My Eyes Are Fixed

This past month my father and I endured COVID.

But my eyes are fixed on you, O Sovereign LORD; in you I take refuge … Psalm 141:8 

This past month my father and I endured COVID. I have spent hours in the emergency room, in isolation, away from loved ones, and then away from home caring for my parents. I have had many sleepless nights, constant stress and worry, and even lack of food. I have whined and crabbed to God and cried a lot. I have found out how weak I am, and how much I need His strength for anything – especially to love and to serve. But praise to our loving caring God for his patience and care! And a big thanks to my fellow bloggers for your faithfulness to write what the Lord gives to you. 

“Look at Jesus and only Jesus. The waves and winds are there but don’t look around. Look to Jesus. When I look around me, I will sink because fear consumes me. But when I look to Jesus, I have peace. I have salvation! When Jesus taught me this, right that moment, I felt complete peace. I felt fear drawing away. Instead, fear was replaced with peace and confidence in Jesus.” — Deborah Agustin, Stop Looking Around https://lifehub.home.blog/2021/06/22/stop-looking-around/  

“‘So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what we see is eternal’ (2 Corinthians 4:18). When we begin to look at the unseen, we perceive the reality that there are no delays in God’s operations. In fact, we get to realize that in the spiritual realm, everything is accelerated, compared to the physical realm. That is why Christians find it difficult living in the present world because we have already beheld the end in the spiritual realm. Our supernatural view then clashes with the natural, which is painstakingly slower and disturbingly different from the spiritual.” — Mulyale Mutisya, Appearances of Delay https://carolynemutisya7.wordpress.com/2021/06/21/appearances-of-delay/  

By faith [Moses] forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured as seeing Him who is invisible.  Hebrews 11:27 NKJV 

“In this one short verse we discover the essence of endurance: seeing Him who is invisible. How do we see that which is invisible? What faculty enables you and me to see it? The answer is faith. Faith is related to the unseen. Faith is a sure conviction concerning things not seen (see Hebrews 11:1). If you and I are going to hold out, the unseen world will have to be more real to us than the seen.” — Derek Prince, Endurance Through Focus 

“If you’re not already walking through a trial, you will soon. As you do, resist the temptation to hide your flaws or your sin. Fight the desire to pretend everything is okay. You’re surrounded by other broken people (like me!) who long to help you. And each one of us is strengthened not by our own gumption but by the gentle hand of a Mighty God. 

 It is good news that should cause us to proclaim with David: “I love you oh Lord, my strength” (Ps. 18:1).” — Hannah, For When You Feel Broken https://agratefullifelived.wordpress.com/2021/06/10/for-when-you-feel-broken/  

And let us run with endurance the race that God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, on whom our faith depends from start to finish. Hebrews 12:1-2 

Image in the Public Domain

Taking Refuge

Taking refuge is crucial in these times we are in, but it must be beyond mere head knowledge. It must become part of my very being, like breathing.

O taste and see that the LORD is good; How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him! Psalm 34:8 (NASB) 

When God highlights something to me that I have been blithely skipping over for 48 years I know he wants me to dig deeper. In this case it was the phrase “takes refuge” that stopped me. To “take refuge” implies action, something I do. I am beginning to see that I have been standing outside the refuge in the malevolent, pummeling storm holding my flimsy umbrella, recognizing correctly that there is a refuge, understanding and believing in the refuge, even memorizing all the verses about the refuge. But, most of the time, not actually doing the effort to “take refuge” – get under His wings, crawl up on His lap. So, my head knowledge, or even my faith in the refuge, does me no good.  

The Hebrew word translated “takes refuge” above is chacah. It means to seek refuge, flee for protection, to put trust in God, confide or hope in God. A related word is batah – to trust in, rely on, take refuge in. A commentator notes that chacah “is probably to be distinguished from batah ‘rely on,’ ‘take refuge in’ as denoting more precipitate action.” [emphasis mine]i

To do something precipitately is to do it in a way that is “sudden and done without thinking” (Cambridge Dictionary). This definition reminds me of kids jumping into the parents’ bed at a house-shaking crack of thunder. It is done without thinking because in their subconscious level that is where safety and security is; where their trust is.

Is trusting in the Lord something we do “without thinking” almost by instinct? Do we jump into his arms when the earth shakes and the storm roars? God is showing me that this only happens when we have made putting our trust in him a long discipline, so that it has become a habit. We have tasted and seen his goodness many times, over and over without fail. The struggle between God and us is over. We have surrendered to Him and experienced his love. Deep down below the level of thinking and logic and reasons we know – we know Him.

Since God showed me this, I have started practicing this taking refuge action against my almost constant fear and regret and self-condemnation and complaining against God. It takes determined effort and is hard, like stopping a train and reversing the direction. But it is making a huge difference. What does that look like? 

When I find myself floundering, when a condemning thought comes into my mind, I remember the Cross of Jesus Christ and make the decision and effort to take refuge in his Word.  

Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.  Romans 8:1 

As the Scripture says, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame.” Romans 10:11 

When fear oppresses me, I cling to the promise.  

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10 

When I am afraid, I will trust in you. Psalm 56:3

When, in my rebellious self-life, I start with the complaints, even resentment, against God, I look around for something to be grateful for. I offer up a sacrifice of praise. 

I will sacrifice a thank-offering to you and call on the name of the LORD. Psalm 116:17 

Taking refuge, trusting in God, is crucial in these times we are in, when philosophers and politicians and journalists and marketers clamor for my trust. But it must come from beyond mere head knowledge – I must get out from under my leaky umbrella. My trust in Him must become part of my very being, like breathing. Like the pumping of my heart. I must “do” taking refuge, until I abide there, always leaning against his chest, feeling his sweet breath on the top of my head, listening to the eternal, unstoppable, vehement, passionate, fierce, zealous beating of his mighty heart. 

Let me dwell in Your tent forever; Let me take refuge in the shelter of Your wings. Selah. Psalm 61:5 (NASB) 

Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy on me, for in you my soul takes refuge. I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings until the disaster has passed. Psalm 57:1

It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in man. It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in princes. Psalm 118:8-9

Photo by lars_o_matic on flickr.com https://flic.kr/p/e9V5ZM  

You Will Not Fear

Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.

I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.

Surely he will save you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.

You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday.

Psalm 91:1-6

 

Image by Jack Bair, all rights reserved

City of Refuge

I have been seeing that everything in the Bible points us to Jesus. One of the many wonderful things our Savior provides us is a refuge from the Adversary, from the roaring lion seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8).

In ancient Israel there were places called cities of refuge (Numbers 35:13-29) that God provided for people who had killed someone without premeditation or by accident. Since the law demanded an eye for an eye (Exodus 21:24), it was a place to escape the avenger of blood, usually a relative of the person killed. There were six of these cities, placed within traveling distance from anyplace in Israel. It is wonderful to look at the hidden treasure in their names and see the foreshadowing of the Redeemer, Savior, Messiah. Below are the names of the six cities, their definitions, and verses that reveal Jesus, our City of Refuge.

Shechem = “back” or “shoulder” as a place of burdens

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6 (NIV)

What man among you, if he has a hundred sheep and has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open pasture and go after the one which is lost until he finds it? When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. Luke 15:4-5 (NASB)

Ramoth = “heights” (plural of a word that means high in value; the root of both words is a word that means “lifted up”)

Behold, My servant will prosper, He will be high and lifted up and greatly exalted. Isaiah 52:13 (NASB)

But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself. John 12:32 (NIV)

For in Scripture it says: “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.” Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. 1 Peter 2:6-7 (NIV)

Kedesh = “holy place” (from the verb qadash which means to consecrate, sanctify, prepare, dedicate, be hallowed, be holy, be sanctified, be separate)

Such a high priest [Jesus] meets our need—one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens. Hebrews 7:26 (NIV)

In the synagogue there was a man possessed by a demon, an evil spirit. He cried out at the top of his voice, “Ha! What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!” Luke 4:33-34 (NIV)

You disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you. Acts 3:14 (NIV)

Hebron = “association”

But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners, and eats with them.” Luke 15:2 (NIV)

For there is one God and one mediator* between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all men—the testimony given in its proper time. 1 Timothy 2:5-6 (NIV)

The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and “sinners”.’ But wisdom is proved right by her actions.” Matthew 11:19 (NIV)

*“one who intervenes between two, either in order to make or restore peace and friendship, or form a compact, or for ratifying a covenant”

Bezer = “gold ore” or “remote fortress” “inaccessible spot”

The fear of the LORD is pure, enduring forever. The ordinances of the LORD are sure and altogether righteous. They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the comb. Psalm 19:9-10

The LORD is my rock, my fortress (fastness, castle, defense, fortress) and my deliverer; my God is my rock (rocky wall, cliff), in whom I take refuge. He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold (refuge, secure height, a cliff or other lofty or inaccessible place, defense, high fort, tower). Psalm 18:2

Golan = captive, “their captivity: their rejoicing”

So the soldiers, their commanding officer, and the Temple guards arrested Jesus and tied him up. John 18:13

He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. Isaiah 53:7

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the 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

 

Image copyright Jack Bair 2019. All rights reserved.

Peace, Peace

You will keep (guard, watch over, preserve)

in perfect peace (peace, peace)

him whose mind (purpose, framing, framework)

is steadfast (supported, upheld, leaning upon),

because he trusts (is bold, confident, sure, secure) in you.

Isaiah 26:3

 

Image from Matthew’s Island

In My Distress

The earth truly did seem to quake at the smoke from her nostrils, the fire from her mouth, the bolts of lightening from her eyes – and the neighbor backed down fast.

In my distress I called to the Lord; I cried to my God for help. From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came before him, into his ears. The earth trembled and quaked, and the foundations of the mountains shook; they trembled because he was angry. Smoke rose from his nostrils; consuming fire came from his mouth, burning coals blazed out of it. He parted the heavens and came down; dark clouds were under his feet. He mounted the cherubim and flew; he soared on the wings of the wind. He made darkness his covering, his canopy around him—the dark rain clouds of the sky. Out of the brightness of his presence clouds advanced, with hailstones and bolts of lightning. The Lord thundered from heaven; the voice of the Most High resounded. He shot his arrows and scattered the enemy, with great bolts of lightning he routed them. The valleys of the sea were exposed and the foundations of the earth laid bare at your rebuke, Lord, at the blast of breath from your nostrils. He reached down from on high and took hold of me;     he drew me out of deep waters. He rescued me from my powerful enemy, from my foes, who were too strong for me. They confronted me in the day of my disaster, but the Lord was my support. (Psalm 18:1-19 NIV)

I love this Psalm. The imagery of a passionate God tearing apart the earth to rescue me is breathtaking. And it reminds me of something that happened when I was twelve.

My little brother is eight years younger than me and could be very naughty when he wanted, which seemed most of time to his big sister. At four years old, he especially seemed to aggravate one of our neighbors with his antics. My mom tried her best and kept an eye on him out the kitchen window, and his big sister got to babysit. One day, when he was out playing he did something that was the proverbial “straw” and the neighbor raged out screaming at him. I was paralyzed with shock, but in a blazing second, there was my mom standing between my brother and the woman in all the fury and glorious passion of a mother. The earth truly did seem to quake at the smoke from her nostrils, the fire from her mouth, the bolts of lightening from her eyes – and the neighbor backed down fast. That picture is forever seared in my memory and is why I love Psalm 18 so much. The zeal of The Mom for her children – like a mother bear for her cubs – is a perfect picture of God’s love and zeal for us.

Remember that when you feel under attack, when you feel hopeless and helpless as a four year old child, when the enemy stands over you ready to crush you once and for all. Cry out to Jesus and he will come blazing out to rescue you. For he has already stood between – the Intercessor – he took all the blows meant for you. The Good Shepherd, like David, defending his sheep with his bare hands from the destroying lion. He will passionately rescue you. He will be there and hide you in his shadow and comfort.

He has sent us a mighty Savior from the royal line of his servant David, just as he promised through his holy prophets long ago. Now we will be saved from our enemies and from all who hate us … We have been rescued from our enemies so we can serve God without fear, in holiness and righteousness for as long as we live. Luke 1:69-71, 74-75 (NLT)

The LORD will march forth like a mighty man (champion); he will come out like a warrior, full of fury (jealousy, zeal). He will shout (for joy, triumph) his thundering battle cry, and he will crush (prevail against) all his enemies (adversary, foe). Isaiah 42:13 (NLT)

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

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

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