In Ezekiel 22, God is explaining the consequences of idolatry. In the middle of His explanation, we receive a very interesting hypothetical question.
Eze 22:14 Can thine heart endure, or can thine hands be strong, in the days that I shall deal with thee? I the LORD have spoken it, and will do it.
God is going to bring judgment on the people of Israel, and He asked the people if they think they are going to be able to hold on under the judgment of God.
This implicitly brings up two questions. The first is whether or not people are strong enough to endure under the judgment of God. To think about it, let’s consider Noah’s Ark. Other than Noah’s family that was saved through the grace of God, was anyone able to survive? Did God say that He was going to destroy every living thing but then some person outsmarted Him and built a raft? No. The judgment of God was done because it was what God willed. Therefore, I think it is pretty safe to say that we cannot resist the judgment of God if it is what He has chosen.
The other question is similar. Can we be strong at all without God? For example, God might not be actively bringing judgment as He did for Noah or the people of Israel. However, what if we did not have the strength of God? What if He simply decided not to be with us anymore? Could we do anything?
Joh 15:5 I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.
I think about this on a few levels. On one hand, this verse in particular is speaking about fruit, so that brings to mind the fruit of the spirit. We cannot do anything that will please God without the work of Jesus. However, on another level, this makes me think about the fact that God holds together the universe. He is the architect, and as easily of God created the universe, He certainly has the power to destroy it. Therefore, the second question is also safe to answer in the negative. Any strength that we have is a consequence of what God has given.
God is good all the time. He is always just and righteous. Part of that justice is the right to judge, and God does hate sin. The people of Israel were facing the prospect of having to stand against God, and it is quite clear that we simply cannot do that.
One of the best things about the book of Psalms is that you get to see pictures of human emotion. While most of them are certainly about praising God, they are not saying that life is all kinds of sunshine and flowers. Start reading Psalms 129 for example.
Psa 129:1 A Song of degrees. Many a time have they afflicted me from my youth, may Israel now say:
Psa 129:2 Many a time have they afflicted me from my youth: yet they have not prevailed against me.
There is a definite acknowledgment here that life is difficult. It is not like having God there prevented every problem from the experience of Israel. However, notice the end of verse two. The problems have not prevailed.
There is a definite difference here, and I feel like it bears some emphasis. On one hand, these verses provide the knowledge that people have problems. Things happen in our lives that we don’t like, and these things can be very difficult. They also can happen over a long period of time. Verse two seems to indicate that they were lifelong problems.
However, even in that kind of a scenario where there are serious problems, they have not prevailed. For some reason, we are able to hold on even though we don’t want to. We doubt that we can do it, but we make it through.
It is not explicitly said in this chapter, but I think that we know where this Psalmist is coming from. Evil does not prevail because we have support from God. Sometimes we can’t do everything on our own strength, but God will provide the strength to help us along the way.
Life isn’t always easy, and I think that we can all identify with that. We all have problems, and we all have situations that we wish were a little bit different. However, as much as evil might exist, it certainly does not have to prevail.
Psalms 125 begins with a very strong image.
Psa 125:1 A Song of degrees. They that trust in the LORD shall be as mount Zion, which cannot be removed, but abideth for ever.
I know that I am only singling out one verse here, but there is something rather interesting about this one. If you trust in God, you will be like a mountain which cannot be moved. Obviously, the language here is poetic because in theory you could move an entire mountain if you had enough shovels and time. However, practically speaking, mountains are firmly placed right where they are, and we do not move them.
Now, if we continue on to the next verse, we gain a little bit more perspective about what we are talking about here.
Psa 125:2 As the mountains are round about Jerusalem, so the LORD is round about his people from henceforth even for ever.
Let’s put it all together. If we trust in God, we will not be moved. We will not be moved because God is around us forever. God is our protector and our shield. That is certainly significant. We are not able to hold our own because we ourselves are strong.
I think that is something that we can forget so easily. We get settled into our routines, and we figure that we are pretty secure. We have created a pretty decent life for ourselves, and we really don’t need to worry about very much.
However, we are on the brink of danger. We are putting our trust in ourselves and our stuff. We are not putting our trust in God, but this Psalm tells us that if we do put our trust in God, He will take care of us. We need to make sure that we find our satisfaction and our grounding in God rather than in anything else. Any other foundation can fall apart so easily and leave us with nothing.
You know that one of the main reasons I decided to only write about one chapter of the Bible every day is so that I can really engage with the material. I would not be able to skip over those unpopular chapters if I committed to writing about every single chapter. Those chapters are in there for a reason, and we ought to remember that.
All of that being said, one day is not nearly enough time to look at everything from Psalms 119. There are 176 verses in this chapter, and as you probably know, that makes it the longest chapter in the Bible. I know that I cannot address everything in one day, but I want to call your attention to something in the middle of the chapter that I believe integrates some of the major themes running through it.
Psa 119:49 ZAIN. Remember the word unto thy servant, upon which thou hast caused me to hope.
Psa 119:50 This is my comfort in my affliction: for thy word hath quickened me.
Psa 119:51 The proud have had me greatly in derision: yet have I not declined from thy law.
Psa 119:52 I remembered thy judgments of old, O LORD; and have comforted myself.
Psa 119:53 Horror hath taken hold upon me because of the wicked that forsake thy law.
Psa 119:54 Thy statutes have been my songs in the house of my pilgrimage.
Psa 119:55 I have remembered thy name, O LORD, in the night, and have kept thy law.
Psa 119:56 This I had, because I kept thy precepts.
This is one of the subsections that the chapter is broken down into, and I think it reminds us of something incredibly important.
We need to give loyalty God no matter what the world says. The proud might hold us in derision. People tend to do that, and you don’t need to go very far on the Internet to find people mocking Christianity (Richard Dawkins, anyone?).
What do we learn from this portion of the chapter about handling those situations?
We need to remember not only what God has done, but we also need to remember what God has promised. That is one of the reasons the Bible is so important. It provides us with the history behind our faith, but it also tells us about how we ought to act in our world today. As we maintain that connection with God, the mocking might still remain, but we are promised that we will have the strength to endure (Philippians 4:13).
All of a sudden, we will be able to identify with what Jesus said about the relationship between His followers and the world.
Joh 15:18 If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you.
Joh 15:19 If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.
Let’s summarize here. We need to remember God no matter what the world does to us. People are going to ridicule or hate if they want to, but we cannot let people turn us away. I would hope that our belief in God is not simply the product of the court of public opinion. I would hope that each one of us has a solid foundation in our beliefs.
Psalms 46 makes me think about fear. It makes me think about all of the things that happen around here on earth. However, if God is our strength, we have a reason to hope. That reason is God.
Psa 46:1 To the chief Musician for the sons of Korah, A Song upon Alamoth. God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
Psa 46:2 Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea;
Psa 46:3 Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof. Selah.
We need to break this one down. First, we hear about God being our refuge and our strength. He helps us when we are having problems. Notice that this is the assumption being made about God. The purpose of this chapter is not dealing with whether or not God does exist. Based on the personal experience of the writer, it is evident that God does exist.
Now, because this God exists who is our refuge and strength, we will not fear no matter what may happen here on earth. However, notice the items that are listed. These are things that are beyond human control. The earth might basically self-destruct, but we don’t need to worry because we have God with us.
If we don’t need to worry during these cataclysmic events, then we certainly don’t need to worry when the endless series of little things that go wrong during the day happen. If God is watching out for us when the whole world blows up, He would certainly be watching out for us every day as well.
We don’t need to live a life of fear. Even if bad things happen, we can have confidence that nothing is happening that is surprising God. He will be with us through it, and that is definitely better than having to face it alone. We have hope through the eternal promises of God rather than in our temporary state here on earth.
1 Samuel 26 feels an awful lot like what we read two days ago.
Let me give you a very abridged recap.
Saul went to sleep in a trench with his spear right beside him. David and his men saw this. One of David’s men wanted him to go over and kill Saul because this good of an opportunity must be from God. David still would not murder him, but he did take his spear and a cruse that was lying nearby. Then, just like before, he called over and asked why Saul was pursuing him. Saul said that he was sorry.
1Sa 26:21 Then said Saul, I have sinned: return, my son David: for I will no more do thee harm, because my soul was precious in thine eyes this day: behold, I have played the fool, and have erred exceedingly.
1Sa 26:22 And David answered and said, Behold the king’s spear! and let one of the young men come over and fetch it.
1Sa 26:23 The LORD render to every man his righteousness and his faithfulness: for the LORD delivered thee into my hand to day, but I would not stretch forth mine hand against the LORD’S anointed.
1Sa 26:24 And, behold, as thy life was much set by this day in mine eyes, so let my life be much set by in the eyes of the LORD, and let him deliver me out of all tribulation.
1Sa 26:25 Then Saul said to David, Blessed be thou, my son David: thou shalt both do great things, and also shalt still prevail. So David went on his way, and Saul returned to his place.
You know, it is difficult when we get burned. Personally, if I was David, I would have felt pretty good at the end of chapter 24. After all, Saul sounded sincere. It seemed as if all of this running was over. Perhaps David would finally get to settle down.
Then, Saul went on the offensive again.
Again, you would think that David would be mad and would want to get revenge.
However, he didn’t, and I think that this is a very good illustration of something that Jesus taught many years later.
Mat 5:38 Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth:
Mat 5:39 But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.
Some people have taken this to mean that Christians ought to be wimps. However, that is not absolutely true. David had all of the power in this situation, and he held himself back. He never did anything unjust to Saul, but I do not think that any of us would call him weak. That is the difference. He stood strongly for what God would want, but he held back his power.
Even though Jesus had not obviously said this yet, I think it can help us understand a little bit more why David did what he did.
I like the way that Joshua operates in chapter 11 of the book named after him. He is told that he needs to conquer all of the other cities in the land. I think that if I was in a similar situation, I would have been a little nervous. However, if Joshua was nervous, we never hear about it.
Jos 11:6 And the LORD said unto Joshua, Be not afraid because of them: for to morrow about this time will I deliver them up all slain before Israel: thou shalt hough their horses, and burn their chariots with fire.
Jos 11:7 So Joshua came, and all the people of war with him, against them by the waters of Merom suddenly; and they fell upon them.
Notice the simplicity. God told him not to be afraid, and he simply wasn’t afraid. In the next verse, he came and went right to work.
I think that this is the attitude that we need to have towards God. If He tells us to do something, we need to do it. No matter how daunting the task may seem, we still need to be willing to do what God tells us to do.
Joshua did that at multiple times throughout his life. However, I think that Jesus is an even better example. After all, He had to face His own death with full knowledge of what it would entail. He knew all of the pain that He would suffer, but He did it because God wanted Him to. I am sure that He was not looking forward to that experience, but He did it nevertheless.
I think that we would all be in a better spot if we had this attitude. Obviously, we do not want to be confident in our own strength, but God has told us that we do not need to be afraid of anything because He is on our side. We can be confident in His strength.
Why then do we need to worry?
The children of Israel were beginning to build all of the things that God told Moses about in the past few chapters. The Ark of the Covenant and Aaron’s garments were especially on the to-do list in Exodus 35. However, the creation of all these things was rather technical, and I am sure it would have been a challenge.
Exo 35:30 And Moses said unto the children of Israel, See, the LORD hath called by name Bezaleel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah;
Exo 35:31 And he hath filled him with the spirit of God, in wisdom, in understanding, and in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship;
Exo 35:32 And to devise curious works, to work in gold, and in silver, and in brass,
Exo 35:33 And in the cutting of stones, to set them, and in carving of wood, to make any manner of cunning work.
Exo 35:34 And he hath put in his heart that he may teach, both he, and Aholiab, the son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan.
Exo 35:35 Them hath he filled with wisdom of heart, to work all manner of work, of the engraver, and of the cunning workman, and of the embroiderer, in blue, and in purple, in scarlet, and in fine linen, and of the weaver, even of them that do any work, and of those that devise cunning work.
These two men, Bezaleel and Aholiab, are mentioned by name. In order to make this massive project happen, and they needed God’s help. These men might have been great workmen before, but God particularly blessed them to make any type of project that was necessary for this important mission. For such important implements, they had to be even better than usual.
I think that this can happen to a lot of us as well. When God calls us to do a particular project, He will give us the strength to finish it.
Heb 12:1 Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,
Heb 12:2 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Notice the fact that we are supposed to run the race while we are looking to Jesus. Without looking, we won’t know where we’re going, and we also will have the motivation we need to finish it. God provides us the strength to make it happen.
Eph 6:10 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.
Our strength comes directly from God as well as our talent. We are supposed to use them both for the glory of God.