Sunday, September 6, 2015

In a spotlight?



Hosea 13:1–14:9, Acts 6:1–15, Job 17:1–16

When we graduated, my sister and I took a train trip to the Royal Winter Fair in Toronto. With remember the incredible horse show with jumpers who turned their hind quarters sideways to lift themselves over an eight foot stone wall. But my favorite moment was when a spotlight shone on the winning American Saddlebreds who then circled the ring at a rapid gait with the crowd roaring its approval.

Throughout the Bible, the people of God are in the spotlight. Sometimes this is a glorious thing, but not always. In Hosea’s time, God’s judgment on them was relentless. He said, “Return, O Israel, to the Lord your God, for you have stumbled because of your iniquity. Take with you words and return to the Lord; say to him, ‘Take away all iniquity; accept what is good, and we will pay with bulls the vows of our lips. Assyria shall not save us; we will not ride on horses; and we will say no more, ‘Our God,’ to the work of our hands. In you the orphan finds mercy.’”

Yet He also said, “I will heal their apostasy; I will love them freely, for my anger has turned from them. I will be like the dew to Israel; he shall blossom like the lily; he shall take root like the trees of Lebanon; his shoots shall spread out; his beauty shall be like the olive, and his fragrance like Lebanon. They shall return and dwell beneath my shadow; they shall flourish like the grain; they shall blossom like the vine; their fame shall be like the wine of Lebanon.” (Hosea 14:1–7) Eventually, because of the mercy of God, they would shine again under the spotlight of His grace.

Job suffered too, but for a different reason. He was being tested in every way and without knowing why all the pain and sorrow was happening. He said of God, “He has made me a byword of the peoples, and I am one before whom men spit. My eye has grown dim from vexation, and all my members are like a shadow. The upright are appalled at this, and the innocent stirs himself up against the godless.”

But even in his grief, Job ended those words with hope: “Yet the righteous holds to his way, and he who has clean hands grows stronger and stronger.” (Job 17:6–9) Job was not yet pronounced a winner, but as he grieved in the shadows, he seemed to have sensed that his victory lap was coming; he would shine in the spotlight once again.

In the NT, God put a few good men into ministry with a simple task; they needed to make sure all the widows in the church were getting enough to eat. The apostles told leaders to select seven men “of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty. But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” One of those seven was “Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit . . . .” (Acts 6:3–5)

Stephen shone. He was “full of grace and power, was doing great wonders and signs among the people.” But that angered some who disputed with him. They became more angry because “they could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he was speaking.”

So instead of learning from his wisdom, they secretly instigated others to say, “We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and God.” This stirred up the people and the elders and the scribes, and they seized him and brought him before the council, setting up false witnesses who said, “This man never ceases to speak words against this holy place and the law, for we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and will change the customs that Moses delivered to us.”

At that, God surprised them. As they gazed at Stephen, “all who sat in the council saw that his face was like the face of an angel.” (Acts 6:8–15) God shone His spotlight on Stephen, showing him to be a winner, no matter what they thought or did.

I’ve been spotlighted for chastening, and then spotlighted by the shining grace of God. I’ve also been tested like Job (in much smaller ways) yet knowing God would bring me through. I’m fairly sure I’ll not be stoned to death as the religious leaders did to Stephen, but whatever happens to me, I would like to shine like he did. However, if that is not God’s plan, it’s encouraging to know that He always gives great peace to His people, and we are always in His winning circle.

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