Fasting is a Part of Obedience

“Fasting is a Part of Obedience” Zechariah 7:1-7 God desires obedience that comes from a life that is fully dependent upon Him. Concentrating on the Lord Confirmation of Submission Concentrating on the Lord Zechariah 7:1-3, NKJV 1 Now in the fourth year of King Darius it came to pass that the word of the Lord came to Zechariah, on the fourth day of the ninth month, Chislev, 2 when the people sent Sherezer, with Regem-Melech and his men, to the house of God, to pray before the Lord, 3 and to ask the priests who were in the house of the Lord of hosts, and the prophets, saying, “Should I weep in the fifth month and fast as I have done for so many years?” Do I need to fast? This is a question asked by many people as they grow in their faith in Christ Jesus. In order to properly answer the question concerning whether the followers of Christ need to participate in fasting or not, it is vital that we understand what fasting is before being able to properly implement it into a person’s lifestyle. This passage in Zechariah is a great passage to begin to understand what fasting is in God’s opinion. Fasting was part of obedience to God on the Day of Atonement as the people celebrated God’s provision of forgiveness when God commanded, “29 “This shall be a statute forever for you: In the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, you shall afflict your souls, and do no work at all, whether a native of your own country or a stranger who dwells among you” (Leviticus 16:29, NKJV emphasis added). One way the people of God would afflict their soul was through depriving themselves of the necessities they needed such as food, water, and physical comfort. The Lord specifically called His people to fast through the Prophet Joel for the purpose of mourning for the devastation of their land, 14 Consecrate a fast, Call a sacred assembly; Gather the elders And all the inhabitants of the land Into the house of the Lord your God, And cry out to the Lord. (Joel 1:14, NKJV) This plague devastation the people saw God bring upon their land was only a warning of the future pouring out of God’s wrath on the Day of the Lord. God wanted them to contemplate their lives, their sinful and unrepentant hearts, and turn to Him in submission to receive God’s forgiveness. These are the only times God has commanded a time for the people to afflict themselves where fasting was part of what the people did, or called for the people to specifically fast in a time of mourning. During the seventy year exile the leaders instituted fasts in order to remember the history of how they came to be in captivity. These traditional times of fasting during the exile commemorated the first attack on Jerusalem by Babylon on the tenth day of the tenth month (2 Kings 25:1); the fall of Jerusalem on the ninth day of the fourth month (2 Kings 25:3); the murder of Gedaliah on the second day of the seventh month (2 Kings 25:23-25); and the destruction of the temple on the tenth day of the fifth month (Jeremiah 52:12). The fasts reminded the people of what their sin had caused. Now, having returned from the exile, the people sent representatives to the priest in Jerusalem asking specifically if they should still fast in commemorating the destruction of the temple in the fifth month. Their focus was on the results of their sin and rebellion against God rather than God who had brought about their captivity to discipline their unrepentant hearts. Fasting is part of obedience because it has always been designed to direct attention to God rather than upon self or that which brings misery and condemnation upon the heart. A fast before God is more than simply going without food for a set period of time as a spiritual ritual to show devotion or penitence. Fasting is deliberately turning focus off of something of self or the world and turning to concentrate on the Lord. The people were using the fasts to focus on the tragedy of the temple. God’s desire was for them to understand in their time of exile how they had been disobedient to His Word; they placed more emphasis on the physical temple than they did upon the God who the temple was dedicated to grant them an ability to worship in one physical location. Jesus spoke about fasting in this same way during His ministry. Jesus specifically taught that fasting was something done before God alone. “16 “Moreover, when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. 17 But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, 18 so that you do not appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly” (Matthew 6:16-18, NKJV). Receiving recognition from people certainly increases their opinion of the fasting person’s piety, but nothing should be expected to be received from God. In the same way there are things which take place between a husband and wife in marriage that should not be seen by others, fasting is one of those private intimate times with God that must not be shared with others. The idea of fasting as an intimate time between God and His child can be seen in the lives of those who fasted. Moses reminded the people as they prepared to enter into the Promised Land under Joshua’s leadership, 9 When I went up into the mountain to receive the tablets of stone, the tablets of the covenant which the Lord made with you, then I stayed on the mountain forty days and forty nights. I neither ate bread nor drank water” (Deuteronomy 9:9, NKJV). Esther and the Jews of Susa fasted for guidance and strength to follow God’s will, 15 Then Esther told them to reply to Mordecai: 16 “Go, gather all the Jews who are present in Shushan, and fast for me; neither eat nor drink for three days, night or day. My maids and I will fast likewise. And so I will go to the king, which is against the law; and if I perish, I perish!” (Esther 4:15-16, NKJV) Nehemiah fasted to receive hope and direction on what to do about the vulnerability of Jerusalem, 4 So it was, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned for many days; I was fasting and praying before the God of heaven. (Nehemiah 1:4, NKJV) There were also many listed in Scripture who fasted for themselves without any true connection or to simply get their way with God. King Darius fasted because he feared for Daniel’s life after he had placed him in the lion’s den. 18 Now the king went to his palace and spent the night fasting; and no musicians were brought before him. Also his sleep went from him. 19 Then the king arose very early in the morning and went in haste to the den of lions. (Daniel 6:18-19, NKJV) David fasted before God over the sickness of his child born to Bathsheba who was dying in an effort to get God to change His mind over the consequences of David’s sin against God. 13 So David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.” And Nathan said to David, “The Lord also has put away your sin; you shall not die. 14 However, because by this deed you have given great occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme, the child also who is born to you shall surely die.” 15 Then Nathan departed to his house. And the Lord struck the child that Uriah’s wife bore to David, and it became ill. 16 David therefore pleaded with God for the child, and David fasted and went in and lay all night on the ground…22 And he said, “While the child was alive, I fasted and wept; for I said, ‘Who can tell whether the Lord will be gracious to me, that the child may live?’ (2 Samuel 12:13-16, 22, NKJV) The Ninevites’ fasted and momentarily humbled themselves before God to temporarily avoid the judgment of God, without truly turning to Him in genuine trust and faith. 5 So the people of Nineveh believed God, proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest to the least of them. 6 Then word came to the king of Nineveh; and he arose from his throne and laid aside his robe, covered himself with sackcloth and sat in ashes. 7 And he caused it to be proclaimed and published throughout Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles, saying, Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste anything; do not let them eat, or drink water. 8 But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily to God; yes, let every one turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands. 9 Who can tell if God will turn and relent, and turn away from His fierce anger, so that we may not perish? (Jonah 3:1-9, NKJV) Fasting is part of obedience when it is done before God for the purpose of drawing closer to Him; it is longing for God’s influence to be increased, His likeness to be seen more clearly in the life of His child, and strength to live more fully for Him rather than for self. The person who enters into a time of fasting is literally sacrificing their fleshly needs and desires in order to focus more on the Lord to grow in knowledge of and love for Him. Confirmation of Submission Zechariah 7:4-7, NKJV 4 Then the word of the Lord of hosts came to me, saying, 5 “Say to all the people of the land, and to the priests: ‘When you fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh months during those seventy years, did you really fast for Me—for Me? 6 When you eat and when you drink, do you not eat and drink for yourselves? 7 Should you not have obeyed the words which the Lord proclaimed through the former prophets when Jerusalem and the cities around it were inhabited and prosperous, and the South and the Lowland were inhabited?’ ” God’s response to the question about continuing to fast in the fifth month was answered with a question, as Christ did when people asked Him questions during His earthly ministry. However, God included the fast on the seventh month commemorating the murder of the governor Gedaliah as well as the fifth month which was asked about by the people. Once it is accepted that fasting is part of obedience to God in drawing personally nearer to Him, the reason behind the purpose of fasting can be truthfully evaluated by those who are participating in fasting. The method or how a person will fast can also be clearly defined when drawing closer to God in a more submissive way is the reasoning behind entering into a time of fasting. Therefore, God inquires of those who came before Zechariah whether they fasted during the captivity all those years for God or for themselves. God asked, “…did you really fast for Me—for Me?” ” (Zechariah 7:5, NKJV). The Lord desired the people to examine their motives behind their fasting, but helped them to realize that fasting as part of obedience is about carrying out faithfully the will of the Father in their public lives from strength gained in purposefully drawing closer to Him in their private. This is why God asked the second question through Zechariah, “Should you not have obeyed the words which the Lord proclaimed through the former prophets when Jerusalem and the cities around it were inhabited and prosperous, and the South and the Lowland were inhabited?’ ” (Zechariah 7:7, NKJV). Fasting does not bring about outward obedience, but fasting is part of obedience in the lives of those who are living out the will of God publicly. The evidence of drawing closer to God is visibly seen in how people live among others in the world. God has proclaimed this by describing fasting as, 6 “Is this not the fast that I have chosen: To loose the bonds of wickedness, To undo the heavy burdens, To let the oppressed go free, And that you break every yoke? 7 Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, And that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out; When you see the naked, that you cover him, And not hide yourself from your own flesh? (Isaiah 58:6-7, NKJV) The fast God has chosen for His people is denial of self to help people emotionally, physically, and spiritually. These things that God has called His people too can only be accomplished when they are intimately drawing closer to Him privately. These outward actions are confirmation of a life that is submissive to God. The definition of a fast as it is used here in Isaiah 58:6 refers to an act of worship that is external in the way people are loved and cared for while entreating God privately in the heart of a person. God  proclaims this in his response to the people’s question of whether they ought to consider continuing to fast religiously during certain times throughout the year. God makes His point clearly. If they would have obeyed the commandments of God while they lived in the land, there would have been no exile. The external worship in the temple went on daily. Every appearance gave the impression of a people that worshiped God, but their hearts were growing farther and farther away from God with each passing day. God said through Isaiah, 2 …they seek Me daily, And delight to know My ways, As a nation that did righteousness, And did not forsake the ordinance of their God. They ask of Me the ordinances of justice; They take delight in approaching God. 3 ‘Why have we fasted,’ they say, ‘and You have not seen? Why have we afflicted our souls, and You take no notice?’ “In fact, in the day of your fast you find pleasure, And exploit all your laborers. 4 Indeed you fast for strife and debate, And to strike with the fist of wickedness. You will not fast as you do this day, To make your voice heard on high. (Isaiah 58:2-4, NKJV) The people maintain an outward appearance of worship and devotion to God without an inward submission to His commandments, or any satisfaction in simply rejoicing in knowing God on a personal level as no other people could possibly know Him. This was revealed when they felt God did not notice or had seen they were purposefully going without food, drink, and other comforts for God’s benefit. The attitude of the people before the captivity and after the captivity appeared to be the same: being obedient is doing God a favor for which He ought to be grateful and show appreciation to them for doing it. Thinking that God should show any favor for obedience by His people is as arrogant an attitude toward God as can be, yet it is the posture of many who claim to worship God both in the past and still today. Jesus revealed how extreme the arrogance of people can become before God when He spoke out against the Pharisees and scribes, 1 Then Jesus spoke to the multitudes and to His disciples, 2 saying: “The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. 3 Therefore whatever they tell you to observe, that observe and do, but do not do according to their works; for they say, and do not do. 4 For they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. 5 But all their works they do to be seen by men. They make their phylacteries broad and enlarge the borders of their garments. 6 They love the best places at feasts, the best seats in the synagogues, 7 greetings in the marketplaces, and to be called by men, ‘Rabbi, Rabbi.’ 8 But you, do not be called ‘Rabbi’; for One is your Teacher, the Christ, and you are all brethren. 9 Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. 10 And do not be called teachers; for One is your Teacher, the Christ. 11 But he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. 12 And whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted. (Matthew 23:1-10, NKJV) The religious leaders of Jesus’ day appeared to have a good standing with God. They made sure everyone knew the rules and followed them. However, they saw fit to exempt themselves from abiding by the same standard as they forced the people to live by personally. Jesus commanded; the authority held by the religious leaders needed to be obeyed, even though they personally did not live by what they told other people to do. The fasting the Pharisees and scribes did was a fast which concentrated upon themselves. Their fasting never brought them any closer to God personally, but caused their hearts to be hardened. The people of the exile participated in fasting which was to mourn all the tragedies they faced, but refused to turn to the Lord. The submission that would have been visible in their lives was proven to be illegitimate by the disunity between what they said and how they actually lived. Fasting needs to be part of the life of the follower of Christ in order to help them consciously focus on the Lord each day. This means fasting can be denying nourishment to the body, but it is not limited to food and drink. Fasting should be thought of in the life of Jesus’ disciples as denying oneself the urge to take control of things in their lives to fully depend upon the Lord by turning to Him daily to make a determined effort to focus their hearts and minds upon Him. Jesus described this best when He proclaimed, “26 “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. 27 And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple” (Luke 14:26-27, NKJV). Fasting is part of obedience because a person chooses to deny themselves and depend upon the Lord to sustain them during their time with Him and while they care for the business of living life in this world as His ambassadors who have been given the ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18).


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God’s Word is Your Help

“God’s Word is Your Help”

Psalm 119:169-176

Dependence upon God and His Word reveals reverence for God.

Training in Righteousness

Training in Judgments
 

Training in Righteousness

Psalm 119:169-172, NKJV

169 Let my cry come before You, O Lord;

Give me understanding according to Your word.

170 Let my supplication come before You;

Deliver me according to Your word.

171 My lips shall utter praise,

For You teach me Your statutes.

172 My tongue shall speak of Your word,

For all Your commandments are righteousness.           

            Training is something that people have to do when the activity that needs to be performed by them does not come naturally to them. The things of God and doing the will of God is a perfect example of this because it is opposite of what our human, sinful nature desires to do. Therefore, transformation of a life lived for self to a life lived for God takes training, strength that is beyond human determination, and wisdom which must come from outside of the person being transformed from someone who was once dead but now lives.

            This final portion of Psalm 119 consists of eight sentences that all begin with the last letter of the Hebrew alphabet “Tau.” In these verses the writer petitions God to keep him close to Him that he would continue growing in his knowledge of God and His Word. Knowing God or His righteousness is to first recognize that righteousness is something mankind is missing if they have not received it from God.

            The psalmist begins by acknowledging that he is doing more than simply asking for God’s help, but is crying out in desperation for God’s help. The Hebrew word translated “cry” is “Rinnâh” indicating glad shouting, joyful singing, crying out. The writer understands the difference between the character of God and his character, and views the Word of God as his help and hope of being transformed to take on God’s character in his life.

            It is recorded in Proverbs 1:7, “7 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge,

But fools despise wisdom and instruction” (NKJV). No one cries out to something where there is no hope of receiving what is needed. Children cry out to their parents when in need of things in expectation they can satisfy the need. Students cry out to administrators since they have authority over the teaching faculty when a grievance against a teacher develops. However, many will cry out to anyone who will listen whenever they think they will be ignored by authority.

            The writer calls out to God rather than anyone else for understanding in and through God’s Word since he has seen righteousness in the commands from God. This is a cry of excitement as much as it is need. There is an anticipation of impending satisfaction and wonder of change that brings peace and joy which the writer knows is missing from his life. The commandments and law of God instructs people on what it means to be righteous by providing through the Word of God a clear image of God. Therefore, through the adherence to God’s Word a person can be trained to take on the righteousness of God. Earlier on in the first part of this acrostic with is alluded to by the writer when he was inspired to ask, “9 How can a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed according to Your word” (Psalm 119:9, NKJV).

            The opposite of keeping God’s Word is to forsake understanding of anything, and suffer from a depraved mind and heart. Moses warned the Israelites just before his death,

26 “Take this Book of the Law, and put it beside the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God, that it may be there as a witness against you; 27 for I know your rebellion and your stiff neck. If today, while I am yet alive with you, you have been rebellious against the Lord, then how much more after my death? 28 Gather to me all the elders of your tribes, and your officers, that I may speak these words in their hearing and call heaven and earth to witness against them. 29 For I know that after my death you will become utterly corrupt, and turn aside from the way which I have commanded you. And evil will befall you in the latter days, because you will do evil in the sight of the Lord, to provoke Him to anger through the work of your hands.” (Deuteronomy 31:26-29, NKJV)

            Righteousness is one of those things unnatural to people. If people were capable of righteousness, then falling God’s commandments would be something people could do without having to turn to the Bible; first of all to understand what righteousness is and secondly to recognize the filthiness of their righteousness in comparison to God’s righteousness. God gives a graphic illustration of the righteousness of mankind in comparison to His righteousness when He inspired Isaiah to write,

6 But we are all like an unclean thing,

And all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags;

We all fade as a leaf,

And our iniquities, like the wind,

Have taken us away.

7 And there is no one who calls on Your name,

Who stirs himself up to take hold of You;

For You have hidden Your face from us,

And have consumed us because of our iniquities. (Isaiah 64:6-7, NKJV)

            Training is vital to life even when something comes naturally for someone. When a person does not have a talent for something there needs to be intense and continue training in order to continue growing and simply maintain whatever level of ability a person has achieved either naturally or through much hard work. Professional athletes still have to practice their skills. Engineers have to continually be learning about new developments in the materials which they work with to build and design things. Teachers must continue growing in their ability to connect with each new generation even though their curriculum such as mathematics is a constant they teach.

            God’s people need to continually be reading, studying, and exploring God’s Word to further transform their lifestyle and ability to grasp and apply more and more of the Bible to share it to a world that changes by the day. The psalmist turns to the unchanging, eternal Word of God which transcends time, technology, and culture. God’s commands are recognized as righteousness revealed and capable of delivering and teaching all about how to live righteously before God.

            The supplication is for deliverance from his own sinfulness by bringing his life into accordance with the Word of God. It is through God’s Word revealing the righteousness of the Lord which will bring praises to the lips of those who discover the life God offers through the living Word of God, the Messiah, Jesus Christ. Jesus alluded to this life the psalmist references here in Psalm 119 when He quoted from Deuteronomy 8:3 responding to Satan’s challenge to make food for Himself, “3 So He humbled you, allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna which you did not know nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord” (NKJV).

            The life the psalmist is referring to, that Jesus spoke about, and God reveals through His Word is more than physical life; it is spiritual life that makes physical life greater than merely surviving from day to day for as many days as possible. The survival mentality most people live in is void of hope for tomorrow. Everyone witnesses the decay of the physical in the changes their bodies go through over time and how appearance and abilities slowly wither away with each passing day. Yet, the writer is able to praise God in spite of the reality of the decay taking place day by day.

            Deliverance according to God’s Word is the praise for which the psalmist gives to God for the lessons and understanding he has learned through the statutes and commandments of God. The physical decay due to the curse of sin upon all creation cannot be stopped or slowed down regardless of how much people attempt to hinder the consequences of rebelling against God. However, a person can be transformed from death to life in spite of the physical decline that is so prevalent in and around them.

            It is vital that God’s Word is recognized as righteousness revealed in order to receive the life God promises when His commands are obeyed from a heart that is convinced it is truth. The Lord has made it clear to His people from the very beginning as Christ has reinforced this in the Incarnation. God consistently proclaims,

19 I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live; 20 that you may love the Lord your God, that you may obey His voice, and that you may cling to Him, for He is your life and the length of your days; and that you may dwell in the land which the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give them.” (Deuteronomy 30:19-20, NKJV)

 Christ has confirmed this as well when He said,

19 “…Because I live, you will live also. 20 At that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you. 21 He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him.” (John 14:19-21, NKJV)

            There is much more understanding in the present age because of the fulfillment of Scripture in Christ than there was at the time God inspired this psalm to be written for revelation of Himself then, now, and as long as God allows time as it is known presently to endure. Therefore, it is God’s Word that will train those who turn to Him in faith to be reconciled to Him from their spiritual state of death and decay due to the consequences of sin and be transformed to being alive in the Son of God to live even though they die. This means what is done, seen, and received in life will be judged as worthy or worthless based upon righteousness rather than mankind’s best understanding.

Training in Judgments

Psalm 119:173-176, NKJV

173 Let Your hand become my help,

For I have chosen Your precepts.

174 I long for Your salvation, O Lord,

And Your law is my delight.

175 Let my soul live, and it shall praise You;

And let Your judgments help me.

176 I have gone astray like a lost sheep;

Seek Your servant,

For I do not forget Your commandments.           

            Training in righteousness must be lived out through the judgments made about everything externally and internally. The writer of Psalm 119 honestly seeks after God’s help to live out God’s righteousness in his day to day routine by applying the righteousness revealed in God’s Word. This is made evident in the last four verses of this incredible acrostic proclaiming the love he has for the Word of God and the Author who is God.

            “Let Your hand…” is something many presently express by saying “the hand of God”. The Hebrew word translated into English as “hand” in verse one hundred seventy-three is “yâd” meaning hand, strength, and metaphorically signifying strength or power. It is the power of God revealed in His Word which helped the psalmist to know that his choice of God’s precepts to live by was the correct decision to make.

            The power of God is what moves within people to bring about the will of God in the heart of people; it is what moves in the events of each day that brings about the will of God in a world in open rebellion of its Creator. The power of God is what brought about the desire in the psalmist’s heart to see the fulfillment of the salvation made clear through God’s relationship with His people Israel. The salvation of God seen in the law of God is what brings delight in God’s Word.

            Delight is more than happy or gracious thoughts about the Lord, but a strength that causes a person to cling to God in spite of the hardships that are encountered daily. Job understood this quite well in order to maintain his hope in God’s salvation despite the circumstances he endured.

2 “As God lives, who has taken away my justice,

And the Almighty, who has made my soul bitter,

3 As long as my breath is in me,

And the breath of God in my nostrils,

4 My lips will not speak wickedness,

Nor my tongue utter deceit.

5 Far be it from me

That I should say you are right;

Till I die I will not put away my integrity from me.

6 My righteousness I hold fast, and will not let it go;

My heart shall not reproach me as long as I live. (Job 27:2-6, NKJV)

            There was a delight in Job’s heart that caused him to trust that his salvation was going to come through God regardless of what God allowed into his life which he was powerless to comprehend why it was happening. The psalmist praises in this same attitude of hope and strength of God working in and around him through the reading, understanding, and application of God’s commandments and precepts.

            God trains His people to make judgments upon and discernment of everything in life based upon the righteousness of God revealed by God’s laws and commandments. The Word of God gives the guidelines necessary to make trustworthy decisions of earthly and spiritual matters based in God’s training in righteousness through His Word. This judgment is for everything, including God and His Word.

12 “And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways and to love Him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, 13 and to keep the commandments of the Lord and His statutes which I command you today for your good? 14 Indeed heaven and the highest heavens belong to the Lord your God, also the earth with all that is in it… 17 For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality nor takes a bribe. 18 He administers justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the stranger, giving him food and clothing. 19 Therefore love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. 20 You shall fear the Lord your God; you shall serve Him, and to Him you shall hold fast, and take oaths in His name. 21 He is your praise, and He is your God, who has done for you these great and awesome things which your eyes have seen. (Deuteronomy 10:12-14, 17-21, NKJV)

            God is consistent in what He does and in what He says. The Lord’s requirements of His people are the same standards He adheres to Himself. It is why God has called people to be holy as He is holy (Leviticus 11:44-45; 1 Peter 1:13-16). God reveals His righteousness and the trustworthiness of His judgments in creation, through His Word, and especially by Christ who is the living Word of God who has fulfilled the law perfectly.

            The writer can confidently rely on the judgments of God to be the standard to guide judgments upon all aspects of life both internally and externally. God’s faithfulness and consistency provides safety for all who trust in Him for the salvation of their souls. God does not change and is consistent in all that He does, speaks, and commands (Malachi 3:6; Hebrews 13:8). Training in judgments is to use all that is learned about God and how He works in being trained in righteousness through His Word by His Spirit’s power over us and applying those principles and directives to the current circumstances that are being faced presently.

            The psalmist had been able to personally experience the accuracy of God’s wisdom and judgments by obediently acting upon all God had commanded, and imitating the way God worked in and around him. This knowledge all came from looking into God’s law for the writer of Psalm 119, but believers today can see the written Word of God modeled perfectly in the Son of God. Jesus made it clear that He was imitating and being obedient to all the Father did and said.

19 …“Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner. 20 For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself does; and He will show Him greater works than these, that you may marvel. 21 For as the Father raises the dead and gives life to them, even so the Son gives life to whom He will. (John 5:19-21, NKJV)

            Jesus modeled how to live in the power of the Father through complete submission to the Father’s will in the manner the law of God described. The purpose of God sending His Son into the world was to provide for mankind what was impossible for them to do for themselves. It is humanly impossible to live in complete obedience to the law of God and submit to the will of the Father perfectly without fail. That is why, “14 …the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1;14, NKJV).

            The writer knew he was under the judgment of God because he had not walked in the law as God had commanded. He trusted that God would seek him due to his hopelessness of finding his way back into the grace of God on his own. The psalmist uses the image of a sheep that had been separated from the shepherd who provided everything it needed for life.

            The writer loved God and His Word. Remembering the commandments of God and keeping the commandments of God are two separate things. The writer knew what God required of him and could picture in part what was demanded of him in the way he was to live his life; yet he realized his life fell far short of the standard of God. He acknowledged his failure to live up to the commandments of God, but rested in the righteous judgments of God to provide him with what he needed. The psalmist knew from watching God work and reading His Word that God is trustworthy.

2 He will not cry out, nor raise His voice,

Nor cause His voice to be heard in the street.

3 A bruised reed He will not break,

And smoking flax He will not quench;

He will bring forth justice for truth. (Isaiah 42:2-3, NKJV)

            God desires to reveal Himself through His people. This is done most effectively when the people of God take on the character of God to live as the Lord has modeled in Christ and commanded in His Word. This is only accomplished as the people of God understand that the Word of God is their help throughout all of life.

            May the people of God willingly choose to make the Word of God their treasure above all other things, and view it as the way by which God can help them know Him and live in a pleasing manner before Him.


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God’s Word is your Treasure

“God’s Word is Your Treasure”

Psalm 119:161-168

Those who treasure God’s Word are strengthened to endure all circumstances with grace.

Provides Strength to Endure       (119:161-164)

Provides Wisdom for Life              (119:165-168)

Provides Strength to Endure

Psalm 119:161-164, NKJV

161 Princes persecute me without a cause,

But my heart stands in awe of Your word.

162 I rejoice at Your word

As one who finds great treasure.

163 I hate and abhor lying,

But I love Your law.

164 Seven times a day I praise You,

Because of Your righteous judgments. 

            Psalm 119 is an outpouring of praise to God and love for His Word. There are eight Hebrews words used which are translated into English as Law, Testimonies, Precepts, Statutes, Commandments, Judgments, Word, and Ordinances. At least six of the eight are used in each of the eight verses beginning with each of the twenty-two letters of the Hebrew alphabet.

            This portion of Psalm 119 begins each verse in the Hebrew X in the original text which contained no vowels. When the vowels were added to the text to help with pronunciation of the letter it was distinguished with a dot over the right-hand corner v (s) or a dot over the left-hand corner Xo (sh) of the letter. The time spent pondering and writing this poetic acrostic praising God and proclaiming the love and benefit of God’s Word to mankind is something only an enraptured person would attempt to do. The time invested in thought, longing, and desire to express such love and praise for anything is rare in the present age.

            The fact that this Hebrew letter can take on a soft or hard sound describes the comfort the Word of God supplies to those who love the Lord, as well as the harshness God’s Word speaks about for those who reject Him and His Word. The proclamations about God’s Word and praise for having received it in these eight verses reveal two things Scripture provides to those who treasure what God has said. It must also be remembered that much of what has been revealed in confirmation over time was still unknown to the writer of this psalm.

            The Bible contains sixty-six inspired books that tell of the history of how God has interacted with His creation and worked to bring about reconciliation between Himself and sinful mankind through His Son, Jesus the Christ, who is God Incarnate. The psalmist certainly did not have the complete history of all that God had done at that time. Yet, what was had was the history up to that point in time and the faithful promises of God was going to have come to pass. This partial history was enough to know the power and benefit of all that God had said and also revealed about Himself to lovingly write in this inspired manner to encourage all who would read these words.

            Obedience to God always brings persecution from those who are not living in obedience to God. Christ warned those who followed Him, “33 These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world (John 16:33 NKJV). The Apostle Paul later would confirm this in his inspired letter to a young pastor, “12 Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12, NKJV). Apostle Peter also gives encouragement on how to respond to this conflict when he said, “19 Therefore let those who suffer according to the will of God commit their souls to Him in doing good, as to a faithful Creator” (1 Peter 4:19, NKJV).

            The more the psalmist loved and obeyed God the more the princes persecuted him even though he had not wronged them to bring on such persecution. Persecution is the result of a heart that is in awe of God’s Word. The idea behind the Hebrew word translated awe in English is páchad  meaning to be startled, be afraid, stand in awe, fear, make to shake. Standing in awe of the commandments and revelation of God is recognizing the value God has so graciously given to people so they would know His heart and character.

            There is so much in the world that is seen, heard, and done that would lead people to believe that God is something other than what He is in reality. The stance of the writer refuses to accept that God is less than Almighty or to be persuaded to turn away from obedience to the commandments of God. This is evidenced in the way the psalmist rejoiced in God’s Word.

            There are many things that people rejoice in throughout the world. These things can be generalized as anything that brings meaning and joy to the life of a person. Those who are living for themselves rather than God find these things temporarily at best in self-gratification often times at the expense of others. The princes who persecuted the psalmist would have enjoyed his suffering for what they thought was worthless. These persecutors were willing to suffer for the sin they treasured in their hearts. The one who is held in the bondage of sin will suffer the consequences of their sin because they treasure their own satisfaction. People will also sacrifice for, be willing to suffer for, and be strengthened by whatever it is they are treasuring in their life.

            Treasure of life can be something physical like a trophy given in recognition of an achievement, relationship with someone believed to be honorable, or anything that gives a person pleasure or makes them feel secure. God knows this about people since He created them. In mankind’s rebellion against the Lord people have exchanged the physical, spiritual, and emotional satisfaction found only in obedience to Him for temporal and selfish things that bring momentary pleasure.

            Treasuring the things of earth instead of God has been a struggle for those who claim to be God’s people as well as those who outright reject God’s authority over their life.

13 Yet the Lord testified against Israel and against Judah, by all of His prophets, every seer, saying, “Turn from your evil ways, and keep My commandments and My statutes, according to all the law which I commanded your fathers, and which I sent to you by My servants the prophets.” 14 Nevertheless they would not hear, but stiffened their necks, like the necks of their fathers, who did not believe in the Lord their God. 15 And they rejected His statutes and His covenant that He had made with their fathers, and His testimonies which He had testified against them; they followed idols, became idolaters, and went after the nations who were all around them, concerning whom the Lord had charged them that they should not do like them. (2 Kings 17:13-15, NKJV)

            There must be a conscious decision made to treasure the Word of God as the highest authority in life or something else that is of far lesser value and greatly diminished worth will become the treasure of the heart. Allowing God’s Word to be the greatest treasure of life in the heart and mind will bring about clarity in life that helps a person to avoid the devastation caused by subtle temptation.

            The writer proclaims his detest of lies due to his love for God’s laws. The truth God’s Word reveals does more than help people discern the difference between true and false; it also allows them to see how deadly the slightest of lies are to the one being told a lie and the liar themselves. Once a person understands the horrible consequences lies bring about it causes lies to be more repulsive even if lying brings peace momentarily by hiding the truth.

            Lying is more than telling something that is false. Lying is withholding the truth and allowing a person to think or believe something that is not true based upon actions or the lack of information presented. Abraham lied to the Pharaoh by allowing him to believe Sarai was only his sister, which technically was true since she was his step-sister.

17 But the Lord plagued Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai, Abram’s wife. 18 And Pharaoh called Abram and said, “What is this you have done to me? Why did you not tell me that she was your wife? 19 Why did you say, ‘She is my sister’? I might have taken her as my wife. Now therefore, here is your wife; take her and go your way.” (Genesis 12:17-19, NKJV)

            Abram lied to protect himself, but injured others by lying to them. God’s Word reveals the danger lies have on the lives of other people and to the one who tells the lie. The reality of sin’s deadly effects remain hidden until truth is discovered in developing love for God’s Word which is truth personified in the person of Jesus, the Son of God. There are many things people love and hate, but for all the wrong reasons.

            God’s Word becomes more radiant and lovely as people begin to recognize its trustworthiness and the strength it provides to handle anything a person will encounter in life. The focus of the person who loves God’s Word is upon praising God for His presence, control, and guidance He reveals rather than hatred for things God’s Word exposes. The writer expresses this as he was inspired to write, “Seven times a day I praise You…

            How often, and for what reasons does God receive praise from people throughout the course of a day? An honest response would be only whenever pleasant things happen, and not nearly enough. Seven is considered the number of perfection according to Jewish tradition based on seven days of creation and seven feasts in the Jewish year: Passover,  Unleavened Bread, First Fruits, Weeks (Pentecost), Trumpets, Atonement, and Tabernacles (Leviticus 23:4-44). The writer is poetically proclaiming he strives to praise God perfectly in the course of each day simply for how God has revealed Himself to the writer through His Word. This has given the writer strength and encouragement to endure the harshness of life sin has brought about in the world.

Provides Wisdom for Life

Psalm 119:165-168, NKJV

165 Great peace have those who love Your law,

And nothing causes them to stumble.

166 Lord, I hope for Your salvation,

And I do Your commandments.

167 My soul keeps Your testimonies,

And I love them exceedingly.

168 I keep Your precepts and Your testimonies,

For all my ways are before You.     

            The strength God’s Word supplies to endure the hardships of living in this sin-tainted world would be reason enough to treasure the Word of God. There is another reason to treasure God’s Word. The wisdom the Lord gives through His commands, precepts, laws, and instruction allows a person to display His character and glory in spite of all hindrances of sin in the world.

            There are four things in the second half of this section which show the direction God’s Word provides for those who treasure it in their hearts and minds: 1) Peace in God’s Law, 2) Hope in God’s Commandments, 3) Love expressed in God’s Testimonies, and 4) Guidance in God’s Precepts. These four things God provides through His Word is what causes the psalmist to rejoice daily in all that God has provided for the protection of those who turn in surrender to the authority of God.

            The peace found in God’s law is more than simply to keep civil rest within a community as man-made laws are designed to do. The writer proclaims there is “Great peace…” for those who love God’s law. The peace described here is between God and the person rather than civil rest among people. Sin causes people to stumble in their obedience to God. The law of God provides the boundaries which help a person to know and avoid behaviors and attitudes that lead to disobedience to God.

            God had given His people many laws pertaining to morality, sexuality, and religious practice of which many are recorded in Leviticus 11:1 – 19:37. These laws outlined for the people of God a code of conduct that would set them apart from all the other nations around them. The great peace for the psalmist was in the laws clear identification of what was expected of the people of God in any given situation or circumstance they would encounter. Obedience to God’s law would help them to navigate through life among people who were in full rebellion to the Creator and provide a clear picture of the only true living God among all lifeless idols nations around them had chosen to worship.

            Obedience to God’s law will bring peace to the one who follows it, even though it brings momentary conflict with those who are in rebellion to God. Apostle Peter explained the purpose of God’s law for those in Christ, “11 Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul, 12 having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation” (1 Peter 2:11-12, NKJV).

            Living out the law of God is about revealing the character of God in submission to what He has legislated, rather than legalistically holding to laws that have no acquaintance with grace and mercy. God gave His law to provide people with healthy boundaries which would protect people from the deadly consequences of sin while helping them to discover the righteousness and holiness of God.

            The psalmist goes on to proclaim the hope found in the commandments of God which bring salvation to the soul. The commands of God point people to the hope of salvation God extends to all who will receive. These commandments form the foundation upon which the laws of God exist; they are co-dependent upon one another rather than independent of each other.

            Christ identified the foundation of all the laws of God in His response to a lawyer who questioned Him concerning the greatest of all the commandments the Lord had given. “37 Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 22:37-40, NKJV). The greatest command that Jesus identifies He recites from Deuteronomy 6:5. The second greatest commandment Jesus quotes is from Leviticus 19:18. These two commandments are practically explained in the Ten Commandments with the first four having to do with how to love God properly and the last six dealing with how to properly express love of self and others.

            The psalmist follows God’s commandments because in them are revealed the way of salvation. It must be remembered that at the time this was written the Messiah was a prophecy waiting fulfillment, not a reality that could be physically proclaimed as it is presently. God revealed His salvation through adherence to God’s commandments throughout the history of His people. The exodus of Israel from the land of Egypt was one such memorable historical fact which clearly showed God’s ability to save and protect those who submit to His commands.

12 ‘For I will pass through the land of Egypt on that night, and will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment: I am the Lord. 13 Now the blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you; and the plague shall not be on you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt…

50 Thus all the children of Israel did; as the Lord commanded Moses and Aaron, so they did. 51 And it came to pass, on that very same day, that the Lord brought the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt according to their armies. (Exodus 12:12-13, 50-51, NKJV)

            The Passover was commanded by God to be a perpetual feast from generation to generation (Exodus 13:3-10; Deuteronomy 16:1). The commandment was a law for the people of God to observe. It caused them to vividly remember God’s salvation regardless of how far removed those celebrating God’s deeds were from personally experiencing it themselves. The things God commands are non-negotiable; they are laws to be obeyed rather than suggestions God would prefer people to choose to do.

            The writer then proclaims his exceeding love for God’s testimonies which he keeps in the core of his being, “My soul keeps Your testimonies, And I love them exceedingly” (Psalm 119:167, NKJV). God’s testimonies are the ways in which He reveals His character to mankind through creation and the way He moves in people’s lives daily.

            God testified to His power and superiority over the gods of Egypt by pouring out plagues upon Egypt (Exodus 7:14-12:42). The Lord testified to His ability to fight off any enemy who would choose to harm His people by destroying the entire army of the Egyptians (Exodus 14:4). Many times God gave instruction that testified to His character as well. The Ten Commandments testify to the heart of God especially in observing the Sabbath and keeping it holy. This commandment testifies to the heart of God while instructing people who desire to express their love to God in obedience to do so.

8 “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. 11 For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it. (Exodus 20:8-11, NKJV)

             God prefaces this commandment to observe a day of rest because He has set an example for people to follow, “11 …in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it” (Exodus 20:11, NKJV). The Lord is proclaiming an expectation in this commandment which testifies to God’s desire for His people to be at work, “9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work…” (Exodus 20:9-10, NKJV).

            These are testimonies that the writer of Psalm 119 can keep in his soul to help him to function in life in a manner that gives clarity and understanding in all that he encounters daily. The person with an abundance of possessions and the one with no material possessions will find themselves satisfied only when there is purpose and meaning in their life which come from loving the testimonies of God through His commandments that provide the foundation for all the laws God has given for the benefit and joy of His people.

            Lastly, there is guidance in God’s precepts. These are specific things God has given a procedure to follow or an order of doing something. This would include but not be limited to passages like Deuteronomy 23:12-14, “12 Also you shall have a place outside the camp, where you may go out; 13 and you shall have an implement among your equipment, and when you sit down outside, you shall dig with it and turn and cover your refuse. 14 For the Lord your God walks in the midst of your camp, to deliver you and give your enemies over to you; therefore your camp shall be holy, that He may see no unclean thing among you, and turn away from you” (NKJV).

            The precepts of God are to manage how the people of God live in private as well as in public. God is walking among His people daily because He is omnipresent (everywhere at once). This is the kind of precept that the psalmist would have been able to connect with and find the benefit of in his life.

            There are only minor subtleties that separate the understanding of God’s laws, commands, testimonies, and precepts. In all of their differences and similarities one thing is always clear to those who love God and His Word – the full joy, strength, and satisfaction that can only be enjoyed when a person treasures God and His Word in their hearts and minds. The world’s lies and allure are then recognized for what they truly are, and rejected for that which is ultimately better with God.

            Treasure the living Word of God who is Jesus Christ and know today the peace and joy that only He can provide.


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Prayer is taking Action in Faith

“Prayer is Taking Action in Faith”

Nehemiah 4:7-18

Those living on faith in God’s ability walk in conversation with Him daily.

God’s Help Needed

Work in Expectation

 

God’s Help Needed

Nehemiah 4:1-9, NKJV

7 Now it happened, when Sanballat, Tobiah, the Arabs, the Ammonites, and the Ashdodites heard that the walls of Jerusalem were being restored and the gaps were beginning to be closed, that they became very angry, 8 and all of them conspired together to come and attack Jerusalem and create confusion. 9 Nevertheless we made our prayer to our God, and because of them we set a watch against them day and night.    

            The temple had been rebuilt and worship restored to the nation of Israel. The walls were still in disarray throughout the reestablishing of God’s people in Jerusalem to this point. Nehemiah was a cup bearer for King Artaxerxes who reigned over the Persian Empire from the city of Sushan, also known as Susa. He was not an engineer or stone mason but was a slave born in captivity who was loyal to God and the restoration of God’s people. Yet, God took him from a cup-bearer in the Persian Empire to be governor in Jerusalem to serve the people of God.

            Nehemiah’s name is significant. His loyalty to God and desire for the Lord was passed down through the years in his family. Nehemiah means “Compassion of Yahweh”. Every time his name was said or heard would be a reminder to the people of God of the Lord’s compassion upon them even in captivity. Nehemiah rejoiced in knowing God’s people were allowed to return and live in their homeland again. This is revealed in the way he asked Hanani on his return from Judah for information about what was going on in Jerusalem.

            God revealed to Nehemiah through Hanani’s report the vulnerable state Jerusalem was in with the walls and gates broken down. Nehemiah’s heart broke over this fact and longed that God would do something to fix the problem he now knew about. It is interesting that Nehemiah desired God to do something, but accepted the reality God may want him to be personally involved in the solution. There was nothing Nehemiah knew to do personally; he just knew something had to be done. His only advantage was the respect and audience of the king he enjoyed because of his position. This was expressed by Nehemiah when he said, “11 …let Your servant prosper this day, I pray, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man” (Nehemiah 1:11, NKJV).

            Nehemiah turned to the Lord concerning what must be done to change in Jerusalem in order to bring safety to God’s people and magnify God’s name among the nations. Nehemiah did what should be done by all of God’s people even today when faced with a problem. Turning to the Lord in full knowledge and faith that God desires to use His people to reflect His glory or allow others to see it through them and their physical circumstances must be done with all resources available. Nehemiah said to the king,

7 …“If it pleases the king, let letters be given to me for the governors of the region beyond the River, that they must permit me to pass through till I come to Judah, 8 and a letter to Asaph the keeper of the king’s forest, that he must give me timber to make beams for the gates of the citadel which pertains to the temple, for the city wall, and for the house that I will occupy.” And the king granted them to me according to the good hand of my God upon me.

9 Then I went to the governors in the region beyond the River, and gave them the king’s letters. Now the king had sent captains of the army and horsemen with me. 10 When Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite official heard of it, they were deeply disturbed that a man had come to seek the well-being of the children of Israel. (Nehemiah 2:7-10, NKJV)

            Nehemiah boldly made his petition to the king of Persia to secure the city of Jerusalem by giving him letters which would allow him permission to travel and gather supplies at the government’s expense to rebuild the walls and gates. God had softened the heart of the Persian king toward Nehemiah because of his faithful service and outstanding integrity in service. His character was the result of submission to the Lord in by doing all things as though he was doing them unto the Lord. Nehemiah’s life of humility before the Lord and desire to see the name of God lifted up above everything else provided the opportunity for him to use his influence over the king to reveal God’s compassion for His people.

            Nehemiah returned to Jerusalem and quietly examined the walls and gates of Jerusalem before revealing his intentions and purpose for returning.

11 So I came to Jerusalem and was there three days. 12 Then I arose in the night, I and a few men with me; I told no one what my God had put in my heart to do at Jerusalem; nor was there any animal with me, except the one on which I rode. 13 And I went out by night through the Valley Gate to the Serpent Well and the Refuse Gate, and viewed the walls of Jerusalem which were broken down and its gates which were burned with fire. 14 Then I went on to the Fountain Gate and to the King’s Pool, but there was no room for the animal under me to pass. 15 So I went up in the night by the valley, and viewed the wall; then I turned back and entered by the Valley Gate, and so returned. 16 And the officials did not know where I had gone or what I had done; I had not yet told the Jews, the priests, the nobles, the officials, or the others who did the work.

17 Then I said to them, “You see the distress that we are in, how Jerusalem lies waste, and its gates are burned with fire. Come and let us build the wall of Jerusalem, that we may no longer be a reproach.” 18 And I told them of the hand of my God which had been good upon me, and also of the king’s words that he had spoken to me.

So they said, “Let us rise up and build.” Then they set their hands to this good work. (Nehemiah 2:11-18, NKJV).

 The walls and gates began improving due to Nehemiah’s dependency upon the Lord’s direction rather than his knowledge of the rebuilding process and organizational skills. Now, the people in the surrounding nations became angry because they saw their influence over and control of Jerusalem being threatened by what appeared to them as the efforts of the people.

            The prayer Nehemiah and the people made to God went beyond the words they said to God, but the actions they took based on their faith in God to do what God called them to accomplish for God’s glory. The people of God were offering up their prayers to God in what they were doing with their hands. This is a perfect example of God’s instructions through Apostle Paul,

5 Bondservants, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in sincerity of heart, as to Christ; 6 not with eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, 7 with goodwill doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men (Ephesians 6:5-7, NKJV)

17 And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him. (Colossians 3:17, NKJV)

14 Do all things without complaining and disputing, 15 that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, 16 holding fast the word of life… (Philippians 2:14-16, NKJV)

            God is Master of His people. Therefore, everything the child of God does should be a prayer of submission to the Father through living by their faith. Nehemiah and the people of Jerusalem continued striving to accomplish the task God had set before them in spite of the threats and anger of the people surrounding them.

            Prayer is taking action in faith because God’s help is recognized as the most important element of everything that is done in the life of God’s people. The watch was set by Nehemiah to commit their resources to the service of God. Nehemiah trusted the protection of God which was why he once again took the resources he had and placed them in the Lord’s hands to be used if God chose to work in that manner. The appointment of a watch allowed the Lord to use His people as He chose to use them because they positioned themselves in expectation of being used by God to do something.

            The preparation of God’s people is a visible illustration of their expectation that God is going to do what He has promised to accomplish. The watch was the visible evidence of the reality of God’s presence watching over them. Could God drive back their enemies without their intervention or help? Of course He could. However, God may choose to drive back the enemies by employing the people to serve as the defenders of the city as well. Action taken in faith that God will allow His people to be part of His work here upon the earth will be seen in His people’s physical preparations. The preparation and work of God’s people should different from the preparation and work of those who are depending upon themselves rather than God.

Work in Expectation

Nehemiah 4:10-18, NKJV

10 Then Judah said, “The strength of the laborers is failing, and there is so much rubbish that we are not able to build the wall.”

11 And our adversaries said, “They will neither know nor see anything, till we come into their midst and kill them and cause the work to cease.”

12 So it was, when the Jews who dwelt near them came, that they told us ten times, “From whatever place you turn, they will be upon us.”

13 Therefore I positioned men behind the lower parts of the wall, at the openings; and I set the people according to their families, with their swords, their spears, and their bows. 14 And I looked, and arose and said to the nobles, to the leaders, and to the rest of the people, “Do not be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, great and awesome, and fight for your brethren, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your houses.”

15 And it happened, when our enemies heard that it was known to us, and that God had brought their plot to nothing, that all of us returned to the wall, everyone to his work. 16 So it was, from that time on, that half of my servants worked at construction, while the other half held the spears, the shields, the bows, and wore armor; and the leaders were behind all the house of Judah. 17 Those who built on the wall, and those who carried burdens, loaded themselves so that with one hand they worked at construction, and with the other held a weapon. 18 Every one of the builders had his sword girded at his side as he built. And the one who sounded the trumpet was beside me.         

            Repairing the wall and gates of the city after being in disrepair for over seventy years was a task greater than the strength and knowledge of the people. The threat of the enemies of God’s people was real. Ignoring the danger was impossible. Refusing to acknowledge the severity of the task before them would be foolishness. Nehemiah’s response to both these challenges was to prayerfully commit all the resources of Jerusalem to the Lord to accomplish what seemed to them and their enemies to be impossible.

            Nehemiah’s prayerful response both in what he said to the people and the actions he took reminded the people God would work through them to protect them personally and complete through them all He commanded them to do. The unity of Nehemiah’s words, actions, and direction he gave to the people illustrated their confidence that God was inviting them to be a witness to all the Lord was doing for and through His people. This pattern of God employing His people to perform certain tasks has been evident from the moment mankind was created by God.

            God called mankind to care for and manage all He had created, “27 So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. 28 Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth” (Genesis 1:27-28, NKJV). God could have easily cared for and managed all He created, but instead He invited mankind to be part of His work so they would learn about Him through interacting with what He had made.

            God called Noah to take part in giving a testimony to the destruction the Lord was bringing upon the whole earth due to the sinfulness of all mankind, “13 And God said to Noah, “The end of all flesh has come before Me, for the earth is filled with violence through them; and behold, I will destroy them with the earth. 14 Make yourself an ark of gopherwood; make rooms in the ark, and cover it inside and outside with pitch” (Genesis 6:13-14, NKJV). God had Noah build the ark as a demonstration of his faith that God was going to bring about promised destruction.

            God has called the body of Christ, the Church, to also join Him in giving a testimony to the world of the salvation that He alone brings about in the lives of people. Jesus told His disciples, “35 Do you not say, ‘There are still four months and then comes the harvest’? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest! 36 And he who reaps receives wages, and gathers fruit for eternal life, that both he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together. 37 For in this the saying is true: ‘One sows and another reaps.’ 38 I sent you to reap that for which you have not labored; others have labored, and you have entered into their labors” (John 4:35-38, NKJV). Apostle Paul affirms that God’s people take part in the work only God can truly accomplish, “7 …neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase” (1 Corinthians 3:7, NKJV).

            All the efforts of the people would be fruitless to rebuild the wall, repair the gates, and enjoy safety from their enemies in their knowledge, ability, and determination. The people of God must join the Lord in what He has called them to do in order to enjoy in the miraculous acts which God brings about in the world to reveal His glory in creation. A person who refuses to take part in what God is calling them to join Him in doing in spite of the challenges and difficulties that will be faced should never expect to witness the glory and power of God personally, or be a witness among the nations of the presence of God.

            Take time to read through the Gospel accounts of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Take note of all the things each of the disciples would have missed out on doing, seeing, and learning for themselves that Jesus was truly the Messiah of God who was bringing forgiveness of sins and reconciliation to all who would believe on the name of the Son of God. Apostle John was inspired to write near the end of his gospel account, “30 And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name” (John 20:30-31, NKJV).

            Nehemiah and the people presented themselves unto God as a prayer by the actions they took in response to the task at hand and the threats against them. They worked in expectation that God would provide the strength and wisdom to accomplish what was impossible for them to do in their own strength and knowledge. They prepared themselves to be used of God to fight off the enemy. They gave themselves over to the work before them trusting God would help them overcome what they lacked in skill. What the people of Jerusalem, under the leadership of Nehemiah as their governor, accomplished would have never been possible if they had not accepted the call of God to take part in the work He was doing for His glory before all the nations.

                        God is calling all those who have accepted Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord over their life to join Him in revealing His glory in this world. Jesus’ purpose can be seen in His prayer to the Father in John 17 that His actions during His ministry on earth prepared His disciples to take part in,

20 “I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; 21 that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. 22 And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: 23 I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me. (John 17:20-23, NKJV)

Jesus later revealed this intention to His disciples immediately before His ascension to the Father when He commanded them, “15 …Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15, NKJV).

            Prayer is taking action in faith is a lifestyle that exemplifies making decisions that are based upon the character of God rather than what makes sense to the abilities, knowledge, and logic of mankind. Life lived in response to the reality of the promises of God instead of the limitations of self and the sinfulness of mankind reveals the glory of the Lord in doing the impossible every day.

            There are those who go without many basic needs being met in their life; yet God provides them the strength to continue on in spite of the absence of necessities. The miraculous provisions of God are revealed daily through God’s merciful supply to those who refuse to accept Jesus’ sacrifice for their sins or even acknowledge that He exists. The testimony of God’s presence and His provisions are revealed whenever God’s people choose to trust rather than worry, bless those who curse them, and find it more satisfying to live by faith instead of sight (Matthew 5:10-12, 6:25-34; 7:24-27).

            The people of Nehemiah’s day encountered great opposition in following the Lord in the physical task that God set before them. The body of Christ is challenged with an even greater spiritual calling in the present age which also is beyond the ability of those called to accomplish the will of the Father. Praise the Lord for His Spirit who empowers the people of God to do the miraculous.

           God is calling us to join Him in what He is doing where the children of God find themselves. God calls His people to surrender their resources to Him regardless of how plentiful or few they may be in the eyes of His people. Remember, Nehemiah had the exact same resource all people do that God can and will do miraculous things through if given the opportunity.

            Nehemiah offered himself to the Lord even though he was a slave with no real authority to choose for himself, or make any difference in the plight of God’s people back in Jerusalem. Nehemiah prayed to God in word and deed, offering himself to the Lord for His will to be done. God can and will do the miraculous through the prisoner sitting in a cell, the homeless with nowhere to go, the one who is financially independent, a person of great influence, and everyone in between these extremes who love and serve Him wholeheartedly. Prayer is taking action in faith when the people of God expected and desire to join the Lord in all that He is doing around them.


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Prayer is to Desire God

Isaiah 26:1-9

Desiring God is longing to talk to and hear from Him in all circumstances.

Mind Stayed on God

Isaiah 26:1-6, NKJV

1 In that day this song will be sung in the land of Judah:

“We have a strong city;

God will appoint salvation for walls and bulwarks.

2 Open the gates,

That the righteous nation which keeps the truth may enter in.

3 You will keep him in perfect peace,

Whose mind is stayed on You,

Because he trusts in You.

4 Trust in the Lord forever,

For in Yah, the Lord, is everlasting strength.

5 For He brings down those who dwell on high,

The lofty city;

He lays it low,

He lays it low to the ground,

He brings it down to the dust.

6 The foot shall tread it down—

The feet of the poor

And the steps of the needy.”     

            This portion of a song Isaiah was inspired to write and sing was in response to the future salvation God was going to bring upon the people of God after God’s judgment upon sin in the world (Isaiah 24). Isaiah then proceeds to personally praise God for revealing His judgment that would bring justice to the world and honor to God’s name upon all the earth (Isaiah 25). This brings us to the response the people of God will proclaim, “In that day…” God has delivered the children of God for all eternity.

            The song Isaiah is inspired to record is the song that will be heard in the land of Judah by all who belong to God. The three things about this song and prayer unto God consists of three things that identify how a person can remain focused on the Lord through any circumstance they may face: 1) God provides protection for His people eternally; 2) God provides assurance in His trustworthiness; and 3) God guarantees the eternal victory over evil by His power. These three things spoken of in the first six verses of this song are verbal expressions of truth the people will experience when God brings justice to the world.

            The people will praise God for the salvation the Lord will provide for them in the protection they see by the walls He has established around them. The walls and the secure position of high ground the city is located on give evidence of God’s ability keep them from every foe that would seek to enter in or cause harm. Their trust is in the Lord who sustains both their position and walls of the city rather than the thickness of the walls or their vantage point where they lived. The walls demonstrate those who seek to harm, deceive, or destroy are prevented from entering into the city.

            The bulwarks speak of the vantage point of being raised up above everything else. The view of the surrounding area is unobstructed and those wishing to attack or corrupt will be seen clearly before they are able to get close. These defenses stand as a testimony to the Lord’s ability to guard and fight off all enemies for those who reside in Him. Salvation of God has granted them access through the gates of the city. It is more than the physical walls that the Lord is speaking of here, but God’s impenetrable glory. There is no approaching the Lord unless He is the One who has given access to Himself or to those who belong to Him.

            Therefore, the appointed, “…salvation for the walls and bulwarks…” is far more than a simple physical boundary; it is a spiritual reality of God’s ability to protect the hearts and minds of His people from the destructive power of evil. The abundant protection of God the people then would have a reference for when they looked back through their history.

20 So they rose early in the morning and went out into the Wilderness of Tekoa; and as they went out, Jehoshaphat stood and said, “Hear me, O Judah and you inhabitants of Jerusalem: Believe in the Lord your God, and you shall be established; believe His prophets, and you shall prosper.” 21 And when he had consulted with the people, he appointed those who should sing to the Lord, and who should praise the beauty of holiness, as they went out before the army and were saying:

“Praise the Lord,

For His mercy endures forever.”

24 So when Judah came to a place overlooking the wilderness, they looked toward the multitude; and there were their dead bodies, fallen on the earth. No one had escaped.

25 When Jehoshaphat and his people came to take away their spoil, they found among them an abundance of valuables on the dead bodies, and precious jewelry, which they stripped off for themselves, more than they could carry away; and they were three days gathering the spoil because there was so much. 26 And on the fourth day they assembled in the Valley of Berachah, for there they blessed the Lord; therefore, the name of that place was called The Valley of Berachah until this day. 27 Then they returned, every man of Judah and Jerusalem, with Jehoshaphat in front of them, to go back to Jerusalem with joy, for the Lord had made them rejoice over their enemies. 28 So they came to Jerusalem, with stringed instruments and harps and trumpets, to the house of the Lord. 29 And the fear of God was on all the kingdoms of those countries when they heard that the Lord had fought against the enemies of Israel. (2 Chronicles 20:20-21, 24-29, NKJV)

            Instead of worry and fretting about how they would overcome their enemies, the people chose to praise God that He would overpower their enemies on their behalf on their way to deal with them. The salvation God has supplied is mobile and travels with a person wherever God leads them and wherever they find themselves. This is the model Jesus gave the Church when Jesus proclaimed to His disciples, “32 Indeed the hour is coming, yes, has now come, that you will be scattered, each to his own, and will leave Me alone. And yet I am not alone, because the Father is with Me. 33 These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:32-33, NKJV)

            God provides assurance in His trustworthiness as well. The people together will sing about their experience of the perfect peace they received from being consumed by the presence and knowledge of God. This perfect peace carries the same concept of “Shälôm” which means safe, well, happy, friendly; this was the greeting God’s people gave to one another when they met. The idea of the rest and assurance of God’s presence was known in Israel’s history during times of obedience. One such time is recorded in Joshua 21:43-44, “43 So the Lord gave to Israel all the land of which He had sworn to give to their fathers, and they took possession of it and dwelt in it. 44 The Lord gave them rest all around, according to all that He had sworn to their fathers. And not a man of all their enemies stood against them; the Lord delivered all their enemies into their hand” (NKJV).

            This idea of perfect peace that was experienced briefly by the people of God in the past and will rejoice eternally in the future is now tasted by those who are in Christ presently. Apostle Paul in his letter to the Philippians reminds those who are in Christ to, “6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7, NKJV). This guarding of a person’s mind and heart to achieve that perfect peace is available when a person stays focused on the Lord rather than allowing worry and anxiety to drown God’s peace out of their life.

            The third thing the people will ultimately rejoice in along with God’s protection and His trustworthiness is God’s guarantee of the eternal victory over evil by His power. There is no rising again if the Lord eternally brings down something or someone. The judgment of God is final. Those who have exalted themselves or have attacked the rule of God will always find themselves trampled under foot by the least of those they desired to rule over when they achieved freedom from God’s authority.

            The complete destruction of God’s enemies is graphic. The contrast used to describe this is God “…who dwells on high…” and those the Lord lays “…low to the ground…down to the dust…” to be treaded upon by the poor and needy alike cannot be more separated. God’s enemies will never recover from His judgment upon them. The insult here is the fact that the lowliest and weakest of people will be able to trample those God brings low. This is referred to as adding insult to injury.

            God’s great power will on the day this song is sung have taken place or will soon come to pass. Those who reject God and attempt to throw off His authority over their lives are helpless in all of their rantings. David in Psalm 2 was inspired to write about them saying,

1 Why do the nations rage,

And the people plot a vain thing?

2 The kings of the earth set themselves,

And the rulers take counsel together,

Against the Lord and against His Anointed, saying,

3 “Let us break Their bonds in pieces

And cast away Their cords from us.”

4 He who sits in the heavens shall laugh;

The Lord shall hold them in derision.

5 Then He shall speak to them in His wrath,

And distress them in His deep displeasure (Psalm 2:1-5, NKJV)

The implication here is clear even if not stated specifically. Those who God exalts will be with Him in unity because they humbly accepted His rule over them and kept their minds set about being with Him and knowing Him better through all circumstances. Those who reject the authority of the Lord’s judgment will ignore the only means of salvation through the shed blood of Christ and suffer eternal loss.

Soul Desiring God’s Name

Isaiah 26:7-9, NKJV

7 The way of the just is uprightness;

O Most Upright,

You weigh the path of the just.

8 Yes, in the way of Your judgments,

O Lord, we have waited for You;

The desire of our soul is for Your name

And for the remembrance of You.

9 With my soul I have desired You in the night,

Yes, by my spirit within me I will seek You early;

For when Your judgments are in the earth,

The inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness.           

            The person who has their mind stayed upon the Lord will come to desire the name of God to be known above all else in their life, even more than their personal name or reputation. The greatest achievement of those who bear the name of Christ ought to be the desire to reveal the forgiveness of sins through the shed blood of Christ. It is at the name of Christ that every knee will bow and every tongue confess that He is Lord (Philippians 2:9-11), and not the name of a denomination, congregation, or any other person.

            Many times in the Christian community, pastors, denominations, specific specialty ministries, and Christian aid organizations are far more concerned with self-promotion than lifting up the name of Christ. The desire of making a name for them self has overpowered the promotion of God’s name. Yet the prophet is revealing the behavior of people who are in full submission to God and desiring that His name be great (Isaiah 26:7-9).

            There are three ways a person expresses the desire for God’s name: 1) imitate the character of God, 2) live in submission to God’s judgments, and 3) seek to teach others about God’s righteousness. These three things can only be accomplished when a person’s mind is stayed upon the Lord. Focusing on God allows people to desire God’s name to be their greatest claim in life. The person living in this manner will find that their prayer life extends far beyond the times they are speaking words to God; prayer will begin to invade their careers, personal hobbies, recreation, and home life.

            Desiring God’s name is the pursuit of imitating God’s character. The people will recognize at the time they sing this song that God is the “…Most Upright”. Uprightness is the translation of the Hebrew word mêyshär which means rightness, equity, smoothness. The person who lives in the paths of God’s judgments finds life less complicated than those who are in the bondage of sin. The people who sing this song will be willingly waiting upon the Lord. They will fully know, accept, and rejoice in the wisdom of God without questioning His timing or actions. God’s people were encouraged in the past and are still challenged today through the inspired words of Solomon,

5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart,

And lean not on your own understanding;

6 In all your ways acknowledge Him,

And He shall direct your paths.

7 Do not be wise in your own eyes;

Fear the Lord and depart from evil.

8 It will be health to your flesh,

And strength to your bones. (Proverbs 3:5-8, NKJV)

            God’s judgments and ways He carries out His Word are certainly strange in the mind of most people. The problem is with mankind’s thinking and not God’s decisions. God is pure; mankind has been contaminated by sin. Understanding God’s purity is important. God’s purity is the reason people can and should trust in the righteousness of God instead of their own sinful hearts.

            The character of God is above reproach in all circumstances. The Lord’s actions are done with the purpose of revelation of Himself in all creation. Everything in all creation is weighed against God’s character. Those things which agree with and support God are true, righteous, and holy; those things which disagree with and challenge God are false, wrong, and unholy. God expresses this reality through Isaiah later on in the inspired writing of Isaiah,

8 “For My thoughts are not your thoughts,

Nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord.

9 “For as the heavens are higher than the earth,

So are My ways higher than your ways,

And My thoughts than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:8-9, NKJV)

            Desiring God’s name is also to willingly live in submission to God’s judgments. The singers of this song will be waiting on God’s judgments to show them how to respond to all things in His good pleasure. Remembering God’s name in the soul sounds abstract, but in reality it is extremely practical and should be done even now by God’s children.

            The soul can be understood as the place where a person’s emotions, appetites, and desires are generated which is the meaning of the Hebrew word nepeš translated into English as “soul”. It is the soul that enters either into God’s kingdom to be in union with the Creator or into hell to suffer for all eternity for rejecting the Creator. The Hebrew word translated into English as “spirit” is rûaH which imparts wisdom for understanding, and carrying out one’s responsibilities. Those who are spiritually dead in their sins will not understand the ways of God or live in obedience to Him. The one who is indwelt by the Spirit of God and carries out the desires of the Father will have their soul’s desires  change from what promotes selfish desires to doing what God desires. Apostle Paul describes this in his inspired letter to the Roman believers this way,

21 I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. 22 For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. 23 But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. 24 O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!

So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin. (Romans 7:21-25, NKJV)

            This is why those who are redeemed continually struggle with sin in spite of the fact they are justified before the Father by the blood of Christ and have the Spirit of God dwelling within them. The concept of the spirit and soul is difficult enough without the whole idea of the spirit of mankind’s fallen nature and God’s Spirit within the same person warring against one another. It is the reality we are living in regardless if it is understood completely or not.

            The people who are going to be singing this song will be remembering the Lord in all they do, including desiring Him into the night with their spirits in communion with the Spirit of God. This can be realized in a small measure today within the body of Christ as God’s people seek His righteousness over their own satisfaction and comfort. Jesus explained how this was possible when He instructed the disciples, “…seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness…” (Matthew 6:33, NKJV).

            Finally, desiring God is to teach others about God’s righteousness through obedience to the Lord’s commands and a lifestyle that is conformed to the kingdom of heaven rather than the corruption of the world. The judgments of God will be brought about in the earth only as much as the children of God are willing to surrender themselves to the influence of the Spirit of God and submission to the living Word of God.

            The people of the earth will learn about the righteousness of God. That in no way means they will accept it for themselves, give God their heart, or appreciate the spot light of conviction obedience to God sheds upon sin. There are many things people learn and know, but most choose to ignore and disregard when it causes them discomfort and guilt. Those who sing this song will be living beacons reflecting the glory and purity of God in the world at this time.

            People even now are learning about God’s righteousness through the body of Christ. It is beyond their comprehension until they are receive salvation by the grace of God. Until that time, it will remain foolishness (1 Corinthians 1:27-29). Apostle Paul explained how this imparting of learning happens when he was inspired to write,

9 But as it is written:

“Eye has not seen, nor ear heard,

Nor have entered into the heart of man

The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.”

10 But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. 11 For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God. (1 Corinthians 2:9-12, NKJV)

            Prayer is to desire God in all aspects of life which in turn makes a person’s life one continual prayer to the Lord. Their minds are stayed upon the Lord and their souls desire to see their spirits conform to the will of God rather than their sinful nature. The spiritual battle rages on. Victory is achieved whenever a person submits their spirits to the authority of God’s Holy Spirit to do the will of God rather than the will of their sinful nature.


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Prayer is Trusting God’s Will

Job 16:15-22

Prayer is to adjust our perspective rather than change our circumstances.

Trust God on High

Humble Yourself Before God

Job 16:15-17, NKJV

15 “I have sewn sackcloth over my skin,

And laid my head in the dust.

16 My face is flushed from weeping,

And on my eyelids is the shadow of death;

17 Although no violence is in my hands,

And my prayer is pure.      

            Job was a man who lived through pain, loss, and suffering the majority of people in developed countries will never come close to experiencing, but situations people in underdeveloped countries endure through their lifetime in some cases. The destruction of all his children, the loss of all his material possessions, and enduring the disgrace of false accusations from friends that happened in a few days would be enough to bring the most optimistic person to their knees in defeat. Yet, Job maintained his integrity and refused to speak evil of God even while giving full verbal expression to his emotions (Job 42:8).

            In the verses leading up to the passage listed above, Job is responding to the verbal abuse he had been receiving from his friends. These friends came with the intention of comforting him, but quickly turned to blaming Job for bringing all this devastation upon himself because of secret sins he had in his life of which they had no evidence of at all. They assumed God was punishing Job due to the severity of the suffering Job was enduring. Job even calls them, “…Miserable comforters are you all!” (Job 16:2, NKJV).

            Job verbalizes how he believes God is working against him in the same ways many have used as excuses to avoid turning to God or to deny God’s existence altogether. Job shares with his friends that God has, “…worn me out…desolated all my company…shriveled me up…tears me in His wrath…gnashes at me with His teeth…delivered me to the ungodly…turned me over to the hands of the wicked…shattered me to pieces…set me up for His target…pierces my heart…breaks me with wound upon wound…” (Job 16:7-14, NKJV).

            If only one of these things was done to someone it would a person to avoid and refuse to be around that person. Job does something that is quite opposite. He put on sackcloth and put dust on his head. This cloth was either made from the course hair of camels or goats and was normally black in color. Sackcloth is similar in texture of modern day burlap which is made from Jute or Hemp. The abrasive material would be worn against the skin and ashes poured over oneself to signify mourning and sorrow. I caused the one wearing it to feel uncomfortable externally as much as internally.

            Job ran to the Lord instead of away from Him in his hurt and distress. He embraced the pain he felt by giving verbal expression to the reality he was experiencing as he presented his case to the Lord in prayer. The final words of verse seventeen reveals Job’s sorrow and frustration before the Lord in the posture of humility and not in anger when he says, “…And my prayer is pure” (Job 16:17, NKJV).

            Job’s prayer was his continued dialogue with God as he was directing his speech directly to God even while he spoke with his visitors. Prayers are more than words that are spoken by a person to God. Prayer is also exhibiting trust in the Lord’s will by accepting what is transpiring in life at the moment regardless of whether it is pleasant or unpleasant. Job’s prayer was pure before the Lord due to his honest submission to God by enduring the pain and turning to the Lord alone for comfort even though Job felt it was God who was the One afflicting him.

            Job humbled himself before the Lord accepting what he was going through, embracing it through mourning, and turned to the Lord as the only source of his comfort. Every day there are people around the world in every economic and cultural status level possible suffering with no clear explanation of why they are going through the things they of which they are dealing. The difference between those who understand what prayer is and those who have a misconception of prayer can be seen in how they respond to the struggles and heartache they are enduring. There are examples of both found in Scripture, but none as clear as the response of King Jehoiakim of Judah and the Jeremiah the prophet.

1 Now it came to pass in the fourth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah, that this word came to Jeremiah from the Lord, saying: 2 “Take a scroll of a book and write on it all the words that I have spoken to you against Israel, against Judah, and against all the nations, from the day I spoke to you, from the days of Josiah even to this day. 3 It may be that the house of Judah will hear all the adversities which I purpose to bring upon them, that everyone may turn from his evil way, that I may forgive their iniquity and their sin.”…

16 Now it happened, when they had heard all the words, that they looked in fear from one to another, and said to Baruch, “We will surely tell the king of all these words.” 17 And they asked Baruch, saying, “Tell us now, how did you write all these words—at his instruction?”…

23 And it happened, when Jehudi had read three or four columns, that the king cut it with the scribe’s knife and cast it into the fire that was on the hearth, until all the scroll was consumed in the fire that was on the hearth. 24 Yet they were not afraid, nor did they tear their garments, the king nor any of his servants who heard all these words. 25 Nevertheless Elnathan, Delaiah, and Gemariah implored the king not to burn the scroll; but he would not listen to them. (Jeremiah 36:1-3, 16-17, 23-25, NKJV)

            King Jehoiakim lashed out at what God had instructed Jeremiah to write to get him to acknowledge his sin and repent in order to avoid the destruction that was prepared if he refused to humble himself before God. The leaders around the king were afraid of what God had to say, but certainly not enough to acknowledge their sins and repent of it with great mourning. This was because they mistakenly thought prayer was nothing more than a religious practice meant to make oneself feel better and attempt to get what they imagined they desired for themselves.

            Many people respond to correction and hardship with denial, ignoring the reality of what is taking place, or being angry at those who speak the truth. The king and his leaders responded in this manner as well and found themselves coming under the judgment of God. Yet, there were others like the widow who lived in Zarephath who simply embraced the reality of her destitution and found that God had sent her the Prophet Elijah to provide all she needed for her and her son.

8 Then the word of the Lord came to him, saying, 9 “Arise, go to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and dwell there. See, I have commanded a widow there to provide for you.” 10 So he arose and went to Zarephath. And when he came to the gate of the city, indeed a widow was there gathering sticks. And he called to her and said, “Please bring me a little water in a cup, that I may drink.” 11 And as she was going to get it, he called to her and said, “Please bring me a morsel of bread in your hand.”

12 So she said, “As the Lord your God lives, I do not have bread, only a handful of flour in a bin, and a little oil in a jar; and see, I am gathering a couple of sticks that I may go in and prepare it for myself and my son, that we may eat it, and die.”

13 And Elijah said to her, “Do not fear; go and do as you have said, but make me a small cake from it first, and bring it to me; and afterward make some for yourself and your son. 14 For thus says the Lord God of Israel: ‘The bin of flour shall not be used up, nor shall the jar of oil run dry, until the day the Lord sends rain on the earth.’ ”

15 So she went away and did according to the word of Elijah; and she and he and her household ate for many days. 16 The bin of flour was not used up, nor did the jar of oil run dry, according to the word of the Lord which He spoke by Elijah. (1 Kings 17:8-16, NKJV)

            The widow did nothing wrong, but was enduring the drought which came about through the word of the Lord through Elijah. She humbled herself and accepted the future as far as she could see and trusted the Lord’s word through His prophet and cared for Elijah as he asked. King Jehoiakim and his leaders were warned about the coming destruction they would suffer but ignored God’s warning through His prophet, even if it caused them to be fearful for a short time.

            Job humbled himself before God and turned to Him for comfort even though Job believed God did all the horrible things to him which he was suffering. The humility Job exhibited was his prayer to God accepting it was the Lord’s will for him to endure these things. Prayer is trusting God’s will through humility by enduring longsuffering that is either the result of consequences of sin or simply a reason that may never be known by God’s child who is enduring the suffering. There are times when no clear answer or reason for suffering is given to the one who suffers. It is best to stop looking for the explanation and focus more on what God is teaching us through the hardship being faced and on His power that sustains when everything else has failed.

            Prayer is trusting God’s will by accepting the authority of God and humbly enduring with peace and patience the present circumstances of life. If sinful choices or selfish decisions have brought about the situation presently, repent and once again submit to the Word of God and obey Him. God is faithful and will see His people through difficult times because He is merciful. If what is being suffered at the moment is the result of circumstances beyond a person’s choices or have been brought on by the sin of others, take heart and be encouraged that nothing is a surprise to God. The Lord is faithful and will see His people through the darkest of times. Praise God and allow the actions and words of each day to be spoken in confidence of the faithfulness of God’s will to do what is righteous and just.

Trust God on High

Job 16:18-22, NKJV

18 “O earth, do not cover my blood,

And let my cry have no resting place!

19 Surely even now my witness is in heaven,

And my evidence is on high.

20 My friends scorn me;

My eyes pour out tears to God.

21 Oh, that one might plead for a man with God,

As a man pleads for his neighbor!

22 For when a few years are finished,

I shall go the way of no return.  

            Prayer that trusts God is consumed by heavenly things and not visible results; it is looking toward the Lord and His good pleasure above all else. Job prays that nothing on earth would be able to silence his cries from which he refuses to stop speaking. There is much Job has suffered; he has endured beyond his ability to withstand such anguish and now gives full vent to his cries to God. Job refuses to be silent even though God appears to be doing him this harm. This is due to the facts Job points out in Job 16:19, “19 Surely even now my witness is in heaven, And my evidence is on high” (NKJV). Job is calling God as his witness and proclaiming the truth is residing with the Lord.

            We have to look back to where all this started to see that Job is speaking truth instead of things that he merely wishes were true. “1 There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was blameless and upright, and one who feared God and shunned evil” (Job 1:1, NKJV.) Job lived an exemplary life before the Lord. In one of his exchanges with his friends he said,

12 …I delivered the poor who cried out,

The fatherless and the one who had no helper.

13 The blessing of a perishing man came upon me,

And I caused the widow’s heart to sing for joy.

14 I put on righteousness, and it clothed me;

My justice was like a robe and a turban.

15 I was eyes to the blind,

And I was feet to the lame.

16 I was a father to the poor,

And I searched out the case that I did not know.

17 I broke the fangs of the wicked,

And plucked the victim from his teeth. (Job 29:12-17, NKJV)

            Job trusted his integrity to God rather than the opinion of other people. He was certainly not perfect or sinless, but God considered him to be upright and one who shunned evil. This is high praise coming from God who judges the intentions of people along with their actions, words, and thoughts (Hebrews 4:13). The testimony of people can be denied and easily dismissed for one reason or another. God’s declaration of a person’s character is what really matters in the end. God will be the One who all will stand before in judgement one day which the writer of Hebrews was inspired to proclaim, “27 And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27, NKJV).

            God is the One who must be trusted above all else. There was no one else Job really had to turn to in his life at this point. God was the only One who could comfort Job in his current state. In reality, God is the only One who can comfort anyone, regardless of their circumstances. Job knew this in his heart more than he had evidence of it in writing. Those who worship God today have thousands of years of history and examples of how God works, His trustworthiness to keep His promises, and instruction from prophets, apostles, Christ, and even the indwelling of the Holy Spirit within them.

            Job knew the evidence of his integrity was on high because that is where God resided. Long before Jeremiah was inspired to record these words of God, “10 I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind, Even to give every man according to his ways, According to the fruit of his doings” (Jeremiah 17:10, NKJV). Job’s friend Eliphaz used what God revealed about Himself in creation to accuse Job of sin rather than allow God to be the Judge and Revealer of truth. Eliphaz was trusting in his wisdom to make judgments about others and the world when he said to Job,

8 Even as I have seen,

Those who plow iniquity

And sow trouble reap the same.

9 By the blast of God they perish,

And by the breath of His anger they are consumed. (Job 4:8-9, NKJV)

            God reveals Himself in creation clearly, but mankind often will take what God reveals and twist it to accommodate their selfish desires. The revelation of the Lord is made known to change the hearts and minds of people to conform to the truth of God. Far too often individuals will violently force God’s revelation through His word or in creation to justify what is right in their own eyes. Job refused to conform God to his image as Eliphaz was doing by using God’s revelation in the world to condemn Job.

            Job knows that God is merciful and kind as well as righteous and just. Eliphaz is promoting a works based salvation while Job is proclaiming a salvation that is based entirely on the grace of God long before Christ came into the world to die for the sins of mankind. This is clear by other things that Job has said, “25 For I know that my Redeemer lives, And He shall stand at last on the earth” (Job 19:25, NKJV). Job trusts God to be his Judge as well as his Deliverer. This is the perfect explanation of Christ who is God in the flesh but also is the One who offers His flesh for the salvation of others as the Apostle Paul so clearly announced,

8 …God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. 10 For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. 11 And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation. (Romans 5:8-11, NKJV)

            God came into the world to satisfy His wrath on sin personally on behalf of all people. It is through the death and resurrection of Christ that we have been reconciled with God the Father. The only place anyone can run to in order to find forgiveness is to the God that has been sinned against. The only way to have strength to endure all that is experienced in life is to trust in the only true God who is sovereign, righteous, and just in all that He allows into a person’s life.

            Job’s friends were gloating over his suffering and falsely accusing him of wrong doing because in their minds God fit into their understanding, and their understanding convince them God only allowed horrible things to happen to horrible people. Unfortunately, some of the most horrible things happen to those who are some of the most righteous in this world. The perfect example of this is Jesus who was perfect in every way, but suffered throughout His life and died the death of a criminal.

            There was much about Job’s suffering that can be seen in the life of Christ. Job’s friends scorned him and tears poured out of his eyes to God. In the life of Jesus, tears flowed out of Him to the Father as well when He wept at Lazarus’ tomb, over Jerusalem’s future, and in the garden of Gethsemane (Mark 14:32-34; Luke 19:41-44; John 11:32-36). There is a confidence seen in Job that God would make a way to satisfy justice and still redeem those who were hopelessly trying to live a pleasing life before the righteous God of all creation. Jesus lived the perfect life before the Father to be able to do for mankind what they could not possibly do for themselves; His innocent death brought atonement to all who would accept Christ’s death on behalf of their sins.

            The last portion of Job’s prayer to God expresses the importance of making the decision to place faith in God for the forgiveness of sins before physical death. “22 For when a few years are finished, I shall go the way of no return” (Job 16:22, NKJV). There is no return to life as we know it physically. This in no way discounts resurrection because we know Christ was raised from the dead, but Christ’s body was not the same after resurrection as it was before His death. Jesus rose from the dead immortal, never to die again. Those who were recorded to be raised in the Old Testament and by Christ all experienced physical death later on. All who Jesus healed physically eventually died of something else since that resurrection did not change their physical make up.

            There is no opportunity to accept Jesus once we take our last breath upon this earth for the final time. The rich man found this out too late in the account Jesus shared recorded in the Gospel of Luke 16:19-31. Therefore, it is crucial for a decision to accept the atoning death of Christ on behalf of sin be made now since no one knows the day of Christ’s return or the day of their death.

            Prayer is trusting God’s will since it is more than words spoken to God; it is living daily with an eternal perspective of what is to be rather than what is visible presently. The very life of God’s child ought to be a continual prayer of praise and acceptance of the will of God. This means that what is seen currently that is contrary to what God has promised is recognized as sin’s effect upon the perfect creation of God through Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. This is why God tells His people to live by faith, not be sight.


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