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Be Still

December 10th, 2018

Come, behold the works of the LORD,
how he has brought desolations on the earth.
He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
he breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
he burns the chariots with fire.
Be still, and know that I am God.
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!”
The LORD of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress. (Psalm 46:8-11 ESV)

The very existence of this ancient psalm – a psalm that encourages faith in God when others are filled with anxiety and on the verge of panic – teaches us something important about human nature. There will always be people who are prone to fear and anxiety, and they need to be buoyed up by faith in God.

“Be still” is the voice we need to hear and the command that we need to heed. This Hebrew word – raphah – means to rest and relax. It is related to the word – rapha – which means “healing.” It carries the idea of laying down and resting as a sick person would do in the ancient culture. There is deep soul healing that we only receive when we pull away from the busy-ness of life.

We also need to be still from the busy-ness of religion. Even Christianity can fill us with a thousand and one things to do, each of which claims its own urgency. Put those things aside and be still in your heart, meditating on His Word. Even in private devotions we are tempted to measure its effectiveness by how many chapters we read, rather than how deeply we meditated upon the simple truths of God’s word.

“And know” – but it is not rest alone that we see here. We are also to know that the Lord is God. It means that we are to put aside all of the things that normally consume our thoughts and instead put this one truth before our minds – the Lord is God and He will be exalted in due time among the nations. All of the fear, anxiety, and worry, as well as the animosity and anger and conflict, have an answer and that answer is the Lord Himself.

Someone aptly noted that we are changed the most not by how many verses we read but by how many verses we let read us! That is how often we humbly get before the Word and let a simple truth from God’s Word sink deep into our souls and spirits. “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Heb. 4:12).

Christ calls us to Himself and thereby to the grace He offers. When He walked on earth He said:

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. or my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:28-30 ESV)

Charles Haddon Spurgeon, though he achieved much in his life, knew the importance of this truth about rest. He said: “Rest time is not waste time. It is economy to gather fresh strength… It is wisdom to take occasional furlough. In the long run, we shall do more by sometimes doing less.” There are many who profess to be Christians around whom I always feel exhausted because of their constant worry. But the Spirit of Christ is not like that. He will lift us up if we will rest before Him.

When was the last time that you can say you were truly still in your heart and meditated on this truth? The Lord to be the fortress of our hearts, just as He is the fortress of our spirits. We can rest in Him today, just as we will rest in Him for eternity.

 

 

Daily Devotions, Psalms

Our Times Are in God’s Hands

December 7th, 2018

My times are in your hands… (Psalm 31:15)

The Christian can be confident that God is constantly aware of the events of his life, and that God is not only aware of what happens on earth, but that He is at work also shaping the circumstances of each day, working them together for a fitting conclusion to all things on this earth. He is also at work within us, strengthening and encouraging us for each day’s challenges.

God knows

The pagan view of their gods was that they were uninformed, aloof, and uncaring. Their power to change anything was limited and their motivations were selfish. The average pagan believed that one had to rouse a god with flattering petitions to get them to do anything for you. How different the declaration of Christ is of the true God:

And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. (Matt. 6:7-8)

What a comfort these words are to our hearts. God knows what we need before we ask Him. Not a single second on earth goes by in any life without God knowing of it.

God cares

But it is not merely knowledge that is declared here, but also compassion. God cares for us. He cares for the non-believers just as He does for the believer, as Christ taught, “He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Matt. 5:45). Christ taught this in the context of us loving our enemies, explaining that God is caring and gracious to even the unbeliever, just as He is to the believer.

When we reach out to God we find that He is concerned about our lives. Sometimes what worries us does not worry Him, and sometimes what worries Him does not worry us – that is because of His infinite wisdom and much superior perspective of life, and our old sinful nature. But He is more concerned about us than we can ever realize. It was Jacob who, when running from the threat of his own brother Esau, had a dream of an open-heaven, with angels ascending and descending to earth, said, “Surely the LORD is in this place and I knew it not” (Gen. 28:16).

When heaven seems silent, we should always retain the assurance that God is compassionately thinking about us. We are always on His heart. And, in fact, that is the benefit of the written Word of God, that constantly bears this testimony. Even if we do not “feel” like it is so, God is constantly thinking about us.

God is at work

But the psalmist said not only that God knew what was happening to him, but that his times were “in” the hands of God. In this same psalm is the verse that was the dying words of Christ, “Into thy hand I commit my spirit” (Psalm 31:5 and Luke 23:46). These verses share the same grammatical expression. Just as surely as we commit our spirit “in” the hands of God at our death, so each day our times lay “in” the hands of God. Christ said, “My Father is always at work” (John 5:17).

He shapes the world’s events. The Christian’s confidence is that through faith we may entrust each day into God’s hands. Whatever the day may bring, or whatever differences there are in life, in world affairs, or in personal issues, our times are in His hands. God often waits for the right time to act in certain ways – He sent Christ in the fullness of time – but as He waits He is active in the affairs of this world.

We may think that the human movers and shakers on this earth shape history, but that is not truly the case. Isaiah reminds us that God is over all, even over those human leaders who seem so impressive and powerful:

Do you not know? Do you not hear?
Has it not been told you from the beginning?
Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth?
It is he who sits above the circle of the earth,
and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers;
who stretches out the heavens like a curtain,
and spreads them like a tent to dwell in;
who brings princes to nothing,
and makes the rulers of the earth as emptiness.

Scarcely are they planted, scarcely sown,
scarcely has their stem taken root in the earth,
when he blows on them, and they wither,
and the tempest carries them off like stubble. (Isaiah 40:21-24 ESV)

And in Psalm 33, God affirms His power to act in this world’s events:

The LORD brings the counsel of the nations to nothing;
he frustrates the plans of the peoples.
The counsel of the LORD stands forever,
the plans of his heart to all generations. (Psalm 33:10-11 ESV)

No believer who has the privilege of prayer is without influence to shape world events. God often waits for someone to pray before He acts – “You have not because you ask not” (James 4:2) – so the most obscure Christian can have more influence in world affairs than the greatest political leader.

God leads and protects His people: In ways unseen by human eye God protects us. But he also often reveals things to us that we might know where the danger lies. God graciously – and He does this without making us psychotic or paranoid – can warn us of trouble, and lead us in another path than the one our feet were on. He did this with the wise men and with Joseph and Mary when Herod sought to kill the infant Christ (Matt. 2:12-14).

God can give us the courage to stand our ground: Sometimes it is not God’s will that we run from opposition, rather He calls us to stand our ground and be courageous for Him. Sometimes He leads us around the storm, and sometimes He leads us through it. But He always prepares us inwardly  to face the challenges He has entrusted to us. Psalm 23 is a wonderful example of this, that David said, “He restores my soul,” before he said, “He leads me in paths of righteousness.” That when we enter into the dark valleys, we may be assured that the Lord has prepared us for those moments, and that He is there with us.

We can live in confidence because of this truth

The Bible is filled with examples and proclamations of these truths, so be encouraged today, that your times are in the hands of God. He has shaped the circumstances of your life for you, and He is at work in shaping your heart and your soul for these circumstances as well. He works outside and inside of our lives. He is the most relevant Being on the planet – always up to date with all circumstances.

When you are faced with surprising circumstances, do not panic. God knows what is happening and your times are in His hands. Keep your eyes on Him and He will lead you through the maze of confusing circumstances and conflicting advices. If you will simply desire His will and His glory, He will protect you, strengthen you, lead you, and encourage you.

 

Psalms