“Faithfulness in an Ungodly World”

Faithfulness

Daniel 1 to 3 In our study of Ezekiel, we were challenged to live righteously in an unrighteous world. Ezekiel persevered for over 25 yrs. Daniel will do the same for over 70 +/- yrs. Both were models of what it means to be faithful and steadfast in challenging circumstances. Whereas Ezekiel faced his alone, Daniel had three friends to walk with him. All four were nobles or part of the upper class in Jerusalem, yet in Babylon, Ezekiel lived in a refugee camp by the river. Daniel and his three friends lived in somewhat luxurious quarters in the King’s palace. All were used by God to show the other captives and the wicked King that there is only one God, Yahweh.

God allowed Nebuchadnezzar to take the ripe and full-fleshed figs in the first wave and the treasures of the Temple. [see Jer 24]  He would protect them by placing the captives in quarantine and the Temple treasures in his god’s treasury. There they would lay protected until the 70 yr. captivity drew to a conclusion.

God allowed all of them to face tests to prove to the Judahites, the King, and us, that God alone is supreme. Daniel and his three friends would face the test of purity vs. defilement and faithfulness vs. unfaithfulness. God blessed them and allowed them to live and work in ungodly environments where they became role models of righteousness.

Today we live and move in a world that is more and more ungodly. We will be presented with tests to prove to others that God is God.

Will we pass or fail the tests?

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“Will you trust God?”

Will you choose to trust God

Ezekiel 22 – 24 If you are an enthusiast of old English movies, you know that servants obey without question. Ezekiel is known as the servant who obeys whether he understands or not. Are we? The Lord graciously prepared Ezekiel to be a sign to the exiles through his response to his wife’s untimely death. God told him, “I am about to take the delight of your eyes away from you with a jolt, but you must not mourn or weep or shed tears.” And it happened just as the Lord had said. In the evening, his wife died, and Ezekiel did just as the Lord commanded. Ezekiel did not question: “why, Lord?”

“The death of Ezekiel’s wife prefigured the loss of the temple, which was “the delight of [the Jews’] eyes.” God strove to make His intent clear so that the people would have no excuse. Despite the hardship in the loss of Ezekiel’s wife and Temple, all would be for Israel’s good (vv. 19–27). Through the trouble, the people would come to know that He is the Lord.” (Ligonier ministries)Li

Like the English servants, Ezekiel obeyed and did not mourn, and the exiles as well were not to mourn the tragic news of the loss of their Temple.  Ezekiel trusted God’s purpose even as he experienced this tragedy. 

How about us? Do we trust God enough to be obedient even when we don’t understand all of the reasons behind His request?  

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Ebed who????

BE a hero

Jeremiah 37 -39 Novels and mysteries have cliff hanger episodes to keep us riveted to the plot. Jeremiah’s book is no different, and chapter by chapter, we are privy to the plans of the villains and heroes. The villains don’t believe Jeremiah the prophet, and so plot to keep the cowardly vacillating king, Zedekiah, from surrendering.

Zedekiah vacillates between keeping Jeremiah safe and yielding to the villains—even after hearing Jeremiah tell him the best option.  In the middle of this, Jeremiah’s fateful mistake leads to him being caught and hidden in a covered muddy cistern. While the villains are busy slapping each other on the back for getting rid of Jeremiah, Ebed Melech, a court servant, is busy convincing Zedekiah to let him free Jeremiah out of the cistern.  Zedekiah for once wisely listens and allows Ebed to free Jeremiah.

Ebed Melech is the courageous man of the hour.

Through this entire chapter, we have God’s eyes to see who would be true to Him. It turns out that it wasn’t an Israelite but a courageous Ethiopian who becomes Jeremiah’s savior.  In his humility, he never asks for a reward but God saw and spared him when the Babylonians took Jerusalem.

You never know when God will use you to be the person of the hour, but this one thing you can be certain of:

God rewards humility, faithfulness, and courage.

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Eternally Secure

Eternally secure

Isaiah 49 Of all the disciples, only John remained at the cross and witnessed the death of Jesus. In the evening, Jesus came and stood before them, but Thomas was absent. He had said I will not believe unless I can put my hands in the holes where the nails penetrated. Jesus lovingly came and offered Thomas that witness, and he responded, “My Lord and my God.” 

One of the many questions men ask is: Can I be sure of my salvation? Am I eternally secure, or can I lose my salvation? “Scripture clearly affirms the fact we are protected by the power of God through faith. Faith brings us into a grace relationship with God as a gift of God through the merit of His beloved Son. We are saved by His record, not ours.” [H. Keathley III]

Although we haven’t had the privilege of visually seeing the holes as Thomas did, we do have the Prophet Isaiah’s and the Apostle John’s words: “I [God] have inscribed your name on my palms.” [Is 49:16] Jesus said: “My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.” [John 10:29] Each time you close your hands to shield your palms, picture yourself securely enfolded in his.

Today as you wash your hands, fold your hands in prayer, or go about your daily duties, stop and look at your hands and picture your name inscribed on His. 

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“From Womb to Tomb”

God knows our destiny

Isaiah 46 Never fear my precious senior saints; God has it all taken care of. He promises that He will carry us from birth to the grave. He has made us just as the psalmist said in [Ps 139:15] “my bones were not hidden from you when I was made in secret and sewed together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw me when I was inside the womb. All the days ordained for me were recorded in your scroll before one of them came into existence”

Remember this wise counsel from the pen of the psalmist: The righteous shall flourish like a palm tree,
He shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon. Those who are planted in the house of the LORD Shall flourish in the courts of our God. They shall still bear fruit in old age; they shall be fresh and flourishing. [Psalm 92:14]

 No matter where you are on life’s continuum, know this truth: there will never come a time when you don’t need to depend upon God and there will never come a time when He is in need of being cared for by us for He is the true, eternal and holy God. “I am God and there is none like me.” Job described him as unchangeable and so He is. “But he is unchangeable, and who can change him? Whatever he has desired, he does.” [Job 23:13]

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“Checkmate”

The game of chess

 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.]

Checkmate: God will have the last move. 

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Trust in Horses/Chariots or God?

Trust God

Isaiah 30/31 God speaks to His children through Isaiah: woe to you who makes alliances with those who are not My Sheep. You are a rebellious people who refuse to listen to the instruction of the Lord. You are saying we don’t want to hear any more about the Holy One of Israel. To the prophets, you say don’t prophesy to us what is right, speak to us of pleasant words, prophesy illusions. Does this not sound just like today?  

2Ti 4:3 “For there will be a time when people will not tolerate sound teaching. Instead, following their own desires, they will accumulate teachers for themselves because they have an insatiable curiosity to hear new things.” 

And so they will seek an alliance with “Egypt.” It is like God saying, what did you not learn after 430 yrs. of bondage? These are the very ones who held you captive, and only after ten plagues did they release you! Their gods did not save them, and they won’t save you. Why do you trust in them instead of the Holy One of Israel?

If you are like these to whom Isaiah was speaking, return to Him, and trust Him. He alone is God and will be gracious to you. He is waiting.

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What do you choose: Faith or Fear?

Which do you choose?

Isaiah 7:9b and 26:3 Have you ever asked someone what or whom do they fear? What would they be willing to forfeit? Jesus told the disciples that He would always be with them and if that is true why then do we fear? The principle is found in Is 7: “If your faith does not remain firm, then you will not remain secure.” In other words, if your faith is not enough to face the dangers of others or circumstances your faith is not faith at all.

Let me give you an illustration. There was a woman to whom I was speaking and presenting the gospel. Our conversation began with this question: what do you put your faith in? She nodded through it all but when I came to the question about surrendering her life to Jesus she balked—no, in fact she said she would NOT trust Christ. Her reasoning was that she would have to give up her immoral relationship to follow Christ. She was more fearful of losing the man with whom she was now living than spending eternity in hell. Unlike the Samaritan woman at the well, she turned away from salvation.

Perhaps that is you. God is asking you to put your faith in Him. He asks that question so that you would know He will keep you in perfect peace because your faith is holding firm on God and because you chose to trust in Him.  

Joshua asked the Israelites to choose whom they would worship, God or the gods of their ancestors. They had to choose between faith or fear. Where are you today?

Photo: Sincerely Media on Unsplash

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Mountains, God’s Voice & Trust

Psalm 125: A mountain can withstand a storm’s fury standing tall and erect, yet from a spoken word from the God of the universe, the rocks can tumble forth. The psalmist recalls a time when it seemed like life’s troubles, like tumbling rocks, came calling. The nation was experiencing all of the dangers the evil one would or could plan against them. They needed a reminder that “if” they trusted in the LORD, they would know He is both deliverer and the creator of heaven and earth.

The prophet Elijah had to learn that valuable lesson, and he learned in a mountain cave 40 days after he ran away from his victory at Mt. Carmel.

Like us, Elijah was sure he knew God on Mt. Carmel. However, when Jezebel sent a scathing message of imminent death, he fell into depression and ran away. Sound like us? Satan likes to send us into a dither right after a victory.  After running forty days, Elijah found himself in a mountain cave where he heard God’s voice. “What are you doing here, Elijah?”  But, God’s voice was not in an earthquake or wind but the still soft, whisper of God. In the same way, God speaks to us in His Word not in a storm but in His quiet whisper.

 Have you just experienced a victory? Be on guard, Satan is ready for the attack.

Stand still and hear God’s still quiet voice.

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Standing Firm

Trust and Obey

Psalm 112 The world clamors for peace and harmony, yet they deny the radical conversion that Christ performs when one yields to Him and chooses to bear His yoke. They choose ridicule rather than the path of godliness—yet they cannot deny the evidence which stares them in the face. They cannot understand how it is possible to stand firm when faced with adversity. They are like Job’s comforters, which could not wrap their minds around Job’s intense faithfulness amid the worst tragedies to befall a man. How could he sit in ashes and mourn yet keep his faith in God?

What was his secret?

Like the psalmist, Job, and the saints who chose Christ, they knew the blessing of walking in harmony with God. Each decided to let God train them to walk beside Him in the furrows of the good, bad, and ugliness of life and then recorded their steps on parchment for us to read.  It is titled  “trust and obey – there is no other way.” They could then see beyond the temporal circumstances to the eternal reward for those who walk uprightly. They submitted their will, heart, and mind to Him.  They chose not to be conformed to this world but transformed by the renewing of their mind.  They knew no matter the circumstances of life: “The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away. May the name of the Lord be blessed.” Therefore, we like the psalmist can say: “I will not be shaken, and I will remember Him who is just and knows the beginning from the end.”

What choice have you made?

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