September 23, 2015

Consistent faith under constant distractions

Zechariah 1:1–2:13, Acts 21:1–26, Job 28:12–28

Times, culture, situations and circumstances change, but the message throughout the Bible is consistent: Turn from sin and trust the Lord in obedience — giving Him glory.

The prophets told it to the people, both in times of their obedience, but repeatedly during their backslidings and times of being chastened by God. They needed to hear it, but they also needed to hear that by turning to Him, He would welcome and bless them.

Zechariah said, “Up! Escape to Zion, you who dwell with the daughter of Babylon. For thus said the Lord of hosts, after his glory sent me to the nations who plundered you, for he who touches you touches the apple of his eye: ‘Behold, I will shake my hand over them, and they shall become plunder for those who served them. Then you will know that the Lord of hosts has sent me. Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion, for behold, I come and I will dwell in your midst,’ declares the Lord. And many nations shall join themselves to the Lord in that day, and shall be my people. And I will dwell in your midst, and you shall know that the Lord of hosts has sent me to you.” (Zechariah 2:7–11)

God protects His people like we protect our eyes! He makes plunder out of our enemies, and dwells in our midst. With these and many other words, this prophet restored the Messianic hope of the people. The Lord would establish His rule over all the earth.

The book of Job reveals that God’s divine wisdom is superior to human wisdom, personified by Job’s friends who thought they knew the answers to why Job was suffering. They were wrong, as I so often am when I try to figure out what is going on in someone’s life. I am often in the dark about my own life so how can I be wise concerning other people, especially the reasons for their struggles?

Job’s ‘friends’ challenged him, but he challenged them too. They thought they were wise, but he said, “From where, then, does wisdom come? And where is the place of understanding? It is hidden from the eyes of all living and concealed from the birds of the air. Abaddon and Death say, ‘We have heard a rumor of it with our ears.’ “God understands the way to it, and he knows its place. For he looks to the ends of the earth and sees everything under the heavens. When he gave to the wind its weight and apportioned the waters by measure, when he made a decree for the rain and a way for the lightning of the thunder, then he saw it and declared it; he established it, and searched it out. And he said to man, ‘Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, and to turn away from evil is understanding.’ ” (Job 28:20–28)

The story does not end with the good news that these ‘wise friends’ repented from their judgmental treatment of Job, yet God has used the words of Job in the lives of many people. I am deeply aware of the changes to my life that come from fearing God and turning from evil. When solidly standing on that foundation, my hope in the Living Christ is stronger and I am more confident that He will do what He has promised.

Paul was strong in Messianic hope, wise in the fear of God, and certain of Christ’s return. He knew that turning from evil was impossible unless one also turned to God . . . .

“While we were staying for many days, a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. And coming to us, he took Paul’s belt and bound his own feet and hands and said, ‘Thus says the Holy Spirit, “This is how the Jews at Jerusalem will bind the man who owns this belt and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.”’ When we heard this, we and the people there urged him not to go up to Jerusalem. Then Paul answered, ‘What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be imprisoned but even to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.’ And since he would not be persuaded, we ceased and said, ‘Let the will of the Lord be done.’” (Acts 21:10–14)

Paul’s faith remained entirely focused on the will of God. He didn’t concern himself with his own comfort or even his own life. His hope was in the Messiah, Jesus Christ and his wisdom was God’s wisdom, not his own. Threats of prison and death could not deter him from obeying the Lord.

As I write this and compare myself with what I’ve read, I’m ashamed at how easily I get distracted from doing the will of God. I lose hope. I rely on my own ‘wisdom’ instead of fearing God and departing from evil. When I compare what so easily turns me away to the strong resolute commitment of Paul, I feel ashamed. 

May Jesus forgive me and grant me greater courage, a stronger ability to stay on target, deeper reverence for Him, and an increasing hatred of evil. May I love Him with all my heart, mind, soul, and strength.

No comments: