Who is Right?
Believers are often divided by various philosophical and political leanings. Each group claims their perspective is the only correct way, and all others are wrong.
God has something to say to us as we “gloat” in the idea that we are right and all others are wrong. In the midst of our political and philosophical pursuits, we may have forgotten God and what He wants.
The psalmist Asaph ends the 50th Psalm with the words of God: “The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me; to the one who orders his way rightly I will show the salvation of God!” (v.23)
This last verse comes after a long discourse about the majesty of God followed by a disclaimer regarding their worship. Basically, God said that the beneficiary of their worship is not really God — as if God needed anything from them. They just need to be thankful for what they have received and be obedient.
The final sentence in the Psalm identifies the crux of the message: “To one who orders his way rightly I will show the salvation of God!”
The people who are called by God’s name are expected to order their lives according to His ways. For the Israelites, they did good with their religious expressions of worship. But their lives did not reflect God’s principles of love, justice, and mercy.
Our good religious practices are often a veneer that covers up and blinds us from seeing things within us that displeases God. Those things can be disturbing to outright evil — either in thought or deed. God wants us to remove the “religious veil” and look within and remove all that displeases him. Then he will show his salvation. There flows healing, peace, joy, and true fredom.
Isn’t God full of compassion and love? I cannot imagine God saying “don’t pray” or “don’t intercede.” Hasn’t God always invited people to pray and intercede for others? It was God who often took the initiative to invite people to pray and to have a relationship with Him.
“As for you, do not pray for this people, or lift up a cry or prayer for them, and do not intercede with me, for I will not hear you” (Jer 7:16).
But throughout the seventh chapter of Jeremiah, God reminds them that God was persistent in pursuing them and directing them to act with justice and mercy. He values these important characteristics and wants his people to emulate him.
God’s desire was that his people would be fully devoted to him and serve him only. But the people had walked away from the covenant. They fought the God who delivered them and saved them from the hand of their enemies.
When God sent prophets to them, it was an act of his mercy and kindness. But the people refused to listen. They hardened their hearts and continued in their rebellion.
Now the question still remains: “Why did God tell Jeremiah not to pray for the people? Was it because he had completely forsaken them? God knows that for his plans to work out, their sins need to be punished. The 70 years of exile and captivity planned for the people could not be revoked. Rather it was necessary for God’s plans to be accomplished.
So as we pray, listen to the voice of the Lord and discern his plans. Know God’s plans for the person or people for whom you are praying. Then pray with fervor.
It is better to be confident than to be fearful. But there is something called foolish confidence. Such people are confident but their confidence has no foundation. The Psalmist calls it “foolish confidence”.
“This is the path of those who have foolish confidence; yet after them people approve of their boasts” (Psa 49:13).
Those with foolish confidence can look bold, courageous, and determined. Such people will be highly regarded in church and society. They will be esteemed as great. Surely, they will enjoy much popularity due to their flamboyance. But the reality is that all their pomp will crumble as the weight of life increases and the burdens become too much to bear.
But when your confidence is in the Lord, He will sustain you. Life may be full of troubles, but God will uphold you.
In Psalm 49:13, the foolish confidence of people seems to invite a following. No matter how foolish, there will be many to follow that path. This following makes it even more palatable. The numbers seem to give notoriety to their foolish boasts.
True confidence is confidence in the Lord’s ability to sustain you, to uphold you, and lead you in the path that is best for you.
How Safe Are You?
You thought you were safe. You were in your area of safety and thought everything was perfectly in order. In such a situation, you have no fear of things going bad. You are in your safety zone.
For the Israelites, Jerusalem was their zone of safety. They had nothing to fear. The walls of the city were large, strong, and secure. But in the first verse of Jeremiah 6, the people are encouraged to flee from Jerusalem for safety. Their “safety zone” was no longer safe.
But even as this terrible judgment is pronounced, God wants to speak to his people, but no one was willing to listen. Here is what God says about his people’s response.
To whom shall I speak and give warning,
that they may hear?
Behold, their ears are uncircumcised,
they cannot listen;
behold, the word of the LORD is to them an object of scorn;
they take no pleasure in it. (Jer 6:10 ESV)
God’s desire for his people was to live in safety and in plenty. That’s why he brought them into the “land flowing with milk and honey.” But for that to remain a reality, they needed to “find rest” in God’s ways. But they refused. You can notice God’s heart for his people in the following words.
Thus says the LORD:
“Stand by the roads, and look,
and ask for the ancient paths,
where the good way is; and walk in it,
and find rest for your souls.
But they said, ‘We will not walk in it.’ (Jer 6:16 ESV)
Nothing more needs to be spoken. The next step is for us to take.
The Real Fortress
Ever felt like running? Life becomes too much to bear and you just want to run away someplace. “Fight or Flight” is the common term for what we feel when under pressure. When we’re too tired and afraid, the only thing to do is run.
Israel ran to neighboring nations and to their gods for protection. Up to that time, they looked to the strong and stable walls of Jerusalem as a fortress. But when they needed protection, even those strong walls were not strong enough. The solution they needed was not there.
In Psalm 48:3, the singers proclaim that God is to be their fortress. “Within her citadels, God has made himself known as a fortress.” The idea is not that God will provide a fortress, but that God himself will be our fortress. And it is God himself that we are to run to in the time of distress.
There is no doubt that the city of Jerusalem was their fortress. They knew that they could run to Jerusalem from danger or any form of attack from invaders. But their hearts had gone away from God for several generations already.
The psalmist is clear that “within” the citadels (fortress), God has made himself known as a fortress. Thus their fortress is truly a fortress because God is in their midst and He is their ultimate fortress.
Stay well connected to God. He is with you. Always.
Whenever I read through the pages of the Old Testament, I see the mercy of God clearly portrayed. But many people see destruction, judgment, and punishment all over the pages. These acts of punishment are preceded by long periods of merciful waiting. God waits patiently for the return of his people to ap pepper relationship with Him.
In fact, God is looking for an excuse to save, redeem, and provide a way out of the impending destruction. “Run to and fro through the streets of Jerusalem, look and take note! Search her squares to see if you can find a man, one who does justice and seeks truth; that I may pardon her.” (Jer 5:1 RSV) Even after the search, God could not find a righteous person as an excuse to release them.
But even when God commands destruction, it is enveloped with mercy. “Go up through her vine-rows and destroy, but make not a full end; strip away her branches, for they are not the Lord’s.” (Jer 5:10 RSV)
The term “but make not a full end” is soaked with mercy and grace – and most of all, love. God’s kind of love. His love is relentless and everlasting. Even when they continue in disobedience, he punishes them with a strand of mercy.
This is why God says “But even in those days, says the Lord, I will not make a full end of you.” (Jer 5:18 RSV)
Who is in Control?
“God reigns over the nations; God sits on his holy throne.” (Psalm 47:8)
How can we say that God reigns over the nations when every nation on the face of the earth does its own thing? Each nation orders its affairs as they please. They all don’t seem to follow the Lord’s direction in any way.
When we look at history, we see ancient nations that were in many ways similar to the nations of today. They lived as they pleased, not thinking of God nor His requirements. But we see that God was active in the midst of the nations.
God expects leaders to act justly and show mercy. But he allows them to make their own choices and gives them sufficient warnings as well. He also allows them time to act, repent, and come to alignment with His requirements. These “warnings” may be through various means. Sometimes through direct prophecy, natural calamities, or by way of other nations bringing conflict.
In various ways, God speaks to the nations dictating them to his ways. This he does because he is King over all kings and has ultimate authority.
Even today, God speaks to every nation on earth directing them to his ways. God wants them to do justice, show mercy, and walk humbly before God. Things are no different from the past – Each nation does as they wish. But God remains on his holy throne.
In a similar way, God speaks to us. He instructs and guides us in his ways. Ultimately, he wants a relationship with each one of us. That is his ultimate aim.
So the invitation is open to everyone. The God who reigns over the nations sits on his throne, but he loves each person and wants a relationship with us. How will you respond?
What if Repentance was the Norm?
What if the Israelites had cried out to the Lord in repentance? What if they had returned to Yahweh in sackcloth and ashes? What if they had turned from their wicked ways?
If their repentance began with kings and priests, then the people might have followed that pattern. That would have changed the entire trajectory of the land. The Lord would have been pleased with their behavior. The response of their leaders might have been accepted as the repentance of the nation.
But they didn’t. They somehow believed the narrative that God would ignore their wickedness. They somehow managed to compartmentalize their faith and life. As their Father, He desired nothing more from his children than to return to him in love and obedience.
“If you return, O Israel, declares the Lord, to me you should return…” (Jer 4:1) But where else can they return but to the one who created them and appointed them for a higher purpose? That purpose was for them to be a light to the nations. (Jer 49:6)
If they had pursued their calling to be a light to the nations, their future might have been different. Instead of focusing on themselves, they would have been focused on God and his plans for them and the rest of the world.
Identify your purpose and calling in life. Then stick to it.
Vision Received, Grown, Accomplished
Vision is given to those who will take it to heart and live it out in their lives. Some try to make an impact using the vision. Others simply try to make a living using the vision. Still, there are those who try to get ahead of others at any cost. Some are out to create a Monument to themselves so others remember them as a great person who accomplished the vision. Then there are those who simply wish to be obedient to the call of God on their lives.
God usually gives His vision in a capsulated form, and rarely in its fullness. Through various experiences, God begins to expand the vision. Actually, God expands the person’s heart through painful experiences. Once the heart expands, there is more room to accommodate God’s vision.
Vision may be time-bound, where it is set for a particular time. It may also be focused on a particular goal that is quantified and reachable. Vision can also be an ongoing process. This becomes more like a Mission statement that is the set purpose of an organization. Such a vision is an ongoing process.
Jesus set the vision for his disciples and expected them to make disciples of all people. This is an ongoing task for generations to come. We’ve got to live for the vision that God has set for us. Anything less will never satisfy. We’ve got to make our choice. We don’t get another chance.
Not happening. Not possible. How can we be still with all that’s happening around us? How about in our own lives? It’s too much. There’s no way to be still.
“Be still, and know that I am God.
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!”
The LORD of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah(Psalm 46:10–11 ESV)
Another way to look at this concept is, “Be still because I am God.” As God, he has the final say. Whatever anyone else says, God’s perspective is final. Anything that others would do can be undone by God. Just because he is God. So be still.
Be still because God will be exalted among the nations. Nations seem to wield a lot of power. It’s the power of the collective force of wealth, knowledge, wisdom, and cooperation. Those are some of the basic things that exalt a nation. But after a while, nations can become arrogant and think they can do anything (practically). But God always has the upper hand over all nations. So, be still.
Be still because God will be exalted on the earth. The forces of nature seem to have a mind of their own. Rain, floods, Cyclones, Hurricanes, earthquakes, volcanoes, tsunamis, and other natural calamities are beyond our control, but God has ultimate power over the earth. He created it. The forces of nature can be fierce and fearful. But our God has ultimate control over nature. So be still.
Be still because the Lord of hosts is with us. This means he rules the unseen army of angels that God created to be at his service. This Lord of hosts is with us. He is our father. We are his children. All the resources available to the Father are also available to us. So be still.
Be still because the God of Jacob is our fortress.l He will be our defense against all that comes against us. Yes, you will have enemies. You’re in a war. That’s why the Lord of hosts (the armies of heaven) is with us. Since we are in a war, there will be attacks, calamities, and even casualties. That’s part of warfare. But God is our fortress. We can run to him anytime. He gives strength, energy, and protection. So be still.