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The water’s fine, come on in
Deuteronomy 20: Don’t waver in resolve. Don’t fear. Don’t hesitate. Don’t panic. God, your God, is right there with you.
A dad is teaching his son to swim and his approach is quite reasonable. Dad doesn’t relax on the lounge chair and tell his son, “If you need me, I’ll be right here.” Instead, Dad gets into the pool and then beckons his son, “Come on in, I’m right here and I’ll help you.” Moses is instructing the spiritual leaders of the people of Israel. Soon these people will cross the Jordan River and engage the armies of the nations of Canaan. They’ll be outnumbered and will face experienced armies in numerous battles. Moses instructs the spiritual leaders of the land to prepare God’s people for battle by encouraging them to be strong and courageous. The reason for confidence is that God is going into the battle with them. Moses is about to depart but the Lord isn’t going anywhere. Instead, thick or thin, he’ll be with them all the way. God is never a sideline spectator to our lives. Of course he’s near when things are going well. He’s also near in the darkness of night. As my spirit trembles he reaches out to me, reassuring me that it’ll be okay because he’s right here and he’ll help me through it all.
Take Away: Everything in life changes, but God remains faithful.
The God who never fails
Habakkuk 3: Counting on God’s Rule to prevail, I take heart and gain strength.
The little book of Habakkuk is all about the prophet’s concern with how God works in the world. How can a holy God use such an unrighteousness people as those of Babylon to accomplish his purposes? The Lord answers his question, first, by assuring Habakkuk that he’s aware of sin and rebellion and that it will be judged. The second answer, I think, is when the prophet sees God, in his holiness, enter his Temple. Such a vision of God produces an awed silence and an undeniable assurance that God is God. Because of that, whatever happens will be the right thing. Habakkuk breaks out in praise, writing what might be called a “displaced psalm.” The final chorus, in particular, states an unshakable trust in the Lord. “Though the cherry trees don’t blossom and the strawberries don’t ripen…I’m singing joyful praise to God…counting on God’s Rule to prevail.” This hymn is a powerful expression of trust in God. Even when the enemy attacks, even when life takes an unwelcome turn, even when all else fails…even then I rejoice in the One who never fails.
Take Away: Even when live is confusing and painful…even then, God is God and God never fails.
Taking the “rest of the story” by faith
Jeremiah 39: I’ll most certainly save you.
The hero who rescued Jeremiah from the muddy prison is Ebed-melek. Now, as Jerusalem totters on the brink of destruction Jeremiah seeks him out. The Lord has a message specifically for this hero, and it’s a good one. The Lord has taken note of this good man’s courage and faithfulness. Things are going to get really bad very soon but Ebed-melek is going to be spared because God’s going to see to it. In a sense, we see here God’s message to all those who are faithful to him. There’s no promise for any of us of an easy life in which bad things never come, but there is the promise of God’s watch care over us. It must have been, at the same time, welcome and unbelievable news for Ebed-melek. Of course, he’s happy to hear such a message from Jeremiah, God’s prophet. At the same time, he, and all Jerusalem, is very aware of the mighty army that’s poised on their doorstep. The reality of it all nearly overwhelms the message of assurance from Jeremiah. It’s the same for you and me. The hard facts of pain and disappointment and disaster can nearly obliterate the promise of God’s presence. Still, none of that negates it. Interestingly, the writer of the sacred text doesn’t follow up on the story. Jeremiah promises Ebed-melek that God will save him and that’s it. Maybe there’s a lesson for us in what isn’t included here. We’re to read this promise and conclude that, even though we don’t know the details, God keeps his word. In the same way, I, right in the middle of life without any specific knowledge of what’s coming, must conclude that God will “most certainly save” me too.
Take Away: Even we don’t know how he’s going to do it we can rest assured that the Lord will, indeed, keep his promises.