I will not forget you. I have swept away your offenses like a cloud, your sins like the morning mist. Return to me, for I have redeemed you. (Isaiah 44:21b-22)
As we grow in love and obedience to God and develop the wisdom to understand His love for us poured out on the cross, it’s common to feel distant from or unworthy of God. I believe this is because all of us are used to the temporal, shallow love available to us through earthly vessels. Even when people love us with all they have, it still will never compare to the love of the Father. His love is eternal and unconditional. Although God hates sin, His love sweeps away our sin when we return to Him in repentance. We can never be too far gone for the love of the Father to wash us white as snow with the blood of Jesus.
We can praise God that His mercies are new every day and that He will never give up on us as we are tempted to do when we feel discouraged. Believers must be careful not to see the love of God through the broken lenses of earthly affection. In the same way we cannot see the joy found in God through the broken lenses of happiness. The beautiful thing about God’s love, and also the thing that makes it hardest to comprehend is the fact that it is not based on emotion. There is no condition to His love. Similarly, there is no condition to the joy His love provides, unlike happiness which is conditional and fleeting.
God created you to be loved for eternity. The deceiver looks to mask that and replace it with lesser versions like lust. The devil knows that one of his biggest problems is when we come into the full realization of what God’s love looks like, and what it looks like for that perfect love to drive out the fear used by the deceiver as fuel to draw us into darkness. Know that God’s love is forever yours. He sweeps away sin and offense for His name sake and not because of you. You can’t do anything to remove God’s love for you which existed before the beginning of time. Let the blood of the Lamb wash you clean and receive the love God came to earth to give you. Let His Spirit dwell in you and lead you to the purpose found in His perfect will and perfect love. He will never forget and of His creation. He knows the number of hairs on your head and knew your sin before your birth. Dwell in His love and let His love dwell in you, for He has redeemed His chosen, He has redeemed you.
This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says: “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength…. (Isaiah 30:15)
Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; therefore he will rise up to show you compassion. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him! (Isaiah 30:18)
the Lord binds up the bruises of his people and heals the wounds he inflicted (Isaiah 30:26b)
Many times, we’ve heard that we are to take the yoke of Christ for His yoke is easy and His burden is light (Matthew 11:30). A yoke is meant for two animals to be bound together so that the weaker can find grow in strength from the stronger, more experienced animal. Christ died to carry our burdens and to allow us to take His yoke as opposed to struggle with our own. The Old Testament passages above speak of the same God willing to unload us of our troubles. We are called to rest in our salvation because our trust in Him is our strength. God strength is shown in our weakness. Sometimes that weakness is simply found in the submission of rest. When we stop trying to fight the hand of God as He guides us we can we can find the grace His steadfast love offers, and the compassion found in His justice.
I was thinking about the quality of meekness as this passage opened up to me. As a fruit of the Spirit we are called to meekness which make the Lord our vindicator. The definition of meek is humbly patient or submissive. We are not to vindicate ourselves against the things that come against us as we walk submitted to the Lord. Any battle we fight will have to be continually fought with small no real victory. As believers our victory is in submission to God who wins all battles and brings them to completion. Once God is fighting for us the battle will be over and our peace and joy will continue in Him.
Then we come to the last passage above. God allows the trials in life to come against us so that we can draw closer to Him, our Refuge. It also allows us to submit to His yoke and grow in patience and meekness. What a blessing to see above that God intends to bind up the wounds caused by His affliction. Anything God takes away He does for our good, binds our wounds and draws us into His peace and the closer relationship with Him. Take up the yoke of Christ God has provided in His love. Let God be your Vindicator, Provider, Counselor, and Strength. He wins all battles and heals all wounds, but only if your faith will rise up to allow it.
I was listening to a sermon about spiritual warfare and had a thought about what kind of motive and opportunity the deceiver has to try and derail the walk of God’s children as they sojourn in a world where they are not made to walk. Our dependence on God, to lead us in this foreign place, leaves us vulnerable and leaves the enemy salivating as he prowls looking to devour. As believers we can accept that our Father loves us. He made that clear through His son, our savior, on the cross. He makes it clear again with His grace and mercy. I see the patience of my Heavenly Father as I stumble through this journey. At the same time, we have to recognize that the enemy opposes God in all things. He hates us because we are loved by our Creator. When God blesses us, the deceiver grows frustrated. When we turn our voice and heart to God in prayer, the deceiver is angry in his helplessness against the name of Jesus. A name that will force the devil to flee as we resist his attacks on us because of who we are in Christ.
Have you ever met a person that opposes instruction or advice just because of who said it? They want to cause trouble and make the person giving instruction seem ignorant or wrong. We can benefit when we see this motive in the deceiver, God’s adversary. We have to remember that he is our adversary too, because we are children of God. He doesn’t want to see God’s plan prosper in this family, His kingdom. The devil wants to steal God’s word when He gives it to us. If it can’t be stolen, he wants to manipulate it in order to make us struggle. If the word finds its place, the deceiver will manipulate the things around us to reduce the effectiveness of the word in us. When the Lord is working in us and through us, we will get the attention of the opposition. Count your alliance with God as joy along with the trials that will come in the process.
When we see the method and intent of satan, we can become more effective at receiving God’s word through the bible and through His Spirit. We can develop discernment and become tuned to God’s voice over the deceiver and even over our own. Not only do we need to get better at receiving the word but also more effective at walking in that word. We have to walk in trust with God, growing our faith. We have to rely on God as our refuge and strength. Walking with God creates opposition in our lives. If the deceiver is not against us, we haven’t gotten his attention with our walk and its effectiveness in the kingdom. When we wake each morning with new mercy to face the battle with the devil, find comfort in your certain victory in Christ and in the alliance that brings the adversary of your Father against you His child, His prized possession.
“‘Be ever hearing, but never understanding; be ever seeing, but never perceiving.’ Make the heart of this people calloused; make their ears dull and close their eyes.
Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed.”
But as the terebinth and oak leave stumps when they are cut down, so the holy seed will be the stump in the land. (Isaiah 6:9-10,13)
The first verse here, from Isaiah 6, describes those who walk blindly through the darkness of this world. They have access to the holiness of God but refuse to let it penetrate their heart and cause changes that lead to sanctification. They miss the fullness they have access to in Jesus Christ and His atoning work on the cross. The biggest hindrance is people’s refusal to submit to God bigger purpose for His people. They can’t imagine that they are not the center of His movements in this world. The thought of suffering or becoming a servant leave them seeking gratification in their own way. The constant struggle against the pull of their hearts toward their Father cause them to become calloused so that the desire for God becomes dull. They fall into the trap of putting their desires over those of God. God desires that submission to Him and a deep relationship rooted ion love would lead our desires to become His desires.
The voice of God becomes drown out in the business associated with self-servitude and self-gratification. The calloused heart isn’t the pliable vessel where the Holy Spirit is meant to thrive and shine forth the light of God through His children. When a person wrapped in the cords of the enemy comes to the end of themselves, they are then in a position to receive the greater gifts of God. Their eyes can then see, ears can then hear, and hearts can then receive the power found in Jesus Christ through their weakness. They can then turn to the faithful Father who stands patiently waiting for His children so that none may parish.
The second verse above talks about the holy seed of God. In this case it refers to the remnant that God uses to carry His glory through time even as the people turn away with callused hearts. I think of this as the holy seed found in every person that we refer to as a conscience. God speaks into our spirit and writes His moral code upon mankind made in His image. Even in a calloused condition the draw toward God, the empty place we look to fill with lesser things, still causes us hardship and struggle. Acknowledge the holy seed that pulls at you when God isn’t first place in your life. Never let your heart become so calloused that the Holy Spirit cannot shine through your life. Refuse to let yourself be ruled by your fleshly desires. Be restored to, submitted to and led by your Heavenly Father so that your life finds the purpose and joy for which it was created.
Tremble and do not sin; when you are on your beds, search your hearts and be silent. Offer the sacrifices of the righteous and trust in the LORD. (Psalm 4:4)
My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise. (Psalm 51:17)
Look at the scriptures above. Read the first slowly and let it take you to that silent place where God calls you to receive Him. Then use the second scripture to bring deeper meaning to the underlined portion of the first scripture. Now sit with the first passage again.
When God allows us to struggle through trials we have two options: run to the comforts of this world or run to everlasting comfort in Him. God is our firm foundation and our refuge. Difficult moments are times when He calls us into deeper relationship with our Father, our Creator. Turning to God is described in detail in the passage above. It doesn’t have to be taken literally but let’s look at what it describes.
Tremble (in your anger) do not sin (turn toward things other than God (idolatry)). Trembling could be in fear or anger, both draw us out of comfort. We then have a choice of where we can find peace in the storm. We can choose between the Creator and His creation. The eternal or the temporal. God desires a relationship that grows deeper as our spirits mature. The best way to grow in relationship is through the difficult times where we have to rely on God’s provision and comfort to carry us through.
When you are on your bed (alone and away from distraction) search your heart (for what God is looking to teach you in this turmoil) and be silent (so that you may hear the still small voice of God). The world and its business look to captivate our attention and draw us away from the stillness we need with God. Seek the quietness and seclusion you require to draw close to God and avoid distraction. Search your heart, in openness and honesty to see where the Lord is missing in your life or situation. Where do you need in insert His power and rely less on your own? Look for the lesson God has for you. He loves you too much to let you remain idle. Seek and find what the Lord has for you. Then the most difficult part, be silent so that His voice can be heard, and the presence of His Spirit can work in your heart. Ask for understanding and be still to receive what God chooses to reveal to you.
Offer the sacrifices of the righteous (humble spirit of thanksgiving) and trust in the LORD. Our sacrifice to God is submission, and a willingness to follow God’s will over our own as they become the same. Give thanks that God loves you enough to correct and lead you. Be thankful that as His chosen you are able to hear His calling and turn to the shelter of His love and faithfulness. Then trust that God is fighting battles that you cannot fight. We can rest assured that battles fought by God are fought to completeness. He will bring about His will which far surpasses our dreams. Turn to God and seek the fellowship described in Psalm 4:4. See the loving relationship and guidance the Father has for you.
So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who does not condemn himself by what he approves. But whoever has doubts is condemned if they eat, because their eating is not from faith; and everything that does not come from faith is sin. (Romans 14:22-23)
If someone draws closer to God through certain practices, we are not to judge as long as they don’t go against scripture. This includes denominational differences. We have to let all things lead to Christ even if we might think of them as senseless. We shouldn’t let the things that make us different draw us apart. God creates many diverse parts to make up the church, the bride of Christ. God uses many ways to touch the hearts of each of His children. Just like God used ceremonial law to keep the focus of His people on Him, He will use multiple ways to draw people from the darkness of sin.
The danger comes when people lose focus on God and develop a reliance on acts. This is where people become legalistic and think that their actions take the place of the faith we are called into. Be careful not to let differences in practice draw believers apart. Keep your opinions between you and God so that your thoughts don’t create division.
If you feel God call you to a certain place, walk with Him. If you have a practice that you feel draws you closer to God and honors Him, draw close to Him as He draws close to you. As long as your practice doesn’t contradict scripture, praise God in what draws your heart to Him. Don’t rely on your practice, let those moments develop your intimacy with God and grow your relationship with Him. The ultimate intimacy with God is found in relationship with Jesus Christ. Let your walk be yours and let your neighbor’s walk belong to them.
So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. Give no offense to Jews (believers) or to Greeks (unbelievers) or to the church of God, just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved (1 Corinthians 10:31-33)
But I will not drive them out in a single year, because the land would become desolate and the wild animals too numerous for you. Little by little I will drive them out before you, until you have increased enough to take possession of the land. (Exodus 23:29-30)
God’s prepares you to accomplish what He destined you for from the beginning of time. Many times, you pray for God’s provision and His provision first comes as preparation for His bigger purpose. That’s why many times our lives seem to become more difficult after prayer. We were expecting a divine miracle to bring us relief when instead God groomed our character to walk in His upcoming revelation. God is more interested in our character than our pleasure. That may sound unpleasant to someone who is always seeking instant gratification, but you should consider what kind of joy and peace come from a character refined by God. How much more will you be able to succeed in His provision and plan for your life when you have submitted to His preparation?
The scripture above shows God’s purpose in preparation. He could have driven out all of the enemies of the Israelites as they entered the promised land but that would have left them fighting into the dangers of the wilderness. Instead He allowed the enemies to keep the land farmed and provision gathered so that His people would be taken care of as they conquered each group of enemies in turn. At the same time, He was allowing His chosen people to increase so there would be enough to inhabit the land. God let His people grow in strength, number and relationship with Him before they were spread out over the land He had promised. Spreading His people too thin, too weak, and not focused on Him would have left them vulnerable to the things that try to destroy God’s plans.
Know that God has a plan much bigger than what you can see. His ways are higher than our ways. Rely not on your own understanding of a situation but on your understanding of the God you serve. Submit to His refining, like the refining of gold. Let God increase your strength and value for His name sake, for His kingdom purpose. Be clay that is pliable in the potter’s hand and know that the joy found in the purpose God designed you for is worth the difficult season. Know that the God that sees all things from beginning to end has your best in mind as He grooms you for a purpose beyond your wildest dreams.