Over at Medium, I’ve posted a reflection on Jesus’ call to love your enemies. Important for Christians to bear in mind, in these days of strife.
I’m experimenting with blogging at Medium; it looks like I can get ad-free without having to pay for it or be hidden by a paywall. Anyway, here’s my first post over there, a brief meditation on the comfort that comes from knowing God’s providential control.
When Israel had crossed the Jordan River into the promised land, God directed them to revisit some of the central characteristics of their special relationship with Him. They renewed the circumcision symbolic of their identity as God’s covenant people (Joshua 5:1-9) and observed their first Passover in the land, receiving the produce of their inheritance (vv.10-12). Then Joshua had an encounter with God resonant of Moses’ experience with the burning bush, for, like Moses, Joshua is told “Take off your sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy” (v.15, ESV).
In this encounter, God’s manifestation to Joshua is described: “a man was standing before him with his drawn sword in his hand” (v.13). Joshua greets this martial figure with the question of whose side he’s on: “Are you for us, or for our adversaries?” He receives the wonderful response, “No; but I am the commander of the army of the LORD. Now I have come” (v.14).
God is no one’s instrument. God is Master. He is not a tool for man’s machinations; His Name is not a password for our own ends; His Word is not a prop. He is accomplishing His purpose, and we should ask not so much if He is on our side as if we are on His side.
Because He will come with drawn sword to destroy His enemies (Rev. 19:1-16). God’s victory is certain. For all the discouragement of things going on in this world, Christians should have a total confidence in the triumph of their cause–because it is God’s cause, to which they have given themselves. The cross advances. If we have faith, we have nothing to fear. Our God is near.
Psalm 65 begins extolling the kindness and mercy of the Lord: “Praise awaits you, our God, in Zion; to you our vows will be fulfilled. You who answer prayer, to you all people will come. When we were overwhelmed by sins, you forgave our transgressions” (Psalm 65:1-3, NIV). God is loving to the undeserving, gracious and good. We can look to Him in our need.
Indeed, He is our only hope. We are confronted with dangers and uncertainty, and we cannot save ourselves. Where should we look for hope, for forgiveness, for life?
“You answer us with awesome and righteous deeds, God our Savior, the hope of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest seas” (v.5). God is able to save, to heal, to forgive. When situations seem beyond help, God is able. When all others fail us, God is able. In the depths of our sin, God is able to lift us up in His mercy. Let us remember that we serve the Almighty God. He is strong to deliver anyone who looks to Him. He is “the hope of all the ends of the earth.” He is our hope, and we can trust Him.
It is Sunday, which is for Christians the Lord’s Day, the weekly celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. We rejoice, because we have the message of grace and redemption, the urgent and necessary offer of life to all who will receive it:
“Seek the LORD while he may be found;
call on him while he is near.
Let the wicked forsake their ways
and the unrighteous their thoughts.
Let them turn to the LORD, and he will have mercy on them,
and to our God, for he will freely pardon.”
(Isaiah 55:6-7, NIV)
This exhortation came from God through the lips of His prophet Isaiah long ago, and it is still relevant today. This is a time of crisis, but as such it is only a reminder that we are always in a time of crisis until we seek and find the Lord. He may be found, and He calls us to seek Him; this call is urgent, for there will come a judgment day–but today is the day of mercy, when the gospel is held out freely to all. God is near. Seek Him now.
Seeking God calls for repentance. That is too often absent from our prayers in a time like this. If we want to turn to the Lord, that necessarily involves turning away from evil. For “God is light; in him there is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5).
But what is the promise? What will we find when we turn to the Lord? Read again those wonderful words: “he will have mercy on them”, “he will freely pardon.” Here is the wonderful gospel, that sinners may receive the mercy of God, His pardon freely given.
For Jesus Christ died as a sacrifice for our sins, and rose again to give us life. Those who place their faith in Him find forgiveness full and free, healing, hope, and life forevermore.
We will not fear.
Where do we find the strength and confidence to stand firm against opposition, to stand strong in times of fear and uncertainty?
“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea” (Psalm 46:1-2, NIV).
We are small, fragile and easily frightened. But there is a blessed Therefore, because of which we can stand in the face of chaos. Wherefore? Because God is our refuge and strength. Because He is an ever-present help in trouble.
The children of God do not face life’s tragedies and terrors alone. We do not face the shaking of nations in our own strength. No, we can lean upon the arms of the Almighty. Wherever we are and whatever we face, we can call out to the omnipresent, omnipotent God.
And we are confident, knowing His loving care. The Father sent His own Son as a sacrifice for our redemption; won’t He hear us when we call?
What shall we say in times of fear and uncertainty? We will not fear. Why not? God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.
“Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy on me, for in you I take refuge. I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings until the disaster has passed” (Psalm 57:1, NIV).
God is a refuge and a fortress for those who seek Him.
Part of the life of faith is learning to turn to God with our troubles. This may seem like vanity, that we should think our little lives are of concern to the God of all the universe; but, actually, it is an act of faith. God adopts as His children those who come to Christ in faith, and He calls them to bring their needs to Him in faith. In prayer, we submit our lives to God and look to Him for deliverance.
What a privilege and a comfort it is to be able to entrust our futures to God. But that is what the life of faith is all about. Faith calls us to go against the world and trust God; faith calls us to surrender our hopes for prosperity in this life, and instead look to the future that God has promised. And faith calls us to turn to God in each and every situation and expect deliverance from Him, in His time, according to His wisdom.
So we take refuge beneath the wings of the Almighty. What, then, should we fear?
God is our security.
A beautiful counterpoint to the gloomy tragedy of the news cycle is Psalm 33:5, “The LORD loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of his unfailing love” (NIV).
Men advance wickedness and corrupt justice, but God is good and true. God is holy, God is love. And God’s love reaches down to us.
God’s love is superabundant. The world is full of His love. He pours out His mercy on us every day in myriad ways; He showed His mercy decisively on the cross, where the Son of God bore upon Himself the sin of the world.
God’s love is invincible. The world abounds with His unfailing love. His mercy reaches down to us again and again, to the worst of sinners, to the fallen faithful, to the undeserving and the lost. This is the grounds of the glorious gospel message: the love of God reaches even to you, even to me.
This world is lost in darkness, but it is also full of God’s unfailing love. And God’s love is stronger than sin, God’s light cuts through the darkness. His kingdom will come in fullness, and all who recieve His love in Jesus Christ will live forever.