When God's Hand Is on His People

“Life, now, was unfolding before me, constantly and visibly, like the flowers of summer that drop fanlike petals on eternal soil.”.png

Jason and I are not seasoned travelers. Sure, we enjoy a nice vacation now and then, but mostly, we’re homebodies. This is just one more way God has removed us from our comfort zones in the past six months as we’ve traveled back and forth. I admit we’re getting a little better at knowing how to pack and how much to pack, but we still haven’t really found our groove. By the end of a long trip, items have been moved around and shuffled so much that neither of us knows where anything is. And yes, a few things have been lost or forgotten in our travels. But, we’re still learning, and maybe soon, we’ll be as adept at traveling as the caravan Ezra led back to Jerusalem.

We find the account in Ezra 8 where the prophet and a large group of travelers from Babylon embark on a four-month journey. There are so many interesting points and valuable lessons in this chapter, but I want to focus on the fact that God’s hand was upon them in their journey. Despite traveling through hostile territory, the caravan arrived intact and unharmed. Not only that but when they counted up their treasures, every one was accounted for. Not one had been lost, misplaced, or stolen. Miraculous, huh?

If this group can travel across the desert for four months and keep track of every single possession, surely we can get from Point A to Point B and back again, right?  After all, isn’t God’s hand on us as His children? It is, no doubt about that, but I want to point out what Ezra and this group did before embarking on their journey.

 Then I proclaimed a fast there, at the river of Ahava, that we might afflict ourselves before our God, to seek of him a right way for us, and for our little ones, and for all our substance. For I was ashamed to require of the king a band of soldiers and horsemen to help us against the enemy in the way: because we had spoken unto the king, saying, The hand of our God is upon all them for good that seek him; but his power and his wrath is against all them that forsake him. So we fasted and besought our God for this: and he was intreated of us.
— Ezra 8:21-23

God’s hand wasn’t just on Israel because they were His people but also because they had sought His face. They had fasted and prayed before beginning their journey. They asked for guidance and protection. They pleaded with God to prove Himself not just to them but to all those who were watching. And God honored their requests.

Jason and I often say a prayer before starting on a trip, but I confess it’s not that kind of prayer. It’s generally a quick request for protection on the road and little more. But what if we prayed as these people prayed? What if we prayed for the power of God to be on us during our journey? What if we sought His direction each step of the way? And what if we prayed for days before the actual trip instead of waiting until we’re in the car and ready to go? I can’t help but think things would go more smoothly and we would feel less stressed. Yes, I believe God’s hand would be upon us either way, but how much more of His power and peace would we experience?

You may not be traveling the roads on deputation, but life is a journey. Every day takes us into the hostile territory of the world where we must learn to not only survive but also thrive. As God’s children, we can be assured that God is watching us. But if we want to truly experience His power and His peace, we need to ask for it. We need to seek His face. We must pour out our hearts before Him and let Him know we mean business. Then, we’ll see God move in miraculous ways. We have His word on it!

Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and show thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not.
— Jeremiah 33:3

Whispered Prayers

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Jason and I had a wonderful day Sunday visiting a local church and presenting our burden for Wales. All the services were a blessing, but I gleaned several spiritual insights from the Sunday morning message by Pastor Roger Morgan. Over the next few days, I’d like to share with you some things the Spirit spoke to me and also a couple of ideas I’m planning to “borrow” from Pastor Morgan.

 A little while, and ye shall not see me: and again, a little while, and ye shall see me, because I go to the Father. Then said some of his disciples among themselves, What is this that he saith unto us, A little while, and ye shall not see me: and again, a little while, and ye shall see me: and, Because I go to the Father? They said therefore, What is this that he saith, A little while? we cannot tell what he saith. Now Jesus knew that they were desirous to ask him, and said unto them, Do ye enquire among yourselves of that I said, A little while, and ye shall not see me: and again, a little while, and ye shall see me?
— John 16:16-19

Later in the week, Lord willing, I’ll deal with the Lord’s dialogue in the passage, but for today, I want to focus on the disciples. Jesus had just told them something that makes absolutely no sense to them. In their minds, he may as well have been speaking another language. They didn’t get it.

It’s okay to not understand something. Jason and I are looking for a new life insurance policy, and let me tell you, trying to read through and understand the various forms is enough to give anyone a headache. Sadly, by the time I get to the end of a particularly lengthy paragraph, I still have no idea what it means. I don’t understand the legal language and become easily confused. And you know what? That’s okay.

What’s not okay is to remain confused when the one who knows the answer is right there beside you. Notice how the disciples responded to their confusion—they talked among themselves. What good did that do? James asked John, but John didn’t know the answer, so he asked Andrew, who didn’t know the answer, so Andrew asked Peter and on and on. Why didn’t they just ask Jesus? After all, He was the one who said it, so He obviously knew what He meant. Why, instead, did they waste time and effort and work themselves into a tizzy trying to find the answer among themselves?

It’s a fair question, but before we point an accusing finger at the disciples, we might want to look at our own lives. When problems arise and we feel afraid and confused, do we immediately turn to the Lord for answers? I’d have to say most of us eventually turn to Him, but first we “share” our situation with a friend or two. . . and all of social media. We turn to fellow man for answers or advice, and that’s all well and good, but the only One who knows all about it is Jesus. Why don’t we seek His counsel? When faced with a situation we don’t understand, why don’t we immediately run to the throne of God or to His holy Word?

In the passage in John 16, Jesus stood quietly by as the disciples whispered among themselves, but finally, he called them on it. “Why are asking each other what I meant? Why aren’t you asking me?” Jesus knew they didn’t understand. He knew they wanted to ask but were afraid to. He also saw proof that when trouble and confusion arise, we lose sight of God. He was standing right there in their presence, but they were talking about Him like He wasn’t even there. How quickly had they lost sight of Him! And how quickly do we do the same!

My friends, there will be situations in life that are confusing, frustrating, and exhausting. And while it’s perfectly acceptable to share a burden with friends and family, let’s make sure the first thing we do is run to God with the need. Pour out the burden. Ask for direction. Seek for the Spirit to make clear the path before us. And whatever we do, don’t lose sight of the One who sees all, hears all, and knows all.

Whispered prayers are supposed to be directed to God, not to fellow man.

Who Is the Judge?

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 Let the iniquity of his fathers be remembered with the Lord; and let not the sin of his mother be blotted out. Let them be before the Lord continually, that he may cut off the memory of them from the earth. Because that he remembered not to shew mercy, but persecuted the poor and needy man, that he might even slay the broken in heart.
— Psalm 109:14-16

Psalm 109 is rough! David is writing about the wicked, specifically about those who had lied about and mistreated him, as well as those who refused to show mercy to the poor and needy. Read through the entire chapter, and you’ll get an idea of just how angry David is. He is sick of the wicked getting their way. He’s tired of them rising against the good people or those who are helpless. And, in short, he wants God to make their lives—and the lives of all their family and generations to come—miserable. Here are just a few things He asks God for:

 • Let him be condemned (v. 7)

 • Let his days be few (v. 8)

 • Let his children be vagabonds (v. 10)

 • Let neither him nor his children find mercy from others (v. 12)

 • Let their name be blotted out (v. 13)

 • Let their sins not be forgiven (v. 14)

 • Let them not even be remembered (v. 15)

 • Let him be cursed (v. 16)

Yikes, David! I get that he’s been done wrong and that he’s angry to see the innocent mistreated by others, but what I see here is a man in the flesh seeking vengeance for his enemies. If he were asking God to be the judge and to treat the wicked according to His judgment, that would be one thing. But, what I see is a man who has lifted himself as god and judge and said, “This is what needs to be done to them. I have spoken!”

Where’s the love? Doesn’t Jesus command us to love our enemies? In what way are David’s words seasoned with grace? I’m reminded of posts I often see on social media by those who, I assume, are trying to lead souls to Christ. But their posts are mean and ugly, nothing more than a shout of “Get right or go to hell. It’s your choice.” While technically the message is true, good grief, people! How are we going to win the world by pointing accusing fingers in their faces and acting like we’re mad at everyone? Why would anyone want to become a Christian if that’s what being a Christian looks like?

When it comes to sin, we need to be firm and unmoving. However, when speaking with sinners, we also need to be loving and compassionate, showing them the spirit of God within us. That’s what Jesus did. We don’t love the sin, but we should indeed love the sinner. And instead of praying for their cursing and unfortunate demise like David did in Psalm 109, we ought to be praying for God to touch their hearts and to show them the error of their ways. Our prayers ought to be for the salvation of the lost not for their condemnation. That’s why Jesus came to die! (John 3:17)

I want to point out a couple more verses in Psalm 109 and show you why we need to be careful how we treat the lost. After going through his rant of how God should punish the wicked, David goes on to say this:

But do thou for me, O God the Lord, for thy name’s sake: because thy mercy is good, deliver thou me. (v. 21)

Help me, O Lord my God: O save me according to thy mercy: (v. 26)
— Psalm 109:21,26

Whoa, David! Did you see what he did there? It’s like he said, “God, deal with the wicked the way I see fit but deal with me according to your mercy!” Nice!

Here’s the question I have for David: what if someone had prayed the same prayer about the wicked with David in mind? After all, David didn’t always do the right thing, did he? What if the prophet Nathan, who confronted David about his affair with Bathsheba and murder of Uriah, had been so upset that he prayed to God for David to be cursed and cut off and not remembered and so on? How would David have liked it if God had honored such a request and told David, “No, sorry, I can’t forgive and forget your sin even though you’ve confessed it and tried to get it right because I’m acting on behalf of Nathan’s cry for justice”?

My friends, something is wrong in our spiritual walk when we want punishment for everyone else but mercy for us. Yes, I know, it’s easy to get angry with those who treat us poorly and to want God to “get them back” for what they’ve done. But easy isn’t always right! In fact, it’s seldom right. We are not the judge and jury. We are not God. While He longs for us to pour out our burdens to Him, He does not need us to dictate how He should carry out sentencing. That’s not our place. Our job is to make sure in our anger, we don’t sin ourselves by becoming bitter and vindictive. To end on a more positive note, God knows who the Judge is, and He will act accordingly. He even made this known through David’s writing in this very same chapter.

For he shall stand at the right hand of the poor, to save him from those that condemn his soul.
— Psalm 109:31

No doubt, David thought he was talking about himself and others like him as the victim when he wrote this final verse, but I believe God had a different message. He has come to save anyone whose soul has been condemned. Rich or poor. Young or old. Intelligent or not. God came to save all who would receive Him, despite how others have already sentenced them.

I don’t think David even realized he was doing the same thing he was accusing the wicked of doing—condemning their souls. Let’s be careful not to do the same. Speak the truth, yes. But do so with love and compassion. And pray for others the way you hope they’re praying for you. Heaven forbid we be treated with the same mercy we extend to others. Where would we be?