“Lift up your eyes to the heavens, And look on the earth beneath. For the heavens will vanish away like smoke, The earth will grow old like a garment, and those who dwell in it will die in like manner; but My salvation will be forever, And My righteousness will not be abolished.”
We use filters every day to keep things pure. A coffee filter keeps the grinds out of the cup, an air filter helps to eliminate dirt and pollens from the air and a water filter keeps harmful impurities out of our drinking water. Isaiah suggests that it is a good idea for us to have a filter for our eyes. He declares that we should look up at the heavens and down upon the earth. The purpose of his “eye filter” is to help us see the difference between the temporal and the eternal. Too often we get fixated upon things that will not last while ignoring the eternal. Jesus echoed the words of Isaiah when He said; “Heaven and earth will pass away but my words will by no means pass away.” Peter wrote that the heavens will melt with a fervent heat and John spoke of a new heaven and earth replacing the one we live in.
I wonder how are decision making might change if we kept in mind that much of what we are living for will not last. So much energy is spent trying to gain things that are passing while we neglect the things that are eternal. Jesus exhorted us not to waste our lives storing up treasures on earth but to live for His kingdom and store up treasures in heaven. The Bible explains that when we use our time, talents and treasures to invest in the spreading of the gospel or assisting others in growing in Christ, we are in fact investing in the eternal.
As you go about your day look for ways to invest in the kingdom of God.
“They lavish gold out of the bag, and weigh silver on the scales; They hire a goldsmith, and he makes it a god; They prostrate themselves, yes, they worship. They bear it on the shoulder, they carry it and set it in its place, and it stands; From its place it shall not move. Though one cries out to it, yet it cannot answer Nor save him out of his trouble.”
In Isaiah’s time, it was a common practice, among the people, to fashion gods out of metal, wood, or clay. These little idols formed by their hands, were a reflection, not of the God of Scripture, but rather of the imaginations of men. Their idols were designed to bring them comfort in times of trouble. When things became difficult, they might hold their idol close like a small child with a stuffed doll. The problem, of course, was the comfort these idols brought was merely psychological. These graven images could not heal a sickness, provide during times of need, deliver from oppression, or give eternal life.
Today, it is just as common for people to create gods who will give them comfort and ease their anxieties. The problem is, these manmade gods really provide nothing more than the comfort a child derives from a favorite blanket or a teddy bear.
Instead of fashioning a god to satisfy our emotions, wouldn’t it be better to get to know the God who created the heavens and the earth? He alone is the One who has what is necessary for us to make our way through life and into eternity,
“Look to Me, and be saved, All you ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other.”
“My bones are pierced in me at night, And my gnawing pains take no rest.”
One of the great quandaries we face in life is how to reconcile the problem of evil with what we understand about the nature of God. The Bible teaches us the God is love and that He cares about each of His children and desires what is best for us. At the same time life seems to teach that evil runs rampant and bad things happen to good people. When we see an evil person suffer we might be able to chalk it up to justice but when we see those we perceive to be innocent impacted by great difficulty we often scratch our heads in bewilderment, struggling to understand how a loving God could allow such things to happen. No doubt the experiences of Job fit into this category. If we are going to understand the problem of evil there are a few things we need to keep in mind.
First most of the things we regard as evil stem not from nature or an act of God but from the selfish desires of sinful men. We read of massacres taking place around the world which are driven by man’s drive for power or possessions. War, famine, starvation and the like are not a result of the hand of God but of men who refuse to submit their selfish will to the authority of God. Just the other day I was approached by a man whose friend was in a car accident where she almost lost her leg. The accident was caused by another driver who was texting. He asked me how God could allow this to happen. I find it interesting that an accident caused by a person who put self above the law and concern for others could be blamed on God. If we fail to see the real problem we will never find an adequate solution.
The story of Job presents us with an entirely different issue. The struggles he faced were not caused by men but allowed by God. As he stood in anguish because God allowed him to suffer even though he was by all standards a righteous man. In this case we want to ask how God could allow bad things to happen to a good man? It is important that we not only ask the question but that we are also willing to receive the answer. One thing we see in scripture is that what we perceive to be a bad thing is not always bad. The story of Joseph serves as a good illustration of this. We would all say that it is a bad thing if our brothers go on a jealous rampage, throw us into a pit and sell us off as a slave. We would all agree that it is a bad thing to be accused falsely of rape, sent to prison and forgotten in the dungeon. But that is partly because we cannot always see the big picture. God wanted to rescue Israel from famine so he strategically placed Joseph in a place where he could be selected as counselor to the king. It was the prison that prepared Joseph for the palace.
We are certain to face difficulties in this life. We do after all live in a fallen world with fallen people. But if we are willing to embrace the struggles we are facing we may find that what we thought to be a bad thing actually turned out to be a great benefit for the furtherance of God’s kingdom.
“Praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord, O my soul!
While I live I will praise the Lord;
I will sing praises to my God while I have my being.”
Praise is pretty common. If you have ever watched a sporting event you will hear it. One team goes ahead in the final seconds and the arena bursts forth in praise. Sometimes however the opposing team hits the final shot at the buzzer and the crowd is stunned into silence and the praise evaporates from the room.
Often we approach God in the same way. If all is well in the world we offer him praise, but as soon as things become difficult we have nothing to offer except complaint. We base our praise on our emotional condition rather than basing it upon who God is and what He has done. Regardless of what our day is like God is worthy of praise. Rain or shine, blessing or buffeting, joy or sadness, God is still the one who loves us, saved us and promises to work in and through us. If we are in the midst of a difficult season of life it is important that we do not lose sight of God or become consumed with our grief. Whatever hardship we are facing Jesus is still alive from the dead, seated at the right hand of the Father, sending forth His Spirit to work in our lives and preparing a place in eternity for us. While we cannot always celebrate our circumstances or our emotional condition we can certainly celebrate the amazing great and unending love of God who promises to be with us as we walk through the fire.
2 Chronicles 12:5
“Thus says the Lord:‘You have forsaken Me, and therefore I also have left you in the hand of Shishak. ’”
A few years ago I was traveling to West Africa to speak at a conference for pastors and church workers. Most of the preparation for the event took place on the ground in Africa leaving me to only be responsible for my own travel needs. Three documents are necessary for entrance into Ghana. First like all countries a passport is necessary, second Ghana requires a visa and finally an immunization card showing that I have received an inoculation against Yellow Fever. Having been to Ghana before I knew of the requirements, planned my trip and headed toward the airport. About fifteen miles into my drive I had an urge to check my documents. I pulled over and dug through my bag to find that I had a passport and visa but had left my immunization card behind. I was forced at that point to turn around and go get it.
Judah under Reheboam had forgotten the Lord. Their prosperity had made them comfortable and in their comfort they had neglected God. It wasn’t until things began to go bad that they realized they had left behind the most important aspect of traveling through this life. They had neglected the Lord. The solution was the same for them as it is for us. They must turn around. Stop going in a direction that led them away from the Lord and start moving in direction toward Him.
Perhaps you have been neglecting the Lord, perhaps you have been busy but have not been busy doing the things that will bring about eternal reward. Stop moving in a direction away from God, turn around and get busy following Jesus.
“O God the Lord, the strength of my salvation, You have covered my head in the day of battle.”
David was familiar with warfare. He had faced Giants and well as giant armies. He knew the dangers of hand to hand combat and there is little doubt that his body bore the scars of some of those battles. As a soldier, David also knew the importance of protecting his head. A wound to the forearm, although painful, was not deadly but a wound to the head could cost him his life. The same is true for us in the spiritual battles in which we are engaged. It is critical for the Christian that we learn to keep our head covered when under attack.
The bible describes Satan as the accuser of the brethren. As such he brings constant accusations against the child of God. Since God is unwilling to listen to his rants, he makes us his target. In the midst of our battles the devil sends a barrage of missiles into our minds seeking to defeat us. When we are struggling with sin he increases the level of temptation and when we fail he turns up the guilt. When we are discouraged he seeks to fill our minds with our weakness rather than allowing us to think about God’s strength. It is critical for the child of God that we allow the Lord to cover our head in battle. A friend of mine had a plaque hanging above his desk that read, “The next time the devil reminds you of your past remind him of his future.”
1 Chronicles 25:1
“Moreover David and the captains of the army separated for the service some of the sons of Asaph, of Heman, and of Jeduthun, who should prophesy with harps, stringed instruments, and cymbals…”
Worship is an important part of the life of the believer and the health of the local church. It is a time when we are able to take our eyes off ourselves and our circumstances and put them on the Lord. It is a time when we are able to declare the truths about the character and behavior of God in a way that brings Him glory and magnifies His name. It is often in these times of worship that we are able to see our lives from the proper perspective. Instead of seeing our circumstances as hopeless and ourselves as helpless we are able to see the God who can part seas, provide water in the desert or counsel the confused Christian. Worship is certainly a very important exercise for every follower of Christ.
That being said we find yet another value of worship tucked away in the narrative of the Chronicles. We are told that worship leaders were trained and appointed so they could prophecy with stringed instruments and percussions. Prophecy is when God speaks to His people and worship is one of the key mediums that God chooses to use to speak to us. Often when a believer will fix his attention upon the Lord and begin to pour out praise he will find that God speaks to him in an unexpected way.
There have been numerous times in my life, when in the midst of worship I, have sensed the voice of God speaking to my heart and directing my life. On one such occasion I was considering returning for a second trip to west Africa. My children were very young and the church was quite small and needed my attention, so I was struggling with the decision to go. As I sat in worship I recall singing a song about the faithfulness of God. I was almost overcome with the sense that God was calling me back to Africa. My fears, worries and concerns were somewhat alleviated when I realized that God was giving me the green light to go. As the years have passed and we have seen God accomplish so many wonderful things through the ministry in west Africa I am so thankful for that time of worship when God spoke prophetic word.