Easter Saturday

We are in a very dark and scary time right now. It is easy to succumb to fear and even despair. By faith, and in hope, let’s sit with him in heavenly places and see the end of this trouble.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world (conquered, prevailed, been victorious).” John 16:33 (NIV)

You probably already knew this, but I just realized that Jesus said this to his disciples at the last supper. After Judas had left to betray him.

Yet, Jesus said, “I HAVE overcome,” because from where God sits, there is no time. Jesus had already overcome, in fact he had overcome from the foundation of the world.

He [the Lamb who was slain] was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. 1 Peter 1:18

Jesus knew what the disciples were going to experience in the next days and he wanted to give them something to cling to. He hoped they would remember his words in that dark day between the despair of the crucifixion, and the blazing light and joy of the resurrection. As Philip Yancey wrote, “It was no accident, I believe, that Jesus spoke his triumphant words, I HAVE OVERCOME THE WORLD, even as Roman soldiers were buckling on weapons for his arrest.”

We are in a very dark and scary time right now. It is easy to succumb to fear and even despair. Let us rest and abide in the One who promises to always be with us. Let us be still and know that he is God. He has already overcome this dark world, and whether we live or die, our peace is in him, our ultimate home is with him. By faith, and in hope, let’s sit with him in heavenly places and see the end of this trouble.

“It is a good thing to remember, when we encounter dark, disturbing times, that we live out our days on Easter Saturday.”—Philip Yancey[i]

Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10 (NASB)

 

[i] Where is God When it Hurts?

 

The Hands of the Loving Potter

The LORD looks from heaven; He sees all the sons of men; from His dwelling place He looks out on all the inhabitants of the earth, He who fashions the hearts of them all, He who understands all their works (deeds, actions). Psalms 33:14-15 (NASB)

These verses are a comfort and hope to me. God’s gaze is on me. He sees me. He understands why I do the dumb things I do. And he is fashioning, forming my heart. Strong’s Concordance defines this forming as squeezing into shape as a potter does with clay. It feels like squeezing too.

And the psalmist says that God sees all the sons of men; he is forming the hearts of all, everyone. This forming is being done where we cannot perceive, deep inside the hidden place. Those people we look askance upon, doing things that, to us, are incomprehensible – their hearts are also being fashioned by the hands of a compassionate, merciful God. I like how the Pulpit Commentary puts it:

“The hearts of all men are in God’s keeping, and his gracious influences are exerted to ‘mould’ them aright. Some hearts are too stubborn to yield themselves up to his fashioning, and refuse to take the impress which he desires to impart; but all, or almost all, owe it to him that they are not worse than they are.”

Yes, that’s for sure. We all stubbornly resist at times, but he does not give up on us. And neither should we give up on each other. This is a gracious hope for me. That God is working in the hearts of those for whom I am praying. That the hands of the loving potter are at work though I may not be able to see it.

If there are ones for whom you have been praying, maybe for a long time, do not give up. Let us wait in hope. Let us keep loving. Let us keep praying. Let us trust that the hands of the loving Potter are upon us all.

Our soul waits for the Lord; He is our help and our shield. For our heart rejoices in Him, because we trust in His holy name. Let Your lovingkindness, O Lord, be upon us, according as we have hoped in You. Psalms 33:20-22

 

 

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Knots in the Cord

We may cut the cord ourselves by giving into fear and doubt, but each time we come back He binds us to himself again, tying another knot, shortening the cord, drawing us ever closer.

Surely there is a future (or a reward), and your hope will not be cut off. Proverbs 23:18 (NASB)

I was intrigued to find that word translated “hope” in the above verse is the Hebrew word tiqvah (תִּקְוָה), and that it literally means “cord.” Figuratively, it means expectancy, hope, a thing that I long for, but literally it is a cord. It is the same word that is used for the scarlet cord the Israelite spies told Rahab to tie in her window in this verse:

“Agreed,” she replied. “Let it be as you say.” So she sent them away and they departed. And she tied the scarlet cord (tiqvah) in the window. Joshua 2:21 (NIV)

Her scarlet tiqvah was a literal cord, but it was also a hope and expectation of salvation. I think hope is like a cord because it is a firm attachment to God, like an umbilical cord, from which we draw the strength to keep going, to keep growing.

Tiqvah comes from the Hebrew word qavah (קָוָה) which means to wait, look for, hope, expect, but also means to bind together. We are bound to God through our faith and hope in him, and he promises that he will not cut the cord, our tiqvah. I can cut the cord myself, and I have many times, by giving into fear, despair, hopelessness and doubt. But each time he has proven himself ever faithful again, and each time I come back to his loving arms. And each time he reties the cord, tying another knot, binding himself to me again. And each time those knots of love and grace shorten the cord, drawing me ever closer to his heart.

The New Testament calls this hope an anchor of the soul. You don’t throw an anchor overboard without attaching it to your boat with a rope or a cord. And the other end of the cord has been knotted firmly for us by our Lord Jesus in the Holy of Holies, the very Presence of God.

We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where Jesus, who went before us, has entered on our behalf. Hebrews 6:19-20 (NIV)

Yes, Lord I choose to tie your anchor to my little, drifting, tossing boat. I choose to hope in your word, hope in your promise, hope in your name, in your very character. Give me strength to hope no matter what is happening around me. I come back to you again. Forgive me for the doubts and fears. Tie another knot in the cord. Draw me ever closer to you.

I drew them with gentle cords, with bands of love, And I was to them as those who take the yoke from their neck. I stooped and fed them. Hosea 11:4 (NKJV)

For the law made nothing perfect, and now a better hope has taken its place. And that is how we draw near to God. Hebrews 7:19 (NLT)

And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. Romans 5:5 (NIV)

 

Image is free from Pixabay

All My Bones

Maybe I have no breath left to even cry out. But, even so, my bones can hear God.

My whole being (all my bones) will exclaim, “Who is like you, O LORD? You rescue the poor from those too strong for them, the poor and needy from those who rob them.” Psalm 35:10 (NIV)

Recently I was going through some old papers and I found a note scribbled on a church bulletin. “God hears my bones cry. If I could hear it, I would hear them cry ____?”

The Hebrew word translated “my whole being” above is etsem (עֶצֶם) and means bone, essence, substance. Other versions translate it “all my bones,” “from the bottom of my heart,” “every bone in my body.” So David is saying in the verse above, “my very essence, my substance will say.” It is like declaring, “the very fiber of my being will exclaim!”

Going back to my note, if I could hear my bones crying out, what would I hear today? I’m not sure. I have been going through a very dark and dry time. I would probably hear, “Help! Save! Restore, renew, redeem! Remember your promises to me!”

Or maybe I would hear nothing at all. Maybe my bones are too dry, too crushed.

A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones. Proverbs 17:22 (NIV)

Maybe I have no breath left to even cry out. But, even so, my bones can hear God.

Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life. Ezekiel 37:4-5 (NIV)

At first when I read David’s cry in Psalm 35:10 I felt guilty. There is David, the man after God’s heart, again proclaiming God’s greatness, and here I am struggling to even get a breath after another low blow. But then I read the verse in context.

Contend, O LORD, with those who contend with me; fight against those who fight against me … arise and come to my aid … Say to my soul (that which breathes, the breathing substance or being, soul, the inner being), “I am your salvation” … Then my soul will rejoice in the LORD and delight in his salvation. My whole being will exclaim, “Who is like you, O LORD? You rescue the poor from those too strong for them, the poor and needy from those who rob them.” Psalm 35:1-3, 9-10 (NIV)

Later in this Psalm, David cries out, “How long, O Lord, will you look on and do nothing? Rescue me … Then I will thank you in front of the entire congregation. I will praise you before all the people (35:17-18 NLT).” As I read this I felt like God was saying to me that it is OK to be beat down, dried up, crushed. It’s OK to be crying for help. It’s even OK to be brutally frank with God about how I feel.

He hears, he knows, he is there in the valley of dry bones with us, and he is speaking grace and love and life and redemption. And I know that someday I will cry out, all my bones, with every fiber of my being, “Who is like you, O Lord?” I know that I will thank him and praise him for what he is doing, will do, has done.

Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice. Psalm 51:8 (NIV)

I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the LORD In the land of the living. Psalm 27:13 (NASB)

 

Put in and Drop the Anchor

For this reason we must pay much closer (earnest, exceeding, more abundant, more frequent) attention to what we have heard (hold it in our minds, bring our ship to land, put in at safe harbor), so that we do not drift away from it (glide by, carelessly pass, let it slip our minds). Hebrews 2:1 (NASB)

We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.  Hebrews 6:19 (NIV)

Only hold on (seize and hold fast, don’t let go, keep carefully and faithfully) to what you have until I come.  Revelation 2:25 (NIV)

 

 

Image: U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate Airman Kathleen Gorby [Public domain]

Middle of the Story

Ann Voskamp wrote, “Faith thanks God in the middle of the story.”[i] The middle of the story is the hard place, where behind me, and at my feet, is the stumbled-over rubble of past mistakes, rebellions, regrets. And before, is the obscured darkness of unknown hazards and hopes. Faith thanks God amid the wreckage. Faith asks me every day to turn from fear and trust the One who has promised. How do I do that? Hebrews 11:1 (NKJV) says:

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

The amazing Greek word translated “substance” is hupostasis.  It partly means “steadfastness of mind, firmness, courage, resolution, confidence, firm trust, assurance,” and it is mostly translated that way as “confidence.” It literally means “a setting under”[ii] as in setting under a support, a substructure, a foundation, that which is firm. Faith is the setting under me of the foundation that makes or causes me to stand and be confident. Jesus is that foundation[iii] under me. He is the Rock on which I stand.

Thinking of it this way helps me, because it makes me realize that faith is not so much something that I “have,” something I am required to manufacture or come up with. But faith is something I do. I simply step onto the Rock. I place my faith and hope, not in my ability to produce faith, not in something that may or may not happen, but in Jesus – his faithfulness, his truth, his Word, his love and care.

But, the hidden treasure in this word is another facet of meaning. Hupostasis also means “actual existence, substance, real being, essence.” It is used in this sense in Hebrews 1:3.

The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being (hupostasis) sustaining (bearing up, upholding, keeping from falling) all things by his powerful word.

Faith is the essence of hope as Christ is the essence of God – His exact representation. When I step onto the Rock, I am sustained, upheld, kept from falling by the very essence of God, which is love. God is love; his real being is love. I will thank God here in the middle of my story, confidently standing on Jesus, the Rock of my salvation, supported and sustained by his Love that was proven at the cross.

My hope is built on nothing less
than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
but wholly lean on Jesus’ name.

On Christ the solid rock I stand,
all other ground is sinking sand;
all other ground is sinking sand.

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 him. 1 John 4:16 (NIV)

He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. Psalm 40:2 (NIV)

There is so much in Hebrews 11:1! I will look at the second half of the verse next time. Read more about faith in the blog Faith, Part Two

[i] Ann Voskamp, The Broken Way

[ii] All translations from NetBible.org and Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible

[iii] 1 Corinthians 3:11 

 

Lupine

Lupine

glorious

in a burned-out field

anyway

 

Hope

tenacious

in my burned-over heart

yet

 

Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him, The help of my countenance and my God.      Psalm 42:11 (NASB)

Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.     Lamentations 3:21-23 (NIV)

 

Image, Lupine Amongst the Burn Pile by Alan Levine https://www.flickr.com/photos/cogdog/26676650031