HORSE, WAR AND PROVIDENCE

During the past weeks I have been watching the news and have become more and more concerned about the situation surrounding the Korean Peninsula. Strong words come from various nations and war ships are being positioned while bombs are being prepared.  Difficult words to hear for the populace of any nation, particularly in this day when destruction could be catastrophic.

In reading Proverbs, I found comfort, even in this turbulent time, in the following verse:

The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but victory rests with the Lord.

Proverbs 21:31

White horse statue, St Francois Xavier, Manitoba
White Horse statue in the Royal Municipality of St. Francois Xavier, Manitoba, Canada

 

In David’s day and for centuries thereafter, the horse was the consummate fighting machine.  While the horse did not guarantee a win, the one on horseback had the clear advantage.  So, it is understandable that if a battle was forthcoming, the horse would be made ready.

In his commentary on this verse, Matthew Poole [1624-1679] says that the “horse” encompasses any warlike preparation that is undertaken.  In other words, we must do that which is possible for us to do in preparation for the battle.  But, we must also recognize that the outcome of the battle is not up to us.  The key point of the verse is the second section which states that victory in the battle rests with the Lord. 

In his commentary on this verse, Matthew Henry [1662-1714] notes that all the plans of mankind are under the eye of God. 

He that sits in heaven laughs at men’s projects against him and his anointed, and will carry his point in spite of them, Psalm 2:1-6. … Be the cause ever so good, and the patrons of it ever so strong, and wise, and faithful, and the means of carrying it on, and gaining the point, ever so probable, still they must acknowledge God and take him along with them. Means indeed are to be used; the horse must be prepared against the day of battle, and the foot too; they must be armed and disciplined. In Solomon’s time even Israel’s kings used horses in war, though they were forbidden to multiply them. [See Deuteronomy 17:16]  But, after all, safety and salvation are of the Lord; he can save without armies, but armies cannot save without him; and therefore he must be sought to and trusted in for success, and when success is obtained he must have all the glory.

David reinforces this concept when he says: 

The war horse is a false hope for salvation, and by its great might it cannot rescue.

Psalm 33:17

Mr. Poole’s commentary, consistent with Matthew Henry’s thought, expressed as follows:

Safety is of the Lord; the success of the battle depends not upon any human strength or art, but merely upon God’s providence, who gives the victory when and to whom he pleaseth, and ofttimes to those that have least reason to expect it.

Let these words be of comfort to you.  Remember that our God is in control, even when it appears that things are falling apart.  Remember too these words, also found in Proverbs 21:

The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord; he directs it like a watercourse wherever he pleases.

Proverbs 21:1

Faint not. Fear not.  Faith in God and in our Lord Jesus Christ will preserve you today, in times of difficulty, in times of fear, even at the time of death. If you are His child, if you have claimed Jesus as your Savior, you have no need to fear. 

As David said in the Old Testament:

“The LORD is on my side; I will not fear: what can man do to me?”

Psalm 118:6

And as Paul said in the New Testament:

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? … For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Romans 8:35, 38-39

Father, thank You for Your Word that is true.  Thank You for the calming assurance that You are with me even when fear aims its arrows at my heart.  Thank You that Jesus Christ is my Savior and that the Holy Spirit will comfort me through all things, and that nothing can pull me out of Your hands.

 

 

 

 

FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT, PATIENCE, part one

FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT, Series Post No. 13

PATIENCE – SLOWING DOWN OF GOD’S WRATH

PART ONE

The fruit of the Spirit at issue this week is Patience, also known as longsuffering.

 

I have no doubt that each of us has, at one time in our life or another, said that we want patience but we don’t want to wait for it!   Mr. Paul Sweeney asked a question that I have raised a number of times in general conversation:

“How can a society that exists on instant mashed potatoes, packaged cake mixes, frozen dinners, and instant cameras teach patience to its young?”

 

Ralph Waldo Emerson said:  Adopt the pace of nature:  her secret is patience.”

 

Hal Borland said:  “Knowing trees, I understand the meaning of patience. Knowing grass, I can appreciate persistence.”

 

The patience that we are speaking of as a fruit of the Holy Spirit is different than that which has its basis in the person or in society in general.  The patience that is referenced in Galatians 5 is grounded in the Holy Spirit.

What does Scripture say?

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience (longsuffering), kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 

Galatians 5:21-22.

 

The longsuffering that is a fruit of the Spirit stems, as do the other characteristics that we have examined, from love of Jesus Christ our Lord and comes from the Holy Spirit, as we are being transformed into the image of our Lord.

 

In Hebrew, the word longsuffering is a combination of the words Arek and Aph which mean, respectively, Long and Nose. (By the way, the word Aph or nostril first appears in Scripture in Genesis 2:7 where we are told “Then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.”)

 

So the literal meaning of the Hebrew word for longsuffering is “long of nose” with reference to “long breathing”.  Because anger was indicated by rapid, violent breathing through the nostrils, this term meant “long of anger,” or “slow to wrath.”  In the ESV the word longsuffering is translated “slow to anger.”

“But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.” 

Psalm 86:15

 

Longsuffering, in the Greek context, is the word makrothumia, and it is a bit more expanded in definition.  It relates to “long of mind or soul” which is regarded as the seat of the emotions.  This is in contrast to “shortness of mind or soul”, in other words irascibility, impatience, or intolerance.

 

Tim Keller from Redeemer Presbyterian Church defines makrothumia found in Galatians 5 as the “ability to take trouble (from others or life) without blowing.  To suffer joyfully.”  Strong’s Lexicon explains that this term is the self-restraint which does not hastily retaliate a wrong.  Its opposite is revenge or wrath.

 

Longsuffering is attributed to God in connection with his “bearing long” with sinners and His intentional delay in executing judgment on them, thereby allowing time for them to come to Him in repentance.

Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?

Romans 2:4

 

Now the God of patience [macrothumia] and consolation grant you to be likeminded one toward another according to Christ Jesus, that ye may with one mind and one mouth glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.  (KJV)

Romans 15: 5-6

 

We are also to be longsuffering toward others.

Be patient [macrothumia], therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains.

James 5:7

 

The Apostle Paul associates longsuffering with endurance which suggests patient endurance of trials and sufferings, and its further association with joy indicates a joyful acceptance of the will of God, whatever it may be.

May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy.

Colossians 1:11

 

In this regard, Matthew Henry defines long-suffering as patience to defer anger, and a contentedness to bear injuries.

 

Christians are frequently admonished and exhorted to cherish and show longsuffering toward one another.   For example:

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience [longsuffering], bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.

Colossians 3:12.

 

This is not the type of patience that waits in the line at the bank, without screaming for service, but with the foot tapping in frustration.  Rather, this kind of patience is not available by our own efforts, it comes from reliance on the Holy Spirit and, just as the other fruit of the Spirit, this fruit is not available to the unregenerate man.  It is a mark of the Christian as she is being transformed into the likeness of Jesus Christ by the Holy Spirit.

 

It is in reliance on God and acceptance of His will, with trust in His sovereignty, goodness, wisdom and faithfulness, that we are enabled to endure and to hope steadfastly through the power that the Holy Spirit provides as we lean on Him and learn of Him.  We look to Jesus as our chief example to imitate – He was the penultimate example of longsuffering patience throughout his life, death and even after His resurrection.

How does this apply to my daily life?

Does this patience/ longsuffering have relevance to our modern life? YES.   Just look at what David describes in Psalm 55 when he realizes Ahithophel had betrayed him, and consider how this relates to the feelings you experienced upon betrayal and disappointment.

For it is not an enemy who taunts me – then I could bear it; it is not an adversary who deals insolently with me – then I could hide from him.  But it is you, a man, my equal, my companion, my familiar friend.  We used to take sweet counsel together; within God’s house we walked in the throng. 

Psalm 55:12-14

 

Matthew Henry, in his commentary on Psalm 55, said of the hurt that we can experience even from our “Christian friends”,

There always has been, and always will be, a mixture of good and bad, sound and unsound, in the visible church, between whom, perhaps for a long time, we can discern no difference; but the searcher of hearts does. David, who went to the house of God in his sincerity, had Ahithophel in company with him, who went in his hypocrisy. The Pharisee and the publican went together to the temple to pray; but, sooner or later, those that are perfect and those that are not will be made manifest.

 

However, while recognizing the universality of disappointment or emotional sabotage, Scripture teaches that longsuffering or patience does not permit either retaliation or revenge!

 

The Christian has the duty to bear the injuries suffered from others even if it requires longsuffering. This means that we do not bring any immediate suffering on the one who injured us.  We are not to show any bitterness toward him, either in speech or in action.

 

Is this hard?  Yes.  Is it commanded? Yes.  Does it require the Holy Spirit to work in us?  Yes.

 

Quoting from Deuteronomy 32:35, the Apostle Paul said:

Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”

Romans 12:19

 

Next week we will consider how this patience is evidenced in our lives.  In the meantime, consider how you can relate to those who have hurt you in the past and ask the Holy Spirit to grant you the patience and longsuffering that you need so that you can respond in love and not bitterness.

 

 

Blessings to you and I pray that you will continue to walk with me as we learn about the fruit of the Holy Spirit and as we mature in our transformation into Christian believers who speak and act as Jesus did and who share in the passions that Jesus had for the lost sheep and for the worship of His Father, the Almighty God.  

 

 

FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT, No. 7, JOY, Part One

 

JOY – EFFERVESCENCE EVEN IN CHAOS

 PART ONE

This week we are considering Joy.  We know that everyone wants to be happy.  In our culture, happiness is talked about and searched for, but seldom is real joy experienced.

 

The internet dictionary.com defines joy as being “the emotion of great delight or happiness caused by something exceptionally good or satisfying; keen pleasure; elation.”  A picture of joy, I believe, is this one of a young boy with his grilled cheese sandwich.   Eyes closed, bread in both hands, cherishing the taste in his mouth.  He seems to be in little boy bliss!

Joy of grilled cheese sandwich (C)

In an attempt to find happiness, people try all sorts of things, way beyond grilled cheese sandwiches.  For example, Indian philosophy has given a 7 prong approach to locating happiness.

 

  • Think less, feel more
  • Frown less, smile more
  • Talk less, listen more
  • Judge less, accept more
  • Watch less, do more
  • Complain less, appreciate more
  • Fear less, love more

 

These things are good and they may help you lead a more productive happy life.  Any time that you focus on others and have your eyes off of yourself your life is likely to be happier.  But, these actions are based on our own efforts, and any happiness that is achieved is fleeting because it is based on outward circumstances.

 

This is the fundamental difference between Christians and unregenerate persons around us.  Even though we use the same word Joy, the Joy given to the Christian is separate and apart from outward circumstances of this world … it is not the power of positive thinking nor is it based on the prosperity gospel’s promise of vast monetary wealth here and now.

ORANGE - JOY

What does Scripture say?

 

Using the orange analogy that we developed previously, Biblical Joy is a segment of the fruit of the Holy Spirit as found in Galatians 5:22-23.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 

 

The Greek word Chara Joy – refers to a delight in God and His salvation for the sheer beauty and worth of who He is.    The world’s counterfeit of this fruit is elation that comes with blessings rather than from thoughts of the One who blesses.  Further, because the world’s joy is based on external things, there will be mood swings based on circumstances.

 

The Holy Spirit’s Joy is not dependent on external circumstances but is deep seeded and is rooted in the heart filled with love for our Lord.

 

Martin Luther said:

Joy means sweet thoughts of Christ, melodious hymns and psalms, praises and thanksgiving, with which Christians instruct, inspire, and refresh themselves.

 

Matthew Henry understands Paul’s use of the term “Joy” as part of the fruit of the Spirit as being “a constant delight in God.”

 

Unlike the writings of other faith systems, Joy is well embedded in Holy Scripture of the Bible.  Scriptural Joy is the fruit of a right relation with God because it is based on the Holy Spirit’s presence within us.  If we do not have the Holy Spirit, we cannot have Biblical Joy!

 

Note:  The Bible distinguishes scriptural Joy from pleasure – the Greek word for pleasure is the word from which we get our English word hedonism, and it is the philosophy of self-centered pleasure-seeking.  Paul referred to false teachers as “lovers of pleasures rather than lovers of God.” (2 Timothy 3:4)

 

The Bible warns that self-indulgent pleasure-seeking does not lead to happiness and fulfillment.

  • Ecclesiastes 2 records the sad story of one who tried to build his life on pleasure-seeking and was left empty and disillusioned.
  • 1 Timothy 5:6 says that the self-indulgent person is dead even while seeming to be alive.
  • Titus 3:3 notes that pleasure-seeking often enslaves the person in a vicious cycle of addiction.

 

In contrast, the God of Scripture knows Joy and He wants His people to know Joy.

  • Psalms 104:3 speaks of God rejoicing in His creative works.
  • Isaiah 65:18 speaks of God rejoicing over His redeemed people who will be to Him “a joy.”
  • Luke 2:10, a focal verse at Christmastime, reminds us of the perfect example of bringing joy from the Lord in the Angel’s pronouncement to the shepherds at Bethlehem.

“Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.” 

 

How does this apply to my life?

 

In John 15:9-12, Jesus told us to keep His commands and to abide in His love, further stating that He told us this so that “my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.”   

 

The answer to the question “Can we have that same joy?” is a resounding YES.  We can, and do, have within us the same Joy that Jesus was speaking of.  We can confidently say this because we have His Spirit within us and He provides Joy as we listen to Him, as we read the Scripture and as we rely on Him for all things.

 

Is our joy different from the happiness that is sought so desperately by the world?  As you should be aware by now, the answer to this question is an unequivocal YES.  Our joy is different because of Who it is based on – our joy is not dependent on circumstances or things.   Our joy is based on the Person and work of Jesus Christ, and we experience it through the power of His indwelling Holy Spirit.

 

In speaking of Galatians 5:22, Author Keri Wyatt Kent says:

“This verse is not a to-do list for us to work through, but a description of the transformation that occurs when God’s Spirit begins to work in us.”

 

This week, pray that the Holy Spirit would continue this transformation by enlarging your love and joy in Christ.  Ruminate about keeping the commands of our Lord so that you can abide in His love.  Then, take action and do that which the Lord commands.  I believe that you will find that your joy will be abundant as you live and serve Him through the power of His Spirit.

 

Blessings to you and I pray that you will continue to walk with me as we learn about the fruit of the Holy Spirit and as we mature in our transformation into Christian believers who speak and act as Jesus did and who share in the passions that Jesus had for the lost sheep and for the worship of His Father, the Almighty God.