September 13, 2015

Increased Faith

Obadiah 1:1–21, Acts 11:19–12:25, Job 21:17–34

Today’s readings are ‘faith increasers,’ at least for me. They tell of how God works among His people.

In the first one, Obadiah is given a vision. He saw Edom rising up to help the Babylonians capture fleeing Israelites and take them to exile. The Edomites were descendents of Esau, Jacob’s brother, and as relatives of Israel, they should not do that. Obadiah made clear that God would repay them for this mistreatment:

“Thus says the Lord God concerning Edom: We have heard a report from the Lord, and a messenger has been sent among the nations: ‘Rise up! Let us rise against her for battle!’ Behold, I will make you small among the nations; you shall be utterly despised. The pride of your heart has deceived you, you who live in the clefts of the rock, in your lofty dwelling, who say in your heart, ‘Who will bring me down to the ground?’ Though you soar aloft like the eagle, though your nest is set among the stars, from there I will bring you down, declares the Lord.” (Obadiah 1–4) He would not let Edom get away with their treachery.

Job was also mistreated. His friends kept saying his misery was because God punished the wicked, implying that he was one of them and not a righteous man. Job challenged their reasoning:

“Behold, I know your thoughts and your schemes to wrong me. For you say, ‘Where is the house of the prince? Where is the tent in which the wicked lived?’ Have you not asked those who travel the roads, and do you not accept their testimony that the evil man is spared in the day of calamity, that he is rescued in the day of wrath? Who declares his way to his face, and who repays him for what he has done? When he is carried to the grave, watch is kept over his tomb. The clods of the valley are sweet to him; all mankind follows after him, and those who go before him are innumerable. How then will you comfort me with empty nothings? There is nothing left of your answers but falsehood.” (Job 21:27–34) Job was right and God later affirmed his assessment. Sometimes evil people do prosper in this life. The ‘comfort’ of his ‘friends’ was empty.

In the NT, God actively protected His people as they established the church, and used their witness to draw others to Himself. “Those who were scattered because of the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, speaking the word to no one except Jews. But there were some of them, men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who on coming to Antioch spoke to the Hellenists also, preaching the Lord Jesus. And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number who believed turned to the Lord.” (Acts 11:19–21)

The Lord also took care of their physical needs: “And one of them named Agabus stood up and foretold by the Spirit that there would be a great famine over all the world . . . . So the disciples determined, every one according to his ability, to send relief to the brothers living in Judea. And they did so, sending it to the elders by the hand of Barnabas and Saul.” (Acts 11:28–30)

He protected them as well: “Herod the king laid violent hands on some who belonged to the church. He killed James the brother of John with the sword, and when he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also . . . . put him in prison . . . with four squads of soldiers to guard him . . . . but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church . . . . and when Herod was about to bring him out, on that very night, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries before the door were guarding the prison. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood next to him, and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him, saying, ‘Get up quickly.’ And the chains fell off his hands.” (Acts 12:1–7) The gates opened and Peter walked past the guards to freedom.

Not so with Herod. One day he put on his royal robes, took his seat upon the throne, and delivered a speech. The people shouted, “The voice of a god, and not of a man!” and “immediately an angel of the Lord struck him down, because he did not give God the glory, and he was eaten by worms and breathed his last.” (Acts 12:21–23)

From all this, I know that God will deal with those who mistreat me, even those of my own family. He will reassure me when others advise me with false accusations. He will protect me in persecution and even use my testimony to reach others. He promises to take care of my physical needs, and to protect me, using my situation to glorify Himself.

“And the word of God increased and multiplied” (Acts 12:24) and so did the faith of the people. As I ponder this and praise God, so also does my faith increase.

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