June 18, 2015

God still rules the world

Ezra 5:1–6:22, 1 John 3:19–24, Psalm 106:30–48

My heart is heavy this morning with several things: two sad funerals, acts of unkindness seen in people I love, awful shootings in SC, and a person vehemently supporting those who are blatantly sinful, claiming human rights. I went to bed last night trying to pray and feeling hopeless, but the Word of God gives me encouragement to pray.

First of all, God is still in charge: “Now the prophets, Haggai and Zechariah the son of Iddo, prophesied to the Jews who were in Judah and Jerusalem, in the name of the God of Israel who was over them.” (Ezra 5:1) What they said to their people was from God who rules. He is still on the throne.

Second, no matter my emotions, God is greater and listens to my prayers. If I have no specific sin blocking my requests, He will hear and answer. “By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him; for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything. Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; and whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him. And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us.” (1 John 3:19–24)

The Holy Spirit gives assurance to those who believe in Jesus and fully trust and abide in Him. He says that obedience and abiding are my assurance for answered prayer. He is listening to the burdens of my heart as I trust Christ and love others, including anyone who disobeys or blasphemes His name. Just as God hates evil, I can hate evil, yet just as God loves sinners, I can love sinners.

Third, my example of how to deal with those who rebel against God is God Himself. “Many times he delivered them, but they were rebellious in their purposes and were brought low through their iniquity. Nevertheless, he looked upon their distress, when he heard their cry. For their sake he remembered his covenant, and relented according to the abundance of his steadfast love. He caused them to be pitied by all those who held them captive.” (Psalm 106:43–46)

In the time of Ezra and the captivity of God’s people in Babylon, God caused Cyrus to send them home to rebuild their temple. Despite extreme opposition, God was at work and even Darius, the next king after Cyrus, upheld that decree and supported the people of God. God is merciful and gracious.

Fourth, the psalmist gives another example of how I can deal with those things that burden my heart, particularly when I see the rampant spread of sinful lifestyles and the easy acceptance by others. It hurts to hear those who insist that people have the right to live in sin, but even more to hear them say no one has the right to call them on it. This is not new, yet a man of God wrote: “They provoked the Lord to anger with their deeds, and a plague broke out among them. Then Phinehas stood up and intervened, and the plague was stayed. And that was counted to him as righteousness from generation to generation forever.” (Psalm 106:29–31)

One man interceded in prayer for those who provoked God to anger, and God heard. The results of His wrath (a plague) ended and the death that they deserved because of their sin was averted.

I can pray. I can know that God hears me. He may not withhold wrath or judgment and people may not stop what they are doing, yet like Phinehas, I can believe God. In believing be at rest because I am trusting the Lord with those things that only God can control, remembering that no matter what, He remains in charge.

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