Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Ps 119.88

Revive me according to your lovingkindness, so that I may keep the testimony of your mouth. Ps 119.88 

Who can’t relate to David’s desire to be revived according to the lovingkindness of God?
We know what it’s like to be exhausted by life in this world, let alone the way trials and tribulations wear us down.
Relationships that really matter develop friction and even outright conflict.
Our strength is soon sapped by the pace of life. We sleep poorly, eat unhealthily, and get little beneficial exercise.
We go through the motion of church, but have no time—or interest—for prayer, the Bible, or personal worship.
We find ourselves emotionally, physically, and spiritually running on empty.
Nice people don’t help. Vacations don’t help. Religions don’t help.
We need rest, heart and body and soul.

I’m with Augustine. You made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in you.

The obvious question, I suppose, is how? How do our souls find rest in God?
Sadly, most spiritual disciplines only feel like more work. Or if we start down the path toward solitude, silence, stillness, well, we fall asleep.

Times like these, what we really need is the presence of God. Nothing else will restore us.

In his presence our hearts are refreshed, saturated in divine love that first fills us, then overflows through us. When we can’t conjure another smidgeon of affection or patience or kindness for even one small need, the infinite love of God spills over, heals our hurts and moves us in grace and forgiveness toward those we’ve wronged or those who’ve wronged us.

In his presence, our bodies submit to the righteous plan of God for everyday life and obedience. We make better choices with how we spend our time, what we eat, how we move. Lifestyle choices of leisure and work, community-building, and career take on an eternal perspective that makes such decisions easily kingdom-oriented and God-centered.

In his presence, our souls indeed find the Sabbath rest of total dependance on the Creator to satisfy and sustain. Our minds focus on truth, our wills determine to do righteousness, our spirits breathe the air of heaven and come away saturated in life and goodness and grace.
This is true spiritual restoration, but it’s only the beginning of revival hinted at in today’s verse.

Revival has to do with taking the life of God outside our selves and our churches to the dark world that so desperately needs light.
But this is categorically impossible without the Holy Spirit constantly quickening us. Apart from him living his life through us, we end up Pharisees more concerned with keeping the letter of God’s Word than experiencing the freedom Christ purchased for us. We can strategize and plan and cast vision to our hearts content, but unless the Lord builds the house, we labor in vain. Exhausting.

Do you want to be part of what God is doing on the planet these days? Being quickened by his loving kindness is a crucial first step. It’s the seed that grows and multiplies and produces a crop thirty-, sixty, or even a hundred-fold.
You don’t need to go to foreign mission fields or write books or speak publicly. What you do need is to hear the voice of God and obey it when he tells you to act for someone’s good. Even a cup of water given in his name is noteworthy. Jesus promised to recognize you as one who feeds the hungry or clothes the naked or houses the stranger in his name. By the same token, he’ll reject you as one who does not.

All the Law and the Prophets are summed up in this, Paul tells us, that we love our neighbor as ourselves. Love is the great testimony straight from the mouth of God.

May God revive his church so that we can live it out.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Ps 119.87

They almost made an end of me on earth, but I did not forsake your precepts. Ps 119.87

Ever wonder what Jesus’s last thought was before he gave up his spirit on the cross? It might have been this verse.
Knowing he was in the will of God surely strengthened him to endure his darkest hour, not just with a hope for future joy, but for every painful breath along the way.

Jesus on the cross is one of my favorite themes (if you haven’t noticed yet).
His absolute unworthiness to suffer such a death is matched only by the absolute worth of his sacrifice.
We know this. We hear it often. But I love to ponder the heart of this precious man who went the distance for the sake of love. As John said, having loved his own who were in the world, Jesus loved them to the end.

My meditation starts where Jesus knew Judas had betrayed him to the rulers. The time had come. For this reason he had set his feet toward Jerusalem.
He and his disciples ate their last supper together, sharing the very important Passover meal before the angel of death brought judgment against the sins of men. With no servant among them, the King of the Universe got down on his knees and washed their dirty, oh-so-human feet.
Anticipating their terror and confusion at his coming execution, he tried to prepare them with words of hope and comfort, most of which went over their heads.
He led them to their special place—the place where David also bid goodbye to Jerusalem.

In the garden, he went on alone to pray. Three times.
Betrayed by a kiss, healing a slashed ear, led away by a mob of soldiers—while his most ardent defender denied him. Three times.
Questioned at mock trials. Three times.
Found innocent by the Roman procurator. Three times.

Condemned to die, not once did he speak in self-defense.
They whipped him and mocked him and put a crippling crown of thorns on his royal head. Still he said nothing.
They led him away to Golgotha, so broken by the beatings that, despite his rugged life as a carpenter and an itinerant, he could not carry the weight of his cross. Like a lamb led to slaughter, he opened not his mouth.
But he did speak to the daughters of Jerusalem who wept along his way.

Suspended at last on the tree, he still had Messiah work to do.
He saved a thief at his side.
He gave his mother a son, and his beloved disciple a mother.
He ignored the taunts of those who doubted his identity.
He interceded for his crucifiers.
He made sure every prophecy was fulfilled.
He cried out to his God as a son of man.
And he died as the Son of God.

Why? Because that’s what he was born to do. He knew this from the Scripture.

How did he do it? Again, through the Scriptures. By clinging to the precepts of God.
Jesus was the Word-made-flesh, yet he learned the Scriptures as a man and quoted from them often, aptly applying them with wisdom and grace. He wielded the Sword of the Spirit before it had been fully forged and tempered.
This trust—in God’s plan, in God’s will, revealed in God’s Word—carried him through death and beyond.
Every force of pain and shame was laid against Jesus’s body and soul until, as the psalmist said, they almost made an end of him in this world.

Maybe in a feeble effort to maintain his sanity as he hung for six hours one Friday in Jerusalem, his body in unspeakable agony, Jesus kept his mind focused solely on a memorized list of scriptural prophecies about the Messiah.
This is not vain imagining on my part. How else could John say that Jesus, “knowing that all was now finished, cried out” about his thirst “in order to fulfill the Scripture” (Jn 19.28), unless Jesus told him after the resurrection? 

I’m glad for him that he knew the Scriptures so well.
If he had been many a modern American Christian, he’d have looked at the difficulties arrayed against him and concluded that he'd misunderstood God’s plan for his life.
Instead—oh thank God—instead, he took comfort from the very Scriptures that foretold not just that he would die, but how. Ps 22 (which begins, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”) tells us that they pierced his hands and feet, centuries before Rome brought crucifixion to Israel. This and so many others confirmed to Jesus that he was the Christ, and that these things were accomplishing God’s eternal purpose through him.

Such knowledge might not be ordinary comfort, but it is real.
I’ve been in situations when just knowing  I'm where God wants me, doing what he wants me to do, strengthens my spirit. This alleviates my fears and calms my sorrow or dismay. My flesh can bear the pain and make it through difficult circumstances, if only God’s Spirit remains with me.
I learned this from the psalmist, as Jesus did before me.
I cling to the Scriptures as a lifeline in troubled seas.

Those who hope in your Word, oh Lord, will never be put to shame.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Ps 119.86

All your commandments are faithful; they persecute me wrongfully; help me! Ps 119.86 

The spiritual realm we live in can be confusing. To do battle there is perilous. Although more real than the natural realm, being invisible, it evades easy mastery, which is what makes it dangerous.
Yet as has been the great theme in every epic and legend through the ages, the battle is between good and evil, for the sake of love.
Fortunately, we also have the age-old assurance that while Evil pretends to be more frightening and destructive, in the end, Good will always win.
There’s a reason for that, and it isn’t just our craving for happily ever after.

I grew up thinking of good and evil as equals. They’re not.
Good is infinite while evil is a hollow shell, the mere capacity for a lack of good.
Good is the essence of the Creator, while evil is but a by-product of creation.
Furthermore, the Author of Creation cannot separate his creation from its goodness—six times he declared it good and once, very good.
Evil, on the other hand, is an interloper simply tolerated until the day when it is put away forever. Then will the Creator wipe every tear from every eye, and mourning, crying, pain, death itself will be no more.
In the seemingly eternal battle, these two great foes are by no means equals.

I made a similar association between God and Satan, I suppose as the figureheads of good and evil. Satan, once subject to God, rebelled and was thrown out of heaven. He now lives here on earth, retreating occasionally to his headquarters in hell to keep an eye on the eternal punishment of his victims. Although a creature, his evil was, if anything, stronger than God’s good, because look at all the wickedness and harm in this world.

Later I learned that at the cross Jesus defeated Satan and his kingdom of darkness by destroying his one weapon, death. Of course that didn’t do much to mitigate the effects of evil in this world, which we’d just have to live with until Christ returns and burns the whole thing with fire.
Hang on ’til then, my soul. Your redemption draweth nigh.

Based on what I’ve since learned in Scripture, I missed a few key points.
For instance, evil is not nearly as powerful as I thought, and the kingdom of darkness is not as permanent.
Satan has less freedom and his reign has indeed ended.
This holds true for everyone in the whole world, saints and sinners alike.

But for saints, the news is even better.
Death, with its great, gaping maw, far from devouring finally, simply transfers us into a new and better world.
Satan, while worthy of respect, is not to be feared. As Jesus said, greater is the One with power to cast into hell, who is not Satan, who will himself be cast into the Lake of Fire. His menace is mere posturing,
If we look deeper into the accounts of Satan in Scripture, we see that he must ask permission of God to do what he does, whether Job or Peter or Jesus he set his eye on. He knows his time is short. He does not know everything, or he would not have let Jesus be crucified, for God designed the cross as the means of salvation.

So who is greater, and whose ways triumph?
God is good, we have seen, and all his ways are good.
That, my friends, is why good always wins over evil.

But still we cannot say that evil is without effect. We see it all the time in the news, around the world, in our own hearts. The cruelty, inhumanity, selfishness and pride that cause so much pain and ruin are undeniably evil. But we can’t attribute them entirely to an invisible spirit-being called the devil. From Jesus’s own lips we know that the evil done by men (and women) comes out of their own hearts, whether evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, or blasphemies.

And here’s the secret I learned from Scripture: Satan has no power to act independently in this world.
He is constrained by the need to use people to do his work.
He takes advantage of one’s unrepented evil and magnifies it to serve his own schemes. Consider Herod slaughtering the baby boys in Bethlehem, an atrocity predicated upon his uneasiness in wearing the crown of Israel. His fear of a rightful prince was the evil in his heart that Satan exaggerated in his attempt to cut off the Christ child as soon as he was born.
Likewise, the crucifixion of Christ, the grossest miscarriage of justice, was predicated upon the religious rulers’ (evil) antipathy to losing their self-righteous position of influence.
Judas Iscariot was a known thief, whose betrayal of Jesus was predicated upon his greed. Too late he realized what he had exchanged for coin. 

How does this relate to us today? We are no less riddled with evil than people in Bible times. We have the advantage of the indwelling Spirit, thank God, but apart from constant submission to him for transformation into the image of Christ, we can—and will—be used by Satan and his minions to achieve his lying, stealing, killing, destroying purposes in the world. This is what’s behind every church split. Every family conflict. Every broken relationship—in the church and in the world.

Therefore I urge you, saints of the Most High, bring your heart every day, every hour, to the throne of grace. Let him cleanse you and replace your brokenness, your ignorance, and your unmet needs with his power and truth and love. These are not nice-to-haves in the happy hereafter. They’re crucial armor in the here and now. Let’s not be those who put ourselves and our desires first, and end up serving the kingdom of darkness.

And the next time you’re caught in confusion between the goodness of God and the wickedness of others (even Christians), turn to God and simply cry, “Help me!”
Be assured that there is no one like our good God, who rides the heavens to help his own.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Ps 119.85

The proud have dug pits for me, which is not according to your law. Ps 119.85 

This reminds me of the Swiss Family Robinson movie in which the little boy built a tiger trap by digging a pit and covering it with reeds. The family pooh-poohed his scheme, until they had a real live tiger on their hands.
This is the kind of trap that the proud were building for David. His enemies set up seemingly safe situations to ensnare him and bring him down. One of the hazards of being king, I suppose, or of being God’s chosen instrument. More than once, David was betrayed by enemies who thought they knew better than God.

I wonder if we aren’t sometimes like that with other Christians. We assume that the way things are is God’s perfect plan. After all, did God not send Samuel to anoint Saul?
But God also sent Samuel to anoint David, and not everyone knew that.
Doeg the Edomite didn’t, so he reported that David had been to Nob. By his hand, eighty-five priests were slaughtered at the command of God’s enemy, the reigning king of Israel.
The people of Engedi, and again the Ziphites, likewise reported to Saul when David hid in their areas. Thanks to David’s own integrity, he would not harm the Lord’s anointed king. Both times, God showed David to be the better man and under divine protection.

In fact, God used Saul for specific purposes in establishing the kingship in Israel. He did not make a mistake in choosing him, nor did he have to resort to Plan B because Saul turned out to be inadequate. I think this may be what David understood, and what stayed his hand when he might have destroyed Saul. He trusted that God knew what he was doing with two anointed kings at once, and that only God could know the right time to pass the crown.

But if we are like Saul, who thought the throne must be held by his own merits, or like his supporters who saw David as a threat, we may find ourselves opposing God himself. It has happened before, and to the best of men.

I refer to Jesus, of course. The religious leaders of his day could not fathom that this backwater itinerant preacher was anything more than trouble. They were the righteous keepers of the Law, the ones whom God favored—with the wealth and position in society to prove it. Surely if Yahweh were doing something in Israel, he would do it through them, or at least let them in on it. Therefore, they concluded, Jesus was not from God.

Could they have been more wrong?

They could not deny that Jesus was a man with unprecedented power over the natural and supernatural realms. He cursed fig trees and they died. He calmed storms. He multiplied bread. He stretched withered hands and healed chronic illness.
He also sent demons into pigs and released people from unclean and evil spirits. Demons actually spoke to him, and he answered them, and they obeyed him.
No, Jesus was not an ordinary man, but since he could not have been sent by God, he must therefore be working under the power of the devil.
Jesus called this ridiculous, for so it was.
Still they did not challenge their first conclusion about God’s ways.

Jesus also spoke with authority about the things of God. Time after time they sent representatives to listen to him and question him about what he was teaching. They were certain that he must be teaching contrary to the Law of Moses, since he was not from God. Yet he repeatedly pointed to the Law and the Prophets whenever they set up their quizzes—about resurrection, about righteousness, about taxes, about eternal life. He agreed or corrected based on the Law. He told the people to do what the Pharisees said because they represented the Law.

More than that, they watched his behavior and found fault with many human traditions regarding the Sabbath—but never with the Law itself. They observed that his disciples picked grain as they walked. They didn’t like that he healed in the synagogue, or told the healed paralytic to pick up his mat and go home, or restored sight to a man born blind. All this bothered the Pharisees, but did not violate the Sabbath.
Likewise they did not like that Jesus and his disciples failed to respect other traditions, such as fasting or ritual hand-cleansing.

From the curious among them, like Nicodemus who inquired at night, to the fearful who would not speak of him lest they be put out of the synagogue, Jesus forced the issue of righteousness through faith in him or by keeping the Law. As time went on, and Jesus grew in popularity and more directly opposed religious hypocrisy, they became desperate. They created traps for him, like the woman caught in adultery and brought before him to see if he would contradict the Law.

Rightly the psalmist calls such people proud and self-righteous, ultimately hypocrites who in the name of the Law do not uphold the Law.

Let’s not be one of them.
Leave room for God to be doing more than we see. For others to have another place than we can fathom.
Remember Paul’s admonition that God uses the foolish to shame the wise, and the weak to shame the strong.
And if we boast, let it not be in our wisdom or strength or wealth but in our knowledge and understanding of God as one who delights to practice steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth.
That, after all, is what the Law is all about.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Ps 119.84

How many are the days of your servant? When will you execute judgment on those who pursue me for harm? Ps 119.84 

We in our 21st century western world don’t relate well to the culture of the Bible.
It seems harsh and irrelevant compared to our fast-paced, technology-centered way of life.
They’re farmers.
They offer animal sacrifices.
They habitually fall into idolatry.
They throw rocks at people until they’re dead.
They’re always at war.
The list goes on.

No doubt this explains why many people have a hard time reading, let alone understanding, the Old Testament. I have to say, though, that while this was once true of me, it is no longer. I got past it when I started to see the Old Testament as an earthly depiction of spiritual reality. It became less about facts, like dates and names and places and history and geography, although that’s all in there, and more about what it tells us about who God is, how the world he created works, and what it’s like to be his chosen people. Because that’s what we are in Christ.

So go back to our list of disconnects.

Reality—The spiritual realm has nothing to do with technology, and being outside of time, has no sense of hurry or worry. We live in a day when the kingdom of God is already and not yet. Christ has been raised to the right hand of the Father and rules all things according to his purposes. He has defeated his enemies and is even now preparing a new heaven and a new earth for his chosen ones to inherit. This is the frame for all we experience in this world, fitting us for our eternal destiny either with him in glory, or with the devil and his angels in the Lake of Fire. This will come to pass as surely as the day dawns and the evening star shines. Whatever we humans get up to in the course of the planet’s history makes no difference to the purposes of God which he accomplished in Christ.

Agriculture—Planting, harvest, seeds, rain water, trees, vines, wineskins, olive pressing. Scripture uses them not because Israelites farmed but because farming models the way life happens. Things grow in nature but this is chaotic. For societies (read, the kingdom of God) to grow and prosper, a suitable food supply is essential. They need good soil, and sunshine, and water. In due time, crops appear and the harvest matures. That’s Life in the Kingdom, not just ancient agriculture. Spiritual life works on the same principles and watching nature helps us understand that.

Blood sacrifices—Giving the best of one’s flock was truly a sacrifice, as it represented future prosperity. Furthermore, only blood can atone for death-meriting offenses. We all know the spiritual parallel between Christ who offered his body and blood for the sins of the world, and the yearly atoning sacrifice of an unblemished lamb for the sins of the chosen people.

Idolatry—We may not bow down to statues, but just watch people at the Super Bowl. Or checking their stocks. Or constantly on their cell phones.
We sacrifice our children to our goals and leisure, whether we abort them or neglect them or abandon them altogether.
We live as if the medical system gives health, the education system gives wisdom, finances give security, sex gives love, and so on for many other false gods.
We spend our time and money and effort and every other resource pursuing the “favor” of these gods, and end up like the people in Jeremiah’s day, with broken cisterns that hold no water when we could have had the true fountain of living water.

Law—We may not literally stone sinners, but if we’re honest, we’re quick to hold others to a code of law, whether it’s how a good Christian should behave, or what sins non-Christians commit. We judge and condemn without mercy. We bar sinners from our “camp” and have nothing to do with them. We look at people in our families and communities, in our nation and our world, and turn our backs because they are “spiritual Gentiles.” Jesus died for them, yes, but it’s not our place to live with them. We’re supposed to keep ourselves apart, aren’t we?
That’s all wrong, and the Old Testament tells us so. Just as the Israelites were aliens in the foreign land of Egypt, so we were once alienated from God until he delivered us into his own Kingdom. Dare we exclude others from a privilege none of us deserve?

Warfare—Sadly the modern church is so confused by spiritual warfare that we range from denying the devil even exists, or at least that he’s at work, to being obsessed with every little misfortune as a demonic scheme. This is perhaps one of the areas where the Old Testament can be most helpful to us.
It shows all sorts of enemy strategies to harm the people of God and to thwart his purpose on earth, from invoking curses like Balaam to raising empires like Assyria and Babylon.
It also shows all kinds of ways that God sends his people to defeat the enemy, from ambushes to feints to head-on clashes of armies.
God himself often intervenes in various ways, from shouting from heaven to stirring the tops of trees to drowning them in the sea.
Don’t be na├»ve. We are at war even now in the spiritual realm. Learn to fight from the warriors of old, the mighty men who rallied to the Anointed King.

In this context I submit today’s verse. Those who “pursue us for harm” are not necessarily people. In fact they rarely are. Remember we do not wrestle with flesh and blood. That is, people aren’t the enemy. They are instruments in the hand of the enemy. Like David who had physical enemies, we sometimes face the future with discouragement because of the things in our life that still trip us up. We ask like him, when will God execute judgment against our enemies?

Remember I told you that Jesus has already triumphed at the cross? He has.
Nevertheless his enemies are our enemies, and during this window of time called the Church Age, they run about in this world making war on the saints. They’re a defeated foe yet still holding on to their battle strategies.
It’s our job as Christian warriors to rout them and destroy their plans. We’re here to invade the kingdom of darkness, to push past even the gates of Hell to do it. Our victory is assured despite skirmishes and full-out clashes of armies, whether it’s one little life that’s delivered or one nation won for the Gospel. Powers and principalities will bow at the Name of Jesus, and enemy strongholds of oppression, greed, malevolence or whatever will tumble. Jesus has already won.

Know that your days as a servant are numbered. Oh please, don’t waste them! Use each one to invade enemy territory—in the life of a child, in politics, in kindness, in any way you see the darkness winning.
Don’t be bound by enemy schemes or paralyzed by a sense of powerlessness.
The truth is, as Moses told ancient newborn Israel, the Lord is a warrior, and he will fight for you.
His omnipotent right hand works righteousness for his people.
You will not wait forever to see his vengeance on your enemies. He comes quickly to release you so that you may serve as his child in the kingdom of his Son.

If you don’t believe me, read the Old Testament and see.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Ps 119.83

For I have become like a wineskin in smoke, yet I do not forget your statutes. Ps 119.83 

The first thing I did was google “wineskins in smoke.”
It turns out that this phrase refers to the ancient practice of hanging wineskins among the upper tent supports. Because smoke collected inside the top of the tent, this unintentionally exposed wineskins to drying and hardening. Not a good thing.

To what use, then, does David put this metaphor?
Pretty simply, he’s talking about the wear and tear of serving God in the everyday.
Yes, life is hard and troubles come. We embrace seasons of suffering knowing God will make us better people.
But if we’re honest, even simple service, doing good and helping others, gets old. It takes its toll, and we lose the natural vibrancy of peace and willing servanthood.
We start to show the effect of being “hung up in smoke.”
If it goes on too long, our souls become parched and shriveled.
We don’t want to care about anyone else, and couldn’t if we tried.
We don’t want to give one more… anything, time, money, prayer, effort.
It’s all so exhausting because we don’t have any reserves left.
Worse, even the capacity to be restored seems gone.
The effort involved in getting to a place of rest feels like more than it’s worth.
This is not just burnout, this is wineskins in smoke.

And, it has nothing to do with whether or not we read our Bibles, or put on worship music or go to church or pray. It’s about the impact of the ongoing drain of protracted service on the psyche. Christian life is one of service but we are not primarily the Lord’s servants. Keeping our eye on our true calling as sons and daughters is a start but not enough if we don’t know how to live like one.
Without time dedicated just to being with Christ, we will end up unusable and fruitless.
This is more than squeezing devotionals in around ministry demands. I’m talking about walking away from the whole business, leaving others to manage as best they can while we get away to whatever recharges us.
Personally, I recommend Jesus.

This is perhaps one of the greatest dangers of leadership, Christian or otherwise. The souls of those who lead need  tending, but so often it’s the last consideration. Whether it’s Moses setting up some lower courts, or Jesus getting alone to pray on a mountain through the night, great leaders distribute the work so they can get alone with God for extended times of renewal and vision-catching.

Here’s the key. What exactly renews the soul? What sends us back ready to labor on with fresh energy and inner strength? Is it not a view of God and what he can do through us? Is that not vision? And where do we find these except in the unadulterated presence of God himself?

Well, wouldn’t you know, there’s a double meaning in the word for smoke, sometimes translated cloud.
Think of the pillar that accompanied the Israelites through the wilderness. By night it was fire and by day a pillar of cloud/smoke. Of course it wasn’t earthly smoke or water vapor, but the visible presence of God.

Moses went up the mountain into that cloud. Forty days later, he still had not returned, but when he did, his face shone from the glory of God to which he had been exposed. That’s what happens to godly leaders who spend time in the smoke, not of extended service, but of God’s glorious and holy presence. His glory shines on our faces.

From that time on, whenever they talked, the Lord appeared in this cloud over the Tent of Meeting as long as Moses visited.

When the ark of the covenant was first brought into the Tabernacle, the presence of the Lord took up residence in the Holy of Holies in the cloud. Think about it. His presence was so real and so powerful that the priests could not conduct their service.

The same thing happened when Solomon finished the temple in Jerusalem and dedicated it to the Lord. The cloud again filled the temple, keeping the ministers from fulfilling their duties.

What about us? When’s the last time God showed up so strongly we couldn’t carry on with church as normal?
Church buildings aside, when’s the last time you dedicated your ministry to the Lord and he showed up with so much presence that you couldn’t keep doing business as usual? Of course this isn’t an everyday occurrence. It only happened a few times in the history of Israel. But it ought to happen once in a while.
How different this is from our usual pattern. Instead of going on vacation or taking more leadership classes, we need to seek God’s manifest presence in our ministries. I promise, he will show up. We will be restored, and those to whom we minister will be helped.

If we start with the premise that we’re merely vessels of God’s grace, we will never find ourselves working hard to get refilled. In wisdom we return to the fountain, as often as necessary, and allow the Spirit to fill us and pour us out.

Think about this. Wineskins that are full do not dry out no matter how long they remain in the smoke and heat.

Ps 119.81

My soul faints for your salvation, but I hope in your word. Ps 119.81

It surprises me a little that David does not say that he has faith in God’s words. Or trusts in them. Rather, he puts his hope in them. I think there’s a big difference.

We as Christians think of salvation primarily in terms of eternity. We want to escape eternal damnation, and so we put our trust in Christ’s atoning sacrifice applied to our sin. This is good, and effective, and everyone should do the same.

But this is not how David, or indeed any of the Old Testament characters thought of salvation. I say this because Jesus himself said that they longed go see and hear what his disciples saw and heard, and did not. The had heard of Emmanuel—God With Us—and wanted to experience him. But none of them imagined, not even Isaiah himself, that Emmanuel would be the ransom for humanity’s sin.

So what did they think salvation was, when they cried out to be saved? More often than not, they were in a muddle. Or in danger. Or under oppression. They wanted relief from the difficulties of this world. They were in over their heads and could not help themselves out of the quagmire.

That was the job of a god, after all. Gods are the ones who control all the stuff that’s bigger than puny little humans. Weather, crops, natural disasters, enemy nations, even love and wine… you name it, gods are in charge of it.

Trials are exhausting, emotionally and spiritually. With even a little maturity, we manage to hold on, putting a good face on it, planning to persevere until God shows up. When he doesn’t come, it gets harder and we push ourselves with prayer and Scripture. When he still doesn’t come… It gets old. I’m not necessarily talking about a few days or weeks or months. Some of us struggle for years with a trial that we cannot control. Like Job, we know we don’t deserve it, but that’s as far as our faith gets us. We end up learning a lot about ourselves and about our God in such circumstances.

But none of that makes it any easier to endure. When your soul is so weak you can barely pray, what are you supposed to do? Faith, if we have it at all, hangs on by a thread. It certainly doesn’t sustain us. Trusting God is meaningless because we start to doubt his presence and, if we’re honest, we sort of believe he’s responsible if not for causing our trouble than for not preventing it or ending it.

This is when David chose to put his hope in God’s word. He did not look at his circumstances but in what God had already made known—about his character and his ways. Listen to the song Israel sang as they went to meet God, “I   wait for Yahweh, my soul waits, and in his word I hope; my soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning. O Israel, hope in Yahweh! For with Yahweh there is steadfast love.”

Is your situation making you faint with longing for relief?
Remember that our God saves even now, not just after we die.
Do you know what Jesus means? Yahweh saves.
This is the name the angel told Mary, and later Joseph, to give him.
Put your hope in God’s word and start to sing. Salvation that counts is found in no other Name, both in this world and in the next.