This wasn’t the first time the apostles had been warned by Temple Leaders to not teach or preach the Good News of Jesus. But these were also the men that the resurrected Jesus had told, “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation.” (Mark 16:15) The Bible tells us to be submissive to the powers of government, (Titus 3:1 & I Peter 2:13-14)…but God never granted governments the right to compel men to do things contrary to His Law. When we obey God and not man this is called Civil Disobedience, and a good definition is that it is only called for when the government requires something that God forbids, or the government forbids something that God requires. But we need to be very careful…for sometimes our civil disobedience is based only on our feelings, view points, or personal opinions…not on the Word of God. For what we may stubbornly believe in may not be found in the Bible at all…just within our willful hearts.
These verses carry a vivid mental picture of a scale with all my grief, misery, and burdens on one side, and all the sand of the earth on the other…with my anguish tipping the scales in its favor. For pain, either physical, mental, or emotional does sometimes feel like a tremendously hard, heavy load, crushing down on me…making it difficult to even move or breath. But God understands, even when in my groaning, sadness, and complaining I too become impetuous like Job. For He listens, comforts, and will not turn me away….He hears all my protests patiently, loves me despite all my shortcomings, and will never leave me alone.
Your sanctification begins the moment you accept Jesus Christ into your heart, and ends with your last breath here on earth. In between, is the action and process we call holiness. But the road to holiness is thwart with potholes, indecision, and pitfalls. That’s why it’s so important to, “Not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s Will is.” (Ephesians 5:17) But how? Paul’s prayer to the Believers in Colosse was to, “Ask God to fill you with the knowledge of His Will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding.” (Colossians 1:9) When we’re unsure of God’s Will…we should ask and seek divine wisdom. And as our mind is renewed, we’ll be able to test and approve what God’s Will is – His good, pleasing and perfect Will. (Romans 12:2)
When our universe revolves around us and our selfish desires for abundance and sensual things… with no regard for other people’s feelings, rights, or safety…we have become the same wanton creature God warns of here. For anytime we trust in ourselves rather than the Lord or bask in self-gratifying glory, we’re putting ourselves up on the throne of our heart. And what dwells in our heart will sooner or later play out in our behavior. God makes it very clear, “There is none besides Me. I am the Lord, and there is no other.” (Isaiah 45:6)
You’ve probably been hearing about all the new hybrid vehicles coming out…a mixture of both an electric motor and a gasoline engine. Now this is easy to understand, but when we try to put our heads around the idea of Jesus being all man and all God, things get fuzzy. It tells us here that Jesus is the shining forth of God’s glory and the perfect expression of the divine essence of God Himself…but how can this be? Jesus was a human being with flesh and blood, feelings and emotions just like you and me. John explains this mystery well when he wrote, “The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us.” Or as Jesus told His disciples, “Anyone who has seen Me has seen the Father.” (John 14:9) The greatness, majesty, and power of God came down to earth in human form in order that we might be redeemed – once for all- from our sin.
In these Scriptures, God is figuratively called the husband of Israel…showing the covenantal tie of both love and loyalty between Him and His people. And as our Kinsman Redeemer (remember Ruth & Boaz) we are to look to Him and Him only for protection, security, guidance, and aid. It tells us here to no longer carry around the guilt and shame of things we did in our youth, nor fear the reproach or insults of people today… for we are His and under His care. But it goes beyond that, for in Isaiah 48:17 it tells us, “This is what the Lord says – Your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: I am the Lord your God, Who teaches you what is best for you, Who directs you in the way you should go.” As our Redeemer, the Lord patiently instructs and trains us in His truth… showing us the right path to travel.
We’ve all seen the results of long dry spells… droughts causing famine where the scarcity of food leads to people starving to death. So consequently, in these verses Jeremiah is showing us how trusting in the Lord will help get us through our own “dry spells”. You know those times, when it seems like you’re trudging through a desert of discontent, apathy, and uneasiness…knowing the Lord is there, but still grappling with the confusion of why it’s happening. While traveling out in the country you’ll quickly notice that trees line the banks of rivers and streams. Why? Because they can take root and thrive with a constant water source even if the rain doesn’t come. We need to be the same way. We need to sink our roots deep into the Word of God on a daily basis…regardless of how we feel…knowing that we are reviving our mind, body, and soul in God’s Living Waters. And the results will be amazing, or as Psalm 92:12-15 tells us, ” The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon; planted in the house of the Lord, they will flourish in the courts of our God. They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green, proclaiming, ‘The Lord is upright; He is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in Him.’ ”
Listening to that still small voice of the Holy Spirit takes practice. For the constant din of the world clamoring for our attention can easily drown out His voice, and we must make a concerted effort daily to attune our heart, mind, and soul to Him. To live by the Spirit is a life-long journey of accepting His guidance and influence…and of walking in the principals of and adhering to the truths of the Bible. But as we keep in step with Him, we learn to recognize and trust His voice, and it becomes much easier to follow His lead.
The ultimate destiny as Believers is that we have been made partakers in eternal life through Christ Jesus. The chains that have held us prisoner to sinfulness and depravity have been broken off. And in this new found freedom, we can now walk in God’s grace and healing and grow in holiness…which is called sanctification. For as we grow in holiness in the Lord, we reap righteousness in the process… for you’ll soon discover that God’s plan and purpose in your life will always be about the process and not about the end goal.
God’s good pleasure is for us to be ever involved in Kingdom work, always serving and being an extension of Him to others. But what usually happens is that we put limits and conditions on them to suit us. We’ll serve others…but only when it’s convenient. We’ll pray…but only when we feel like it. We’ll thank God and be glad…but only in situations that benefit us. But this is not what Paul was trying to get across here. God’s Will is that we love one another, and within that there is no room for self-centeredness. For our lives should be broken bread and poured out wine…filled with joy, and gratefulness to a Savior Who first loved us. And our communion with Jesus should be as natural as taking our next breath, for He is the only constant in our lives. Situations, circumstances, and people change…but God will never change…and in that we can rejoice!