Business as Usual – Even in Disappointments

When we face disappointments in life, one of the ways we try to cope with them, is by withdrawing ourselves from our vocations. Many a times, we may keep the motions of work and life rolling, but it may be just passive.

When the people of Judah were taken into exile to Babylon – it offered them the right situation to sulk, become passive, and simply wait for their return to the promised land. It is not uncommon for us to take the easiest and the flimsiest of excuses and use it to stop performing. If that be so, then going into exile was a strong argument to suspend all activities except the bare minimum.

Is this the attitude that keeps many people in their vicious cycles of failure, defeat, and poverty?

However, God taught His people better. He had a vision for them in their days of exile.

He asked them to –

Build houses and live in them.

Plant gardens and eat their produce.

Get married and also see to it that the kids also get married, and that they would procreate.

Seek the welfare of the city where they would be dwelling and pray for that place.

This is God’s economic policy for His children.

No matter where you are – be it home or away from home in exile – there is no single day to be wasted in complaining and whining.

Get up and go about your work, your business. Build resources and also houses and gardens. Build your family life and raise children. Think, work, and pray for the welfare of the place where you are placed.

Yes, you may leave that place in God’s time. But being His blessed children, would you not be leaving it a much better place than you found it in the first place?

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Consolation in Exile

How do you react when you feel that things are not going according to what you desired for? How do you cope with situations that, even though you feel you deserve it, are difficult for you to bear?

One of the ways we react is by sulking and sulking is as old as childhood.

As we grow up we discover so many different ways to sulk and express our displeasure.

But even in our most difficult days and in the days of our utter exasperation God has a vision for us.

We need not sulk because we have a God who means the world to us. And if we ask, where is He, our God, in the days of our exile? The Answer is – He is with us, even into the furnace He comes with us.

The People of Judah were finding it difficult to come to terms with the exile situation. Punishment from God was OK, but exile into Babylon made no sense. But, that’s how God works. It is not enough to say that there is a meaning for all our experiences – for there are so many layers of meaning to every single thing that God allows and leads us into, and the purposes of God are so intertwined.

While the people were coming to terms with the only logical conclusion that they could draw, that they had lost it all, that unless they came back to the promised land in a short time – it would all be lost. God uses Jeremiah to say that the exile would not be over anytime soon. It would be the seventy years in Babylon, and then, God said, “I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place.” (Jer 29:10)

Moreover, to that distraught and shattered people God said: “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jer 29:11)

So, no matter what you are going through, or what you are anticipating ahead, God is telling you – “I know the plans I have for you, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”

Falling Short

When David received the promises from God concerning His offspring who would rule Israel after him and also build the temple that was proposed by David, God gives great and many assurances to sustain him, i.e., the son of David, and not reject him like Saul was rejected.

But history shows that in spite of all these great and many specific promises; Solomon, who succeeded David, manages to end up outside the grace of God, in apostasy.

Q1. Did the LORD God not know what would happen in the life of Solomon, or rather, what he would end up making of his life?

The answer is obviously, ‘Yes.’ God knew at the time of His speaking to David what would become of Solomon.

Q2. Then why did God say something that He knew would not be fully fulfilled in the life of the one who succeeded David?

The answer is very significant for us, because the promises of God concerning David’s son and the life of both David and Solomon which fell short are a witness to the divide between what God aspires, promises, and provides for every life and the inability to respond, receive, and appropriate them, by most of us.

What God says is absolutely and without doubt what can be realized by us, as we walk trusting Him and in His ways. However, the many choices we make can also make us fall short or fall out altogether. The failures of David had serious implications and bearings on his life and also on the life of his posterity. The many missteps of Solomon made him end in apostasy.

Yes, God is gracious and His purposes are great. But can we ever trust our ‘sinful nature?’

HE is Holy, HE is Good

In the 2nd book of Samuel chapter 6 we read – “David was angry” (v 8) and “David was afraid” (v 9). Now, why was David angry and why was he afraid? Because, God had struck down dead Uzzah who had ‘put out his hand to the ark of God and took hold of it’ when the oxen stumbled. The immediate vents of emotions – anger and fear – were natural reactions of a human being in such a predicament.

David’s intentions were good, to take the Ark of the Covenant to the place that had become the center of the government for his kingdom. It was symbolically a very significant thing. But the people of God had somehow sidelined the instructions of God, they failed to search the scriptures and had conveniently adopted a model based on the Philistines was of transporting the Ark that had once gone into their hands.

David, the scripture goes on to say, “was not willing to take the ark of the Lord” and “David took it aside to the home of Obed-edom.” (v 10)

So we read – “David was angry,” “David was afraid,” “David was not willing to take the Ark,” and “David took it aside to the home of Obed-edom.” Obed-edom the Gittite had hardly any choice, I think. Just imagine Uzzah is dead because of the Ark, David is afraid and unwilling, and the Ark is now in the home of Obed-edom.

The Ark of the Lord in the Old Covenant represented the most holy presence of God among His people. The serious injunctions were to remind the aspect of the most holy nature of God’s presence. And the placing of the Ark within the camp, or in the city, or for a period of time in the house of Obed-edom represented in clear terms the longing or yearning of God to be with His people.

So we have both the aspects – God wants to dwell with us but we should always ascribe the holiness that is due to His presence and name.

We don’t know what anybody thought when the Ark was kept in the home of Obed-edom. One thing is sure – there were not many takers. But then what happens,

The scripture says – “And the ark of the Lord remained in the house of Obed-edom the Gittite three months, and the Lord blessed Obed-edom and all his household.” (2 Sam 6:11)

Moreover, we read, “And it was told King David, “The Lord has blessed the household of Obed-edom and all that belongs to him, because of the ark of God.” (2 Sam 6:12)

Imagine that situation, when something that is considered a liability and has no takers. By some turn of events it falls upon you to keep that responsibility while everybody goes home thinking they have escaped the risk factor. But let me tell you, if that is something related to Yahweh God, – “The LORD God who blessed Obed-edom and all that belonged to Him will see to it that you, and all that belongs to you are blessed.”

Drawing Near To God

On Mount Sinai, the glory of God was manifested. The people were instructed to not come near. Limits were set and the people were warned again and again – to stand in reverence. When the glory was manifested, the people were afraid. They said – “do not let God speak to us, lest we die” (Ex 20:19). However, Moses on his part corrected the people and said, “Do not fear, for God has come to test you, that the fear of him may be before you, that you may not sin.” (Ex 20:20)

The verse says apparently contradictory things – ‘do not fear,’ and, ‘the fear of him may be before you.’ It is only an apparent contradiction as the meaning is quite clear to us. There is no need for God’s people to be terrified or be in fear. However, the all surpassing holiness and eternal greatness of God requires that we always live in reverence (fear) of Him.

There is nothing to fear because our God is inherently good and none of His actions are arbitrary. There is no trace of selfishness in Him or any shadow of evil.

And there is the need to fear in love and reverence, because our God is so good and He is so great. We should not break His heart and we cannot go against Him and have our way.

It is basically not about dying; rather it is so that the people of God may not sin. While the people spoke of dying, Moses told them it is for the purpose that they may not sin.

Exodus 20:21 says – “The people stood far off, while Moses drew near to the thick darkness where God was.”

Are we also standing far off, or are we drawing near – for in the New Covenant we have access to the very holy presence of God through His Son and our Savior Jesus Christ.

Come to the Table

The table of the Lord is a place for broken people to have communion with God. Whom all do we see there? There you see a traitor. There you see the one who would deny Him again and again. There you see those who are going to just run away.

You see a bunch of ordinary, broken fellows and you also see the unblemished, perfect Savior, who is going to be broken for them in a short while.

We hear no lengthy discourses. And he does not keep them hungry. He takes, blesses, breaks, and gives them the bread. He gives them the wine to drink.

And in offering them the bread and the wine, He is truly offering His own body and blood for them and also us, to be received with gratitude. To receive and partake and be made whole because of Him, because of what He is going to do.

When we come to His table to partake in the communion, we are nothing but broken people who come with the desire to experience more of His forgiveness, healing, and restoration. We have hope and are filled with gratitude – that His holy body was broken for our sake, and His precious blood was shed for us.

We have the Savior who died for the sheep; and we the sheep of His hand, eat Him and live, with the promise of living for ever.

Death, Move Aside – God is Our Help.

In the book of Jeremiah, chapter 26, we find a conspiracy against the life of the prophet Jeremiah.

Jeremiah 26:8 – “And when Jeremiah had finished speaking all that the Lord commanded him to speak to all the people, then the priests and the prophets and all the people laid hold of him, saying, “You shall die!….””

However, we read that, the officials and all the people said to the priests and the prophets, “This man does not deserve the sentence of death, for he has spoken to us in the name of the Lord our God.” (Jer. 26:16)

Following which certain elders recounted the ministry of two servants of God who prophesied doom but had different consequences for themselves and so also for the land.

Micah of Moresheth prophesied and king Hezekiah and all Judah repented before God. But when Uriah the son of Shemaiah prophesied likewise, king Jehoiakim struck him down.

In Jeremiah’s situation, it is written: “But the hand of Ahikam the son of Shaphan was with Jeremiah so that he was not given over to the people to be put to death.” (Jer. 26:24)

When we seek to do the work that God has called us for and entrusted us in His good pleasure, different factors can hinder us and also people may stand in opposition. Resistance, opposition, and discouragements can be fierce, very fierce.

However, today as you read this, let me tell you that God extends his amazing help to us, so that we can carry on in His work. Die – we all must, someday. Yeah! But today let us press on in the path that God has called us for. Let us persevere and strive to do the best we can in the fullness of the Holy Spirit for the glory of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

No Longer Powerless

We trust God in difficult circumstances, because He truly desires the very best for us! Faith is also looking beyond the pains that we go through and understanding that God has the best intentions for us. For God’s people pain is never the end. It is for them a precious and valuable process. It is a process that gives way to glory. The cross and the closed grave gave way to the empty grave and our resurrected Lord.

So our faith in the One who was crucified and resurrected requires us to be convinced that pain, or defeat, or even death is not the end. Therefore, let us lift up our eyes with hope and behold God’s amazing and wonderful help to be manifested for us.

When we remain desolate – the reason may be small or big – we give our circumstances tremendous power to keep us down and in gloom. Thus, we only end up keeping ourselves from being what God wants us to be. Should not we who believe and affirm boldly our faith in the resurrected Lord be able to look on our problems in the eye and manifest the very power that raises the dead, such power that God has granted us in the Holy Spirit.

Giving Ourselves to the One Who Gave Himself for Us

In giving to God, when we give of ourselves, our time, energy, abilities, or even our money, we give a portion of what we have.

Now and then, we do make great claims saying; “I surrender all…,” we are in truth so very possessive about both ourselves and what we have. We are insecure about giving it all. We manage to give only a very small portion of what we are, what we have.

There was a poor widow who came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny (Mark 12:42). Nobody, save Jesus, noticed – and He called His disciples to Him and said to them, “Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all that she had to live on.” (Mark 12:43,44)

What happens with most is – they wait forever to give like that. They also feel that the cause at hand is not worthy of their 100%.

Now God alone knows what happened to all the money in that offering box and especially the two copper coins. Nevertheless, God knew what that blessed widow had done and that what she had done was done unto Him.

Hence, you and I need not wait forever to give ourselves and what we have unto God. We need not even wait for tomorrow. Today can be that day when we offer ourselves to God – not according to our selfish size but in a true God sized generosity. Remembering that it is He who loved us and gave Himself, to die on the cross, for our sake.

Crushed by Pain to the Point of Death, But Raised by God.

‘Burdened by painful life situations’ and ‘being despaired of life itself’ are phrases that give us a kind of impression that goes for losers in life. Definitely, many think, people who pray, read their Bible, and go to church are above all such words of defeat.

And if at all any person expresses himself of herself in such manner, many sincerely hold, they need only to be advised to pray more, read the Bible more, and go to church more.

Having said that, how would we account for the fact that these phrases are the words of Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 1:8; where he goes on to say, in v.9, “Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death.”

This only shows us that no matter what the assumptions of people are, great sorrow and terrible despair do happen to God’s people. And, very possibly, life and living can become unbearable. Nothing done for relief helps them.

However, Paul also offers the reason with which he validated their painful and despairing experience of such great intensity. He says, “But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.” (2 Cor. 1:9b)

So, can we say that God does not allow suffering that we cannot bear? Does that simple statement contain in it all the experiences that we God’s people go through?

As much as I would like to agree with it – life, in reality, can be very painful and one may as well despair of life itself and feel as if one is carrying the death sentence.

But God is with us and such terrible experiences are to help us become the kind of people who do not rely on our own self but on God who raises the dead.