August 9, 2020

No worries . . .

  

Ruth 2; Psalm 10; Jeremiah 37; Acts 27

 In the relative comfort and safety of my home, I can hardly identify with those whose lives are in danger. A novel just read is about a history professor who was snatched from his home and had several days of a Jack Reacher/Jason Bourne experience. His life was in danger on every page. Pure fantasy compared to my non-risky life.

The Old Testament story of Ruth tells of her eventual safety but the story is compelling. The psalmist is more anxious, particularly about evil people who are taking advantage of the poor and helpless. He prays:

O LORD, you hear the desire of the afflicted; you will strengthen their heart; you will incline your ear to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed, so that man who is of the earth may strike terror no more. (Psalm 10:17–18)

The closest I come to these words is in my prayers for those who are victims today. This includes refugees fleeing unjust treatment and are in camps or in hiding, without papers and without a home or homeland. Yet watching them on the news is hardly identifying with their struggles.

Jeremiah is a prophet who didn’t think he had what it takes to be a prophet. God selected him anyway and he obediently took the Word of the Lord to people who didn’t want to hear it and had no intention of obeying it. He warned the king but “neither he nor his servants nor the people of the land listened to the words of the Lord that he spoke through Jeremiah the prophet.” (Jeremiah 37:2)

I know what it is like to speak and no one listens, but that is the closest I come in being able to relate to this man. While I love his story, my story bears little resemblance except that I want people to know the Word of God and obey it.

Of all that I read this morning, the scene in Acts is the most remote. Paul has been arrested and at his insistence, is on his way to Rome to speak to Caesar. The ship he is on is a prison ship and a storm hits them hard. After warnings from God through Paul and no one is listening, the ship is wreaked but because God wants Paul in Rome, none of the people on board are lost.

I am not much into boats, sailing, cruises etc. I’ve been on the open sea in Alaska fishing for halibut and on ferries chugging between the mainland and the islands off Vancouver, but never in a storm and never because I was arrested for preaching the Gospel. So what does God say to me through all this?

First, He sets Ruth up so she will marry Boaz and be part of the lineage of Jesus Christ. God’s plan for her life is not obvious to her, but she obediently follows the words of her mother-in-law and her destiny is set. God is with her.

Second, had not God touched my life, I might have been one of the ‘wicked’ that the psalmist prays against. I’m not in the ‘helpless’ category either. For escaping both extremes, I am thankful.

Third, even though Jeremiah had a large but unwilling audience, God protected him and kept him alive until the work he was given was done. I also am secure in God’s care and can share His Word without fearing what God-hating people might do to me.

Fourth, God had a plan for Paul and not even a severe storm could thwart that plan. No doubt that the Lord oversees storms, but He is also in charge of safekeeping. The soldiers on the ship wanted to kill the prisoners but were stopped because God wanted Paul in Rome. Whatever happens to me is also in the Lord’s  hands. Again, I am assured of His continued care.

APPLY: Never worry about the consequences of obedience. The Lord has a plan for me and He will accomplish it. Rest in that thought today!

 

August 8, 2020

Keep Praying . . .

                                                                           Ruth 1; Psalm 9; Jeremiah 36, 45; Acts 26

Billy Graham’s focus was a plain presentation of the Gospel. He never wavered even when God put him before enormous audiences and important world leaders. His life was protected from physical harm and thousands of people responded to his message.

The battle to tell the world what God says has not always worked that way. Noah preached and only his family listened. Moses related the laws of God and while the people welcomed them, they failed to obey. The prophets warned people of wrath to come for their disobedience. They didn’t listen. Jeremiah’s words came to the court of the king. His officials “turned to one another in fear” so took the scroll to King Jehoiakim:

Then the king sent Jehudi to get the scroll . . . . And Jehudi read it to the king and all the officials who stood beside the king. It was the ninth month, and the king was sitting in the winter house, and there was a fire burning in the fire pot before him. As Jehudi read three or four columns, the king would cut them off with a knife and throw them into the fire in the fire pot, until the entire scroll was consumed in the fire that was in the fire pot. Yet neither the king nor any of his servants who heard all these words was afraid, nor did they tear their garments. (Jeremiah 36:21–24)

This man would later face the wrath of God for his rejection of His word:

Therefore thus says the Lord concerning Jehoiakim king of Judah: “He shall have none to sit on the throne of David, and his dead body shall be cast out to the heat by day and the frost by night. And I will punish him and his offspring and his servants for their iniquity. I will bring upon them and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem and upon the people of Judah all the disaster that I have pronounced against them, but they would not hear.” Then Jeremiah took another scroll and gave it to Baruch the scribe, the son of Neriah, who wrote on it at the dictation of Jeremiah all the words of the scroll that Jehoiakim king of Judah had burned in the fire. And many similar words were added to them. (Jeremiah 36:30–32)

And so it went throughout the centuries until Jesus, the King of kings came, lived among us, then suffered and died for our sin. People began to listen and to share the good news. God put at least one of them before a king who gave him permission to speak . . .

Then Paul stretched out his hand and made his defense: “I consider myself fortunate that it is before you, King Agrippa, I am going to make my defense today against all the accusations of the Jews, especially because you are familiar with all the customs and controversies of the Jews. Therefore I beg you to listen to me patiently.” (Acts 26:1–3)

Paul shared the gospel in his testimony of what had happened to himself and why he had been arrested. He said:

“For this reason the Jews seized me in the temple and tried to kill me. To this day I have had the help that comes from God, and so I stand here testifying both to small and great, saying nothing but what the prophets and Moses said would come to pass: that the Christ must suffer and that, by being the first to rise from the dead, he would proclaim light both to our people and to the Gentiles.” (Acts 26:21–23)

Simple and powerful words, but he didn’t end there. He challenged the king, just as did Noah and the prophets before Him and the preachers of the gospel since then:

“King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know that you believe.” And Agrippa said to Paul, “In a short time would you persuade me to be a Christian?” And Paul said, “Whether short or long, I would to God that not only you but also all who hear me this day might become such as I am—except for these chains.” (Acts 26:27–29)

We live in a day when few people hear it, never mind listen to it, at least so the media reports, but there are faithful people praying for change just like King David prayed for change in his day . . .

Arise, O LORD! Let not man prevail; let the nations be judged before you! Put them in fear, O LORD! Let the nations know that they are but men! Selah (Psalm 9:19–20)

Back then, the nations raged against and “set themselves against the Lord and His Anointed.” They still do, not realizing that “He who sits in the heavens laughs” for the nations and the ends of the earth will become the heritage and possession of His Son. (See Psalm 2)

APPLY: Keep praying, Elsie. God is not finished yet.