Between the Times

Waiting and looking, not knowing what to expect, yet expecting what we do not know. Questions swirl, realty crashes with dreams, it’s all so uncertain; the next step has yet to be revealed. In the darkness of uncertainty, questioning whether he heard the Lord correctly, or even if the Lord has heard him, Habakkuk is waiting; waiting on a response from the Lord. His questions of confusion swirl through the heavenlies like a whirlwind, landing on the ears of the Almighty. Questions born out of confusion are not necessarily harbored in the darkness of doubt. It is always best to send questions of God back to God. Questions do not always flow from the pride of doubt but some from the humility of a true heart, seeking out the will of God. All Habakkuk wanted was to know his God, to understand His ways. He questioned what God was doing, was the plan He sat in motion actually coming about? What does one do when the will of God, the plan that was laid out, seems to be dissolved? When things have seemingly derailed off course? When things seem to be in reverse, losing ground instead of gaining it?

“I will take my stand at my watch post and station myself on the tower, and look out to see what he will say to me…” Habakkuk 2:1

 

Habakkuk was stationed for revelation. He didn’t run, he waited. He positioned himself to hear the word from the Lord. How many of us ask questions but then run ahead to find the answer? After all, waiting is hard. Especially when the answer lies beyond the horizon. We do not like sitting still, we feel like nothing is happening. When the Lord answered Habakkuk He said “For still the vision awaits the appointed time, it hastens to the end-it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it, it will surely come, it will not delay.” In wisdom the Lord proved that He is not indebted to the calendar of man. He is not one to be rushed or pushed into untimely events; His answer–wait for it.
Waiting confuses us.  In a world of instant gratification, we grow antsy and impatient, the fear of miscalculation and misguidance starts rumbling through our souls, shaking us to our core. The answer from on high deals both with the frustration of waiting and the fears….” it hastens to the end—it will not lie.If it seems slow, wait for it,  it will surely come; it will not delay.”

The word hasten in this verse actually means “to pant”. The image is engraved here of a runner striving to reach the finish line. The word of the Lord will prove true, even though things seem still, its working to cross over to its destination. Isaiah says “ 10As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, 11so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” The word of the Lord is accomplishing, if it seems as if it has no effect, it is not that it has halted but we have just yet to see the harvest. It’s growing, reaching for maturation. The end result is all we see, we miss the process of providence. The underground work, that takes place out of the range of our peripheral sight. We are in the margin, between the times, where things remain the same, where the anchor of hope is lodged in the sand of time. And that anchor is slowly losing its grip. With each passing moment, time seeks to dissolve hope. That is why we must crawl above the sand dunes, to the watch tower, where clear perspective is gathered. If hope is lodged in the fallibility of our own calendar then it will sink in the uncertainty of time. But if it stands upon higher ground the sinking sand of time will not be able to take it down.

 

We like Habakkuk, often find ourselves living between the times; Sandwiched between prophecy and fulfillment. That can be a heavy place; caught between the future and the present.  How do you live in between the times, when purpose is lodged in a promise and the promise lodged in providence?

 

Watch and wait. While waiting often confuses us, faith unties the knots that complicate the process.

 

“Behold, his soul is puffed up; it is not upright within him, but the righteous shall live by faith.” Habakkuk 2:4

 

Faith is the paradigm of promise, based on grace, faith prepares us for providence. Faith doesn’t require God to work on our schedule. It rests in the “appointed time”. It stands watching at the finish line as the promise crosses over. It understands that we have no right to hold God prisoner to our time table. Faith unlocks us from the prison of time, where expectations are based on the tick of the clock. It “provides a solution to the doubt we sometimes feel in His all wise providence.”. Doubters, not questioners, are often puffed up with pride. The idea of control and desire for it, injects its toxic venom into our belief system. In all our plotting and calculating we bloat with pride, choosing our ways over His, assuming we know better than the Almighty. On the other hand Faith deflates; as we surrender our calender to Eternal One, the pressure is released.

 

When we are stuck in the middle, between already and not yet, faith is the watch tower. Where we watch, not the things that are seen but that which is unseen. Where we wait not on our plans to unfold, but for the appointed time-even if it tarries. It’s a place of elevated perspective.

 

If you are stuck between the times, don’t lose heart, the promise of the Lord will not be stopped, it speeds ahead—look for it, expect it—watch and wait for it. For nothing has the power to alter its course or derail it from its mission. The word will come without delay you need only to watch in faithfulness.

I’ll leave you with the encouraging words of Barker and Bailey “Habakkuk’s Revelation emphasized the life-giving nature of God. He cares for His people even when He seems distant and uninvolved. Though the revelation may take what appears to be an agonizingly long time to appear, wait for it. God knows and cares for His people.”

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Sold Out

” The Kingdom of Heaven is like is like a treasure hidden in the field, which man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.” Matthew 13:44

We find joy in release. An open hand offers a sense of rest to our souls as we no longer hold the burden of control. Submission and sacrifice cultivate the greatest joy; the joy of the kingdom. We’ve all been in a season where joy was a mirage. Where we can’t grasp it; it isn’t real to us. Spurgeon told a story of an evangelical preacher who was asked to bring a message on joy to the congregation. As the visitor approached the pulpit he fell to his knees, hands grappling his head and cried “restore to me the joy of your salvation.” He didn’t have it to give, joy evaded him. Spurgeon went on to say “fictitious experience is dangerous to the forger of it.” Is our joy genuine or is it an act? Do we push down disappointment with a pious smile and close the mouth of despair with empty words? In these trials we face, disappointment and dissatisfaction, do we truly have joy? Are we content with Christ? Or has the circumstances we face stifled joy with unfulfillment?

 

The loss of that joy comes from a lack of surrender.

 

Open hands and full heart; that’s the breakdown of surrender. When we lay down what we have at the throne of grace, we may be surprised to find we leave with more than we left.

 

We may can forge joy, by convincing everyone around us we are full. After all we know all the right words to say, we can quote a pocket full of scriptures and we are ready to sling those out to protect our cover at any given moment. We may can play the part of joy, but we will never be able to forge surrender. That’s why Spurgeon said the forger of joy is in a dangerous plight. Because if we are playing the part of joy then when the time comes when surrender asks for a sacrifice – our cover will be blown and everything we have staked on false joy will come crashing down around us. The illusion will lead us to despair. For our joy is only as strong as our faith, and the strength of our faith is displayed by surrender.

 

We do the world no favors by pretending. And by doing so, we destroy ourselves. Let’s be authentic enough to cry out for restoration when we need it and brave enough to surrender the sacrifice.

 

You see we’re scared. We hide behind the mask of  fictitious joy, but under it, is a face of terror. We’re afraid of what may be asked of us and even more what may be taken from us. Sacrifice has gotten an unworthy stigma attached to it. In the Old Testament, a sacrifice was the avenue to God, it paved the path for sinner to come before the Almighty. It gave the people of God access to Him. You see sacrifice has always given more than it has taken. But now, we cringe when we hear the word. We steer clear of “surrender” and “sacrifice” because in our minds it takes instead of gives. No wonder we’re scared to surrender, no wonder we hold onto our sacrifices with white knuckles….we’ve got it all wrong. Surrender prepares the heart for the gift of the kingdom, while sacrifice initiates it. So, when we give our all for the kingdom, when we sell out for its sake, we are given 100 fold of what we have laid down. Why can’t we see this? Why do we underestimate the treasure of the kingdom?

 

It’s a great tragedy, that we cling to trinkets and turn our backs on the treasure. All because we are too afraid of sacrifice.

 

Joy, real joy, is found when we exchange our petty trinkets for this glorious treasure. Not necessarily in the exchange itself but in the realization that there is more. More to life than what we have. This buried treasure offers us what we all want….more. America is in a panicked frenzy, each individual making up a nation that is controlled by the desire for more. Yet, the irony is, when more is offered we freeze. The craving for more, doesn’t inform us that the demand of more often requires sacrifice. Many of us will face a moment in our lives when we stand at the edge of “more”, legs trembling, because no one told us that “more” does just that, it asked more of us. But here in this parable, the man “joyfully” sold out, He sold out because he knew that what he received far outweighed what he was giving up. He knew because he saw it, he got just a glimpse of it and it was worth it. Jesus is always worth it. That’s why we can joyfully sell out for the kingdom; because nothing we give up will ever outweigh what we are receiving. The kingdom is not a treasure, it is THE treasure our souls are panting for. It’s the treasure we are all hunting for. It’s more than we can even imagine.

“Again the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search for fine pearls, who on finding one pearl of great value, went out and sold all he had and bought it.” Matthew 13:45-46

 

What are you holding on to? Whatever it is, it is standing in your way from receiving “more”. It’s not wrong to want more. I think sometimes, as Christians, we feel guilty about this longing that will not hush. We try to silent the roar with busyness, we account for every second of our days, our schedules are full. But we still feel empty. We struggle between the pull of gratefulness and desperation. We are thankful for what we have but we are desperate for something more. Something more………..it aches within.

Could it be the Kingdom of heaven is the “more” are souls crave?

In Luke 17:21, Christ says “For behold the Kingdom of Heaven is in the midst of you.” Scholars mostly agree that this term in the Greek for “in the midst of you” means in your soul. The Kingdom isn’t an abstract city to visit, but a reality within, where the will of God overtakes the will of man. Where the Spirit reigns and Christ is honored. Could it be that the “more” we long for is the fullness of the Kingdom to come in our souls? The chambers of our inner beings have an empty spot, a cavern, that nothing in this realm can fill. Nothing else will fit; only the kingdom. For that is what we were made for.  

People sell out for things all the time. Daily in fact. We sell out for an education, going thousands of dollars into debt. Spending time and every resource we have. A lot of times, moving from our families and friends. We sell out. Everything that had value to us must bow to our education. Our entire lives revolve around it. The same is true with careers, spouses, our dreams…etc. Not that any of this is wrong, it’s just an example of how we sell out for the things that matter to us. Most of us have been here, sacrificing everything for the treasure that is offered to us. Yet, we leave the Kingdom buried. Content with the glimpse, we tread on. Accumulating more, all the while, loosing the most.

“Seek first the Kingdom of God…” When did we become trinket hunters instead of treasure seekers? I’m not sure. But I’m willing to bet that whenever it was we traded glory for ashes, was the time our joy escaped us. You see maybe it’s not that we are scared of sacrifice, we do it all the time. Maybe the reason we refuse to sacrifice is because the Kingdom doesn’t seem to be worth it. What is the Kingdom worth to you? The alter of your life will testify. 

 Let’s not make the fatal mistake of confusing complacency as contentment. One leaves us starving, while the other, satisfied. Which one are you? Is there a hunger and thirst for the things of God deep within you? Then you will be satisfied (Matthew 5:6).Sacrifice is always satisfying because it uncovers the treasure in the field; the kingdom of God. 

 

 

 

 

 

Sabbatical Joy

 

“Count it all joy brothers when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of you faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete lacking in nothing.” James 1:2-4

 

Joy. It’s a rare commodity in our fast paced, double booked, overly complicated world. Joy is simple, it is anchored on truth. Not perception or opinion. Real biblical joy springs from the concrete foundation of truth.

Jesus said, “I am the way the truth and the life…”. The Word made flesh did just that, He fleshed out the Word of God, the truth of God, so we could behold it, so we could comprehend it. The Truth Himself, stepped into flesh and bones to show us what Truth really is. Truth is what God has to say on any given subject. Simple. Yet, we complicate it with our grey lines and hazy views. We see a blur of boundaries and question what truth really is. The truth is, we don’t know what is right. Truth is we are scared to know. Truth is not our perception but God’s. So, in order to have a perception based on truth we must know the truth.

 

The Truth counters the lies of the world. It is the answer to our problems, the key to our addictions and the salve for our brokenness. It will be the truth that sets us free. (John 8:32)

 

The truth is, life is hard. Marriage is hard. Our careers are hard. Being a parent is hard. Being a child is hard. Being single is hard. Being successful is hard. But perhaps more than any of these, being joyful in trials is hard. Like a sink hole that is hidden beneath the surface, suffering causes our worlds to collapse. Out of nowhere the freight train of tribulation comes rolling into our station unannounced and unwanted. Yet, it carries something with it. if we look closely, the cargo it brings is one of great value; steadfastness.

 

The truth is none of us escape the fires of trials. Jesus promised us that. (John 16:33). But a deeper truth is found in the face of suffering; joy. It is in these moments that we are being prepared for providence. As Joseph went from one set of chains to the next, being cast down and rejected by men. It seemed as if the dream was annulled. That somehow God had forgotten, or maybe changed His mind. That’s not the case at all. the trials that seemed to be punishment was in fact preparation for the dream to come true. Every crushing situation was cultivating Joseph into the leader he would need to be in order to fulfill the dream given to him by God.

 

 

Wiersbe says “trials make us bitter not better if we live only for the present value of comfort over character. “ If we treasure comfort than trials will upset us.

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.” Matthew 13:44

The man went and sold all he had to buy a field. Everything. This new-found treasure caused him to be bankrupt by the worlds standards. Yet, he found joy in release; with open hands he found rest. He traded the present value of comfort for the eternal security of the kingdom. When faced with trials, our faith is being tested, will we make the trade? Will we cling to the temporality of comfort or will we surrender all we have to the Kingdom? Trials are usually hard because something has changed. Something we treasured has been taken be it a family member, a job, financial security, an opportunity, and even a dream. When trials come, they come with purpose. God always has purpose in pain. Always. In the pain of trials, we are being sifted. That’s why it hurts. Because the old, the useless part of us is being sifted out of our character. Just like chaff off of grain, the “fluff” must come off. By fluff I mean the fake. In Luke 22:31-34, Jesus tells Peter that the devil has asked to shift him as wheat. And Jesus allowed it. you see even though Peters name was changed, there was still leftovers of Simon. Each of us will be sifted in order to get the old us out. Christ is after our wholeness, our completeness, and to accomplish that there has to be a purging and a pruning. John 15:2 says “All the branches that are IN me that do not bear fruit my Father takes away, but the branches that does bear fruit HE prunes so they may bear more fruit.”.

 

Truth is we see trials as the end when really its just the beginning. Truth is we see trials as God taking when actually He is pruning, for the sole purpose that more may grow. Truth is its hard to be joyful in trials when our happiness is locked on things of this world (including people) instead of on the Kingdom of Heaven. You see our tunnel vision proves to rob us of an eternal perception. One that is necessary for joy. When our happiness is determined by circumstances than joy evades us.

The cross is the symbol for shame and rejection. Where desperation meets disappointment. It was here, at the pinnacle of shame, that Christ’s endurance brought joy to the world. Christ came to do the Fathers will, to accomplish the purpose, to go to the cross. Yet, it required endurance which came from the surrender in the garden the night before. The garden of Gethsemane represents where one must lay their lives on the alter of God’s will. it is here in the quietness of the garden that we will be tempted to pray “Father, take this cup from me….” And leave it at that. But it will be how we end that prayer that determines wither or not our agony will be turned into joy as we utter the words “yet not my will be dine but yours.” The release of providence.

 

Christ’s surrender at the garden paved the way for the will of the Father to be brought about. In that moment Christ surrendered the present value of comfort for the eternal security of the Kingdom. And we are called to do likewise. “For the joy set before Him, He endured the cross…”. For the promise ahead Christ stood up under the weight of His trial, He bore the weight of suffering for the sake of joy. 

 

 All joy, James exclaimed, an Unmixed joy. One  that is not tainted by “what if’s” or “if only’s”. It is a joy that rests in the assurance of truth. The truth that when we endure we experience the enduring love of God (Genesis 39:21). It’s joy in knowing His love endures longer and with more strength than any trial. Circumstances do not define God’s love for us-His covenant does. And that’s the truth.

 

Covenant, it’s a beautiful word. It is pregnant with providence and purpose. It holds the keys to our future and the security of our souls. It confounds the most brilliant minds and bewilders the humblest of souls. The truth of the covenant is what makes joy in the midst of trials possible. Without the solid assurance of commitment, our dreams are like a vapor, with no substance and no merit. Without a proper understanding of this truth we will flail and flop under the weight of suffering. We will let what was meant to define us be our destruction.

 

Even though the word covenant is not mentioned until Genesis 8, the idea of it is found within the first three chapters of the sacred writing. Now, to understand a covenant we must know what it is NOT. It is not merely a promise. It is a legal agreement, when one attaches themselves to another willingly, a binding together of two entities. The purpose of a covenant was always rest. Rest from social injustice, rest from strife, rest from war, rest from the enemy and so on.

 

As God made man in His image out of nothing and set him in the garden of Eden, He placed him within the boundaries of His rest. “On the seventh day God rested from all the works He had done.” God initiated rest as the culmination of His creative work. He had made something out of nothing, He had replaced the chaos with rest. As man tended the garden, basking in the tranquility of God’s rest. The serpent slithered into paradise and persuaded the man to take the forbidden fruit. As Adam and Eve partook of the fruit and sin entered the world, they were cast out of God’s rest. Genesis 3 even tells us that God set two Cherubim’s at the entrance to guard it from intruders. From that moment on God has been working a plan to regather His prize creation into His rest.

In Genesis 12 we see the answer to the plight; Abraham. As God calls Abraham and establishes him as the chosen nation, which Paul says that God in doing so was calling into existence things that did not exist.(Romans 4:17) Here we see a different play on the creation narrative in Genesis 1-2, where God created man out of nothing. Here in the twelfth chapter of Genesis, God is setting the stage for man to enter His rest once more. 

 

What was taken from man by sin was more than just a place on a map, it was the Sabbatical rest of God. When sin came, it stole that rest and man was now subject to the chaos sin brings. And so enters Abraham. In Genesis 15, it is said that God cut covenant with Abraham. That God placed him in a deep sleep, and laid out a sacrifice, animals that were actually torn in half, and then as Abraham slept, God passed through the carcasses of the sacrifice to say that if HE didn’t  hold up to His promise, then HE would be as one of those animals. This is vital to understand; the covenant is not upheld by what man does or does not do (That’s why Abraham was asleep-so he could take no credit) but finds its solidarity in the character and faithfulness of God. God was after His people to come back to His rest.

 

Hundreds of years later, the promise of the covenant was fulfilled. All the nations would be blessed by the babe, descended from Abraham, wrapped in swaddling clothes and laying in a Bethlehem manger. As Christ hung on the cross, the symbol of shame and rejection, the penalty of sin was laid upon His shoulders. As the weight of sin broke the Messiahs body, the blood of that sacrifice now fulfilled what was foreshadowed in the covenant ceremony between God and Abraham. The New Covenant was now inaugurated and as a result: rest.

 “So, therefor there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God.” Hebrews 4:9

As the curse of sin was removed from the soul of man, so too the Cherubs removed from the entrance of the garden. Now, man was free from the restraints and burdens of folly. Now, man could rest. No longer was the Sabbath a day on a calendar but it was now a condition of the soul. The covenant freed us from the struggle and God has reached His intended goal: rest. He was after is all along, the marvelous plan to get man back into the garden was completed in a garden in Jerusalem, where the tomb proved too weak to hold the Chosen One inside. The coventential love ushered man back into the perfect rest by the redemption of sin.

 

You see the covenant, that Jesus has set over our lives, gives us rest from strife, rest from toil, rest from chasing our own dreams, rest from building our own kingdoms, rest from the demands of our own agendas, and even from our trials.

 Rest from it all.

Because of the truth of the covenant, we have sabbatical joy. A joy that comes from resting in the covenant. A joy that chooses the eternal security of the covenant over temporal comfort. A joy that exults in trials because it founded on the truth; that all trials, all sufferings hold not threat to us. The hardships and the pain will not destroy us because we are bound to Christ. He is ours and we are His. Sabbatical joy frees us from the chains of oppression and lifts us out of the pit of depression. And because of that our joy cannot be shaken. 

The Perplexity of Providence 

Providence can be perplexing. It’s intricate and involved. Like an algebra problem that stretches across the blackboard, providence seems to be the one equation man cannot solve. But that doesn’t keep us from trying. We evaluate every angle, study every line, diagram every dimension, we pull and prod, trying to get the faucet of divinity lined up with the logic of man. Yet, no matter how we try, providence lies beyond the bounds of our minds. And because of that, our eyes usually don’t see it working, that all these circumstances we can’t explain or understand are on a collision course, that turn out for good. Each one is like a piece-but a piece of what? A piece of providence perhaps? The totality of these things expend any figure we could imagine; goodness.

Our lives are not a game of chance. As if some mystic force is playing dice with our lives. No,fate is not the maker of our destinies-the Almighty is.

Yet, it is His hand that often leaves us perplexed. The way is so unclear. The decisions in front of us too monstrous. We weren’t planning on any of this; the rejection, the divorce, the promotion, the break-up, the success. Once upon a time our dreams seemed so clear-the path was marked-but now there’s an unexpected detour. Destiny is a lifetime of a million different detours. It’s in these detours where faith and perseverance are tested. It’s easy to follow the hand of God when He’s guiding where we want to go-but it’s when we are pulled by the force of providence down an alley we weren’t expecting, that we get perplexed. It’s the times when His hand is covering our eyes that we must walk by faith.

Providence brings purpose, it ushers the will of God into our lives. In the word of God when we see the reference to God’s “hand” it is a direct reference to His providence.

Many Christians are scared of the will of God because they misinterpret the hand of God. We see the hand of judgement instead of the nail pierced hand of grace. We see a hand that takes instead of a hand that gives all heaven has to offer. We see a hand that strips and suppresses instead of one that crowns and frees. This misinterpretation has stolen the intended purpose from providence.

In the Psalms alone the hand of God is said to:

Remembers (10:12)

Supports (18:35) 

Saves (20:5)

Upholds (37:25, 63:8)

Teaches (45:4)

Disciplines (32:4)

Yet, it’s not the times that we see His hand that often perplexes us. It’s the times we don’t. When callings are complicated and family is frustrating. When our careers are chaotic and our relationships are risky, when loss languishes and defeat deflates. When should’ve been and might’ve been replay in your mind, when we believed but the mountain remained, when we needed the waters to part but they roared louder. These are the moments when providence can be painful.

 Providence doesn’t always move mountains or part the waters. Sometimes, what providence does do is ask us to climb that mountain and see Christ transfigured. And other times He allows the waters to roar and then calls us to walk on them. Providence doesn’t remove the problem, it removes the threat from the problem. Providence always brings protection.

“The Lord will fulfill His purpose for me…”( Psalm 138:8)Yet, we try to help Him out. We find ourselves striving after providence when it is in fact providence that is chasing us. We try to figure out Gods plan. We beg and plead for insight and direction when providence says “do the next thing…” but we don’t, that’s not good enough for us. We need to do more….and more…and more. We aren’t content with the moment so we jump ahead, feeling like a mountain of accomplishments will somehow get us to our purpose and so we out run providence. As a result we end up burned out in despair. Because without providence we have no hope. It is the gracious care of a loving God that motivates us and spurs us on. It is the assurance in the protection of His hand that we have joy in suffering. It is the fact that our hope is not tethered to our situations but to the throne that keeps us from despair.

Our view may not be clear but our hope is.

“We may be perplexed but we are not in despair.” 2 Corinthians 4:8

 

Wheat and Honey

 

“In distress you called and I delivered you; I  answered you in the secret place of thunder;     I tested you at the waters of Meribah. Selah Hear, O my people, while I admonish you!     O Israel, if you would but listen to me! There shall be no strange god among you;     you shall not bow down to a foreign god. 10 I am the Lord your God,     who brought you up out of the land of Egypt.     Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it.

11 “But my people did not listen to my voice;     Israel would not submit to me. 12 So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts,     to follow their own counsels. 13 Oh, that my people would listen to me,     that Israel would walk in my ways! 14 I would soon subdue their enemies     and turn my hand against their foes. 15 Those who hate the Lord would cringe toward him,     and their fate would last forever. 16 But he would feed you[e] with the finest of the wheat,     and with honey from the rock I would satisfy you.” Psalm 81:6-16

 

 

The cries of the Hebrew people had penetrated through the heavenlies. It was here that the plea of man entered into the secret place of God’s counsel; His throne room. With the eloquent wording of verse 6, “I answered you from the secret place of thunder”, something is revealed. A place where the sound of glory can be heard colliding with grim, the majestic crashing into the common, and the temporal calibrating with the eternal, thunders through the visible into the heart of man. The psalmist shows how prayer unleashes God’s providence and sets us free from our prisons. Providence is the divine care of God on mankind’s lives, it is detailed deliverance. The kind that is specific and personal, the kind that leaves no room for question about where it came from. Providence is always active in our lives, but there are times when in order to experience it we must pray for it. The throne room is the dwelling place of God, every time it is mentioned it is to symbolize the divine rule and authority of the one who sits upon it. As John the revelator sought to find words to express the grandeur of the throne room, Revelation 4:5 says “there came from the throne flashes of lightening, peals and rumbled of thunder…”. Our prayers usher us into this place, where majesty is a glow and justice is served.

Not only is God’s presence related to the sound of thunder clapping, it is also linked to the voice of God.

“God thunders wondrously with his voice, he does great things that we cannot comprehend.” Job 37:5

“The voice of the Lord is over the waters, the God of glory thunders, the Lord is over many waters. The voice of the Lord is powerful, the voice of the Lord is full of majesty.” Psalm 29:3-4

God not only answers from the “secret place of thunder”, it is His answer that shakes the foundation of the earth, bringing forth His purpose. The thunder of this voice shakes the chains off our dusty feet and wakes up something within us.

Not only did God bring the thunder on the Egyptians, He also tested the people at Meribah. These accounts are recorded in Exodus 17 and Numbers 20. Here the people of God “quarreled” with their Deliverer, not Moses, but with God. These people put God to the test by asking this simple question “Is the Lord among us or not?”. A seemingly logical answer for a people who have been carried out of the familiar on a pilgrimage to the unkown. It is often times when we leave the familiar confines of captivity for the abundance of inheritance that we feel lost. And when we feel lost we start questioning: “where is God?”, “What am I doing here?”. In the wail for help, our flesh gives us a solution; to go our own way. It reasons within, besieging faith with doubt, that we must have been mistaken “God doesn’t have our best interest at heart”, so we plot our own path. From now on we’ll be the writers of our own destinies. We plot and plan, analyzing every turn. But we never get there. Our promise land evades us. And like the Israelites, who decided to “follow their own counsels”, we die wandering; Aimless and confused. This bend we have that drives us to follow our own ways wastes our God given potential and most tragically diffuses the impact that potential was meant to have for the Kingdom of God.

We see in James 4 how quarreling between believers arises from evil desires within. But what about when the fight turns to the hand that is holding us? What causes a Christian, a child of God, to run and hide from her Maker?

 

11 But they refused to pay attention and turned a stubborn shoulder and stopped their ears that they might not hear.[a] 12 They made their hearts diamond-hard lest they should hear the law and the words that the Lord of hosts had sent by his Spirit through the former prophets. Therefore, great anger came from the Lord of hosts. Zechariah 7:11-12

 

This passage is referring to the people who refused to obey the command of God to abstain from idolatry (what was referenced to in Psalm 81). The message translation says that “they steeled themselves against God’s revelation.”.

 

We run because we don’t like where God is going, it may be uncomfortable or even worse-painful. It may stretch and pull us. We want to see the goodness of God, the blessing of God, to eat the provision of God but we do not want to be altered in the process. We want to keep our sense of control. So, we disobey. We go our way instead of His and in the process, we litter this world instead of shaping it.

The word quarrel in Exodus 17 is the Hebrew word “riyb” and means of many things, the clamoring of people for possessions and stations.

 

What drives us to quarrel and resist the providential hand of our Deliverer? The threat to our own “station”, the picking apart of our “possessions”.

 

We are taught in this nation to stand up for our rights. But perhaps we have mistaken privilege as a right. Everything our hand touches, is a gift, a loan from heaven. Yet, we mark it and label it “ours”. And nobody, even God, better not ask for us to lay it down. We guard our privileges and bury our possessions to keep them safe. If we do hand things over to God we do it with white fists, full of bitterness and disappointment. The Israelites did the same thing. They longed for what God asked them to leave, even though it was tainted by bondage. They longed for the food and delicacies of Egypt and shown contempt for the manna of heaven. Their bodies followed God but their hearts stayed in Egypt and as a result, they were aimless, void of influence, they forsook their inheritance and clung to the perishable-something that would never fill them. It is ironic that Asaph wrote this particular psalm for the congregation of Israel to sing during the Feasts of Tabernacles. The feasts of Israel are steeped in tradition and religiosity. It would be easy to lose the spiritual intention of the feast in the demand tradition held. Asaph used this story to remind the readers, that religious people can be the most disobedient. Are you lost in tradition? Has the meaning of worship been suffocated by the hands of man? We can sit in a pew week in and week out and miss what God has for us. On any given Sunday, countless children of God will be with Him in form but their hearts are wandering.

 

That’s why the Lord pleads through the Psalmist in Psalm 81 “O, Israel if you would only listen to me!” I challenge you to replace your name for Israel’s. And answer this question honestly: what has your deformed desires cost you? They cost Israel their inheritance, their promise land, the place they dreamed of and robbed them of their potential and thus stole God’s glory.” If only” echoes through the aisles of our churches. The faint echo of what was to be is replaced by the groaning of a wandering soul.

“If only you listened…” breathes the Spirit over our dry bones. 

 

God uncovered what He had instore for His people:

“open your mouth wide and I will fill it.”

“I would soon subdue their enemies and turn my hand against their foes.”

“he would feed you with the feast of wheat, and with honey form the rock would I satisfy you.”

 

Yet, they “would not submit to Me” said the Lord. Our obstinateness costs us our satisfaction. Our attachment to our deformities deceives us into chasing something that will never fill us, that offers no satisfaction.

 

I don’t think it is a coincidence that the word “submit” in Psalm 81:11 can be translated “desire”. Our willingness is directly linked to our desires. A lack of obedience isn’t born in the will but in the heart.

 

Our verses from Zechariah 7 show us this, in that as the people refused to pay attention. The idea here is that they refused and offer, their desire to do as they wished caused them to reject God’s offer of richness and satisfaction. Their desires drove them to digest “ashes” (Isaiah 44: 20 “He (the idolater) feeds on ashes; a deluded heart has lead him astray.) instead of the finest of wheat and the honey from the rock.

 

I won’t be so dogmatic as to say that every time we question if God is among us or not, our hearts are misplaced. But I do believe that for the vast majority we question His presence, not because He isn’t there but because we don’t like where He’s going. And that is a clear indication we trust our own counsel over God’s.

 

Disappointment is caused by our hope being deferred, but the deference of hope is cause by the heart being deluded by deformed desires. Because when our hope is in the Kingdom, then it will never be deferred.

If only we would submit…….we would find what our heart desires. If only we would listen we would find purpose and meaning. If only we would obey, the kingdom of heaven would be made evident to earth. 

If only we would receive the thunder that is pealing in our souls, maybe we would cross the border of the Promise land. The land that flows with the honey from the Rock. Where the sweetness of provision yields the abundance of satisfaction. O, That our mouths would be opened wide in expectancy of heavens wheat and honey.