God’s Hand

Do not withhold good from those who deserve it when it’s in your power to help them. (Proverbs 3:27 NLT)

The ropes dug painfully into his armpits as he was lowered down into the dungeon. The air was damp and foul, and very little could be seen by the wan light of the late afternoon that entered in through the small opening above—an opening that kept getting smaller and smaller the further down he was lowered.

They said this dungeon had been a cistern that was now emptied of water…just how deep was it? Jeremiah did not know. At last he felt his feet touch the bottom. Well, there was no danger of him drowning—What his feet touched was not water…but mud: thick, cold and viscous into which Jeremiah sank.

Complete darkness engulfed him when they closed the cistern. At last he understood—he had been left to die there: Buried alive in mud and darkness, alone, and in the silence of the grave.

He must have struggled against panic. His heart and even his faith could have failed him with the realization that the evil men’s intent was that he should die in that pit of mire. To cry out for help was useless—had not king Zedekiah himself delivered Jeremiah to the hand of enemies? Besides, no one would be able to hear the feeble cries coming up from the pit. And if that wasn’t enough, the unpopular prophet had few friends, and none who could overturn the order of a king. Only one could help—and to him did Jeremiah cry out

But I called on your name, Lord, from deep within the pit. You heard me when I cried, “Listen to my pleading! Hear my cry for help!” Yes, you came when I called; you told me, “Do not fear.” (Lamentations 3:55-57 NLT)

***

But Ebed-melech the Ethiopian, an important court official, heard that Jeremiah was in the cistern. At that time the king was holding court at the Benjamin Gate, so Ebed-melech rushed from the palace to speak with him. “My lord the king,” he said, “these men have done a very evil thing in putting Jeremiah the prophet into the cistern. He will soon die of hunger, for almost all the bread in the city is gone.”

So the king told Ebed-melech, “Take thirty of my men with you, and pull Jeremiah out of the cistern before he dies.”

So Ebed-melech took the men with him and went to a room in the palace beneath the treasury, where he found some old rags and discarded clothing. He carried these to the cistern and lowered them to Jeremiah on a rope. Ebed-melech called down to Jeremiah, “Put these rags under your armpits to protect you from the ropes.” Then when Jeremiah was ready, they pulled him out. (Jeremiah 38:7-13 NLT)

***

Never walk away from someone who deserves help; your hand is God’s hand for that person. (Proverbs 3:27 MSG)

God could have easily sent an angel and delivered Jeremiah. God can use angels to feed the hungry, rescue the oppressed, speak up for truth, and spread the message of hope to the nations. But he gives us the opportunity to do this work, to be his hands, his feet, and be the means by which he gives blessings to others. That is why we are in the world. We are not told to be hermits and be holy by ourselves. The biggest blessing we can receive is that of being an agent—an ambassador—of God.

If Ebed-melech the Ethiopian had not heeded to the call of God and been brave enough to approach the king to plead Jeremiah’s cause, he might have ended up the way all the other king’s officials did: Taken captive by Nebuzaradan, dragged to Riblah in chains to face Nebuchadnezzar, and then put to death. But God had a special message for him; a promise that any of God’s children can claim if they do God’s bidding and are faithful to their trust.

“This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, the God of Israel, says: I will do to this city everything I have threatened. I will send disaster, not prosperity. You will see its destruction, but I will rescue you from those you fear so much. Because you trusted me, I will give you your life as a reward. I will rescue you and keep you safe. I, the Lord, have spoken!”(Jeremiah 39:16-18 NLT)

Have you claimed the privilege of being God’s hand for someone lately?

Long-Distance Relationship

I still remember the boy I loved. How can anyone ever forget the first requited love of their life?

It’s been years since then, and I’ve turned into a wry spinster of sorts. But still, I can’t forget random small memories of him. Like how, for example, he once caught me in a hallway as I passed, pulled me inside an empty classroom, and laughingly whispered a few bits of nonsense in my ear before letting me go on my way, with my face burning, because he’d just kissed me.

Ours was a tender relationship, with the blessing of our respective parents to boot. Who knows, maybe it would have fledged into something serious. Alas, it was not to be, because the inevitable happened—my first boyfriend moved away, ending the small gestures of affection that characterize puppy love, and leaving behind a little girl crying out for her first love.

* * *

I am the first to tell my friends that a long-distance relationship cannot work. Lovers’ promises of undying affection and devotion cannot survive the great divide of time and space. Or can they?

* * *

“…and be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20 NLT)

When I read the last chapter of Matthew a few months ago, I was incredibly perturbed. I felt a great and extreme sadness. How could anyone that loved Jesus, that walked with him, that enjoyed close friendship and communion with the Son of God not be overcome by the sorrow? Sure I knew about the logistics of the master plan—the Holy Spirit coming to earth as the comforter, etc. That wasn’t the point.

You see, I knew the singular pain that comes with the realization that things are not the same, and that the hope of eventually meeting up again is not enough to keep a relationship going.

* * *

“…I have loved you, my people, with an everlasting love. With unfailing love I have drawn you to myself” (Jeremiah 31:3 NLT)

If it were up to us humans to keep the relationship going (if it were based on our love and faithfulness), then surely whatever relationship we could have with Jesus would end soon after it sparks into being. But God’s love is as everlasting as God himself is.

I take hope in the knowledge that God himself is the guarantee of this relationship working out even when we can’t enjoy physical proximity. I believe that the ties of love that bind you and me to heaven are stronger—infinitely stronger than any human-forged ties. There is no beginning of His love, nor an end of it. It is boundless and ever present.

Physical separation is not enough to break such ties, and neither is our betrayal or our sin or our forgetfulness powerful enough a reason to break the love of God.

* * *

I bask in the knowledge that there is one who loves me greatly and tenderly. I read his love letters every day, and talk to him continually.

I’m 27 years old, my love life is a total wasteland. To most people I appear to be the one that disdains romance, who is proud of being the opposite of a man-magnet. A cynic. But truly, that’s all just a flimsy front.

My Heavenly Prince is the one that makes and keeps me hopelessly and incurably romantic.

The Prophet No One Really Knows About

At this time Uriah son of Shemaiah from Kiriath-Jearim was also prophesying for the Lord. And he predicted the same terrible disaster against the city and nation as Jeremiah did . . . (Jeremiah 26:20 NLT)

Throughout the book of Jeremiah, there is a particular evil mentioned over and over again. Not just that of the apostacy of the people as they went after other gods, but that of the distortion of truth. The priests did not preach the truth to the people, and many, many false prophets rose up and told the people “Peace” when the people most needed to heed the Lord’s warnings.

Jeremiah had few friends. Yes, he is a very important prophet in the Bible, but in his day he was scorned, mocked, beaten, and even jailed several times. He lived in the last years of the Judean Kingdom, stood in the presence of many kings, lived to see all his predictions of doom come true, and the hand of God deliver him time and time again.

And Jeremiah needed it. His life was often in danger because he openly decried against the sins of the nation.

“The Lord sent me to prophesy against this Temple and this city,” he said. “The Lord gave me every word that I have spoken. But if you stop your sinning and begin to obey the Lord your God, he will change his mind about this disaster that he has announced against you. As for me, I am in your hands—do with me as you think best. But if you kill me, rest assured that you will be killing an innocent man! The responsibility for such a deed will lie on you, on this city, and on every person living in it. For it is absolutely true that the Lord sent me to speak every word you have heard.” (Jer 26:12-15)

Likewise Uriah the prophet prophesied the same message of the Lord. He was not a phony prophet, he had the truth, and spoke it. He was just as effective as Jeremiah, I imagine, otherwise King Jehoiakim and his officers might not have considered him a threat.

When King Jehoiakim and the army officers and officials heard what he was saying, the king sent someone to kill him. But Uriah heard about the plan and escaped in fear to Egypt. Then King Jehoiakim sent Elnathan son of Acbor to Egypt along with several other men to capture Uriah. They took him prisoner and brought him back to King Jehoiakim. The king then killed Uriah with a sword and had him buried in an unmarked grave. (Jer 26:21-23)

* * *

Egypt is considered to be a symbol of atheism; the disdainful attitude towards the Living God (Exodus 5:2). It also symbolizes the luxury, peace, and relative safety that the world offers. How often do we see in the Bible the children of God (often mistakenly) looking to Egypt as a refuge–and called out of Egypt to claim their rightful destiny? Could it be that Uriah looked not to God but to human strongholds for protection? Could it be that Uriah forfeited his God and abandoned his calling as the Lord’s messenger in order to pass for a nameless nobody? It is possible he did.

Uriah wasn’t the only one whom Jehoiakim wanted to kill. When the scribe Baruch read the scroll of the messages Jeremiah had had from God, both Baruch’s life and Jeremiah’s life were in danger. It is true they feared for their lives–they were told to hide–but there was no abandoning the post. It takes a deep trust in God to keep doing what he says you must do in face of great opposition. God took on an active role in their protection because when the king commanded the arrest of Baruch and Jeremiah, he himself hid them and kept them from harm (Jer 36:26).

* * *

What are some ways we tend to “look to Egypt” as our refuge? How can this possibly twart God’s purposes for you?

What are some promises in the Bible that tell of God’s protective care for his children?

Are we guaranteed the protective care of God in every situation? (see for example Daniel 3:17-18)

Abandoned to Him (Part 2)

The word that Jeremiah the prophet spoke to Baruch the son of Neriah . . . “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, to you, O Baruch:  ‘You said, “Woe is me now! For the Lord has added grief to my sorrow. I fainted in my sighing, and I find no rest.”’ “Thus you shall say to him, ‘Thus says the Lord: “Behold, what I have built I will break down, and what I have planted I will pluck up, that is, this whole land.  And do you seek great things for yourself? Do not seek them; for behold, I will bring adversity on all flesh,” says the Lord. “But I will give your life to you as a prize in all places, wherever you go.”’” (Jeremiah 45 NKJV)

So we drudge away in the Lord’s work. And feel unhappy, unrealized. We sigh and groan and mope as we wait for God to show up in an unmistakable manner. Like Baruch we go on, meekly doing the work and motions, hoping that one day our Great Work will begin.

Well stop that!

It is time to stop making suppositions about what you can do for God. Let God tell you. “Immediately you do abandon, you think no more about what God is going to do. Abandon means to refuse yourself the luxury of asking questions. If you do abandon yourself entirely to God, He says at once ‘Thy life will I give thee for a prey'” Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest

When you do abandon yourself you have a great assurance that wherever you may go–even if it is into hell, as Chambers puts it–You will come out with your life. Nothing and no one can harm it.

* * *

I need faith. A greater faith. In the Bible there was a man who wanted a miracle, but begged Jesus to help him in his unbelief, and Jesus did help. I can’t ask for the proper abandoned state of being, but I can get there only by faith–and God will meet you where you are at.

If abandonment is letting the control of my life slip from my fingers, then fine. It’s time to admit that I wanted to use God as my free pass to fame–as a writer of “Christian Novels” or whatever. But I realize now that if I want to work for him, I must do it its own sake, not for seeking earthly or eternal glories or recognition. But most importantly, I want to have the greatest and biggest reward–Life. A life of dwelling for ever in the center of God’s will, fully trusting in Him, and knowing that He will never leave me, and never disappoint me.

Abandoned to Him (Part 1)

The word that Jeremiah the prophet spoke to Baruch the son of Neriah . . . “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, to you, O Baruch:  ‘You said, “Woe is me now! For the Lord has added grief to my sorrow. I fainted in my sighing, and I find no rest.”’ “Thus you shall say to him, ‘Thus says the Lord: “Behold, what I have built I will break down, and what I have planted I will pluck up, that is, this whole land.  And do you seek great things for yourself? Do not seek them; for behold, I will bring adversity on all flesh,” says the Lord. “But I will give your life to you as a prize in all places, wherever you go.”’” (Jeremiah 45 NKJV)

So I’ve been asking God to give me purpose. I came to believe that I needed God to tell me what is that which I need to do to bring glory to Him and draw many others to Him. I was sure He wanted to use me in whatever great big plans he has. I’d been asking for the anointing of the Holy Spirit, for Him to give me the wisdom I lack, and the clarity of mind to discern what my purpose is in this world. And yet, I was feeling Spiritually bleh. 

* * *

I am reading through the Bible from cover to cover. It’s taken me at least two years to get to Jeremiah. Today’s reading, though, I felt was rather dry (Jer 45-48), and I wondered what message God had for me among the messages of doom to the Nations of Egypt, Moab, et al. Sighing, I reached randomly in my bookshelf and got out my Oswald Chambers devotional, and opened at one of the sticky tabs I had inserted in. And I read it–It was based on Jeremiah 45.

Coincidence? Not really!!

“Are you seeking great things for yourself? Not seeking to be great but great things from God for yourself? God wants you in a closer relationship to Himself than receiving His gifts. He wants you to get to know Him. A great thing is accidental. It comes and goes. God never gives us something accidental . . . If you have only come the length of asking God for Things, you haven’t come to the first strand of abandonment. You have only become a Christian from a standpoint of your own.” Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest

Ouch. But true. Because I know that when I feel spiritually bleh you try to do Things to kindle that fire which no one but God can set ablaze. You pray and pray, read the word, do Bible studies, sacrifice yourself, you do anything that will Mortify your flesh, except surrender control of your life. Until you do so your heart isn’t in the right place–So it’s all for naught. Because you’re asking for God to use you in a powerful way–YOUR way. You aren’t abandoning yourself to let HIM do or use you in the manner he thinks is best.

In other words, Chamber says that you are not abandoned enough to God if you keep asking for Things, even if it is the Baptism of the Holy Ghost.

WHAAAT?

Because prayer is aligning yourself to God’s will, not the other way around.

One-Sided Love

The Lord hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee (Jer 31:3)

* * *

It’s him!!!!

Every cell in my body thrilled. I became short of breath as a million tiny pink butterflies suddenly burst into existence inside my stomach and began cavorting inside in a wild and chaotic manner. Crazy, bothersome things. I bet they were to blame for my racing pulse, for I could hear my heartbeat drumming—nay, thundering—in my ears. Deaf and blind to everything around me, I was only conscious of a strange, delicious, weakness. And yet, my fingertips tingled as if charged by electricity.

In my hands I held my cellphone. And in it I read the first text message he ever sent me.

He asked me how I was!!!

He hoped my week was going well!!!

It was poetry! And the best part was at the end when He asked if it was ok to call me!!!!

I laughed. I could not believe my eyes. YES!!! Yes of course you can!

And so began a steady correspondence with Mark. Every text he sent me triggered the rebirth of the crazy butterflies, and caused me to drop whatever I was doing just so I could read it, dwell in every single word—and, of course, to reply to it.

* * *

And yet . . . I knew that Mark did not mean anything romantic by it. I just knew it by what I read in his eyes whenever we would look at each other. If our eyes met he smiled as he would to a good friend. I, however, melted under his gaze.

I was, of course, very conscious of the fact that I was the only one who felt excited over the frequent texting and calling. I was also very conscious of the fact that my love was one-sided, and that the nature of this relationship could very well mean that just as he had capriciously began this habit of calling/texting me because of the big project we were working on together, to tell me what he thought of this or that or to ask me what I thought about something or other, he could very well choose to end it at any point.

And that was my greatest fear. What if that happened? What if after the end of this semester there would be no excuse for that constant conversation—what would my life look like during the winter break if I did not have that to look forward to?

* * *

I have made so many promises about praying more to God to know him better, and seek him and his will….but….I think I am at times capricious about it. Even more than Mark was. I am the one who breaks it off, and despite having some idea of this great wonderful love that is mine for the taking, I break his heart by not realizing its full value.

We all tend to be that way. That is why I don’t think it’s necessary for me to explain it further.

Only let me tell you this: Remember that, above all, God is a Lover.

For Those of Us Who Wait

I am waiting for my laundry to be done.

To distract myself and take a break from these myriad household tasks I check my email for the twentieth time today. You see, while I’m waiting for my laundry to be done, I’m also waiting for word about a possible job opportunity.

But . . . there is not a single new message in my inbox. Nothing—not even those emails from WordPress that I like so much.

The timer goes off—it startles me, and then I remember that the laundry is now done. Well at least there’s one less thing to wait around for. I go with my laundry basket downstairs, and as I fold clothes and pair up socks I glumly think about my life and complain and whine in my head to my ever-constant companion.

Father, this waiting is maddening. One email, one phone call, one reply is all I need. Is it so hard?

* * *

The Discipline of Delay.

In his book Enjoying Intimacy with God J. Oswald Sanders takes the reader along a very difficult subject. Discipline. One of the opening verses he uses is Hebrews 12:6 For the Lord disciplines those he loves…. Sufferings and setbacks are means of God’s perfecting. “If we are to enjoy a deepening intimacy with God, we must react to His providential dealings in a spiritual way, even though they may be inscrutable.”[1]

Waiting. What is my strength that I should wait? And what is my end, that I should be patient? Is my strength the strength of stones, or is my flesh bronze? (Job 6:11-12)

It’s so hard to wait! Why? For me it is because in the stillness of it I am forced to look at my life. I see the mistakes I did, the “should have done” and the “what if” moments. I find myself wondering—did I do right in my choices? Back then when I thought God was guiding me—was he really? And then I look at the future—what is going to become of me? I hate to admit it but sometimes while I wait I tend to lose hope as if I did not have a loving Father in heaven. This, of course, dishonors him.

But most of the time while I wait I am led to think about the past, realizing that all I accomplished was because of someone else. I was in junior college, and I had no money to continue my education and transfer to University. Who made it happen? God—two years were paid for through various means. I was in my senior year in university; tuition had increased by 50% since I’d transferred. I needed money to complete my final year! Who made it possible for me to finish it? God did by various means. God works in many ways—through miracles, scholarships, strangers off the street that give you well-timed advice and encouragement. My pride is shattered, my self dies a little, and my self-confidence gives way to humility.

God was good and faithful at a time in my life when I was just lukewarm. Through it all, though I was still so far from Him, He was faithful. And now that I have made a pact with him to be faithful and to do his will wherever he will lead me to the very end—why do I find myself doubting him? Why when he has left me precious reminders of his love for me?

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. (Jeremiah 29:11 ESV)

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:7 ESV)

[So] Wait for the Lord and keep his way, and he will exalt you to inherit the land. Mark the blameless and behold the upright, for there is a future for the man of peace. (Psalm 37: 34,37)

Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act. He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday. Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him…those who wait for the Lord shall inherit the land. (Psalm 37:5-7, 9)

[For] they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint (Isaiah 40:31)

* * *

This week, if you find yourself waiting like me, take heart.

For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end—it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay (Habakkuk 2:3)

God “will not spare present grief if it means future, permanent profit. He is concerned with our ultimate blessing more than our present comfort. But that does not mean that He is unmoved by our sorrows and trials.”[2]

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.” The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord…. For the Lord will not cast off forever, but though he cause grief, he will have compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love; for he does not afflict from his heart or grieve the children of men. (Lamentations 3:22-33)

For we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)

Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord! (Psalm 27:14)

Have a blessed week.

– – –

PS: I’ve been trying to complete this entry for about a week. It seriously has been difficult. Still, these promises are as true now as they will be when I get the job that God has prepared for me. So I am posting it now, celebrating with the Red Sea in front of me, cliffs at my side, and the Pharaoh’s army is at my back, because I know–I am absolutely sure–God’s deliverance will come in due time.

Meanwhile, if you can remember to, please pray for me.


[1] Sanders, J. Oswald Enjoying Intimacy with God (Discovery House Publishers: Grand   Rapids) p.106

[2] Sanders, J. Oswald Enjoying Intimacy with God (Discovery House Publishers: Grand   Rapids) p.113