Joy and Sorrow

In the book of Isaiah we hear God telling the prophet how He is different than the humans He created:

My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the LORD. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.  For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.”

Isaiah 55:8-9 [New Living Translation]

It will be no surprise when I say that we live in a world beset with difficulties, anxiety, fear, and sorrow.  There are people who are frustrated and tired of being in lock-down status in their own homes.  There are people who are terrified of contracting COVID-19, many for good reasons if they suffer from compromised respiratory issues, and other health maladies.   There are people who are grieving  the death of loved ones from the virus, and there are family members whose grief is aggravated by the fact that they could not have a funeral during lock=down days.  There are many who have become unemployed as businesses shut down and terminate or furlough employees.  No paychecks mean hard times for the finances in the household.

Sorrows and fears, anxiety and frustration.  Many people are suffering, and the writer of Ecclesiastes understands this.   We read in Ecclesiastes 7:14: 

In the day of prosperity be joyful, and in the day of adversity consider: God has made the one as well as the other, so that man may not find out anything that will be after him.  [ESV]

Here is this verse in the New King James Translation:

In the day of prosperity be joyful,
But in the day of adversity consider:
Surely God has appointed the one as well as the other,
So that man can find out nothing that will come after him. [NKJV]

And here it is in the New Living Translation:

Enjoy prosperity while you can,
but when hard times strike, realize that both come from God.
Remember that nothing is certain in this life.  [NLT]

I tend to accept joy and will completely immerse myself in the enjoyment of happiness, often forgetting to thank the Lord for the blessing of joyful events.  

Cruise -Raft captain and river flora
Rafting down the Martha Brae River in Jamaica with beautiful flora all along the riverbank

But, then there are times when I feel like I am being inexorably pulled to the precipice and am certain to go over the edge, plummeting down the waterfall.  Rather like this video from Canada and Horseshoe Falls in Ontario.

When those hard times hit, i am the first one to ask God why this has happened to me.  What is the purpose of this, why did you allow this?   

I am ashamed to admit that often this questioning is tinged with anger and accusatory finger-pointing toward God.  

Jesus said:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’  But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,
so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.

Matthew 5:43-45 [ESV]

The blessing and the difficulty — the writer of Ecclesiastes is spot on when he says that God sends them both.   Both the evil and the good receive the benefit of God’s sun shining down on them.  Both the just and the unjust receive the rain that God sends to the earth.  Likewise,  the pandemic the world is experiencing does not distinguish between the just and the unjust.

The difference, Beloved, is that those who are in the Lord Jesus Christ are assured that, whatever difficulties we experience here, we will be united with our Savior for all eternity.  This is not wishful thinking; rather it is a Biblical certainty.  Jesus said that His disciples would be with Him in heaven, and He was not just talking about those in the room at that moment!  

In the book of Revelation we read: 

Worthy are you to take the scroll
and to open its seals,
for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God
from every tribe and language and people and nation,

Revelation 5:9 [ESV]

Jesus ransomed His people from “every tribe and language and people and nation.”  

So, lean on Jesus.  Come to Him through faith and keep your focus on Him, rather than on the problems of the day.  He is powerful enough to save you to eternal life.  The problems here are temporal, temporary and virtually irrelevant.  Look to Jesus!

Father, I pray that I will keep my eyes focused on You rather than on what is going on around me in this trouble ridden world.  I praise Your Name for the gift of salvation through JEsus Christ, Your Son.  And I look forward to being with people who love you from every tribe, language, people and nation.  Praise Your Holy Name.

The Donkey and The Horse

After publishing the post HORSE, WAR AND PROVIDENCE, I received a comment from a dear friend at church that prompted the need for additional thoughts about the post.  

First.  In biblical times, what the king rode announced his intentions. If he came on a donkey, he was coming in peace.  In the book of Zechariah we read this prophesy:

“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

Zechariah 9:9 ESV

We know what Jesus rode into Jerusalem during His incarnation.  At the beginning of the week we call The Passion Week, Jesus was going into Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover and knowing that He was going to be charged, convicted and executed for crimes that you and I have done, not for any wrongdoing that He, in His perfect obedience to God, had committed.  But, before the crowds hollered “Crucify Him” they screamed “Hosanna to the Son of David”, as He rode into the city on a donkey.  

“They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and he sat on them.  Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, “Who is this?” And the crowds said, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.””  

Matthew 21:7-11 ESV

The King of Kings was riding a donkey and this had been foretold by Zechariah long before Jesus was born.  

Second.  If the king came on a horse, he was coming for war.  In the last book of the Bible, Revelation, the Apostle John had a vision of the end times and in that vision he describes what Jesus will be riding the next time He comes to earth as the triumphant King of King and Lord of Lords.

White horse statue, St Francois Xavier, Manitoba

“Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war.  His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself.  He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God.  And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses.  From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords.”

Revelation 19:11-16 ESV

This has not yet happened, but the Bible says it will, and that which God has ordained will, indeed, come to pass. 

“I am the LORD. I have spoken; it shall come to pass; I will do it. I will not go back; I will not spare; I will not relent; according to your ways and your deeds you will be judged, declares the Lord GOD.”

Ezekiel 24:14 ESV

We must never ignore or forget that God is totally sovereign over all that occurs in His world.  As Ezekiel says, whatever God says He will do, it will happen.  When He speaks, He does not lie neither does He forget; nothing gets in the way of what He has planned. He is not powerless when confronted by those whom we consider powerful.

“The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; He turns it wherever He will.

Proverbs 21:1 ESV

Beloved, if you have received the Lord Jesus Christ and have believed on Him alone for your salvation, these words should be of comfort to you.  Even though things look dismal, even when many are against you and they have surrounded you with malice, hateful words, threatening actions … you are God’s and nothing will wipe you out of His hand.

For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Romans 8:38-39 KJV

Are you persuaded?  Jesus came the first time as a baby, who as an adult rode a donkey when he came into Jerusalem for the last time.  The next time He visits our world He will be riding on a white horse, coming not as a helpless baby but as the living ruling King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  

Praise His Holy Name!

Father, I thank You that You provided a way for us to come before You through the sacrificial atoning death of Jesus Christ, your Son.  Thank You Lord Jesus for being obedient, even to the point of the cross, and thank You for welcoming those who You have called into Your family.  Thank You Holy Spirit for convicting us of our sin and for guaranteeing our salvation through faith in Christ alone.  And thank You Holy Spirit for indwelling us and for enabling us to become transformed into the image of our Lord.  We praise Your Name, Triune God, for You are worthy to be praised.