His Hand

I might get a little singed by the refining fire, but no one can snatch me out of His mighty, loving hand.

Yes, and from ancient days I am he. No one can deliver out of my hand. When I act, who can reverse it? Isaiah 43:13

Usually when I read the above verse it is with a negative connotation: you’re not getting away from me! You can’t escape. I confess I sometimes feel like Job.

You know good and well I’m not guilty. You also know no one can help me [deliver me out of your hand]. Job 10:7 (The Message)

But today the phrase “no one can deliver out of my hand” was a comfort. Today I feel like David. I would rather be in God’s hands, no matter what.

David said to Gad, “I am in deep distress. Let us fall into the hands of the LORD, for his mercy is great; but do not let me fall into the hands of men.” 2 Samuel 24:14

His mercy is great. I can trust Him. Even though his all-consuming fire may be consuming the dross in me – the hay and the straw and the stubble – I can trust in his mercy.

But you know what? That word translated “deliver” means more. It is natsal (נָצַל ) and means to snatch away (in a good or bad sense), deliver, rescue, save, strip, plunder. It is used for taking plunder or spoil after a battle. No one can snatch me away out of His hand. No one can take me as plunder, for no one can be victorious over God. He roars jealously over me.

Jesus repeated this, what is actually a compassionate, unfailing love, full-of-grace-and-mercy, promise.

I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. John 10:28-29

I might get a little singed by the refining fire, but no one can snatch me out of His mighty, loving hand. He is the same God, Old and New Testament. He does not change.

See now that I myself am He! There is no god besides me. I put to death and I bring to life, I have wounded and I will heal, and no one can deliver (snatch, take as plunder) out of my hand. Deuteronomy 32:39

Photo, Sheep Drinking at the River by Kevin Ryder, https://flic.kr/p/fCcjsP

Shout of Victory

I wait for (hope, expect, await, am patient, pained, trust in) you, O LORD;

you will answer (respond, testify in court on my behalf, shout in victory), O Lord my God. Psalm 38:15

I wait for (look for, hope, am bound together with) the LORD,

my soul (by very being) waits (looks for, hopes, is bound together with Him),

and in his word (I am trusting, waiting, expecting) I put my hope. Psalm 130:5

Lord give me strength to be patient and trust you though it may be painful. Give me faith to hope expectantly with all my being, that my waiting will bind me ever closer to you and inspire your shout of victory.

Image: Jump for Joy by Kreg Steppe https://www.flickr.com/photos/spyndle/3480602438

My Impossibles List

It seems the whole world has an impossibles list right now. And, I don’t know about you, but my list just keeps getting longer.

Jesus replied, “What is impossible with men is possible with God.” Luke 18:27

Impossible = Greek adunatos: without strength, impotent, powerless, weak, disabled, unable to be done, impossible

Possible = Greek dunatos: able, powerful, capable, mighty, strong, possible

I’ve started keeping an impossibles list. All the impossible things I’ve been praying for. The unable to be done, not possible things. So much of what I am praying for seems impossible. Sometimes the impossible thing is to just get through the day; sometimes it is the healing of a brokenhearted nation. We all have that same struggle right now, to keep from sinking into hopelessness and despair at the impossibilities.

But recently, God has been showing me – no that is too wimpy of a word – he has been blazing this light of truth into my darkness, that he, and he alone, is the one who can do the impossible things. All the stuff with what is going on in the world and our own problems – our kids and financial problems and job problems and health concerns. All our impossible things. The things that wake us up weeping and gasping in the middle of the night. If fixing these things are just up to me and you they are without strength, impotent, powerless, weak, disabled, unable to be done, impossible. Not possible.

But all things are possible with God. That’s what Jesus impossibly proclaimed. So, I have been making a list of all my impossibles. And then, like Hezekiah I take it and spread it out before the Lord.

Hezekiah was the king of Israel when King Sennacherib of Assyria came to lay siege to Jerusalem. His armies had already roared through Judah, capturing the fortified cities. And now they were surrounding Jerusalem and mocking Hezekiah’s God (Isaiah 36), sending letters full of sneering impossibilities.

Surely you have heard what the kings of Assyria have done to all the countries, destroying them completely. And will you be delivered? Isaiah 37:11

But Hezekiah took those impossibilities to the Temple and spread them out before God.

Hezekiah received the letter from the messengers and read it. Then he went up to the temple of the LORD and spread it out before the LORD.  And Hezekiah prayed to the LORD: “O LORD Almighty, God of Israel, enthroned between the cherubim, you alone are God over all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth.” Isaiah 37:14-16

It seems the whole world has an impossibles list right now. And, I don’t know about you, but my list just keeps getting longer. And this impossible army surrounds me and mocks my God, either in anguish or arrogance. Even in writing this it besieges my mind and heart with black-hole doubt and ancient fear. But I am spreading my list out before the One who is able, powerful, capable, mighty, strong, possible. The One enthroned between the cherubim, the One who alone is God. And I’m saying, “OK, God here are some more impossible things for you. I am giving them over to you. For, nothing is impossible for you.”

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or discouraged because of the king of Assyria and the vast army with him, for there is a greater power with us than with him. With him is only the arm of flesh, but with us is the Lord our God to help us and to fight our battles. 2 Chronicles 32:7-8

I am the LORD, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard (too difficult, too high, beyond one’s power, extraordinary, wondrous, marvelous) for me? Jeremiah 32:27

“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.” Mark 9:23-24

Photograph copyright 2018 by Derek Bair

Bad News

Praise the LORD.

Blessed is the man who fears (fears, is afraid, stands in awe of, is awed, reverences, honors, respects) the LORD,

who finds great delight in (inclines to, bends down to, desires, delights in, wills) his commands …

He will have no fear of (will not be afraid, stand in awe of, be awed, reverence, honor, respect)

bad news (announcements, news, reports, rumors, tidings);

his heart is steadfast (established, stable, secure, enduring, fixed, securely determined, prepared, ready),

trusting (confident, sure, bold, secure, sure, hoping) in the LORD.

Psalm 112:1, 7

 

Image copyright by Jack Bair, all rights reserved

Very Present Help

God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble. Psalm 46:1

God is our strong refuge from the storm,

our hope, our trust, a place of refuge, shelter from rain or storm, from danger,

a helper in time of trouble, adversity, affliction, anguish, distress, tribulation

He is found to be — vehemently, exceedingly, speedily, mightily, greatly present,

He comes forth to meet us in our trouble with muchness

He is able

He is with us

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me. Psalm 23:4

 

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

The First and the Last

He was there at the beginning and he will be there at the end, he has gone before us on this road. And all along the way he walks with us. Stretching out under all the great expanse of history are His Everlasting Arms as he carries his children.

When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last.” Revelation 1:17 (NIV)

I have read this verse many times but this last time it literally vibrated in my spirit like a giant bell, like a mighty shout, like the sounding of the shofar. The answer to the cry of a desperate and fearful heart.

Being at the end of the year in my One Year Bible, I am reading Revelation. And, it caught my attention that Jesus calls himself the First and the Last three times in Revelation. When the Lord repeats something it is important, so I looked further into it and found that this declaration is also made three times in Isaiah (see them all below). Four of the six times it is accompanied by the admonition, “do not fear” or “do not be afraid.” Once it is preceded by, “Listen to me.”

Isaiah 41:4 says it slightly differently and wonderfully.

Who has done this and carried it through, calling forth the generations from the beginning? I, the LORD—with the first of them and with the last—I am he … So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed (gaze about in anxiety, look away), for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:4, 10 (NIV emphasis mine)

This is the ringing cry I hear: Listen to me. I am the first and the last. I am He. I am the only God. I am the One who looks out for you, helps you, loves you. The One who is always with you. Do not gaze about in anxiety. Look at me. Do not fear.

And it came to be as a revelation, a clear vision, in my heart – not just in my head. He was there at the beginning “delighting in mankind” (Proverbs 8:30-31)  and he will be there at the end, he has gone before us on this road. And all along the way he walks with us. Stretching out under all the great expanse of history are His Everlasting Arms as he carries his children.

As a baby in arms, looking up into the eyes of her father, does not see where she is going, Lord I do not know where we are headed here in this hard and pain-filled place. But, I will rest and trust in your loving arms and fix my eyes on You.

You both precede and follow me. You place your hand of blessing on my head. Psalm 139:5 (NLT)

The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms. Deuteronomy 33:27 (NIV)

 

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Who has done this and carried it through, calling forth the generations from the beginning? I, the LORD—with the first of them and with the last—I am he … 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 41:4, 10 (NIV)

This is what the LORD says—Israel’s King and Redeemer, the LORD Almighty: I am the first and I am the last; apart from me there is no God … Do not tremble, do not be afraid. Did I not proclaim this and foretell it long ago? You are my witnesses. Is there any God besides me? No, there is no other Rock; I know not one. Isaiah 44:6, 8 (NIV)

Listen to me, O Jacob, Israel, whom I have called: I am he; I am the first and I am the last. Isaiah 48:12 (NIV)

When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last.” Revelation 1:17 (NIV)

“To the angel of the church in Smyrna write: These are the words of him who is the First and the Last, who died and came to life again. I know your afflictions and your poverty—yet you are rich! … Do not be afraid …” Revelation 2:8-10 (NIV)

I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End … Amen. Come, Lord Jesus. Revelation 22:13, 20 (NIV)

 

Image, Safe by Barbara W https://www.flickr.com/photos/barbasia/15537309689/

 

I have no idea where I am going …

My Lord God,
I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.
nor do I really know myself,
and the fact that I think I am following your will
does not mean that I am actually doing so.
But I believe that the desire to please you 
does in fact please you.

And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.
And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road,
though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore will I trust you always though
I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.
I will not fear, for you are ever with me,
and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.

–Thomas Merton

 

Amen!

When Jesus is translated, so many times, as saying, “verily, verily I say to you” he was really saying “amen, amen” – or “you can trust what I am going to say, you can stand on this Rock.”

“These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation.” Revelation 3:14 (NIV) 

In Revelation 3:14 the Lord Jesus calls Himself “the Amen.”  That really struck me, so I looked up the definition of the word. It means firm and faithful. Jesus, the firm foundation. Jesus, faithful and true. At the beginning of a discourse it means “surely, truly, or verily,” so that when Jesus is translated, so many times, as saying, “verily, verily I say to you” he was really saying “amen, amen” – or “you can trust what I am going to say, you can stand on this Rock.” At the end of a discourse or sermon it means “so it is, so be it, or may it be fulfilled.”

According to the Thayer Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, saying amen “was a custom, which passed over from the synagogues to the Christian assemblies, that when he who had read or discoursed, had offered up solemn prayer to God, the others responded Amen, and thus made the substance of what was uttered their own.” Yes, I believe it. Yes, I am putting my trust in this.

But I also found out something about the origins of the word. According to NetBible, “The word ‘amen’ is a most remarkable word. It was transliterated directly from the Hebrew into the Greek of the New Testament, then into Latin and into English and many other languages, so that it is practically a universal word. It has been called the best known word in human speech. The word is directly related — in fact, almost identical — to the Hebrew word for “believe” (amam), or faithful. Thus, it came to mean “sure” or “truly,” an expression of absolute trust and confidence.”

So it is very comforting to me that the Bible ends with the word “Amen.” This is something that can be trusted. This is true. “For no matter how many promises God has made, they are ‘Yes’ in Christ. And so through him the ‘Amen’ is spoken by us to the glory of God.” (2 Corinthians 1:20 NIV)

Amen! So be it! I’m standing on this Rock!

 

Image in the Public Domain: Woman standing on a rock near Villa de Leyva, Colombia by Joshua Earle https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Woman_standing_on_a_rock_near_Villa_de_Leyva,_Colombia_(Unsplash).jpg