Another workweek has come and gone, and before we know it, the weekend will be gone, too. Time doesn’t wait for anyone, and that can be scary. (Except for the day when Joshua asked God to make the sun stand still, and it did–for a whole day to allow the Israelite army to finish an important battle! See Joshua 10:18.)
On the other hand, time can drag interminably if you’re…
…languishing in prison as Joseph was on a false charge. (Genesis 39 & 40)
…or serving as slaves in Egypt for 400 years as the Israelites were (Exodus 1)
…or exiled to the desert for 40 years as Moses was (Exodus 2)
…or dodging a mad king for years on end as David did (1 Samuel 18 to 29)
…or…you fill in the blanks for the worst times of your life!
But their stories didn’t end there! Those long periods of seemingly wasted time were part of God’s plan for building character and for getting ready the next step in the life of each one and as benefit to myriad others:
Joseph suddenly became governor of Egypt and supervised a strategy to save them all during a seven-year famine.
The Israelites became a large nation through which God displayed his glory and power to the world.
Moses was used to liberate some 2 million people from slavery lead them for 40 years.
David became the greatest king of Israel and the composer of scores of Psalms that have encouraged God’s people for thousands of years.
What is the end of your story and mine? I admit that I get tired of waiting as
day follows day,
week follows week,
and year follows year.
Is anything happening? Yes, God has amazing plans. And when he says it’s time, things could change very suddenly and decisively. Are we ready for God’s next act?
I didn’t have a choice. It was straight up—a loooong way up! A ladder of sorts was built into the vertical side of this wadi and our group was exiting that way. With others climbing up before me and right behind, I couldn’t look up or down. I just had to focus on one step at a time. If anyone had told me that morning what I’d have to do that day, I might have tried to beg off. But as it is, I learned a valuable lesson that day in Israel about God’s provision of strength and courage every step of the way.
Each morning as consciousness dawns on me, I greet the Lord with thanks for sleep and for the newness of another day. Then I mentally review my plans for the day while acknowledging that He may have some surprises in store to be meted out along with the grace to handle them.
I’m reminded of a simple song my mother taught me as a child:
Step by step I’ll follow Jesus
Hour by hour I’m in his care
Day by day He walks beside me
Through the years I know He’s there.
He can still the mighty tempest
He can calm the troubled sea
He the waters trod, He’s the Son of God
He’s the One who always walks with me!
The Jews (some of the survivors, that is) were back from their 70-year captivity and trying to rebuild their lives back in their own land. But it wasn’t the same. This land was now heavily under the influence of non-Jews who felt threatened by the return of its former occupants. In fact, their influence extended right into the highest rank of Jewish leadership, the high priest, Eliashib. Eliashib was closely connected with the very two, Tobiah and Sanballat, who had tried every trick in the book to put a stop to the rebuilding of Jerusalem’s wall. (From the book of Nehemiah in the Old Testament)
And now, thanks to this high priest, Tobiah had his own private quarters right inside God’s Temple! And Sanballat was now related to the high priest by marriage! Tolerance, right? Inclusivity? Well, God doesn’t tolerate this kind of tolerance. His standard is holiness, which is borne out in the three main points of the vow the people took after repenting from “”the three big sins they kept falling into: intermarriage with pagan neighbors, violation of the Sabbath laws, and neglect of Temple worship and its requirements.
So what’s the relevance of all this today? The common thread is God’s requirement that His people remain untainted by that “lowest common denominator” that our own lower nature and the world around us relentlessly suck us into.
God has much better things for us—things that lead upward to joy, peace, love, life, light!
I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us. (Philippians 3:13b-14 NLT)
What kind of song does God prefer? “Worship wars” have waged long and hot over the style of songs God’s people prefer. Maybe we should be asking what kind of songs God himself prefers.
In the hymnbook of the Old Testament, the Psalms, one song appears over and over again:
“Give thanks to the Lord for he is good, for His faithful love endures forever.” (Psalm 86:5; 100:5; 106:1; 136; and many more.)
This was the song sung on these notable occasions:
–The dedication of Solomon’s temple (2 Corinthians 5:13)
–The choir leading God’s people out meet attacking armies. What a story! As soon as they started to sing, God cause the enemies to attack one another, leaving only a sea of dead bodies and booty for the Israelites to clean up when they reached the scene. (2 Chronicles 20:21-26)
–When the foundation of the second temple was laid after God’s people returned from exile (Ezra 3:11)
–When God brings His people back from exile and restores their fortunes and their land. (Jeremiah 33:11)
This song is based on God’s self-description to Moses on the mountain, and it’s echoed also throughout the Bible:
The LORD passed in front of Moses, calling out,
“Yahweh! The LORD!
The God of compassion and mercy!
I am slow to anger
and filled with unfailing love and faithfulness.
I lavish unfailing love to a thousand generations.
I forgive iniquity, rebellion, and sin.
But I do not excuse the guilty…. (Exodus 34:6-7a)
Whatever tune or instrumentation they may have used, God loved their song!
A few weeks ago I shared with you my favorite book, Streiker’s Bride. Today I’d like to tell you about another that ranks right up there with it. Like Streiker’s Bride, it is an analogy that powerfully portrays spiritual truth.
Israel My Beloved, by Kay Arthur, is the story of Sarah, who symbolizes the nation of Israel/Judah. It begins during the years recorded in Kings and 2 Chronicles when the nation left her real Husband and went chasing after false lovers, who later betrayed her. Her sad story continues through the centuries and even millenia until the future return of her Husband to reclaim her and rule the earth.
Here are some reasons why I like this book so well, though it takes a while to get into it and to get used to the idea that the same woman lives for several thousand years:
–I learned a lot of history from Israel’s perspective—how they have been haunted and hunted, fleeing from one oppressor to another, never finding the rest and peace they so long for. I am beginning to understand why many of them may be skeptical and bitter.
–God grieves as a bereft husband when his wife abandons him. He will not force her to stay or to return. I want to ponder more on how God allows Himself to be either grieved or delighted by my attitude and actions.
–God’s love for Israel and total commitment to ultimately fulfill his plans for her are powerfully expressed. His plan will succeed in the end, no matter what people do.