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. God is faithful, He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” 

Thank You, Lord, for that reminder that others struggle with the same things. I am not being troubled any more than other people. And praise You, oh loving Father, for that promise that You will make a way to endure the temptation to doubt You! I trust You, Lord, and I will wait with confident expectation! Praise You for Your goodness and mercy and lovingkindness, Lord! You are altogether good! You never turn Your back on the faithful.

“Oh, loving Father! I know and understand what You are like. I have personally experienced Your mercy, love and kindness, and I trust and rely on You, knowing You will never forsake me, no never! (adapted from Psalm 91:14b, AMPC)

Image result for public domain picture of child waiting for fathern Part Five, we will see why it is good to readily submit to the Father’s discipline of waiting. God is so kind that He motivates us to wait hopefully and expectantly by promising to help us if we do.

 

 

 

 

 

God is good to those who wait – Part Three

Image result for public domain picture of throne of godThe Lord is good to those who wait hopefully and expectantly for Him, to those who seek Him [inquire of and for Him and require Him by right of necessity and on the authority of God’s word]. (Lamentations 3:25, AMPC)

A godly attitude toward affliction. Lamentations models a godly attitude toward affliction, whether that affliction comes because of God’s loving discipline, our own sin, the sin of the people with whom we are connected, the sin of our nation and our world.

Review of Parts One and Two:  The afflictions Jeremiah saw “under the rod of God’s wrath” were so terrible that he was weak and had lost all hope. Remembering all the past troubles made Jeremiah sad BUT recalling God’s mercy and loving kindness gives Jeremiah hope. Because of that hope, Jeremiah’s heart chooses God; THEREFORE, he has hope and he will wait. Life in our present world requires like precious hope. Such hope comes from dwelling on and believing Truth!

Outline of Part Three — The First Condition of Lamentations 3:25 – waiting with hope and expectation

  • The Lord is good to those who wait hopefully and expectantly
  • Saul did not wait.
  • Samuel reviews God’s faithfulness.
  • Samuel gives them a guarantee!
  • In spite of that, Saul does not wait on God.
  • So what does God mean by “wait
  • How might we disobey like Saul?
  • Worry makes us feel in control.
  • “Wait hopefully and expectantly for Him”

Image result for public domain picture of waitingThe First Condition of Lamentations 3:25 – Waiting with hope and expectation. “The Lord is good to those who wait hopefully and expectantly for Him, to those who seek Him [inquire of and for Him and require Him by right of necessity and on the authority of God’s Word).”

Waiting! Ah, waiting!  And not just waiting but waiting with hope and expectation! Difficult, to say the least, for us “vessels of clay”. Per Webster’s 1828 online dictionary, wait means to: “to stay in rest or expectation; to stop or remain stationary, til the arrival of some person or event.”

In thinking about waiting with hope and expectation, as Lamentations 3:25 tells us to, and the fact that Jeremiah (as we are in our world today) is in the midst of dire affliction, another story comes to mind. That is the sad tale of a Biblical character who did not wait—King Saul. A little background here. . .

Saul did not wait. After Samuel anointed Saul as king, “God gave Saul a new heart” and Samuel acclaimed Saul as King before all Israel (I Samuel 10:17-25, NLT).  After the Ammonite king threatened the citizens of Jabesh-Gilead, “Then the Spirit of God came powerfully upon Saul, and he became very angry.” (11:6). Saul said anyone who did not join his army would be killed.  God “made the people afraid of Saul’s anger” and Saul mobilized 330,000 men, “launched a surprise attack against the Ammonites and slaughtered them.” What a victory God gave them!

In Chapter 12, Samuel gave his farewell address to all the people gathered at Gilgal “to renew the kingdom” (11:14). Samuel recalled Israel’s history, reminding them “of all the great things the Lord had done for them and their ancestors” (12:7) through Moses and Aaron, how they “soon forgot about the Lord” but, when handed over to their enemies, turned to God and confessed to God by saying:

We have sinned by turning away from the Lord and worshipping the images of Baal and Ashtoreth. But we will worship you and you alone if you will rescue us from our enemies.” (v 10)

Samuel reviews God’s faithfulness. Samuel continued reviewing Israel’s history, reminding Israel that in response to their plea the Lord had sent Gideon, Bedan, Jephthah, and then Samuel to save them and they had lived in safety.” (v. 12) Samuel recalls that, even after all those deliverances by God, Israel had feared the Ammonites and had asked Samuel for a king “even though the Lord your God was already your king.” (12:12) (This statement merits deep consideration.)

Image result for public domain picture of samuel the prophetSamuel then told them “Here is the king you have chosen” (Saul), and Samuel sternly warned them:

Now if you fear and worship the Lord and listen to his voice, and if you do not rebel against the Lord’s commands, then both you and your king will show that you recognize the Lord as your God. 15 But if you rebel against the Lord’s commands and refuse to listen to him, then his hand will be as heavy upon you as it was upon your ancestors. (I Samuel 12:14-15) ??

Next, to make the people realize what a wicked thing they had done in asking God for a king, Samuel called down thunder and rain at a time it never rained. The people were terrified and asked Samuel “Pray to the Lord your God for us, or we will die! . . . for now we have added to our sins by asking for a king.”

Samuel gives them a guarantee! Then Samuel, ever the teacher and ever reflecting God’s father heart, replies:

20 “Don’t be afraid,” Samuel reassured them. “You have certainly done wrong, but make sure now that you worship the Lord with all your heart, and don’t turn your back on him. 21 Don’t go back to worshiping worthless idols that cannot help or rescue you—they are totally useless! 22 The Lord will not abandon his people, because that would dishonor his great name. For it has pleased the Lord to make you his very own people.  (emphasis added)

Samuel promises to pray for them and warns, one more time, that they are “to be sure to fear the Lord and faithfully serve Him.” They are to “think of all the wonderful things He has done for you.” Samuel concludes with: “But if you continue to sin, you and your king will be swept away.”

In spite of that, Saul does not wait on God.  It is interesting to notice in Chapter 13 that not only Saul but all the people had just heard the stern warnings in Samuel’s farewell address (in Chapter 12). Samuel had explained to them that God would not abandon His people BECAUSE that would “dishonor His great name.” Samuel was giving them a guarantee that even though they had sinned by asking for a king instead of obeying God and thus recognizing God as their king, God would NOT abandon them.

Image result for Public Domain Picture of Cave. Size: 135 x 107. Source: publicdomainpictures.netYet, in spite of this warning from Samuel, in spite of God’s great victory for them over the Ammonites in Chapter 11, and in spite of God’s warning through Samuel, in Chapter 13, Israel again doubted God. When the Philistines had them in a tight spot, the Israelite army panicked and “tried to hide in caves, thickets, rocks, holes, and cisterns. Some of them crossed the Jordan River and escaped into the land of Gad and Gilead” (1 Samuel 13:6b, 7, NLT)

Meanwhile, Saul waited “seven days for Samuel, as Samuel had instructed him earlier, but Samuel still didn’t come. Saul realized that his troops were rapidly slipping away, so Saul panicked and demanded, ‘Bring me the burnt offering and the peace offerings’ and Saul sacrificed the burnt offerings himself.” (1 Samuel 13:7b-9, NLT). And what happened next? “Just as Saul was finishing with the burnt offering, Samuel arrived. Saul went out to meet and welcome him, but Samuel said, “What is this you have done? (13:10-11) Saul whines that because Samuel had not arrived when he said he would and his men were scattering, he “felt compelled to offer the burnt offering.”

Notice Samuel’s angry response. “How foolish!” Samuel exclaimed. “You have not kept the command the Lord your God gave you. Had you kept it, the Lord would have established your kingdom over Israel forever. 14 But now your kingdom must end, for the Lord has sought out a man after his own heart. The Lord has already appointed him to be the leader of his people, because you have not kept the Lord’s command.” (I Samuel 13:13-14), NLT.

Perhaps you also know the story in 1 Samuel 28 when Saul, again, shows the true nature of his heart and consults the witch of Endor because he is, once again, frantic with fear because of his enemies.

So what does God mean by “wait”? How does Saul’s failure to wait aid our understanding of the word “wait” in Lamentations 3:25? Consider again the simple English definition of wait: “to stay in rest or expectation; to stop or remain stationary, til the arrival of some person or event.”

Image result for public domain picture of waiting dogIf we truly wait on the Lord during times of affliction-whether caused by our sin, God’s loving discipline, our unavoidable connections with other frail humans, or simply living in this world—we will be in a state of rest and expectation. We will not fret or strive. And we will stay that way until God delivers us from the trouble. We will wait and we will wait until He gives us His salvation, His safety and ease, as He promises if we are righteous. (“The righteous person may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all.” (Psalm 37:19, NIV)

Yes, Samuel did delay and Saul’s disquiet is understandable, from our human perspective. But God had, through His mouthpiece Samuel, given Saul a specific order. Saul disobeyed God’s direct instructions. Not only that, but Saul violated another of God’s specific orders, which was that only the priests were allowed to offer sacrifices.

<<If Saul had set his heart to obey God fully, and if he had (as Samuel had instructed all of Israel) recalled all God’s previous mighty works, fear would not have gained control of him and terrorized him into doing what seemed right “in his own eyes” (Isaiah 5:21).>>

How might we disobey like Saul? We are all susceptible to committing the same sins as Saul. Suppose finances are especially hard so we decide to not pay tithes this month. Like Saul, we have let situations create fear in our hearts because we failed to think about God’s nature, His faithfulness in the past and His promises to provide. That opens us to doubting God’s love and His sovereignty. Because of that, we violate God’s clear command and try to fix our problem by doing what seems right to our own mind, just as Saul did. Had Saul stayed in faith, he would not have given in to fear! When we stay in faith, we do not give place to the devil through fear (Ephesians 4:27).

Image result for public domain clip art of worryThis is a very subtle sin most all of us commit, this sin of giving in to fear. When we let fear get a foothold, worry and fretting soon follow. Even if we do not take sinful actions when we “only” worry and fret, we are still trying to fix our own problems by our own effort. We sin in our thoughts just as much as Saul sinned with his actions.

<<Worry and fretting violate God’s commands to have faith in Him.>>

Worry makes us feel in control. Worrying makes us feel we are doing something about the problem and that we have a measure of control. That is why it is so easy to slip into worry. Worry is not harmless!  We indulge in sin when we let the birds of worry stay in our mind long enough to build a nest. God always warns us away from danger. God knows worry and fretting lead to doubt and unbelief, which if left unchecked, lead to not only wrong thoughts but wrong actions. Therefore, God says ““Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret–it leads only to evil” (Psalm 37:8, NIV)

Meditating daily and constantly on His goodness and faithfulness—as He commands over and over—and expressing our active faith and hope and trust prevents fear and the sin that runaway emotion causes. It also, of course, keeps us in peace, safe from emotional torment. If we submit ourselves to God, and resist the devil, the devil will flee and we will remain at peace, safe under His wings BECAUSE we have said—in our heart and by our words and our actions—“He is my Refuge and my Fortress, my God; on Him I lean and rely, and In Him I [confidently] trust. (Psalm 91:1-2)

Image result for public domain picture of hope“Wait hopefully and expectantly for Him” Have we not been reminded, over and over, just as Israel was, of God’s faithfulness and His mighty power on behalf of those of us who believe? Have we not seen it in our personal lives and the lives of others, not to mention the multitude of Biblical stories? We have abundant personal examples to think about and we have a superabundance of Bible truths to keep in mind. God says to not only wait but wait with hope and expectation. Has He not kept all His promises to us just as faithfully as He kept His promise to Noah?

<<Saul did not wait. Saul could not wait. Why? He had lost hope and he was not expecting God to act.>> Saul’s faith was weak. When our hope and our expectation that God will act starts to wane, recalling God’s nature and His previous provisions revives our faith. Then we can lay hold of the hope stored up for us, that sure and invigorating hope described in Hebrews.

18 This was so that, by two unchangeable things [His promise and His oath] in which it is impossible for God ever to prove false or deceive us, we who have fled [to Him] for refuge might have mighty indwelling strength and strong encouragement to grasp and hold fast the hope appointed for us and set before [us].

19 [Now] we have this [hope] as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul [it cannot slip and it cannot break down under whoever steps out upon it—a hope] that reaches farther and enters into [the very certainty of the Presence] within the veil (Hebrews 6:18-19, AMPC)

Image result for Public Domain Picture Of Feeding A Baby. Size: 144 x 101. Source: babiesinmind.co.zaHope includes expectation. According to Merriam-Webster.com, hope is “a desire accompanied by expectation of or belief in fulfillment.” A toddler can wait with hope and expectation as he sits in his highchair, waiting for his lunch when he is hungry because experience has taught him that his parents are faithful to provide his needs. Oh, for the faith and heart of a little child!

To sum, up the first condition given in verse 25 is to wait hopefully and expectantly for God. We can do that –even in the turmoil of 2022, if we:

  • recall what God has done, in Biblical as well as current times and our personal life, and
  • guard our hearts by setting our minds to love and obey and serve the Lord our God “with all our heart and soul and strength (Deuteronomy 6:5 and 26:26) and
  • hope in and expect Him.

Part Four will explore the specific way we are to seek Him and the two things on which our seeking is based. Until then, let us wait patiently for the Lord, so that we can say with David:

I waited patiently for the LORD to help me, and he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire” (Psalm 40:1-3, NLT)

See the source image

God is good to those who wait – Part Two

Image result for Copyright Free Clip Art of Hope. Size: 88 x 110. Source: clipart-library.comBelow is an outline of Parts One and Two of our examination of Lamentations, which teaches us that we are to wait with hope and expectation when we are in affliction. This blog post will cover Part Two.

Part One:

  • Lamentations – light for the dark affliction of our present world
  • Background and context
  • Topical outline of Lamentations
  • Chapters One and Two
  • Chapter Three – Hoping in a special way
  • Verses 1- 18 – The afflictions Jeremiah saw “under the rod of God’s wrath” were so terrible that he was weak and had lost all hope.

Part Two

  • Verses 19-20 – Remembering all the past troubles made Jeremiah sad . . .
  • Verses 21-23 – . . . but recalling God’s mercy and lovingkindness gives Jeremiah hope
  • Verse 24 – Because of that hope, Jeremiah’s heart chooses God; THEREFORE, he has hope and he will wait.
  • Life in our present world requires like precious hope!
  • Hope comes from dwelling on and believing Truth

Image result for copyright free picture of man prayingVerses 19-20: Remembering all the past troubles made Jeremiah sad.

“[O Lord] remember [earnestly] my affliction and my misery, my wandering and my outcast state, the wormwood and the gall. (20) My soul has them continually in remembrance and is bowed down within me.”  (AMPC)

It is instructive to notice that in verse 19, Jeremiah turns from solitary bemoaning of his afflictions and appeals to God to earnestly consider his afflictions. With his mind on his woes, his soul is downcast and bowed down under the load of his thoughts. But rather than remain with his shield of faith lowered and his soul thus susceptible to the enemy’s fiery darts, the prophet starts “reasoning together” with God (Isaiah 1:18). Perhaps Jeremiah sings Psalm 119:49-50 where the psalmist asks God to “Remember Your word to Your servant, for You have given me hope. My comfort in my suffering is this: Your promise preserves my life.” (NIV)

Sidenote: Three popular translations (the NIV, NLT and KJV) do not indicate that Jeremiah has begun speaking to God in verse 19. The NIV says “I remember my affliction. . . “, the NLT says “I will never forget this awful time. . . “ and the KJV says “My soul hath them (meaning his affliction and misery) still in remembrance . . . ‘ (emphasis added.)   Verse 19 in the NASB, on which the AMPC is based, reads “Remember my misery . . .”, thus implying—but not clearly stating as the AMPC does– that Jeremiah is asking God to remember, rather than thinking about his misery alone. The AMPC clearly states that Jeremiah turns from inward musings over his miseries to talking with God. This turning to God is the beginning and foundation of deliverance.

Surely, this example speaks to the wisdom of using more than one translation when engaged in serious Bible study! I contend that doing so is one form of meditating, of turning a thought this way and that, of examining each facet so as to find the truths God has for us. I also contend that in using the AMPC as the main text for Bible study and memory, one is automatically meditating because the AMPC includes additional meanings of words that people in Bible times would have naturally understood but which we in the present day usually do   not. Most believers have a favorite translation; mine is the AMPC but I regularly refer to others as well.

For a fuller explanation, see page 15 of the little book “Diligent Meditation” on the Books and More page of this website.

See the source image21-23: . . . recalling God’s mercy and loving kindnesses gives Jeremiah hope.

“But this I recall and therefore have I hope and expectation: It is because of the Lord’s mercy and loving-kindness that we are not consumed, because His [tender] compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great and abundant is Your stability and faithfulness.”

Notice that Jeremiah says “but”– in spite of all that he just said in verses 19 and 20–, he remembers something and remembering that something gives him hope and expectation. Jeremiah remembers that God’s “mercy and loving-kindness” prevent He Who is a consuming fire (Hebrews 12:19; Deuteronomy 4:24 and 9:3) from consuming us. Why? Because His compassions never fail – they are engraved on His heart as surely as compassion for her nursing child is engraved on a mother’s heart (Isaiah 49:15-16).

Perhaps Jeremiah knows that God’s compassions are new every morning because He remembers God’s promise in Deuteronomy 33:25b, that “. . . as your day so shall your strength, your rest and security, be.”  Perhaps Jeremiah recalls that God never changes (Psalm 102:25-27). Perhaps Jeremiah also recalls Deuteronomy 7:9–“Know therefore that the LORD your God is God; He is the faithful God, keeping His covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love Him and keep His commandments.”

Verse 24: And because of that hope, Jeremiah’s heart chooses God; THEREFORE, he has hope and he will wait.

“The Lord is my portion or share, says my living being (my inner self); therefore, will I hope in Him and wait expectantly for Him.” (AMPC)

Recalling God’s mercy, loving-kindness, and tender compassions (verses 21-23) fortifies Jeremiah’s faith so that he can choose to look only to God and because of that, he can hope and wait—with expectancy–for God.

One purpose of saying something is to express your thoughts or intentions. I believe with the words “The Lord is my portion or share, says my living being (my inner self)”, Jeremiah is choosing God as his whole life, acknowledging that his whole life depends on God, that God is his inheritance (as the NLT phrases it) or his destiny. He is choosing to acknowledge God as his God and his only God. Notice that it is his inner self speaking. Regardless of feelings, Jeremiah uses his will, his power of choice, to obey the commandment “You shall have no other gods before me”, Exodus 20:3, NIV. Jeremiah is demonstrating that God is indeed his god, the Being on Whom he depends for his very life. In choosing to depend on God, Jeremiah offers a sacrifice of trust to God as surely as the pagan Assyrians worshipped their various gods by their sacrifices.

With this choice, Jeremiah expresses the same stance and intent as the writer of Psalm 91, who said “I will say of the LORD; He is my Refuge and my Fortress, my God; on Him I lean and rely and in Him I [confidently] trust.” (Psalm 91:2, AMPC) And we know that the blessings of Psalm 91 depend on our fulfilling the conditions of verses one and two, which are to dwell in the secret place and to say of the Lord “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God in Whom I trust.” (NIV)

And what does Jeremiah’s choice to liveImage result for public domain clip art of psalm 91 as God says to live produce? The ability to have hope in the midst of great affliction and to wait with expectation for God. “. . . therefore, will I hope in Him and wait expectantly for Him.” Jeremiah has obeyed God’s command to “Fear God [revere and worship Him, knowing that He is] (Ecclesiastes 12:13a, AMPC) and God responds by giving Jeremiah hope.

<<Hope! Ah, blessed, blessed hope! Who can adequately describe or explain it?
Who can fathom its power?>>

 Hope, faith, trust and belief are synonyms. I do not know of any place where the Bible specifically says hope comes from hearing and understanding the Word, but the Bible does clearly state that “Faith comes from hearing and hearing by the Word of God, (Romans 10:17, NKJV.” I believe Jeremiah’s faith was stirred when he recalled truth from the Word—that the Lord’s mercy and loving-kindness, and tender compassions are abundant and eternal. And recalling those truths gave him hope and the strength to wait with expectation, with strong belief that God would be merciful and faithful.

Life in our present world requires like precious hope!  Today, the enemy is desperately attacking believers because he knows his time is short (I Corinthians 7:29). One of his most-used weapons is lies, which cause fear and discouragement, that in turn can lead to inaction, despair, hopelessness, doubt, unbelief and disobedience. As one well-acquainted with depression, I know the devastation despair brings to one’s spiritual life, but I also know the power of hope, hope that healing and a good life with God are possible.

Image result for public domain picture of hopeHope comes from dwelling on and believing Truth. Despite the dark doings of our present world, I choose to dwell on the truths listed below and others like them in the Word:

  • God is sovereign. – Isaiah 45:7-9
  • He works out everything for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His design and purpose. (Romans 8:28)
  • He has a good plan for us, on earth and in heaven. (Jeremiah 29:11)
  • He will always make a way for His children. (Isaiah 43:10)
  • He is always with us. (Psalm 16:8)
  • He is supplying and will supply all my need as I live for Him. (Philippians 4:19)
  • The trials of this life are light and temporary in comparison with eternity. (2 Corinthians 4:17)
  • God will enable me to live a holy, joy-filled, on mission life. (Philippians 2:13)
  • God delights in my faith and hope and trust in Him. (Psalm 37:23; Hebrews 11:6)
  • He is with me – always, always, always and will never, no never, no never leave me without help nor forsake me – most assuredly not! (Hebrews 13:5)

So, Christian, declare with me:

“The Lord is my portion, or share, says my living being (my inner self);
Therefore
 will I hope in Him and wait expectantly for Him.” (Lamentations 3:24, AMPC)

See the source imageIn Part Three, we will explore the blessings of waiting and hoping how God says to wait and hope. May you be richly blessed as you wait for Him, with hope and expectation!