Old Testament Exile is Our Difficulty

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       The exile/ correction of God’s people in the Old Testament can be compared to the difficult times God allows His people to go through today. He let His people in the OT suffer in their turning away from Him so that He could return the faithful/ humble/ obedient to their former blessedness. The same occurs today in difficult seasons where a believer’s faith draws them closer to God and His sovereignty; or turns them toward worldly security. When painful situations draw out the believer’s faith, humility (reliance on God) and obedience to His will; God is able to grow their spirit and mold them to His purpose. God allows trouble in our lives to grow and mature His children.

 The reaction of the afflicted is what decides the result of a difficult circumstance.

       The tendency of people in their sinful fallenness is to turn to their own ability and understanding to correct their situation in their own power. Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. (Proverbs 3:5-6) Any battle fought with human power will not be finished. 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 6:12) Only battles where God is our defender find completion for all time. We cannot fight spiritual battles with earthly weapons. Our flesh will only hinder the work of God in our spirits. let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles (Hebrews 12:1)

     With every difficulty we face there is also a plan for revival. God does not seek to bring us to ruin but to correct His children with love. He wants His faithfulness to lead us to a fullness of life beyond our dreams; and to grow us in faithfulness toward His provision and sovereignty. God is glorified when the result of a difficult season is a deeper relationship with His children and when His power and love is shown to those who are witness to His work in the lives of His faithful.

 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. (Isaiah 55:8)

so is my word that goes out from my mouth:  It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. (Isaiah 55:11)

The Steps of Walking with Christ (3 of 7)

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3) Learning
Being awakened to the love of God and the sacrifice of His Son creates a vacuum in our spirit that wants to take in all that has been missing. The void left from earthy provision leaves the believer famished and desperate to fill themselves with the goodness of God and the love of Jesus. Then begins the stage of learning. Attending church and reading the bible become exciting and the spike in curiosity feels like an unquenchable thirst. Nothing can fill all of the places that have been left empty fast enough. They are now aware that God is able to meet the needs that nothing else could. They delight in the possibilities in this unknown love and grace. They are accepted in their brokenness and the world is bright because their focus now includes the light in Jesus Christ. What does it look like to fall deeper into God? What can I do to get closer? There is a hunger for substance and a thirst for more.
I am the LORD your God, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt. Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it. (Psalm 81:10)

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. (Matthew 5:6)

O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. (Psalm 63:1)

Steps of Walking with Christ (1 of 7)

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1) Awareness
We are all aware that there is something more. It may get shoved down to a place where it can be temporarily ignored but it resurfaces when the panic arises. Our desire to fall into God is at its greatest when we are at the end of ourselves and realize that our need/ desperation just outgrew our pride. God puts eternity in the hearts of all men. Some come to the One who transcends time and is larger than eternity. Others fall into the snares of this world be trying to fill the void of their lives with things that will perish. They don’t see that only the eternal God can fill the void He made for Him to rest. How many people do you know that are lost in the darkness of this sinful world? They need the light of Jesus to brighten their life but are in too much turmoil to turn and seek the light. It’s comparable to a child who is in fighting to keep their head above water. The fear of drowning causes panic and they flail about trying anything to sooth that panic and find comfort. All of the terror of their heart keeps them from seeing that the water is only four foot deep and they can stand up at any time. The light of Jesus is always within reach. God and the Son are only a submitted prayer away. Your Heavenly Father is seeking to deliver you from the darkness. Jesus has overcome this world and He seeks for the lost to join Him. Being aware He exists and calls to you is the first step to beginning a walk that leads to things so great only God knows what He has for those you love Him.
“What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived” the things God has prepared for those who love him (1 Corinthians 2:9)
He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. (Ecclesiastes 3:11)
In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world. (John 16:33b)

Attaching Man’s Fallen Nature to God

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“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:8-9)
I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race. He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. (Ecclesiastes 3:10-11)

God is impossible to fully understand or fathom with our limited minds. We are asked to walk with faith in the things we don’t understand. If we are honest with ourselves. We don’t fully understand anything. The depth of God’s creation is too vast. The best that can be done is to establish scientific theory and then watch it evolve over time to try and explain its unknowing position. If we can’t fully comprehend God’s creation, how much more incomprehensible is the Creator? I begin this way to make a point that came to mind during my studies today.
I think back to all of the pagan gods of time past and the practices of those followers. The scripture for Ecclesiastes above tells us that God puts eternity on all men’s hearts. He creates a missing piece in all man’s spirit that can only be filled by Him. This explains the way all men seek to fill that void with other gods and practices to fulfill a need they cannot explain. The problem arises when they can’t comprehend anything larger than what they see and feel. They can’t understand the scripture from Isaiah above. That is, God is larger than our feeble attempts to explain Him. To this day even Christians are guilty of putting God in a box that suits their understanding. That understanding creates comfort, but confines God’s work in them as they can’t believe His prompting outside of their standard for Him. They struggle to let ‘God be God.’ Pagans suffer the same way in that they attach human qualities to the gods which leaves them in a perpetual state of uncertainty of how to relate to or please those gods. They live life sacrificing larger and larger things hoping to find favor. Some cultures even looked to human sacrifice to accomplish such things.
As I sit and think about how terrifying that must be to hope that you have done enough and lived up to a god’s changing standard and emotion. I fall deeper into praise that I was called to be the child of a God that doesn’t change. He is the same forever. He took on human flesh to come save me. I don’t have to sacrifice anything accept my flesh, but in return He gives me a new heart and a clean spirit that far surpasses what was given up. I would not seek to serve a God that needed fulfillment from His people, or a God that has variation based of situation and emotion. The Heavenly Father I speak of is above all things and stands steadfast and faithful in His love and mercy. How anyone might miss the superiority of what the true God looks like is beyond my comprehension too. If you know Jesus consider yourself blessed to have been called to Him. Now let that blessing overflow to the lost world around you as they find idols to fill the void that God desires to be filled only by Him.

Proper Perspective of God

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“From Him (Christ) we learn how God acts toward people. The hypo-critical, the basically insincere, will find Him cold and aloof, as they once found Jesus; but the penitent will find Him merciful; the self-condemned will find Him generous and kind. To the frightened He is friendly, to the poor in spirit He is forgiving, to the ignorant, considerate; to the weak, gentle; to the stranger, hospitable.”     -A.W. Tozer

 

                The bible leads us to approach God in submission, in humility, in meekness, in gratitude, in love, etc. For the longest time I loved this idea. We ask the Holy Spirit to move in our lives as we grow in faith. The Spirit allows us to achieve the for mentioned attributes as we relate to a God that is greater than our minds and hearts can comprehend. The Creator of the universe, the God that has no beginning and no end, the God that has a love that is incomprehensible to our fallen hearts is worthy of all we are called to grow into. My thoughts were always to give my savior all of my heart and to submit all of my ways to the God that knows what is best for me. He designed me for a purpose and allowing Him to guide my steps leads me to a life that will far surpass my greatest dreams.

                It is in this submission that I had a revelation as I read the passage above. Not only are we giving to God what is due Him as our Creator and Heavenly Father, in this position of growing sanctification we gain a perspective of God that allows us to move closer to Him in praise, worship, and love. When we take the position the Spirit leads us to we allow God to show us more of His infinitude and to move freely in our lives growing us in holiness and Christ-likeness.

                In this same thought we should have compassion for those who are lost in the darkness of sin. How can they know what God can do through Jesus if they don’t have a heart to submit and allow Him to show His power in their lives? We must lead them through example and not just words that they cannot comprehend in their fallen state. Refuse to be frustrated as the stumble for perspective. Show the unfailing love of God that you know because God called you out of the darkness to reflect His light. Help others find perspective as you grow yourself.

Suffering For Equality

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God will give to each person according to what he has done. To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, He will give eternal life. But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger. (Romans 2:6-8)

But the character of God is the guarantee that all wrongs will be righted someday; when “the day of God’s wrath, when His righteous judgement will be revealed” (Romans 2:5) arrives. Retribution will be exact, and no problems of cosmic unfairness will remain to haunt us. –J.I. Packer

The world suffers under the idea of fairness/equality. I personally would rather prosper under the idea of faith. We look to God for His provision and must have faith that He has given what He desires that we possess. Our mission is to glorify God in whatever provision we are given so that His light can shine forth from us. We all know that modern social status is based on wealth and position. God is also aware of that fallenness and uses our positioning in society to effect the people around us. God made you and knows where your heart will best serve His eternal kingdom. Don’t get down that you don’t compare well to somebody else. Shine where you are. Glorify God and seek His immortal kingdom and the provision that matters for all eternity is promised to you through Jesus Christ. Don’t look at a sinful person and wonder how it is that your righteousness doesn’t shine brighter. The darkness of the fallen blend into the darkness of the world. Don’t seek the prosperity of the fallen earth. Seek God, His provision, and His kingdom. God will judge this world and His perfect and righteous judgement will make all thing fair, and all things clear. Where the lost seek fairness for a lifetime, our God guarantees fairness for all eternity. Keep your eyes on the Heavenly Father and know He has you where He wants you, prosper in faith and avoid the suffering in fairness.

New Relationsip/ New Name: Jacob/ Israel

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                There are times when you read the Bible and the lessons of one passage reveal a larger truth in another. How true is it when God’s word is described as alive? Each time we read a passage the Holy Spirit speaks new truth to our heart.

                Genesis 32 describes the story of Jacob wrestling with God. Genesis 35:10-12 describes the moment when God changed Jacob’s name (undermines, heel) to Israel (wrestles with God) and made a covenant with him for his offspring to inherit the land promised to his father and grandfather and for kings to come from his lineage. This story shows a moment every believer should strive toward. It’s the moment when knowing about God turns into a relationship where we know God personally. This truth from Genesis wasn’t made very clear until the Lord turned me to the book of Isaiah. I had been meaning to look into a passage from another thought but His timing was amazing as usual. We see repeatedly in the bible where Jacob and Israel are mentioned together but in slightly different ways. This made me think about the time spent in Genesis and made me think about what that might be trying to tell us.

                 Let’s begin with the best one and use a few others for support. (Isaiah 29:23) They will hallow My name, And hallow the Holy One of Jacob, And fear the God of Israel. Why would God be the Holy One to Jacob and God to Israel? It’s easy to run past this and think they are the same but I see a beautiful difference. God was the Holy One to Jacob because God was ‘handed down’ by Jacob’s father and grandfather. Jacob believed in God and would bounce between commands in his attempts at self-sufficiency. I wasn’t until Jacob wrestled with God that he demanded God’s blessing and lived a life leaning on his relationship with his Lord (symbolized in his hip injury where his leaning was on a crutch after that). It’s the difference between reverence and relationship, that is, what is handed down vs what is accepted. (Isaiah 44:23) For the Lord has redeemed Jacob, And glorified Himself in Israel. God is glorified in relationship with His chosen. When believers act in accordance with the will of God He leads them as they glorify Him and show His strength in their accepted weakness. (Isaiah 44:1) Yet hear now, O Jacob My servant, And Israel whom I have chosen. Serving God under His law is a shadow of living as one of God’s chosen in relationship. This desired relationship is shown in other places where both names occur together.

                (1 Chronicles 16:17) And confirmed it to Jacob for a statute, To Israel for an everlasting covenant. Think for a moment about the difference in a statute and a covenant. The covenant sounds more serious, and it is, but why? A statute is a rule or law handed down from a governing party to a submissive one. God gave laws to His people to both guide and protect them, as well as to keep their focus on His provision for them. When God decreed His will, they were expected to follow. A covenant is different, in that both sides agree on the decision made. In order to find mutual agreement, we have to be in relationship. All of the Old Testament covenants were made with men in close relationship with God. The new covenant with God involves relationship with Jesus Christ, God’s word made flesh. There has never been a variation in that premise.

                God desires that all believers live in relationship. It is only in relationship with God through Jesus that we can truly glorify Him and fully receive His love. We all wrestle with God as we attempt self-sufficiency. God calls each of us to accept His covenant and walk in His provision and love. He may not dislocate our hip but our suffering should drive us to our knees, seeking God’s blessing, and accepting God and His Lordship.

Understanding Christ through His Shadow

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                People study the bible and wonder what purpose is found in the Old Testament seeing as Christ brought about the New Covenant established in His blood and described in the New Testament. The easy, and true, answer is that God showed His character and His heart for His people and this world. I moment of quiet spoke something more into my spirit and I wanted to share.

                The entire bible points to The Christ. This is where my heart drifted in Old Testament purpose. Old Testament Law was instituted as a foreshadowing of Christ. Those laws now stand as a shadow of His New Covenant. How could our finite minds truly understand what it is to live in Christ’s covenant without the Old Testament explanation of His purpose? The laws point out not only the purpose of Jesus, but also His abilities. How else could we come close to understanding infinite God, the Father, Son, and Spirit?

                Let’s consider a human example that is tiny in comparison to the magnitude of The Creator. Imagine all of the small things that define/ describe a person. We could consider the things they’ve accomplished, the people they know, their job, their education, their ancestry, etc. Anyone of those things describe a part of them but none of those things allow you to truly know them. As we walk with Jesus through the gospels and He tries to explain His purpose through parables we grow in limited understanding of Him. We view His many deeds with awe and we accept His sacrifice for our salvation with thanks. But until we look back at His purpose, His shadow in the Old Testament, His vastness is not clear. We can see the prophets speak of Him and the laws point to the covenant established in Him. Jesus came to fulfill the law that pointed to Him and explained His greatness. He came to stand in a place that created the shadow of the Old Testament and gave it meaning as is was brought to fruition. Allow the Old Testament to warm your heart in its symbolism and its instruction for a life outside the shadow. Live in the light of God and let the shadow guide your direction toward the source. Know what it means to be a child of God as you study the exhaustive preparation that was made for your Savior.

New Covenant- New Vocabulary

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                Along with the New Covenant found in Jesus Christ came new ways of understanding God. Describing the infinite God already proves impossible. So why shouldn’t Him becoming man cause us to have to repurpose or create whole new words to describe a reality unique to Him? Two words I’d like to focus on form the basis of God and our relationship with Him through Jesus.

                 The words are agápe (love) and charis (grace). The word agape which means love in Greek is unique to Christianity. It refers to God’s quality of love. This kind of love is not known to man outside the presence of God. Agápe love is different because it is unconditional and not based on merit. You cannot earn or deserve a Godly love. Loving like God is a choice and not based on emotions which drive man. The writers of the New Testament had to create this word to describe a concept foreign to man before Christ came to be an example of such an amazing thing. There are many words for love in the Greek language including éros(sexual), philía(friendship), storgē(parental),and ludus(playful). None of them had the power to describe a love that cannot fade or change.

            Charis (grace) is a word that had to be reconditioned. When the writers of the New Testament began to use it to describe the gift of God to His adopted children it gained a power it never had before. The word originally described kindness or favor (Hebrew ‘hen’) in the Old Testament (as in God’s favor toward Noah or Moses), but took on a meaning much larger and powerful with the coming of the prophesied Messiah. Where the law of the Old Testament fell short and drove man away from God, the grace found through faith in Jesus brings glory to God and a new meaning to a word that also fell short of the undeserved gift of our Lord.