September 8, 2015

God’s hand . . .

Joel 3:1–21, Acts 7:54–8:25, Job 19:1–12

God continues to speak to me about the difficulties involved in discerning what He is doing. However, one factor comes forth loud and clear: He is jealous for His people and will go to great lengths to have His will done in our lives.

In today’s OT readings, Joel describes how God will judge those nations that opposed and hated His people. He will give them a full gulp of their own medicine . . .

“For behold, in those days and at that time, when I restore the fortunes of Judah and Jerusalem, I will gather all the nations and bring them down to the Valley of Jehoshaphat. And I will enter into judgment with them there, on behalf of my people and my heritage Israel, because they have scattered them among the nations and have divided up my land, and have cast lots for my people, and have traded a boy for a prostitute, and have sold a girl for wine and have drunk it. “What are you to me, O Tyre and Sidon, and all the regions of Philistia? Are you paying me back for something? If you are paying me back, I will return your payment on your own head swiftly and speedily.” (Joel 3:1–4)

As for His people, He will bless them, totally in contrast to the judgment He will inflict on those who have harmed them . . .

“So you shall know that I am the Lord your God, who dwells in Zion, my holy mountain. And Jerusalem shall be holy, and strangers shall never again pass through it. And in that day the mountains shall drip sweet wine, and the hills shall flow with milk, and all the streambeds of Judah shall flow with water; and a fountain shall come forth from the house of the Lord and water the Valley of Shittim. Egypt shall become a desolation and Edom a desolate wilderness, for the violence done to the people of Judah, because they have shed innocent blood in their land. But Judah shall be inhabited forever, and Jerusalem to all generations. I will avenge their blood, blood I have not avenged, for the Lord dwells in Zion.” (Joel 3:17–21)

The other OT reading in Job describes this righteous man’s response to those who were accusing him. He says, “How long will you torment me and break me in pieces with words? These ten times you have cast reproach upon me; are you not ashamed to wrong me? And even if it be true that I have erred, my error remains with myself. If indeed you magnify yourselves against me and make my disgrace an argument against me, know then that God has put me in the wrong and closed his net about me. Behold, I cry out, ‘Violence!’ but I am not answered; I call for help, but there is no justice. He has walled up my way, so that I cannot pass, and he has set darkness upon my paths.” (Job 19:2–8)

Job knew God was up to something in his life, but he didn’t know what it was. He was not aware of any sin that needed to be purged from his life. He was aware that his accusers were wrong and this was a good thing. Had he not had that assurance, his despair would have doubled. God was testing Job. Even though this man didn’t understand, he knew God was behind it.

I’ve been in bad situations, not as bad as Job was, but I can relate to what he says. As soon as faith assures me God is in charge, even though I don’t like what He is doing I am relieved. My faith, like Job’s, also knows that God is good and He never makes mistakes. While the test was awful, knowing God is involved is evidence there is a good purpose and a blessed outcome ahead. That gives great hope. His plans are always a huge surprise with a better result than I could ever imagine.

In the NT reading, Stephen is stoned to death and as he dies, he says, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit” and “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” (Acts 7:54–60) This shows his faith; he believed God was in control.

Saul, who later became Paul, approved of Stephen’s execution. He was also involved in a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem. Christians were scattered throughout the region as Saul ravaged the church, dragging men and women off to prison. (Acts 8:1–3) However, even this was God’s plan . . .  

“Those who were scattered went about preaching the word. Philip went down to the city of Samaria and proclaimed to them the Christ. And the crowds with one accord paid attention to what was being said by Philip when they heard him and saw the signs that he did. For unclean spirits, crying out with a loud voice, came out of many who had them, and many who were paralyzed or lame were healed. So there was much joy in that city.” (Acts 8:4–8)

I don’t know the circumstances in the lives of those who read this, but I do know to say hang in there. No matter what is going on, God’s hand is in it. If you are His child He will use it for great good, far greater than you can ask or imagine. Trust Him and wait!

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