September 17, 2015

Prayer AND obedience

Micah 7:1–20, Acts 15:22–16:5, Job 24:1–11

Yesterday’s headline was the murder of a two-year-old girl. Her father’s body had been discovered a few days earlier. Added to that horror story, politicians battle for votes, our city fires the city manager, earthquakes and vicious storms kill people, and far too many people are calling evil good and good evil.

Micah was distressed over the absence of goodness in his day also. He wrote: “The godly has perished from the earth, and there is no one upright among mankind; they all lie in wait for blood, and each hunts the other with a net. Their hands are on what is evil, to do it well; the prince and the judge ask for a bribe, and the great man utters the evil desire of his soul; thus they weave it together. The best of them is like a brier, the most upright of them a thorn hedge . . . .” (Micah 7:2–4)

When I pray, I usually ask God to “fix it” or to reverse it, to make it better. Sometimes I ask Him to forgive those who live wickedly. Sometimes I find relief in being glad that although I am also a sinner, I know His grace . . .

“Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression for the remnant of his inheritance? He does not retain his anger forever, because he delights in steadfast love. He will again have compassion on us; he will tread our iniquities underfoot. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea.” (Micah 7:18–19)

Job also was frustrated by the seeming prosperity of the wicked. He didn’t ask that God forgive them, and instead wondered why He had not done anything to stop them. He said:
“Why are not times of judgment kept by the Almighty, and why do those who know him never see his days? Some move landmarks; they seize flocks and pasture them. They drive away the donkey of the fatherless; they take the widow’s ox for a pledge. They thrust the poor off the road; the poor of the earth all hide themselves.” (Job 24:1–4)

His list of unjust things isn’t much different from today either. Those with money and power take advantage of those who have very little. Not just Christians but anyone with compassion is dismayed at the way people treat people. The daily news makes it difficult to focus on the positive, but I’m thinking that ignoring those negatives is not God’s way of dealing with them.

For example, in the NT, the Gentile Christians were discouraged because of false teaching. This may not be as physically threatening as sickness, earthquakes, or harm at the hands of others, but their spirits were hammered with lies. Sometimes this mental and emotional abuse is worse than something more visible. Anyway, when the Christians in Jerusalem heard about it, they wrote a letter and charged Paul, Barnabas, and others to deliver it . . .

“So when they were sent off, they went down to Antioch, and having gathered the congregation together, they delivered the letter. And when they had read it, they rejoiced because of its encouragement. And Judas and Silas, who were themselves prophets, encouraged and strengthened the brothers with many words. And after they had spent some time, they were sent off in peace by the brothers to those who had sent them. But Paul and Barnabas remained in Antioch, teaching and preaching the word of the Lord, with many others also.” (Acts 15:30–35)

God’s solution: Do Something! I cannot catch a murderer and bring him to justice, but I can pray for the grieving family and show support in some way. I can’t fix rotten politics, but I can publicly applaud fair and truthful political moves and write letters to city leaders. I might not be able to go to those countries where people are suffering, but I can pray and send donations. I can also speak up when someone calls evil good and good evil.
Obviously from the above descriptions by Micah and Job, there will be times when God seems to withhold answers to my cries. Prayer is wonderful, but those might be the times He is waiting for me to get off my duff and be His instrument and example for godliness and truth. 

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