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Archive for August, 2015

Wait for the Lord

August 31st, 2015

Do not say: “I will recompense evil”; Wait for the LORD, and He will save.

Proverbs 20:22

The wisest response to offense is often silence.

As the Israelites were fleeing Egypt, Pharaoh began to pursue them. As the Israelites saw the approaching army they panicked and complained to Moses, “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in this wilderness?”

Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand still and you will see the salvation of the LORD, which He will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall see no more forever. The LORD will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace” (Exodus 14:10-14).

At the greatest moment of victory they were tempted to surrender and return to Egypt. Among other things this tells us that the greatest moments of victory call for the greatest expressions of faith on our part, and result in the greatest demonstrations of God’s power.

Our human responses are along the lines of either “fight or flight.” Either we will seek to oppose the evil that comes upon us in our own flesh, seeking revenge, or we will tend toward escapism, running away from the confrontation. These are very different from the command of scripture, “Stand still and you will see the salvation of the LORD.” And “Wait for the Lord and He will save.”

How do we wait upon the Lord?

First, we must look to Him in our hearts to trust in Him. We must turn away from worldly reactions - from anger and retaliations - and must turn to Christ in faith. Let us believe that He sees our situation, that He knows what is best, that He takes a great interest in our well-being, that He will stand to defend His children.

Second, we must look to Him in prayer, bringing our needs, along with our concerns, and our thanksgivings, to Him who has all power. Often we have not the strength and help of God because we have not ask for His strength and help (James 4:1-3). Along with our prayer we should search our hearts to be sure that our motivations and our requests are in agreement with the mind and will of God. Christ told us to pray for our enemies, and we should, when oppressed by an enemy, pray for him or her, pray that they would receive the abundant graces of God through Christ, that they would turn and be saved.

Third, we should obey whatever He puts on our hearts to do. Informed by His Word, led by His Spirit, encouraged by wise believers, we should do all that God has commanded us to do.

Finally, we must then wait, leaving the matter entirely in God’s hands. “They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength” (Isaiah 40:31). “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Rom. 12:21).

Quite often God allows unsettling things to come into our lives so that we might see what is lacking in our spiritual maturity, shaking us so that we can see what is unshakable in our hearts that remains (Heb. 12:27). What Satan devices as plans to harm us, God turns into means to bless us. If we fail a test, then we should seek to grow stronger along those lines. Thank God for your challenges, and even for the failures, for we would never know how strong we are until we are tested.

Joseph said to his brothers who had betrayed him, “You intended it for evil, but God meant it for good,” and after the death of their father Jacob, Joseph forgave them and “spoke kindly to them,” promising, “I will provide for you and your little ones” (Gen. 50:20-21). Follow this great example of forgiveness, of waiting upon the Lord, and of patient faith.

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His Love Endures Forever

August 28th, 2015

Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good! His mercy endures forever.

Psalm 136:1, NKJV

The psalmist declared that God’s “mercy” endures forever. His love lasts longer than we can imagine, is stronger than we can measure, and is faithful through all circumstances. But the word translated “mercy” or “love” is not easy to translate from the original.

“Chesed” in Hebrew, it is so filled with meaning that there is not just one English word that captures its full meaning. “Loving-kindness” is the way that Miles Coverdale translated it. Coverdale was a contemporary of Martin Luther and translated the Bible into English in 1535. Luther, translating in the 1520’s chose the word “Gnade” or “grace” to convey the idea. Others have preferred the word “steadfastness,” “steadfast love,” “loyalty,” or “great kindness.” Incorporated in this word are the ideas of steadfastness of God toward the believer, His love and mercy, His tenderness and compassion. It is the love that is best represented by examples, such as a father’s love for his son, a shepherd’s faithfulness for his sheep, or a devoted husband’s love for his wife.

The psalmist word translated “forever” is also difficult to gather in one English word. The Hebrew word is “oulm” and it literally means “hidden” or “obscured” and it has the idea of length of time that is so long that it is hidden from humanity. God’s love lasts longer than we can imagine. As is common in Hebrew, the language is more bound to earth’s experiences and expresses ideas in more concrete language - faithful, devoted, steadfast mercy and love that shall endure beyond whatever limitations our finite minds may deem to place on them.

God is good, but He is not just good. He is also merciful and loving. These two words - goodness and mercy - also appear in Psalm 23:6, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.” Imagine life under the influence of a parent that was good but unmerciful - would not that be miserable? But God is not like that. He is a heavenly Father who not only teaches His children what to do, but comes to us with grace when we fail. Merciful love makes a house a home, and a wise and loving parent not only teaches and disciplines his children to know right from wrong, but also covers them with mercy and grace when they fail, showing them that failure need not be fatal.

The path the Lord would have us walk in is a narrow path, but it is also a forgiving path. None of us follow His will perfectly. We all make our mistakes, commit our sins, wander off the path from time to time, and just like a sheep, we are promised of our Shepherd’s mercy as well as His goodness. The daily habit of confessing our sins, of letting the Spirit search our hearts and bring us to an awareness of where our thoughts and our words and our actions have gone astray, and to come to God for cleansing - this is a precious spiritual habit to establish in our lives.  It is the promise of scripture:  “Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen” (Jude 24-25)

More than once in our Christian life, we will wonder about our salvation, we will think that despite our faith in Christ, that we have sinned and thought things and perhaps done things contrary to the will of God. We have grieved the Holy Spirit, but the goodness of God alone does not only follow us, but His mercy shall also be there. There are opportunities for Christ that we will miss when we fail - we can sin away our days of opportunity - just as Moses was forbidden from entering the promised land because of his outburst of anger at Kadesh (Numbers 20:1-13). But a lost opportunity does not mean that our salvation is lost, nor that the Lord’s mercy has abandoned us.

Just as surely as the Lord’s goodness will always be an attribute of God that He impresses upon our hearts, so also His mercy and steadfast love, His “chesed” is always with us. We can rest in Him at all times.

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