Sunday, March 26, 2017, 10:23 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Near the Cross.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Isaiah 40:18-31 (NASB).
Who is God like? (vv. 18-20)
To whom then will you liken God?
Or what likeness will you compare with Him?
As for the idol, a craftsman casts it,
A goldsmith plates it with gold,
And a silversmith fashions chains of silver.
He who is too impoverished for such an offering
Selects a tree that does not rot;
He seeks out for himself a skillful craftsman
To prepare an idol that will not totter.
Depending upon to whom it is we are listening, we may get differing images of God in our minds. Even our childhoods, our upbringings, and/or our church histories help to shape our images of God in our minds. People throughout our lives influence our concepts of God and who he is and how he works. Also, our life’s circumstances often play a considerable role in how we view God, as do our education systems, family life, friends, neighbors, co-workers, TV, the internet, technology, and the culture of today’s world. In fact, we may even create our own god in our minds in the image of humans so that we can live life however we want without God’s interference.
Don’t You Know? (vv. 21-26)
Do you not know? Have you not heard?
Has it not been declared to you from the beginning?
Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth?
It is He who sits above the circle of the earth,
And its inhabitants are like grasshoppers,
Who stretches out the heavens like a curtain
And spreads them out like a tent to dwell in.
He it is who reduces rulers to nothing,
Who makes the judges of the earth meaningless.
Scarcely have they been planted,
Scarcely have they been sown,
Scarcely has their stock taken root in the earth,
But He merely blows on them, and they wither,
And the storm carries them away like stubble.
“To whom then will you liken Me
That I would be his equal?” says the Holy One.
Lift up your eyes on high
And see who has created these stars,
The One who leads forth their host by number,
He calls them all by name;
Because of the greatness of His might and the strength of His power,
Not one of them is missing.
So, sometimes we have to unlearn what we learned wrong about God. For instance, I was abused as a child by my father. Yet, I grew up attending church gatherings. I believed in Jesus as my Savior when I was about 7 years old. I knew he loved me. I knew he cared about me, and that he was there to comfort me and heal me. Yet, even though I was taught the sovereignty of God, I had this idea down deep inside of me that said God couldn’t do anything about my circumstances. I really felt as though man had power over me over which God had no power or control. In my conscious mind I did not believe this, but my actions proved otherwise.
I carried this belief into my adult life. I can remember one time emphatically saying to God, “But God, you don’t understand!” And, I really believed that, too. It was then, I think, that I began to learn about the sovereignty of God, but when things got tough in my life, which they frequently did, I sometimes reverted back to what I believed about God from early on in my life, though not always was I consciously aware that I was doing this. Old habits (beliefs) sometimes die hard. I think this was a battle for me much of my life.
Then, one day I was praying to my Lord, and I asked him if there was anyone I had not forgiven. The only name he gave me was “Jesus.” It isn’t that Jesus did anything wrong, but along the way I had decided in the recesses of my thinking that God had somehow deserted me because he was powerless to do anything about the difficulties that had come into my life. I had blamed him for not protecting me, and sometimes my responses to my circumstances revealed the belief that I had been abandoned and/or that God had no power to deliver me. I felt helpless, too, to fight off Satan’s evil attacks against me, at times, because I was fighting him much like I fought off the advances of my father, with my arms crossed in front of my face, hoping that I would not get hit, but knowing I probably would.
Anyway, when the Lord showed me that I needed to forgive Jesus, I did, and a HUGE weight was lifted from me! Not only that, but I realized that I needed to accept God’s sovereignty over my life, and that I needed to believe that he was all powerful and completely in control over all things, and that he would work out all the circumstances for my life for my good. I also realized then that I had been fighting off Satan’s attacks against me as though I thought there was the chance that Satan still had power over me and that he might win this battle. And, so I came to understand that Jesus already won this battle for me, and that he has given me the spiritual armor with which to fight off Satan (to resist him), but that I just have to live like I believe that, and I have to use that armor of God (Eph. 6:10-20).
And, all this radically changed my life and altered my thinking to where I learned how to use the armor of God, and I learned to trust in God’s sovereignty over my life. I’d like to say that since that time this has never been a struggle for me, but it has, at times, yet the recognition comes much quicker now, and the trust in my Lord is much easier and more natural, and I more readily rest in him and wait for him. But, there are times when I still have to work the emotions through in prayer, and with tears, and to cry the pain out to God, and then yield to his sovereignty. Sometimes I use the armor of God to fight off natural (human) fears, as I know Satan is trying to get me to be afraid, and to doubt God, but I pray them and I sing them through to victory. And, then the healing comes, as does the peace, too.
Wait for the Lord (vv. 27-31)
Why do you say, O Jacob, and assert, O Israel,
“My way is hidden from the Lord,
And the justice due me escapes the notice of my God”?
Do you not know? Have you not heard?
The Everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth
Does not become weary or tired.
His understanding is inscrutable.
He gives strength to the weary,
And to him who lacks might He increases power.
Though youths grow weary and tired,
And vigorous young men stumble badly,
Yet those who wait for the Lord
Will gain new strength;
They will mount up with wings like eagles,
They will run and not get tired,
They will walk and not become weary.
I think that, as humans, especially in this present generation, we have difficulty with the word “wait.” We get things in our minds and we want to act on them immediately. After all, we have instant everything now, it would seem, and fast food restaurants, and quick internet service (sometimes), and so we expect everything to be fast and immediate. When it isn’t fast, we may easily grow impatient, for society has taught us to do that.
Yet, we need to be careful that we don’t go ahead of God or that we don’t lag behind him, either. When he says “go” we should go, but if he says “wait,” even though we know he has a “going” prepared for us, we need to wait, because he has it all planned out in ways we can’t see. He is always working behind the scenes, whereas all we see is what is right in front of our faces. His timing is always perfect. If we grow impatient, and we take matters into our own hands, it often blows up in our faces, does it not? If we don’t have a peace from God to move in a direction, we should wait until he gives us the go-ahead. Even if he has placed something on our hearts, it may not be his timing yet, so we need to wait on him for when he says “go.”
If we are going through some times of trial and testing, we may wonder if God is really paying attention, or why he doesn’t act on our behalf, yet he is always working. We just can’t always see it. He sees (knows, plans) the BIG picture, whereas we only see a very miniscule part of it. We are sometimes completely focused on our little part, while he is busy working on the whole (all the parts), and they all have to fit together the way he has designed. Everything is not about us and about what we are going through, you know. His plan and purposes for everything in our lives is WAY beyond what we could possibly think or imagine. So, we need to believe that he is the God that he is, and we need to wait for him, and we need to let him strengthen us and give us the courage we need to endure while we wait.
Near the Cross / Fanny J. Crosby / William H. Doane
Jesus, keep me near the cross;
There a precious fountain,
Free to all, a healing stream,
Flows from Calvary’s mountain.
Near the cross, a trembling soul,
Love and mercy found me;
There the bright and morning star
Sheds its beams around me.
Near the cross! O Lamb of God,
Bring its scenes before me;
Help me walk from day to day
With its shadow o’er me.
Near the cross I’ll watch and wait,
Hoping, trusting ever,
Till I reach the golden strand
Just beyond the river.
In the cross, in the cross,
Be my glory ever,
Till my raptured soul shall find
Rest beyond the river.