Lord my Refuge
Psalm 91:9 (H4268 )
He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. 2 I will say of the LORD, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust. 3 Surely he shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler, and from the noisome pestilence. 4 He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler. 5 Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day; 6 Nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness; nor for the destruction that wasteth at noonday. 7 A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee. 8 Only with thine eyes shalt thou behold and see the reward of the wicked. 9 Because thou hast made the LORD, which is my refuge, even the most High, thy habitation; 10 There shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling. 11 For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways. 12 They shall bear thee up in their hands, lest thou dash thy foot against a stone. 13 Thou shalt tread upon the lion and adder: the young lion and the dragon shalt thou trample under feet 14 Because he hath set his love upon me, therefore will I deliver him: I will set him on high, because he hath known my name. 15 He shall call upon me, and I will answer him: I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him, and honor him. 16 With long life will I satisfy him, and show him my salvation.
Reviewing the many different compound names that we have looked at so far in our little overview of God. The greatest part of them seem to be roles of His that are active: redeemer, creator, savior, provider, judge, etc. We now come to an attribute of God's that is passive. He is a refuge for us. A refuge is not something that is active. I love the Psalm above: He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. Casting a shadow is not something we choose to do or not. It is just an inherent function of being out in the sun and not being transparent. . .
Have you ever needed protection and found a refuge? Can you remember your relief? Can you remember how grateful you were at finding shelter? Maybe twenty or twenty-five years ago a friend and I were out on a wonderfully pleasant summers day golfing at a little course up in Centreville, Michigan. Before we realized what was happening, the day changed very quickly from gentle peacefulness and warmth, to a most dramatically violent day. Without our being aware of it a very nasty and quite violent storm blew up right on top of us. We were way out on the furthest reaches of the course, a long ways from the clubhouse and that's not a good place to be with strong wind, lots of trees, lightning, and hail all around you. I recalled a little shelter, a refuge just a few hundred yards away or so and we raced for that. We arrived right at the moment that the wind came roaring through the little valley we were in. The rain was sheeting and blowing horizontally. Hail was banging, hugely loud. It was like we were in some huge microwave and off the roof of our little sheet metal lean-to the popcorn kernels were exploding just above our heads. Lightning followed, with no pause, immediately by crashing thunder was on every side. It wasn't much, the little shelter we were in, but it took the brunt of the storm. It kept us out of the wind and rain. It kept the hail from us. If it did nothing more it made us feel more secure from the lightning. We weren't there long. They actually sent a van out to drive across the course and pick us up and bring us back to the clubhouse. The van wasn't there when we needed it. The little refuge was and I remember how grateful I was for it.
I golfed at this little course a number of times after that day. My thoughts of that little lean-to were forever changed. Now whenever I was on that course, in the back of my mind, I always kind of knew where that little refuge was. On other days, on other courses I was more aware of the importance of a little place of shelter. I never forgot the importance of having a safe place in a storm. . .
The refuge was there all along. It had been built for just such a purpose. The storm came up so very quickly. There wasn't time to run to the clubhouse. If you didn't know where the little shelter was, you were out of luck. You needed to know, exactly where to go to find safety. You needed to have knowledge of the shelter ahead of time. Once the storm started was not the time to start searching for a shelter.
Many times since that summer day long ago, I have needed shelter and found it in God. I think I'm getting better at it, but in the beginning when I first started walking with God, I would forget. The first gust of wind, or the first lightning bolt would stike close by and I would start racing around looking, trying to find shelter before remembering the refuge I have that's never very far away, in my God.
I can remember a few years ago, things weren't going well at work. Lots of feelings, upset, frustrated, maybe a little anxious, angry over some things that were going on. In my mind, I was kind of racing around, trying to figure out what to do. Maybe in a panic that's too strong a word, but very much in a quandry, upset, tense, very very frustrated. . . When I suddenly realized, it came upon my mind that this is not the source of my happiness. . . This is not how I am justified in my life. Regardless what happens here, I am loved, I am valued. He knows exactly what I am going through and He loves me!!! He is right beside me. All this other junk just doesn't matter . . Immediately after thinking these words, after seeking and finding refuge in my God, a sense of peace, strength, contentment. . . I don't know. . . on and on. . . good things filled me up. In just a very few moments, I went from being in the midst of a storm to a place of peace and safety. I found refuge in God. I had forgotten my place of strength. I had allowed my secret place of safety to get out of sight for a little while. . . but I came back and it. . . and He was waiting for me. There is no place like the loving arms of God. . .
Thank you God
Thank you for the refuge that is never far away
Please Lord, Please help me not forget my refuge
Thank you My God. . .
Sunday, September 30, 2007
Lord my Refuge
Tuesday, September 25, 2007
Sunday, September 23, 2007
The Bible is clear that we aren’t just to throw up a bunch of words at God. He doesn’t like prayers without meaning:
But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.
In the reflection about how to pray for this situation, a couple of thoughts have come to my mind. First of all this is God’s plan that we are living in. It is clear that we are supposed to pray, but we have to keep it in perspective.
If we have a desire to see family, friends, loved one, etc. saved, to put it into perspective our passion and desire must be multiplied many times over to gain the magnitude of God’s desire for these very same things.
OK, I’m praying for my Sister Sue. It’s not like God says, “Oh yeah, I had forgotten about her.” What ever desire that I have for my sister to be saved is multiplied maybe a hundred or a thousand times or more in the heart of God. We have no inkling at all, maybe a tiny miniscule hint of the wondrousness and grandeur of God’s plan, but it is very arrogant for us to think that we are somehow helping God to mold and create His plan. His plan for each of us has existed from the beginning of the world.
Our prayers are in some ways similar to a wrestling match. I feel sometimes like I’m wrestling with God when I pray. When something is pressing heavily upon my heart, I awake in the morning more tired than I went to bed from crying out to God all night. . . but what happened when Jacob wrestled with God? God wasn’t changed. Jacob was.
From His birth, Moses was destined to lead his people out of Egypt. The persecutions of Pharaoh crafted his life into a tool eminently suited to lead the Hebrews, but this wasn’t a plan created by Moses that he had to sell God upon through his prayers. Hundreds and hundreds of years before Moses a wondrous vision of God’s plan was given to Abraham at the founding of the Hebrew people:
And when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and, lo, a horror of great darkness fell upon him. (13) And he said unto Abram, Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years; (14) And also that nation, whom they shall serve, will I judge: and afterward shall they come out with great substance.
Moses somehow thought the plan was his. He decided that he would take matters into his own hands and the result of Moses’ thinking was one dead Egyptian and 40 years of exile in a desert, 40 years of learning to listen to God, 40 years of being shaped by God and 40 years of leading sheep alone in the wilderness. Did God’s plan require this 40 year pause? No, it took that long to get Moses where he needed to be in order for God’s plan to be able to use Moses.
I don’t know what Moses prayed while he was in his desert, but if he spent much time praying for God to deliver the Hebrews from Egypt, then those were wasted prayers. What he needed to be praying was for God to show him what needed to be changed within himself. He needed to pray for God to help him change so that God could use him to accomplish God’s plan.
How much prayer time have I wasted praying for the salvation of my children? What am I thinking? Isn’t this a bit arrogant of me? It’s not my plan. . . My children are also God’s children. My time is much better spent praying for God to show me how I need to change so that He can use me in His plan for my children’s salvation. . . the alternative is watching the southern end of northbound sheep for 40 years. . . and I’d like to keep phase of my life that to a minimum. . .
Posted by David Stokely at 10:00 AM
Sunday, September 16, 2007
Reading the chronicles of the Old Testament and knowing some of the history of the Jewish people is in many ways like reading a real life fairy tale. To my knowledge no other people on earth can lay claim to such an intricately recorded history of their beginnings. The whole story is impossible to imagine without continual divine blessing and intervention:
1. Abraham called out of his homeland for parts unknown. . .
2. Sarah giving birth decades after menopause. . .
3. A tiny family group, maybe 70 persons, adding servants and slaves, maybe a couple of hundred in all, called into a completely foreign culture and country. After 400 years of servitude they not only have not been absorbed into the new culture, but they have maintained their traditions, wonderfully prospered, and have grown into several millions of people. Formerly slaves, this people is given days and weeks to prepare for their departure and are sent off, against the will of the Pharaoh, taking with them the great riches required to establish a country of their own.
4. Now after wandering in a desolate place for some 4 decades, this people again thrives. . . not being able to plant crops, not having any infrastructure of a normal society, living a nomadic existence in a difficult environment, again they not just survive, but thrive.
5. They arrive at their 'promised land' to find it filled with other peoples whom they must conquer. They find it surrounded on three sides by blood sworn enemies. The fourth side being the sea. Again, they not only survive, but hugely prosper, after time building the richest kingdom known on earth. Gold was so plentiful that silver was thought to be nothing. (1 Kings 10:21)
6. Their kingdom has been destroyed numbers of times, this blessed, chosen people have been dispersed to the four corners of the earth for not just centuries, but millennia. They not only survive, but again they prosper. Still surrounded by blood-sworn enemies, no natural resources to speak of, terribly mistreated almost everywhere they have been dispersed to, some 1850 years after the fall of their promised land to their enemies, again they have a country. It is spoken of as a place where the desert has bloomed. This tiny people, maybe one tenth of one percent of the worlds population, dominate so many areas of leadership of our world, completely out of proportion to their physical numbers on the earth. The Jewish people are known and frankly hated for their leading roles in the world of finance, business, entertainment, publishing, science, etc. etc. etc.
In some ways we as Christians are like the Hebrews. We are mere pilgrims in this life, visitors journeying through this land on our way home. This is not our country. This is not our land. We are strangers here. In some ways we are following a similar path to the Hebrews, originally looked upon as a blessing, generations have passed, memories have faded, there has been a death, a change of leadership and where the old Pharaoh originally valued us, now increasingly we are despised. What lessons can we gain from studying the ways of the Hebrew people that might be applicable to our own lives?
One of the first things that stand out to me is that the Jews did not waste their time fighting against the underlings whom they were in contact with on a day to day basis. It is not recorded that the Jews revolted at the individual brick making facilities, went on strike or rioted against those oppressing them. Pharaoh came against the Hebrews by trying to ensure that their babies did not survive childbirth. The Hebrews mounted no active opposition of their own to this terrible plan of Pharaoh's to kill the Jewish baby boys, but indeed Pharaoh's plan raised up the very source of the Hebrew's liberation. Through the pressure of Pharaoh to kill Hebrew baby boys, the baby Moses was in faith floated on the Nile by his mother and came to be given an education and experiences in the household of the leader of a great nation. This was designed by God. This was invaluable to him in his later calling by God to lead the Jewish people.
So much is unsaid and understated in the Bible, but these Hebrew people were such a cohesive cultural unit. It is very hard to imagine just how closely knit they were. They were willing to be led, to repeat they did not act independently. I've read different numbers, but somewhere between 2,000,000 and 6,000,000 were in the Jewish community. Conveniently for illustration purposes Indiana has approximately 6,000,000 people in it. Now I want to ask you, what in the world could you promise, what could you say that would ever get even a few thousand, or even a few hundred of the millions of people in Indiana to follow you to another country or state? What if you promised to lead the people, to a promised land, a place of free health insurance, no income taxes, a minimum $40,000/year job, but. . . but. . . but don't forget all this is sight unseen. The Hebrew people were unhappy in Egypt. Surely they were being mistreated, but Moses had no proof of anything in the way of a better life where he was leading them and yet it, read this and think about it. . . is not recorded that any of the Hebrews stayed behind in Egypt. That is truly amazing. That is a miracle in of itself.
When Moses initially came to Pharaoh with his request or demand that they be allowed to leave, there was force of these millions of Hebrews behind Moses words. This must have been why Pharaoh was so reluctant to let Moses have his way. This was the basis of Pharaoh's hardened heart that God spoke of. God's hardening of Pharaoh's heart, the basis of Pharaoh's fears took the 400 years that the Hebrews were in Egypt to make them into a highly cohesive people. Something that is adhesive sticks to other things. Something cohesive sticks to itself. . . It was this stick-togetherness of the Jewish people that put force behind the words of Moses. . .
And the LORD said unto Moses, See, I have made thee a god to Pharaoh: and Aaron thy brother shall be thy prophet. (2) Thou shalt speak all that I command thee: and Aaron thy brother shall speak unto Pharaoh, that he send the children of Israel out of his land. (3) And I will harden Pharaoh's heart, and multiply my signs and my wonders in the land of Egypt.
If Pharaoh had thought that only a few of the Hebrews would follow Moses into the desert, there would never would have been an issue about it. If Moses were only leading a few hundred or even a few thousand people into the desert, who would really miss them. This wouldn't have even rated a little footnote in the history of Egypt. After all it was Pharaoh's trying to reduce their numbers that started everything in the first place, but the power that Moses had was twofold. He was a man chosen by God. Moses had the great power of God behind his words, in manifesting the great plagues against the Egyptians and secondly he had the power of the Hebrew's willingness to follow him. Plagues of Egypt contributed to this second power. It was not only Pharaoh who saw these terrible miracles being done to the Egyptians. The Hebrew people also were watching and these miracles further increased the Hebrew people's willingness to be led.
Whenever force is concentrated, its effectiveness is greatly compounded. I can push against you with all my weight to no effect. If I place the palm of my hand on your shoulder and lean against you, You can merely slightly adjust your stance to resist my weight and thereby resist and stand as an obstacle in my path all day long. I am ineffective in getting you to move. The force of my weight is distributed over the surface area of my hand. It is not concentrated, but if I now take a pencil, or a knife point, or a compass tip and with only a tiny force, not my whole weight, but only the force of a few ounces concentrated at the tip of something sharp and you will not lean against me to resist. You will begin backing away from my concentrated force. You are not able to resist the concentrated force.
With concentrated force, even hardened steel is no impediment to me. I can push all day, for an entire lifetime with all my weight against a steel door blocking my path or I can concentrate my force and with a drill in hand bore right through whatever obstruction is in front of me. . . Most every boy discovers the magic of the concentration of force by a magnifying glass. A little piece of glass, merely an inch or two in diameter, gathers the gentle sunlight, concentrates its force, and will melt a piece of plastic or blacken and start a leaf or a piece of paper on fire. . .
This is the concentration of force that I am speaking of, the cohesiveness of this Hebrew people has allowed them through the ages to exert force to achieve ends of their own and survive in circumstances that would be impossible otherwise. There is a great lesson to be learned here for our own lives and for our own ministries. . .
The principle behind this concentration, is the gathering together from a large area and redirecting into a small area. There are so many ways this concentration can be effective in our lives. . .
In our time and energy
The Hebrews for their entire existence have been surrounded by enemies. Where ever they have resided, through all of history, there have been those who wanted to destroy them on every side. They have not allowed this to distract them. They have not allowed this to dilute their attention. In fact I believe that it is likely that it is their hostile surroundings that has been the lens that has kept them focused as a people. They have been forced to take a bit of their time, a bit of their energy away from other frivolous and unimportant things and focus it upon the problem of surviving in the midst of a hostile land. They have not only survived. This application of focused force has allowed them to thrive. . .
Look at people who achieve great things, the Olympic athlete for example. They take bits of time and energy from all the other aspects of their life and redirect it. . . refocus it on their desire to excel at a particular talent. They take time normally spent say watching TV, they take time from recreation and often even sleep less. . . they wake up early and go to bed late in order to concentrate this time into working to improve themselves in a particular area. This focus and drive results in feats and abilities that are astounding. We are not all going to be Olympic athletes, but the principle is the same. Take a bit of time from all your other diluted activities, from unimportant distractions and focus this time on devotions to God, to prayer, to memorizing scripture, to ministering to and praying for your family members or neighbors or co-workers that you want to see saved. Choose a task and apply yourself to it. Focus yourself on a particular spiritual goal and watch the miracle of concentrated spiritual energy.
In our money and finances
Not too long ago I read the story of a little old lady who died and left an estate worth millions of dollars to the college that she had graduated from decades before. People who knew her, family members were in shock. This was a huge surprise, totally unexpected, totally out of the blue. If I remember correctly she was merely a school teacher. She was no investment banker or company CEO. Just a little old former school teacher, who for her entire life did not fritter away her money, but every extra penny that she had, she invested in the stock market. She left an estate worth millions of dollars by concentrating her money, focusing her finances into one area alone. . . This principle to whatever degree you have the discipline for, is available to you and I. The effects can be breathtaking and it doesn't have to be some huge huge sacrifice. Again just the sunlight from a little two inch piece of glass, can start a fire. . . $1 per day, the price of a cup of coffee, for probably most of us, it would not even be noticeable in our household budgets, a few coins in the pop machine at work each day. . . multiplied by say 200 members of Life Tabernacle church. . . add up to $73,000 in a years time. . . $730,000 in 10 years time. WOW!!! What could the building fund do with that? The power of compounding focus, I'm not talking sacrificial giving, a mere slight concentration of effort and the results are amazing. I've been in church for 7 years. If I, if we had started giving like that in the year 2000. . . where would we be today?
In our loyalty and support for our leadership
This is the least tangible of the things that I will speak of this morning, but its intangibility does not lessen the impact. The force of a hurricane is in its wind. You see the waves of a hurricane and their great power. They are impressive, but the waves are not the source of a hurricanes power. The gentle heat of the ocean's water causes the air to rise. The rotation of the wind, the circulation of the hurricane focuses the rising air. It acts as a lens, directing the wind, concentrating its force. The wind is intangible. The wind is invisible, but it is the wind that has the power. It is the wind that moves the water.
It is the force of our support and our concentrated loyalty to our leadership that will allow our church to accomplish what God desires for us. God has a destination in mind for us. We must be disciplined and dedicated to our leadership for God's plan to come to fruit. The purpose of the plagues of Egypt was not to impress Pharaoh or merely to display God's power. The purpose of the plagues of Egypt was to get the Hebrew people out of Egypt and into the promised land, but this was not any power that Moses had. This was not even a power that God had. The power to accomplish this resided in the Hebrew people's willingness to be led. This willingness to be led gave Moses, gave God the power to lead. The power to lead does not come from the top, but is granted from the base, from the people. The power to lead is not demanded, it is commanded. Individually it seems like such a slight thing, each Hebrew merely made a commitment in their heart to follow where Moses led. . . regardless of where Moses led. . . to take one step at a time, to place one foot in front of the other following Moses and it took them all the way from Egypt to the land of milk and honey. . .
There was huge power in the focusing of that individual force. The power of their decision is still effecting us today. The decision of those individual ancient Hebrews to follow Moses (they didn't know where they were going), but to follow him where ever he went, to have trust in him, to have faith in him led them out of Egypt and into the promised land. This decision is the basis of our faith today and the power of this decision is available to us today.
We have the power to accomplish great things in many aspects of our lives, in our ministries, in our church. . .We are not powerless, but things that we allow to distract us, things of the world, these things take away from us. They dilute our effectiveness. They are scratches on the lens of our focus. Focused, the gentle heat of the sun concentrated in a magnifying lens can start a raging fire. . . Focused, the gentle heat of the sun on the water is the source of a hurricane's power. . . Focused, the price of a can of pop each day, compounded by time and numbers. . . can completely pay for a new church. . . Focused, obedience. . .commitment. . . support. . .loyalty. . . to our man of God can take us on a grand journey. . . the destination of which we can only dream of. . . it can take us into a promised land. . .
Friday, September 7, 2007
Horn of Salvation
To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David, the servant of the LORD, who spoke unto the LORD the words of this song in the day that the LORD delivered him from the hand of all his enemies, and from the hand of Saul: And he said, I will love thee, O LORD, my strength. (2) The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower. (3) I will call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised: so shall I be saved from mine enemies. (4) The sorrows of death compassed me, and the floods of ungodly men made me afraid. (5) The sorrows of hell compassed me about: the snares of death prevented me. (6) In my distress I called upon the LORD, and cried unto my God: he heard my voice out of his temple, and my cry came before him, even into his ears.
This is fascinating. I have run across this name for God in the past and greatly desired to know just what it means. There are certainly mysteries in the Bible that we will never know the secrets of until we can ask the writers or the author first hand, but let us make an attempt to solve this little puzzle together today.
The phrase just doesn't make any sense to me, 'horn of my salvation'. The two concepts just don't seem to be very related in my mind. It is probably some kind of idiom, a phrase that is understood by the native speaker of the language, that does not make much sense to an outsider. English has many many idiomatic phrases. Some examples:
I have an ace up my sleeve.
He's about ready to kick the bucket.
It was close going, but we were saved by the bell.
In these phrases, the words themselves don't really convey the intended meaning. You can research and puzzle about sleeves, buckets, and bells for a long time without understanding what is happening in the above situations. They all have to do with what was at one time a commonly known story or custom. These usages don't need explaining to someone in our culture. The native speakers read right through them without giving them a second thought, never really thinking about them. I suspect that the usage by David, 'the horn of my salvation' probably falls into a similar category, but we have to remember that even though the Bible was written down by men, it was underneath all that authored by God for our guidance and that if we do a little diligent digging, open our hearts, meditate and pray about it I am confident that we will be able to discover the wisdom that God intended to bestow upon us with these words.
The word translated as horn: (queren), appears 76 times in the Old Testament. It is translated as horn 75 times, and as hill 1 time. I always love to look at the first use of a word. It is very instructive how a word is first used in the Bible. In this case queren appears first in:
And Abraham lifted up his eyes, and looked, and behold behind him a ram caught in a thicket by his horns: and Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering in the stead of his son.
As I read this, the passion and the vividness of the scene washes over me. When I read this passage, my focus is most usually on Abraham. The heaviness of his heart, the huge strength of his great faith demonstrated here. . . lashing his son to the wood pile. . . bringing forth his knife, dedicated to one purpose only, from underneath his robes. . . raising his arm to slay his beloved son. . . the horror of the scene. . .
But the scene is even doubly dramatic for Isaac. . . how often do we think of him? How often do we place ourselves on our back on the wood pile?. . . watching our loving and trusted father. We are no mere infant. We are not unaware. We know. It was obvious that a sacrifice was going to take place. . .
We have the wood. . .
We have the fire. . .
We ask where is the lamb???
I've carried all this wood.
We've come so far. . .
Where is the lamb?. . .
I don't understand. . .
Where is the lamb?. . .
God will provide my son. . .
God will provide?
What does he mean by that?
We've always had a lamb with us before. . .
Father why are you tying me down?
I am getting wet. . . your eyes. . .
Father what is going on?
You are weeping. . .
What is wrong?
What are you doing?
Why do you have that knife out???
Father!!!. . .
What are you doing???
I'm afraid. . .
I don't want to die. . .
HELP ME LORD!!!!
He put his arm down. . .
He's walking away. . .
Where are you going?
Oh, what is that noise? . .
There's a ram in the thicket.
What is wrong?
He's caught. . .
Entangled in the thicket. . .
Caught by his horn. . .
Caught by the horn.
Where did he come from?
He wasn't there a minute ago. . .
Thank you, thank you, thank you God. . .
It saved me. . .
That ram. . .
Caught by the horn.
It is caught.
I am free.
God did provide. . .
Father was right!
He did. He did. . .
It became the sacrifice.
It saved me.
It took my place.
It became my salvation. . .
Oh Thank you God for ram caught, the horn of my salvation. . .
Thank you Lord!
Thank you my God. . .
I have no idea. . . but I'm not going any further. I'm not searching any more. This has a feel to it of rightness. I have literally thought about this phrase for several years, wondering what it meant. I'll never know until I can talk to my namesake, the original David, until I can ask him, but I believe that this is very close to what he intended. . . Surely every Jew knew of this story. The reference would need no explaining. . . the horn of his salvation. . . the horn of my salvation. . .the seemingly random happenings. . . the huge array of coincidences in my life, the chain of events that for long decades led up to my eyes being opened. . . the ram so fortunately caught in the bushes at just the right time, that with mere seconds to spare freed me, that made a way, that paid the great price in my stead. . .
The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower. (3) I will call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised: so shall I be saved from mine enemies. (4) The sorrows of death compassed me, and the floods of ungodly men made me afraid. (5) The sorrows of hell compassed me about: the snares of death prevented me. (6) In my distress I called upon the LORD, and cried unto my God: he heard my voice out of his temple, and my cry came before him, even into his ears.
Thank you my Lord. . .
Thank you my God. . .
Thursday, September 6, 2007
For thou shalt worship no other god: for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God:
This has been for me another very difficult compound name of God. I have though for days on end about this name. There are not many scriptures where this word is used. There are only five verses and here they are:
Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;
For thou shalt worship no other god: for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God:
For the LORD thy God is a consuming fire, even a jealous God.
Thou shalt not bow down thyself unto them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me,
For the LORD thy God is a jealous God among you) lest the anger of the LORD thy God be kindled against thee, and destroy thee from off the face of the earth.
Many of the other names that we have studied were given to God by men. I pay particular attention when God gives a name to Himself. There is no mistaking it, our God is a jealous God. He tells us that this is His name. Just what does that mean?
Do you remember ever being jealous? Many times young love is a time of great passion and jealousy. Do you remember the feeling of fear? the ache in your heart? Do you remember the pain within you when the one you loved would pay attention to someone else? Oh, the feeling of helplessness. . . there is nothing you could do, but watch with quiet agony as she talked or walked or God forbid danced with someone else. Some loved to play that game of one against another, stirring the emotions, keeping the pot boiling. . . enjoying the attentions of many and the terrible pain of others. . .young love. . . death by slow degree. . . It was bad enough the flirtations that you could see, but the unknowns, the fears of what was going on out of your sight were even worse. . . if you allowed it, it would consume you. . . We are sometimes so silly when we are so very young and passionately in maybe best described as puppy love. A little heart ache when our love even merely laughs at the joke of another. . . a pang in the pit of our stomach when our love compliments someone else. . . the fear. . . the insecurity.
Most of us get beyond that as we grow older and more mature. Our insecurities lessen, we gain more perspective with each passing little romance. We understand the world doesn't end with a fading blossom. . . Again for most, our time of jealousy, the phase many of us go through when young passes as we out grow it.
Yet to think that God feels this way about me. He says with no uncertainty that HE IS A JEALOUS GOD!!! Watching my day, seeing everything, knowing everything, agonizing when my heart becomes captivated, even briefly by another. The pain in God's heart. . . the pain that I cause Him when my attention wanders. . . So many ways I must cause Him pain. He makes many promises to me. He will stand by me and never forsake me. I worry. I fret about happenings that He has promised to take care of. I don't fully trust Him. He is the source of my joy and yet I look to my job or my writing, my family, my friends, my pictures or . . . name it. . . for my happiness or as is more often the case I allow these things to steal my happiness from me. How that must tear at his heart, to see me acting in such a way.
God expects our undivided attention, our complete loyalty. Is that so surprising? My wife expects the same thing. Do you not think she would be a little concerned and hurt, yes even jealous, if I were much worried about making the neighbor lady happy? or if I spent time fretting whether the neighbor lady would wave at me on my way to work?
I am blind so much of the time and I don't often treat God in that way that He desires. My whole heart is supposed to be His.
. . .Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. (38) This is the first and great commandment.
It may seem funny to admit, but I think maybe the only time I really succeed at this, for any length of time is when I am actively worshipping Him. When I am raising my hands and raising my voice to him nothing else is in my mind. I am focused entirely upon Him and upon my love for Him. I think, I suspect that this is why He draws so close during worship.
O my God, I cry in the daytime, but thou hearest not; and in the night season, and am not silent. (3) But thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel.
We are there opened up to Him, with nothing between us. . . no distractions. . . no competition. . . just us and Him with eyes only for each other. . . our minds so saturated with love for Him that the power of love alone effecting change and healing within us.
Many of the changes we seek in our walk are slow in taking place. We grow impatient. They are usually too slow for our liking, but God does not often effect wholesale changes within us. He makes specific changes when necessary, but in large measure the battle for holiness and change is left for us to fight. He surely is there alongside of us, but we are not His robots or puppets for Him to perform surgery upon our psyche and rip out, no matter how fervently we desire it, those appetites and habits we have acquired from the world in our time of sin. It is the solvent of our love for Him and His love for us that cleans. The marinating in the glow of His presence, is that which soaks in slowly and deeply permeates our depths. I believe that it is in those times of fervent reaching for Him that the greatest changes take place within me.
He requires that we only worship Him. To worship anything else or any other god is a journey in the wrong direction. It is retreat. It is costly ground that again must be fought for and retaken from the enemy. He is not a jealous God for His own selfish purposes, but the love of Him is a place of healing and safety. Love of everything else is perilous to our soul and strengthening to our flesh. . .
I love you my God. . .
I am inattentive so often. . .
My heart wanders at times. . .
My eyes stray from you. . .
I am deeply sorry for the pain I cause you. . .
Let me renew my commitment to you. . .
Let me always remember your love. . .
Monday, September 3, 2007
Thou shalt neither vex a stranger, nor oppress him: for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt. (22) Ye shall not afflict any widow, or fatherless child. (23) If thou afflict them in any wise, and they cry at all unto me, I will surely hear their cry;
The cry of the afflicted always catches the ear of God. In the above verse God is warning the Jews, that even though they are His chosen people, He also very much hears the cries, the prayers, of strangers, the Gentiles. If His chosen people torment and abuse strangers and they call out to Him, He will surely hear their cry. . .
My wife Jackie first noticed these passages. It is very interesting:
And the LORD said, Because the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grievous; (21) I will go down now, and see whether they have done altogether according to the cry of it, which is come unto me; and if not, I will know.
God is responding to the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah, when He comes to investigate. What does that mean? Is He responding somehow to the voice of sin, similar to the blood of Able crying from the ground or is He responding to the voice of the victims of sin? A cry has come unto Him.
For we will destroy this place, because the cry of them is waxen great before the face of the LORD; and the LORD hath sent us to destroy it.
The cry was not unto Baal or unto Ashteroth or Ra or some other God. It does not say that the cry necessarily came from believers. It says merely that the cry was 'unto Him', 'before His face'. . .Verse 19:13 says, "because the cry of them" 'Them' means people. God is responding to the anguish of people, not sinners, not somehow sin, but to the victims of sin. Sinners do not generally cry such that God will hear them until they come to repentance. There is no evidence of repentance in Sodom and Gomorrah:
And he pressed upon them greatly; and they turned in unto him, and entered into his house; and he made them a feast, and did bake unleavened bread, and they did eat. (4) But before they lay down, the men of the city, even the men of Sodom, compassed the house round, both old and young, all the people from every quarter: (5) And they called unto Lot, and said unto him, Where are the men which came in to thee this night? bring them out unto us, that we may know them.
"the men of Sodom, compassed the house round, both old and young, all the people from every quarter:" This is not an isolated case of sin. This is a way of life for the community, "all the people from every quarter." It can be assumed that what occurred on this night with the angels and Lot's house had occurred before. . . . probably many times before. . . . It was the bitter weeping of the abused strangers, the shrieks of the strangers who stumbled into that pit of sin that reached the ears of God. It was their cries to God that God sent the angels to investigate.
What is it about the afflicted that turns the ear of God? The afflicted have standing. In a court of law, to be able to bring a lawsuit before a judge you must be able to show in some manner that you have been harmed.
Some years ago, I remember reading about some nature conservancy group, maybe the Sierra Club or a similar group who brought suit against the Federal Government for making land use changes in a remote wilderness area. I cannot remember all the details, but the government was opening the area up for timber cutting or cattle grazing or mining or something similar to that and the group was suing the government to prevent those changes from taking place, but the lawsuit was thrown out. The group could not demonstrate how they had been harmed. The organization tried, but they could not find even a single member who had ever even walked through the area once, therefore they could not show how they had at all been harmed. Another way of saying that is, they had no legal standing and the case was thrown out.
God is a judge (Jehovah-Hashopet - Lord My Judge) and in a court only the afflicted have legal standing. . . The only right you have before a judge is if you are somehow personally affected. A party in a lawsuit cannot have only some theoretical injustice done to them. Again in our verse Exodus 22:23, God hears the cry of the afflicted. Do you pray merely against theoretical sin? or do you pray as one personally afflicted by the sin around you.
Is the pornography being sold at the corner Seven-Eleven merely a theoretical harm to you? Or it is a dagger in your heart? Is the taint of it abhorrent, this affront to God causing you anguish and afflicting you? Are the babies aborted daily in our land, merely a wrong among many others on a long list when you pray about it? Or is each tiny discarded life as a loss of a child of your own? . . . a holocaust in our very midst. . . Do you pray for a brother or sister who needs healing; only that it would be nice to see them healed to take away their pain and their fear and demonstrate the power of God? Or do you bind together with them, crying out as one also enduring and bearing the pain, afflicted along with our brother or sister?
This is not something that comes naturally or easily. We all tend to insulate ourselves from the world around us. This is a defense from being hurt. We grow thick skins. We learn this when we are very young, but that is not what we are called to do. We must battle this callousness, this hardness of our hearts. . .
Luke 9:23 And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.
Do we watch the anguish of Jesus as a passive watcher from amongst the crowd along the way? Saying to our selves 'how awful, that is a shame, something should be done. . .' removed, an observer of a theoretical wrong. Or do we pick up the burden along side him, place ourselves in danger with Him, experience the sweat, the pain, the blood, the tears, and personalize the cross. Do we carry it as our own? Jesus was afflicted if any man ever has been and we are called to join with him. He took our burden and carried it as His own. Now we are to join with Him. He was afflicted for our sakes. We need to take on the burdens of others as our own. Let our cry be a cry of the afflicted. Let us have standing before the throne. . .
Please help me soften my heart
and take the anguish of others as my own. . .
Let me not rest and be content in my own comfort,
but help me share the affliction and pain of others. . .
Let me share the burden of your cross. . .
Posted by David Stokely at 10:39 AM