Distills as the Dew

The LORD commanded Moses to write a song that would testify against Israel in the future. More than likely, this future referred to rebellion leading to exile. The song begins in the first four verses of Deuteronomy 32:

Give ear, O heavens, and I will speak;
And hear, O earth, the words of my mouth.

Let my teaching drop as the rain,
My speech distill as the dew,
As raindrops on the tender herb,
And as showers on the grass.

For I proclaim the name of the LORD:
Ascribe greatness to our God.
He is the Rock, His work is perfect;
For all His ways are justice,
A God of truth and without injustice;
Righteous and upright is He.

Deuteronomy 32.1-4

The words of God are as the replenishing dew of morning. They drop as rain upon the parched ground, even as showers nourishing the grass. The words of God bring comfort and strength as we receive them. They are as replenishing rain from Heaven.

Moses proclaimed the name of the LORD in this song. This means that God’s person and work were made known through it.

7713343C-3F85-4328-B09C-CFEF8F22E44D_4_5005_c

The Person of God

God is the Rock, an everlasting and unchanging mountain where we find a safe haven. He is our refuge in trials and in temptations. He is our immovable foundation. Therefore, our lives are on solid ground. Nothing shakes us. He Himself will never disappoint us. We are right to place our hope in Him. His character is perfect, just, truthful, and righteous.

The Work of God

His work is perfect, and His ways are just. He is good to all. He works all things together for good to those who love Him and to those who are the called according to His purpose (Romans 8.28). He invites us and draws us into His work. He is accomplishing good through us.

Either we strive to know the person and work of God from the replenishing words of God, or we rebel and struggle in sin. Today, it’s important for us to know the character or person of God in order to enter into the work of God.

Mercy Meets justice

Mercy and justice meet in the person of God. This is especially true in our understanding of God the Son, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Dwell upon the mercy of God. It brings peace into our lives like nothing else can. But do not neglect justice. God will judge sin. His eyes are too pure to behold evil. Find the place where mercy meets justice on a hill far from us. There the Lord Jesus was crucified for us. His body broken. His blood shed. His resurrection on the third day. He knew no sin but became sin for you and me so that we might have the righteousness of God in Him (2 Corinthians 5.21).

God Still Works Today

God’s greatness and power make us fearful of His terrifying displeasure and wrath. Still, Jesus Christ will not abandon us. He satisfies the wrath of God for sin. He is our Helper and Protector. Love, mercy, and truth are our confidence as we work, as God works in and through us. We are aware of our unworthiness in all of this. So, we are filled with humility and love for our position before God through the person and work of His Son. May the condition of our lives improve as we find higher ground by the grace of God for the work of God. He still works today.

How I praise Thee, precious Savior,
That Thy love laid hold of me;
Thou hast saved and cleansed and filled me
That I might Thy channel be.

Channels only, blessed Master,
But with all Thy wondrous pow’r
Flowing through us, Thou canst use us
Every day and every hour.

Just a channel full of blessing,
To the thirsty hearts around;
To tell out Thy full salvation,
All Thy loving message sound.

Channels only, blessed Master,
But with all Thy wondrous pow’r
Flowing through us, Thou canst use us
Every day and every hour.

Emptied that Thou shouldest fill me,
A clean vessel in Thy hand;
With no pow’r but as Thou givest
Graciously with each command.

Channels only, blessed Master,
But with all Thy wondrous pow’r
Flowing through us, Thou canst use us
Every day and every hour.

Witnessing Thy pow’r to save me,
Setting free from self and sin;
Thou who boughtest to possess me,
In Thy fullness, Lord, come in.

Channels only, blessed Master,
But with all Thy wondrous pow’r
Flowing through us, Thou canst use us
Every day and every hour.

Jesus, fill now with Thy Spirit
Hearts that full surrender know;
That the streams of living water
From our inner self may flow.

Channels only, blessed Master,
But with all Thy wondrous pow’r
Flowing through us, Thou canst use us
Every day and every hour.

God’s Fury and Unbelief

“Can God prepare a table in the wilderness? …Can He give bread also? Can He provide meat for His people” (Psalm 78.19-20)? It’s one thing for a believer to grapple with questions of unbelief; it’s altogether different for the unbeliever who mocks God. Unbelieving people, especially those given light for so long, suffer because they are unbelieving. The LORD is furious with people who are unbelieving in this way.

We think about Israel’s deliverance through the Red Sea and are bewildered that they could not trust God to provide them bread and water. But be careful about judging Israel. Aren’t you condemning yourself in doing so? We are no better than Israel.  The only thing that keeps us anchored is God’s faithfulness not our own. We might say that our own unbelief engenders the wrath and fury of God to a greater degree because of the greater light we possess.

 

120242CD-E1B2-4F86-9EEA-0826A28654D8_4_5005_c

“I’ll Believe It When I See!”

We don’t really want to call unbelieving people wicked even though God plainly states that they are.  The reason that we don’t is that we have been and are sometimes even now unbelieving.  We participate in the same sin that will consign people to eternal misery in the Lake of Fire.  But God’s words and actions speak with more authority than our emotions. It’s wicked because God says it’s wicked and God shows it’s wicked.

God Says It’s Wicked

Unbelief makes God furious because it is a lack of trust (Psalm 78.22). John says that what God says is greater than what men say.  “He who believes in the Son of God has the witness in himself; he who does not believe God has made Him a liar, because he has not believed the testimony that God has given of His Son” (1 John 5.10).  So, it is pretty wicked to call God a liar by not believing what He has said.  You say, “But I didn’t mean to call God a liar!”  But God says that you have called Him a liar, whether or not you meant to do so.  God says unbelief is wicked.

It’s far more wicked when a child of God has an “I’ll Believe It When I See It” attitude.  The reason this is true is because we believed God to save our eternal souls but don’t believe that He is also able to freely give us all things.  You cannot worship God if you cannot praise Him for future deliverance which you have not yet experienced while undergoing a present trial.  Either you believe what God has said or you don’t. It is wicked because God says it is. Second, it is wicked because God shows it is.

God Shows It’s Wicked

God may not bring a plague upon us after allowing us to partake in fleshly pleasure; however, He is still offended by our unbelief.  Our Father is deeply wounded when His children run to the world for satisfaction because they believe that He cannot satisfy.  They run to food, sex, and entertainment like never before. Shouldn’t we at least consider that a Coronavirus is a demonstration of God’s displeasure with our wicked behavior?

“I’ll Believe It When God Says So!”

Psalm 78 says that the Lord was furious; so a fire was kindled against Jacob, and anger also came up against Israel, because they did not believe in God, and did not trust in His salvation.  So, the text needs some reflection.  What if we believe in God?  What if we trust in His salvation?  The result will not be fury but compassion.  The kindling will be love not anger.  Isn’t that what we want?  We walk by faith and not by sight.

Day after day, moment by moment, Israel had to depend upon the LORD.  They didn’t view that as a good thing.  I’m afraid we are the same way.  When my boys were babies, they couldn’t provide for themselves.  They were utterly dependent upon our care.  But they were not overwhelmed by fear.  They simply cried in anger when they were hungry …cried in anger when they needed to be changed …cried in anger when they were not happy.  They cried in anger …a lot.  But we heard their cries and met their needs.  When they grew, they became a lot more gracious about expressing times of hunger, discomfort, and unhappiness.  However, we still meet their needs. They don’t live in fear that we won’t meet their needs.

If that is true on a human level, how much more so with our Heavenly Father?  We depend upon God in the same way that our children depend upon us.  When difficulties arise, we run to Him.  We expect that He will show Himself powerful and see us through.  If we writhe in discomfort, we cling to Him all the more until He notices us.  As with Job, our attitude must be, “Though He slay me, I will trust in Him!”  Easy to say; hard to live.

Are you discontented?  Are you struggling under the weight of some trial?  Are you questioning the fact that God is powerful enough to help you?  Do you believe that He is able to comfort you?  Perhaps we are like Jonah, sitting under our gourds of self-sufficiency muttering, “It is right for me to be angry, even to death!”  (see Jonah 4.9b)

  • Does the mercy of God run out?
  • Is there any circumstance or situation when God is unable to deliver?
  • Why do we lack confidence?  Nothing is too hard for the Lord.
  • Why are we doubting?
  • Don’t we have the promises of God?  Have you prayed the promises back to Him?  Are you resting in those promises?

It’s not whether or not life is difficult for you right now.  The real test for us is whether or not we are trusting in the promises of God right now.

If you are a child of God, then hold tightly to the hem of His garment.  Don’t let go.  Keep your confidence in Him.  Believe His Word.  Trust His Word.  Faith is the victory.  Your faith saved you; now live in peace.  According to your faith it shall be to you!

 

 

 

Despair to Joy

The current pandemic reminds us of how weak we truly are. I have had conversations with people that have never been sick in their lives. Whenever someone tells me that, I am stunned. It’s just not a part of my experience. I’ve known pain and sickness to a great degree, but some have never known a day without pain or sickness. I’m a mess! I’ve gone through deep waters and fiery trials. This is why I relate to the questions in Psalm 77.7-9:

Will the Lord cast off forever?
And will He be favorable no more?

Has His mercy ceased forever?
Has His promise failed forevermore?

Has God forgotten to be gracious?
Has He in anger shut up His tender mercies?

That I would ask these questions reveal a lot about me. They reveal how I feel about myself and how I feel about God.

How do I feel about myself?

I have everlasting life, but I feel like I have everlasting misery. I really don’t understand why I am a wreck inside. Did I believe in vain? Has God cast me off? Will the fog of despondency ever lift? God could never love someone like me. I have sinned to the point that I’ve been alienated from God. I’m isolated and all alone. God’s mercy and grace have been turned away. My life is a dried up tributary meandering through a wasteland. While I know these things are not true, they are feelings that I have from time to time. They seem so unshakeable.

How do I feel about God?

God is always good and only provides good things for His children. Why doesn’t this comfort me? Maybe it’s because feelings I have about God trouble me. His attributes are for others but against me. God is all-knowing. I tell others this so that they might find comfort in the fact that God knows what they need and knows how to deliver them. But as for me, I only feel guilty and condemned by Him. God is truth, but I wither on the vine because mercy and truth never meet for me. My prayers are not being answered even though God is simply making me wait. “My strength and my hope have perished from the LORD” (Lamentations 3.18).

The questions in Psalm 77 reveal how I feel. They are observations that become my anguish (Psalm 77.10). They are a mark of my weakness or infirmity. I have many weaknesses; therefore, I must remember that the Spirit helps me in my weaknesses (Romans 8.26). I do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with my weaknesses (Hebrews 4.15). I struggle with two core weaknesses.

Impatience

“For I said in my haste, ‘I am cut off from before Your eyes'” (Psalm 31.22a). Asaph concluded in Psalm 73 , “Surely I have cleansed my heart in vain” (73.13a). He didn’t see the big picture. He was too impatient. I’m guilty of this as well. Impatience drove David to think all men were liars (Psalm 116.11). Impatience led Elijah to conclude that he was the only one who had not bowed the knee to Baal. Impatience led Jeremiah to conclude that God had deceived him (Jeremiah 20.7). Impatience breeds contempt and bitterness. I so need the patience of Job: “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him” (Job 13.15).

Unbelief

I don’t often think of unbelief as sin, but it is. My problem is I don’t believe God is all-wise, good, and trustworthy. I might not come out and say it, but I act the part rather nicely. God is the Potter; I am the clay. He has a will for me. He has a purpose in the way I am going. I must hang onto that. “Though the fig tree may not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines; though the labor of the olive may fail, and the fields yield no food; though the flock may be cut off from the fold, and there be no herd in the stalls [appearances] – Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation [faith]” (Habakkuk 3.17-18).

4064A6E2-DEB4-4189-B55B-8C9874808A1DIf I want to know what God will do, I simply look at what God has done. He never changes. If He parted the Red Sea, there is nothing He can’t do for me. I cannot out-sin His mercy and grace. I cannot limit His sovereignty. I can trust in His promises!

  • Will the Lord cast me off forever?  No!
  • Will He be favorable to me no more?  No!
  • Has His mercy ceased forever?  No!
  • Has His promise failed forevermore?  No!
  • Has God forgotten to be gracious?  No!
  • Has He in anger shut up His tender mercies?  No!

Why do I think this way and ask these questions?  That’s a good question! It is my anguish! What a great position and privilege I have as a child of God! I am an heir to the promises. This does not make me presumptuous, but it does elevate me from the morass of despair. The LORD will show me the path of life; in His presence is fullness of joy; at His right hand are pleasures forevermore. I choose to think on these things rather than on former questions.

The Coming Great Reversal

We live in a world where everyone is pretty arrogant. We think that just because we speak, it will come to pass. We vaunt our words up above the Word of God. But Psalm 75 is a corrective for this kind of thinking. The final word is never with man, especially with those who are wicked. It may seem that the kingdoms of men are victorious in the present darkness, but there is only one Kingdom that truly matters, the Kingdom of God.

Ps 75.2Still, all is not right with our world (Psalm 73). Why does the Lord seem silent and inactive (Psalm 74)? God’s interests in this world are inextricably linked to our own (Psalm 75). God manifests strength through His wonderful works (75.1). He chooses the proper time to judge uprightly (75.2-3). The people should not find security in their prestige or power nor speak with hardened hearts and insolent pride (75.5-6). God is sovereign. Everything and everyone are moving according to the way He wills, as water flows in the creases of His hand (75.7). One day the wicked of the earth will drain the contents of God’s cup of wrath right down to the sediment at the bottom of the cup (75.8). The wicked are cut off, but the righteous are exalted (75.9-10).

Dictators, Islamic radicals, selfish materialists, and warrior tribal leaders continue to ruthlessly abuse the power they are allowed to have in this world. The US, China, the European Union, and Russia all view themselves as world powers. The self-interest of every nation causes each to exert itself arrogantly and dominate others. But Psalm 75 encourages us to look to the One who truly holds power over every nation. God will have the last word when it comes to the kingdoms of this world. All will bow the knee to His King. Remember He will choose the proper time to judge uprightly (75.2).

There is a coming great reversal. God will put down the high, arrogant leaders and exalt the dependent, humble, and lowly ones. Jesus said, “Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (Matthew 23.12). The Judge is standing at the door (James 5.9). The cup of God’s wrath and indignation was drained by the Lord Jesus Christ; therefore, believers in His person and work will not be judged for sin. Our cup is the new covenant in the blood of Christ. We drink from this cup and proclaim the death of our Savior for sin until He makes the world right when He comes. All the kingdoms of this world must bow the knee to Him. Even so, come Lord Jesus!

Readjusting Your Perspective

A Fork in the Road

It is good to pour out your heart to God. This is true even when prayer leads to a wrong conclusion. Asaph wasn’t finished praying, but he did conclude that ungodly people are always at ease and increasing in riches. He felt that pursuing holiness was fruitless. This was a painful and troublesome conclusion to him. However, Asaph enters the sanctuary of God and readjusts his perspective in v. 17. When Asaph is finished praying, he reaffirms his relationship with God and readjusts his perspective.

F112E887-86C3-4ADE-AB72-CDF6AC09CF1D_4_5005_c

Photo Credit: Sue Oesterwind

When you pour out your heart to God, you will find that He is good and compassionate toward His children. Many, many believers are so embittered against God because of their circumstances in life. They refuse to face this fact. So many spew their vindictiveness upon others but won’t go to God with all of these corrosive thoughts. Why are we seeking to hide from God what He knows to be true about us?

Asaph considers a fork in the road. One path leads to ungodly thinking (vv. 12-14). A second path leads to godly thinking (vv. 15-16). So when he stops to consider and understand all of this, it was troublesome and painful (v. 16). This is because of his need to readjust from a temporal to an eternal perspective. The “stop and think” time that we have in prayer is important.  We carefully carry out all the possible implications of our thinking. How will this affect others?  Will I later regret my line of thinking and reasoning?

A Progression in Prayer

It is not until Asaph enters the sanctuary of God that he finds his inner compass reminding him of an eternal perspective.  This is in his prayer progression, when he readjusts to an eternal perspective.

His feet are not actually slipping; the wicked are slipping away from the restraining fingers of God. God will eventually let the wicked go. The thinking of the wicked is twisted.  Wrong is right and right is wrong. Their reprobate minds disapprove of God and eternal things. So, God is slowly releasing them from His fingers of restraint. If they do not turn to Him, He will cast them into eternal punishment. Now, Asaph is grieved for an entirely different reason. He no longer envies the wicked; he pities them. This readjustment takes place even as we consider a simple question like, “Where will everyone on this earth be 10,000 years from now?”

Drawing Near to God

We cannot possibly know why God allows certain changes and adversities to come into our lives. Overall, we know what God is doing in each of us. He is forming Christ in us. We are quite proud when we question the wisdom of what God is doing. Our even assume we know what God is doing. Our problem is one of perspective. We limit our understanding to the temporal world instead of tethering our hope to the Eternal God.  We are “so foolish and ignorant; [we are] like beasts before [the LORD]” (Psalm 73.22). It is good for us to draw near to God (73.28a). But how do we draw near to God? We must know and believe He is near. Faith follows facts. Jeremiah wrote, “The LORD is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him” (Lam 3.25).  “It is good for me to draw near to God” (Psalm 73.25a).  How good is it?

  • There is nothing more pleasurable in life than drawing near to God.
  • There is nothing more profitable in life than drawing near to God.

Readjusting and Reaffirming

When I draw near to God, He restrains me from sin, comforts me in trials, fortifies me for battle, and prepares me for glory! When I wander away from Him, there is only eternal death. Reaffirm your relationship with God and readjust your perspective. “It is good for me to draw near to God; I have put my trust in the LORD God” (Psalm 73.28a). What steps are believers able to take to reaffirm and readjust?

  1. Carefully consider your choices and the impact they have on others. We all face a fork in the road daily? Don’t let emotions rule the day. What is real (Philippians 4.8)?
  2. Conclude that God alone is able to help you. “There is none upon earth that I desire besides You” (Psalm 73.25).
  3. Conclude that though your flesh and heart fail, God is the strength of your heart and your portion forever (Psalm 73.26).
  4. Draw near to God and declare all His works (Psalm 73.28).
  5. Keep at this until you stop thinking about the terrible thing that happened to you and end up thinking about the opportunity to solidify your relationship with the living God.
  6. Realize Heaven is waiting for you. The Lord Jesus prepares way, the place, and the body for you to live with the Father forever.
  7. Always believe that God wants to take the worst things that come your way and use them for your good (Romans 8.28).

How tedious and tasteless the hours
When Jesus no longer I see
Sweet prospects, sweet birds and sweet flowers
Have all lost their sweetness to me
The midsummer sun shines but dim
The fields strive in vain to look gay
But when I am happy in Him
December’s as pleasant as May

His name yields the richest perfume
And sweeter than music His voice
His presence disperses all gloom
And makes all within me rejoice.
I would, were He always thus nigh
Have nothing to dread or to fear
No mortal so happy as I
My summer would last all the year

Content with beholding His face
My all to His pleasure resigned
No changes of season or place
Could make any change in my mind
So blessed in the light of His love
A toy would a palace appear
And prisons would palaces prove
If Jesus would dwell with me there

Dear Lord, if indeed I am Thine
If Thou art my sun and my song
Say, why do I languish and pine
And why are my winters so long
Lord, drive these dark clouds from my sky
Thy soul-cheering presence restore
Or take me up with Thee on high
Where winter and clouds are no more

– John Newton

Slighted but Sincere

“Better is the one who is slighted but has a servant, than he who honors himself but lacks bread” (Proverbs 12:9). It is better to be slighted, ignored, or a nobody and yet have a servant than to pretend to be a somebody and have nothing to eat. This is a sobering warning about pride and pretentiousness. You can only live on this razor’s edge so long; eventually, you will end up impoverished.

My wife was a bank teller in an affluent township in the San Francisco Bay Area. When customers came through the doors, she often noticed the difference between those who had money and those who didn’t. Customers pulled into the bank parking lot with expensive vehicles, came through the door in designer clothing, and shuffled money around to meet debt obligations. They were barely making it.

Some customers drove into the lot with older vehicles that were still well maintained. They entered with clothing that was clean but not ostentatious. Some even took advantage of the free coffee or mints in the lobby. They came to deposit money in accounts that were burgeoning with millions of dollars.

The former group was pretentious; the latter impoverished. May the Lord help us to understand the difference.

Resort to Refuge

IMG_8226

Photo Credit: Sue Oesterwind

Be my strong refuge, to which I may resort continually (Psalm 71.3).

God’s Resort: A Mark of Mercy and a Manifestation of Comfort

God’s strong refuge is both a mark of His mercy and a manifestation of His comfort. I don’t deserve the privilege of the amazing access to the Father that I now have. When I find my way to
Him, I find comfort. The comfort is unsurpassable. Sometimes we don’t find such comfort because we are too busy building our own places of refuge. We hide in the shanties of pleasure or popularity. God is the only worthy refuge to whom I may resort continually. Why is He the right choice for us?

God’s Refuge: A Wise Choice

First, it’s the smart thing to do; it’s the wise choice. When you think of just the little things that consume Christians in our country, it is frightening to think of a future filled with real and persistent persecution. As a church, we must be taught to fail in our own strength. It is the most merciful thing God can do in order to teach us to resort to Him continually.

When God is our refuge, there is always hope even in the most miserable situations here on earth. Believers who resort to God during these times find that out. They are truly wise. We must conclude that it is the height of foolishness to ignore the refuge we’ve been given in God. Let us go to Him continually. Let us rely upon His omnipotent arm instead of our feeble attempts to deliver ourselves. Jeremiah wrote, “Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart departs from the LORD …Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, and whose hope is the LORD” (Jeremiah 17.5, 7).

It really is a no-brainer as they say. Fire and brimstone (and disease) are already coming upon the face of Sodom. It’s time to flee to our strong refuge; to resort in Him continually.

God’s Refuge: A Loyal Choice

Second, it’s the loyal thing to do. Loyalty matters to God. When you look for a refuge in anyone or anything else, God will not put up with it for long. He is a jealous God …He has perfect jealousy. The psalmist was loyal to God because he experienced the all-sufficiency of God in his weakness.

Only God has the power to protect you. Only God loves you enough to provide you with what you need instead of what you want. If we don’t read and study verses like Psalm 71.3, it would never occur to us to pray as the psalmist did. You discover who God is and what He wants to do for you by studying the Psalms. Until you know God’s character, you’ll never really understand why people are willing to forsake everything and everyone else in order to serve Him.

The wonderful thing about God’s character is that as we discover Him together, we will conclude that He indeed is our refuge through all generations (Psalm 90.1). When we flee to Him, we find comfort and security even in the midst of great chaos.

Resort to Refuge

We ought to have great pity upon those who still struggle to find a strong Refuge to whom they may resort. If they think that their troubles are burdensome now, just think of the terror that awaits them in Hell after they die! People who fight against God will one day find that they fight against the Creator of all. But if they pursue a relationship with God, they will have a peace that protects and keep their hearts for this life and the life to come.

Yet I hasten to add that those of us who have made the LORD a refuge and dwelling place may be assured that “no evil shall befall” us (Psalm 91.9-10). “The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe” (Proverbs 18.10). When we pray, let us ask that God be a strong refuge, to which we may resort continually (Psalm 71.3).