“And in Your lovingkindness, cut off my enemies
And destroy all those who afflict my soul,
For I am Your servant.”
As much as there are times when we might wish it so, Imprecatory Prayer is not like a Mafia contract killing. God is not a Killer-For-Hire. “He takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked.” “He does not wish for any to perish, but for all to come to repentance.” Imprecatory prayer is maybe… just my thought… our final (but oft repeated) step toward relinquishing an untrustworthy, vexed heart and confusing circumstantial desires to a wise and holy Father who sees all and knows all and can righteously fulfill His purpose in glory indifferent to the acts of ungodly men or well-meaning saints. That would be my heart that is vexed and needs be handed over to the King once again. And again. And again.
Imprecatory prayers have multiple bases that are as varied as they are broad as they encompass the glory of God and the purpose of God in the lives of individual saints who are collectively engaged in the Body Corporate revelation of God that always touches eternity. Here in Psalm 143 we see the Psalmist essentially prays for God to clobber his enemies as he appeals to his servant relationship to God, with a reminder of his perpetual need for God’s mercy demonstrated by God acting to clear the solitary path to heaven.
Answered imprecations do not always imply immediate deliverance from or annihilation of all enemies. We are granted assurance that God does answer all prayer by His standing offer of tender mercy and tangible comforts to the seasoned warrior-saints who cry and pray. Joy is the expected Biblical norm indifferent to current impoverished circumstance or ongoing prosperity of enemies. We are to discover joy in God alone, not in the answer of deliverance; or in the non-answer. God may not purpose deliverance or a change in circumstance. That is no justification for embittered complaint. “Mumble, mumble…” Although when we mumble, we best mumble to God. I distinguish between a mumble and a grumble. (I hope that is not rationalization…)
I just read again this morning the story of Joseph’s initial revelation of his identity to his brothers as they stood before, arguably the most powerful man in the universe : “You sold me as a slave, but God actually sent me to preserve you as a remnant.“ Oops… big boo-boo. (Knees probably grew weak and a few murmured 4-lettered words likely escaped the lips as the guilty victors become humbly victimized.) Their logical understanding of these events was about as elusive to them as my understanding how my youngest son has juggled as many as 8 balls simultaneously. It’s beyond the normative of ordinary human experience. Or is it? Does not God have the capacity to animate dead dust formed into live Man by the breath of His mouth? How does dry dust hold together anyway? Ever wondered that?
Joseph likely had passed through frequent periods where his pleasure, comfort and hope were derived from reminding God of the injustice of his current imprisonment, yet he probably never anticipated an answer to this prayer by a reunion with both his brothers and father. This unlikely reunion was occasioned by Joseph being a faithful steward of God’s purpose, and his adaptation to his role as a servant with an enlarged heart to meet the need of the masses in general but his brethren in particular. Answered imprecatory prayer may lead to restored relationships. Don’t be aggravated if God lets your enemy off the hook. Didn’t He do the same for you? You better answer, “Affirmative there, Ghost Rider.”
“Run the way of His commands and He enlarges your heart.”
I suspect this is the bottom-line, glory-of-God ideal we should call up on our personal rangefinder when we fire off salvos toward heaven loaded with ammunition intent on importuning God with appeals for calamity upon adversaries. “God remove them… but I guess, save them if You must.” I know we as Christians ought be careful for we gravitate toward the natural shade under the juniper tree where we can sit around swapping fish stories with a strange bed-fellow, (who is just about drip-dried), who still speaks of being eaten alive by a monstrous fish.
God has a very large paint brush that details an answer to our prayers, and we need to be sensitive and open to the signed portrait He presents to us. As an example, consider that those beautiful rolling thunderheads rushing over the horizon toward me actually hold wind, hail, floods and potential death hidden underneath their majestic beauty. God’s destruction upon our enemies may mean that in proud prosperous arrogance they succeed today as they literally get away with murder and their life may have temporal beauty. Their hearts may be hardened with ungodly blind indifference as they blissfully enjoy temporal blessings beyond measure so that “their portion might be in this life…” All questions of right and wrong, of justice and mercy will be ultimately revealed and equitably balanced in powerful, comforting clarity granted on The Final Day. An honest current Judgment Day perspective is crucial for contentment today, and helps a struggling, afflicted believer to currently see wisdom and find joyful peace and contentment through a Psalms 73 worldview. This is our one reconciliation of the apparent incongruences that result as we pray for the restraint of God upon our enemies or the removal by God of the wicked… yet in answer they prosper as never before. “Thanks a lot God!”
Just remember, “God is opposed to the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
Let’s end this in search of agreement with the Psalmist at the end of Psalm 73.
Psalms 73:25-28 (NASB)
Whom have I in heaven but You?
And besides You, I desire nothing on earth.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
For, behold, those who are far from You will perish;
You have destroyed all those who are unfaithful to You.
But as for me, the nearness of God is my good; I have made the Lord GOD my refuge, That I may tell of all Your works.
“And though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the ruler yet. This is my Father’s world!” (Hymn)
“I have learned the secret of being content in any circumstance.”
Final statement and I’m sticking to it:
Imprecatory Prayers are thoroughly Biblical and need to be routinely prayed… I suppose daily to seek deliverance from an embittered heart. God’s answer to imprecatory prayers may not always coincide with my desire, intent nor agenda and ultimately require my thanksgiving. This reality only serves to reinforce why we pray, as prayer implies a Wise Sovereign who has our times, and the times of God’s enemies… my enemies… in His hands. Prayer has both temporal and eternal application. When the Psalmist requests his “enemies to be cut off” it carries with it the consequential final outcome of being shut out of the Covenant Community. This is serious business but the reasonable and logical outcome of habitual running in darkness from Light. Pray brethren, but pray in wisdom and pray in love with Eternity in your heart and the Glory of God in your sight.
Source: Of Men and Dead Chickens
“All we like dead chickens are gone astray, we are every one turned into our own decay…”
(Vining allegorical paraphrase of Romans 3 and Ephesians 2 principles.)
I have on occasion opportunity to perform the dastardly deed of dealing with dead chickens. One thing for sure: when chickens die there is a total cessation of activity. They neither cluck nor clack, and no longer do whatever chickens typically do: eat, drink and make messes and merry with roosters… perhaps the latter point is more illustrative of the next-to-useless rooster’s perspective. Presumably some chickens are reputed to lay eggs now and again when not on strike as mine most certainly are at present. (The heck of it is that I have not to date received a grievance list in the empty egg basket.)
When dead though, chickens stop ordinary functions and no longer serve useful purpose to their Sustainer in Chief, and it is then I reluctantly move them postmortem to the distant burn pile. They are cut off from all semblance of life and hope when found in this final predicament. The chickens are thereby committed to rest, their battle won with scarce a mumble of appreciation as they are tossed unceremoniously to the top of the pile. It is here they will stay until they decay or end up being burned with utter indifference to the quality of their works or number of laid eggs. These facts remain true unless the carcass is acted upon by outside forces. These forces often come by stealth in multiple forms just as a thief in the night… typically by buzzard, stray dog or nasty coyote. (My dog Jack gets a severe verbal rebuke for any attempt to consort with the dead. We are not that sort of folks out here on the Vining Plantation, and will not tolerate such behavior by domesticated animals nor humans alike. I think of Lonesome Dove and the warning sign, “We don’t rent pigs.” Some things are well beyond profane.)
Ongoing research has led me to observe that dead chickens never become animated again regardless of the force or strength of entity that acts upon them. Even when varmint intervention occurs and they are forcibly moved they never achieve original animation, and are ultimately only consumed and spread across the balance of my 9 acres after due digestive process and transformation into varmint dung fertilizer. Here is the point: If we are really, really just as dead as dead chickens as I have intimated, these options sound pretty terrible to me as we approach the final goal line by entry into the “red zone”.
Quite candidly it’s the maggots that get me most of all. The putrid smell of death that surrounds these carrion-eating vermin works upon all sensory pathways, but most especially the olfactory pathways to trigger the “stink-sensitive” N&V regions of the brain. Frankly a writhing group of maggots does wonders to the eye gate also. (N&V is nursing lingo for hurling your toenails up.)
So my question is this: Does it even seem reasonable that this is the best we might expect… that this is what God has destined us to… we who were made a little lower than God, to rule and exercise dominion over the earth? Yes, even we who were made in His likeness and image? Not hardly, I think. Rather as children we progress toward hope resolved with these words of comfort, “God has not destined us for wrath but for obtaining salvation through our Jesus Christ our Lord.”
Glory. We seek saving glory and not decay. We seek another city whose walls and foundations are as eternal as our Master Architect. We pursue “life, life, eternal life” as much as Graceless on his initial dash toward the wicket gate before his name change to Christian upon entry. “This mortal shall put on immortality; the perishable, imperishable.” (Check out the hope of 1 Corth 15 for those who practice the things revealed in the earlier portions of chapter 15: Believe!)
Back on track…
In the meantime we are spiritually akin to dead chickens and must be acted upon by an outside Power, a Force or Entity. We are dead as dead chickens. Lifeless with no spiritual pulse, separate from God, without hope, without God in this world though we may be as rich and nutty as Gates or Trump, or even as a lone strutting rooster without competition surrounded by 2-3 dozen plus beauties without resistance to his every whim. God must move. God must rend the heavens. God must issue command beyond the general to the particular, secret, effectual calling of our name. “Lazarus, COME FORTH!” And he did, as we still do we. “All that the Father has given Me come…”
“But God…” must get involved in our deadness, our helplessness, our hopelessness through the gospel of free and sovereign grace. He raises the dead and animates them with power by His Breath, and in His pleasure for His glory.
Lewis helps… with another of those memorable word pictures you never forget:
“This world is a great sculptor’s shop. We are the statues and there’s a rumor going around the shop that some of us are someday going to come to life.”
CS Lewis in Mere Christianity
Oh yeah, we must deal with the unpleasantries of this business about dung. (Philippians 3:8) That is what the Bible candidly calls your attempts to save yourself. Crap. You are covered in a veneer of crap that is a stench in the nostrils of Holy God. When is the last time you intentionally looked like crap and dressed like crap and smeared dung upon your self as perfume to fit yourself for the King to actually participate in His Son’s wedding feast? (Hunters in a passionate fit of eagerness to be stealth may rub fox urine or the like on their clothing to mask offensive human BO… but I have never heard of fox poo or the like being used.) Likely, you too have never so adorned yourself either, but if you have… when did you escape the sanitarium and what is their number? Babies do that though… paint in poo and think it is fun. (SPV) Are you still an infant attempting to finger-paint upon Self and surroundings to wear a facade of hypocrisy?? If you insist on saving yourself that is precisely what Scripture teaches you are and what you do. And you have plans to attend the Marriage Supper of the Lamb dressed in what? (Remember the parable of the one at the Wedding Feast dressed inappropriately? It did not end well for him as he was bound and cast into Outer Darkness.)
Really dead men, really do not walk and can only attain to animation when God acts and imparts life to them. “But God…”
We know the post-life evidences of this impartation are repentance and faith in response to the word of His power.
Regeneration or the new birth is our Genesis of life. You don’t believe and won’t believe and can’t believe as a dead man. “But God…” first moves, then God imparts life and light as the Spirit bursts forth in the faint cry of adoption, “Abba. Father.” And we awaken to a life hidden with Christ in God.
And He makes all things new.
Ephesians 2:1-10 (NASB)
Made Alive in Christ
[2:1] And you were dead in your trespasses and sins,
 in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience.
 Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.
 But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us,
 even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved),
 and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,
 so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God;
 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.
 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.
Forgive me for the way my fried brain works. I really do look and listen to God speaking in all of life though, even when tending stinking, dead chickens.
“It is vain for you to rise up early, To retire late, To eat the bread of painful labors; For He gives to His beloved even in his sleep.”
The Pilgrim’s Progress introduces an all-to-often frequently encountered character known as “Ignorance”. Ignorance has long insisted that his way and his efforts would be recognized and rewarded in the end. He proceeded in his religious labors in disregard of repeated warnings by Christian and Hopeful that he in fact was choosing to “do it my way,” in contrast to the prescribed Way they followed according to the Writ. Ignorance on that final fateful Day was turned away from the very gate of the Celestial City for his lack of the Certificate of Authenticity that validated his life and right of entry. As Ignorance is carried away, Bunyan in his masterful way makes the astute observation through Christian, “And I saw that there was a way to hell, even from the gates of heaven.”
“And I saw that there was a way to hell, even from the gates of heaven.”
Rigid discipline and hard labor are neither the fuel of nor primary catalysts of grace. A responsive faith that labors does in fact produce these tangible, consumable evidences of the secret God who gives grace even as men are incapacitated by sleep. Perhaps this is a further insurance policy to utterly convince men so none boast, none see, and none fully understand why grace comes unmerited to the one as the other continues in reckless sleep and comfortable sloth in the House of Unconcern.
Thankfully God chooses to interfere with our preprogrammed best renditions of religious idolatry and vanity of labors. He turns our wood, hay and stubble into gold, silver and precious stones that will adorn eternity. The significance of works is not because of the intrinsic worth of works, but because of the grace that enlarges a new capacity of joy experienced in responsive service. “The love of Christ constrains us…” and, “If I have not love it profits me nothing.”
We are easily confused and become convinced that “God helps those who help themselves,” but the above Psalm indicates quite the unnerving contrary. The source of our confusion originates in our makeup which is hard-wired for pride and self-sufficiency that insists we know best, yes even better than God, when it comes to works that save. Our heart has an incredible capacity to deceive us. However we are indeed called to pursue God through persistent discipline, instruction and effort not for our glory or profit or as an end to merit, but as means to know God in power and resurrection as recipients of His glory. What I think I struggle to say is that God acts in secret ways and by special providences in spite of our best efforts of interference to thwart grace, and in spite of our attempts to help Him out to merit our keep. Redemptive history will unfold and the church will advance even by the weakness of our flesh where His glory resides in the most unlikely clay vessel candidates.
When it’s all been said and done a Christ follower is one who has been repetitiously instructed by life journey that “it is of His doing that we are in Christ Jesus…” and our boast is in the Lord working within us because of His work without us and in spite of us. We know that “Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it.” We still build it but a spiritual man recognizes the God of grace is in reality working His purposes in secret through our labor unaware. So what should we do? Work to be noticed of Heaven in all your strivings and efforts, not for merit but in pleasure and joy that you might not receive the grace of God in vain. Work harder than any! That’s Paul’s perspective.
True believers all soon say… because they LOVE to say of the Chief Cornerstone: “This came about from the Lord and is marvelous in our eyes.”
On certain days I may be assigned to a particular type of #OR case and as such find myself victimized by urban legend #hospital policy that requires me to change out of my comfy personal scrubs and into very basic hospital-sanctioned scrubs. These hospital grown scrubs are reputedly cleaner than my home-grown variety, just never mind the factoid that they are all quite unceremoniously forcibly crammed into suspect cubicles where they are permanently wrinkled much as a 125-year old migrant worker’s face who has recently been discovered a week later lying face down in the turnip patch, shaken and not stirred, but very well-done under scorching hot noon-day sun. We will only mention in brief passing how these suspect aseptic artifacts of clothing have been corporately washed in unison by use of industrial strength commercial washers with strong cleaning solvents, not only with ordinary dirt and grime, but with the added benefit of multiple patients’ feces, urine, vomitous, blood and the like from several institutions
’Nough said about that so I rest my case.
Although I do think it relevant and noteworthy that Hospital Scrub developers were early pioneers of the #unisex concept as they fit male or female personnel anatomy equally poorly. Asexual or gender-neutral almost comes to mind, but not quite as they also offer a further progressive claim of “switch-hitter” status with #bisexual capacity as they flip either way, both in or out complete with pocket on either side, and that with ease. I have discovered by sheer determined trial and error that if the shirt and pants are wrinkled on the one side, the bisex plan to flip them inside out fails miserably as they are equally wrinkled on the inside as well as the out, though I had to try. I HAD to try, you understand?
I suspect there are latent #spiritual truths there.
“The heart of man reflects man.”
As a man thinks within himself, so he is.”
What we see on the outside accurately indicates what lurks tucked and hidden away somewhere on the inside.
And all the crowds were amazed and they said, “This man cannot be the Son of David, can He?” But when the Pharisees heard this, they said, “This man casts out demons only by Beelzebul the ruler of the demons.”
And knowing their thoughts Jesus said to them, “Any kingdom divided against itself is laid waste; and any city or house divided against itself will not stand.”
This accusation of the intimidated and outgunned Pharisees is amazing for it reveals their fears of the spiritual nature of the power inherent in the claims Christ demonstrated in both His works and words. The Pharisees realize what is at stake, and they sense they are losing, so they impugn the character of Jesus by suggesting he is an agent of the devil. (Sounds like something Trump would say about Cruz.)
And then there is the “old Jedi mind-trick” of “knowing their thoughts…” Right… or is He God incarnate who knows all things? I don’t think it required any special exercise of Jesus to know their thoughts; Wisdom incarnate stood before them. “He knew you before He formed you… before a word is on your tongue…” He knows it!
In a moment of open clarity to any who have ears to hear Jesus claims not to be Beelzebul but in fact He declares to be the One who has actually bound up Beelzebul and currently plunders his house with freedom by the coming of the kingdom of God. How does One bind up a spirit being? By the word of power spoken by the Word become flesh. God incarnate inhabited the Lord Jesus, hence we see demonic forces elsewhere crying out for temporary reprieve as they sense judgment is nigh. Why? Because the King has come! Who is gonna logically argue with that? Where can we say the Lord Jesus ever failed against the spiritual forces of wickedness? Not gonna happen. Prove it you say? Look at His works. “Satan, begone!” “Let there be light!” And there was light. And there is life everlasting. “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.” And demons tremble at the sound of His name.
Hail King Jesus! We worship You in the beauty of holiness and for who You are and who You declare Yourself to be.
1. Hail to the Lord’s Anointed,
great David’s greater Son!
Hail in the time appointed,
his reign on earth begun!
He comes to break oppression,
to set the captive free;
to take away transgression,
and rule in equity.
2. He comes with succor speedy
to those who suffer wrong;
to help the poor and needy,
and bid the weak be strong;
to give them songs for sighing,
their darkness turn to light,
whose souls, condemned and dying,
are precious in his sight.
3. He shall come down like showers
upon the fruitful earth;
love, joy, and hope, like flowers,
spring in his path to birth.
Before him on the mountains,
shall peace, the herald, go,
and righteousness, in fountains,
from hill to valley flow.
4. To him shall prayer unceasing
and daily vows ascend;
his kingdom still increasing,
a kingdom without end.
The tide of time shall never
his covenant remove;
his name shall stand forever;
that name to us is love.
“Whoever does not receive you, nor heed your words, as you go out of that house or that city, shake the dust off your feet. Truly I say to you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city.”
Jesus in Matthew 10
Do you find it as intriguing as alarming that Jesus taught by graphic illustration that one’s indifferent rejection or hard-hearted rebellion against a God-appointed message or messenger of Truth brings consequences that would make being consumed by a fiery volcanic eruption of hell upon our head pale by comparison. “More tolerable than Sodom and Gomorrah” does not sound a good thing nor right, does it? Volcanoes always wreck devastation wherever and whatever they even come near to touch. Honestly though, haven’t you always discovered that true Truth has a sure and prickly edge on the one side as well as a comforting, inviting touch upon the other? That is why we handle Truth with care, and why we entrust the care and keeping of truth to but few in the high calling of the role of teacher or preacher. We do not play fast and loose with the Word of God as to drop it carelessly in the lap of a novice regardless of how excited he may be for sins forgiven. “…not a novice lest he fall into condemnation incurred by the devil…”
The “good news”
that truth brings is fabulous once we embrace the terrible gravity of the bad news of our native condition. So in this case it looks as though the volcano-type threat on the head means precisely what Jesus says by way of calling Sodom and Gomorrah alongside as His witnesses.
Just who was that Angel of the Lord, now? Who was the Captain of the Lord of Hosts? Who issued the command and then passed through Egypt that terrible first night of Passover? The message of Jesus was not only nor simply a message categorized by love: He clearly prescribed wrath as the remedy for rejection. This principle is revealed elsewhere as instruction of accountability and stewardship as taught in the saying, “To whom much is given, much is required.” We would say today, “You snooze, you lose.” (For the faint-of-heart I’m quite sure He possibly ended this gnarly topic with our comfortably familiar and light-hearted adage, “Have a good day now… Y’all come back now.” Or maybe He did not for He presided over His kingdom as a faithful Son who faithfully discharged truth to the children He instructed by never failing to speak the hard sayings.)
“You snooze, you lose, sucker,” is another way we express neglectful indifference today.
It is probably not ordinarily in our ever-flowing stream of typical thoughts that when we sit under the sound of the gospel this day, (or any day), it is to be with a reverent accountable attentiveness befitting one who has privilege to hear the direct proclamation and instruction of our Creator and Owner, upon threat of death and hell for simple indifference or disregard of the messenger, regardless how ugly he is. (Good gosh! Do they make an automated shock collar for one who tends to doze off during the sermon?) To listen carelessly or to adorn our response with the smock of indifference exposes our very life to grave danger. It is no small matter to attend to preaching adorned with “words of life and beauty as they teach faith and duty.” (Phillip P. Bliss) I suspect such truth-oriented preaching that brings such hideous consequences for ungodly indifference is more rare today than we suspect. “To the one it is an aroma of life… to the other an aroma of death…” (2 Corth 2:16) Horrible thought… though I must confess it forms a facet of the basis of my ministry to prisoners. I earnestly plead with them to receive, to choose life, to flee the wrath, but it is with a clear presentation that we tinker with matters eternal of life and death, heaven and hell. These are things eternal upon which we live, and of which Lewis stated, “All that is not eternal is eternally out of date.” That is why Truth matters and why it matters how we respond to it.
“All that is not eternal is eternally out of date.” Lewis
Yet how safe we are from peril and destruction in the one Refuge so freely offered in “the only name given under heaven among men by which we MUST be saved.” And again, how naked and bare, how stripped and undone we see ourselves as we are exposed to wrath not deferred, (not propitiated), should we do as the Jews who deemed themselves unworthy of eternal life as they rejected truth in Jesus as proclaimed by Paul. Their deference was to self and tradition, and their desire was to remain slavishly in blind bondage rather than received fulfilled law in Christ by the free grace Paul preached.
“The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous run into it and are safe.” When we listen and when we purpose repentant obedience to the King’s gracious life-giving commands that proclaims a message of Divine accomplishment, we are actually actively running further into the Kingdom by Way of the road of holiness as we draw nearer, nearer to the throne of grace, from whence our Help comes. Listening is an active life-saving activity and not a spectator sport that allows you to “time-out” and sit upon the sidelines as preacher preaches. “Waiting upon the Lord” means I engage God where I am. Paul referenced personal responsibility this way:
1 Corinthians 9:26-27 (NASB)
“Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.”
Here is a concluding poem once known and sung by many it seems almost in another age…
Sing them over again to me, wonderful words of life, Let me more of their beauty see, wonderful words of life; Words of life and beauty teach me faith and duty.
Beautiful words, wonderful words, wonderful words of life, Beautiful words, wonderful words, wonderful words of life.
Christ, the blessèd One, gives to all wonderful words of life; Sinner, list to the loving call, wonderful words of life; All so freely given, wooing us to heaven.
Sweetly echo the Gospel call, wonderful words of life; Offer pardon and peace to all, wonderful words of life; Jesus, only Savior, sanctify us forever.
Phillip P. Bliss
God calls us to prepare this day to tremble before His word. In this hell of mess we witness in our world as the devastating consequences of sin advances into land and home, we have hope and there is light in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. God says to not fear nor be dismayed, He will be with us and help us. Consider these Truths worthy of implementation as we listen today with a passion and an expectation that pleases the Father. The message of Heaven brings:
1. His pervasive presence.
2. His unfailing promise of a righteous cause.
3. His sure providence that accomplishes His purpose.
How quickly we go from the fire and rumbling presence of Holy God to merriment and idolatry in the midst of Covenant Community worship.
Reference Moses on the Mount with Jehovah, and then the god of the golden calf celebrated with revelry at the foot of the mount. Such a short time… 40 days. Such a short distance… the height of a mountain. Does your worship evoke the fear and trembling of the Holy One of Israel or does it “sound of war in the camp?”
The sounds of war in the camp… when in fact seasoned saints recognize it as the deceptive and enticing sound of idolatrous merriment…
And here are we, some two thousand years the backside of Calvary, yet this is relevant and something to think about today; perhaps something to repent of and depart from as the Spirit moves. Do you worship in Spirit and truth or are you engaged in an event or happening that leaves off the spirit of truth?
He said to them, “Do not delay me, since the LORD has prospered my way. Send me away that I may go to my master.”Genesis 24:56
Abraham’s oldest and most loyal servant has completed precisely one-half of his assigned task: he has located Rebecca, the God-chosen bride-elect of Isaac, the son of promise remarkably born of Abraham and Sarah in their old age. The servant now purposes to stay on point by completion of his task via a quick return to Abraham and Isaac with his prized beauty. Rebecca’s mother understandably has scruples over such a speedy, “shotgun-styled marriage” of sorts. Rebecca’s opportunistic brother Laban likewise wants to delay nuptials by hindering her return to Isaac for perhaps less than legitimate or honorable reasons. We can easily speculate that perhaps he hoped to garner more gifts of gold and silver from Abraham’s faithful servant before their departure for marital bliss in the Promised Land. (We definitely see in his subsequent future dealings with Jacob in matters pertaining to his daughters, Rachael and Leah, that he is a man given to money, manipulation and deceit. Put the guy in front of a camera and he could have had a brilliant career as a televangelist!)
Abraham’s wise servant having clearly discerned the hand of God, perhaps even recalling his master’s recent charge and assurance that “God will send His angel before you” is having nothing to do with delay. Rebecca is called alongside to affirm her desire with the servant’s intent, which remarkably but not surprisingly perfectly coincides with his plan… “Let’s get the heck outta here now!” Thus a speedy return is determined to be right, and the matter is settled. They immediately leave bound for the Land of Promise in obedience to their perception of the revealed will of a God who has clearly ordered their steps in this matter. Delay is out of the question! Abraham is aged and Isaac is waiting as he mourns the loss of his mother. (A mother’s departure is always painful and untimely even for adult sons. Rebecca’s mother here exhibits another type of pain as leaving and cleaving is fleshed out of and then into the mother-daughter relationship.)
God is interested in our attentive, trained sensitivity to the details of the leading of His Spirit in our lives by our subsequent timely, responsible, obedient faith-walk. God leads or prompts but we still must respond. The call of God’s will does not mean God removes all obstacles nor all adversaries, rather expect them in abundance from near and surprising sources. Some adversaries have valid concerns and need only time and patience to become advocates assured of God’s wisdom in a matter. We also do well to anticipate adversity from those who have some power by virtue of inherited positions of authority.
Perhaps opposition may be experienced from other insignificant spectators who think they have a “dog in the fight” as they stand on the sidelines offering needless and worthless commentary. We are called to stay focused on God’s purpose and glory. Obedience to the will of God always supersedes man’s opinion. On some level I am not required to offer explanation for why I am doing what I am doing beyond the revelation of God and His Word to me in my life. A gracious but firm “sit down, shut up and stand aside,” may become necessary with some of the more obnoxious irritants. I have found I personally still struggle to refrain from commentary about others as God’s wisdom in their life may be contrary to my opinion (or desire). My opinion is not critically significant in most cases. God’s glory in our obedience is. The call to stand and see the salvation of the Lord takes great pains to implement and patience to… well just waiting and standing. (I am sure Moses would validate that it is difficult to stand and wait when an army is bearing down upon you.)
Resistance to the will of God is expected and normative to those whose senses are not trained in matters spiritual. Yes, and we know that resistance to the will of God in the spiritually mature can only be overcome by grace, and this presupposes faith-works in its completion. We do not naturally gravitate toward obedience in response to the call of the cross but by grace alone. Grace eventually teaches us to love and obey the cross as we submit to His will to be done, not ours. We also have and do nothing that makes an indelible mark upon eternity except it be done in faith. God is not interested in glorified efforts of our flesh. Without faith it is impossible to please God. The flesh profits nothing.
When God clearly shows us the way to walk… when God speaks and we hear His voice say, “This is the path, walk ye herein,” at some point hesitation or timidity becomes sinful procrastination that opens the door of rank disobedience. Waiting upon the Lord becomes sinful neglect after we hear Him say, “He has told you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?” Justice, mercy and a daily dose of relational faith are all safe bets in doing the will of the Father.
We are called to faithfulness in doing God’s will even if we have to go alone and even if we have to turn to the right or left as this faithful man replied to Laban. (I have found lots of Laban’s. Lots of them. They hang out and around serious-minded believers often offering irrelevant commentary calculated to hinder obedience to a lifestyle characterized by a faith-walk. Their way is always best. They often refuse counsel even in the context of Biblical principle clearly laid out. They are easily threatened and insist upon their way or the highway. They love to exercise both real and pseudo-authority by being wordsmiths skilled in manipulation of the masses. They are men of sight, not men of faith.
And then of course the world is filled with obvious unconverted opportunists such as The Donald Trump’s who wear a thin veneer of religiosity for personal gain and power. I think even Liberty University picked up on his pretense. But I digress… Let me return to matters eternal.
A pastor friend once offered a profundity in a sermon in response to the difficulty of a believer being obedient to the will of God in the workplace where rank ungodliness abounds. He said, “What did you think they would do, not tell dirty jokes just because you are there? Did you actually think that they would rather sit around singing hymns? That does not matter and that will not change; you are called as salt and light. You are to be lights in the midst of darkness holding forth the Word of truth right in the midst of them, and when the occasion arises to speak the Word… boldly in love affirm what the Word of God proclaims about a particular situation or abomination. It is then that you might expect the conversation to terminate.” (Andy had a way of saying things that one can never quite escape. And he was so correct on so many things.)
Obedience to the will of God involves a cost. Remember Christ? Remember He said to “Do this in remembrance of Me”? Do you remember what the bread and cup represent? His broken body and blood? Remember too… He did it for joy set before Him as He submitted Himself to the will of the Father as He loved and died for the unlovely.
Abraham’s servant was the point man on mission operating under the auspices of his master’s desire. Jesus of Nazareth likewise operated under the decree of the Father in speedy purposeful obedience which merited the Father’s commendation of, “This is my Beloved Son in Whom I am well pleased.” And this is why we need Him. As we flail about seeking the will of God with occasional aspirations of obedience to it, we often fall short of the mark. At times we even neglect to pick up bow and arrow to shoot at the target of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus to “be perfect as He is perfect.” Thanks be to God through our Lord Jesus Christ who has won us an obedience by merit of His perfection of always doing the things in timely manner to validate His credentials as the only begotten of the Father. We stand in Him and in His work alone.
We need Him. We need Him even when we believe we are recipients of the grace to have a good day of speedily doing the revealed will of the Father as we “return to our Master’s house,” to complete the task. Perhaps we then need Him more as we have then become recipients of more grace and have acquired more debt. We know this for sure: God’s will becomes transparently clear as we offer ourselves as living sacrifices with renewed minds, and as we show ourselves as examples of those who believe. How else will the kingdom come and His will be done on earth as it is in heaven?
The purposes of God were advanced by the diligent effort of this one faithful man to accomplish the given task. He would not relent but knew full obedience to the assigned duty was satisfied only upon his return to his master whom he knew to be a man who owned the promise of God. Eternity hung in the balance of his resoluteness to withstand adversity and reasonable arguments to delay in doing the right thing. He stands in scripture as a model man of God who could not deviate from his mission. We too must aspire to be single-visioned recipients of grace to stay-on-point for the glory of God as we move toward completion of our life mission.