Deut 1 There will always be those who seek to discourage us in the battle that God has set before us. God permitted the Israelites to “spy” out the land. They brought back evidence to God’s gracious words of a land of milk and honey. They saw the evidence, but it was not enough. The giants loomed in their minds, and so they brought back a bad report. Satan uses the giants in our lives to discourage us and cause us not to trust God. But, God is greater than any giant, and Caleb and Joshua were a testimony to how they saw them. Do we see the giants in our life as impediments to stepping forward to victory? Do we let him cause us to waver and forget the faithfulness of God in the past? James reminds us of that principle: he who wavers is unstable and God will not bless. [James 1 paraphrased]
The Israelites had an opportunity to trust God, but they chose not to. Thus, God removed His protection from them when they decided they had sinned but would go forward. If we choose disobedience when He specifically says obey, we will not be blessed. God gives us tests to see if we will obey. How presumptuous to think God will provide us with a second chance to obey? [Psalm 19:13] Do not tempt God!
Tough words to live by, but they are a reminder of God’s will for our lives and what He expects us to do.
Numbers 22 Just as we test metals to determine their worth, so God tests our hearts to know it’s worth, and as Paul prayed, so should we: That “our God will make [us] worthy of His calling.” [2Thess 1:11] Enter Balaam, the son of Beor, a false diviner whose worth will be proven. When the Moabite King sent a delegation, God intervened by asking Balaam, “Who are these men?” Balaam kept up a dialog with God about them, and on the surface, it seems that he was obeying. However, as we see, Balaam fell headlong into the temptation of earthly riches, which was more potent than obeying God. Like many today, Balaam tried to appear righteous by his answer that he could not curse Israel, but his actions prove the opposite. Balaam sought ways to obey God and yet get the riches the King offered.
The last test came when God explicitly tested Balaam when he said: “if” these men have come to call you, get up and go with them. But Balaam didn’t wait for the “if” clause and instead got up and went.
Today God tests our hearts just as He did Balaam’s. Therefore, we must ask God for his wise counsel and we must stand firm. God gives us tests to discern if we will obey His voice or our own.
Genesis 44 and 45 As 21st-century believers, we are more apt to study the NT over the OT but hidden in the OT are the truths that the NT reveals. Take, for example, the life of Joseph. His faithfulness in the times of suffering without complaint but seeking to understand the why is ever-present. Perhaps that was on James’ mind when he wrote: “the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect effect so that you will be perfect and complete, not deficient in anything. But he must ask in faith without doubting.” [James 1:3-5]
In a time of intense temptation, God did indeed provide a way of escape. [1Cor 10:13] We may not have called false imprisonment the way out, but God used that time to hone Joseph to be a master organizer and leader. Who would have thought? Joseph’s faith was tested, and his words attest to that: “How could I do such a great evil and sin against God.”[Gen 39:9] In and out of the prison-house, Joseph honored God before his fellow prisoners and Pharaoh as he testified, “don’t interpretations belong to God?” [Gen 40:8]
When you are facing suffering or a trial, cling to these verses of comfort, knowing that God’s truth is “all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.”[Rom 8:28]
Ge 27 to 29: Isaac and Rebekah were praying parents, yet they seemed to have become impatient in their old age. Much like Sara and Abraham, they decided that God wasn’t doing things on “their” timetable, or surely God had forgotten the “plan.” Jacob is to receive the blessing according to the prophecy yet the seeds of deception which began in the Garden are still alive and well. “Isaac loved Esau…but Rebekah loved Jacob.” [Gen 25:28]That set the stage for the enemy to continue his web of deception and lies; hoodwinking us into thinking this is really what we should do. “Is it really true that God said…” [Gen 3:1] And so, Isaac and Rebekah took matters into their own hands. Surely God must remember that the firstborns are to receive the family and covenantal blessing, right? There is a warning here: God’s plans are higher than ours. [Is 55:9] Isaac’s plan to deceive will soon be circumvented by Rebekah’s, and the pattern will continue for years to come. What a tangled web we weave when we first set out to deceive.
How often are you and I, like Isaac and Rebekah, saying yes to God but later thinking God needs our help to complete the plan. How easily Satan can deceive us to follow his plan and not God’s. Isaiah reminds us that God’s plans are superior to ours. He tests us to see if we will wholly trust both the timetable and the plan! [Is 55:9-12]
Genesis 22 to 24 When you face a test of your faith and find yourself wavering, return to the story of Abraham. God in His providence tested Abraham’s faith over and over, yet he failed—how like us! Finally, God gave Abraham the hardest test ever; go and sacrifice your only son as a burnt offering on Mt. Moriah—a three-day journey from where he was. We do not see Abraham questioning nor asking for wisdom to understand the why’s. Abraham was not like the waves of the sea as they ebb and flow. [James 1:6] Instead, he was like Paul’s description: steadfast and immovable. [1Cor 15:58] After many failures, Abraham’s faith could trust in Jehovah Jireh (the God who provides), and thus “he was ready to offer up his only son.” [Heb 11:17]
As Abraham and Isaac and the servants traveled, we wonder what his thoughts were—but the scriptures are silent. Instead, Abraham faithfully went about his business as if today was not any different than yesterday. That is how God orchestrates our days; today will be much the same as yesterday and tomorrow. The only inkling Abraham had of what lay ahead was what he told Isaac: “God will provide for Himself the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” [Gen 22:8]
Do we trust God in the hard and easy times as Abraham did?
He is a model for us in trusting God to provide all of our needs.
Job 29 to 31 Today we see many homeless people here and there. If you take time to talk with them, you may hear some of the same dialogs that Job was having with himself, his friends, and God. Like Job, they begin the age-old “why” me and “why” this. Some will admit to their past sins, but others, like Job, can recount their lives and not see the answers. James reminds us that when we are in a trial to ask for wisdom and that is what Job is doing. May you be encouraged to know that just as Job wondered, he still trusted God. You can as well. When in a trial, look at the past and then ask: Has God been faithful? If you can answer yes, then why would He not be faithful now? That is why God can be trusted even if you never learn the reason until eternity.
Although Job has been through the fire and continues to feel the heat, one thing he knows is this: God knows the end from the beginning. “Does he not see my ways and count all my steps?” [Job 31: 4] Therefore, no matter how bad life has become and how despondent Job is over this strange set of circumstances, he will not walk away from his belief that God is God and He knows the reason.
The bottom line is this: If Job or we fail here, Satan wins. TRUST GOD so you can say you passed the test.
From the peace in the Garden to the shining sword to keep man from re-entering after he sinned to facing the ultimate trial in man. It is here that we find the man Job. God knows Job, and God knows us. God describes him as blameless and upright, but even more that he is God’s servant. When we face a trial, whether by the hand of God or Satan, are we seen as the servant of God? God knew, but Satan did not, how he would face this trial. We may face the battleground but know this: we are God’s servants, and He knows how we will face each trial.
Beloved, we are in a spiritual battle. Paul describes it as: “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” Therefore: Put on the whole armor of God that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. Paul tells us later in the 6th chapter of Ephesians that our armor includes the belt of truth; the breastplate of righteousness, shoes of peace; the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
What trial are you facing this day? Will God announce to Satan that you are His servant?
Isaiah 36-37 In the 1930’s Al Capone ruled Chicago. He taunted those who did not want to pay him for protection, and if they didn’t, he took note and sent his thugs to “take care of the problem.” Sennacherib was the Capone Hezekiah faced. His thugs were Rabshakeh and his contingent. They mocked God and repeated “Capone/Sennacherib’s” words: “what is your source of confidence….in whom are you trusting.” Capone thought he could play the game of chess with Hezekiah. They surmised that Hezekiah would then be shaking in his boots and succumb to their threats as he had done previously. Hezekiah’s advisors Eliakim and Hilkiah indeed returned to Hezekiah with their clothes torn as a sign they were demoralized just as Rabshekah had hoped.
In the last encounter, Hezekiah did not entrust himself to the Lord. We see that this time Hezekiah went up to the temple and laid the letter before the Lord. The prophet Isaiah told Hezekiah that he would put hooks in the jaws of this “Capone” and send him packing back to his home country because Hezekiah sought God’s help.
God gave Hezekiah three principles that teach us truths about living in a “Capone” world. [Is 37:31]: remain steadfast—Paul said much the same in [1 Cor 15: 58], “be ye steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord.” Secondly, take root where you are and remain firm in your faith; [Col 2:7]. Thirdly bear fruit that proves your repentance; [Matt 3:8.]
2 Kings 18 Hezekiah lived in a time when Judah had prophets like Isaiah to guide and teach. Hezekiah was mentored by him nearly all his life, yet Hezekiah had two areas of weakness: fear of men and pride. Hezekiah fell into the trap of fear when Assyria threatened his kingdom. Although the Assyrian king accepted his tribute, like Satan, he upped the ante and Hezekiah prostrated himself before the Lord. That is how Satan works; he will give a little only to take a lot. Beware of Satan’s tactics. He is our arch enemy.
Hezekiah fell ill unto death, and Isaiah tells him God is
knocking at his eternal destiny door. Hezekiah
wept before God and reminded God of his faithfulness and he was healed. But,
then another enemy, Babylon, comes knocking and Hezekiah is fooled by their
gifts and get well wishes. Hezekiah’s heart was proud of his wealth and missed
an opportunity to share the power of prayer and God. The Chronicle writer notes that God left
Hezekiah alone to “test what was in his heart.” Pride is one of Satan’s masterful
Hezekiah possessed God’s blessings, and God approved him, but he failed in these two areas and missed the golden opportunities God placed in his path.
Exodus 35-37 When I am tested, I will come forth as gold”
In Egypt, God tested his people in a severe trial of slavery. It was there that the Israelites were trained in skills such as jewelry, woodworking, and weaving. God now would call upon those skills to build His Tabernacle or dwelling place. While the people groaned under the pressure, God was forging His people to excel. He does the same for us today. We may not see or understand but know this truth: God is preparing all of us to do His kingdom work. God blessed these workers and they left Egypt with gifts of gold, silver and precious jewels in abundance, enough to pay their wages of 400+ years. As the people looked at their abundance they may have wondered why and for what purpose they had gleaned these treasures. When the perfect time came the people’s hearts were overflowing and they willingly gave so much that Moses had to tell them to stop giving!
Fast forward to the NT and we find the admonition to set aside some income for the service of the church. Imagine if today people gave and gave and gave and then had to be told to stop giving! How many missionaries could we send? How many children’s programs could we provide? How blessed our churches would be if this were true.