They Took Him Along

That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” 

He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” 

They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!” Mark 4:35-41 

Reading this verse, I was stopped, and maybe a little amused, at the phrase “they took him along.” I think it is a curious statement. They brought Jesus along, or so they thought. Jesus had been in the boat all day teaching the crowds. So, they brought him along just as he was already in the boat. They brought him along as the Teacher, but did they bring him along as Lord? When it was time to go, they got in the boat with him and started off – right into a huge storm. While they began fighting for their lives, Jesus slept.  

“Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” 

I think Jesus was sleeping for a couple of reasons. One, I’m sure he was exhausted. But also, he wanted them to discover that he is in control and sees what is happening, even when it seems he is asleep and doesn’t care. And that you don’t just take him along with you. As J.D. Walt wrote, Jesus needs to be at the helm of our boat, not the stern. 

I am with you. I am not distant or far from you. I am in the boat, sleeping. The problem is not that the storm is raging all around you (though that is a problem). It is that the storm has gotten inside of you. These waves may do irreparable damage, but I will redeem it. What the enemy meant for evil I will turn to good. I AM THE PEACE OF GOD, the one who sleeps in the storm, and though I am with you, I will come closer. Welcome me to come within you, from the stern to the helm. — J.D. Walti 

Lord you are my peace. When the storm has gotten inside of me and I am fighting for my life and struggling, seemingly all alone, help me to see that I have put you behind me in the stern. That I have “taken you along.” Help me to put you before me as Lord, to follow you whom the wind and waves obey. To trust you to turn this evil into good. You are the One who cares. 

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. 1 Peter 5:7 

This Just In! We Interrupt This Series for a Word from Our Sponsor https://www.seedbed.com/this-just-in-we-interrupt-this-series-for-a-word-from-our-sponsor/?mc_cid=6ff101d8c2&mc_eid=27234cb1e3 

Image, Gandalf’s Gallery, Ludolf Backhuysen – Christ in the Storm on the Sea of Galilee [1695], https://flic.kr/p/22qS8Sx  

Sandstorm

This is where I am in the valley. I can’t see, can’t even open my eyes to try.

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) 

I was meditating on this verse lately and found this revealing commentary: 

“The valley of the shadow of death . . .–This striking expression, to which the genius of Bunyan has given such reality, was probably on Hebrew lips nothing more than a forcible synonym for a dark, gloomy place. Indeed, the probability is that instead of tsal-maveth (shadow of death), should be read, tsalm-th (shadow, darkness), the general signification being all that is required in any one of the fifteen places where it occurs. It is true it is used of the ‘grave’ or ‘underworld’ (Job 10:21-22). But it is also used of the ‘darkness of a dungeon’ (Psalm 107:10), of ‘the pathless desert’ (Jeremiah 2:6); or, possibly, since it is there parallel with drought, of ‘the blinding darkness of a sandstorm,’ and metaphorically of ‘affliction’ (Isaiah 9:2), and of the ‘dull heavy look’ that grief wears (Job 16:16).” — Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers 

“The blinding darkness of a sandstorm.” Wow. While I can relate to all of the above metaphors, this speaks to me right now. This is where I am in the valley. I can’t see, can’t even open my eyes to try. I am being sand blasted and refined in pitch darkness. All I can do is cling to the One who will never leave me, and fear no evil from His unfailing love.  

for you are with me … 

Image in the Public Domain, free download from Picryl 

I See

I cast my mind to Calvary 
Where Jesus bled and died for me 
I see His wounds, His hands, His feet 
My Saviour on that cursed tree i 

I cast my mind to Calvary  

my eyes fixed on that cursed tree  

And suddenly I see 

and know with 

mind-heart lightning light

that if Jesus could do this thing  

If he could dynamite history asunder, if he could blow up every mountain  

disintegrate the rubble and blast away even the dust  

making the way to God completely, compassionately, blazingly open  

If he could give me the right

by faith in justice meted by bleeding hands

to be a child of God walking hand-in-hand  

If he could fling all my sins into the depths of the sea, as far as eternity  

And lock my enemy fiercely onto the very short leash of time  

If he is always  

all of my life  

the whole, in each and every part  

with me  

and will NEVER  

no, not, ruled out as a fact or even a possibility 

leave me 

Then  

He is with me now in this breaking, this shaking, this pain  

and he can deal with it, and is dealing with it  

He’s got this

He knows, he hears, he sees

And underneath me 

and my loved ones and my situation  

and this great big horrible mess that is my life right now 

are His Everlasting Arms  

forever and ever and ever 

and ever 

world without end 

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! 1 John 3:1 

ifrom O Praise the Name (Anástasis) Song by Hillsong Worship 

Beyond

Things are getting thrown at me over my head, beyond my strength. But there is another “beyond.”

For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. 2 Corinthians 1:8-9 (ESV) 

I know that this seems negative and discouraging, but this is where God has me right now. This is where I am – burdened beyond. Weighed down, depressed, overcome. The word translated “beyond” in the above verse is huperballo and means “throwing beyond.” Things are getting thrown at me beyond, beyond my dunamis – my power, might, strength. When I read the definition of huperballo I envision an outfielder leaping up for a high fly ball but not being able to catch it. How many home runs it seems the enemy of our souls is making!  

And so, like Paul, I have despaired – this life beyond me, no way out, no exit strategy – like the sentence of death. Like trapped in a jail cell awaiting the execution. Utterly without resources, powerless. The only hope God. 

But then, God showed me another verse about another “beyond.” 

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7 

The peace of God also goes beyond our strength, it transcends. The word is huperecho. Again, huper means beyond or over my head, but in this case, echo means to hold. The peace of God holds me beyond my situation, beyond my despair and powerlessness to stop the onslaught. His peace is above, surpasses, rises above, is superior, has authority over beyond everything here on this earth. If I can grab on to this truth I will be “seated with him in heavenly places.” 

Paul said that this beyond-burden we bear is for a reason: to change our reliance, trust and confidence from ourselves to God. God, the way maker. God, our Peace. God who is above and beyond and over and guards our hearts and minds. If we are not anxious, but present our petitions and requests to God we are kept under guard by God’s transcending peace. But for that to happen I have to switch my reliance. I have to roll all my burdens over onto Him and totally trust. Why is that so hard?

“Abide in Me says Jesus. Cling to Me. Stick fast to Me. Live the life of close and intimate communion with Me. Get nearer to Me. Roll every burden on Me. Cast your whole weight on Me. Never let go your hold on Me for a moment. Be, as it were, rooted and planted in Me. Do this and I will never fail you. I will ever abide in you.” — J.C. Ryle 

Paul also said that he felt that he was under the sentence of death. But you know the One who has risen above, who is superior, who has all authority in heaven and earth, over and beyond us? Jesus – he has taken our sentence of death. 

Who is to condemn [pass down judgement against, sentence]? Christ Jesus is the one who died-more than that, who was raised-who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Romans 8:34 

We can rely on God who raised up Jesus and will raise us up with him – beyond. He is interceding for us even now. Even though we are in despair, utterly burdened beyond; even though it’s twenty to nothing in the last inning; even though we feel the sentence of death in our souls, yet, we can know that he will bear us up. He will always hold us and never fail. We can rely on God.

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. Ephesians 2:4-7 (ESV)

Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens. Psalm 68:19 

You are my strength, I sing praise to you; you, God, are my fortress, my God on whom I can rely. Psalm 59:17 

Help me Lord to rely on, abide in, stick fast, cling to you always.  

Photo by Minda Haas Kuhlmann  https://flic.kr/p/2mcAUTU  

Not Suitable for Framing

This is where God has me, shaking everything that can be shaken and clearing off the rubble.

And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. 1 Peter 5:10 (ESV)i 

It has happened again. I received, all at once, a whole lot of blog posts and articles about the same subject. (God has to be real obvious with me.) But this time the subject was not a very popular one – suffering, and how it is necessary in the Christian walk, and how it builds our faith and forms us to be like Jesus.  

This is where God has me, shaking everything that can be shaken and clearing off the rubble. I think suffering “promotes us to the next level,” as J.D. Walt writes below, because it shakes our faith. It shakes off all the doubts about God’s character and topples the papier mâché idols we trust in and gets us down to the bedrock – where the real building can begin. 

“We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God …” [Acts 14:22]. Anyone out there seen this one on a bumper sticker lately? It seems to be the opposite of the so-called “Prosperity Gospel” doesn’t it? While this may not be “suitable for framing” or cross-stitched pillow covers, it does offer the perfect and perfecting framework for real faith … Why is this? Why must we go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God? Because this is where the kingdom of God breaks in—places of loss, suffering, hardship, brokenness, and pain. For the followers of Jesus, when you are being broken down, it is a sign that the kingdom of God is breaking in. Hardships are a sign Jesus is about to promote you to the next level of entrustment in the kingdom of God. — J.D. Walt, Jesus is Changing My Life   

AW Tozer said this: “Faith is simply the bringing of our minds into accord with the truth. It is adjusting our expectations to the promises of God in complete assurance that the God of the whole earth cannot lie.  As long as we question the wisdom of any of God’s ways our faith is still tentative and uncertain. While we are able to understand, we are not quite believing. Faith enters when there is no supporting evidence to corroborate God’s word of promise and we must put our confidence blindly in the character of the One who made the promise.” — Blogged by One Pursuit, Faith Not Common Sense   

There will be more times in life than you can count that you will need God to do the impossible. Yet miracles of God require faith, and we tend to doubt. So even on the days when our faith is not demanded, we must continually build a foundation of faith through reading and believing God’s word. If we are living and breathing His word, His power is able to work in and through us. His word supernaturally works within us to bring us into His will and helps us walk in it. Don’t wait until you’re faced with the impossible; make all things possible by reading and believing God’s promises to you each and every moment of every day. — Blogged by God’s Glory, Faith Comes By Trusting in His Word   

“There is no university for a Christian, like that of sorrow and trial.” — Charles Spurgeonii 

The broken heart fills the valley, the oppressed soul levels the mountains, desperation smooths the rough passages. Human struggles refine the dross of life, and bitterness yields joy. Good news comes in the desert, because the desert is the only place you can hear it. — Suzanne Guthrie 

If we suffer, we shall also reign with him … 2 Timothy 2:12 (KJV) 

iBlogged by Beholding Him Ministries Hope for Today: After Suffering … 

iiSpurgeon, Charles H., The Complete Works of C. H. Spurgeon, Volume 39: Sermons 2289-2341 

Once Again

Sorry 

I know 

You are there 

You are with me 

You care 

You have a good plan 

You are working 

always  

My heart knows  

I am sitting on your lap 

leaning on your chest 

in the Everlasting Arms 

unfailing 

But  

my head panics 

and once again 

I am flailing  

and I need 

another sign 

another word 

another touch 

You 

I need 

You 

always

Image, Strong by Eduardo Martinez https://flic.kr/p/2ihGeUk   

The Verge of Overthrow

“Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” Luke 22:31-32 

Did you know that the first time the Greek word “you” is used in the above verse it is plural? According to NetBible Study Notes, “This pronoun is plural in the Greek text, so it refers to all the disciples of which Peter is the representative … Satan has demanded permission to put them to the test. The idiom ‘sift (someone) like wheat’ is similar to the English idiom ‘to pick (someone) apart.’” 

That was an eye-opener to me. All of the disciples were to be sifted like wheat, not just Peter. If I count myself as a disciple, I will be too. 

The Greek word translated “sifted” is siniazo, and this verse is the only time it is used in the New Testament. It means to sift, shake in a sieve … “to try one’s faith to the verge of overthrow.”i 

All the disciples will be sifted. However, the second time the pronoun “you” is used, “I have prayed for you, Simon,” Jesus is singling out Peter. I find myself shaking my head at Peter, “They’re all going to be sifted, but wow, poor Peter. He needs special prayer.” It is implied that he will turn away from God. “When you have turned back.” The word means to turn one’s self about, turn back, to return, come back to the worship of the true God, to the love and obedience of God, to the love for the children, to love wisdom and righteousness. It means to revert, to come again, to convert. Faith tried to the verge of overthrow. 

But I realize as I ponder this that I have needed Jesus’ special prayers a lot. I have needed to turn back many times – from rebellion, from error and deception, from wandering off on the wrong path, from the verge, the edge of the cliff, from anger at God, and, again, from anger at God. 

The point is that all of the disciples were to be sifted like wheat. All of us will be. And all of us will need the special prayers of Jesus. We can’t just point at Peter and shake our heads. He is our representative in this instance. Peter definitely typifies my struggle. But praise God, Jesus is always and ever interceding for us even today, even right now. And if you look at the verse above you see that Jesus prayed for Peter before he messed up. And – amazing grace!- Jesus said, “When you have turned back.” 

I don’t think (unfortunately) that this sifting is a big, one-time event and then we’re done. Peter messed up again – and probably again. The refining process is life long. But, we can be sure that if we keep yielding, if we keep repenting, if we keep letting him change us, each time we turn back we will have more to give, more to share, a stronger witness to his amazing grace and unfailing love.

Do not despair in the sifting! We will all be picked apart and shaken to remove the little pebbles (and the big stones) and the inedible chaff. But God’s ultimate purpose in the trials and the sifting and the turning back will be accomplished, and afterwards we will be used to “strengthen our brothers” and feed Jesus’ sheep with the good wheat, the Bread from Heaven.  

Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Romans 8:34 

The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.” John 21:17 

I give them eternal life, and they will never perish (be lost, ruined, destroyed, rendered useless), and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. John 10:28-29 

i Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, by Joseph Thayer. 

Image, Dangerous Cliff Edge, Cliffs of Moher, County Clare, Ireland, by Anna & Michal https://flic.kr/p/4rz2ga  

Strange House Guest

It is comforting for me to know that when this strange house guest, suffering, walks in, Jesus walks in with him.

Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. 1 Peter 4:12 

This one of those verses that most of us would rather skip over. But recently I was drawn to look at the meaning of the Greek words closer. Very interesting, and strangely comforting too. 

The words translated “surprised” and “something strange” in the above verse are the Greek words xenizo (ξενίζω) and its root xenos (ξένος). Xenos means a foreigner or a stranger (it’s where we get the “xeno” part of the word xenophobia); it also means a guest. Xenizo means to be shocked, “to surprise or astonish by the strangeness and novelty of a thing.” But it also means to receive as a guest, to entertain, to be host, to lodge. 

It is like Peter is saying, “do not be shocked by the painful trial you are suffering as though a complete stranger had walked into your house looking for lodging.” I guess he is saying that suffering should not, or will not, be a stranger to us. Suffering was not a stranger to our Lord. 

He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with (acquainted with, knew) suffering. Isaiah 53:3a 

Jesus was intimately acquainted with suffering and, if we are following Him, we share in that acquaintance. 

that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death. Philippians 3:10 

It is comforting for me to know that when this strange house guest, suffering, walks in, Jesus walks in with him.  

The word translated “fellowship” above is koinonia. It also means association, community, communion, joint participation. It comes from the noun koinonos which means partner, associate, comrade, companion (how wonderful to be Jesus’ companion!).  

But what I love is that the very core root of both of these words is the Greek word for “with,” sun (σύν). It means with or together, companionship, beside. He is with us, beside us, our companion in our suffering. And that makes all the difference. That makes the impossible, possible. 

“It is precisely the presence and help of Christ in times of suffering that makes it possible for us to stand up under pressure … The only way to keep putting one foot in front of the other on this dark road is through union with Christ and with the promise of resurrection to light the way.” ― R.C. Sprouli 

Jesus has suffered for us, and he will suffer with us. He will never leave us or forsake us. 

He will keep you strong to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful.  1 Corinthians 1:8-9 

But rejoice that you participate (come into communion or fellowship with, become a sharer, are made a partner) in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. 1 Peter 4:13 

One foot in front of the other, holding on tight to his hand. 

… that I may know Him 

i R.C. Sproul, Surprised by Suffering  https://www.ligonier.org/blog/suffering-well-union-christ/  

Image by Andrés Þór https://flic.kr/p/79jJCz

Provided

We might not be happy with all the things that God “provides” for us, but we have to keep in mind that God always has his heart and mind focused on something greater.

But the Lord provided a great fish to swallow Jonah … (Jonah 1:17 NIV) 

I was reading the book of Jonah again recently and that word “provided” in this translation caught my attention. Besides the whale, God also “provided” a vine for shade, a worm to kill the vine, and a scorching east wind and hot sun (Jonah 4:6-8).

It is kind of an amusing translation to me because the meaning of “provide” that I always think of is “to supply or make available (something wanted or needed).”i Kind of like the amenities offered at a hotel. But, the only thing here that Jonah I think wanted or thought he needed was the shade of the vine, which made him “very happy” (Jonah 4:6). Certainly not the whale or the discomfort of the blazing desert heat.  

But there is another, what Merriam Webster calls, archaic definition of this word which is closer to the actual Hebrew meaning. And that is “to prepare in advance.” The Hebrew word is manah (מָנָא), which means to count, reckon, number, assign, tell, appoint, ordain, or prepare. In this case, God assigned to Jonah, or appointed/prepared for him the whale, vine, worm and weather. Jonah is not too happy about most of what has been assigned to him – including his assignment, in the first place, to go to Nineveh and urge repentance. We also have assignments prepared in advance. 

For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:10 

Many times, it seems, the things that God provides for us are, as in Jonah’s case, the means to gently (or maybe it feels not so gently) change our attitudes and nudge us into these good works.  

The Hebrew word manah also can mean count or number, as in “counted among” or “numbered with,” as in this verse: 

Therefore I will give him [Messiah] a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors. Isaiah 53:12 

Messiah himself had an assignment; things prepared in advance for him to accomplish. We might not be happy with all the things that God “provides” or assigns to us, but we have to keep in mind that God always has his heart and mind – his very being – passionately focused on something greater. Something greater than our comfort or temporal happiness or personal preferences at the moment. And that is always the salvation of people (including us!). 

“Should I not have compassion on Nineveh, the great city in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know the difference between their right and left hand, as well as many animals?” Jonah 4:11 (NASB) 

Unlike Jonah, who ran in the opposite direction, Jesus, the Messiah, gave us the perfect example of accepting that which God has provided for us. He “for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame” (Hebrews 12:2), and resolutely set his face toward Jerusalem and the cross that awaited (Luke 9:51).  

Jesus commanded Peter, “Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?” John 18:11 

Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” Matthew 26:39 

Lord, I pray that you would work in me “to will and to act according to your good purpose,” that I might do the good works prepared in advance, and that you won’t have to “provide” for me very many whales – or worms. 

So [Jonah] complained to the LORD about it: “Didn’t I say before I left home that you would do this, LORD? That is why I ran away to Tarshish! I knew that you were a gracious and compassionate God, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. I knew how easily you could cancel your plans for destroying these people. Jonah 4:2 (NLT) 

i Merriam Webster 

Image attribution: Pieris rapae caterpillar, by James Lindsey at Ecology of Commanster 

Wineskin in the Smoke

Like David, I must choose hope.

Kaph 

 My soul faints with longing for your salvation, 

    but I have put my hope in your word. 

My eyes fail, looking for your promise; 

    I say, “When will you comfort me?” 

Though I am like a wineskin in the smoke, 

    I do not forget your decrees. 

How long must your servant wait? 

    Psalm 119:81-84a 

For years I have been reading that phrase “though I am like a wineskin in the smoke” and wondering what it means. It has been an enigma to me. But now I am starting to get an idea. Maybe, sometimes you have to be there in the dark smoke to finally understand.  

Each of the sections of Psalm 119 start with one of the letters of the Hebrew alphabet. This section starts with kaph. 

“Jewish writers state that kaph means ‘bent.’ It has a dual symbolism, standing for the palm of the hand serving as a container and, at the same time, as a measure for what it holds. Ibn Ezra states that kaph means ‘result through mental and physical effort.’ While yod stands for the hand indicating power and possession, kaph denotes productivity and accomplishment.” — Mick Mills, David Michael, Messiah and his Hebrew Alphabet. [emphasis mine] 

David used kaph as a word in Psalm 139:5: You hem me in—behind and before; you have laid your hand (kaph) upon me. “You have laid your kaph on me” – You are doing, producing, accomplishing something in me! 

The first word of this section of Psalm 119, kalah, starts with the letter kaph. Kalah means to be spent, be used up, to waste away, be exhausted, fail. My soul faints. My eyes fail. But it also means to come or bring to an end, to complete, finish, to accomplish, fulfill, bring to pass. On our side we are exhausted, spent, we have failed and are failing. On God’s side, he is bringing us to the end of our own strength, he is finishing, accomplishing, fulfilling his purpose and promise in us, bringing his Word to pass. 

What does that have to do with wineskins in the smoke? 

There are two things that I have found. Nomadic peoples would hang their skin-bottles in their tents which were full of smoke and they would become, over time, black and dried out, shriveled, and useless. Many commentators conclude that David is lamenting that he feels like such a skin in the hot, blinding smoke – suffering, helpless, waiting. (See, for instance, Spurgeon in The Treasury of David https://www.christianity.com/bible/commentary.php?com=spur&b=19&c=119&v=45

But there is another beautiful meaning here. Hanging skin-bottles over a fire, or in a smoky place, was an ancient method of refining the wine inside of them.i 

  “A bottle in the smoke. One object amongst the ancients of such exposure was to mellow the wine by the gradual ascent of the heat and smoke from the fire over which the skin was suspended; and thus the words teach us the uses of affliction in ripening and improving the soul.” — Ernst Friedrich Karl Rosenmüller, quoted in John Mason Neale, Richard Frederick Littledale, A Commentary on the Psalms 

“And in that custom the psalmist finds an illustration of the meaning, and of the mercy, of the afflictions to which he has been exposed. They have been sent to act on him like the warm smoke on the wine – to refine, mellow, and ripen his character; and because, under them all, he has refused to part with his faith in God and duty; because he has been true to God and God’s statutes, they have had their intended and proper effect upon him.” — Rev. Robert Tuckii  

How long must your servant wait?  

Yes, it’s the waiting that makes it so hard. I’m not good at waiting even for good things, let alone waiting in the suffocating smoke of misery, not knowing what is going to happen, how long it will last, helpless, not able to change or affect anything. Like David, I must choose hope. 

“To wait with openness and trust is an enormously radical attitude toward life. It is choosing to hope that something is happening for us that is far beyond our own imaginings. It is giving up control over our future and letting God define our life. It is living with the conviction that God molds us in love, holds us in tenderness, and moves us away from the sources of our fear.” — Henri J.M. Nouwen, Radical Waiting 

“What seems to be in mind is a long waiting-time, which was also a time of suffering and strain. The watching for God was prolonged; no response seemed to come; much had to be borne while he was waiting; he seemed to get dry, shriveled, and blackened, like the wine-skin in the chimney that had waited so long (and seemed to get tired of waiting, even as he did) for the moisture and refreshing of being used, and filled again with wine. But the question of supreme importance was this – What was he doing during this hard waiting-time?” – Rev. Robert Tuckiii  

What was David doing in the waiting? I have put my hope in your word … looking for your promise … I do not forget your decrees. He believed, because he knew God, he knew that all the time he was hanging there in the dark, hot, choking smoke – God was working, God was accomplishing his purpose, God was fulfilling his promise.

Lord help me do that too. When I’m hanging there, when despair and hopelessness swirl around me like the strangling, blinding smoke – give me that grace. 

Even when I don’t see it, You’re working 
Even when I don’t feel it, You’re working 
You never stop, You never stop working 
You never stop, You never stop working 

— from Way Maker by Osinachi Kalu Okoro Egbu 

Jesus said to them, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working.” John 5:17 

Photo, free download from Pixabay 

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