God Announces Himself - Isaiah 48:4-5

God Announces Himself

Because I know that you are obstinate, and your neck is an iron sinew and your forehead brass, I declared them to you from of old, before they came to pass I announced them to you, lest you should say, ‘My idol did them, my carved image and my metal image commanded them.’ – Isaiah 48:4-5 ESV

God is doing a work in this world since creation and He won’t be stopping now. God wants us returned to Him so we can spend eternity with Him. As He’s working with us, He is shining His light on us so that we will know it’s Him. Our inability to hear Him is based on our determination to keep pride in our lives.

In Isaiah 48:4-5, God is saying that He knew His people would be stubborn and difficult and only hear what they wanted to hear. It didn’t throw Him off, or make Him give up, though. Instead, He planned for it. He knew that prideful nature of our hearts and our minds and He made sure to tell us about Himself and what He would do so we’d know it was Him.

Jesus, the Messiah and Savior of the World could have come without announcement and He still could have died for our sins. But, by having prophecy that came before we could see that God had a plan. We couldn’t say anything about the wisdom of the Greeks and the power of the Romans and the piety of the Jews combined to make Him. No, we could see that God had a plan from the beginning and that He was working it out to bring salvation to His beloved and lost children.

The temptation in these situations is to take the credit to our choices, or our lifestyle. Today, not many of us worship idols the way they would have been in Isaiah’s day (referring mostly to the Western Hemisphere, here. There are still many idolatrous religions in the world, but not many are predominate in the United States). Instead, we try to take the credit for ourselves straight up. We say it’s because I’ve worked so hard for so long, or it’s my money that bought it or my connections in the world. All these things disappoint and lie, because it wasn’t any of them to begin with.

God’s promises to us in His Word and true and real. He tells us about Himself and what’s He doing so that when we see promises fulfilled in our lives we can be sure to honor Him and recognize Him. God wants us to know Him and He is actively working for us to hear Him.


The Lord Is My Portion - Lamentations 3:24

What is Enough?

“The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.” – Lamentations 3:24 ESV

I’m currently reading a book by Brene Brown called Dare Greatly. There’s a part in there where she says that abundance it not the opposite of scarcity. They’re simply two sides of the same coin. Instead, she says the opposite of the scarcity mindset is one that believes there is enough. I thought this was interesting, especially in the context of the scripture that says God’s grace is sufficient. What does sufficient mean, and what does it look like in every day life?

The word sufficient means enough or adequate. It means that God’s grace alone, the extension of God’s love and mercy, is enough for me. When we’re reading scriptures like this, we need to include the context of the passage to fully understand what the writer is referring to. In this case, Paul is telling us about God’s answer to one of his question. Paul was given a “thorn in the side”, something to keep him from getting conceited. That’s all we know about it; there are many theories about what that could be, but no one who’s being really honest knows exactly what it is. God’s response to Paul’s weakness is a comforting promise that His grace is sufficient. He also says, “My power is made perfect in your weakness.”

In this context, what can we learn about what it means to have God’s grace be sufficient? Paul wanted to be able to overcome something or avoid something. He wanted to not have to deal with the trouble any longer. God is saying to him, my grace will allow you to continue dealing with your troubles. That’s a whole different way at looking at it. Instead of being sufficient meaning to take away or remove something, we can view it as everything we need to stay focus on him no matter what comes our way. Troubles come, we can deal. Temptation come, we can withstand them. It doesn’t guarantee that we’ll feel good. Paul describes what he’s dealing with as “a messenger of Satan to harass me.” That doesn’t sound like a fun thing. But God knows that it won’t damage Paul and God won’t leave him without. God is enough and His grace is made perfect.

In fact, God’s not only enough, but in this place of trouble and no fun, God is in fact made perfect. This word perfect can also mean completed or accomplished. God in our life is accomplished by allowing His grace into our troubles. This is what it means to have God’s grace be sufficient for us. Not that we use it to better ourselves or our lives, but because we are able to endure and live and know that God is being made alive in us.

In Lamentations 3:24, it says, “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.” When talk about portions in regard to dinner, we are referring to the amount of food that is on our plate. It’s how much we get, or our portion. When the Lord is what we get, we are able to hope. When the Lord is what is taking up our thoughts and our time, we have joy and can look forward to tomorrow. Anything else will be insufficient and let us down, sooner or later.


Rejected God as King - 1 Samuel 8:7

Getting Our Way When We Shouldn’t

And the LORD said to Samuel, “Obey the voice of the people in all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them.” – 1 Samuel 8:7 ESV

There are several verses in the scriptures that promise answered prayer. These are not unconditional, however. We must delight in the Lord, and then he’ll give us the desires of our heart (Psalm 37:4). Another references says that we must ask according to His will (1 John 5:14). That same author says a little before that we must ask and obey His commandments and do the things that please God (1 John 3:22). So we know that we don’t just get to demand our way and have the Great Vending Machine in the sky spit out our heart’s desire.  1 Samuel gives us another scenario: demanding our way when it’s not God’s way and God giving it to us anyway. What happens then and what can we do to avoid finding ourselves in this position?

In 1 Samuel 8, we meet a great prophet, the namesake of this particular book, and he is getting old. He has a couple sons who should be the ones taking over the job of judging Israel, but they aren’t godly. They put personal gain first and pervert justice by taking bribes (v. 3). The elders of Israel, trying to avoid that problem, go to Samuel and ask him to anoint a king (v. 4-5).

Samuel goes to the Lord with this request and the response is not promising. The Lord essentially tells Samuel not to take it personally; they’ve rejected God, not Samuel. In addition, if they ask for it give it to them (v. 7,9).

Samuel goes back to the people and tries to warn them away from this course. He tells them all the troubles a king could bring, and all the things they’ll lose by being ruled by a man instead of God (vs. 10-18). This doesn’t sway the people, however. They want to be like the other “cool kids” of the time who have a king. After double checking with the Lord and confirming the first response, Samuel agrees to find them a king.

This scenario is useful for us to understand our own requests to God. In particular, request that are something we want, but that God says isn’t best for us. This passage tells us that the people are pulling away from God (v. 8). They don’t remember what God did for them and they don’t care. They want to have what they view as valuable: someone to rule over them and fight for them (v. 20). Never mind that God did that for them. They want a real flesh and blood person they can see.

How many times do we do this in our lives? We say we believe the Lord, but when we can’t see Him moving or understand His plan, we doubt and try to find a solution we can touch and feel and understand. Willingness to trust Him comes at the cost of control. We want to know how things turn out and we want a guarantee that it will be pleasant as we go. However, God doesn’t give us those things. (In fact, there’s more promises of unpleasantness than not. For example, John 16:33).

When you are pulling away from God or when you’re feeling negativity, like fear or anger, stop and check what you’re asking God for. Why are you asking for it and are you willing to take no for an answer. God is making you in the image of Christ, but only if you’re willing. We must chose to commit our lives to the Lord and choose to accept His answers for us. If you’re not, you may get what you ask for anyway, to your detriment.

Even though Israel demanded a king here and there were probably more bad kings than good ones, God still used the kings to bring about His plan. The first king Samuel appointed, Saul, ended up going a little crazy. The second king, David, brought about a time of prosperity that was only increased by his son, Solomon. The line is also the line that Jesus was descended through, as God promised David (1 Chronicles 17:11–14).

God’s plan will be fulfilled and our sin or selfish requests won’t keep Him from His plan. However, God’s ways of doing things are always better and are always worth whatever we feel like we have to give up to follow Him.

 


A Future And A Hope - Jeremiah 29:11

Peace During Troubles

For thus says the LORD: After seventy years are completed at Babylon, I will visit you and perform My good word toward you, and cause you to return to this place. For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. – Jeremiah 29:10-11 NKJV

Jeremiah 29:11 is very commonly quoted scriptures. Searching the internet for images of this scripture brings up many fancy and beautifully made images of it. It is a wonderful verse of hope and promise. Often this verse is looked at without the context of the passage around it. In and of itself, it’s a good verse, but by adding in the context of what’s happening around it, we find this promise to be extra special in the context of troubled times.

This verse is given to the Israelites after the Babylonians had come in and taken their people captive. They were in exile in a foreign land and they were looking for hope that they would be able to come back home. Jeremiah receives this message from the Lord and it’s a message of peace to the people who have just had their entire lives upturned and uprooted (Jeremiah 29:4)

In the first part of the chapter, we hear God telling His people to settle into the land of Babylon. They are not to fight or rise up or listen to people who encourage anything other than this (v. 5-9). God also says in verse 4 that this exile has been allowed by God.

The comfort from this passage is this: no matter where you are or how hopeless your circumstances seem, God has not forsaken you. He knows where you are and how you got there and what’s going to happen to you tomorrow. God is always bigger than our circumstances and He is working for our good and His eternal plan.

Verse 10 begins God promise to Israel: your captivity will end, I know the day and I will keep my Word that you will come home. But it also contains an unpleasant truth, this captivity will last 70 years.

The hope we can glean from this is knowing that God knows the exact passage out that we need. He knows when to bring it and He will, because He is good. We can trust Him and live in peace knowing that He’s the ultimate authority in our lives.

Now, we come to the verse of promise. Verse 11, “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” This promise is even sweeter when we know that it’s God reminding a lost and hurting people that they won’t be lost forever. God is working toward the good of all of his people, not simply the people in one time or in one place. His plan for a future and a hope is good and trustworthy. No matter what we feel like or see around us, we can rely on that.

What’s your captivity right now? What’s your struggle that feels like it’s overwhelming you? God has an appointed time for you to step into His blessing. Lean on His word and live in peace while His plans come to a beautiful conclusion.


God Finds Joy in Doing Good - Jeremiah 32:41

God Finds Joy in Doing Good for Us

I will find joy doing good for them and will faithfully and wholeheartedly replant them in this land. – Jeremiah 32:41 NLT

I will find joy doing good for them and will faithfully and wholeheartedly replant them in this land.

I love places in the scripture where we see the joy and love that God has for us. It’s so easy to get caught up in “being good” or theological truths and miss the personality that is behind it all. In Jeremiah 32:41 God tell us that he finds joy in doing good. Chastisement comes because He loves us (Proverbs 3:11-12) and wants us to understand how to be more like Him (Hebrews 12:6). What He finds joy in, though, is doing good for us.

Now that I have a daughter, I can relate to the Father/Children dynamic and a different way. I understood it before, but now I can feel and experience the parent role instead of just the child role. I love doing good things for my baby girl! I also love seeing the result of her learning to make the right choices. At 20 months old the looks like listening to mommy when I tell her not to eat the crayons (or all the other many things she tries to chew through). In the times when I’m having to discipline, I don’t feel the warm fuzzies, but I do feel good knowing I’m keeping her best in mind. Then, when I see her choose to make the right choice (starting to put the crayon in her mouth and stop before it gets there. Hey, it happened once…), I feel so good about having done the right thing for her. On top of that kind of feeling good, I love to give her things that she likes and are good for her. So much feeling good (assuming we all have had our nap… 😀 )

I can also take this and see how the Lord is doing good things for me. I would love to see that He gives me anything I want as soon as I want it, but that’s not truly giving me good things. He finds joy in making sure I’m getting the best possible things, including discipline. When something happens that I’m not excited about, I can still say, “Thank you Lord for this, because I know you find joy in giving me good things. I hope someday I can understand it more, but for now, I’ll just say thanks and know that I can trust you.”

That feels good!


Our Eyes Are On You - 2 Chronicles 2:12

Our Eyes Are On You

“For we are powerless against this great horde that is coming against us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.” – 2 Chronicles 20:12b

Yesterday we learned how to reject the voices that fight against you. Today we’re talking about how to win the battle. It’s a counter intuitive solution, but the only one that guarantees success.

This passage comes from 2 Chronicles and is talking about a battle that is facing King Jehoshaphat of Judah. Jehoshaphat was a Godly king and tried to honor the Lord in his reign. In this case, a great army was coming up against Judah from Edom. Jehoshaphat called the people together to pray and ask God what to do. The Lord answered by coming in the Spirit on Jahaziel and telling them to not worry, but to let the Lord fight their battle. God routes the army by causing their enemies to lie in wait with and ambush and destroy them, every last one (v. 24).

Jehoshaphat faced a literal battle that threatened all of his people. Our battles are usually not a physical thing like his was. Our battles take place in the spirit, in the mind and in our words. However, we can certainly learn from Jehoshaphat how to handle the situation.

  1. Acknowledge that you are incapable of anything without Him.
    Jehoshaphat didn’t pretend that he could do anything that he couldn’t do. He knew where he stood and he knew he didn’t have what it took to defeat this battle. If we are unwilling to admit our helplessness before the Lord, we are risking bringing pride between us. God helps the humble and the humble know themselves and their own limitations.
  2. Wait on the Lord
    This may be one on of the hardest things we ever have to do. Our patience is necessary, among many reasons, to help open our eyes to what the Lord is doing. Impatience and running around or trying to control things only takes away from His plan and His work.
  3. Keep your focus on the Lord
    Jehoshaphat kept his eyes on the Lord. He didn’t try to count the able-bodied men or make battle plans “just in case”. He knew where to focus and he didn’t waver until he had his answer.

We know that the Lord is with us and for us, but we also have to be willing to listen and wait in order to experience His salvation. Don’t let distractions and fears cloud your vision (read more about that here). Let Him fight for you!


For God Alone

For God Alone

Psalm 62:1-2 For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be greatly shaken.

For God Alone

I imagine a busy blustering world and a person at the center, calm and still. I think of a busy subway station with people moving about, sometimes even running, with a person at the heart of it not moving.

Putting that image in my heart, I see myself being brushed past by voices, hearing them shout at me at how I’ll miss out or what I should have done. I feel pulled at by desires and anxieties, and they’re trying to get me to fight them off and at the same time let them stay. My own voice fills my head with troubled thoughts and tension; my mind a chaotic mess of dreams and regrets. Knowing Who I wait for allows me to see past the distraction and deceit of all the others, waiting only for Him.

And at the center there’s me, standing firmly and not letting any of it grab a hold. None of the chaos, none of the desires, none of the anxiety. I’m waiting. Waiting for the Lord alone and none other. I know He will come; He’s promised and He’s proven Himself time and again. Nothing interested me, nothing distracts me. I stand and wait and see all the other things fade away in their time. Knowing Who I wait for keeps me grounded and peaceful, waiting only for Him.

God Is My Fortress

There are things I want to lean on, and there are people I want to save me. There are goals to accomplish and sights to see. People promise, but the promises are limpid and fake. They are not trying to be fake, but they are because they are mortal and limited. They will not always fail, of course, but even success is deceitful. Nothing will save me; nothing will give me hope. Everything fades and leaves. There are walls that feel secure and ideas that seem filled with promise. But the secure walls eventually fall down and the ideas, even if they deliver, will only last a season.

All the other things fade away, but not God. He is there always and forever. God is my fortress: the place of safety in times of trouble. God is my salvation: the one who keeps my eternal life in His hands. God is my rock: the anchor and help, the foundation for building.

I Shall Not Be Greatly Shaken

Because I know this, I will not be moved by shifting emotions. I will not let others influence me away from the truth of God. I will find out who God made to be. I will stand by the promises He makes because of who He is. I don’t ever think for a moment that I deserve any of this; I trust that He will always provide because of who He is, not who I am.

I don’t fear the rising tide of fear and lies. I don’t listen to the fear-mongers the conspiracies of war and deceit. I don’t believe anything contradicting the Word of the Lord. I will not be moved. I will not be shaken.

God is my all.


Humble David

I Chronicles 17:10b (ESV) “…I declare to you that the Lord will build you a house.”

David’s Plans Are Shot Down

David decides to build a house for the Lord after he brings the Ark of the Covenant back to Jerusalem. At first Nathan the prophet agrees with him, saying that the Lord is with David in all he does. That night, however, the Lord gives a message to Nathan saying that David is not the one to build the house.

The message reminds David that God is the one who makes the plans for his people, not David. He reminds David that it was the hand of the Lord that brought David to the place that he is now, and it will be God’s work to build the house. Of course, the house God is talking about is the line that brings forth Jesus and the eternal kingship that He has.

We can learn two things from this passage about our proper stance before the Lord, especially during a time when we’re walking in His blessing.

  1. Stay Humble
    “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away” is from Job 1:21 and it is a good thing to keep in mind. It can be so tempting to think, in some small way, that we are the ones who achieved what we see around us. God is our source and our light and our provider. Never forget He is the reason for the blessings around us, not us. In this case, David is reminded that God is the one who drew him out as a humble shepherd and made him Kind over Israel. God reminds David that the battles that were won were because of God being with him and cutting off his enemies before Him. David wasn’t the super-star; God was (17:7-8).
  2. God is the Builder
    The future to our eyes is such an unknown, so ambiguous and, if we’re being honest, very frightening. God is the author of not only our days on this earth but the days of all our children and our children’s children to the end of time. We think so small. God’s plan is massive and all-consuming and we are not the center of it. He made us for a purpose and He loves us very much. In fact, He loved each one of us so much that He sent His beloved son to die on the cross. His son dying on the cross is a part of his massive plan, and we are a part of His massive plan. It is so important that we remember that we have to play our part and try to play God’s part. He’s the boss, and that’s the best news we could ever hear (117:14).

David’s Response

After hearing this message from Nathan, David goes before the Lord to talk to Him about it. David doesn’t rant about how he had such a great architect lined up and all these brilliant ideas. Instead, he simply accepts what the Lord says and praises God for all the things He promised.

There are many points that can be pulled out from this passage, but two that are jumping out to me today are these:

  1. According to your own heart
    In verse 19 David makes a statement that shows how well he understands the Lord. “For your servant’s sake, O Lord, and according to your own heart, you have done all this greatness, in making known all these great things.” The part that jumps out to me is that David knew that God’s revealing His plan to David and the plan itself was for two different reasons: David and God. God isn’t just a slave to the whims and whines of His children, due to give them whatever they want. God’s gifts to us are because of who God is: “according to your own heart.” God’s heart is so loving and giving and generous; he pours out on us according to His heart. Yes, it’s for us and it’s for our good. God knows how to give us good gifts (Matthew 7:11). Seeing the gifts He gives us as just a good gift limits our understanding of Him. He is giving according the joy and goodness in Him.
  2. Unquestioning Trust
    When the Lord told David that He would build a house that lasted forever, David didn’t question or doubt the promise. He didn’t come back with demands to understand how a kingship could last forever, something that no other man-made kingship has ever done. Instead, he accepted it with grace and humility. He also didn’t give into false humility to say that he didn’t deserve it or that God shouldn’t be doing that for him. He simply and elegantly said a version of “Thanks, I appreciate it, and, by the way, You’re awesome.” David accepted both the blessing of the house and the instructions not to build the house.

In My Life

I pray that in my life I will be able to accept and trust the Lord as willingly as David. I also pray that I will be able to remember to have utter humility before the Lord, knowing that He is the true source of all that I am and all that I have. He is such a good and kind God; He is truly worthy of our praise and our trust!


The Covering of God’s Mercy

13 No one who conceals transgressions will prosper, but one who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy. [1]

Mercy in the Garden of Eden

God’s mercy can be defined as: the desire of God to see His children have goodness and blessing in their lives instead of what they actually deserve. We know that God’s mercy is there and we need it, but we may not think of it as the protection that it is.

So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves. 8 They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden at the time of the evening breeze, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. 9 But the Lord God called to the man, and said to him, “Where are you?” 10 He said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.” 11 He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” 12 The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit from the tree, and I ate.”… 20 The man named his wife Eve, because she was the mother of all living. 21 And the Lord God made garments of skins for the man and for his wife, and clothed them. [2]

In Genesis, after Adam and Eve have eaten the forbidden fruit, they feel naked and ashamed to see God. As far as the scriptures record nothing changed other than their perception. It was the act of disobedience that enlightened their eyes to see their own vulnerability as a part of their separation from God.

We are also vulnerable because of our separation from God. Ever since the fall, we have been open to the attacks of the devil against us. Cain was only one generation after the most perfect garden on the earth was created. He was the son of a man and woman who had personally walked and talked with the Most High God. Yet, he gave in to temptation and killed his brother. No one is exempt then or now from the dangers of sin.

Mercy and Goodness

The response of God to the vulnerability of Adam and Eve can give us hope for our own needs of mercy. In God’s mercy, He provided Adam and Eve with clothing. It may seem like a small thing, but what it shows us about our God is huge.

First thing it tells us is that God cares about meeting our needs, even when we’re working through problems. Adam and Eve had never had a need for clothing. The most likely wouldn’t have known how to make clothes or even what would happen to their poor bodies if they didn’t get them. But God, knowing the why and the what of their clothing needs, provided good, durable clothes for them. Animal skins make clothes that have protection and warmth. God didn’t give them wimpy clothes just to tide them over until they could figure it out for themselves. He gave them a good gift, because of His mercy.

The second thing we can learn from this is that the sin we’re doing doesn’t stop Him from providing for us. The only reason Adam and Even needed clothing was because they had sinned; they didn’t deserve to be provided for. But God’s mercy is because of who He is, not because of who we are. He gave them protection and comfort because He loved them.

Our God is merciful to sinners, which covers all of us. His mercy is beyond what we can comprehend or think, and He showers it on us because He knows how to give good gifts. He delights in it, in fact.[3] Knowing this about our God makes it easier to trust His gifts and His kindness. We often feel ashamed and want to hide in a bush like Adam and Eve did, our poor vulnerability and shame underneath poorly held together leaves. But God comes in and finds us and loves us and gives us the gifts we need, even while dealing with the consequences of our sins.

Hiding in Shame

When Adam and Eve realized they were naked, the immediately tried to cover themselves up by making leaf clothing. They didn’t want God to see them as they suddenly saw themselves.

We do the same thing in our hearts when we realize a sin. We feel like there’s been a huge change and we say, “How can we let God see us this way?” Of course, God has seen us as we are all along. Our sudden awareness of our sin doesn’t affect His.

Even though we often know this, we still try to cover up the things we’re ashamed of before we go to Him. We hide in uncomfortable shrubbery to try to avoid facing Him in our newly aware and vulnerable state. Moved by mercy once again, He doesn’t leave us in our hidey hole or demand that we clean ourselves up and present ourselves to Him. Instead, He comes and finds us in our shame and nakedness and talks to us about what we’ve done. He is so good and kind and He loves us so much. The more we can trust in His mercy, the sooner we’ll run to His arms instead of hiding from His voice.

What Mercy Looks Like

but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.[4]

Our version of what we need is very different from God’s version. God knew that the leafy loincloths that Adam and Eve had made for themselves were not what would be the best option. Instead, he offered them ones made of skin. Perhaps that made sense to them, perhaps it didn’t. Either way, we can find ourselves in the same place as they did, receiving something from the Lord that doesn’t look like what we thought it would be. We have to be listening to Him and learning from Him so that when he hands us a gift, we can accept it without hesitating.

Paul talks about receiving a different answer than he wanted in 2 Corinthians. He prayed that the thorn in the flesh would be taken away, but God told him no. God could show more power in Paul’s weakness than in his healing. Paul’s response shows someone who trust in the mercy and goodness of God. He doesn’t moan and become a martyr; he accepts the gift even to the point of boasting in his weakness to more thoroughly show the power of God.

Maybe it’s the Lord saying no to you or maybe the Lord has just given you a different answer than what you expected, but God is giving you good gifts. He is offering you the protection that comes from trusting in His mercy and goodness.

 

References

[1] The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version. (1989). (Pr 28:13). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[2] The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version. (1989). (Ge 3:8-12,20). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[3] The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version. (1989). (Micah 7:18). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[4] The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version. (1989). (2 Co 12:9). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.


Leaving the Battle in the Lord’s Hands

TheBattleIsTheLords

15 He said, “Listen, all Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem, and King Jehoshaphat: Thus says the Lord to you: ‘Do not fear or be dismayed at this great multitude; for the battle is not yours but God’s.[1]

We know in our minds that we should leave our battles in the Lord’s hands. Leaving the battle there is more difficult. We often lose heart that the Lord will come through for us and we pick up things that we should have left for the Lord.

We can learn from many in the scriptures who have faced the consequences of trying to fight their own battles. The scriptures are full of examples of people who disobeyed the Lord and followed what they felt was right in their own eyes, instead of trusting in the way of the Lord.

Three Reasons We Take the Battle

Disobedience is always a cause of troubles in our relationship with the Lord (Isaiah 59:1), but let’s look at three specific mentalities that can cause us to take our focus off Jesus.

1. Arrogance or Disrespect of Authority

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities; for there is no authority except from God, and those authorities that exist have been instituted by God.[2]

One of the most damaging to the battle we’re fighting is our tendency to take authority on ourselves that isn’t ours to take. God is the one that has put has put over us and expects us to live peaceably under it. Spiritually, we also have authority in the form of the local church and other believers.[3] We must respect that and choose to live under it, sometimes even when we don’t all agree. It can be challenging but it vital to the healthy community God wants us to live it.

One example of a Biblical character who chose to ignore the authority God had put in place was Saul. In 1 Samuel 18:8-14, we learn that Samuel was supposed to come and offer the sacrifices for Saul and the people, but was late. After waiting seven days, Saul decided to do it himself. The Lord’s response through Samuel was, “The Lord would have established your kingdom over Israel forever, 14 but now your kingdom will not continue;[4]” How heartbreaking that the man selected by God to rule His precious people could lose all the blessings promised him because he refused to honor the authority of Samuel. He took on a role that was not his own and lost a great blessing.

This doesn’t mean that we dumbly follow the lead of anyone who sounds like they know what they’re talking about. Confidence is easily confused with authority, but we must know the difference. Only the Holy Spirit can guide us into knowing who should be the authority that we are to place ourselves under.

2. Seeking Comfort or Security above Doing What’s Right

13 But if you continue to say, ‘We will not stay in this land,’ thus disobeying the voice of the Lord your God 14 and saying, ‘No, we will go to the land of Egypt, where we shall not see war, or hear the sound of the trumpet, or be hungry for bread, and there we will stay,’ 15 then hear the word of the Lord, O remnant of Judah. Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: If you are determined to enter Egypt and go to settle there, 16 then the sword that you fear shall overtake you there, in the land of Egypt; and the famine that you dread shall follow close after you into Egypt; and there you shall die. 17[5]

Our physical comfort and the security that goes along with that can be very tempting things to run after. We know wealth is deceitful[6], but knowing we’re being pulled in the wrong direction and being able to be aware of it can sometimes be two different things.

In Jeremiah 42:9 – 43:7, we see the Israelites in a tough situation. They are facing famine and the threat of Babylon if they stay in Jerusalem. They are wanting to flee to Egypt because it seems safer on both fronts. Jeremiah tells them that the Lord wants them to stay. If they stay, God will protect them and bless them. Instead, they ignore Jeremiah and go to Egypt instead, taking Jeremiah and all the other Israelites with them. Once there, Jeremiah again predicts the coming of Babylon and buries stones where Nebuchadnezzar will place his throne, showing that they have lost out on the blessing and only delayed the trouble they fear.

When we trust in the short-sightedness of our own eyes and seek our own comfort and security, we forgo the blessings that God has planned for us. We take the battle away from the Lord and lose the power that He can show us. Then, even after we think we’ve made the right choices, often the insecurity we’ve fled catches up with us anyway. Hardly the victory that God has in mind for His children.

3. Not Letting the Lord Change Our Mind

23 But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.” [7]

When the Lord is fighting a battle for us, often people and circumstances will change. It can often feel disconcerting to see these change, particularly if we had a vision in mind for what things were supposed to look like. We feel that if the ideas we have in our mind don’t come to fruition, that it must not be the Lord working. However, we can miss the blessing if we are unwilling to grow in the way the Lord is prompting us.

Peter was an example of this in Matthew 16:21-13. Jesus is telling the disciples that he’s going to suffer and die on the cross. Peter argues saying that he won’t allow it. Jesus’ response is very telling on the importance of knowing God’s vision of the outcome instead of our own. He tells Peter, “Get behind me, Satan.” The outcome will be what God wants it to be; let’s not miss out by mistakenly clinging to an old vision that God hasn’t refreshed.

Keeping the Battle in the Lord’s Hands

Looking at the story of King Jehoshaphat in 2 Chronicles 20, we can see the way he followed the instructions of the Lord to leave the battle in God’s hands.

Acknowledge God’s Strength and Our Own Ineptitude

17 This battle is not for you to fight; take your position, stand still, and see the victory of the Lord on your behalf, O Judah and Jerusalem.’ Do not fear or be dismayed; tomorrow go out against them, and the Lord will be with you.” [8]

King Jehoshaphat immediately turns to the Lord when he hears of the hordes of enemies that are approaching. He begins by praising and remember the strength of the Lord that has protected them in the past. Building our faith up by remember what He has done for us is important for keeping our problems in perspective. But Jehoshaphat doesn’t stop there. Instead, he goes on to admit his own helplessness. Verse 12 ends with, “For we are powerless against this great multitude that is coming against us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.” [9]

The king doesn’t try to get the Lord on board with his great idea or try to talk the Lord into any battle plans. Jehoshaphat simply goes to the Lord and admits that he needs help. We fight this step so often because our pride rears its ugly head and tries to tell us that we don’t need help. It tells us to do it on our own so the Lord won’t see us as weak. In order to humbly let the Lord fight for us, we have to admit that we need the help and that we’re willing to take it when He offers it.

Listen to Godly Counsel

14 Then the spirit of the Lord came upon Jahaziel son of Zechariah …in the middle of the assembly.[10]

King Jehoshaphat didn’t try to look like he had all the answers. Instead, he brought the people together and they all sought the Lord as a group. When counsel came, powered by the Holy Spirit, Jehoshaphat took it to heart.

Pride once again can keep us bound when we won’t listen to others. We think that the answer must come from us and only us or somehow we’ve failed or let the Lord down. Often during these battle seasons, our emotions are raging high which can sometimes block out the perspective we need to see solutions or hope. Having a godly person we can trust helping us to find perspective can be vital to keeping things in the Lord’s hands.

Be Patient

14 Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord! [11]

It’s easy to feel that the Lord has let us down when we have to wait to see the answers. In King Jehoshaphat’s case, he didn’t have to wait too long, only a day. However, in other cases, the wait is much longer. David, for example, had to wait years before he could take the crown that the Lord had promised him, all the while running from the current king.

In our impatience, we open ourselves up to the temptations to take things on ourselves, or to doubt the Lord, or to give up. Being patient for the Lord to fight and resolve the battles in our lives requires deep trust in Him. It requires us to accept His timing and to be obedient when we see no end or we don’t understand.

Let the Results of the Battle Stand

27 Then all the people of Judah and Jerusalem, with Jehoshaphat at their head, returned to Jerusalem with joy, for the Lord had enabled them to rejoice over their enemies.[12]

The enemy horde that faced King Jehoshaphat ended up slaughtering each other. The Israelites had to nothing but show up and plunder the dead bodies of their enemies. While for most, this outcome was completely celebratory, imagine if someone had been envisioning that the Lord would raise up an army out of the midst of the Israelites. Or perhaps they were expecting a new ally that would join them. Then they’d have someone to fight not only this battle, but futures ones as well. If someone had been hoping for that, as good as the defeat of the other army was, they could still have been disappointed. We need to have our hearts in a trusting place with the Lord so that we can not only see the victory when it comes, but not be disappointed by misplaced expectations.

In our lives, it could be a relationship that we are hoping to have restored, but isn’t. It could be financial problems that we are hoping to be resolved with a certain income, but isn’t. We need to make sure that we’re in tune with the Lord and able to accept the results of the battle that He has fought for us.

If we don’t accept the results, we run the risk of continuing to fight a battle that has been over. Before the advent of modern communication systems in battles, getting the word out to the soldiers about treaties or even just the end of a skirmish could be difficult. Often, soldiers would continue to fight days after the two warring sides had agreed to end hostilities.

We can do the same things in our spiritual lives. We aren’t listening to the Lord and we miss not only the end of the battle and the blessings that come with that, but we do more damage to others as we continue to try to get the expected outcome that we’ve envisioned.

God Is Good

1 O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever. [13]

When we are entrusting our days and our hoped and our lives to the hands of the Lord, we need to keep one truth very close to our hearts: God is good. His goodness is not a show put on to earn our trust. He doesn’t have bad days where His temper gets the best of Him. He is faithful and true and good to His children. We can always rely on Him to fight our battles and bring us the spiritual victory.

 

References

[1] The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version. (1989). (2 Ch 20:15). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[2] The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version. (1989). (Ro 13:1). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[3] The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version. (1989). (Eph. 5:21). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[4] The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version. (1989). (1 Sa 13:13–14). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[5] The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version. (1989). (Je 42:13–17). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[6] The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version. (1989). (Mat. 13:22). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[7] The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version. (1989). (Mt 16:23). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[8] The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version. (1989). (2 Ch 20:17). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[9] The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version. (1989). (2 Ch 20:12). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[10] The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version. (1989). (2 Ch 20:14). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[11] The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version. (1989). (Ps 27:14). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[12] The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version. (1989). (2 Ch 20:27). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[13] The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version. (1989). (Ps 136:1). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.