Is the Lord Among Us Or Not?

When bad things happen to us. When we find ourselves in the life-sucking desert with no water – is the Lord among us or not?

Then the LORD said to Moses, “I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day. In this way I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions. Exodus 16:4 

And he called the place Massah and Meribah because the Israelites quarreled and because they tested the LORD saying, “Is the LORD among us or not?” Exodus 17:7 

Reading the two verses above together was mind-blowing to me. The Hebrew word translated “test” in each of these verses is the same word. It is nasah (נָסָה) which means to test, assay, prove, tempt, try.  

It seems like there is a lot of testing going on in Exodus, God testing his people and his people testing God. I remembered Jesus, who being tested in the desert by the devil, quoted another verse which uses the word nasah, Deuteronomy 6:16.  

Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’ Matthew 4:5-7  

And, I suddenly had the thought: if God tested the Israelites to see if they would follow his instructions, when we test God are we seeing if he will follow our instructions? Am I trying to hold God hostage to my agenda? 

Do not put the LORD your God to the test as you did at Massah. Deuteronomy 6:16 

And he called the place Massah and Meribah because the Israelites quarreled and because they tested the LORD saying, “Is the LORD among us or not?” Exodus 17:7 

One of the definitions of nasah is to “assay.” According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary online, to assay something is “to determine its purity,” and “to judge the worth of.” Think about those meanings when applied to the Holy God. 

When bad things happen to us. When we find ourselves in the life-sucking desert with no water – is the Lord among us or not? Is he the Holy God who cannot lie? Is his promise good? Is he worthy of my trust? 

When the devil “tested” Jesus in the desert he challenged Him to believe God’s promise.  

Then the devil took Him to the holy city and set Him on the pinnacle of the temple. “If You are the Son of God,” he said, “throw Yourself down. For it is written: ‘He will command His angels concerning You, and they will lift You up in their hands, so that You will not strike Your foot against a stone.’”  

The devil must have thought he had Jesus now. If Jesus jumped, he would be playing the devil’s game, giving him power and indirectly, worship. And most likely Jesus would go splat, since jumping off the temple was not the will of God for Jesus. If Jesus didn’t jump, he would be admitting a lack of trust in God’s promise, right? See, the devil was trying to get Jesus, and the Father God, to follow his instructions. But instead of playing the game, Jesus held firm to the instructions he had been given by the Father. 

Jesus replied, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” Matthew 4:5-7 

Jesus didn’t have to prove or assay his Father. Jesus had complete confidence in God’s promises and in his will. Jesus didn’t have an agenda. He didn’t have to prove his Lordship or his value or power. He didn’t come to be a big success or to be prosperous. He actually came to be nothing, a humble servant, following and completely fulfilling the instructions given to him by a God whom he knew to be good and loving and faithful all the time, even in the desert times of testing. And even so he wants me to follow after him. His instruction for me is to trust that He is with me here in the dry, deadly places, the impossible, bleak, and heart-gutting places. The places where I see no hope or way out. The times when everything I hoped for is gone, my agenda is shredded and I am reduced to nothing.  

Do you ever wonder what would have happened at Massah and Meribah if the Israelites had trusted God and waited for his salvation instead of despairing and turning against him? What would God have done? What amazing things could he have done? But instead, God let what happened happen for us! Speaking of the Israelites in the desert Paul wrote: 

Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come.  1 Corinthians 10:11 

Do not harden your hearts as you did at Meribah, as you did that day at Massah in the wilderness, where your ancestors tested me; they tried me, though they had seen what I did. Psalm 95:8-9 

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. Psalm 23:4 (ESV) 

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will (His instructions) for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 

Photo free download from Pexels, Great sand dunes in desert at sundown, by Chris Clark 

This God (Psalm 48)

Great is the Lord 

and most worthy of my praise 

my vehement praise 

The city where He lives, 

invites me to live, 

 is joy 

It will last forever 

This God 

He has shown Himself to me 

Fortress 

Unfailing love 

Righteousness 

Justice 

His Name, Ha-Shem 

and His praise,  

The Hallelujah! 

Is over 

is above 

comes down and touches 

all the earth 

I hear it and I see it 

and I will tell it 

to the next generation 

For this God 

This God 

Fortress 

Unfailing love 

Righteousness 

Justice 

is my God 

forever everlasting 

And He will lead me 

He will carry me 

even until 

the end

… let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD. Jeremiah 9:24 (ESV)

Photo by Sheila Bair

The Bassline

We come to know God through our afflictions. Our praise would be rote, would be hollow without having known His Presence and comfort through our afflictions.  

“The deeper our troubles, the louder our thanks to God, who has led us through all, and preserved us until now. Our griefs cannot mar the melody of our praise, we reckon them to be the bass part of our life’s song, ‘He hath done great things for us, whereof we are glad.’” — Charles Spurgeon 

I read this quote by Spurgeon in a little devotional.1 I wondered, what did he mean when he said our griefs are the bass part of our song? It inspired me to learn more about the bass part (also called bass line or bassline) in music. 

The Cambridge Dictionary defines the bass as “the lowest range of musical notes.” The American Heritage Dictionary defines the bassline as “[a] musical part consisting of a sustained series of the lowest pitched notes in the piece or composition.”2  

Hmmm, if the bass part is our troubles, sometimes it seems that the low part has been sustained for a very long time. But look at this quote from an 1880 book on the history and science of music: 

“the bass part… is, in fact, the foundation upon which the melody rests and without which there could be no melody.” — by Robert Challoner3 

Wow, if you think of the melody as our praises and the bass part as our afflictions, “the bass part of our life’s song,” that is a startling thought. There could be no melody without the bass part. It is the “sturdy foundation.” 

“Our basslines have to provide the rhythmic and harmonic foundation; the bassline provides the high-end with the structure and foundation to create interesting melodies… A bassline is the foundation on which the melody rides. With the sturdy foundation of the bass and other rhythm section instruments, the melody is free to do all sorts of things.” — Andrew Pouska4  

Esther Murimi goes even further, saying that the bass completes the music, adding a fullness: 

“Try listening to music without bass and one with it and you’ll notice the difference. For more clarity, if you have a sound system, you will notice that the music is complete when the bass is enhanced and sounds hollow without it.” — Esther Murimi5  

Finally, Wikipedia notes that the bassline bridges a gap: 

The bassline bridges the gap between the rhythmic part played by the drummer and the melodic lines played by the lead guitarist and the chordal parts played by the rhythm guitarist and/or keyboard player. — Wikipedia, Bassline 

“[T]he rhythmic part played by the drummer” to me is like the part played by the Holy Spirit. We are encouraged to keep in step with the Spirit (Galatians 5:25). “[T]he melodic lines,” Spurgeon would say, are the melody lines of our praise. The bassline bridges the gap between these two. When you think about it, this intimate connection and teamwork between the Spirit (beat/step) and the bass (afflictions) makes sense. We come to know God through our afflictions. Our praise would be rote, would be hollow without having known His Presence and comfort through our afflictions.  

The hard times in our lives are the times that God has allowed to refine and purify us and to make us the place where His glory dwells. The baseline working with the (heart)beat of God gives the music of our lives richness, fullness, the reason to sing the melody, the joy, the with-all-my-heart passion. 

And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy’ Spirit, who has been given to us. Romans 5:2-5 

Do you hear the beat? … suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. Still using the metaphor provided by Spurgeon, I see that the love of God is the heart/drum beat and our sufferings are the bassline. And from these, through the knowledge of the character of God and trust in His goodness, the assurance that He is with us always – from these come our hope, and from that hope rises a pure melody of praise. 

Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Galatians 5:25 

But thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest (sits down, settles, consummates the marriage, dwells, abides in) the praises of Israel. Psalm 22: 3 (KJV) 

For You have been my help, and in the shadow of Your wings I sing for joy. My soul clings to You; Your right hand upholds me. Psalm 63:7-8 (NAS) 

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 

Yet take thy way; for sure thy way is best:  
Stretch or contract me thy poor debtor:  
This is but tuning of my breast,  
To make the music better. -- George Herbert, from The Temper (I) 

1Devotional Classics of C. H. Spurgeon, June 9, by Charles Haddon Spurgeon. 

2American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition.  

3History of the Science and Art of Music: Its Origin, Development, and Progress 

By Robert Challoner, 1880. Full text available on Google Books https://books.google.com/books?id=dwctAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA1#v=onepage&q&f=false 

4StudyBass https://www.studybass.com/  

5The Scientifically Proven Importance Of Bass In Musical Performances, Merriam School of Music https://www.merriammusic.com/school-of-music/importance-of-bass-in-performances/  

Image, detail from How Firm a Foundation, hymn attributed to George Keith 1787.

Our Father Revealed in The Word

This is an addendum to the series on the Lord’s Prayer that we have been camping out in. I think it is very revealing and encouraging to see all in one place what the Word says about Our Father. I think I have found all the places where “Our Father” appears. Let me know if not.

Our Father is our Redeemer (Isaiah 63:16) 

Our Father is perfect (Matthew 5:48) 

Our Father sees and hears what is done and prayed in secret (Matthew 6:4-6, 18) 

Our Father knows what we need before we ask (Matthew 6:8) 

Our Father is in heaven (Matthew 6:9) 

Our Father will forgive our sins when we forgive (Matthew 6:14, Mark 11:25) 

Our Father sees us as valuable (Matthew 6:26) 

Our Father knows all our needs (Matthew 6:32, Luke 12:30) 

Our Father gives us good things (Matthew 7:11) 

Our Father is pleased to reveal the hidden things to His children (Matthew 11:25-26, 16:17, Luke 10:21) 

Our Father is Lord of heaven and earth (Matthew 11:25, Luke 10:21) 

Our Father was revealed to us by Jesus (Matthew 11:27, Luke 10:22) 

Our Father alone knows the day and hour of Jesus’ return (Matthew 24:36, Mark 13:32, Acts 1:7) 

Our Father can do anything. All things are possible with Him (Mark 14:36) 

Our Father is merciful (Luke 6:36) 

Our Father gives the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him (Luke 11:13) 

Our Father delights to give us the Kingdom (Luke 12:32, 22:29) 

Our Father loves the Son and has given Him all things (John 3:35, 5:20, 10:17, 15:9, 16:15) 

Our Father seeks true worshipers (John 4:23) 

Our Father is always working (John 5:17) 

Our Father raises the dead (John 5:21) 

Our Father judges no one, but has given judgement to the Son (John 5:22) 

Our Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself (John 5:26) 

Our Father sent Jesus and commanded Him what to say (John 5:36-37, 6:57, 8:16, 18, 12:49-50, 20:21) 

Our Father has placed His seal of approval on Jesus (John 6:27) 

Our Father gives us Jesus, the True Bread from heaven (John 6:32-33) 

Our Father has given us to Jesus and we will not be rejected (John 6:37) 

Our Father draws us to Jesus, we cannot come on our own (John 6:44) 

Our Father glorifies Jesus (John 8:54) 

Our Father knows the Son and the Son knows Our Father (John 10:15) 

Our Father is greater than all and no one can snatch us out of His hand (John 10:29) 

Our Father and Jesus are One (John 10:30) 

Our Father set apart Jesus as his very own and sent Him into the world (John 10:36) 

Our Father is in the Son and the Son is in Our Father (John 10:38, 14:10) 

Our Father will honor those who follow and serve Jesus (John 12:26) 

Our Father has put all things under Jesus’ power (John 13:3) 

Our Father is glorified in Jesus (John 14:13) 

Our Father loves those who love and obey Jesus, and Our Father and Jesus will come to them and make their home with them (John 14:23) 

Our Father sends the Holy Spirit (John 14:26, Ephesians 1:17) 

Our Father is greater than Jesus (John 14:28) 

Our Father is the Gardener (John 15:1) 

Our Father is glorified when we bear fruit (John 15:8) 

Our Father loves us (John 16:27) 

Our Father was with Jesus to the end and did not leave Him alone (John 16:32) 

Our Father is holy (John 17:11) 

Our Father is righteous (John 17:25) 

Our Father gave Jesus the cup to drink (John 18:11) 

Our Father is “Abba, Father,” to whom we cry by the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:15, Galatians 4:6) 

Our Father is the one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live (1 Corinthians 8:6) 

Our Father is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 1:3, 11:31, Ephesians 1:3, 1 Peter 1:3) 

Our Father is the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort (2 Corinthians 1:3) 

Our Father is the glorious Father (Ephesians 1:17) 

Our Father is the God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all (Ephesians 4:6) 

Our Father loves us and by his grace gives us eternal encouragement and good hope (2 Thessalonians 2:16) 

Our Father treats us as His children (Hebrews 12:7) 

Our Father has lavished great love on us, that we should be called children of God (1 John 3:1) 

Our Father sent the Son to be Savior of the world (1 John 4:14) 

Our Father willed that Jesus give himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age (Galatians 1:4) 

Our Father gives grace and peace (Romans 1:7, 1 Corinthians 1:3, 2 Corinthians 1:2, Ephesians 1:2, Philippians 1:2, Colossians 1:3, Philemon 1:3) 

Our Father loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace (2 Thessalonians 2:16) 

Our Father gives grace, mercy, and peace (1 Timothy 1:2) 

Our Father in his great mercy has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead (1 Peter 1:3) 

But you are our Father, though Abraham does not know us or Israel acknowledge us; you, LORD, are our Father, our Redeemer from of old is your name. Isaiah 63:16 

Image, Baby’s hand, by Fruity Monkey on flickr https://flic.kr/p/99tqDR

Our Father

I am going to camp out in “Our Father” for a couple of weeks. And I will share what I find with you in case you need to camp out there too.  

I was trying to pray and I felt so inadequate, so un-able. I asked God to teach me how to pray right. I could feel His smile as He said, “I already have.” Oh yeah, I thought. I started to pray the Lord’s Prayer but I couldn’t get past “Our Father.” I broke down crying at that. Our Father. 

Maybe it is because I just lost my dad in May of this year and am feeling bereft. Maybe it’s because I am going through a tough time in my life and I long for a father’s comfort and care. Maybe it is the Spirit wanting me to dig deeper. But I am going to camp out in “Our Father” for a couple of weeks. I am going to look at it from the point of view of a child. His child. And I will share what I find with you in case you need to camp out there too.  

First of all, Jesus called God Our Father (Matthew 6:9). Jesus taught us to pray a prayer which has become known as the Lord’s Prayer, and He started it by addressing God as “Our Father.” The word for father is patḗr in the Greek:  

“the one who imparts life and is committed to it; a progenitor, bringing into being to pass on the potential for likeness … He imparts life, from physical birth to the gift of eternal life through the second birth (regeneration, being born again). Through ongoing sanctification, the believer more and more resembles their heavenly Father – i.e. each time they receive faith from Him and obey it, which results in their unique glorification … [patḗr is] one in ‘intimate connection and relationship.’” 1 

There is so much here to meditate on. He imparts life to us and is committed to us. Stop and think about that for a minute! He passes on the potential for likeness that grows each time we receive faith from Him and obey Him. We, His children, can resemble our heavenly Father. He is in intimate connection and relationship with us. Hallelujah! 

Next, Jesus addressed Our Father who is in heaven (Matthew 6:9). That may make it sound like God is far away, but, for me, it is comforting to think of Him being over me, standing over me, over everything, in charge, in control, yet leaning down to hear my feeble voice. I can imagine standing with my back to Him, leaning back against Him, feeling His strength. When I look up to Him, as a child looks up to her father, His face is near. There is no distance, only glory. He is in heaven but in intimate connection and relationship with me.  

Third, Jesus said that Our Father’s name was to be hallowed. Hallowed be your name (Matthew 6:9). We honor the Name, ha-Shem, of the Father. We recognize and affirm that His name is Holy, His name is the essence of the Father imparted to us. Jesus made the name known to us. “O righteous Father … I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them” (John 17:25-26). Psalm 75:1 says that His Name is near. And Proverbs 18:10 says, The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous man runs into it and is safe.  

God told Moses that His name was YHWH and to tell the Israelites that I AM THAT I AM had sent him. I think that this means that His name is more about who He is than a title. And the name Our Father in particular reveals his character and nature. 

“What is that name of God which the revealing Son declares? Not the mere syllables by which we call Him, but the manifested character of the Father. That one name, in the narrower sense of the word, carries the whole revelation that Jesus Christ has to make; for it speaks of tenderness, of kindred, of paternal care, of the transmission of a nature, of the embrace of a divine love. And it delivers men from all their creeping dreads, from all their dark peradventures, from all their stinging fears, from all the paralysing uncertainties which, like clouds, always misty and often thunder-bearing, have shut out the sight of the divine face. If this Christ, in His weakness and humanity, with pity welling from His eyes, and making music of His voice, with the swift help streaming from His fingers-tips to every pain and weariness, and the gracious righteousness that drew little children and did not repel publicans and harlots, is our best image of God, then love is the centre of divinity, and all the rest that we call God is but circumference and fringe of that central brightness.” — Alexander MacLaren2 

Creeping dreads, stinging fears, paralyzing uncertainties surround me every day. I always have wondered how a name could be near, how one could run into a name. But I can say with the psalmist that His name is near and is a strong tower, because when he says that he means that God, in His tender love, is near, that Our Father God is the strong tower.  He is right here near me. I can run into my Father’s strong arms and feel safe.  

As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him. Psalm 103:13 

What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? Romans 8:31 

And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. 1 John 4:16-17 

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. 

Until next time rest in the embrace of His divine love. 

1HELPS Word Studies by Discovery Bible 

2MacLaren Expositions of Holy Scripture 

Image by Andrés Nieto Porras https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Nuevas_aficiones_%287984692236%29.jpg

I Love You Lord

This kind of love comes from walking with Him in the dark places, from experiencing His deliverance when we are overwhelmed, from failing and falling and being lifted back up into His embrace.

For the director of music. Of David the servant of the LORD. He sang to the LORD the words of this song when the LORD delivered him from the hand of all his enemies and from the hand of Saul. He said: I love you, LORD, my strength. Psalm 18:1 

Here David declares his love for God after the Lord delivered him from his enemy. Did you know that this is the only time in the Old Testament that someone says to God, “I love you”? The Old Testament saints are commanded many times to love the Lord with all their hearts, and they praise and worship and exalt Him a lot, but this is the only time someone is recorded saying “I love you.” I found that sad.  

But the word translated love that David uses here in Psalm 18 is a different word than the commandment (Deut. 6:5). The word in Deuteronomy is ‘ahav from aheb, which means to have affection for, to like, love the beloved or a lover, love a friend. But the word David uses is ‘erachamka from racham, to have compassion on, to love, to have or show mercy on, have pity. The Pulpit Commentary notes that ‘erachamka “expresses the very tenderest affection, and is elsewhere never used to denote the love of man towards God, but only that of God towards man.” 

Did you ever think of having compassion or pity for God? Sometimes I have felt sorry for Him, for all that He has gone through with us. For all the rejection and hatred and rebellion and mangling of souls, brutal oppression of each other and destruction of His perfect world. But I know my compassion does not, cannot, come close to the compassion God has for me. When God has compassion on us it is intense and active love. Chaim Bentorah says this about racham: 

“The problem is that we have no good English word for racham. We use the word love, mercy, compassion but all fall short of the meaning of racham. The correct use of racham is the womb.  When expressing an emotion, it is the love that a mother feels for her baby while in the womb or just emerges from the womb … It is love that is natural, unmolested, unchallenged and almost perfect.  This is racham.  A few years later when that child rebels, causes problems, wounds and breaks the mother’s heart, that love becomes ‘ahav which is an unconditional love, but it is not that perfect love that was unchallenged. As a human creature we cannot achieve such a high standard of love except at the birth of a child and even then you would have to be racham in a simple Qal form.  It still falls short of racham in a Piel intensive [active] form. As much as you love God, with all your heart, soul and might you may reach the level of David to say ‘Erachamka na Adonai. But it still falls short of God’s racham for us.” — Chaim Bentorah1 

Interestingly, there is also only one place in the New Testament where someone says “I love you” to our Lord. In the famous exchange on the beach (John 21:15-17), the risen Christ asks Peter three times “do you love me?” Peter affirms his love for Jesus three times. And in this case, as with David, Peter uses a surprising word. 

Jesus asks Peter three times, “do you love me?” He uses the word agapao the first two times, but phileo the last time. All three times Peter answers, “Yes, Lord, I phileo you.” The difference between the two words is very similar to the difference between ahav and racham. 

“[Phileo is f]rom philos; to be a friend to (fond of (an individual or an object)), i.e. Have affection for (denoting personal attachment, as a matter of sentiment or feeling; while agapao is wider, embracing especially the judgment and the deliberate assent of the will as a matter of principle, duty and propriety: the two thus stand related … the former being chiefly of the heart and the latter of the head.” — Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible 

Kenneth Wuest2 calls agapao “the noblest word in the Greek language.” I always got the impression that Peter was shirking the highest love, that he was admitting to Jesus that he couldn’t achieve the purest and noblest love, that the best he could do was phileo love. And that Jesus finally gave in to Peter’s good-enough phileo-love in a “Ok, we’ll work on it” kind of relenting. But I think what Peter was really saying was this: Yes, I know and will obey the commandment to love You. But my love for you goes deeper, I love You as a dear friend, I delight in You, You are my only joy, I cherish You above all else.”  

“It [agapao] is an unselfish ‘love,’ ready to serve. The use of phileo in Peter’s answers and the Lord’s third question, conveys the thought of cherishing the Object above all else, of manifesting an affection characterized by constancy, from the motive of the highest veneration.” — W.E. Vine 

It seems to me that this kind of love is, in a way, above agapao love as it goes from head knowledge and assent to the heart. We cannot think that phileo love is less than agapao. Paul startles when he writes to the Corinthians, “If anyone does not love (phileo) the Lord, let him be accursed. Maranatha. (1 Corinthians 16:22) 

I think, yes, that our joy and delight and love for Our Lord will always fall short of His for us, as His love is pure and perfectly unselfish. Unlike us, He does not have to wrestle down the soul, the “me”, the ego every day to achieve this kind of love. It is His glory. It is His essence. It is Himself. But Jesus confirmed that it is possible for us, in Him, to phileo-love when He asked Peter the third time (I’m sure smiling with His own phileo-love sparkling in His eyes) if Peter loved Him. 

The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love (phileo) me?” John 21:17  

It seems to me that both of these kinds of love come from the grace of God. But ahav and agapao seems to be connected to faith and decision and obedience to the word and the will of God. Racham and phileo grow out of relationship. They come from walking with Him in the dark places, from experiencing His deliverance when we are overwhelmed, from failing and falling and being lifted back up into His embrace. We can know that though we, like the children who break the mother’s heart, have broken His heart over and over, yet He still racham-loves us, He still phileo-delights and joys in us. And our hearts respond as Peter’s. 

“Yes, Lord, you know that I love (phileo) you.” John 21:16 

… the Father himself loves (phileo) you because you have loved (phileo) me and have believed that I came from God. John 16:27 

1https://www.chaimbentorah.com/2019/09/hebrew-word-study-i-indeed-love-you-lord/ 

2Golden Nuggets from the Greek New Testament by Kenneth Wuest 

Image, detail from Quiet Evening on the Georgian Bay by TranceMist https://flic.kr/p/ajQSCL  

Who is This?

Pharaoh said, “Who is the LORD, that I should obey him …? Exodus 5:2 

Who is this, robed in splendor, striding forward in the greatness of his strength? “It is I, proclaiming victory, mighty to save.” Isaiah 63:1 

“Who is this? He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him.” Luke 8:25 

“Who is this who even forgives sins?” Luke 7:49 

Who is this King of glory? Psalm 24:10 (ESV) 

“Who are you, Lord?” Acts 9:5 

I AM WHO I AM … The LORD, the God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob … This is my name forever, the name you shall call me from generation to generation.  Exodus 3:14-15 

I, the LORD—with the first of them and with the last—I am he.” Isaiah 41:4 

“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.” Revelation 1:8 

I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! Revelation 1:18 

I AM WHO I AM

I am the bread of life. John 6:35 

I am the light of the world. John 8:12 

I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. John 10:9 

I am the good shepherd. John 10:11 

I am the resurrection and the life. John 11:25 

I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. John 14:6 

I am the true vine. John 15:1 

Who is the LORD, that I should obey him? 

Who is this King of glory? The LORD of hosts, he is the King of glory! Selah Psalm 24:10 (ESV) 

Lift up your heads, you gates; lift them up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. Psalm 24:9 

Photo by Ivan Radic, Close-up of a massive cemetery gate locked with a chain https://flic.kr/p/2kPco5i

Lord, Lord

Jesus was always nudging people towards his true identity.

“Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say? Luke 6:46 

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ Matthew 7:21-23 

Reading these familiar verses, I wondered about the repetition of the name “Lord.” It reminded me of the verse in Exodus where God proclaims his name to Moses. 

Then the LORD came down in the cloud and stood there with him and proclaimed his name, the LORD. And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Exodus 34:5-7 

The people calling Jesus “Lord, Lord” were using the repetition of the Name in their defense. The first group called him Lord, Lord but didn’t do what he commanded. If you look at the previous verses in Luke 6, this includes, as God had described himself to Moses, loving your enemies, not condemning, but having mercy, forgiving sins, and saving the lost.

The second group defended themselves with works they had performed. But the works with which they defended themselves were the more spectacular and self-promoting. They said they did these works in his Name. Yet, again, they didn’t mention compassion, grace, faithfulness, forgiveness.  

I am not saying that prophesying and driving out demons and performing miracles are not good and important. Rather, I am thinking, along with Martyn Lloyd-Jones, that “We can worship religion and be very religious without God.” We must always intently have as our focus the glory and the will of God – knowing God – day by day, step by step. The temptation to glorify ourselves is insidious. 

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 

Jesus was always nudging people towards his true identity. “Who do you say that I am?” “Why do you call me good? No one is good save God alone.” “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: 
The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor.”  

And whoever sees me sees him who sent me. I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness. John 12:45-46 (ESV) 

Could these “Lord, Lord” references be another way of making them think? Remember Jesus said “I and my Father are one,” deeply offending the religious leaders by calling himself equal to God. Could the repetition of the title Lord, as God himself had introduced himself to Moses, be another nudge? If you think I am the Messiah, the Son of God, the Anointed One – if you call me Lord, Lord – why don’t you obey my commands? 

If what we work toward is not to be spectacular or religious, but rather to know Him, then we will know and experience His great heart of compassion and mercy. That great heart that came down with Jesus 

When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” Matthew 9:11-13 

Oh Lord, may you never have to say to me “I never knew you.” May I be ever sensitive to your heart, listening for your gentle voice telling me what you want me to do – or better, what you want to do through me – right now. May I live in you and you live in me such that the light of your compassion and grace, patience, love, faithfulness, and forgiveness shine out into this dark and hurting world.  

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8 

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. 1 John 4:7-8 

My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. John 10:27 (ESV) 

For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost. Luke 19:10 

Photo of rainbow by Jack Bair

Praise, Shine, Flash Forth

Praise [shine, flash forth, celebrate, be clamorously foolish, glory in]  

the LORD [the one bringing into being, life-giver, giver of existence, creator, he who brings to pass, performer of his promises, he who causes to fall the rain and the lightning, destroyer of foes, the absolute and unchangeable one] 

all [altogether, the whole, any, howsoever, whatsoever, whosoever, every one of the] nations [peoples, Gentiles]!  

Extol [commend, glory in, praise, be still and free from care in, triumph in]  

Him [the calmer of the storm, the one who stills the waves, who carries our cares],  

all [altogether, the whole, any, howsoever, whatsoever, whosoever, every one of the] peoples [tribes, communities]! 

For great [strong, stronger, mighty, prevailing] is his steadfast love [favor, loving-kindness, good and kind deedliness,i merciful kindness, mercy, pity, abundant, plenteous, of great extent – preserver of life from death, quickener of spirit/heart life, redeemer from sin, keeper of covenant]   

toward [upon, above, over] us,  

and the faithfulness [firmness, truth, trustworthiness, reliability, sureness, stability, the truly, the verity, the Amen!] of the LORD  

endures forever [from everlasting antiquity to everlasting futurity, always, perpetual, permanent, of continuous existence, now and throughout eternity].  

Praise [shine, flash forth, celebrate, be clamorously foolish, glory in]  

the LORD [the one bringing into being, life-giver, giver of existence, creator, he who brings to pass, performer of his promises, he who causes to fall the rain and the lightning, destroyer of foes, the absolute and unchangeable one]!  Psalm 117:1-2 ii   

iLanguage falls apart, the keyboard disintegrates when trying to describe the chesed love of God! 

iiAll amplification from Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon, and NAS Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible with Hebrew-Aramaic and Greek Dictionaries 

 Photo by Reilly Images, LLC

Compassionate and Gracious

Like a lover, totally focused on the beloved, leaning forward wanting to hear every word, every sigh.

He made known his ways to Moses, his acts to the people of Israel. The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. Psalm 103:7-8 (ESV) 

And He passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness … “ Exodus 34:6 

The psalmist says that God made his ways and acts known to Moses. God always wants to be known. I am thinking that I should pay attention when God defines himself. God describes himself this way: compassionate and gracious (or merciful), slow to anger and abounding in love. I looked at the first two attributes and was overwhelmed. I would like to save the second two for a future blog. 

The first two words are the Hebrew rachum and channun. These two words are each used thirteen times in the Old Testament. Linked together, to describe God, they are used twelve times. Alone or together, they are always only used as attributes of God. Rachum means full of compassion, merciful; channun means gracious, “as hearing the cry of the vexed debtor.”i 

John J. Parsons has this to say about these concepts: 

“Notice first that the LORD calls himself rachum v’chanun, often translated ‘merciful and gracious.’ The noun rechem means ‘womb’ in Hebrew, indicating that God’s compassion is like a mother’s deep love for her child. The word chanun (from chen, grace or favor) indicates that God is a graceful giver who is favorably disposed to help those in need. God is compassionate and favorable to those who call upon Him.” — John J. Parsons, Hebrew for Christiansii  

The adjective rachum comes from the verb racham, to love, to have compassion, or to compassionate. A.W. Tozer explains it this way: 

“According to the Old Testament, mercy has certain meanings: to stoop in kindness to an inferior, to have pity upon and to be actively compassionate. It used to be a verb form of the word compassion, but we don’t use it anymore — maybe it’s because we don’t have the concept anymore. God actively ‘compassionates’ suffering men — I like that wonderfully well. For God to feel compassion at a distance is one thing, but for God actively to compassionate with people is something else.”– A.W. Tozer, The Attributes of God  

The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love. The Lord is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made. Psalm 145:8-9 

The second word, channun or gracious – hearing the cry of the debtor and being favorably disposed to help – reminds me of the parable Jesus told in Matthew 18 of the man who came before the master with overwhelming, impossible debt. But when he cried out for mercy “the master of that servant was moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt.” 

But you, Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness. Psalm 86:15 

The compassion and grace of God are tightly woven together. God’s rachum, the deep love of a parent for a child, moves him to be gracious. Tozer notes in his book, The Attributes of God, that grace and mercy are not things that God does, but who God is. God is forever the compassionate Father favorably disposed toward those who cry out to him, always welcoming home the prodigal. 

And Jesus was saying to us, ‘You went away in Adam, but you’re coming back in Christ. And when you come back, you’ll find the Father hasn’t changed. He’s the same Father that He was when you all went out, every man to his own way. But when you come back in Jesus Christ you’ll find Him exactly the same as you left Him–unchanged. And the Father ran and threw his arms around him and welcomed him and put a robe and a ring on him and said, ‘This my son was dead, and he’s alive again’ ([Luke] 15:24). This is the grace of God.” — A.W. Tozer, The Attributes of God (emphasis mine) 

The Lord is full of compassion and mercy. James 5:11 

The writer of Hebrews encourages us to confidently draw near to God because of these two attributes. 

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy (pity, compassion) and find grace (kindness, “the Lord’s favor – freely extended to give Himself away to people because He is ‘always leaning toward them’”)iii to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:16 

Isn’t that amazing and wonderful? The word for “grace” in the Greek includes the picture of God “freely giving himself away to people” and “always leaning toward them.” Like a lover, totally focused on the beloved, leaning forward wanting to hear every word, every sigh. Like a parent leaning forward to catch the newly walking toddler. Like the father leaning forward, straining to see the very first glimpse of his returning child. 

For the LORD your God is gracious and merciful and will not turn away his face from you, if you return to him. 2 Chronicles 30:9 (ESV) 

… as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust. Psalm 103:12-14 

Come back. If you have wandered far away, come back. If you are near, but have hardened your heart, come back. Come. Jesus has freely given himself for you on the cross. He is leaning toward you. He is the same unchanging God that introduced himself to Moses, “merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.” 

Salvation

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