October 31, 2015

Puzzles and warnings

Daniel 11:1–12:12; 2 Thessalonians 3:1–18; Job 42:10–17

Years ago someone instructed me to read the Bible until God impressed me with something, then write what I noticed in the passage. This year’s devotional book is called “Connect the Testaments.” Many days I’ve seen how they old and the new relate to one another. Today, these three readings may have connections that I do not see, but God impresses me with these truths.

Why godly people fail
Christians and the general public are shocked when a prominent Christian leader falls into sin. I’m shocked when it happens to me, a rather ordinary person. Jesus is our Savior so why does He not save us from our sinful selves? Today a verse stands out from in the midst of Daniel’s prophesies about the future. He says this: “ . . . and some of the wise shall stumble, so that they may be refined, purified, and made white, until the time of the end, for it still awaits the appointed time.” (Daniel 11:35)

Some of the characteristics of my sinful nature are forgiven and cleansed by a simple confession. Others are so deeply ingrained that only a gross failure will persuade me to let go of them. From this verse, I see that stumbling into a particular sin is part of the salvation process. When it happens, it is the beginning of God’s refinement for He will use the failure to change my attitude toward that particular “I will rule my own life” attitude. This becomes a painful but necessary ‘stumble’ to show me that I cannot rule anything.

Increased knowledge does not mean we know everything
The Bible says that in the last days, there will be “a time of trouble . . . .” but God’s people “will be delivered, everyone whose name shall be found written in the book. And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. And those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky above; and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever. But you, Daniel, shut up the words and seal the book, until the time of the end. Many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase.” (Daniel 12:1–4)

Certainly knowledge is increasing. Certainly God’s people are actively turning others to Christ. But the prophecies of Daniel are a puzzle and exactly what will happen at the end of things is hidden from us all. Only those who know the Lord even realize that God has declared truth, but that is about all we understand about the future.  It is as God said to Daniel: “For the words are shut up and sealed until the time of the end. Many shall purify themselves and make themselves white and be refined, but the wicked shall act wickedly. And none of the wicked shall understand, but those who are wise shall understand.” (Daniel 12:9–10)

Job’s disaster turned to blessing
The remaining child of the Alberta family who lost all three daughters in a farm accident said, “If God can make good out of bad, then something awfully good must be coming.” This faith is a gift from God, something that shone through even while Job struggled to understand what was happening to him. He was never told that his faith was being tested, but I suspect he knew as soon as, “The Lord restored the fortunes of Job, when he had prayed for his friends. And the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before. Then came to him all his brothers and sisters and all who had known him before, and ate bread with him in his house. And they showed him sympathy and comforted him for all the evil that the Lord had brought upon him . . . .” (Job 42:10–12)

I can relate. When God tests my faith, I’m oblivious to the why of the trying events, but when blessings come afterwards, I know God is using all things for my good. He is wise; His ways are higher than mine.

Warning to the lazy
In all of this, I could sit and do nothing, but God gives another message that is for every generation. Paul heard that some Christians were walking in idleness and was inspired by the Lord to say they were, “not busy at work, but busybodies.” He commanded and encouraged them in the Lord Jesus Christ to “do their work quietly and to earn their own living” and to “not grow weary in doing good.” This was so important that, “If anyone does not obey what we say in this letter, take note of that person, and have nothing to do with him, that he may be ashamed. Do not regard him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother.” (2 Thessalonians 3:11–15)

God isn’t talking only about earning a living. I’m not supposed to sponge off the generosity of others, but this also hints at my responsibilities as His servant who is supposed to obey His commands. While I cannot do all of them all the time, I need to pay attention to the Holy Spirit, gladly and energetically never letting my laziness rule instead of Him.

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