Deuteronomy 33:27 goes on to assure us that, “The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms.” The Lord should be the very first one to turn to in times of pain and suffering, and prayer should be our first action, not an afterthought. For there is a place of security and a sense of peace amid any turmoil…it’s found only beneath the loving and everlasting arms of Jesus.
When God created us, He didn’t build robots. Instead, He gave us a free will to make decisions and act on them…whether wise or foolish. But it’s also our free will that gets us into trouble most times. We bristle at being told what to do, and obeying the rules, in our mind, is optional. Yes, our free will can become problematic! So in this passage, the Lord is quite concise and deliberate in His laying out of our options. We are given the choice…the decision is ours. Will we obey and receive a blessing, or will we rebel and experience a curse?
The Lord is asking you this same question today…”Do you believe this?” Do you believe that Jesus Christ is the only way to be saved? Do you believe that He died for your sins that you may have eternal life? Maybe you’ve never been confronted to make a decision for Jesus…or maybe you’ve been resisting the wooing of the Holy Spirit. Either way, believing is a commitment of mind, body and spirit. It’s the start of an intimate spiritual journey of faith, trust, and obedience. The Lord is asking you today, “Do you believe?”
Stiff-necked is a great word picture. It comes from oxen resisting the yoke placed on them by the farmer. And when we turn away from God and His Word…we’re essentially doing the same thing. We stubbornly think God’s yoke is too difficult to bear and so in rebellion we throw off the yoke of obedience. But it warns us in Galatians 5:1, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” For we become totally deceived when we think that the yoke of sin is easy to escape out of…for in reality, the bondage of its yoke is far heavier and more difficult to carry.
King Jehoshaphat and the people of Judah were desperate. Enemy armies were fast approaching and they didn’t know what to do. They found themselves in a dark valley of desperation, discouragement, and fear with no way out…but they resolved to trust God. And it’s in that same valley that God worked a mighty miracle…giving them victory over their enemies. That valley of their suffering was changed into the Valley of Beracah…the Valley of Praise. With God’s help, we can grow during those hard times. Our faith can increase and be strengthened in the midst of turmoil, loss, and strife…if we trust God. It’s then that our valley of the shadow of death can also become a Valley of Praise.
The first time Jonah heard God say, “Go!”…He ran in the opposite direction. So surprisingly, when Jonah head God say, “Go!” this time, he obeyed. So what changed? Not God. His command was simple, straight forward, and didn’t waver in what He wanted Jonah to do. Nor was it the people of Nineveh who God wanted Jonah to warn. They remained a perishing and lost people of the Assyrian capital. No, the only thing that had changed was Jonah’s heart. In the belly of that great fish, Jonah had received a second chance…and with it then came an attitude adjustment on Jonah’s part. For our God is the God of second chances…from Jonah, to the Ninevites, to us… the Lord gives all of us second chances to change.