Jeremiah had predicted the 70 year captivity of the Jewish people in Babylon, but it was Isaiah who 150 years before he was even born predicted Cyrus, a Medo-Persian king would be the instrument used of God to not only free the Jewish exiles and send them home, but to spearhead the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem. Isaiah wrote of Cyrus, “He became a helper of Israel.” (Isaiah 41:2) and “This is what the Lord says to His anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I take hold of…” (Isaiah 45:1) Time and time again we see in the Bible where God uses unlikely people to do His Will. That’s because our all powerful and always in control God can employ anyone to accomplish the results He desires for His people…Believer, non-believer, lukewarm Christian, or atheist…He has and will use anyone He chooses.
Paul, or as he was known Saul, was one of the most ardent persecutors of the early Church…but then he had an encounter on the road to Damascus with the risen Lord and he was radically changed. (Acts 9:1-18) In the verses here you can recognize Paul’s drive, motivation, and compulsion is out of love and gratitude for what Jesus had done for him…the stark realization that Christ suffered on behalf of him…died on that cross for him…and finally, was raised from the dead, making atonement for his sins. And for those of us who share in being radically saved…that deep humbling insight of who we were and who we are now can only be explained as overwhelming thanks and gratitude to a Savior who cared enough to pursue us.
Most of Job is composed of dissertations from his three friends that have come to comfort him during his time of profound loss. Here we find Bildad, a Shuhite, speaking…his position based on the traditions of his forefathers…that God is just, bringing punishment to the wicked and blessing to the righteous. But because Job had maintained his innocence, not only Bildad, but all three friends, had hammered Job with self-righteous questions. “Can a mortal be more righteous than God? Can a man be more pure than his Master?” (Job 4:17) “Can you fathom the mysteries of God? Can you probe the limits of the Almighty? They are higher than the heavens…” (Job 11:8) All three men had judged Job from their very legalistic and ridged view-point of God…and all three were terribly wrong.
Oh that as Believers we would all resonate with the Gospel Message wherever and whenever called…to the point our faith was proclaimed all over the world as Paul talks about here. But how does this happen? We are to set an example for the world…not conforming to its ways but rather boldly leading by example. How? As Paul exhorted the young Timothy, “Set an example for the Believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity.” (I Timothy 4:12) As Believers, we are to model Jesus to the dying world… so as we lead by example, we are not only imitating Jesus but honoring the Gospel Message.
For many of us this year has been anything but kind. Some of you have lost jobs, some have lost loved ones, and all of us have learned to live with the anxiety of this unknown virus. Back in March, God showed me Isaiah 51:12-16 as kind of the antidote for the COVID 19 pandemic…and I urge you to take a few minutes today to read it, for it’s just as timely today, if not more, than it was back in March. We need to be leaning on the graciousness of God more than ever today…knowing that it is His help and deliverance that will pull us through. We may not have any power over the circumstances, events, and things that will occur over the course of the next few months…but we do know Who’s still in control and showing His gracious kindness to all who call upon His name. “I trust in Your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in Your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, for He has been good to me.” (Psalm 13:5)
These Scriptures illustrate a heart of stone vs a heart of flesh…of reading the Word of God, but not being changed by it…of hearing the Word of God, but not applying it to our lives. It’s not until we embrace the Word, that the scales will fall from our eyes and we will see clearly that all the religious ceremonies, and man-made traditions we’ve sought to adhere to can’t set us free from our sins. And it’s only when we turn to Jesus Christ can we know the truth…the saving, redemptive truth of the Word of God and be spiritually transformed by it. Therefore, as we abide faithfully in the truth of the Word, we are changed more and more into His image…and in doing so, become a reflection of Him to the world.
I found this amongst a huge pile of old craft projects I was going through yesterday. I was so encouraged by it, especially this crazy year, that I wanted to share it with you. Just think, you’ve been chosen. “You did not choose Me, but I chose you.” said Jesus in John 15:16. And that’s why no matter how you feel, you are not here by chance and your life matters to Him. Just think, you are God’s workmanship. “Know that the Lord is God. It is He who made us, and we are His; we are His people, the sheep of His pasture.” Psalm 100:3 tells us. So remember, who you are as a person today is because of His workmanship within you. Just think, in God’s eyes you are special. “For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be His people, His treasured possession.” (Deuteronomy 7:6) Just think, you lack nothing. “Fear the Lord, you His saints, for those who fear Him lack nothing.” (Psalm 34:9) Finally, and especially because of this year, the end of this writing I found incredibly profound. Just think, God chose this very time in history for you to be alive and available to Him for His greater plan and purpose. Or as it says in Esther 4:14, “And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?”
The world is full of oppression…of a unjust and cruel exercise of power and authority in many nations. But to the Believer there is always hope beyond the current situation of ruthless suffering they are forced to endure. For the wicked will not prevail…even when the pain becomes physical. That’s because the Lord is righteous and for us, or as Psalm 124:2 states, “If the Lord hadn’t been on our side when men attacked us, they would of swallowed us alive.” Believers will continue to be greatly oppressed… as long as they claim Jesus Christ as their Savior…but they will also remain confident in their hope…”For evil men will be cut off, but those who hope in the Lord will inherit the land.” (Psalm 37:9)
This concept is first spoken about in Leviticus 19:18, “Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself.” But now a days seeking personal vengeance and/or holding on to a deep seated resentment against another is a commonplace occurrence. There are families that have been torn apart by grudges that are so old no one really knows how they got started…or even what the original offense was! But if you want to be honest about it, no one really ever “gets even”. Rather, it becomes this ongoing battle with no one winning in the end…and all parties being destroyed (mentally, emotionally, or spiritually) in the process. Instead, when we commit the person/problem to the Lord, we allow Him to work…all the while being assured that all wrongs will be righted on Judgment Day.
Let’s just admit it…no human has ever been able to keep the Old Testament Law perfectly. (that is except Jesus) Let’s also agree that the whole world is a prisoner of sin. So what these verses are showing is that the Law’s purpose was to essentially silence us, leaving us unable to defend ourselves against the charge of sin, while recognizing our guilt before God. So the Law’s objective was to lead us to acknowledge our sin and trust in Jesus Christ. Or as it tells us in Galatians, ” Know that a man is not justified by observing the Law but by faith in Jesus Christ.” And, “The righteous will live by faith. The Law is not based on faith…” Bottom line is…The real function of the Old Testament Law was to make us not only realize our own sinfulness, but then lead us towards repentance….which then leads us to faith and trust in Jesus.