God has an uncanny way of getting our attention…of controlling situations until suddenly we find the walls closing in around us. And most times, we’re there because of our own disobedience. We’re self-absorbed and engrossed in the idols of this world…or we’re preoccupied and fixated on what others think of us rather than God. Either way, we end up in dire circumstances with no way out. And as the old saying goes, “Sometimes you have to end up in the gutter to finally look up.” Jonah was running from the Lord in disobedience, when God got his attention by confining him in the belly of a fish for three days. Three long days to think about what he had done…three long days to repent, relent, and be restored. Have no doubt about it, if you’re running from the Lord today, He will get your attention sooner or later.
This verse is referred to as the “Shema,” which is how the first word in the Hebrew text is pronounced. This word means “to heed, listen, and obey.” Moses stressed the priority of belief in only one God as the people encountered countless foreign gods around them. And the next verse showed them, and us, the way to perpetuate and foster this belief of only one God, for it states in verse 5, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” It tells us in proverbs 9:10, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom…” To know God is to love Him, and the more we love Him, the more we desire to listen and obey Him.
Humans are funny…we get caught in something, and we’re sorry…not sorry for what we did…but rather sorry we got caught. We make a big emotional show…but there’s no humility or remorsefulness involved in our actions. Psalm 51:17 reminds us of what God really wants from us…not a showy display of emotions that look good to those who are watching, but lack the brokenness of spirit that comes from a truly regretful heart. Rather, God desires from us authenticity, humility, and taking responsibility for our actions.
Goliath was a formidable giant who taunted the Israelite army. His very appearance struck fear in the hearts of the Jewish soldiers. For Goliath was decked out in a bronze helmet, 125 pounds of bronze armor, carried a bronze javelin with a 15 pound iron point, and required a shield-bearer to carry his huge shield ahead of him. But when David saw Goliath, he didn’t see an overwhelming threat…a overpowering force or potential danger…he saw rather, a miracle waiting to happen. For David kept his eyes on God – not the situation or extenuating details surrounding it. Yes, David was up against insurmountable odds…but he had a secret weapon Goliath didn’t know about…David had God.
Paul realized that he would never be able to please everyone by his ministry. No matter how he approached people, he found some would listen…some would scoff…and some would take offense. When we’re a people-pleaser, our focus is to deliberately and intentionally mollify our message…to water it down in order to be palatable for all, but in the process every ounce of Holy Spirit power is leached out. God isn’t calling us to be wishy-washy, lukewarm Christians who try to be “politically correct” with every person we meet. Paul understood that his allegiance was to Jesus Christ and not to the crowds…his total dependence was then on the Master of the universe not man.
Praying shouldn’t be a publicity stunt for the cameras while seeking 15 minutes of fame. For it’s our personal, intimate conversation with God…and He takes prayer very seriously…and so should we. As a Believer, I’ve seen the power of prayer and witnessed how intercessory prayer can literally change the atmosphere. But we tend to think of prayer as some sweet little poem we recite at the dinner table before meals and not the authoritative commands we can speak under the power of Jesus’ blood. To paraphrase I John 4:4, Greater is He who is in me, than he who is in the world. And if we could but grasp a glimpse of just how powerful our prayers are…this world would be shaken, and all the evil in it. May I then be so bold as to encourage you to prayer walk around your town…around your schools…around the area you live in. For we are all asking ourselves the same question, “What can I do in the face of all this evil in the world?” The answer is prayer…bold, impassioned prayer.
God had sent the Prophet Samuel to Bethlehem to anoint one of Jesse’s seven sons as King. As six strapping young men paraded past Samuel…each time he thought to himself, “This has to be the one!” But God reminded Samuel in verse 7, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” It wasn’t until the youngest son, David, was called from the pasture, that God declared, “He is the one.” This should give all of us encouragement…especially those who have said to themselves, “I have nothing to offer God.” The Lord doesn’t consider outward appearances. He looks only at what He can do through us if we’re a willing worker.
A man goes to his friend’s house at midnight looking for bread…but is told to “Go away!” In this story, his friend appears not to care about the man’s dilemma. Likewise for us, there are times when it appears to be a shrouding of God’s friendship for us…or at least times when we go through seasons of spiritual confusion. The Lord will seem like a distant, unkind and uncaring friend that won’t answer our calls. It’s during those times of spiritual confusion that we need to hold steadfast to what we already know…that God is faithful, trustworthy, and true. And we need to keep doing the right things…reading our Bible, praying, and maintaining our walk…all with tenacity. For later on in the story, because of the man’s stubborn persistence…his friend did get up and give him bread.
You’re not just an acquaintance to God. You’re not some face He sees in the crowd, and recognizes you as someone He should know… but can’t remember your name. No, God knows you intimately…He knows you inside and out…He knows every thought you’ve had, every tear you’ve cried, every prayer you’ve prayed. But most importantly, He knows your name. For you are that very special to Him. And in response, what can we say but, “I am my beloved’s, and my beloved is mine.”
In Biblical times, clay jars were used to store items of importance. In Jeremiah 32:14-15, the Lord tells Jeremiah to buy his cousin’s field and take the documents and place them in a clay jar. “For this is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: Houses, fields and vineyards will again be bought in this land.” This promise that they would return to their homeland would take 70 years of exile in Babylon before it would come about…but these important documents would be kept safe until then…safe within a fragile clay jar. And if you’re a Believer, you have the great power and Almighty energy of God within your clay jar…your body, placed there by God for safe-keeping.