ATTRIBUTES OF GOD – HOLINESS

When you think of holiness, or of being holy, what image do you conjure up in your mind?  Someone who is a “goodie-two-shoes” or a person who speaks and acts as if he is “too heavenly minded to be any earthly good”?  Or do you not have any idea of what holiness is, so you don’t have any image to ponder?

I realize that holiness is not something that we think about on a daily, moment-by-moment basis but, if we want to know God, we should consider it because holiness is fundamental to God’s character. 

Holiness is synonymous with God’s total purity and separation from the rest of creation.  Consider Adam and Eve’s reaction after they ate the forbidden fruit and God came to visit with them in the Garden of Eden.

“And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden.”

Genesis 3:8

Up until this time, Adam and Eve had enjoyed God’s presence with them, but when He came to them that day, they hid.  They instinctively knew that God was holy and they were not, they had disobeyed, they had sinned and God could not look upon sin.  They hid among the trees.

Consider when God called to Moses from the burning bush, after Moses walked closer to see it, God said:

“”Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” And he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.

Exodus 3:5-6

Moses surely was not afraid of a burning bush … it was a distance away from him and the flock, no threat.  He went over to investigate because it appeared that the bush was not being consumed by the fire. 

Why was the place Moses approached “holy” ground?  It was not because the sand was any different than the sand that was all around Moses in the wilderness.  It was not because the bush was different than all the others in the area.  It was because God was there, so Moses was in the presence of the Holy God.     

It was at that point that God spoke to him, and notice Moses’ response — he hid his face, he was afraid!  Why?  Because then Moses knew that he had encountered the holy God

“Holy” is the English translation of the Hebrew word “qodesh”, and it means “apartness”, “sacredness”, and “separateness.”  This set-apartness is evident in the Old Testament in texts such as Leviticus 20:7.

Consecrate yourselves, therefore, and be holy, for I am the LORD your God.”

Here God is telling the people to consecrate themselves, in other words to sanctify, to dedicate, to separate themselves for a special purpose or use. 

In the Book of Acts we read:

“While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.””

Acts 13:2

Setting apart for a specific task from God is one way we acknowledge that God is holy and that even people who are doing His work should be separated from that which is worldly or ungodly.

God’s holiness can be understood as moral purity, although it is much more than that.  His holiness, His purity, is eternal and incorruptible, there is no time or likelihood that God will, at some point, no longer be holy or pure.  This total purity, total separation from anything that is sinful, explains why God gave detailed commands in the Old Testament about the way mankind could approach God. 

USED Canterbury cathedral view of the altar area
Looking toward the altar in Canterbury Cathedral,
Canterbury, England, if man can build such a glorious place, imagine what Isaiah saw!

One of my favorite passages in scripture is Isaiah 6. The prophet Isaiah had a vision of God and he described it as follows:

“In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple.  Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!” Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar.  And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.” And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here I am! Send me.””

Isaiah 6:1-8

Forgive me for quoting so much from the passage but I want you to get the full impact of Isaiah’s vision.  Just a look at the description of the LORD.  Listen to the angels, the host of heaven, calling “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts.” 

What is Isaiah’s reaction in this vision?  Essentially the same as Moses’ reaction to God’s presence.  Isaiah said “WOE IS ME!”  “I AM LOST!”  “I AM … UNCLEAN!”  In his vision, Isaiah was afraid because he instantly recognized that God is holy, and he was not.

Centuries after Isaiah wrote of his vision, John was on the island of Patmos and wrote the Book of Revelation, citing the same words as Isaiah heard.

“At once I was in the Spirit, and behold, a throne stood in heaven, with one seated on the throne. … And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and within, and day and night they never cease to say, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!””

Revelation 4:2,8

God’s holiness is one of the primary reasons why the advent of Christ is so amazing.  Because of Jesus’ coming to this earth and dying on the cross, men, who were once unable to come before God, now can kneel before the throne of God and worship Him forever and ever. 

Because of the cross and His resurrection, because of our faith in Him as Lord and Savior, we no longer must hide our face or be afraid of God.  We now can join the heavenly chorus and shout “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty!”  We can face God clothed in the righteousness of Jesus Christ and, rather than hiding our face, we can come to the throne of God and call Him “Abba, Father.” Praise His Holy Name!

Listen now to the hymn “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty” s on the album  “Hymns for all the Saints: Adoration, Praise, Comfort” from Concordia Publishing House.

Father, I pray that I would never lose sight of the wonder and glory of Your holiness.  I praise Your name that Jesus Christ died so that His righteousness would cloth my sinfulness, so that I could join with the heavenly chorus and praise Your Holy Name.

TRUST IN …

When I was a young girl, we sang a song in our church titled “Trust and Obey”.   It is an old hymn that is not sung very often “now-a-days”.  But the other day I was thinking of trust, and that hymn came to mind. 

Trust.  It is a word that we hear often today in the phrase “Just trust me!”  But what is trust?  And should we just go around trusting everyone?  If not, who or what is worthy of our trust?

The Merriam Webster Dictionary says that trust is assured reliance on the character, ability, strength or truth of someone or something. 

One example of trust is sitting in a chair.  When I lower myself into a chair, I trust that it will hold me and that it will not crumble under my weight.  If I sit on a little plastic chair in the toddler nursery at church, it is likely that it will break and I will be on the floor – in other words it was not something in which I should have placed my trust.  The object of my trust was unable to accomplish that which I expected.  In other words, the object of your trust is important!

When we see a parent tossing a baby in the air, with the child laughing and squealing in delight, only to then be caught by the parent, we see an excellent example of trust.  The child is not fearful that he will fall to the ground – his parent is there to catch him.  The child relies on the parent totally: that, too, is trust.

Helping child to swim (C)
Trust enables the child to jump into his father’s arms.

When our young grandson had not yet learned to swim, he was fearful of jumping in the water.  While he did not want to plunge into the unknown, his father was there with open arms, hands ready to greet him in the water.  But for his trust in is father, he would have satisfied himself with running around the edge of the pool and would never have gone in to experience the thrill of swimming.

Scripture speaks of trust often.  In fact, the word “trust” is used in the Psalms 35 times. 

“Commit your way to the LORD; trust in Him, and He will act.”

Psalm 37:5

“When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.”

Psalm 56:3

“I will say to the LORD, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.””

Psalm 91:2

Proverbs speaks of trusting.

Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.”

Proverbs 3:5

And the prophet Isaiah extols God as he speaks of his trust in Him.

“Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid; for the LORD GOD is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation.

Isaiah 12:2

Scripture also makes clear that the object of your trust is important.  In other words, does whatever you put your trust in merit your trust, is it trustworthy?  Some things are not, even though they may appear strong and invincible.

Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.”

Psalm 20:7

“Behold, you trust in deceptive words to no avail.”

Jeremiah 7:8

Both the Psalmist and the prophet warn that some things simply are not trustworthy.  This is in comparison to the Lord, Who is totally trustworthy.  What God says He will do, will, in fact, be accomplished.  When God says that He will keep His children in His hand, nothing will be able to take us out of His hand.  God’s promises are true and sure, and they will come to pass in His time and at His good pleasure.

Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD GOD is an everlasting rock.”

Isaiah 26:4

So, who or what do you trust?  Are you trusting in your strength and power, the modern equivalent of chariots and horses?   Are you trusting in your wealth and position, your title or your education?  Are you trusting in your good works or your charitable activities?  Nothing in this world is worthy of your trust for eternity because nothing in this world is eternal.  Rather, trust in the LORD.  He is worthy of your trust. He is strong and powerful so that you will find your trust is not misplaced when it is in Him.

Hear the hymn “Trust and Obey” as presented by Don Moen in this beautiful rendition complete with lyrics and picturesque scenery.

 

Father, forgive me when I have taken my eyes off Jesus and misplaced my trust in my own strength or activities.  Forgive me when I have relied on material things for security when You are the only true security in this world now and for eternity.  Forgive me when I have failed to trust and obey, two words that are so easy to say but sometimes to difficult to accomplish.  Enable me, through Your Spirit, to do Your will as a trust and obey Your voice today.

HOW CAN I BE HOLY?

We often watch DVD classes from The Great Courses to learn and experience lands and peoples that we would likely not see in person.  In the class “Great Tours: Greece and Turkey, from Athens to Istanbul”, Professor John R. Hale talked about, and had pictures of, Byzantine architecture found at Meteroa.  (By the way, I would highly recommend these courses for anyone who wants an armchair education.  They are excellent and well researched and presented and the topics are myriad.   thegreatcourses.com.  But I digress!) 

Meteora was a cluster of monasteries built in Greece in the 14th century.  The name “Meteroa” means “suspended in the air” or “in the heavens above”.  One look and you realize that these were aptly named.   

meteora-monastery-15
Monastery in Meteora, Greece

Originally there were 24 monasteries in this group, but now there are only four that house religious communities and they are important sites for the Eastern Orthodox church.  The monasteries were built on natural sandstone rock pillars that were virtually inaccessible so that they functioned as a place of sanctuary from the violent controversies on the land below. 

The pinnacles rise over 400 meters above the Peneas valley.   They are incredible examples of architecture that transformed rugged rock spires into places of calm serenity and retreat.  Access was deliberately difficult, requiring either long ladders lashed together or large nets on ropes that would be used to haul up both goods and people. This required quite a leap of faith, both in the people doing the hauling and in the ropes transporting visitors and goods up the sides of these pinnacles. 

[Some of the information and the picture above was obtained from  http://www.amusingplanet.com/2012/09/5-most-inaccessible-monasteries-in-world.html a website that includes more information than that which is presented here.]

Do you have to be ensconced in a monastery on top of a pinnacle in order to be holy?   And, what is holiness anyway?

According to Strong’s Thesaurus/Lexicon, the Hebrew word translated as “holy” or “holiness” means “apartness, holiness, sacredness, separateness … set-apartness.” 

We are told that we are to be holy.   He wants us to be set apart for Him, rather than being one with the world and its culture.

For I am the LORD who brought you up out of the land of Egypt to be your God. You shall therefore be holy, for I am holy.”

Leviticus 11:45

Then he said, “Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.”

Exodus 3:5.  Moses had stepped aside to see the burning bush and God instructed him to take off his sandals because God’s presence rendered the very ground “holy”. 

God is not our “Buddy in the Sky”.   Notice that even though God and Moses had a very close relationship, there was a great difference between them.  He is holy and this holiness is one of the attributes of God, it is intrinsic in His being and it cannot be violated.  Because He is holy, we cannot come before Him — our sin has dirtied us up from the inside out and God cannot countenance any disobedience to His law, i.e., sin. 

The difference between us and God is monumental.  God omniscient and omnipotent.  In contrast, we are temporal and totally dependent on God for life itself.  God is holy, and we are not.

Isaiah’s vision of God is descriptive of this difference:

In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple.  Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew.  And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!”

Up to this point, the vision of Isaiah is very similar to the vision that the Apostle John had as recounted in Revelation 4:2-8.  Isaiah, however, gives us his response to what he saw:

And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke.  And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!”  Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar.   And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.”

Isaiah 6:1-7.

Isaiah’s response to seeing God on His throne in heaven was an immediate recognition that he was lost, sinful, and unworthy to stand before the King, the LORD of Hosts.  In fact, God did not speak to him or acknowledge his presence until after the angel had touched his lips with the coal from the altar saying that he had received atonement for his sin.  After this, God spoke.

He is a holy God and we must not forget that fact.  We have absolutely no standing before God in and of ourselves because of our sinful disobedience to His commands.

The struggle we have with a holy God is rooted in the conflict between God’s righteousness and our unrighteousness.  He is just and we are unjust.  This tension creates fear, hostility, and anger within us toward God.  The unjust person does not desire the company of a just judge.  We become fugitives, fleeing from the presence of One whose glory can blind us and whose justice can condemn us.  We are at war with Him unless and until we are justified.  Only the justified person can be comfortable in the presence of a holy God.

R. C. Sproul, The Holiness of God, Tyndale House Publishers, © 1998, p. 147

Becoming holy has nothing to do with your physical location.  Rather, it has everything to do with your relationship with Jesus Christ, the One who died so that you could be justified, and then be “comfortable in the presence of a holy God”.

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

Ephesians 2:8-9 

The faith that saves is faith in Jesus Christ, the One who died as an atoning sacrifice, taking your sin on Himself, so that if you believe in Him, you will be clothed in His righteousness.  In that way, God sees Christ in you and adopts us as His children. 

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

John 14:6.

The answer to “How can I be holy?” is “You can’t!”, at least not on your own.  None of us has anything that we can give to the holy God … we are sinful creatures with no redeeming merit no matter how good we seem to other people.  Yet we are called to be holy, and we can be so in and through Jesus Christ.

“Be holy as I am holy.”   We don’t need to be on top of a pillar to be holy.  Our holiness is not dependent on anything that we can do or anywhere that we must go.   Praise be to God the Father and to His Son for giving us a way to stand before God and call Him Father.  We can be holy – if we are washed in the blood of the Lamb, Jesus. 

Listen to the choir sing “Clothed in Righteousness” from the album Glory to the Holy One, lyrics written by R. C. Sproul:

Here are the lyrics for your review while you listen:

Fallen race in Eden fair Exposed and full of shame Fled we naked from Thy sight Far from Thy holy Name

Refrain

Clothe us in Your righteousness Hide filthy rags of sin Dress us in Your perfect garb Both outside and within

Sent from the garden in the east Outside of Eden’s gate Banished there from Thy pure light Were Adam and his mate

Scarlet souls are now like snow By Thy atoning grace Crimson hearts become like wool For Adam’s fallen race

Refrain

No work of ours is good enough For evil to atone Your merit, Lord, is all we have It saves, and it alone

Refrain

Father, I pray that these words would be encouragement to believers and that they would be used by the Holy Spirit to convict the nonbeliever of the need for repentance and faith in the Savior.  Thank you Father for making a way for us to come before you in faith.

PRAISE THE LORD!

 

Have you ever just wanted to haul off and shout or sing – as loud as you can – because you were so happy about something?

Baby newborn in hospital bassinet (C)
Newborn baby ready to come home from hospital

A grandchild prompts thanksgiving and praise to our great God for the blessing of children.

Have you ever just jumped for joy – for me, physical jumping is definitely out of the question, but inside I can jump really high!

 

hummingbird hovering (C)
Ruby Throated Hummingbird hovering before getting a drink.

The Ruby Throated Hummingbird has no problem soaring, hovering, flying or reflecting God’s glorious beauty.

 

Azalea in full bloom (C)
Azalea bush in full bloom.

There is infinite beauty in the profusion and detail of azalea blooms.

 

Has praise for your Lord ever just erupted and spilled over into your countenance and conversation after seeing God’s majesty in His creation?

Yosemite mountain view vertical 100_3480
Yosemite National Park scenic view.

Yosemite National Park showing God’s majesty and power in His creation.

 

Mt. McKinley from train to Denali National Park
Mt. Denali from train on the way to Denali National Park.

Mt. Denali [formerly Mt. McKinley] in Denali National Park, Alaska evidencing God’s glory in creation.

 

If not, why not?

 

Praise for the Lord is scriptural and is a natural outpouring of thankfulness for the working of God in our lives.

In Exodus 14 we read of the escape of the Israelites from the hand of the Egyptians as they crossed the Red Sea on dry land.   In Exodus 15, we read the song of Moses as he and the people of Israel praised the Lord for their deliverance.

Then Moses and the people of Israel sang this song to the LORD, saying, “I will sing to the LORD, for he has triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider he has thrown into the sea. The LORD is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation; this is my God, and I will praise him, my father’s God, and I will exalt him. … Who is like you, O LORD, among the gods? Who is like you, majestic in holiness, awesome in glorious deeds, doing wonders?” – Exodus 15:1-2, 11

 

In 2 Samuel 22, King David sings a song of thanks to the Lord for delivery from his enemies and from the hand of Saul.

And David spoke to the LORD the words of this song on the day when the LORD delivered him from the hand of all his enemies, and from the hand of Saul. He said, “The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold and my refuge, my savior; you save me from violence. … For this I will praise you, O LORD, among the nations, and sing praises to your name. ”  2 Samuel 22:1-3, 50

 

When David brought the ark to Jerusalem, he appointed the singers to praise the Lord.

“Oh give thanks to the LORD; call upon his name; make known his deeds among the peoples! Sing to him, sing praises to him; tell of all his wondrous works! Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice! Seek the LORD and his strength; seek his presence continually!”  1 Chronicles 16:6-11

 

The prophet Isaiah says:

“O LORD, you are my God; I will exalt you; I will praise your name, for you have done wonderful things, plans formed of old, faithful and sure.”  Isaiah 25:1

 

The writer of Proverbs says:

An evil man is ensnared in his transgression, but a righteous man sings and rejoices.  Proverbs 29:6

 

Praise and singing is not just for Old Testament folks.  In the New Testament, we remember Paul and Silas being in prison for preaching about Jesus. In Acts 16:25 we read:

About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them.

 

Imagine, singing hymns to God after being beaten and thrown into prison. Not only were they praying and singing, they were singing so loud that the other prisoners could listen to them. They were not gloomy guys bemoaning the wrongfulness of their imprisonment. They were not complaining to God, arguing that this unjust imprisonment should not have come when they were obeying the command to carry the gospel to others.  No — they were rejoicing – praying and singing to the very God who allowed them to be imprisoned.

 

And, the story continues.  The conclusion of this story is that the jailer became free from his sins.  The keeper of the prison asked what he should do to be saved and Paul and Silas told him to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.  Paul and Silas were released from jail and the jailer attended to the wounds of the former prisoners/now brothers in Christ.

 

How could Paul and Silas rejoice in those circumstances?   Can we praise God when things are dark and circumstances are far from happy?

 

I suggest that we can praise God in any and all circumstances.   Paul and Silas had a correct understanding of who they were in contrast to who God is. We, as sinners, cannot come into God’s presence. A holy God cannot even look on sin. Our very best is as filthy rags before God. We have absolutely nothing that we can offer to Him to seek His acceptance.

 

But, we have been redeemed by Jesus’ atoning death and resurrection. And this redemption is all about His grace and mercy, not one iota about how good we are.  We have experienced the love of God in a way that the heavenly beings cannot imagine. Jesus, the spotless Son of God, paid the price for my sin – for all of it – and has claimed me as His, bringing me into the family of God:  granting me access to God through Jesus righteousness, not my own.

 

Beloved, this is good news and it transcends any negative circumstance that we encounter in this world.  We should fall at the feet of our Lord and thank Him nonstop for His grace and mercy, for His forgiveness and cleansing, for His love and atoning sacrifice on our behalf, for our adoption into the family of God.

 

Praise and thanksgiving are inexorably connected.   Thanksgiving flows directly into praise and there can be no heartfelt praise of the Lord if we are not thankful to Him.

I will praise the name of God with a song; I will magnify him with thanksgiving. Psalm 69:30

 

By the way, no audition is necessary before you can sing in praise to our God! The quality of your voice is completely irrelevant, but the condition of your heart is paramount!

So,

  • Have you lifted up your voice in a song of praise to your Savior?
  • Have you expressed your thanks to the Lord for the gift of today?
  • Have you praised Him for His loving kindness and longsuffering toward you?
  • Have you praised Him for His compassion and forgiveness?
  • Have you praised Him for His mercy and His grace?
  • Have you expressed your love to Him by obedience to His commands?
  • Have you worshiped the Lord today?

 

If not, why not?

 

The Centurymen is a group of over 100 musicians who serve in the music ministry of various churches and who praise the Lord in song. As you think of praise and thanksgiving, listen to the Centurymen sing Joyful Joyful We Adore Thee. I pray you will be blessed by it and that praise to the Lord would come to your lips and heart.

 

Father, thank you for your Spirit that enables me to give you praise, honor and worship. Thank you for your Son who provided the atoning sacrifice for me so that I can be cleansed of my sin and can come into your presence through prayer, reading your Word and worship. Forgive me when I have taken your blessings for granted, or when I have thought that I was entitled to your blessings.  Forgive me when I have focused on outward circumstances rather than on your steadfast love and overwhelming mercy and grace.  Forgive me, Father, when I have ignored your Spirit and when I have sinned in thought and deed.  May my praise and worship be glorifying to you.

WATER – POWER HIDDEN IN TRANQUILITY

Certain scenes evoke a sense of rest and peace for me. One such picture is this view, captured by my Beloved, of an Oregon lake with the mountains mirrored in its reflection.

Mirror lake (C)
A lake in Oregon that looked like a mirror image.

Or this scene of Sylvan Lake in the Black Hills of North Dakota taken many years ago while I was on vacation with my parents.

 

Sylvan Lake, Black Hills, ND (C)
Sylvan Lake in the Black Hills of North Dakota

 

We are, of course, aware that water is not always absolutely still at the surface, and if they were totally still, they would be stagnant. There are the rippling sounds of the woodland waters as they slide over and around the rocks and stumps in their way.

Rapids in stream (C)
Rapids in the woodland stream.

With the right conditions, a stream can become a whitewater rapids. Also, there is the ocean with its rhythmical tossing of waves along the shore, a sound that many of us love to hear when we go to sleep.

Power hidden in tranquility.

Water can be extraordinarily powerful when drops of water combine along their way and, together, they plummet over a rocky edge to fall, sometimes, hundreds of feet to the bottom.

One of the majestic waterfalls in Yosemite National Park illustrates a waterfalls that is not only beautiful but which is, quite literally, capable of rearranging the earth’s surface.

Yosemite majestic waterfalls (C)
Majestic Yosemite Waterfalls

 

While water and its need by humanity is universally known and while death will surely come if there is no rain or fresh water, we in our arrogance often ignore our dependence on God for our water.

This fact is reiterated in the Old Testament where Scripture tells us in Genesis 7 that God sent rain for 40 days and 40 nights, saving only Noah, his family and animals in the ark.

In Exodus we have the story of Moses seeking the release of God’s people from Pharaoh. Convincing Pharaoh required multiple plagues including one of rain, thunder and hail. Pharaoh said he would let the people go if God would stop the hammering hail and rain and in Exodus 9:33 we read:

So Moses went out of the city from Pharaoh and stretched out his hands to the LORD, and the thunder and the hail ceased, and the rain no longer poured upon the earth.

Of course, we know from the next passages in Exodus that Pharaoh again changed his mind, ultimately letting the people go only after death entered the country and all the first born sons died in one night.

King Ahab, also, had to learn the hard way that God is in control over ALL things, even rain. In 1 Kings 17:1 Elijah the prophet tells Ahab:

As the LORD, the God of Israel, lives, before whom I stand, there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word.

While it is the very next chapter in the Book of First Kings, from a chronological standpoint, three years had passed since this statement by Elijah. No rain or dew for three, dry, long years. Imagine the condition of the vegetation, animals and countryside, let alone the condition of the people after going three years without rain. Then, in 1 Kings 18:1, the Lord puts the exclamation point on his lesson for Ahab:

After many days the word of the LORD came to Elijah, in the third year, saying, “Go, show yourself to Ahab, and I will send rain upon the earth.”

Jesus said, in Matthew 5:45, that:

God makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.

The source of water is, simply put, our Sovereign God.

Water that we need for our physical survival is provided for us by God. We cannot make it rain when we want it to do so. God is in control.  He is sovereign. His will reigns and nothing will stop it from occurring as He decrees.

We may think that God is tranquil, that He is not doing anything so we don’t need to worry about Him as He is not a force that we need to reckon with.

Don’t be deceived. God is active in our world today, just as He was thousands of years ago. In Micah 6:8, God stated what mankind needs to do and there will be judgment if we do not do so.

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

This judgment may not occur on earth, but rest assured it will occur at the end of time, because sin cannot go unpunished by a Holy God.

Isaiah fell on his face when he saw the vision of God seated on the throne.

And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!”

Isaiah 6:5.

Isaiah instantly recognized that he was unclean and could not be before the Holy God in his sinful condition. God’s power may be hidden in seeming tranquility now, but it will be unleashed one day.

  • Do we really have an accurate understanding of who we are and Who God is?
  • Do we even begin to comprehend how all-encompassing our omniscient, omnipotent Sovereign is?
  • Do we even recognize how arrogant we are when we think that we have it in our power to control anything, let alone that which is required for our survival!
  • Do we comprehend how sinful and dirty we are when compared to the holiness of our God? Even our good deeds fail to merit attention … all our deeds are as filthy rags. See Isaiah 64:4.

Do I live my life in humble recognition that our loving God, who sent His Son for our salvation and who sent His Holy Spirit to be with us and to conform us to the image of Jesus Christ, our Savior, is the Almighty, Omnipresent, Omniscient, Sovereign God of the Universe?  Do you so live?

Do we bow in submission and thankfulness for His Power, Mercy and Grace toward us?  Do we give Him our life, daily?

We should!

 

Father, forgive me when I have gone my own way and have ignored You and Your Word. Forgive me when I have forgotten Who You are and when I have failed to give You all honor and glory. Forgive me when I have failed to yield my life, daily, to You. Cleanse me and enable me to have the will and the power to live so that Jesus is the One who lives through me, all to Your glory, through Jesus Christ my Lord!

THEY LIKE ‘EM BECAUSE THEY DON’T KNOW ANY BETTER.

We were getting ready for breakfast when my beloved said that he felt like having waffles.

Now, in our home, we never have waffles – I no longer have a waffle iron and when I did have one, the waffles were almost inedible because they either were burned to a crisp or stuck on the cooking surface so when you opened the waffle iron to retrieve the food, you had to scrape the stuff off onto the plate in a clump … not particularly waffle-like!

But, in looking through the freezer, I found a box of waffles that I had purchased for breakfast when the grandchildren were with us. Not exactly sure how long they had been under the vegetables in the freezer, but I got at least one “wife point” for having waffles when they were requested!

After I toasted them, I put them on the plate along with the syrup and apple butter and we were ready for breakfast.

One taste was all it took to know that these were not going to get a blue ribbon in the waffle baking competition. As we were eating them in silence, I looked at my beloved and said “at least the grandchildren like ‘em!”

His response was

“They like ‘em because they don’t know any better!”

That prompted me to remember the Lord’s Word when describing how often human-kind satisfies itself with something less than the best.

Scripture tells us that the Israelites in the wilderness did exactly this … they exchanged their relationship with the Holy God for idols of their own creation.   Having never been to the Holy Land, when I think of the wilderness, I picture the terrain we saw as we approached Albuquerque, New Mexico. [I don’t know if this looks like what the Israelites experienced, but it gives me a visual image that helps when I read the Word.]

Albuquerque desert places
Albuquerque desert places

This incident is recorded in Exodus 32 where the people were tired of waiting for Moses who had gone up the mountain to speak with God. The people asked Aaron to make a god for them to worship, and he took their gold and made the calf.

And he received the gold from their hand and fashioned it with a graving tool and made a golden calf.

And they said, “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!” When Aaron saw this, he built an altar before it. And Aaron made a proclamation and said, “Tomorrow shall be a feast to the LORD.”   And they rose up early the next day and offered burnt offerings and brought peace offerings. And the people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.

Exodus 32:4-6.

God, of course, saw this and told Moses to go down the mountain and speak to the people before he destroyed them in his fury. Moses pleaded with God and total destruction was averted, but turning their backs on God to follow a man-made god is a pattern that repeated itself throughout the Old Testament.

In Psalm 106:20 we read:

“They exchanged the glory of God for the image of an ox that eats grass.”

We read this and think “How in the world could they do that? They had direct experience with the power of God as they were lead away from Pharaoh and as they wandered through the wilderness with ample provision of food and water. God lead them with the pillars of cloud and fire and His presence was resident in the tabernacle. How could they ignore all that and turn to idols that they, themselves, had created?”

But before we point fingers, we need to look at ourselves. We may not have seen God’s hand as they did, but Paul tells us that all people have knowledge of God and His power just by looking at creation. This is called general revelation. Some examples of the variety of our God’s creative powers can be seen here:

The exquisite detail of a butterfly.

Butterfly munching on strawberry
Butterfly munching on strawberry

The human newborn baby, a complete adult in miniature.

Newborn baby asleep
Newborn baby asleep

In Romans 1:20 we read:

For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.

The detail found in the myriad of beautiful flora and fauna in our world.

Beautiful flowers
Beautiful flowers

The majesty of mountain peaks, covered in snow even in June.

Mount Washington in distance, Oregon
Mount Washington in distance, Oregon

The ocean, peaceful power waiting to be unleashed.

Rugged Oregon coastline at the ocean
Rugged Oregon coastline at the ocean

Then, Paul tells what people have done, despite God’s creative general revelation that is available to all people.

For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

Romans 1:21-23.

This exchange of the immortal for that which is mortal, finite and of minimal power is what was forbidden in Exodus 20:3-6 which are the first two of the Ten Commandments.  We are to have no other gods and we are not to make any carved image to bow down to it or serve it.

Stonehenge, burial area for ancient peoples
Stonehenge, burial area for ancient peoples

Stonehenge in England is thought to be an ancient site for burial and for processions related to the sun.

In Isaiah, the prophet quotes the message that God has for the people and in Isaiah 42 and 43 there is the repeated statement that God is the LORD. See for example,

Isaiah 43 verses 11 through 13 assert:

I, I am the LORD, and besides me there is no savior. I declared and saved and proclaimed, when there was no strange god among you; and you are my witnesses,” declares the LORD, “and I am God. Also henceforth I am he; there is none who can deliver from my hand; I work, and who can turn it back?”

Isaiah 42 verses 5 and 8 tell us:

Thus says God, the LORD, who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread out the earth and what comes from it, who gives breath to the people on it and spirit to those who walk in it: … “I am the LORD; that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols.”

While the grandchildren might be satisfied with old, frozen waffles because they have never had the fresh, hot and steaming with goodness real thing, we cannot say that our turning to idols is because we never had any knowledge of The Real Thing. God has given us every breath we take – God has created our universe and all that is in it. Each person, in their heart of hearts, knows that God is but this is a far cry from worshiping God in spirit and in truth.  Even people in our 21st century who are too urbane to believe in God, have decided that our world was created by “an intelligent being”.

Idols that man creates for himself may be wood or stone, but, in this day and time, they are probably a bit more intangible:

  • Fame
  • Popularity
  • Success in business
  • Recognition
  • Yourself
  • Big house, boat, car, whatever
  • Big bank account
  • Independence from anyone or anything

In comparison, the Living God who demands our worship:

  • is the one who created.
  • is the one who saves.
  • is the one who provides life.
  • is the one who is the Living God.
  • is the one who loves us with an everlasting love.
  • is the one who sent his Son to be our propitiation, our savior and our Lord.
  • is the omniscient, omnipresent, almighty God, and there is no other god before him.

When we worship our own gods, we are robbing God of what is rightfully his. We are unilaterally transferring honor, praise and glory to something far less than God. When we worship gods that cannot save or even reply, that cannot move or act on our behalf, that have no power over fire, wind or evil, we are guilty of sin against the Holy God, Creator and Sustainer of the universe. Let us repent and praise God for his grace, mercy and love, through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Father, forgive me when I have traded my relationship with you for worshiping gods of my own making. When I have acted as though I am god, forgive me. When I have created gods of my own choosing, or when I am unintentionally worshiping something other than you, forgive me and point out my sin so that I may repent and be restored to a right relationship with you. I praise you and honor you, my Creator, my Savior, and my God.

BUT IT’S TOO BIG!

Do you ever have the feeling that some task or calling is too big for you? It just doesn’t fit … it’s just too big! (This chair was at the Mississippi Agriculture and Forestry Museum during our visit in 2011 — incredible craftsmanship!)

Huge Rocking Chair at Mississippi Agriculture and Forestry Museum
Huge Rocking Chair at Mississippi Agriculture and Forestry Museum

I can’t climb it, I can’t see my way around it … it’s just too big!

I can’t cross it – it is too big! [Picture of river and flora in Cumberland County, Tennessee]

Rocks and flora in Cumberland County, Tennessee
Rocks and flora in Cumberland County, Tennessee

It asks for skills that I don’t have; I don’t know how to do this task; I am not equipped to handle it. If it were smaller, maybe then I could do it, but this is … well it is just too big!  (Picture below was taken in Yosemite National Park)

View from mountains in Yosemite National Park
View from mountains in Yosemite National Park

Have you ever said: “Lord, you must be thinking of someone else! You can’t possibly be asking me to do this! I’m not smart enough, not strong enough, not ready for such a challenge! I love you, Lord, and I want to serve You, but I can’t do what You are asking! It’s too big for me!”

Moses said the same thing when God spoke to him out of the burning bush, recorded for us in the Bible at Exodus Chapter 3.   [I confess that the pictures that follow are not of the wilderness facing Moses when this conversation occurred. They are taken in The Badlands National Park in South Dakota; but when I think of a wilderness, this is what I envision.]

Badlands towering ahead.
Badlands towering ahead.

God tells Moses what He wants him to do, and Moses’ response might be in different words but the meaning is all too familiar to us because we say the modern equivalent when God directs us to do something that is out of our comfort zone:

“Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” Exodus 3:11

God reiterates the fact that He will be with Moses all along the way.

Badlands stretch forever
Badlands stretch forever

The conversation continues and Moses says:

“But behold, they will not believe me or listen to my voice, for they will say, ‘The LORD did not appear to you. ‘” Exodus 4:1

God shows His power to Moses to confirm that this was, indeed, what Moses was to do and that He was who He said. Notwithstanding God’s patience in this conversation, Moses responds with yet another objection:

“But Moses said to the LORD, ‘Oh, my Lord, I am not eloquent, either in the past or since you have spoken to your servant, but I am slow of speech and of tongue.’” Exodus 4:10.

The Lord’s response is that He is fully aware of Moses’s abilities, skills and nature – and He wanted Moses to do this work notwithstanding those shortcomings.

 “Then the LORD said to him, ‘Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the LORD? Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak.’” Exodus 4:11-12.

Badlands are formidable.
Badlands are formidable.

Moses’s options seem to have evaporated – left with nothing else to argue, he gave his final plea in opposition to God’s demand:

“But he said, ‘Oh, my Lord, please send someone else.’ …” Exodus 4:13.

We really aren’t any different than Moses, are we? When an assignment appears insurmountable, we balk, make excuses, plead that the job be given to another, and then pout.

It is as if we were standing before God and stomping our spiritual feet, just like toddlers, while we are saying “I don’t want to!”

Beloved, God is the same today as He was thousands of years ago when He directed Moses to bring His people out of Egypt. When he assigns a job for you to do, even if it is bigger than anything you had ever done, He will prepare you and strengthen you so that the assignment will be done according to His plan.

Consider Isaiah’s vision in Isaiah Chapter 6. When Isaiah saw the Lord sitting upon His throne, Isaiah was confronted with the power, majesty and holiness of God and with that came an immediate recognition of how sinful he was:

“Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” Isaiah 6:5

God did not leave him in that condition, however – a seraphim touched his lips with a burning coal from the altar and said that his guilt was taken away and his sin atoned for. Isaiah 6:7   Then, God said:

“Whom shall I send and who will go for us?”

Now that he had been cleansed and his sin removed, Isaiah was able to respond to God’s inquiry with no objections, no excuses, no stalling, no stomping his feet – he simply said:

“Here I am! Send me.” Isaiah 6:8.

When we are tasked with something outside our comfort zone or beyond what we think our abilities are, we must trust God to give us the words, to give us the physical strength, and to give us the wisdom necessary to accomplish His purposes in the work at hand. In short, we must trust that the Holy Spirit will work through us to accomplish things of eternal consequence which we, in our own strength, could not comprehend.

So, is there something too big for you to handle staring you in the face? Has God directed that you undertake some task and you are balking at the assignment? Do you want to pull the spiritual covers over your head and pretend God didn’t really ask you to do that thing?

Trust Him. Ask for forgiveness for your stubborn pride, for your refusal to believe that He is able to work through you in this circumstance, for your spirit of laziness in refusing to undertake the project … you can add whatever else is appropriate. Then, be a 21st century Isaiah and respond “Here I am. Send me.”

The job is not “too big” – in fact, it is “just right” when God is in it with you.

Father, May we be modern day Isaiahs! May we hear your call and respond “Here I am Lord. Send me.” May You bless us as we travel our spiritual path in Your Strength, Father, and may we, through the power of Your Holy Spirit, as given to us through Your Son and our Savior, Jesus Christ, be effective in serving as You direct and enable.

REST – GET IT WHERE YOU CAN!

We were out to eat last weekend when a family passed us on their way to the restaurant table … a young child was asleep on his Daddy’s shoulder. What caught my attention was this sleeping child’s hand that was hanging over the man’s arm – the child was so sound asleep, his hand was absolutely limp so that it waved and wobbled with each step the man took.

Think about the last time you have really watched a child sleep. They seem to be able to sleep almost anywhere, with no trouble. Asleep at the porch table … I guess the food was not brought fast enough!

Child fell asleep waiting for lunch!
Child fell asleep waiting for lunch!

 

Then again, swinging and bouncing can sometimes lead to a tired child; touching the carpet with your tip‐toes can be hard for a little guy!

Swinging and bouncing can be exhausting!
Swinging and bouncing can be exhausting!

Think about being asleep with all sorts of commotion going on around you.

Asleep sitting up!
Asleep sitting up!

We have all seen little ones who are asleep in the car seat or carrier. A common sight often as infants are being carried through the store, swinging on Mom’s arm.

When we see these little ones we want to pray for their future, that they would know the Lord and for all the dreams, hopes and aspirations that come with new life.

 

Sleeping newborn.
Sleeping newborn.

 

Then there is the sleep of a child in the arms of one who loves him/her.  We love the times that our children and grandchildren have climbed up into waiting arms and cuddled, secure in the embrace of a parent/grandparent who loves them, who will defend them, and care for them even when they are asleep and dreaming their wonderful infant dreams.

Grandfather and infant grandson resting together!
Grandfather and infant grandson resting together!

 

 

Grandmother holding sleeping grandson.
Grandmother holding sleeping grandson.

While we know that sleep is mandatory, that it is something that we must have for us to be healthy, often we adults simply do not get enough of it. Unfortunately, the pace of our world with jobs, housework, family, church, social obligations and who knows what else [you fill in the blank], creates such a frenetic atmosphere that we as adults simply cannot rest, relax … or sleep.

But sleep does not elude us just because of our calendars. Sometimes we have physical issues such as pain from an injury or surgery. Then too there are the psychological, emotional and spiritual issues that claim our night hours. It might be that we have worries about finances or health of ourselves, family or friends. There could be concern about employment security, about financing retirement, or about obtaining that first job in a market where jobs are truly scarce.   Perhaps it is concern about words spoken that should not have been; deeds that we knew should be done but which were not; attitudes that colored our views of people and conversations which were unkind, at best.  And aging, for some reason, seems to rob us of sleep so that it is harder to fall and stay asleep than it was years earlier.

Just as we cuddle our grandchildren, Scripture teaches that God longs for us to come to Him with outstretched arms.

God says in Isaiah 49:15 [NIV]:

 “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!

 

Again, in Isaiah 66:13 [NIV], the Prophet records God as saying:

 “As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort  you; and you will be comforted over Jerusalem.”

 

 

David knew of this longing. Psalm 139 is an incredibly beautiful song talking of God’s love and His care for His children. I urge you to read the entire Psalm, but verses 8 through 10 [ESV] describe the omnipresence of God’s love and care:

If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me.

 

 

Hundreds of years after Psalm 139 was written, Jesus said:

 “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30 [ESV]

 

 

As Christians, the closeness that we have with God is described by Paul in Romans 8:15:

 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” [ESV]

 

 

Where can you get rest? Ultimately, true rest is only through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ who has, through His death and resurrection, secured our ability to call out to God, “Abba Father”.

Believe in Him, then rest in Him, Beloved. He will hold you through all your difficulties, and He will never let you go!

So, where do you find your rest?