Politics, history class, cruddy elections, Alpha and Omega

Thank you to those who serve and keep us safe! This photo courtesy of pexels.com. Thank you, pexels!

History is our friend Karl’s passion. You get him started and he could pretty much go on forever, recounting vengeful and valiant leaders, epic battles, and the contribution of those left unmentioned in the texts of history books. Karl’s version of history is my favorite. It’s passionate, but purposeful. Everything he shares is spirited and he makes you hungry to know more, hear more, learn more. Better than that, in almost every circumstance, he makes you hungry for God. Karl teaches at a state university, so I’m sure his classroom looks a little bit different, but in private conversation and in teaching at church, Karl is on fire with a message. He lays out history in a way that makes you stand in awe of a God who holds all of it in His hands, from the beginning to the messy middle to His faithfulness in each day we have yet to travel.

Isaiah shares a similar message with just as much zeal in Isaiah 44:6-8. Let’s open our Bibles and read that text –

Thus says the Lord, the King of Israel
    and his Redeemer, the Lord of hosts:
“I am the first and I am the last;
    besides me there is no god.
Who is like me? Let him proclaim it.
    Let him declare and set it before me,
since I appointed an ancient people.
    Let them declare what is to come, and what will happen.
Fear not, nor be afraid;
    have I not told you from of old and declared it?
    And you are my witnesses!
Is there a God besides me?
    There is no Rock; I know not any.”

The First…and the Last.

And everything in between.

God sat on His throne and created humankind. He created every flower and every tree. He set the planets in motion. Countries and constitutions sprang up, kingdoms and territories came to be, and God was God over all of it. Wars are fought, lives lost, and His faithfulness continues. New nations form, cultures live and grow, languages develop. Disasters come upon the Earth, dictators oppress, and God’s heart breaks. But He sees the bigger plan unfolding. To us, it’s like the slow unrolling of a tapestry. To Him, it’s the blink of an eye, in all eternity.

He is the First and the Last and everything in between.

Humankind makes gods out of idols and build temples made by human hands. We chase wealth and power and success. We destroy one another to be the best, be the biggest, be the greatest, when we were never intended for those purposes. And all through it, there are the faithful ones. God leads His people from ancient times (v. 7), appointed for His purposes, setting them apart for Kingdom work. The wheels of the clock turn, time marches on. The Word goes out, the message never changes.

“…besides me there is no god.” 

He is the First and the Last and everything in between.

God alone sits on the throne. We think we have all this power and authority. We think the next election will make or break mankind. It may break a nation, but it will not break us. It will not break His message, His Spirit, His Word. Through the sands of time the Word continues to go out, leading people to Him in the dark and in the light, in the triumph and in the defeat, in the famine and in the plenty.

We are simply witnesses.

We are called to declare His purposes in all of it. Like our friend Karl, may our message always be of the hidden things, the works done faithfully, rarely written in textbooks. When we witness from the vantage point of believers in a faithful God, nothing is lost in the drama, every bit of the tumult and the turmoil has a purpose. As cheesy as it sounds, it really is His story anyway.

Listen to the promise of the final words of Isaiah 44:8 again –

“There is no Rock; I know not any.”

Look up the following verses and rest in the promise of this God, our Rock.

Psalm 18:2 The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my     deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge,
    my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.

Psalm 31:3

Psalm 62:6-7

Luke 6:47-48

I don’t want to know any other gods, Lord. I want to follow You. I don’t want to trust in anything else, Lord. I want to follow You. I want to see you in every piece of history, every trial and every glory. Be my Rock. Be my Fortress. Be my Defender, and let me never look to another person, thing, idea, or place to provide that for me. Only You, Lord. Only You. 

He is the First and the Last and everything in between.


Exploration:

What parts of history come to mind when you think of God sustaining His people?

When thinking of history how is it helpful to be reminded that God is faithful and watching over His children? What parts give you the most angst?

The book of Revelation really has a lot to say on this subject. Check out the following three verses for further reflection that He really is the first and the last and all the stuff in the middle too.

Rev. 1:8

Rev. 1:17-18

Rev. 21:6-7

Rev. 22:13

Why do you think the book of Revelation returns to this concept again and again?

Dr. Mom, mortality, and simply being a Child

 

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When we had our first baby, I was like, “I can handle this little ol’ thing.” Breastfeeding was easy for me (THANK YOU, LORD!). Diaper changes and sleeplessness nights were hard, but seemed manageable with copious amounts of coffee. Granted, at this point there was only one of them and two of us, but you get the idea.

Then it happened. She got sick. And babies don’t get normal sick. They get weird sick. There was all this snot that wouldn’t come out. She couldn’t breath when I fed her. Her little chest found it challenging to rise and fall. I took her to the doctor, found out these symptoms evidently stemmed from an ear infection (WHAT?!!) and filled about 14 prescriptions at the pharmacy.

I hit a breaking point one day, picked up my phone, and called my pastor’s wife, Linda. Crying as soon as she picked up, I lamented, “I don’t think I can do this. I’m not cut out for parenting. I might need to turn her back in.”

She got in her car, came to visit me, hugged all my tears out of me, and gave me comfort in the form of this phrase: “I hate the Dr. Mom part of parenting too. Don’t worry, It’s God’s job to keep them alive. It’s your job to just love them.”

Relief rushed over me. For weeks I had felt just so responsible. A tiny human dependent completely on me for survival was more than daunting, it seemed impossible. Of course it seemed impossible, because it was impossible…for me. That was God’s job.

In Isaiah 38 we find a section of narrative, a break from the poetic style most of Isaiah is in, for a story. A true and real adventure in which King Hezekiah finds out very quickly that life is in God’s hands and not His own. It’s a useful lesson for all of us. Each of our lives, held tightly in the hands of God and God alone.

Open your Bibles to Isaiah 38:1-22. I’ll highlight verses 1-3 and 12-20 below.

In those days Hezekiah became sick and was at the point of death. AndIsaiah the prophet the son of Amoz came to him, and said to him, “Thus says the Lord: Set your house in order, for you shall die, you shall not recover.”Then Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the Lord, and said, “Please, O Lord, remember how I have walked before you in faithfulness and with a whole heart, and have done what is good in your sight.” And Hezekiah wept bitterly.

A writing of Hezekiah king of Judah, after he had been sick and had recovered from his sickness:

12 My dwelling is plucked up and removed from me
    like a shepherd’s tent;
like a weaver I have rolled up my life;
    he cuts me off from the loom;
from day to night you bring me to an end;
13     I calmed myself until morning;
like a lion he breaks all my bones;
    from day to night you bring me to an end.

14 Like a swallow or a crane I chirp;
    I moan like a dove.
My eyes are weary with looking upward.
    O Lord, I am oppressed; be my pledge of safety!
15 What shall I say? For he has spoken to me,
    and he himself has done it.
I walk slowly all my years
    because of the bitterness of my soul.

16 O Lord, by these things men live,
    and in all these is the life of my spirit.
    Oh restore me to health and make me live!
17 Behold, it was for my welfare
    that I had great bitterness;
but in love you have delivered my life
    from the pit of destruction,
for you have cast all my sins
    behind your back.
18 For Sheol does not thank you;
    death does not praise you;
those who go down to the pit do not hope
    for your faithfulness.
19 The living, the living, he thanks you,
    as I do this day;
the father makes known to the children
    your faithfulness.

20 The Lord will save me,
    and we will play my music on stringed instruments
all the days of our lives,
    at the house of the Lord.

21 Now Isaiah had said, “Let them take a cake of figs and apply it to the boil, that he may recover.” 

“The father makes known to the children your faithfulness…”

Hezekiah’s prayer to our Father in heaven is so very real. So often we go about our lives in that relative security and then in comes the hard stuff. When we face death as human’s, this is when we can’t help but turn to God. Almost any human being in those last moments, looking death smack dab in the middle of the eye, prays at the very least. Sometimes it’s as simple as

“Why, God?”

“Have mercy.”

“Save me.”

We all have our opinions about God, until mortality shows up on our doorstep, as it did for Isaiah. Suddenly, we need God like we have never needed Him before.

Isaiah’s prayer goes through phases- anguish and uncertainty- to the embrace of mercy and absolute certainty. Isaiah may be one place in the Bible where the stages of grief was laid out for us long before any psychological theory existed.

“I am consigned…”

“…like a weaver I have rolled up my life…”

“…like a lion he breaks all my bones…”

“I moan like a dove…”

“My eyes are weary with looking upward.”

“Be my pledge of safety!”

Can you hear the physical and emotional struggle? Can you hear the doubt? The wrestling? Isaiah says it out loud before the Lord of Hosts. Why?

Because he knew he was invited.

This is part of God’s make up. He is Father to His dear children. He is not just King, although He reigns on the highest throne. He is not just Lord, although He is certainly Master over our lives. He is Father to His much loved children.

You are a child of God.

Just as Hezekiah proclaims his own place before the Lord, so this is your place to claim.

Read Isaiah 38:19 again –

The living, the living, he thanks you,
    as I do this day;
the father makes known to the children
    your faithfulness.

In Isaiah’s psalms, God reassures me and whispers hope in my ear. The father does indeed make known to the children God’s faithfulness, to each one of us, as His precious child. We can share the Good News of God’s salvation as Isaiah does in verse 20, because God the Father has left it open in His Word for all of us to see and hear and be a part of.

Hezekiah is desperate to worship the Lord in response to His faithfulness (v.23), but dear one, the worship began long before recovery. The worship began with the eyes of a child raised up to the Father that longs to embrace us and tend to every wound. Before Isaiah was at peace with what God was working in His life, He turned His face to Him in prayer.

Raise your arms up today and let God hold you. In my opinion the best part of the promise for Hezekiah is found early in the chapter. Look again at the first part of Isaiah 38:5 –

“Thus says the Lord, the God of David your father: I have heard your prayer; I have seen your tears…”

The strong arms of our Father sent Jesus Christ, His Son, to dry our tears with His death and resurrection. One day those tears will be no more in heaven. This promise is for you and for your children, for you and every child of God around you. Each of you a dear child to His Father’s heart.

 

Exploration:

What has been the hardest part of being a mom for you personally or what is your least favorite part of being ill? (Emotional, practical, or gross) 😉

What promise or truth, whether pretty or hard, sticks out to you in Hezekiah’s prayer in Isaiah 38?

Peek ahead to Isaiah 40:1. How does this verse remind us of God’s Fatherly affection for us?

Child Scripture Engagement Tool

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Nations, constitutions, and things that pass away



Day Five – Nations, constitutions, and things that pass away

We, as people living and breathing, like to feel secure. It isn’t an American thing; it isn’t attributed to a specific heritage or culture. I have seen it in nations of poverty and nations of wealth, nations with expanse and nations that are tiny dots on the map, every race, every tribe, every tongue. We like to feel like our feet stand on solid ground, like our lifestyle is stable, our loved ones, our economic status, and our way of life tightly secure.
In fact, I think we prop security up like an idol. We place all our trust in things that appearthat they will not perish, that appear that they will not pass away. Strong armies, glamorous princes, a well spoken president, a bolstered reserve. In reality, history teaches us well that all of these will pass away.
In fact, they will not just pass away. They will in their time, be plucked up.
In Mark 13:1-8, Jesus teaches his disciples and those around Him:
And as he came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher, what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!” And Jesus said to him, “Do you see these great buildings? There will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.” And as he sat on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter and James and John and Andrew asked him privately, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign when all these things are about to be accomplished?” And Jesus began to say to them, “See that no one leads you astray. Many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he!’ and they will lead many astray. And when you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. This must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. These are but the beginning of the birth pains.
(This passage, or at least portions of it, also appear in Matthew 24 and Luke 21.)
           
Buildings have their time. Governments have their time. Nations have their time.
We know, as amillenialists, that we are in the end times. The Old Testament believers waited for the fulfillment of the promised Messiah and we, New Testament believers, await His coming again, when all things will be made new, when our way of life is plucked up by God for something better. Knowing this, knowing what is to come, and that it is all in God’s hands, we can rest our security soundly where it belongs, with Christ. We can pray for our nation. For its place and time in history and ask God to work in and through it, but we do not place our trust in it.
What does all this have to do with our study of Ecclesiastes? Context.
Matthew Henry brings up in his commentary of Ecclesiastes that the language of the Old Testament with uprooting, or plucking up, is almost always in relation to the nation of Israel.
Here’s on example in Jeremiah 12:12-15:
Upon all the bare heights in the desert
    destroyers have come,
for the sword of the Lord devours
    from one end of the land to the other;
    no flesh has peace.
They have sown wheat and have reaped thorns;
    they have tired themselves out but profit nothing.
They shall be ashamed of their
[a] harvests
    because of the fierce anger of the Lord.”
Thus says the Lord concerning all my evil neighbors who touch the heritage that I have given my people Israel to inherit: “Behold, I will pluck them up from their land, and I will pluck up the house of Judah from among them. And after I have plucked them up, I will again have compassion on them, and I will bring them again each to his heritage and each to his land. 
God wanted his people to know that they were chosen people, they were for a place and time, because He had chosen them to bring His son to the world and thereby His saving Grace to every nation on earth. Every nation. His judgment of every nation, every ruler, every person, in their place and time, is perfected in God’s desire for all people to be saved. Thank goodness!
I have no opinions about the current political status of the nation of Israel or America, or any other nation for that matter. What I do care about is that God is secure. God is the solid rock. God is eternal, unshaken, our anchor.
 And so we wake up and we lie down. We live our lives. We pray for our leaders. We pray for our military. We pray for our first responders. We thank and praise God for each and every day He gives us safety, and wealth to be stewards of, and peace in our land.
But trust… our trust we put in Him and Him alone.
Our King of Kings our Prince of Peace. To Him be the glory, forever and ever. Amen.
Discussion questions:
What is your national or cultural heritage? How does this influence you?
In what way can politics or national security be a stumbling block to our faith in God? How can it be a blessing to us?