It’s Absolutely Not Possible

It’s like God is declaring, “Not on my watch!”

I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it. Luke 18:17 

When reading this verse, I usually concentrate on the “little child” part. But this time the word “never” jumped out at me. It’s actually two Greek words – οὐ μή – that are translated “never” in the above verse. Let me just say up front that studying these words has greatly encouraged my faith and I hope it does the same for you. 

According to NetBible Translator’s Notes, “The negation in Greek used here (οὐ μή, ou mh) is very strong.” Strong’s Concordance, notes that it is “a double negative strengthening the denial.” The meanings include: not at all, by no means, neither, never, in no case, nor ever, not in any wise. 

So, it’s really important to pay attention when Jesus uses this word. He is saying in the above verse that it is vital that we come to God with the faith of a child. (And note that it is matter of our will – “anyone who will not receive.”)

Thayer’s Greek Lexicon adds that “οὐ denies the thing itself (or to speak technically, denies simply, absolutely, categorically, directly, objectively), but μή denies the thought of the thing, or the thing according to the judgment, opinion, will, purpose, preference, of someone.” 

Denying the thought of the thing is like saying “God forbid,” or “don’t even think about it!” Like Peter exclaiming after Jesus predicted his death at the hands of the chief priests:  

“Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never ( οὐ μή ) happen to you!” Matthew 16:22 

This is also translated “God forbid!” “Heaven forbid!” “Impossible, Master!”  

These are negative examples, but there are many, many promises using this word combination. From God’s point of view, it is like he is declaring, “Not on my watch!” Jesus uses this emphatic “double negative strengthening the denial” many times, categorically and absolutely declaring the impossibility of something happening.

It is helpful for me to think of it as “It’s not happening!” (I was going to say “It ain’t happenin’!” but my librarian/English major self won’t let me.) Or I could say, “It is absolutely not possible – not ever.” I want to make sure I realize the implications – to shake myself out of my – what is it? – sleepiness, complacency, apathy? I don’t want to just let my eyes and mind slip by these promises, but grab unto them with both hands and all my heart and soul. 

Below is a list of some of the promises using this double, emphatic negative.* It is mind jogging to me, and so comforting and encouraging to read them with “It’s not happening. It is absolutely not possible – not ever!” preceding the promise. (You can precede these verses in any way that speaks to you): 

It’s not happening. It is absolutely not possible – not ever!

I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Matthew 5:18 

Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away. Matthew 24:35 

Anyone who drinks the water I give will never thirst–not ever. The water I give will be an artesian spring within, gushing fountains of endless life. John 4:14 (Message) 

Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Luke 6:37 

All men will hate you because of me. But not a hair of your head will perish. Luke 21:17-18 

Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.” John 6:35 

All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away (never cast them out, never reject them). 

When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12 

I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. John 10:28 

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.” John 11:25-26 

And then these wonderful promises: 

So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. Galatians 5:16 

And I will forgive their wrongdoings, and I will never again remember their sins. Hebrews 8:12 (NLT) 

Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more. Hebrews 10:17 

… God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5 

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.” 1 Peter 2:6 

He who overcomes will not be hurt at all by the second death. Revelation 2:11 

All who are victorious will be clothed in white. I will never erase their names from the Book of Life, but I will announce before my Father and his angels that they are mine. Revelation 3:5 (NLT) 

Him who overcomes I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will he leave it. Revelation 3:12 

That last one! How amazing! We will be in His Presence and never again, not at all, by no means, never ever, in no case, not ever, not in any wise will we leave His glorious Presence ever again. Praise God! It ain’t happenin’! 

*A further discussion and complete list of verses using οὐ μή and be found here https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?t=kjv&strongs=g3364 

Image copyright by Derek Bair

Ancient Door

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

Psalm 24 

Of David. A psalm. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Peter answered, “You are the Christ.” 

The Lord Strong and Mighty 

The Almighty God 

Everlasting Father 

Redeemer 

Savior 

Comforter

Servant

Emmanuel

King of Kings and Lord of Lords 

Lamb of God who takes away our sin 

The Good Shepherd 

The Door 

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

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

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

The Stability of Our Now, Our Always

Amen and amen! I can be sure of this.

And He will be the stability (firmness, truth, steadfastness, steadiness, security, the verily, the truly) of your times (your when, your now, your always, continually), A wealth of salvation, wisdom and knowledge; The fear of the LORD is his treasure. Isaiah 33:6 (NASB) 

Oh, how we need stability in these days! Stability in the above verse, also translated “sure foundation,” is the Hebrew word emuwnah (אֱמֻנָה). It means, literally, firmness. Figuratively, it means security, fidelity, steadfastness, steadiness, faithfulness, stability, steady, truly, truth, verily. The root of this word is aman (אָמַן), from which we get amen in the New Testament. (I know I have written about this before, but God keeps bringing me back. My need – our need – for His stability is great. See Amen)

When Jesus says, “Truly, truly I say to you” (I stopped counting at 70), he is actually saying Amen, amen! So be it! Truth! This is true, this is sure, this is a faithful word you can stand upon! 

R.C. Sproul writes this about Jesus’ use of amen: 

“There is, perhaps, no more remarkable use of the term amen in the New Testament than on the lips of Jesus. Older translations render statements of our Lord with the preparatory words, ‘Verily, verily, I say unto you.’ Later translations update that to ‘Truly, truly, I say unto you.’ In such passages, the Greek word that is translated as ‘verily’ or ‘truly’ is the word amen. Jesus does not wait for the disciples to nod their agreement or submission to His teaching at the end of His saying; rather, He begins by saying, ‘Amen, amen, I say unto you.’ What is the significance of this? Namely, that Jesus never uttered a desultory word; every word that came from His lips was true and important. Each word was, as ‘amen’ suggests, valid, sure, and binding  … 

We also notice that Jesus uses the Hebrew technique of repetition by saying not merely, ‘Amen, I say unto you,’ but ‘Amen, amen.’ This form of repetition underlines the importance of the words that are to follow. Whenever we read in the text of Scripture our Lord giving a statement that is prefaced by the double ‘amen,’ it is a time to pay close attention and be ready to give our response with a double amen to it. He says ‘amen’ to indicate truth; we say it to receive that truth and to submit to it.” — R.C. Sproul, Amen. (emphasis mine) 

Amen and amen! I can be sure of this: 

Jesus is my stability, firmness, truth, steadfastness, steadiness, security, my verily, my truly. Jesus is Lord; Jesus is the Word made flesh. He is The Amen! The Truth. He is the sure foundation, the firm Rock I stand on. He is faithful and true. He is my certainty, my assurance – right now, when everything is shaking around me, and tomorrow no matter what happens, and forever.  

He can be your stability too. Put your faith in him. Salvation

Truly (Amen!), truly (amen!), I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life. John 5:24 (NASB) 

So Jesus said to them again, “Truly (Amen!), truly (amen!), I am the door of the sheep. John 10:7 (NASB) 

My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. John 10:27-28 

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

He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I shall not be shaken. Psalm 62:6 

Read more about aman (אָמַן) here Faith, Part One

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

Trusting in Chariots

Having faith in faith is a lot like being in love with being in love.

Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God. They are brought to their knees and fall, but we rise up and stand firm. Psalm 20:7-8 

This was an old friend of mine, Josephine’s favorite verse. She was in her nineties when I got to know her. Telling me stories of her life, she said that when things got really bad – and things did get very bad for her at times – she would go into her closet and pray that prayer. Then she would come out and face what she had to face in God’s strength. And God would answer. She trusted God through being kicked out of her home as a teenager, freezing in an unheated attic apartment, days of hunger and grueling hard work. Through her whole life, she had a thick prayer notebook. She often prayed that verse for the problems and people on her list. 

It was Josephine who taught me to pray. She would say, “Let’s pray! You start.” I would pause, composing a wonderful prayer in my mind. She would give me about two seconds and demand, “Well are you going to pray?” I learned early on to just jump in and start talking, hoping God would give me the words. And you know what? He did! And I learned to stop putting my faith in my ability to put together the correct prayer – putting faith in my chariots and horses, faith in my faith – and just trust and let his Spirit pray in me. 

The Hebrew translated “we trust in the name” in Psalm 20:7 actually says, “The name, reputation, fame, glory, honor, authority, character of the Lord we will recall, call to mind, mark so as to be recognized (i.e., remembered), recount, think on.” We mark to be recognized or remembered – like putting a bookmark in the page of a great book to go back and reread over and over again – we remember his character, who he is, and we trust.   

A.W. Tozer warned against having faith in faith, not in God. 

There are preachers who devote themselves completely to preaching faith. As a result, people have faith in faith. They largely forget that our confidence must not be in the power of faith but in the Person and work of the Savior, Jesus Christ … It is the character of God Himself, you see, that gives us this confidence. — Faith Beyond Reason 

Having faith in faith is a lot like being in love with being in love. We just like the idea of being in love. It is exciting and makes us feel good. But it might not have much to do at all with the actual person – their feelings, thoughts and desires. Having faith in our ability to have faith – or even having faith in the promises of God – is really just trusting in chariots if our faith is in how well we can dredge up “faith” and memorize and proclaim. Our faith must rest on the Faithful One, on the Promise Keeper. Its foundation must be on the name, reputation, fame, glory, honor, authority and character of our Lord. It is because we know him, who he is, that we can believe. 

This is important, because when things get really bad and it seems your prayers are not being answered, you will not be thrown for a loop, you will not be overwhelmed. You will come out of your prayer closet and stand firm on the Rock. Put your bookmark there, in the great I AM, Immanuel, God with us, Shepherd, Comforter, Redeemer, Savior, in his proven character, in his unfailing love and mercy.  

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

In him our hearts rejoice, for we are trusting in his holy name. Let your unfailing love surround us, LORD, for our hope is in you alone. Psalm 33:21-22 (NLT) 

But we trust in the name. 

Here is a place to start getting to know the goodness of our Father https://biblereasons.com/who-god-is/

Image, Tattered Spine by Tim Samoff on flickr https://flic.kr/p/51oAP  

How Long?

He knows that a thousand years may seem like a day to him, but it sure seems like a long time to us.

How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?
    How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
    and day after day have sorrow in my heart?
    How long will my enemy triumph over me?

Look on me and answer, Lord my God.
    Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death,
and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”
    and my foes will rejoice when I fall.

But I trust in your unfailing love;
    my heart rejoices in your salvation.
I will sing the Lord’s praise,
    for he has been good to me. Psalm 13

The beginning words of this Psalm are familiar to me. I have said them a lot in the past 48 years. “How long, Lord? Feeling like I am forgotten, that God has turned away. Especially the “wrestling with my thoughts” part. These verses seem almost scandalously unfaithful – Charles Spurgeon called this the “How long Psalm,” or the “Howling Psalm.” But the words are real. It is how we feel many times. I am so glad that God let them stay in the Bible.

There are many other places, especially in the Psalms, where the Holy Spirit includes these scandalous thoughts and cries. Our being real with God does not bother him. In fact, he loves it when we turn to him and cry out to him, even with doubts in our hearts. Because he knows that a thousand years may seem like a day to him, but it sure seems like a long time to us. And he will respond. His father-heart cannot help but respond. And we can trust in his unfailing love, his chesed. The Psalmist always, somehow, comes back to that trust.

It made me smile when I saw that the Hebrew word chesed, which tries to encompass the kindness and mercy and goodness of God, is translated into Greek as Bethesda – the House of Mercy. This is the name of the pool where they would lay the many disabled people – lame and blind and paralyzed – and they would wait. Wait for the chesed. One man had waited 38 years when Jesus came and healed him. I imagine he may have wondered many times “How long, Lord?”

But sometimes God has to wait for us. Jesus asked the man, “Do you want to become well?” I can hear him adding to himself, “now? Yet? Are you ready?” Because we have much to wrestle with – me in particular. Much anger and resentment and pride and rebellion to fight through and howl about.  But God is there. And he is working in us, whether we can see or feel it or not. He won’t give up on us, even if it takes a thousand years. So, we can say:

But I trust in your unfailing love;
    my heart rejoices in your salvation.
I will sing the Lord’s praise,
    for he has been good to me.

His Mercy Prevails

Praise the Lord [shine, flash forth, boast, glory, clamorously make a fool of yourselves, celebrate, act like a madman], all nations [peoples];

Laud [loudly praise, commend, glory, triumph in] Him, all peoples [tribes, communities, nations]!

For His lovingkindness [goodness, kindness, faithfulness, mercy] is great [prevails, is strong, stronger, mighty, powerful, valiant] toward us,

And the truth [firmness, faithfulness, sureness, reliability, stability, certainty, verity, trustworthiness] of the Lord is everlasting [forever and ever, evermore, perpetual, always, unending, eternal, without end].

Praise the Lord [shine, flash forth, boast, glory, clamorously make a fool of yourselves, celebrate, act like a madman]!

Psalm 117:1-2 (NASB)

 

David danced before the LORD with all his might. 2 Samuel 6:14a (NKJV)

 

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

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

 

Middle of the Story – Part Two

When I step up on the Rock in faith, I must endure the testing of that faith. That’s part of the deal. I cannot “accept” Jesus but refuse the cleansing flame.

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. Hebrews 11:1 (NKJV)

The last blog looked at the first part of the above verse – that faith is the substance or essence of hope. It is the setting under me of the solid foundation, Jesus. The stepping up on the Rock. This time I want to look at the second half of this verse – faith is “the evidence of things not seen.”

The word translated “evidence” is the Greek word elegchos. It means conviction, as in assurance, certainty. But it also means proof – as in “that by which a thing is proved or tested.” My faith must be tested, but, as God meets and holds me up in the testing, his Word and promises are proved true to me in my life. They become my assurance, evidence of what I cannot see with my eyes. The word elegchos also means reproof and is used that way in 2 Timothy 3:16 (NASB).

All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness …

Or as the Message puts it, “showing us truth, exposing our rebellion, correcting our mistakes, training us to live God’s way.”

Exposing, correcting, training. It’s not God and his Word that needs proving or testing, but me. Testing is no fun. The Bible compares the testing of our faith to the purification or proving of gold.

These trials are only to test your faith, to show that it is strong and pure. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold––and your faith is far more precious to God than mere gold. 1 Peter 1:7a (NLT)

The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold, but the LORD tests the heart. Proverbs 17: 3 (NIV)

The proving of precious metals involves heating them to the melting point and skimming off the impurities that rise to the top. For me, there is still a lot of ugly stuff that rises when the heat is turned up.

Testing may seem harsh and even cruel in the midst of it, but God is love and the testing is loving. As Hebrews 12:29 declares, “Our God is a consuming fire.” Love does not let us remain as we are, far from Him and alone. But Love consumes, burns up the barriers and idols in our lives and hearts that divide us from him. Henri Nouwen has written, “Let God love you the way God wants.” Oh, that is hard. I want him to do things my way. I want to choose the test. Giving permission to that consuming passion in my life is scary. I want some kind of guarantee that things will work out the way I hope they will.

When I step up on the Rock in faith, I must endure the testing of that faith. That’s part of the deal. I cannot “accept” Jesus but refuse the cleansing flame. But he is always there with me in the proving. Indeed, he is the proof. He is the evidence. He is “the divine Yes–God’s affirmation. For all of God’s promises have been fulfilled in him” (2 Corinthians 1:19-20 NLT). He is good, and his ways and purposes are good, though I cannot comprehend it. And he is able to do, and is doing, immeasurably more than all I ask or imagine, though I may not be able to see it now (Ephesians 3:20).

Lord God, give me the grace to let you be God, to let you love me the way you want, in the murky middle of my story. Call me, draw me, woo me to step up onto the Rock and allow your passionate, cleansing fire to sweep over me. Help me remember that Jesus was tested too, that he has traveled this way before me. And I will thank you in the middle of the story and I will dance with joy to the distant songs of deliverance.

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

But he knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I shall come forth as gold. Job 23:10 (NIV)

So this is what the Sovereign LORD says: “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation; the one who trusts (who is supported, upheld, confirmed, verified) will never be dismayed (will not topple, give way, run away, will not panic). Isaiah 28:16 (NIV)

Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our “God is a consuming fire.” Hebrews 12:28-29 (NIV)

 

Image is in the Public Domain

 

 

Point of View Two

God starts by looking at the relationship, at us and our broken hearts, our wounds and need.

When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him? Psalm 8:3-4 (NIV)

He heals the broken-hearted and binds up their wounds. He determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name. Psalm 147:3-4 (NIV)

I was looking at these two verses lately and noticed something. They both relate the same wonder – that God, the Creator of the vast universe, loves and cares for us! – but from two very different points of view.

In Psalm 8 David starts by looking at his situation, at the world around him, at the immensity and scariness of the universe and feels overwhelmed and out of control. He feels small and insignificant. He wonders how God could care anything about him.

But in Psalm 147 God starts by looking at the relationship, at us and our broken hearts, our wounds and need. It’s as if he points us to the universe only to encourage us, as if to say, “Look!  I’ve got all of this under control. I know every star by name. Surely, I know you. Surely, I am able – I have the power, I am Mighty – to care for you. Don’t worry, I’ve got you. I won’t drop you.”

In these turbulent, chaotic, and frightening days we can feel very small, insignificant, maybe even forgotten – if our eyes are on the situation. Keep your eyes on the relationship child of God. Remember who and whose you are.

The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Romans 8:16 (NIV)

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him (that’s you and me!) endured the cross … Hebrew 12:2 (NIV)

Just as a father has compassion on his children, So the LORD has compassion on those who fear Him. For He Himself knows our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust. Psalm 103:13-14 (NASB)

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore, we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. Selah.   Psalm 46:1-3 (NIV)

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

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

You (yes you!) matter to God.

 

 

Image in the Public Domain. Taken from the Hubble Space Telescope, nasa.gov

Oscillation

From that strangling fear to give my trust – to joyful confidence in God my Rock. From fear of what people may think – to the desire to only please God. From futility to expectation. From fear that my life has been for nothing – to trust in the Faithful One who works all things together for my good.

For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!” Romans 8:15 (NASB) 

The word translated “again” in this verse is the Greek word palin, meaning repetition of action, once more, back anew.  Strong’s¹ concordance lists it as probably coming from a word that means to wrestle or struggle “through the idea of oscillatory repetition.”

Oscillatory motion repeats the same movement over and over, like an oscillating fan. The Oxford Dictionary² defines oscillate (among others) as:

  1. To swing backwards and forwards; to move to and fro between two points
  2. To alternate between two states, opinions, principles, purposes, etc.; to vary or fluctuate alternately between two limits.

That definitely sounds like slavery to me. Being stuck in that back and forth, back and forth. Sometimes between two states – standing and falling. Sometimes between two limits – righteousness by works and righteousness by faith and the new life in the Spirit. Sometimes between two opinions – faith and fear, doubt and confidence.  From that strangling fear to give my trust – to joyful confidence in God my Rock. From fear of what people may think – to the desire to only please God. From futility to expectation. From fear that my life has been for nothing – to trust in the Faithful One who works all things together for my good. Back and forth. Back and forth.

There are a lot of verses in the Bible about oscillating or wavering.

Elijah went before the people and said, “How long will you waver between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him.” 1 Kings 18:21 (NIV)

Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded (two-spirited, vacillating). James 4:8 (NASB)

Without wavering, let us hold tightly to the hope we say we have, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. Hebrews 10:23 (NLT)

Show mercy to those whose faith is wavering. Jude 1:22 (NLT)

I love that last one. God is merciful to those who waver! We can ask Him, as David did, to help us in our oscillating.

Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive (hurtful, idolatrous, painful, sorrowful) way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. Psalm 139:23-24 (NIV)

The Hebrew word for “anxious thoughts” in this verse denotes a kind of oscillating. The word is saraph, and that comes from caiph, the word that means ambivalence, division, divided opinion or divided in mind. Wavering, oscillating comes from anxiety and fear. But the root of both of those words is caaph, which means to cut off, lop off boughs. So, you could say that the root meaning is that my wrong (idolatrous?) thinking is dividing me, cutting me off from God. I still think my problems are a little too big for God. I am still not completely trusting him. But there is grace hidden here. For, what does lopping off boughs remind you of?

I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes (cleanses) so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. John 15:1-4 (NIV)

I can’t remain in the Vine and bear fruit if I am jumping back and forth between faith and doubt, fear and trust. But amazing grace! The Father lops off those oscillating, unfruitful boughs, the doubt and fear that cuts me off from relationship with Him. The Father cleanses me if I surrender to him. But that takes courage. It takes stepping out of the boat, staying on the path with Jesus, abiding in the Vine. And I will by His grace! Because He is with me and I have not received a spirit of over-and-over-and-over again fear, but I have been adopted by my Abba Father and He is pruning me, caring for me.

Lord, help me to stop oscillating for I know that you can be trusted. Help me to abide and rest in You. Help me to turn off the fan.

Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth. Psalm 46:10 (NIV)

 

¹Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible

²Oxford English Dictionary. 2nd ed. Oxford University Press, 2000-

 

Image by Fred Barr https://www.flickr.com/photos/145458916@N04/46457248094/in/dateposted/