1 Samuel 31: Saul…died…that day.
He came to a pitiful end. Saul, as a young man, was chosen by God, himself, to lead Israel. His very stature dominates a room. Even strong warriors were willing to follow his leadership. This capable man could bring order, peace, and safety to those under his command. But he’s also a deeply flawed man who could hear the direction of God and then ignore it to do what seems best to him at the time. Also, he’s an empty man. When he rejects God’s authority in his life God rejects him. From that day onward, life drains out of Saul, leaving him just a shell of what he could have been. Now, pursued by his enemies and fleeing in defeat, he meets his end on Mount Gilboa, wounded and then falling on his own sword. Saul’s story is one of unfulfilled possibilities. He had every reason to go down in history as Israel’s first and greatest king. Instead, he dies without God and without hope. He arrives here because of his own decisions. His epitaph simply reads, “A disappointment.”
Take Away: It all starts with our simply obeying the voice of the Lord in our lives.
Telling it like it is
Habakkuk 1: Why are you silent now?
The complaint of the prophet to God is startling. He comes to the Lord and lays it all on the table, confessing his confusion and disappointment. He knows God to be righteous and loving but what he sees happening has none of that in it. The godless army of Babylon is destroying God’s chosen people and that doesn’t make sense to Habakkuk. Not only that, but his prayers go unanswered. Why, of all times, does the Almighty choose this dark hour to go silent? Where is God when evil is winning the day? Does God’s use of unrighteous people to achieve his purposes make God, himself, unrighteous? Habakkuk writes more on this topic, including a report on how God finally responds to his questions. However, today I’m taken with how he goes into the presence of the Lord to state his fear and disappointment. There’s something refreshing about Habakkuk’s approach to the Lord here. Habakkuk isn’t irreverent toward the Almighty, but he openly expresses his disappointment in how the Lord is doing (maybe better, isn’t doing) things at this point. I know I’m called to trust the Lord no matter what, but if I’m having doubts the Lord wants me to bring them to him. To pretend I believe when I don’t does me no good and is dissatisfying to the Lord as well.
Take Away: Better to victoriously march on in overcoming faith but when there is doubt we can be frankly honest with the Lord.
Living in the “right now”
Isaiah 43: Forget about what’s happened; don’t keep going over old history.
This passage was especially meaningful to me several years ago when I was going through a major change in my life. At the time, I was dealing with some “baggage” from the past even as I prepared to move forward. As I read this portion of Isaiah the Lord seemed to highlight these words. I needed to focus on what God was doing right then and move forward into that. This passage inspired me to look forward with confidence. The Lord was about to do a new thing and he was going to let me be a part of it. How about you? Is there something from your past that needs to be forgotten? If so, let the Lord help you to do that. The place to start is to refuse to keep thinking about it. “Don’t keep going over old history.” Every time it comes to mind, reject it. Then, replace those memories by concentrating on the “new thing” God is doing in you and through you. Live in what God is doing right now rather than in some past disappointment.
Take Away: Is there something from your past that needs to be forgotten?
On the solid Rock I stand
Isaiah 40: God doesn’t come and go. God lasts.
Sooner or later everything fails us. Some failures come on purpose and can be considered betrayal. Others come by accident but are painful none-the-less. Still others come with great reluctance; such as the death of a loved one who promised to be with us always. Sometimes I make something that was never intended to be permanent into a centerpiece in my life. When the time comes for it to be taken away it becomes, spiritually speaking, a surgery rather than a simple letting go. Because of the temporary nature of this life, I must remember the truth of Isaiah’s words here. There’s only one place of absolute firm footing and that’s on the solid rock of God. He’s the only One who never fails. As I take my stand on the rock of his faithfulness everything else falls into its proper place. I can weather betrayal because One vastly greater has not betrayed me. I can survive some thoughtless, accidental failure and I can find hope even in genuine personal disasters because my hope isn’t focused there in the first place. Everything else comes and goes. If I’ve pinned my hopes and dreams on anything or anyone else, I’ll become a sad, broken man. The only stability I really have (and need) is in the Lord.
Take Away: There’s only one place of absolute firm footing and that’s on the solid rock of the Lord.