Posts Tagged 'Futility of Fear'

Fear Not, 9

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Daniel 10:12

Daniel was a man blessed by God. He was statesman, saint, and prophet. And in some ways he was a strange man. At least by some standards. By the time chapter 10 of the book that bears his name rolls around, Daniel is pushing 90. Fifty may be the new 30, but 90 is old by anybody’s reckoning. In all, over seven decades has passed since his deportation from the land of Judah. Two years had gone by since Cyrus had decreed freedom for the Jews who had been living in Babylon, now Persia. Many of them had left the Empire to return to the ruins of Jerusalem to begin the arduous work of rebuilding the city of David. Many chose to remain in Persia, and among those who stayed behind was Daniel.

Four years before chapter 10, Daniel had his now-famous vision of “the Seventy Weeks.” Here, he has another vision during a prayer vigil. We’re not sure what prompted Daniel’s season of prayer or what he was praying for. It may well be, as some scholars have speculated, Daniel was praying for the Jews who had returned to Jerusalem. It was a struggle for them to rebuild the city. Dangerous, too. It makes sense that Daniel would take the time to intercede on their behalf.

Let’s take a look at what happened when Daniel prayed.

Daniel’s prayer vigil, 10:1-3

At that time I, Daniel, mourned for three weeks. I ate no choice food; no meat or wine touched my lips; and I used no lotions at all until the three weeks were over. (Daniel 10:2-3 NIV84)

Whatever it was that weighed down the prophet’s heart, it was serious enough that he not only prayed but fasted too. Not only that, he didn’t bathe for three weeks, either. At that point, his neighbors probably went to prayer, too.

Stop and think about Daniel’s situation. He’s an old man and it’s almost certain he had retired from his career as a statesman/diplomat/politician. Most people, when they retire, want to lead a life of ease. They want to travel and do all the things they couldn’t do when they were raising a family and working all the time. Daniel may have retired from public service, but he hadn’t retired from his faith.

And neither should we. Just because you get old and retire, if you’re lucky enough to be able to do that in today’s economy, that doesn’t mean you stop being active for the kingdom of God! It’s admittedly hard to spend time in prayer when you’re working all day and raising a family. So how fortunate is a person who isn’t punching a time clock and who’s kids are grown and out of the house? All that free time to devote to spiritual pursuits! At least, that’s how it should be.

We old timers tend to accuse the younger generation of being selfish and self-centered, but maybe we should stop and look at ourselves and the time we have left. Have we become so preoccupied with living what we *think* is the good life that we’ve factored God out of it? How many weekends, for example, do you plan on some activity or other that causes you to miss church?  Good question.

No, church doesn’t save a soul, but it is the visible Body of Christ and you, whether you like it or not, are accountable to it. What many Christians lack is not a confession of Christ, but a commitment to His Body.

Fortunately for Daniel, he was committed and disciplined.

Appearance of the Glorious Man, 10:4-11

When we read these verses, we are reminded of what John saw in his vision while in exile on Patmos (Revelation 1:10-20). The descriptions of the Person both men saw are so similar, who can doubt they saw the same Man? He didn’t identify himself to Daniel, but He did to John:

When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades. (Revelation 1:17-18 NIV84)

On April 24, 534 BC by our calendar, Daniel was privileged enough to have been given a vision of the pre-incarnate, transfigured Christ before either Moses or Elijah saw him. Daniel needed to see the glorified Christ to encourage him.

I looked up and there before me was a man dressed in linen, with a belt of the finest gold around his waist. His body was like chrysolite, his face like lightning, his eyes like flaming torches, his arms and legs like the gleam of burnished bronze, and his voice like the sound of a multitude. (Daniel 10:5-6 NIV84)

In the past, Daniel had seen wild, crazy animals, spirit beings, huge statues, and long weeks in his dreams and visions. Now he sees a man. But not just any man. Daniel sees THE Man: the glorious Son of God.

Christians are so blessed – blessed beyond Daniel, in fact. Daniel had a once-in-a-lifetime vision of Christ. For us, we have His constant presence in our lives through the gift of the Holy Spirit. Yet we take Him for granted to the point where we don’t even notice that He is right there with us, all the time. We’ve become so lackadaisical when it comes to the Divine Presence in us. How sad for us.

Here’s how Daniel reacted to the vision:

So I was left alone, gazing at this great vision; I had no strength left, my face turned deathly pale and I was helpless. (Daniel 10:8 NIV84)

His servants didn’t see a thing but were terrified, nonetheless. The presence of God can do that sometimes. There are limits to what a human being can bear when it comes to a spiritual encounter, and apparently Daniel hit that threshold. He was completely overwhelmed.

That’s when our Lord spoke these reassuring words to the prophet:

Then he continued, “Do not be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to them.” (Daniel 10:12 NIV84)

This “do not be afraid” is for anybody who has ever prayed for the needs of others. We’ve all done that. And we’ve all had the excruciating experience of waiting for that need to be met. The need could have been anything: healing, deliverance, or financial. We pray. And we wait. And wait. And we wonder. What the Glorious Man told Daniel should serve as a great encouragement to we who wait.

Your prayer is heard immediately

Yes, in spite of what it feels like, the very moment you pray, that prayer is heard in Heaven. There is absolutely no lag time, even if the answer to your prayer seems delayed.

Since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding…your words were heard… (Daniel 10:12 NIV84)

“The first day.” That’s important to note. According to the Daniel’s own words, he had been praying and fasting for three weeks. Three weeks is a long to for a person to keep on praying for something and, as in Daniel’s case, fasting. Obviously Daniel had no idea his prayer had been heard on “the first day,” for if he had he would surely have stopped praying and eaten a sandwich.

Does that mean our prayers are heard on “the first day” we pray them? Verse 12 gives what may be considered a condition:

…humble yourself before your God… (Daniel 10:12b NIV84)

It’s safe to say that a prayer offered in a humble spirit is heard when it is prayed. There’s not a lot of humility in the Church of Jesus Christ today! Listen to how some Christians pray. It sounds like they’re ordering God around sometimes!

Humility isn’t just a suggestion, it’s a requirement!

He has showed you, O man, what is good.And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6:8 NIV84)

Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you. (James 4:10 NIV84)

Daniel must have been a humble man, therefore his prayer was heard immediately. You should be too, if you want your prayers heard the moment you pray them.

Something else about Daniel’s character overflowed into his prayer. Notice:

…you set your mind to gain understanding… (Daniel 10:12b NIV84)

Daniel’s mind was fully engaged while he was praying

He wasn’t daydreaming. He wasn’t vainly repeating some time-worn liturgical prayer somebody else prayed generations ago. He didn’t babble before The Lord. Daniel used his reasoning mind as he prayed. Whatever it was he was praying for, he was thinking about the need; he was trying to understand the need even as he was praying about it.

Delays in answered prayer are not always God’s fault

Depending on your denominational persuasion, that statement may have caused your head to explode, so hang on while it’s explained.

Sometimes, answers to your prayers are delayed because you’re not ready for the answer. You may have an earnest desire as you ask God for such-and-such a thing, but God knows you aren’t ready or fit for the answer. God may require you to wait for some reason; perhaps there’s a lesson to be learned. Maybe your faith needs to be stretched a little so it will grow and be stronger. This is not a denial of your prayer, just a delay.

In Daniel’s vision, the delay was a bit more nefarious:

But the prince of the Persian kingdom resisted me twenty-one days. Then Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, because I was detained there with the king of Persia. (Daniel 10:13 (NIV84)

The answer to Daniel’s prayer was sent immediately, but it was delayed – it was blocked. The angel of the Lord was prevented from delivering the message Daniel had been praying for. Now, this is an amazing verse, and we learn a little about what “spiritual warfare” is all about. It also throws some light on what Paul wrote to his Ephesian friends:

Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (Ephesians 6:11-12 NIV84)

That word Paul used, “struggle,” is a key element in Paul’s theology of “spiritual warfare.” He wrote a similar thing to the Romans:

I urge you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to join me in my struggle by praying to God for me. (Romans 15:30 NIV84)

Here Paul used the word “struggle” again to describe how he was praying. The KJV uses the phrase “strive together,” and that gives a slightly different flavor, but essentially puts across the same idea of the Greek word sunagonizom, from which we our English word, “agonize.” This idea of “agonizing in prayer” leads to the obvious question: Do you? When was the last time you “agonized in prayer?” This shouldn’t be confused with the notion of begging God for something. That’s not agonizing, it’s humiliating. No believer needs to beg his Heavenly Father for anything, any time. But to “agonize in prayer” is to take your prayer to the next level. Today, prayer is such light thing. Most of us are exhausted after just three or four minutes of praying. Or we pray like we hear our preachers praying: in the KJV language or following some liturgy. Real prayer is not prayed according to rote or memorization. It’s not trying to impress God by taking on a holy tone, using unusual words and phrases. Prayers shouldn’t be profound, they should be from the heart. To “agonize in prayer” means that you humbly realize He is your only hope. You have no one else to turn to. It means to be persistent; to keep on praying until the answer arrives. Maybe the answer will be, “Stop praying.” But maybe the answer will be like what Daniel was told. He was given the reason for the delay and then the answer to his prayer.

Daniel persevered for three weeks. We have a hard time persevering for a few minutes. We modern Christians would do well to take a lesson from old Daniel. Let’s learn how to “agonize in prayer.” Let’s persist in our prayers three days, or three weeks, or thirty weeks if need be. We should never give up on a prayer request until we see the answer or, as happened to Moses and Joshua, we are told to stop praying. Spiritual conflict in prayer is far more common than you may think, so persevering is virtal. One preacher from bygone era wrote:

Many a lost battle would have been won if perseverance had been practiced a little longer on the part of the combatants.

Daniel was fearful that his prayer had gone unheard. You don’t have to be. Fear not. No matter how it seems to you, your prayers are heard and will be answered. But you need to be aware that there is a spiritual world swirling all around you, and you need to keep that in mind as you pray.

 

Futility of Fear, 7

What's yours?

What’s yours?

2 Kings 6:16

“Don’t be afraid,” the prophet answered. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” (2 Kings 6:16 NIV84)

This “don’t be a afraid” is for anybody who feels overwhelmed by any forces arrayed against them. Maybe this describes you sometimes. Have you ever felt stymied by some bureaucracy when all you wanted to do was make a few extra dollars? Or maybe you tried to do something recently that was a breeze a few years ago but now it hurts so much you have to stop. Or maybe your situation is far more serious. God’s Word to anybody facing any “enemy” is simply, “don’t be afraid.”

The incident in 2 Kings where God told Elisha’s servant to not be afraid follows the case of the floating axe head.

The man of God asked, “Where did it fall?” When he showed him the place, Elisha cut a stick and threw it there, and made the iron float. “Lift it out,” he said. Then the man reached out his hand and took it. (2 Kings 6:6-7 NIV84)

Miracles followed Elisha around like a lost puppy. This man of God walked and worked in the power of God. It may seem almost impossible to believe that an iron axe head can float, but with God, nothing is impossible.

This particular miracle has never been repeated, but the incident that follows it is as up-to-date as tomorrow’s headlines.

An age-old conflict

Now the king of Aram was at war with Israel. After conferring with his officers, he said, “I will set up my camp in such and such a place.” (2 Kings 6:8 NIV84)

Aram, or Syria, had been harassing Israel with intermittent warfare and guerrilla raids. Yes, they’ve been going at it for a long time over there. Even during this period of Hebrew history, this conflict was a very old one. What we see happening in the Middle East today – the tension between Israel and the Arab world – can be traced back to the dim days of the Old Testament.

Time and time again the Israelite king and his armies were delivered from these ambushes because of Elisha’s intervention. By divine revelation, Elisha always knew when and where the Aramean army was and what they were planning.

The man of God sent word to the king of Israel: “Beware of passing that place, because the Arameans are going down there.” So the king of Israel checked on the place indicated by the man of God. Time and again Elisha warned the king, so that he was on his guard in such places. (2 Kings 6:9-10 NIV84)

These constant defeats really frustrated the Aramean king and he came to, what was for him, the obvious conclusion: there just had to be a spy in his camp.

This enraged the king of Aram. He summoned his officers and demanded of them, “Will you not tell me which of us is on the side of the king of Israel?” (2 Kings 6:11 NIV84)

Unbelievers will never come to the correct conclusion concerning the work of God. They will always try to find “the logical answer” to God’s miraculous ways, and the logical answer is almost always the wrong answer when it comes to God’s miraculous ways.

Danger for Elisha

“None of us, my lord the king,” said one of his officers, “but Elisha, the prophet who is in Israel, tells the king of Israel the very words you speak in your bedroom.” (2 Kings 6:12 NIV84)

How about that Elisha! He even had the king’s bedroom bugged! That’s the “logical answer,” but of course we know the truth: God was revealing the king’s plans to His prophet. We’re not told how or why this officer knew the truth, but it may well be that Elisha’s aid to Israelite king Jehoram was not exactly the best kept secret at this time.

What’s the king to do? He’ll eliminate the problem.

“Go, find out where he is,” the king ordered, “so I can send men and capture him.” The report came back: “He is in Dothan.” (2 Kings 6:13 NIV84)

Elisha was staying in Dothan, a strategic town located some dozen miles north of Samaria, and about 60 miles north of Jerusalem. This town was the prophet’s headquarters, so it’s not like he was hiding out. The Aramean king took action and his forces surrounded Dothan. He took Elisha’s ongoing threat seriously, deploying the whole army to get this one man.

When the servant of the man of God got up and went out early the next morning, an army with horses and chariots had surrounded the city. “Oh, my lord, what shall we do?” the servant asked. “Don’t be afraid,” the prophet answered. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” (2 Kings 6:15-16 NIV84)

And who wouldn’t be afraid after seeing the great Aramean army? Elisha and his servant were just two men, by themselves, facing the host of the Arameans. That makes Elisha’s epic answer all the more powerful – the servant had absolutely nothing to fear because, in the prophet’s words, “those who were with them were more than those who were against them.” The question is an obvious: just who was with them?  Who’s my boss talking about?  Can you imagine the servant looking around for those whom Elisha referred to? Of course, there was nobody there.

That’s what it looked like, anyway. But Christians can’t always believe their eyes!

We live by faith, not by sight. (2 Corinthians 5:7 NIV84)

Elisha’s servant was about to learn how true Paul’s statement is!

And Elisha prayed, “O Lord, open his eyes so he may see.” Then the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. (2 Kings 6:17 NIV84)

What passed through this servant’s mind when he saw the hosts of God all around them? For a moment he was given a glimpse into the spirit world. The Aramean king had planned an ambush but God had planned his own! Again, Paul puts this in perspective for us:

What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:31 NIV84)

Indeed. Only the most arrogant, ignorant of people would dare stand in the way of a believer doing the work of God! No wonder Elisha told his servant to not to be afraid. Why fear any man when God has surrounded you with the army of heaven?

Standard operating procedure?

When we read stories like this, we naturally wonder: Is this how God always works? You’ve probably met Christians that claim remarkable deliverances like this one in 2 Kings. These Christians experience deliverances from things like poverty when they receive an anonymous check in the mail, or deliverances from an empty gas tank when a stranger offers to fill it up for them, or deliverances from sickness by a miracle. You get the idea. The rest of us who never had these experiences wonder, Are we that out of touch with God? How do we explain the miraculous leadings and deliverances some believers claim to have experienced? The answer lies in Dothan.

Dothan is mentioned only two times in Scripture. The other time is in Genesis 37–

“They have moved on from here,” the man answered. “I heard them say, ‘Let’s go to Dothan.’ ”So Joseph went after his brothers and found them near Dothan. But they saw him in the distance, and before he reached them, they plotted to kill him. (Genesis 37:17-18 NIV84)

It was in Dothan that Joseph was sold into slavery – a fate worse than death. Dr. McGee comments:

It was a living hell to be sold into slavery, yet that is what is happening to this boy of 17.

Seems terribly unfair, doesn’t it? Joseph, a young man, blessed by God with dreams and visions, trapped by his scurrilous, no account brothers and sold into slavery. Where were the chariots of fire for Joseph? Where was God’s army?

Remember, we can’t always believe our eyes. Just because it didn’t look like they were around Joseph didn’t mean they weren’t. When we study the life of Joseph from this point on, we can see the hand of God on it. In fact, in some ways, you can see God working more in the life of Joseph than in Elisha’s! Certainly in terms of the flash and sizzle, Elisha had it all over Joseph. But God did remarkable things in and through Joseph without the flash and sizzle. So much so Joseph was able to say this to his brothers:

You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. (Genesis 50:20 NIV84)

No miraculous deliverance for Joseph, yet he kept on keeping on – he stayed faithful to his God despite his sometimes awful circumstances. In the end, though, he prevailed and was blessed mightily.  And because he did, so did the nation of Israel.

So you see, at Dothan God was there with Joseph just as He was with Elisha, just in a different way.

Blinded by the Light

It wasn’t over yet. Elisha prayed for his servant’s eyes to be opened, and now he prayed for the reverse to happen to the Arameans:

As the enemy came down toward him, Elisha prayed to the Lord, “Strike these people with blindness.” So he struck them with blindness, as Elisha had asked. (2 Kings 6:18 NIV84)

We don’t usually think of praying things like that, but Elisha did, and God answered it. He blinded – temporarily – these soldiers and led them in the wrong direction!

After they entered the city, Elisha said, “Lord, open the eyes of these men so they can see.” Then the Lord opened their eyes and they looked, and there they were, inside Samaria. (2 Kings 6:20 NIV84)

God certainly has a sense of humor, doesn’t he? But His ways are not our ways, either. Instead of killing them, as surely as they would have killed Elisha, his servant, and any other Israelite they happened upon, mercy was shown:

“Do not kill them,” [Elisha] answered. “Would you kill men you have captured with your own sword or bow? Set food and water before them so that they may eat and drink and then go back to their master.” (2 Kings 6:22 NIV84)

There may be several reasons why these soldiers’ lives were spared. For one thing, Israel didn’t kill prisoners of war, so that’s how Elisha may have seen these men. Or it could be that Elisha was gently reminding the king that it was unlawful to kill soldiers not captured in battle. Or it may be that Elisha saw these men as being under God’s protection for the time being.

Whatever the reason, Elisha made sure these soldiers were well-fed and sent home safely. The result was nothing less than stunning:

…he sent them away, and they returned to their master. So the bands from Aram stopped raiding Israel’s territory. (2 Kings 6:23b NIV84)

Elisha ended this plague of skirmishes with kindness.

Even though Elisha was Israel’s prophet, he nonetheless showed that he was aware of and able to actually influence events on an international level by actually controlling what people saw.  He controlled their perspective.  His servant was paralyzed with fear until, through Elisha’s prayer, he was able to see God’s army all around them. The soldiers were a deadly threat until, again through Elisha’s prayer, they were blinded and rendered helpless. When, through Elisha’s prayer, they regained their sight, it led to peace.

Fear was a bad thing as far as Elisha’s servant was concerned because it was unfounded – there was absolutely no reason for him to fear. However, fear was a good thing for the soldiers to experience because it led to peace.

The Futility of Fear, 5

Encouragement for the Fearful

Isaiah 43:1

Alfred Hitchock was afraid of eggs.  We're not sure how he felt about showers.

Alfred Hitchock was afraid of eggs. We’re not sure how he felt about showers.

“Fear” is a strange thing, and it’s surprising what people fear. Dr. Samuel Johnson, for example, for all his intelligence and philosophy, was very careful to always enter a room right foot first. He was so obsessive about this, if he walked into a room left foot first, he would step back out, then walk back in right foot first. Strange fear, indeed. It was more than just a phobia. Dr. Johnson was also mortally afraid – terrified, really – of death, and he would forbid anybody discussing the topic where he could hear.

The great Julius Caesar, military genius and renowned warrior, was scared to death of thunder and always hid under a table or bed during a thunder storm! Surprising indeed.

One of the greatest motion picture directors of all time, nicknamed “the Master of Suspense,” whose movies kept spellbound audiences on the edge of their seats for decades, was absolutely afraid of eggs, especially eggs with runny yokes. Alfred Hitchcock, the man who made us all afraid of crop dusters, motel showers, birds, Albert Hall, telephones, and Mount Rushmore, was scared of eggs.

Walt Disney, the man who brought us Mickey Mouse, had an uncontrollable fear of – you guessed it – mice.

Hans Christian Andersen was fearful of being buried alive, so much so that he kept a sign hanging over his bed declaring that he wasn’t really dead, he just looked that way.

Bela Lugosi, who sky-rocketed to fame in the early 1930‘s as Dracula, was deathly afraid of blood. Interestingly enough, so was Bram Stoker, author of Dracula.

Peter the Great would sob and shake uncontrollably when crossing a bride, so fearful of bridges was he.

Yes, there is no shortage of things to be afraid of. The number “13“ frightens some people. Who knows why? It’s a number. Other people are afraid of black cats or of walking under ladder. Of course, these are superstitious fears, but fears nonetheless with no foundation in fact. In truth, most fears, superstitious or not, have no basis in fact. Sensible, right thinking people, should chase these irrational, ridiculous fears out of their lives, especially Christians. To these, the Lord has an encouraging word:

But now thus saith the Lord that created thee, O Jacob, and he that formed thee, O Israel, Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine. (Isaiah 43:1 KJV)

Faith, not fear!

Fear is a serious issue even though we chuckle when we hear about Hitch’s fear of runny yokes. This is because fear is the opposite of faith. Christians are called to be faithful, not fearful. To restate it another way: Christians are called to be fearless. This doesn’t mean Christians are to live reckless lives in dangerous ways, but it does mean we don’t give credence to irrational fears. They may float into your head from time to time as random thoughts are want to do, but your faith in God should broom them out quickly.

You may have had the strange experience where a free floating fear took hold of your mind out of the blue, and all of a sudden a sense of dread covered you from head to toe. Fears of impending disaster or of coming sorrows or of some unnameable fear took root in your head for no apparent reason. Most of us have had that unwelcome experience, and if we dwell on those free floating fears too long and take them seriously, pretty soon we’re depressed, frustrated, and anxious.

Ever wonder where those crazy thoughts come from? Jesus gives us a clue:

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. (John 10:10 NIV11)

Living a full, abundant life means living a fearless life, and that’s just not possible if fear is in control of your mind. The thief – Satan – is determined to make your life miserable, and his best tool is controlling your mind.

But God is gracious, and He understands how our minds work. That’s why He speaks the phrase: “Fear not” so often in His Word to us. Time and again the Lord speaks those quiet, encouraging words to us. It’s up to us to hear them, mind you, but He’s speaking; He’s reassuring us that He is aware of what’s happening in our minds and our lives, and fear is not really an option.

Context and Comfort

Isaiah 43 and 44 are important chapters in Isaiah’s book of prophecy because they are key in understanding Israel’s future. In spite of what some of our theologians teach, God is most assuredly not finished with Israel by any stretch of the imagination. In Romans, Paul posited the question:

Did God reject his people? By no means! I am an Israelite myself, a descendant of Abraham, from the tribe of Benjamin. (Romans 11:1 NIV84)

God is nowhere near done with Israel, and that’s the whole point of this section of Isaiah. In verse 1, for example, God makes some astonishing claims:

But now, this is what the Lord says–he who created you, O Jacob,he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you;I have summoned you by name; you are mine. (Isaiah 43:1 NIV84)

God is speaking directly to a disheartened Israel, a nation riddled with fear and doubt. The first thing He wanted them to know is that He created them: “…he who formed you…” God is the one responsible for the creation of Israel. Only God could take a sorry specimen of humanity named Jacob and turn his descendants into a nation. Jacob’s name, if you’ll remember, means “crooked.” What God saw in Jacob is a mystery! But in His providence, the Lord took this crooked man’s progeny and made them into a great nation that no tyrant has been able to exterminate.

God made you, too. He took the dirt you walk on, and breathed life into it and it became a living soul. That first human being didn’t appreciate his origins and soon took his life in his own hands and tried to live his own way and he failed miserably. This is Adam’s beginning, and it is also your beginning.

Surely I was sinful at birth,sinful from the time my mother conceived me. (Psalms 51:5 NIV84)

David wrote that about himself, but he could just as easily have written it about you. We’re all born sinners because we possess an evil legacy. We’re no better than Adam. We have his sinful, rebellious nature and there’s not a thing we can do about our dreadfully lost condition.

But now, God makes sons of God out of people like you; people who have put their faith in Jesus Christ. God recreates those who trust in Him. So you see, God is still in the creation business!

Starting with crooked old Jacob, God created a special nation, Israel. But, like Adam, Israel became a rebellious nation and got themselves into trouble. And so God, as He said through the prophet Isaiah, redeemed them; that is, He bought them back from their troubles. He redeemed them from Egypt and put them in their own land and they truly became a nation with a homeland. They belong to Him because He made them and He purchased them.

Jesus Christ, God’s only Son did the very same thing for sinners. He literally purchased us – bought us – from our empty, sinful lives by His very blood.

He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, having obtained eternal redemption. (Hebrews 9:12 NIV84)

For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. (1 Peter 1:18, 19 NIV84)

Isn’t it amazing? What God told Israel He would do for them, He also fulfilled in us, the Church. Of course, there are some very specific promises only for the nation of Israel, but there are definite parallels in the ideas of our special creation and redemption. This we share with God’s people. But we also share something else: deliverance.

Divine deliverance

When you pass through the waters,I will be with you;and when you pass through the rivers,they will not sweep over you.When you walk through the fire,you will not be burned;the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord, your God,the Holy One of Israel, your Savior;I give Egypt for your ransom, Cush and Seba in your stead. (Isaiah 43:2-3 NIV84)

In these verses, our Lord gently reminds Israel of how He delivered them out of the land of Egypt. God did this for Israel; He did not do it for you. And yet, these verses do apply to Christians. Think about this:

Deliverance from Death

These verses in Isaiah 43 are most often read at funerals, and for good reason. Fear of death is the one fear most human beings have in common. Death is certain, no matter what kind of food you eat, how much you exercise, how many vitamins you swallow, or how positively you think about things! Nobody can avoid death, but for the Christian, fear should not be attached to the idea of departing this world.

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23 (NIV84)

Deliverance from Bondage

Israel was delivered from their awful Egyptian bondage. It wasn’t just the hard work God saved them from; He set them free! The Hebrews were never meant to be living in Egypt on a permanent basis. God had something better for them – a land flowing with milk and honey. They needed to be set free so that they could experience God’s will to the fullest.

Christian, you may feel like the Hebrews did in Egypt. You may feel like God has something better in store for you; you are saved, and yet in your heart of hearts, you know there’s something God wants you to do – a life He wants you to live. If you’re not at the moment, this could be form of bondage to you, but God will lead you out of it into that “abundant life” the Bible talks about, if you’d let Him.

You may be serving the Lord today but are discouraged because there is sin in your life that you just can’t seem to get a handle on. That’s a very real bondage that God can deliver you out of, if you’d let Him!  God is still in the deliverance business just as surely as He is in the recreation business!

Deliverance from penury

When the Hebrews left Egypt, they carried off the wealth of that nation with them, as the Lord told them to! God provided for them in astonishing ways. God provides for you, too. Without Christ in our lives, we were spiritually bankrupt with no prospects and no opportunities in sight. But God came in and met our needs, gave us hope and confidence, and opened doors. Part of redemption is provision, spiritual and otherwise.

That’s a real fear many people have; fear of want or of need. Fear of poverty and of lack. God cares for the whole you; the immaterial you and the material you.

And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:19 NIV84)

There are all kinds of fears floating around us. Some could be helpful; they keep us from walking into oncoming traffic or from getting too close to the edge. But most fears are truly futile – a waste of time because they are either irrational, have no basis in reality, or they have already been addressed and dealt with by God on the Cross of His only Son. Why fear when you don’t have to?

egg fear

Futility of Fear, 3

Godreachingwithnailedscarredhand

WHAT GOD WANTS

Isaiah 43

Israel, the LORD who created you says, “Do not be afraid—I will save you.I have called you by name—you are mine.” (Isaiah 43:1 GNTCE)

The work of Christ on the Cross was for everybody. Now, it’s true that not everybody will benefit for His work – that pesky free will comes into play here – but without regard to our Calvinist friends and our Arminian friends, the Bible clearly indicates that Jesus died for the sins of all sinners. Here is just a sampling of Bible verses that teach this wonderful fact:

For God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not die but have eternal life. (John 3:16 GNTCE)

This is good and it pleases God our Savior, who wants everyone to be saved and to come to know the truth. (1 Timothy 2:3-4 GNTCE)

But we do see Jesus, who for a little while was made lower than the angels, so that through God’s grace he should die for everyone. We see him now crowned with glory and honor because of the death he suffered. (Hebrews 2:9 GNTCE)

And Christ himself is the means by which our sins are forgiven, and not our sins only, but also the sins of everyone. (1 John 2:2 GNTCE)

There will be suffering and pain for all those who do what is evil, for the Jews first and also for the Gentiles. But God will give glory, honor, and peace to all who do what is good, to the Jews first and also to the Gentiles. (Romans 2:9-10 GNTCE)

There are many, many more verses throughout both Testaments that teach that our Lord died for the sins of all sinners, bar none. We’ll leave the debate on election and predestination to the theological eggheads and stick to the Biblical text.

The fact that our Lord’s work was done on behalf of all sinners and may benefit “all who call upon His name” ought to be a comfort to all sinners, everywhere. Yet there are those who, for whatever reason, feel as though they are beyond help; beyond redemption. There are some who think they are so bad – or the life they lived so heinous – that God wouldn’t waste His time saving them.

Is this possible? Are there sinners that God wouldn’t waste the time or effort in saving? Is a lost soul correct in thinking that there may be salvation for some, but not for him? The answer lies in something Isaiah said to his people:

Israel, the LORD who created you says, “Do not be afraid—I will save you.I have called you by name—you are mine.” (Isaiah 43:1 GNTCE)

One old-time Bible scholar remarked concerning this verse:

The more one ponders over this “fear not,” the more pregnant it seems with meaning.

He lives, “I have found you…”

God was addressing His people, Israel, but the stunning thing about this verse is the very first thing God says: “I have found you.” God was using the personal pronoun: He does exist; He is real and He is alive! A “nebulous nothing” or a cold, impersonal force doesn’t say, “I.” Israel at the time they may have read what Isaiah wrote here, was dispersed, discouraged, and depressed. They needed not only to hear the encouraging message, but they needed to know it was God Himself addressing the PERSONALLY!

Jesus Christ, the Son of God, also speaks personally to all who would hear Him – those with ears to hear:

My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never die. No one can snatch them away from me. (John 10:27-28 GNTCE)

Jesus Christ, the God-Man who died for the sins of all men, speaks to us today, and we will hear Him if we are listening to Him. That’s the thing about our Lord: He never forces Himself on anybody. Granted, He works tirelessly in the background calling sinners into a relationship with Himself:

When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to me.” (John 12:32 GNTCE)

There’s that word again: everyone. Our Lord’s call goes out to everyone, but not everyone is listening; not everyone will hear. Only some; only some will hear and respond.

God exists, Jesus is alive, and the Holy Spirit is working in the world today; working on the hearts of sinners, calling them to salvation. He’s also speaking to your heart today, if you are a believer:

God’s Spirit joins himself to our spirits to declare that we are God’s children. Romans 8:16 GNTCE)

He is near, Hebrews 3:15 

This is what the scripture says: “If you hear God’s voice today, do not be stubborn, as your ancestors were when they rebelled against God.” (Hebrews 3:15 GNTCE)

So, God is real and God is alive. God is calling to sinners to Himself; some will respond but many will not. And He speaks to believers all the time. God is speaking to His children. God spoke to the Israelites constantly – through His prophets and His Word. When they paid attention and listened, they prospered. When they didn’t – when they were “stubborn” – they were in a state of rebellion against God and suffered the consequences.

When a sinner refuses to listen to the call of God, he remains a sinner and is lost. When a believer stubbornly refuses to listen to God’s voice, he is, whether he realizes it or not or whether he intended it or not, in rebellion against God! Is that the act of a sane person? Would somebody in their right mind go against the God who pursued them, called them, and died for them? We may excuse the hard-hearted sinner who has never experienced God, but what excuse does a child of God have?

God is near; He speaks, He doesn’t shout or yell or shriek. He simply speaks.

“Here is my servant, whom I have chosen,the one I love, and with whom I am pleased.I will send my Spirit upon him, and he will announce my judgment to the nations. He will not argue or shout, or make loud speeches in the streets.” (Matthew 12:18c-19 GNTCE)

Yes, Jesus is near and He is still speaking, still pursuing saint and sinner alike.

He Knows me, Psalm 139

LORD, you have examined me and you know me. You know everything I do; from far away you understand all my thoughts. (Psalms 139:1-2 GNTCE)

Psalm 139 could be the most theological psalm ever. Read it and you will learn about three of God’s attributes: His omniscience (all knowing); His omnipresence (everywhere, all the time); and His omnipotence (all powerful).

The first few verses of this marvelous psalm speak about the undeniable fact that God knows YOU. God is the great Heavenly psychologist. No problem is beyond His understanding. There is no solution to a problem that God cannot provide to one He knows and loves.

The thing about God’s knowledge is that it is perfect. God knows the words you will say before you do. In fact, God not only knows your words but He knows the thoughts and intents behind those words. He knows your secret thoughts. Does that frighten you? Maybe it should, if you think you are keeping thoughts from Him.

You are all around me on every side; you protect me with your power. (Psalms 139:5 GNTCE)

In the Hebrew, the first part of that verse means that the psalmist saw himself “hemmed in” by God. Moffatt translates it like this:

Thou art on every side, behind me and before, laying thy hand on me.

Indeed. That’s how it is with all believers. By virtue of His Son, we warrant God’s care and concern. Do you know what that means? God knows the real you. He knows your heart. He knows your weaknesses. When you stumble along the way, God still loves you; He is still on your side. He will always comes down in your favor, if you love Him and are loyal to Him. When God looks at you, He sees His Son!

You created every part of me; you put me together in my mother’s womb. (Psalms 139:13 (GNTCE)

Think about what that means. God made all people, and therefore He has a plan and a purpose for all people. But only a believer may fulfill God’s good purpose. This is something that cuts both ways. For you, if you are a believer, God’s purpose is a wonderful blessing, both for you and others. Your purpose includes, ultimately, a place in Heaven with Him. But for the unbeliever, God’s purpose is eternal separation from Him.

I praise you because you are to be feared; all you do is strange and wonderful.I know it with all my heart. (Psalms 139:14 GNTCE)

The psalmist is obviously a believer; he is obviously close to God. Knowing how well God knows him and how much He is concerned with him, the psalmist responds in the only appropriate way: praise. That should be our response, too. We see God everywhere; we experience His grace all the time. But the believer should know something else: he was made by God. Deep down inside, a believer knows how special he is. He is unique in all the universe. He was personally put together by God.

He longs for you, Isaiah 43:4

I will give up whole nations to save your life,because you are precious to me and because I love you and give you honor. (Isaiah 43:4 GNTCE)

Of course, God is speaking to Israel through His prophet. But remember, God’s Word is eternal and there is an application of every passage. God calls us all by name, too; He knows us all as well as He knew Israel. Think about this:

As for you, even the hairs of your head have all been counted. (Matthew 10:30 GNTCE)

He longs for you so much, He knows every detail about you, even the number of hairs you have on your head. He calls you by name. He pursued you and continues to walk with you. He wants to be your friend. He desires to become your chief advisor. He has plans for you and you belong to Him.

“They are my own people, and I created them to bring me glory.” (Isaiah 43:7 GNTCE)

“They,” “my own,” and “I created them” all point to one inescapable conclusion: God has a vested interest in His people. In fact, we could go even farther and say that if you are a Christian, then you belong to Him! Don’t believe it? Here is the apostle Paul said about this very topic:

Don’t you know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and who was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourselves but to God; he bought you for a price. So use your bodies for God’s glory. (1 Corinthians 6:19-20 GNTCE)

What’s true for Israel is NOT always true for the Church, but in this case it is. We who are part of the Body of Christ belong in totality to God. He bought us. He owns us. And yet, in spite of that very fact, some Christians stubbornly refuse to live in fellowship with Him. So His longing goes on.  God called you, sought you out, He pursued you, He saved you, and He has taken up residence in you. What more evidence of His love for you do you need? Who wouldn’t want to have fellowship with a God that did all that for them?

What does God want? He wants sinners saved and He wants to be in fellowship with His children.

 


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