Awaiting God’s intervention

In a crisis I am tempted to force a solution. The Lord shows a different way – Isaiah 56

1‘Maintain justice  and do what is right,

I can’t achieve righteousness through abuse, only love.

for my salvation is close at hand and my righteousness will soon be revealed.

The proximity of danger exposes hearts, asking – ‘Do I believe God’s justice and righteousness are the only way? Do I believe His salvation is at hand?’

Those willing to resist the temptation to force their own righteousness while seeking God’s salvation receive it. What a difference His righteousness will be from the one we had wanted. Instead of me winning and all else suffering, the Lord’s righteousness brings peace and love.

His salvation often waits till the last moment.

2 Blessed is the one who does this –  the person who holds it fast,

The Lord blesses those who hold to His righteousness. To do so I have to let go of hope for the outcome I had defined as righteousness and look to Jesus as my hope.

who keeps the Sabbath without desecrating it, and keeps their hands from doing any evil.’

This hope is seen in two aspects of submission:

Rather than driving towards the goal – destroying others in the rush, they will be content that there will be enough time and resources for the Lord’s will to be done His way.

Rather than forcing what they perceive as righteousness, they will walk in love expecting God’s way to become apparent as they go with Him.

Wait to receive joy

I am so concerned to show myself a responsible servant of Christ that I fail to receive the oil of joy which would give off the aroma of Christ, making His work plain to all.

The fruit of God’s work is intended to produce joy. In the Bible joy is experienced at the conclusion of a fruitful venture; bringing in the harvest or sharing the plunder of victory. Joy is developed through reflecting on the challenges God has overcome.

Psalm 45:7 You love righteousness and hate wickedness;
therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions
by anointing you with the oil of joy.

The Lord anoints with joy after we, together, overcome my tendency to wickedness and choose righteousness.

Here I tend to stumble. I am so concerned to get to the next act of service that I do not wait to receive the anointing or enjoy the celebration with the Lord over our victory.

When this service, apparently in the name of Christ, drives me from the place of receiving His joy, it is exposed as being a fraud, more concerned for people’s approval than the approval of my King.

8 All your robes are fragrant with myrrh and aloes and cassia;
from palaces adorned with ivory
the music of the strings makes you glad.

Curiously, this oil of joy holds the fragrance of Christ which would spread out to all around. My concern for a testimony compromises the most effective testimony.

Driven or Complacent

Living in our hurting world our tendency is either, throw ourselves at the problem, driven by the need, or to harden ourselves to the need and wait for God to resolve it Himself. Both these approaches stem from futile thinking and expose our darkened understanding. This darkness comes from a hardened heart that will not allow in the light of Christ.

When I am driven by need I am not experiencing God’s peace. I have allowed ‘self’ to become an idol, and am sacrificing my soul on its altar.

When I sit complacently expecting the Lord to do everything, I have hardened myself to the needs of people and to the call of Christ who gave His life for them.

The solution is not through trying harder, but to return to the life of God. This comes through surrender; a willingness to deny myself, take up the cross and follow Jesus.

Jesus started the great commission,

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” Matthew 28:18.

Am I seeking the sovereign ‘ME’ or am I surrendered to the Lord and His kingdom. Am I willing for His results to be different from what theory suggests?

Jesus ended the great commission,

“… surely I am with you always to the very end of the age.”

I must walk with Him in His programme and surrender the appearance of business or spirituality. If He is sitting in the stands then I sit with Him. If He is intervening, then I intervene with Him.

 

The original Bible Study in Ephesians 4:17-19

 

Fragrance of Christ

When a person meets with God, the impact is not often in the spectacular, but in the fragrance. It is not often in miracles or recordable events, but in the tenderness of the love, the quietness of peace, the steadfastness in hope. This fragrance impacts those around us. They are qualities that are infectious, and in their turn bear fruit for Jesus Christ.

‘While the King was at His table, my perfume spread its fragrance.’ SofS 1:17

These qualities come to us when we meet with Jesus at His table in the Tabernacle, meditating on Him as we chew on His Word, fellowshipping deeply as we participate in His cup. This is a place of fellowship and inspiration, where we see things from His perspective under the illumination of the Spirit -the Golden Candlesticks and respond by praying, not our wish list, but the intercessions that come from His heart at the altar of burnt incense.

When we meet with God in the inner sanctuary then He works His qualities into our lives and transforms us. This transformation is experienced by others as the aroma of Christ. It is an aroma we are unaware of. Our focus is on Christ, and we are so caught up with Him that we become unaware of ourselves.

This type of testimony has to be experienced. Words don’t quite do it, in the same way that fragrance cannot be described except through rather inadequate comparisons. Love when told about rather than experienced always sounds somewhat corny.

God’s Protection

What is the dividing line between presumption and faith. Some take God’s promise to protect us, and enter the lion’s den. Others know the Lord could protect, but will He choose to? They are unwilling to take the risk.

God’s promise starts with our being with Him: Psalm 91:1

‘He who dwells in the shelter of the most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty …’

His protection is amazing. He protects us from traps set in our path v3; from unseen and pervasive dangers v6; even from our foolishness v13.

The promise comes with two conditions:

9 If you say, ‘The Lord is my refuge,’ and you make the Most High your dwelling,
10 no harm will overtake you, no disaster will come near your tent.

The first is for me to declare: ‘The Lord is my refuge’.  We make a public commitment from which there is no going back. We are committed to one another.

The second part is that we make the most High our dwelling – along the lines of John 15 where we remain or abide in Christ. Here, Jesus is our emotional and spiritual source, and His life flows from us through obedience to Him. It is in this remaining that we are both kept from presumption, and encouraged to step out.

This protection is active. The Lord is active in covering us with his feathers. (v4). We are active in not fearing, (v5) for those who fear are driven from under the Lord’s wings.

Cannot rest?

Do I find it hard to rest because I have hardened my heart? We live in a generation that cannot rest but always looks for the next adventure or the next entertainment. Our culture is restless and we as Christians are influenced by it. Psalm 95 speaking of the people of Israel during the Exodus ends, ‘So I declared on oath in my anger, “They shall never enter my rest.”’ The Lord sometimes denies access to rest. This begs the question of our culture.

Why did God make this declaration? Backing up, God was angry because their hearts went astray and they had not known His ways. This is a characteristic of restlessness. When our hearts are captivated by surrounding distractions we have no space to focus on God and come to know His ways.

Going further back the Lord talks of a time in the desert when the people, lacking water, turned on Moses. Understandable maybe, but God’s verdict was that having experienced Him it was time to apply what they had seen and trust Him.  Instead, the people hardened their hearts. This was a crucial moment that ultimately led to restless wandering in the desert. So, have I hardened my heart? I don’t know but it is worth asking God to show me if I have!

The people of Israel were excluded from rest for a period: forty years. Maybe our gracious Father will draw us back into His rest? Maybe this is something to pray for the Church?

Rest in God’s shelter

When I choose to ‘rest in the shadow of the almighty’, waiting for Him to intervene, then I am ‘dwelling in the shelter of the Most High’. (Psalm 91) This is not passive; it is a call to urgent prayer.  I had always thought these words meant, Stay close to God and you will feel safe. Now I am being trained to understand a deeper significance.

Lately the Lord has been teaching me not to intervene but to pray and wait for Him. It began with situations where I had no right to intervene yet the suffering I observed made the temptation overwhelming; still the Lord restrained. As the situations have come closer to home I have felt the right to intervene, yet when I have done so it has gone horribly wrong – such is the training.

Today I felt a duty to intervene, yet as I did I was restrained by Psalm 91. I realised that to ‘rest in the shadow of the almighty’ is not a consequence of ‘dwelling in the shelter of the Most High’ but a choice. When I see injustice I have to choose between my intervention which brings pain and defensiveness or waiting for Jesus who transforms not only the situation but the abuser. If I jump in I deny Him the opportunity.

Occasionally, in this place of waiting on God, He creates the opportunity to speak in His time. The hearer is receptive, violent words unnecessary and I become part of His intervention.