Understands

Thus says the LORD: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but 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 9:23-24 (ESV) 

The Hebrew word translated “understands” above is sakal (שָׂכַל). It means to give attention to, consider, ponder, to have understanding or wisdom. The word is used 63 times in the Old Testament, but the ironic and tragic thing about this word is the context of its first use in Genesis 3:6. 

So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise (sakal), she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Genesis 3:6 (ESV) 

God yearns for us to understand and know him, but Adam and Eve desired to have their own understanding – to know and choose for themselves what was good and true. Adam and Eve had ample opportunity to give attention to, consider, ponder, come to understand God. But, if they had, they would have known that he not only practices love, but is love, he is just and righteous. The charge that God was keeping something from them would not have rung true.  

But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Genesis 3:4-5 (ESV) 

Instead of knowing and understanding God and his wisdom, they wanted to decide for themselves what was good and evil. The ironic thing is that they did not become like God as promised, but, instead, became their own counterfeit gods. And they found themselves hiding from the real wisdom, the real light, the real life.

Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden. Genesis 3:8 

Isn’t it still the same today? But God is still calling out.

Then the LORD God called to the man, “Where are you?” Genesis 3:9 

He is still seeking. He is still calling. He is still knocking. Let us come out from our hiding places and know the One who loves us.

And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. John 17: 3 (ESV) 

“It was not Adam who sought God, but God who sought Adam. And this has been the order ever since.” 
~ Arthur Pink, Gleanings in Genesis 

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

So let us know and become personally acquainted with Him; let us press on to know and understand fully the [greatness of the] LORD [to honor, heed, and deeply cherish Him]. His appearing is prepared and is as certain as the dawn, And He will come to us [in salvation] like the [heavy] rain, Like the spring rain watering the earth. Hosea 6:3 (Amplified)

Image by Jack Bair, all rights reserved

Yet You Are Near

The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:18 (ESV) 

The Lord is near (in place, in time, in personal relationship, in kinship, father, brother, friend) 

to the brokenhearted (the heart, mind, soul that is broken, maimed, crippled, wrecked, crushed, shattered) 

and saves (delivers, liberates, gives victory to, defends, helps, preserves, rescues, keeps safe, brings into the spacious place, open, wide, free) 

the crushed (crushed to dust, destroyed, contrite) in spirit. 

When your heart is broken and shattered by this world. When your spirit is crushed into the dust. When you feel like your life is over, that you have messed up irretrievably, and God has turned his back in disgust. Yet – beyond understanding, unfathomable, amazing grace! – that is when God is near. 

Yet you are near, O LORD, and all your commands are true. Psalm 119:151 

Seek the LORD while he may be found; call on him while he is near. Isaiah 55:6 

The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. Psalm 145:18 

… the word is very near you. It is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it. Deuteronomy 30:14 

Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. James 4:8 

He who vindicates me is near. Who then will bring charges against me? Isaiah 50:8 

Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Romans 8:33 

But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. Luke 15:20 (ESV) 

Yet … 

Come near to God Salvation

Image, The Prodigal Son by Sir John Everett Millais. Released by the Tate https://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/millais-the-prodigal-son-a00811 Creative Commons CC-BY-NC-ND (3.0 Unported)

Ancient Door

Who is He? Why should I open the ancient door to Him? Isn’t that the ancient question too?

Psalm 24 

Of David. A psalm. 

1 The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, 
    the world, and all who live in it; 
2 for he founded it on the seas 
    and established it on the waters. 

3 Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord? 
    Who may stand in his holy place? 
4 The one who has clean hands and a pure heart, 
    who does not trust in an idol 
    or swear by a false god. 

5 They will receive blessing from the Lord 
    and vindication from God their Savior. 
6 Such is the generation of those who seek him, 
    who seek your face, God of Jacob. 

7 Lift up your heads, you gates; 
    be lifted up, you ancient doors, 
    that the King of glory may come in. 
8 Who is this King of glory? 
    The Lord strong and mighty, 
    the Lord mighty in battle. 
9 Lift up your heads, you gates; 
    lift them up, you ancient doors, 
    that the King of glory may come in. 
10 Who is he, this King of glory? 
    The Lord Almighty— 
    he is the King of glory. 

This Psalm is talking about opening the ancient doors in order to bring the Ark back into the Temple. It says that those carrying it must have clean hands and a pure heart.   

According to Charles Spurgeon, the ancient doors are the doors of our hearts.  

“There is no passage that says, ‘Down with your heads, ye gates, and be ye fast closed, ye everlasting doors!’ Not a word of that sort, Heaven’s gates are open wide. What then is shut? Why, the gate of the human soul, the door of the human heart. There are many gates and doors, bars of iron, and bolts of triple steel that stand in the way of Christ.”  — Charles Spurgeoni 

These are the doors closed at Eden. Yes, God, with a broken heart, barred the gates to Eden. But, only after his people had closed theirs on him. The doors our Lord has been knocking on ever since.  

Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me. Revelation 3:20 

The Psalm says that we must be those who do not “trust in an idol or swear by a false god.” Yet when the joyful shout comes to lift up the ancient doors, the antiphonal retort comes back, “Who is he, this King of glory?” 

Who is He? Why should I open the ancient door to Him? Isn’t that the ancient question too? The question implicit in the garden? 

“You will not surely die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Genesis 3:4-5 

Who is this God who enters the garden gate and walks in the garden? Is he one you can trust, one who cares for you and loves you, who delights in your presence? Or, is he a self-serving manipulator? Is he keeping you from good things? Is he keeping you from your real destiny, your true freedom? Can he really help and keep you, or do you have to do it yourself? 

They spoke against God, saying, “Can God spread a table in the desert? Psalm 78:19 

“But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.” “‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for him who believes (is persuaded, places confidence in, entrusts himself to Christ).” Mark 9:22-23 

Jesus came to show us who this King of Glory really is. He came to reveal and restore knowledge of the Name that we might again trust Him and walk with him in the garden of our hearts. 

Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them. John 17:24-26 

The ancient knock on the ancient door. The ancient question, “Who is he, this King?” 

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

“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Mark 8:29 

Peter answered, “You are the Christ.” 

The Lord Strong and Mighty 

The Almighty God 

Everlasting Father 

Redeemer 

Savior 

Comforter

Servant

Emmanuel

King of Kings and Lord of Lords 

Lamb of God who takes away our sin 

The Good Shepherd 

The Door 

After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven. Revelation 4:1 

i Charles Spurgeon, A Triumphal Entrance https://www.spurgeon.org/resource-library/sermons/a-triumphal-entrance/#flipbook/ 

Image, “What’s Behind the Door?” By Chris Healy https://flic.kr/p/xLfx9e  

… for it is God

If you feel lost. If you feel far away from God. Cry out to him, for it is God who gives, who restores, who draws, who works. He is yearning for you. You cannot make yourself want to know him. He will do it. He is already.

How lovely is your dwelling place, Lord Almighty! My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God. Psalm 84:1-2

I will give them a heart to know me, that I am the LORD. They will be my people, and I will be their God, for they will return to me with all their heart. Jeremiah 24:7

Restore us (draw us, turn us, bring us back, restore, repair, rescue us), O God; make your face shine upon us, that we may be saved. Psalm 80:3

Restore us (draw us, turn us, bring us back, restore, repair, rescue us), O LORD, and (renew, rebuild, repair us) bring us back to you again! Lamentations 5:21

… for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose. Philippians 2:13

I drew them with gentle cords, With bands of love, And I was to them as those who take the yoke from their neck. Hosea 11:4

Another Lost Sheep

Jesus came for the ones who have been written off.

Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him. And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.” So he told them this parable:
“Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it? When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders and rejoices.  Luke 15:1-5

This fellow welcomes sinners. One of my favorite verses. He welcomes us sinners! He doesn’t just tolerate us. That word means to receive or give access to one’s self, to admit into companionship, to accept and not to reject. It comes from a word that means to receive into one’s family, to embrace, make one’s own. What glorious grace! And, praise God, he doesn’t wait for us to come to him, because if he did, most of us would never find our way. This fellow goes out and tracks us down.

Everyone will be lost at one time or another. Or many times. Some of us chronically wander into narrow canyons where paths stop so abruptly you can’t even turn around and go back out. Only a shepherd’s crook from an overhanging ledge in the hands of a strong shepherd can haul you up to safety.—Suzanne Guthrie

I love that – everyone will be lost at one time or another. I love, too, the title of the above image by Kristen Klein: Found – Another Lost Sheep. Yes, another.

There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God … (Romans 3:22-23)

And that lostness does not merely mean the meandering wandering of a confused sheep. The word translated “lost” is the Greek word apollumi, which means to destroy, mar or render useless, perish, be lost, die or kill. It comes from two words:

apo = the separation of a part from the whole; separation of one thing from another by which the union or fellowship of the two is destroyed; a state of separation, that is of distance

olethros = ruin, death, destruction

Isn’t that what sin is all about? Separation from the family. Separation from fellowship, leading to ruin, death, and destruction. It’s a hopeless word; it’s a seemingly final word. Yet (yet!), Jesus said he came for us destroyed, ruined, marred, perished, dead ones. He came for us, who by our sin and wandering from the way, have been separated from the flock, separated from fellowship with God, headed toward ruin, death, and destruction.

If you are trapped in one of those dead-end canyons and feel like you can’t turn around, that you can’t go back, that it’s too late for you, know this: Jesus came for the ones who have been written off. The ones, who in the eyes of world and maybe their own eyes too, are already dead. But not in the eyes of God. Never in the eyes of God.

He is seeking you right now. He welcomes you. Cry out to him and the strong Shepherd will be there instantly.

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

Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. 1 Timothy 1:15

For there is no difference between us and them in this. 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 3:22-24 (MSG)

 

This blog is also available as a Bible study, free to copy and use, at Another Lost Sheep Bible Study

Image, Found – another lost sheep . . . by Kristen Klein https://flic.kr/p/iZRiZV

To the Vanishing Point

Yet I am always (continually, perpetually, constantly, like the daily sacrifice) with you;

you hold (grasp, take hold, seize, take possession of) me by my right hand.

You guide me (guide tenderly, lead me away captive, conduct me along the path) with your counsel (plan, purpose),

and afterwards you will take (get, fetch, lay hold of, seize, acquire, buy, bring, marry, snatch, take away, receive) me into glory.

Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire (delight in, take pleasure in, bend down to) besides you.

My flesh and my heart may fail (be spent, be used up, waste away, be exhausted, come to an end, vanish, perish, be destroyed),

but God

But God!

is the strength (the Rock, refuge) of my heart and my portion (allotment, possession, territory, inheritance) forever (everlastingly, unending future, to the vanishing point, eternally, without end).

Psalm 73:23-26

 

Image in the Public Domain

Door

Did you ever notice that our doors are closed, but the door of heaven stands open?

Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me. Revelation 3:20 (NIV)

After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven. And the voice I had first heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.” Revelation 4:1 (NIV)

Did you ever notice that our doors are closed, requiring Jesus to knock on them, but the door of heaven stands open? Jesus has opened the way into heaven, into the very Presence. He longs to have fellowship with us. Let’s open the doors of our hearts, the doors of those secret places, those closed-off hurting places, and let Him come in and heal and love and redeem and repair.

I slept but my heart was awake. Listen! My lover is knocking: “Open to me, my sister, my darling, my dove, my flawless one.” Song of Songs 5:2a (NIV)

 

Image by Jack Bair

I will throw my net over them

… I will throw my net over them … Hosea 7:11 (NLT)

In the book of Hosea the Lord God laments over the sins of his people. In one place he says “Oh Israel and Judah what should I do with you?”[i] As a Mom this sounds very familiar to me. I think I have said that, or something very similar to my kids several times in frustration, “What am I going to do with you?”

Sometimes we look at the God of the Old Testament as different from Jesus. We only see the punishments, the judgments, the prophesies of enemies overtaking and dragging away. And that appears in Hosea. But, as I read chapters six and seven, I saw something else, very heartbreaking, but very wonderful and redeeming.

In the midst of God’s chastisements and listing of all Israel’s sins, he cries out three times from the pain and love of his heart.

I wanted so much to restore …

I wanted to heal …

I wanted to redeem …[ii]

But, they rejected God, they turned away to other gods, they rebelled. God grieves, “… no one cries out to me for help.”[iii] It all sounds so impossible, so despairing, so final.

But there in the middle there is this wonderful phrase. “I will throw my net over them.” This reminded me of Jesus on the shore calling to the disciples, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” (Matthew 4:19)

Jesus, the Great Fisherman, God in the flesh come to throw his net over us. God’s father-heart of mercy and love, God’s zeal to pursue and save us on full display. So, Jesus came-

To restore

To heal

To redeem

To pursue and catch us in His net of Everlasting Love

Oh Lord God, I cry out to you! I want to turn back to you. I am lost and floundering in the waves. Forgive me of my sins. Throw your loving net over me. And bring me into your Presence.

Come, let us return to the LORD. For He has torn us, but He will heal us; He has wounded us, but He will bandage us. He will revive us after two days; He will raise us up on the third day, that we may live before Him. So let us know, let us press on to know the LORD. Hosea 6:1-3 (NASB)

[i] Hosea 6:4

[ii] Hosea 6:11, 7:1, 7:13

[iii] Hosea 7:7

For more about God’s loving net see Imprisoned

Image, Casting a fishing net, by vakibs, https://www.flickr.com/photos/vakibs/5395469892/

He Knows My Name

A long time ago (47 years this spring!) I heard Him calling my name. It was a beautiful, clear, full-moonlit night in a small town in the Allegheny Mountains.

But now, thus says the LORD, your Creator, O Jacob, and He who formed you, O Israel, “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine!” Isaiah 43:1 (NASB)

I was listening to the beautiful song You Know My Name by Tasha Cobbs Leonard recently and it got me remembering. It also got me wondering. What does it mean for God to know my name? What is the significance of calling by name? Names seem to be so very important.

The word for name in the Hebrew is shem. The definition of shem includes more than just a name though. It also includes the character of the named. The Ha-shem Adonai, the name of the Lord, encompasses his reputation, character, honor, authority, glory, and fame. Perhaps for our names it may also include infamy. God called many people by name in the Old Testament, including Abraham (Genesis 22:1), Moses (Exodus 3:4), and Samuel (1 Samuel 3:4-10).

The idea of calling by name also appears in the New Testament.

The watchman opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He [Jesus] calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. John 10:3 (NIV)

The word translated name in the Greek is onoma. It also includes the idea of the character or reputation of the person named. It comes from the word that means “to know.” To say that he knows my name means he knows all about me, good and bad, the infamy and the character flaws, but calls me by name anyway. No wonder he has to say, “Fear not, for I have redeemed you!”

A long time ago (47 years this spring!) I heard Him calling my name. It was a beautiful, clear, full-moonlit night in a small town in the Allegheny Mountains. Our street theater group had been performing at the Reformed Church synod meeting and one of the sweet pastors had invited us to a potluck dinner at his little church. I was the last one in and so was alone when I heard someone calling my name. There was a breeze in the tall pines and, at first, I thought that must be what I heard. But no, a voice was calling out my name. It stopped me in my tracks, and I stood perfectly still. And it came again, and I knew deep down in my spirit it was God calling me. I stood there, hardly breathing, for a long time until my friend came out to ask if I was coming in.

Maybe you noticed that in both Isaiah 43 and John 10 the ideas of being called by name and belonging to Him are combined. In Isaiah God says, “I have called you by name; you are mine,” and in John, it says that Jesus “calls his own sheep by name.” The knowing of a person by name, the calling, is an intimate thing. It is a reaching out in complete love. It requires a response. The answers of Abraham, Moses, and Samuel were all the same: “Here I am!”

I hadn’t known how to respond to His call on that moonlit night. It was a few months later that a good friend led me to the Savior’s waiting arms. And I said, “Here I am!”

I guess what continues to amaze me is that despite knowing everything about me, he wanted me to be his, and that he still seeks me out. He still calls me by name to be his own little lamb and to let him lead me on. And because I have come to know him – his name and his character – I will follow.

Good Shepherd
Comforter
Refuge and Shelter
Unfailing Love, unfailing, unfailing
Redeemer
Deliverer
Lamb of God, who takes away my sins
The Amen, trustworthy, trustworthy
Faithful and True
Emmanuel, always with me
Father, Abba

You will call and I will answer you; you will long for the creature your hands have made. Job 14:15 (NIV)

I pray you will hear him calling your name.

He knows my name
He knows my name
He knows my name
Yes He knows my name
And oh how He walks with me
Yes oh how He talks with me
And oh how He tells me
That I am His own

(from You Know My Name by Tasha Cobbs Leonard)

Listen to You Know My Name here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bMnkJ-X8l5s

Photo by bwminseattle on flickr.com https://flic.kr/p/3KRVoJ

 

 

 

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