Lead Me into Exile

The Hebrew word, nachah (נָחָה), translated “lead” or “guide” in this verse has an implication attached to it of being led into exile or as a colonist somewhere. Isn’t that what we are here on this Earth – exiles from our real home and colonists, strangers?

Search me (penetrate, examine intimately), O God, and know my heart; test (prove, try by trial, as with gold) me and know my anxious thoughts (from a word that means ambivalence, divided mind, wavering between two opinions, paralyzed by indecision). See (look at, inspect, perceive, consider, gaze at, look at each other, face each other) if there is any offensive (hurtful, painful, way of sorrow, idolatrous) way (road, distance, journey, manner, direction, path, manner, habit, course of life, moral character) in me, and lead (guide, bring, transport into exile, or as a colonist) me in the way everlasting (long duration, antiquity, unending future, forever, evermore, perpetual, old, ancient, from the beginning of the world). Psalm 139:23-24 (NIV)[i]

I have been meditating on God’s commandment to have no idol before him (Exodus 20:4). Anything can be an idol if it separates you from God or is more important to you than following God. Even greed can be idolatry (see Ephesians 5:5). But basically, idolatry is setting up your own god of your own making. A.W. Tozer wrote:

“The idolatrous heart assumes God is other than He is—in itself a monstrous sin—and substitutes for the true God one made after its own likeness … The essence of idolatry is the entertainment of thoughts about God that are unworthy of Him. It begins in the mind and may be present where no overt act of worship has taken place.”

Thinking about this led me to the above verse in Psalms. I have also been mediating on being in and dwelling in God’s presence and on the Mutual Gaze, so it’s interesting that the psalmist invites God to gaze at him or look at him in the face – that they face each other – as God inspects him for any offensive way.

The Hebrew word translated “offensive” here is otseb (עֹ֫צֶב), which also means idol. It is clear from the definition of otseb that idolatry is associated with pain and sorrow – to us and to God – for we don’t know him as he yearns for us to know him. We are off following another god and that affects the whole course and direction of our lives, the path we end up taking.

Also, very interesting is that the Hebrew word, nachah (נָחָה), translated “lead” or “guide” in this verse has an implication attached to it of being led into exile or as a colonist somewhere. Isn’t that what we are here on this Earth – exiles from our real home and colonists, strangers?

All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. Hebrews 11:13 (NASB)

Could it be that one way we are led into idolatry is wanting to belong here, to settle down here, to be accepted here, to follow the “cool” or comfortable path, not the old, ancient way from the beginning of the world? We don’t want to be exiles and strangers. We want security, even if it is of our own making.

Jesus had “no place to lay his head” and invited his disciples to cut their ties with this Earth and come follow him. Really, walking along with him on the path of exile, dwelling there in his presence, is the only thing I need in this life. In Luke 10:38-42 Martha is worried about the big meal she wants to serve to Jesus and the disciples, but Mary just sits at her Lord’s feet, listening. When Martha complains, Jesus says, “There is really only one thing worth being concerned about (or one thing that is necessary). Mary has discovered it (or chosen it)––and I won’t take it away from her” (NLT).

He who dwells (sits down) in the shelter (hiding place, secret place) of the Most High will rest (abide or lodge all night) in the shadow of the Almighty. Psalm 91:1 (NIV)

Send forth your light and your truth, let them guide me (lead me, transport me into exile); let them bring me to your holy mountain, to the place where you dwell. Psalm 43:3 (NIV)

I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you should go; I will counsel you with My eye upon you. Psalm 32:8 (NASB)

Lord, show me my sin, cut my ties with this world, lead me into exile, holding your hand and trusting in you, to where I can dwell with you all this dark night. 

“This disciple simply burns his boats and goes ahead. He is called out, and has to forsake his old life in order that he may “exist” in the strictest sense of the word. The old life is left behind, and completely surrendered. The disciple is dragged out of his relative security into a life of absolute insecurity (that is, in truth, into the absolute security and safety of the fellowship of Jesus), from a life which is observable and calculable (it is, in fact, quite incalculable) into a life where everything is unobservable and fortuitous (that is, into one which is necessary and calculable), out of the realm of finite (which is in truth the infinite) into the realm of infinite possibilities (which is the one liberating reality). Again it is no universal law. Rather is it the exact opposite of all legality. It is nothing else than bondage to Jesus Christ alone, completely breaking through every programme, every ideal, every set of laws. No other significance is possible, since Jesus is the only significance. Beside Jesus nothing has any significance. He alone matters.” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship)

[i] My amplification based on Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible

Image, The Internet Archive, from page 96 of “The life of our Saviour Jesus Christ : three hundred and sixty-five compositions from the four Gospels” (1899)

Behold the Lamb!

The day we call Palm Sunday in Jesus’ day was the day that the Passover lamb was selected which would be slain for the sins of the nation. When Jesus entered Jerusalem triumphantly on that day, unbeknownst to those crying out “hosanna!” (meaning “save us!”), he was offering himself up as that Lamb, the lamb that would lift up and carry away all our sins.

Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! (John 1:29 NASB)

The Greek word translated “takes away” in this verse is airo. It means to raise from the ground, raise upwards, elevate, lift up in order to carry away, take upon one’s self and carry what has been raised up, bear away what has been raised, remove, carry off, carry away, take off or away what is attached, loose.[i]

Jesus became all our sin for us and was raised up, elevated, on the cross. And when he died, he carried away, bore away, all that sin that was so insidiously attached to us and loosed us from it. God did this himself, as we were unable to do it ourselves. The day we call Palm Sunday in Jesus’ day was the day that the Passover lamb was selected which would be slain for the sins of the nation. When Jesus entered Jerusalem triumphantly on that day, unbeknownst to those crying out “hosanna!” (meaning “save us!”), he was offering himself up as that Lamb, the lamb that would lift up and carry away all our sins.

The fire and wood are here,” Isaac said, “but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” Genesis 22:7-8 (NIV)

Behold the Lamb! Hallelujah!

[i] Thayer’s and Smith’s Bible Dictionary and Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible

Thank you to Ian Livesey for the photo of the lamb on Flickr.

Everlasting Ruins

It seems like the Psalmist is very depressed, thinking of the continual, constant destruction of the enemy. Do you ever feel like that? Like you are constantly being beat down, all your hopes a pile of rubble? your life always in ruins? Yet, the word translated “everlasting” in this verse has a very positive meaning.

Turn your steps towards these everlasting ruins, all this destruction the enemy has brought on the sanctuary. Psalm 74:3 (NIV)

In this verse, the Psalmist mourns the destruction of the temple, possibly by the Babylonians. It seems like the Psalmist is very depressed, thinking of the continual, constant destruction of the enemy. Do you ever feel like that? Like you are constantly being beat down, all your hopes a pile of rubble? your life always in ruins? Yet, the word translated “everlasting” in this verse has a very positive meaning. It means “a goal, the bright object at a distance travelled towards.” It means: eminence, perpetuity, strength, victory, enduring, everlastingness. It comes from the root word that means “to glitter from afar,” to excel, be bright, be enduring, be preeminent, be perpetual, be overseer or superintendent (as in the Temple services), be director or chief (such as of the music and musicians in the Temple).[i]

The combination of such a positive word with “ruins” seems like such an oxymoron – a ruin looking toward a bright, victorious goal. I wondered what it could mean. This is what God showed me – Yes!

In Christ, we are the temple:

Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you? 1 Cor 3:16 (NIV)

Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. 1 Cor 6:19-20 (NIV)

For we are the temple of the living God; just as God said, “I will dwell in them and walk among them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” 2 Cor. 6:16b (NASB)

But the temple is in ruins. God always meant to dwell and walk with us, even from back in the garden. People were meant for glorious strength, to be victorious, to excel, to be a bright light. But instead, they chose to be disobedient and sinned against God, and, as a result, men became natural born sinners.

Watchman Nee in The Normal Christian Life writes, “We are sinners. we are members of a race of people who are constitutionally other than what God intended them to be. By the fall, a fundamental change took place in the character of Adam whereby he became a sinner, one constitutionally unable to please God; and the family likeness which we all share is no merely superficial one but extends to our inward character also. We have been ‘constituted sinners.'” As Oswald Chambers wrote, “there is a heredity of sin running straight through the human race.” In other words, we are everlasting ruins, but not hopeless!

Since we’ve compiled this long and sorry record as sinners (both us and them) and proved that we are utterly incapable of living the glorious lives God wills for us, God did it for us. Out of sheer generosity he put us in right standing with himself. A pure gift. He got us out of the mess we’re in and restored us to where he always wanted us to be. And he did it by means of Jesus Christ. Romans 3:23-24 (Message)

 The Rebuilder

Psalm 74 goes on to say in verse 12, “But (Yet!) you, O God, are my king from of old; you bring salvation (Hebrew = yeshua) upon the earth” (NIV). Jesus, Yeshua, came to save us out of this state of ruin.

Tell him this is what the LORD Almighty says: ‘Here is the man whose name is the Branch, and he will branch out from his place and build the temple of the LORD. It is he who will build the temple of the LORD, and he will be clothed with majesty and will sit and rule on his throne. And he will be a priest on his throne. And there will be harmony between the two.’ Zechariah 6:12-13 (NIV)

Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days” … But the temple he had spoken of was his body. John 2:19, 21 (NIV)

Jesus came to rebuild the everlasting ruins. Israel’s physical temple was always a picture of our Lord – it’s destruction and rebuilding a picture of his death and resurrection. The Messiah was foretold to be the rebuilder of the temple – but this time not a building, but a group of people, believers, followers, who would be what God first intended and reach that bright goal. Jesus did this by dying and rising again – the destruction of the Temple and it’s rebuilding – the destruction also of the sinful nature and the restoring of the people of God. And if you are in Him – “if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead” (Romans 10:9) – you may feel like a hopeless ruin right now, but you are the rebuilt, glorious temple. Cry out to Him and rise!

For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin—because anyone who has died has been freed from sin. Romans 6:6-7 (NIV)

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. Ephesians 2:4-7 (NIV)

In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. Ephesians 2:21 (NIV)

And now God is building you, as living stones, into his spiritual temple. What’s more, you are God’s holy priests, who offer the spiritual sacrifices that please him because of Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 2:5 (NLT)

I’ll walk through the fire
With my head lifted high
And my spirit revived in Your story
And I’ll look to the cross
As my failure is lost
In the light of Your glorious grace

Let the ruins come to life
In the beauty of Your Name
Rising up from the ashes
God forever You reign  (from Glorious Ruins, Hillsong)

Christ is Risen! And we are risen with Him, in Him, no longer ruins, but a holy temple, bright and shining, glorious, victorious! Hallelujah! 

[i] Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible

This blog is also a Bible study available for free use here Everlasting Ruins Bible study

The Mutual Gaze

Have you ever seen two lovers staring into each other’s eyes, or have you been one? When my husband and I were going together we could sit and gaze into each other’s eyes forever, it seemed, without saying a word, and be perfectly happy and content. That same kind of mutual gaze appears in the Bible between God and the apple of His eye, His delight and love – that’s us!

“When we lift our inward eyes to gaze upon God we are sure to meet friendly eyes gazing back at us, for it is written that the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout all the earth. The sweet language of experience is ‘Thou God seest me.’ When the eyes of the soul looking out meet the eyes of God looking in, heaven has begun right here on this earth.” ― A.W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God (Chapter 7, The Gaze of the Soul)

“God looks at us lovingly, searching for room in our hearts. Knowing this, how can we not turn our attention to God? In the measure you desire Him, you will find Him. He so esteems our turning to look at Him.” —St. Teresa of Avila, The Way of Perfection, 26.3

“Meanwhile brethren, that we may be healed from sin, let us now gaze on Christ crucified; for ‘as Moses,’ saith He, ‘lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of man be lifted up; that whosoever believeth on Him may not perish, but have everlasting life.’ Just as they who looked on that serpent perished not by the serpent’s bites, so they who look in faith on Christ’s death are healed from the bites of sins.” – Augustine, Tractate XII ch.3 Homilies on the Gospel of John

Have you ever seen two lovers staring into each other’s eyes, or have you been one? When my husband and I were going together we could sit and gaze into each other’s eyes forever, it seemed, without saying a word, and be perfectly happy and content. That same kind of mutual gaze appears in the Bible between God and the apple of His eye, His delight and love – that’s us!

The LORD is in his holy temple; the LORD is on his heavenly throne. He observes (gazes at) the sons of men; his eyes examine (try, prove) them … For the LORD is righteous, he loves justice; upright (straight, level) men will see (gaze at) his face. (Psalm 11:4 and 11:7 NIV)

At first, these verses may sound kind of scary. He is examining me to see if I am upright? Sounds like I am being judged. Can I only gaze back if I pass the test? Job 36:7 says “He does not take his eyes off the righteous.” But who is righteous? In this verse God is looking down at us, and the righteous are gazing back at Him. Sometimes God is gazing only hopefully, as in Psalm 14:2, “The LORD looks down from heaven on the sons of men to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God.” He is always looking for somebody who is looking back.

But, if I had to depend on my own merits I would never be able to look him “full in his wonderful face” as in the beautiful hymn by Helen H. Lemmel, Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus. In my own strength I will always fall short; I will always fail and hurt those around me. But he loved us and yearned so much for us to have that relationship with him, to be able to gaze back, that he made a way through Jesus. In Numbers 21 the people of Israel were being bitten by poisonous snakes and dying. God gave Moses instructions to save them: “The LORD said to Moses, ‘Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.’ So Moses made a bronze snake and put it up on a pole. Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, he lived” (Numbers 21:8-9). Jesus refers to this incident in John 3:14-16 when he said,

“Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him. For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

So just as the Israelites had to look at the metal snake and believe that it would heal them, so we look up at Jesus hanging on the cross and believe in what he accomplished there. 2 Corinthians 5:21 says that “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” Me and you, the righteousness of God! He did that for us so that we could gaze back, unafraid, unashamed. In Hebrews, Paul urges us to “fix our eyes” on Jesus.

Let us fix our eyes (consider attentively, look, turn the eyes away from other things and fix them) on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy (gladness, persons who are one’s joy) set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:2 NIV)

Jesus had his eyes fixed on us as he endured the cross – the “persons who are one’s joy”† – and the joyful fellowship we would have together. Let us turn away from all things that would keep us from gazing back – sin, rebellion, self-centeredness – and fix our eyes on him as we walk with him on our journey, for we are his joy and he is ours! Let us pray with David:

One thing I ask of the LORD, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple. (Psalm 27:4 NIV)

Keith Green put it so well.

Oh Lord, You’re beautiful
Your face is all I seek
For when Your eyes are on this child
Your grace abounds to me

Oh Lord, please light the fire
That once burned bright and clear
Replace the lamp of my first love
That burns with holy fear

I want to take Your word and shine it all around
But first help me just to live Lord
And when I’m doing well, help me to never seek a crown
For my reward is giving glory to You

Oh Lord, You’re beautiful
Your face is all I seek
For when Your eyes are on this child
Your grace abounds to me

(from Oh Lord You’re Beautiful by Keith Green)

“O Lord, I have heard a good word inviting me to look away to Thee and be satisfied. My heart longs to respond, but sin has clouded my vision till I see Thee but dimly. Be pleased to cleanse me in Thine own precious blood, and make me inwardly pure, so that I may with unveiled eyes gaze upon Thee all the days of my earthly pilgrimage. Then shall I be prepared to behold Thee in full splendor in the day when Thou shalt appear to be glorified in Thy saints and admired in all them that believe. Amen.” ― A.W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God

† Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament

Faith, Part Two

Faith is not a noun, in that it is not something you have to capture, like a butterfly in a net, or a song you have to perform, technically correct, for a panel of judges. It is something you do; you believe in, you have faith in Jesus.

In the New Testament, Jesus says some breathtaking things about faith and belief. He causes a fig tree to wither from the roots, and when the disciples are amazed he says, “Truly I tell you, if you have faith (pistis) and do not doubt (diakrino), not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and it will be done. If you believe (pisteuo), you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer” (Matt. 21:21-22 NIV)

My reaction to the verses above has been: Have faith in what? Believe what? Faith in my ability to have enough faith? Faith in a perfect prayer – saying the perfect words at the perfect time with the perfect amount of faith? Faith in a magic formula? The answer lies in the meanings of those two Greek words, pistis (πίστις) and pisteuo (πιστεύω).

Pistis, translated faith above, means “conviction of the truth of anything … conviction or belief respecting man’s relationship to God and divine things, generally with the included idea of trust … a strong and welcome conviction or belief that Jesus is the Messiah, through whom we obtain eternal salvation … belief with the predominate idea of trust (or confidence) whether in God or in Christ, springing from faith in the same … the character of one who can be relied on.”i

Pisteuo, translated believe, means “to think to be true, to be persuaded of, to credit, place confidence in … to trust in Jesus or God as able to aid either in obtaining or in doing something, saving faith … to entrust, especially one’s spiritual well-being, to Christ.”

Both words come from the root word peitho (πείθω), which means to trust, have confidence, believe, be convinced or persuaded, “to be persuaded of a thing concerning a person.”  So, the belief or trust that Jesus is talking about here is not in how much faith I can dredge up or in my ability to say the magic words, but a deep confidence and trust in him and in his character. It is to have faith in the person of Jesus. It is to know Him and who He is. (By the way, the definition of the Greek word diakrino (διακρίνω) besides meaning, “to hesitate or doubt,” also means “to separate one’s self in a hostile spirit, to oppose, strive with dispute, contend.” Sound familiar? See Hostile combatants and Hostile combatants two.)

Faith, Part One, talked about being fully committed to God in faith. “Abram believed (trusted, was certain of, believed in) the LORD, and he credited (reckoned, imputed) it to him as righteousness” (Genesis 15:6 NIV). Abram trusted, was certain of the Lord. He was fully committed. Why? I think it was because he knew God. He had conversations with God; he had been following God’s lead for a while now. He trusted God enough to leave everything and go off into an unknown place and future. And God knew Abraham too (Genesis 18:17-19). God even called Abraham “my friend” (Isaiah 41:8). They walked and talked together; they ate together (Genesis 18:1-6). Faith that goes beyond mere religious blind belief is one that has walked with God and experienced His love and so knows His character.

Matthew tells of a Canaanite woman whom Jesus praised for her faith (Matthew 15:22-28 NIV).

A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is demon-possessed and suffering terribly.” Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, “Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.” He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.” The woman came and knelt before him. “Lord, help me!” she said. He replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.” “Yes, Lord,” she said, “but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.” Then Jesus said to her, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” And her daughter was healed at that moment.

I always thought that Jesus was impressed with her witty comeback about the dogs and the crumbs. Or, maybe it was her persistence – “she keeps crying out after us” – and that was part of it, I’m sure. But, look at what she says in verse 22: “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me!” She didn’t call him Jesus of Nazareth, or rabbi, or teacher, but Lord, Son of David. To call him Lord, “expresses her faith in his power, dominion, and government, that all persons and things, and so all diseases were at his command, and control; and that being Lord of all, he could remove them at his pleasure: the other shows her knowledge and belief of him, as the Messiah, that being a name by which he was usually known by the Jews.”ii To call him Son of David was to identify Jesus as the long-awaited Messiah, the Anointed One, the Christ. She knew who he really was, what he had power to do.

Ann Voskamp has written that “[b]elief is a verb, something that you do.”iii In the same way, faith is not a noun, in that it is not something you have to capture, like a butterfly in a net, or a song you have to perform, technically correct, for a panel of judges. It is something you do; you believe in, you have faith in Jesus – leaning back on his chest at the table, reaching your hand out to grasp his catching yours, leaving all to follow. Fully committed. Faith that is fully committed is one that has walked with God and experienced his love and so knows his character, his ultimate goodness. So let us turn our eyes away from our puny selves and seek to know God. Let us press on to know him (Hosea 6:3)

“It is the faith that continually closes its eyes to the weakness of the creature and finds its joy in the sufficiency of an Almighty Savior that makes the soul strong and glad. It gives itself up to be led by the Holy Spirit into an ever deeper appreciation of that wonderful Savior whom God has given us—the Infinite Immanuel … there is something more necessary than the effort to exercise faith in each separate promise that is brought under our notice. What is of even greater importance is the cultivation of a trustful disposition toward God, the habit of always thinking of Him, of His ways and His works, with bright confiding hopefulness.” — Andrew Murray, Abide in Christ

“We do not think highly enough of this love of Christ. If we did, we would be more confident in it. I know I am far from alone when I say that I grieve that I do not trust his love more. It is most tenacious. It will never let go. Who can separate us from it? (Rom. 8:35).” — Douglas Taylor, blog Strong as Death http://worksworthdeclaring.blogspot.com/2011/11/strong-as-death.html (21 November 2011)

From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him. “You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve. Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God” (John 6:66-69 NIV).

That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day (2 Tim.1:12 NIV).

 

 All definitions in quotes come from Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament unless otherwise noted. 

ii Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible http://www.sacred-texts.com/bib/cmt/gill/mat015.htm  

iii One Thousand Gifts, p. 33 

 

The Judge is in Love with You

The Spirit is leading us to God, The Judge, and sometimes I could be afraid to go with him because of fear of being judged, of not measuring up, of being rejected.

Romans 8:14-15 (NIV) says that “those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father.'” What does it mean to be “led by the Spirit of God?” Sometimes I have gotten this picture in my mind of the Spirit or Jesus way ahead of me leading the way saying, “Look this is the way it should be done,” and I am struggling alone over rocky ground to keep up and follow him. Or that he has given me a map or a set of instructions that I’m trying to figure out.

But the word “led” in this verse is the Greek word “agó” (ἄγω) which means to be taken along with, accompanied, attended personally, conducted, or led by laying hold of. So, he is not far ahead of me, nor have I been left alone to figure it out by myself, but he is right there with me all the way, holding my hand and accompanying me, even attending to me personally.

The Greek word “agó” also includes the meaning of being brought to, or, led away to a court of justice – to the judge, and it is used many times this way in the New Testament (Mark 13:11, John 8:3, 18:28, Acts 5:21, 25:6 are examples). The Spirit is leading us to God, The Judge, and sometimes I could be afraid to go with him because of fear of being judged, of not measuring up, of being rejected. But, Jesus is there at the right hand of the Judge, our Intercessor. And, even more, Jesus promised that He would give us a Friend, Counselor, Helper, or Advocate in the Holy Spirit. The Greek word is parakletos, which means summoned, called to one’s side or aid. The parakletos is “one who pleads another’s cause before a judge, a pleader, counsel for defense, legal assistant, an advocate†.” All I need do is turn from sin, from my own way, and He pleads my case – “Jesus shed His blood for this one on the cross!”

And even more wonderfully, what does it say? That if we take His hand and follow after and are led by the Spirit of God, we are sons of God, we are His beloved children. “For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father.'”

And then later, “What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.” (Romans 8:31-34 NIV)

When it says “God is for us” it means in the Greek that he is over the top for us – on our behalf, for our sake, over and above, more than, more, beyond, exceeding, abundantly – it’s almost like the language, Greek or English, can’t quite contain or express the fullness of the meaning completely.

Don’t be afraid, take his hand and let him lead you. He is for you. He is over the top FOR you!! As the old Lamb songs goes, “The Judge is in love with you.”

The Judge by Lamb

† Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament

This blog is also available as a Bible study for free use here The Judge is in Love with You Bible study

Faith, Part One

Full commitment to faith in God is something I have struggled with for a long time. For some of us, our parents (or others we have trusted) have not had strong arms, some of us have been dropped (actually and/or figuratively), we hold back, fail to fully commit, we are used to protecting ourselves, not trusting anybody.

I have been doing a study of Genesis 15:6, “Abram believed the LORD, and he credited (reckoned, imputed) it to him as righteousness” (NIV). This verse is quoted in the New Testament in Romans, Galatians, and James when pointing to real faith and its importance. What is this faith? The Hebrew word translated “believed” in the verse above is aman (אָמַן). Harris, Archer, & Waltke† say this about aman – “The basic root idea is firmness or certainty … it expresses the basic concept of support and is used in the sense of the strong arms of the parent supporting the helpless infant.” Aman “basically means ‘to cause to be certain, sure’ or ‘to be certain about’, ‘to be assured’ and shows that Biblical faith is an assurance, a certainty …” I love that imagery! The strong arms of the parent – “The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms” (Deut. 33:27).

But then the commentary says this: “[this definition is] in contrast with the modern concepts of faith as something possible, hopefully true but not certain”.

“Something possible, hopefully true but not certain” – wow, that hit me. I felt God putting His finger on something deep in my heart. Full commitment to faith in God is something I have struggled with for a long time. For some of us, our parents (or others we have trusted) have not had strong arms, some of us have been dropped (actually and/or figuratively), we hold back, fail to fully commit, we are used to protecting ourselves, not trusting anybody. We wistfully look at those promises in the Bible as hopefully true, it’s possible that God loves us, but we are not certain. Some of us, because of what we’ve suffered, even believe that God himself has dropped us.

But God has fully committed Himself to us. “For no matter how many promises God has made, they are ‘Yes’ in Christ. And so through him the ‘Amen’ (verily! truly! trustworthy! truth!) is spoken by us to the glory of God” (2 Cor. 1:20 NIV). “Yes” in Christ! He wrote a new unbreakable covenant with us in His own blood. There is no way that He will go back on that covenant or all His promises to us. It is impossible, for His very nature is truth, trustworthiness, faithfulness, and unfailing love.

For my father and my mother have forsaken (abandoned, neglected, deserted) me, But the LORD will take me up (gather, receive me, hold me close). (Psalm 27:10 NASB)

Jesus said, “My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them (that’s us!) out of the Father’s hand.” (John 10:29 NASB)

Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. (Psalm 73:23 NIV)

Cast (throw, cast, hurl, fling, throw away, cast off, shed, cast down) your cares (burden, lot, that which is given) on the Lord (Yahweh) and he (he himself) will sustain you (seize, contain, support, hold in, bear you); he will never let (grant, permit, allow ever, not from antiquity to throughout eternity) the righteous to fall (totter, shake, slip, to be greatly shaken, moved, overthrown, he will not let you fall, he will not drop you). (Psalm 55:22 NIV)

There is so much to say about faith that I will continue in Part Two next time. Lord, give me grace to be fully committed to You.

† Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, R. Laird Harris, Gleason Leonard Archer, Bruce K. Waltke, p. 51

Jouking to the Lee-side

My husband was a Golden Gloves boxer and appreciates the techniques of bobbing and weaving, and ducking or jouking. He says that the goal of ducking is to “avoid damages.” Many of us have incurred serious damages by trying to fight our way through life on our own and in our small strength. 

Jesus, lover of my soul,
Let me to Thy bosom fly,
While the nearer waters roll,
While the tempest still is high.
Hide me, O my Savior, hide,
Till the storm of life is past;
Safe into the haven guide;
Oh, receive my soul at last.

Other refuge have I none,
Hangs my helpless soul on Thee;
Leave, ah! leave me not alone,
Still support and comfort me.
All my trust on Thee is stayed,
All my help from Thee I bring;
Cover my defenseless head
With the shadow of Thy wing.  (Charles Wesley)

I would like to share a post from another blogger today with my comments. “In the Lee-Side of Christ” is a post from the blog of Douglas Taylor[i]. His posts have deeply blessed me in my journey. I tried to summarize this, but he says it better than anybody.

In the Lee-Side of Christ (Douglas Taylor)

When looking for the passage quoted in the last post, I came across a sentence of Rutherford’s which at first sight seems puzzling, but is actually very valuable to all struggling Christians. He says:

 ‘I think it manhood to play the coward, and jouk in the lee-side of Christ; and thus I am not only saved from my enemies, but I obtain the victory’ ([Rev. Samuel Rutherford] Letter 181, p. 352).

My attempt to paraphrase it would be something like this: What might be thought cowardly, namely, to hide behind Christ, I find to be the manly course, or the best course a man can take, for in doing this I not only escape my enemies, but overcome them.

 This is expressive of a great truth: that real wisdom for helpless sinners like us is not to try to be brave and strong in ourselves, but to flee constantly to the Saviour, for when we are hidden in him, our enemies are powerless, and we are victorious.

 The old Scots word ‘jouk’ makes it all the more expressive. It is often explained as meaning to duck, but the way I have heard it used conveys more the idea of a rapid sideways movement, like a boxer avoiding a punch, or a football (soccer) player dodging a tackle. It is a quick evasive movement; but in this case into the protective shadow of Christ, so that he absorbs the assault, and we, in him, overcome our attackers.

 The lee-side of Christ reminds me that ‘a man shall be as an hiding place from the wind, and a covert from the tempest . . . as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land’ (Isaiah 32:2). When our enemies approach – they may be fears about the future, doubts, temptations, fiery darts of the wicked one – let us, without delay jouk into the lee-side of Christ. He has already borne the full force of every assault the enemy could make against us at the cross. It all stems from sin, and he has borne sin. He has died and risen again. Let us not be such fools as to face the enemy on our own, or try to do over again what the Lord has done once and for all! 

“A man will be as a hiding place (machabe’) from the wind, And a cover (cether) from the tempest, As rivers of water in a dry place, As the shadow of a great rock in a weary land.” (Isaiah 32:2 NKJV)

The word translated “hiding place” in this verse is the Hebrew word machabe’ (מַחֲבֵא). It means refuge, hiding or lurking place, bosom. The word translated “cover” is cether (סָ֫תֶר), and means cover, hiding place, secret place, and shelter. Jesus is all of these for us. We can “jouk” into the hiding place of Jesus and let Him fight our adversary. My husband was a Golden Gloves boxer and appreciates the techniques of bobbing and weaving, and ducking or jouking. He says that the goal of ducking is to “avoid damages.” Many of us have incurred serious damages by trying to fight our way through life on our own and in our small strength.  Hiding or “lurking,” without joining the fray, is seen as cowardly in some situations, such as social media (though it may be wise). But I don’t mind lurking in the shadow of the Great Rock while he zaps my enemies for me. And he does; he hides me, he protects me, he surrounds me with songs of deliverance (Psalm 37: 7).

The second definition of machabe’, “bosom,” reminds me of a baby in arms, who, when feeling threatened or uncomfortable, whirls around and hides her face in the bosom of her mother or father. “Jesus, lover of my soul, let me to thy bosom fly.” Lord, I know you are carrying me. Let me turn around and hide myself in your bosom. I will dwell there in your shelter; I will build my house in the shadow of your wings (Psalm 91:1).

You hide (keep close, conceal) them in the secret place (hiding place, protection) of Your presence from the conspiracies (snares, plots, pride) of man; You keep (hide, treasure) them secretly in a shelter (lair (lair of the Lion of Judah!), tabernacle, tent) from the strife (adversary, quarrel, dispute, controversy, case at law) of tongues. Psalm 31:20 (NASB)

Like a shepherd He will tend His flock, In His arm He will gather the lambs and carry them in His bosom; He will gently lead the nursing ewes. Isaiah 40:11 (NASB)

 [i] “In the Lee-Side of Christ” (post shared August 16, 2011) by Douglas Taylor. I highly recommend his blog, called Works Worth Declaring at http://worksworthdeclaring.blogspot.com/ This blog contains three years of posts written after he discovered he had terminal cancer. His family also published some of the posts as a book after his death in 2014, which I also highly recommend if you are like me, and need to hold it in your hands https://www.amazon.com/Shall-Not-Die-But-Live/dp/1848717113

The Highway to Your City

“And how blessed all those in whom you live, whose lives become roads you travel.” Psalm 84:5

A voice of one calling: “In the desert prepare the way for the LORD; make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God.” (Isaiah 40:3 NIV[i])

A voice of one calling in the desert, “Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.” (Luke 3:4)

I have read these verses many times, but for some reason I didn’t realize that in Isaiah this verse says: A voice of one calling, “IN THE DESERT prepare the way for the Lord.” However, in Luke it says: A voice of one calling IN THE DESERT, “Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.”

Both speak life to us, don’t they? John the Baptist was a voice calling in the desert to prepare the way for the coming Messiah, but also, it is in the desert or wilderness places of our lives where the “way” is prepared. The Israelites were tested there:

“Remember how the LORD your God led you all the way in the desert these forty years, to humble you and to test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands” (Deut. 8:2)

Even Jesus, The Way, was tested in the desert.

“At once the Spirit sent him out into the desert, and he was in the desert for forty days, being tempted by Satan” (Mark 1:12)

For us, the desert is also the place where we learn to lean on the Beloved:

“Who is this coming up from the desert leaning on her lover?” (Song of Songs 8:5)

But note, in Isaiah 40:3 there are two things happening: a way is being prepared or cleared, but also a highway is being built. The word “way” is the Hebrew word derek (דְּרָכַ֫יִם) which means a way, road, or path that is trodden – a journey, manner, habit, or course of life. It’s like a deer-path in the woods that is made because they get in the habit of walking that way. The “way” is prepared or cleared away like a path through the underbrush of our lives. And how is the way prepared?

“He who sacrifices thank-offerings honors me, and he prepares the way so that I may show him the salvation of God.” (Psalm 50:23)

Thanking God is hard in the desert places, when everything looks so hopeless and we want to despair! But that is where the way is prepared for salvation. That is where we chop through the thorny vines and bitter roots of grumbling, fear, unforgiveness, faithlessness, and hopelessness that trip us up, and offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving. It is a sacrifice. It involves a death of self.

As we learn to praise Him no matter what – to make thanksgiving a habit, a way of life – those places of hopelessness and despair are changed into places of blessing.

“Blessed are those who dwell in your house; they are ever praising you. Selah. Blessed are those whose strength is in you, who have set their hearts on pilgrimage (or, in whose hearts are the highways – NASB). As they pass through the Valley of Baca (weeping, affliction), they make it a place of springs; the autumn rains also cover it with pools” (Psalm 84:4-6)

Or as The Message says “And how blessed all those in whom you live, whose lives become roads you travel.” The word translated “pilgrimage, “roads,” or “highway” here and in Isaiah 40:3 is the Hebrew word m@cillah (מְסִלָּה), which means highway, raised way, public road. It’s a public road; it’s not just for us, but for others as well. Our lives can become a place of blessing, a highway where God shows up.

Thank you Lord that there is a highway that runs through my heart, and that you travel on it with me, no matter what. I will prepare the way for you and your salvation. I will offer up thank offerings in the desert place. I will set my heart on pilgrimage and build up your highway. Teach me how to lean on you as we walk, that this place of weeping and affliction can become a place of Salvation and Life.

“See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.” (Isaiah 43:19)

“The highway to Your city runs through my heart” – Ted Sandquist

[i] All Bible verses from the New International Version unless noted

Prisoners of Hope

For a while now I have been having a hard time with the biblical concept of hope. I confess that at times hope seemed like a cruel joke. Paul said, “these three remain: faith, hope, and love.” Faith is important I could see and love, of course. But what’s so great about hope?

For a while now I have been having a hard time with the biblical concept of hope. I confess that at times hope seemed like a cruel joke. Paul said, “these three remain: faith, hope, and love.” Faith is important I could see and love, of course. But what’s so great about hope?

What if you hope and hope, and pray and pray, and nothing seems to change? Zechariah (9:12 NASB) says, “Return to your fortress, O prisoners of hope” and that is how I have felt – like a prisoner, hoping almost against my will only because I knew Him and knew that He is good. But now I see that I didn’t really know what hope was. It is not wishful thinking, like “I wish things would get better” or “I hope I can find a job.” That kind of “hope” only leads to depression because all you are looking at is what’s happening now, the situation at the moment.

David said, “Why are you in despair (sunk in depression, brought low), O my soul? And why have you become disturbed (disquieted, moaning and groaning) within me? Hope (be patient, be pained, stay, tarry, trust, wait) in God, for I shall again (yet!) praise Him For the help (Yeshua! salvation, deliverance) of His presence” (Psalm 42:5 NASB). Notice the “be pained” part. Yes, hope can be painful. But what is David saying here? “What’s wrong with you soul? Yes, things are terrible, but I will again – or yet – praise Him.”

That word translated “praise” is yadah in the Hebrew. Yadah means to shoot arrows, cast or throw down, give thanks, laud, praise, confess the name of God. What I saw was that David’s hope was not wishful, but his hope was in God – “the help of his Presence,” His word and His promise. So, yet!, he knew – he had hope – that someday he would shoot the arrows of praise for the salvation and deliverance that God was, even then, accomplishing. He looked not at the situation he was in, but forward to that day – that is hope.

Zechariah said, “return to your fortress.” Psalm 91:2 (NIV) identifies our fortress as God: “I will say of the LORD, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.'” So I am repenting, returning to my refuge, my fortress, to the Presence. I will hope, be patient (as possible), be pained (probably), wait and trust, while abiding, remaining present – meno (see The Art of Remaining Present).

Just a little end note. Right after this sweet revelation I found the sign shown above, a metal word Hope with an arrow shooting through it. It was made by an artisan in Haiti from an oil drum in the hope that its sale would help provide for a better future. It wasn’t until I got it home and hanging on the wall that it hit me – it is a reminder of hope for me too, that the arrows of praise will fly again. God is so good!

This blog is has also been published as a Bible study for free use in Hidden Treasure Bible Studies here Prisoners of Hope Bible Study