According to Romans 11, the Church has been grafted into the Olive tree. (representing Israel) Thus, we "share in the nourishing sap from the olive root." (Romans 11:17) It is the root of this olive tree that supports us. This being the truth, would it not follow that when Israel is at war, the Church must also be at war? Ephesians 2:13-15, 18 explains: "But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. He Himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in His flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in Himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace...For through Him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit."
It is a fact that Satan hates what God loves. He stations demonic principalities over every region. Since Israel and the Church are one, what impacts one impacts the other.
As I awoke on Saturday morning, Holy Spirit placed a song on my mind" "Onward, Christian Soldiers." It was written by Sabine Baring-Gould, a Church of England minister who was inspired to write this song so that the children of his church could sing it while marching from village to village. He writes that the entire song came to him within 15 minutes. The text for this hymn became an inspiration to Christians around the world. It is one to use while taking on our responsibilities of advancing the cause of Christ. It is a battle cry for the Church and Israel.
Verse 1: "Onward, Christian soldiers, marching as to war, with the cross of Jesus going on before! Christ the royal Master, leads against the foe; forward into battle see His banner go!"
Refrain: "Onward, Christian soldiers, marching as to war, with the cross of Jesus going on before!"
Verse 2: "Like a mighty army moves the Church of God; brothers, we are treading where the saints have trod. We are not divided, all one body we—One in hope and doctrine, one in charity." (Refrain)
Verse 3: "Onward, then, ye people, join our happy throng; blend with ours your voices in the triumph song. Glory, laud, and honor unto Christ the King—This thru countless ages men and angels sing." (Refrain)
During this season, we must "Be alert and of sober mind. Our enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because we know that the family of Believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of suffering." (1 Peter 5:8, 9) Our battle tools are two-fold: Prayer and Worship. Let us use them on behalf of Israel and the Church. Victory has already been won at the Cross of Christ. Our job is to manifest it.
A recent letter from Mitch Glaser, President of Chosen People Ministries, touched my heart. Referring to the brutal attack on the Jews in Israel by Hamas, he expressed his desire to be thankful to God even though he is grieving deeply. I quote Mitch: "It is hard to believe we are entering the season of Thanksgiving. It seems so inappropriate to be thankful at this moment in time. I will admit I am having trouble thanking God in light of these last several weeks. I know the apostle Paul wrote, 'In everything give thanks; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.'" (1 Thessalonians 5:18 - NKJ)
"These are my people," Mitch continues, "a nation called by the Sovereign and all-powerful God for His holy purposes." He asks some challenging questions: "How can we come to grips with what happened and be thankful? How can we keep ourselves from being consumed by hatred and a desire for vengeance? How can we be grateful during this season of Thanksgiving in light of these tragic events? The answers are all the more elusive because of the graphic nature of the crimes appearing so often on social media, the news, and websites replaying the horrors, not letting us forget...Yet, I know God wants me to be grateful—not for what happened, of course—but for His grace and mercy we find on the path of suffering."
As I reflect on the raw truths shared by Mitch, I recall the wisdom that is shared by Elisabeth Elliot in her book, A Path Through Suffering. She explains that the meaning of suffering can only be understood in the context of The Cross. We must pick up our crosses and follow Jesus. (Luke 14:27) We must look to Him for the next grace that we need in life. We can stand on the promises of God. Elisabeth encourages us: "We have our Father's promise, linking the pain to an unimaginable glory: 'If we suffer, we shall also reign with Him.'" (2 Timothy 2:12)
God desires for us to become more Christlike. Suffering was a landmark of Christ's life. The Psalmist writes, "Show me Your ways, Lord. Teach me your paths." (Psalm 25:4) Our time on earth is designed to help us know Christ more so that we grow up like Him. When we share in His sufferings, we increase in our understanding of Him and our intimacy with Him. Willingness to praise the Lord in our sufferings makes us Kingdom partners with Him so that we demonstrate His life and love to those around us.
When we go back to Mitch's original questions about giving thanks while we suffer, we must look at our situations from both an earthly and heavenly perspective. Is it possible for us to look at suffering as a divine opportunity? Let us visit the foot of the Cross and remember the suffering of Jesus on our behalf. Here is the opening to thanksgiving. Thanksgiving and praise lead to worship. And, when worship is offered in our pain and suffering, it rises to the throne of God in heaven as sweet incense. Because it is offered sacrificially, this form of worship draws the Lord near to us. The intimacy we then have with Him is without comparison. Heaven is a place of peace and joy, so sacrificial worship can only take place on earth. Thus comes our opportunity!
God understands our suffering. He sent His Son as a Redeemer. Somehow the Lord will redeem our trials and afflictions so that His glory falls. Like Mitch, I am grieved and overwhelmed with sorrow for the agony of the Jews in this hour. However, God has not left us without a remedy. We have the gift of prayer so that we can lay our burdens at His feet. He is the one from whom we draw breath. As our Shepherd, He restores our souls and leads us on paths of righteousness for His name sake...He is with us. His rod and staff comfort us. He prepares a table before us in the presence of our enemies...Surely goodness and love will follow us all the days of our lives, and we will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. (Psalm 23 – NIV)
Benjamin was the only son of Jacob born in the Promised Land. He and his tribe were ninth in the marching order of Israel, and they marched with the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh. (Joseph's sons) As an accomplished warrior, part of Benjamin's job was to help train the next generation in the skills of warfare. Their responsibilities included protecting the Holy Things from the Tabernacle while Israel was on the move. What an important assignment! The church could certainly use warriors like those from the tribe of Benjamin to defend our faith and holiness unto the Lord in the midst of our battles.
Since Benjamin marched ninth with Israel, he is associated with the ninth month called Kislev. This year Kislev begins tomorrow at sundown. When we look back to the history of Kislev, we can glean wisdom on how to live during this month. Benjamin is an example for us. He had two seemingly contradictory words spoken over him, but, in God's economy, they work together. Benjamin's father, Jacob, saw the warrior in him. He prophesied: "Benjamin is a ravenous wolf; in the morning he devours his prey; in the evening he divides the plunder." (Genesis 49:27) Moses saw a different side of Benjamin. "Let the beloved of the Lord rest secure in Him, for He shields him all day, and the one the Lord loves rests between His shoulders." (Deuteronomy 33:12)
Through God, peace and rest can come upon us even in the midst of warfare. I believe that the war being fought by the Israelis is necessary. Hamas has violated Israel's peace, and it will not be restored until the enemy is destroyed. Israel must be on the offensive. Their peace comes in knowing that their mission is a necessity, God is with them, and once their objectives are met their future will be more secure. Praise God that other nations are supporting Israel and assisting them with resources for the battle.
Is it not fitting that even the constellation in the sky during this month of Kislev is the archer Sagittarius? Benjamin's descendants were skilled archers as it tells us in 1 Chronicles 8:40 and 12:2. They were adept warriors ready for battle. Some of the members of this warrior tribe included Saul and Jonathan, Mordecai and Esther, and the apostle Paul.
According to what took place during the month of Kislev, how can we live to fulfill our own destinies? First, we must realize that our God-given destinies will always be challenged. The enemy does not want us to succeed and has developed strategies to keep us from prospering. We must look at the ways the devil has tried to trip us up and developed a war strategy to overcome him. There is power in the Word of God. Let us stand on His promises and declare them for all to hear. Let us remember the Lord's faithfulness. Praise is also a powerful weapon that we need to use.
Below you will find verses from Psalm 89. (Verses 8, 14, 15, 20-24, 33-36) Let us use them to declare victory in our battles against the enemy: "Who is like you, Lord God Almighty? You, Lord, are mighty, and Your faithfulness surrounds You...Righteousness and justice are the foundation of Your throne; love and faithfulness go before You. Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim You...For You are their glory and strength...I have found David My servant; with My sacred oil I have anointed him. My hand will sustain him; surely My arm will strengthen him. The enemy will not get the better of him; the wicked will not oppress him. I will crush his foes before him and strike down his adversaries. My faithful love will be with him and through My name his horn will be exalted...I will not take My love from him, nor will I ever betray My faithfulness. I will not violate My covenant or alter what My lips have uttered. Once for all, I have sworn by My holiness--and I will not lie to David--that his line will continue forever, and his throne endure before Me like the sun." God wants to see us live in victory. Make this Scripture personal, and declare it!
The Bible tells us that without a watchman a city was in in big trouble. The watchman's responsibility included watching over a city to protect it and to sound the alarm when danger came near. A watchman today looks much different from one 2,000 years ago, but his most important watch remains the same—during hours of darkness. What does that tell us about today?
We have just seen a complete disaster in Israel because someone was not watching at their post. While I know that watching the movements of the enemy today is much more complicated than it was in the days of the Bible, cities and states and countries need to maintain a network of individuals who have their ears to the ground to ascertain the plans of enemies and terror groups who want to destroy peace. It appears like the Israelis had a sense of false peace that led them to neglect their duties as watchmen. How else could Hamas have moved into the quiet villages on the Gazan border in such force to torture and kill families and destroy their homes on the Sabbath?
Two places in the book of Ezekiel say that this prophet was "appointed as a watchman for the people of Israel." (Ezekiel 3:17 and Ezekiel 33:7) God said to Ezekiel, "...When you hear me speak a warning, give them my warning." (Ezekiel 33:7 - TPT) There was no room for error in Ezekiel's call. God said to him, "If I bring war to your nation, you must select a man and post him as a watchman. When he sees the enemy coming to attack, he must sound the shofar to warn the people. If the people hear the warning but pay no attention and the sword overtakes them and kills them, they will bear the responsibility for their own deaths...If, however, the watchman sees the enemy approaching but has not blown the shofar to warn the people and the sword overtakes them and kills a single one of them, even though that person was a sinner, I will still hold the watchman responsible for that person's death." (Ezekiel 33:2-6 - TPT)
As Christians, we have promises from God to watch over us. Here are a few of them: "I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you." (Psalm 32:8) "The Lord watches over all who love him..." (Psalm 145:20) "...He who scattered Israel will gather them and watch over His flock like a shepherd." (Jeremiah 31:10)
Those who know the Lord are expected to respond by watching for Him. "My eyes stay open through the watches of the night, that I may meditate on Your promises." (Psalm 119:148) "But as for me, I watch in hope for the Lord; I wait for God my Savior; my God will hear me." (Micah 7:7) "Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak." (Matthew 26:41) "What I say to you, I say to everyone: 'Watch!'" (Mark 13:37)
The prophet Isaiah warns of a time when darkness will cover the earth: "See darkness covers the earth and thick darkness over the peoples..." (Isaiah 60:2) In our day we see dark agendas in government, education, business, and even in some churches. This is the hour for us to take on the mantel of the watchman on the wall. As it says in Colossians 4:2, "Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful." We must be vigilant in prayer, in the Word, and in righteousness. This is our hour to sound the alarm to those who need to hear the truth. Our call is to stay alert to God's promptings and to respond according to His instructions.
We can read in the book of Genesis what the Lord told Rebecca after she asked Him why her twins were struggling with each other inside her womb. "The two sons in your womb will become two nations, and the two peoples within you will become rivals. One people will become stronger than the other, and the older will serve the younger." (Genesis 25:23 - TPT) This is exactly what happened. Esau, being the first born of Jacob and Rebecca, should have gotten the majority of the family inheritance, a superior position in the family, and his father's blessing. However, he made an unwise decision! He allowed his hunger and desire for physical comfort to cloud his good sense and sold his birthright to Jacob for a pot of lentil stew.
When Esau despised his birthright, he forfeited his right for the family blessing. Later, by not acknowledging that he made a mistake and blaming Jacob for his losses, he compounded his problems. Then he made a vow: "The days of mourning for my father are near; then I will kill my brother Jacob." (Genesis 27:41) Even though Jacob and Esau reconciled years later, the vow took root and, along with bitterness and rage, it traveled in Esau's bloodline. We see a manifestation of this murderous spirit in Esau's grandson, Amalek.
Before the death of Christ on the Cross, the only way to stop a vow would have been to kill the person who made it. Knowing this fact brings clarity to God's instructions to the Israelites to kill those who carry this murderous spirit. The Amalekites reared their ugly heads by attacking the Israelites as they escaped from Egypt. Afterward God instructed the children of Israel: "...You shall blot out the name of Amalek from under heaven. Do not forget!" (Deuteronomy 25:19)
Because God's instructions were not completely followed by the Israelites, they dealt with the Amalekite spirit over and over again. We can read about it in the story of Gideon, Saul (who saved the life of Agag, the Amalekite king), and King David at Ziklag. In light of the events of today, we see this murderous spirit as it continues to be transmitted to the descendants of Esau. The vow that was taken by one man, and never renounced, continues to manifest and attack anyone who dares to cross them.
What can Christians do to help pull down this stronghold? First, we must be aware of what comes out of our mouths. Any vow that agrees with the kingdom of darkness (made based on a negative judgment) will have negative repercussions for our lives until we renounce it. We cannot allow the seed of our bad decisions to take root. We must accept the blame for our bad behaviors and take responsibility for our decisions. This means confession and repentance before God so that He can restore us.
Second, there may be the fruit of an unwise decision in our own generational lines that is showing itself in our families. Our repentance needs to take place on behalf of our bloodline by the renouncing of any vow. We should declare death to the Amalekite mindset. Quick repentance is beneficial for us and those around us. Breaking agreement with this spirit of death needs to be done for ourselves and our descendants. We should ask the Lord to fill the areas emptied with a spirit of love, peace, gentleness, and self-control. Praise God for His restoration and redemption.
Sadly, we have a sea of people in this world with the Amalekite spirit. It is showing itself through terrorism, torture, destruction, and murder. Our prayers can make a difference. We can go before God on their behalf and ask Him to enlighten them and reveal the sin they carry. We can also ask for mercy for them. Prayer can change everything. Praise the Lord that He died for our sins and wants all mankind to be saved.
Parables are stories used to illustrate a truth or principle. Jesus spoke in parables to illustrate the Kingdom of God. Hence, the listener must carefully consider the story through spiritual eyes. In Matthew 13:11-15, Jesus explained that He spoke in parables so that the secrets of His Kingdom could be understood only by His disciples. Those with a genuine hunger for God are given the gift of discernment to be able to comprehend the deeper truths of the stories of Jesus.
Let us consider the parable of the wheat and tares. The story in Matthew 13:24-30 tells of a "farmer" who sowed good seed into his field. Later, an enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat. When the farmer's helpers asked if they should uproot the tares/weeds, he responded, "No, because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until harvest." (Verses 29-30) It is my understanding that the weeds that were sown by the enemy are called darnel, a noxious weed of ryegrass that is bitter to the taste and may make someone who eats it sick. Farmers find it difficult to distinguish between wheat and darnel until harvest time.
When we consider that the wheat represents Kingdom individuals and the tares people who belong to the evil one, we may ask, "Why would God allow them to grow side by side?" God's greatest desire is for us to mature into Christlike beings. As it says in Romans 8:29, "For those God foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters." The truth is that God uses the "tares" to perfect the character of the wheat. This is called "sharing in the sufferings of Christ." (Romans 8:17) If we are to mature into the image of Christ, we must experience what He experienced and learn to respond the way He did.
Harvest time will reveal those who are Christlike. The wheat bows its head because it is full of mature grain, while the tares remain stiff. Please note that the wheat and tares grow in the same conditions such as storms, droughts, and blights, but only one produces grain. Thus, it is premature to judge or uproot the tares before harvest time.
What circumstances contribute to the wheat (followers of Christ) growing in Christlike character? It is what Christ followers learn. We are taught to forgive when wounded or offended, to stop judging others, and to pray for them. The ultimate mercy prayer was prayed by Christ on the Cross. "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." (Luke 23:34) We are to do likewise. The tares (those who do not know Jesus), however, mature into those who criticize and carry offenses against others. At harvest time, the tares will be gathered to be burned.
Francis Frangipane, founding pastor of River of Life Ministries in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, has rich teachings on the parable of the wheat and tares. He concludes that "The difference between the wheat and tares is the measure of love functioning in each; the wheat is able to truly bow to its Creator." My prayer for all of us is that we will be able to do likewise.
The last of the fall feasts, The Feast of Tabernacles, is the culmination of all of the biblical holy days. It is also called "The Feast of Ingathering" because it is a time of harvest. This feast is a picture of the Kingdom of God to come. But before this joyous time of celebration there is the repentance of Yom Kippur. Repentance is what leads us to joy and peace. Messiah Yeshua experienced the Cross before the resurrection. He took up this Cross for us so that we could live in His glory.
In remembering God's faithfulness to them in the wilderness, the children of Israel built temporary shelters called Sukkahs. Seven days they dwelt in their shelters to remind them that God wants us to dwell under the tabernacle of HIs peace. Though the sukkah represents the wilderness season, the branches of fruit placed on it represent the bounty of the Promised Land. This is a season of joining together heaven and earth. The wilderness is our life on earth and our journey to the Promised Land, while the Promised Land itself is the Kingdom of Heaven.
The Sukkah also represents a place to tabernacle with God. Here is an interesting fact to consider: The Sukkah, or temporary dwelling, was originally made from broken branches. The Apostle Paul writes about the Jewish people being broken branches from the Olive tree. These "branches" were broken off of the Olive tree (a symbol for the Jews) because of their unbelief. And here is the benefit to the rest of world: "Because of their transgression, salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel envious.” (Romans 11:11) It is God's desire that all nations come to Him. Isn't it interesting that the "broken branches" are integral in the salvation of the nations? They make room for all nations to come to the Lord and then those nations draw the "broken branches" back to Him.
The prophet Zechariah gives us a glimpse of the future when the Lord will gather all the nations in Jerusalem. "On that day living water will flow out from Jerusalem...The Lord will be king of the whole earth. On that day there will be one Lord, and His name the only name...Then the survivors from all nations that have attacked Jerusalem will go up year after year to worship the King, the Lord Almighty, and to celebrate the Festival of Tabernacles." (Zechariah 14:8, 9,16)
God desires to tabernacle with everyone from every tribe, and tongue, and nation. Through the disciple John He paints a beautiful picture of life in the New Jerusalem that is so connected to the Feast of Tabernacles. "Look, God's tabernacle is with human beings. And from now on He will tabernacle with them as their God. Now God Himself will have His home with them--'God-with-them' will be their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes and eliminate death entirely. No one will mourn or weep any longer. The pain of wounds will no longer exist, for the old order has ceased." (Revelation 21:3, 4 - TPT)
Friday at sunset began the celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles. It will be celebrated for seven days. Should we not join in this celebration of joy and peace in remembering that Jesus/Yeshua will reign with us for eternity and that the earth will become the tabernacle of God?
Psalm 62:1 - "Truly my soul finds rest in God; my salvation comes from Him. Truly He is my rock and my salvation; He is my fortress. I will never be shaken." Soul rest is a deep rest where we follow the example that God gave us after creating the universe. "...On the seventh day He rested from all His work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it He rested from all the work of creating that He had done." (Genesis 2: 2-3) Our bodies and souls were designed to need rest. In fact, every creature that God placed on earth needs rest. God called the day of rest the Sabbath because we are to stop our normal routines and direct our thoughts and actions toward Him. The fourth of the Ten Commandments says, "Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy." (Exodus 20:8)
The Greek word for rest is "anapauo" and its definition includes several possibilities such as refresh, rejuvenate, reinvigorate, and revitalize. Notice the "re" at the beginning of each word which means "anew." These words can apply not only to mankind and the creatures of the world but also to the land. God's instructions to the children of Israel concerning the land are explicit: "When you enter the land I am going to give you, the land itself must observe a sabbath to the Lord. For six years sow your fields, and for six years prune your vineyards and gather your crops. But in the seventh year the land is to have a year of sabbath rest, a sabbath to the Lord. Do not sow your fields or prune your vineyards. Do not reap what grows of itself or harvest the grapes of your untended vines. The land is to have a year of rest." (Leviticus 25:2-5) The Jews call this year the Shemitah year.
In His instructions, the Lord makes provision for all people. He is aware that the poor and needy are in a position of not being able to provide for themselves or their families. Their daily existence is a struggle that makes it difficult for them to rest. In Leviticus 25:35 we see where God makes provision for them. "If any fellow Israelites become poor and are unable to support themselves among you, help them as you would a foreigner and stranger, so they can continue to live among you." How would a farmer who is ready to harvest his fields help the poor and the stranger so that they could rest from their worries? Leviticus 19:9 gives instructions on this: "When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Do not go over the vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the foreigner. I am the Lord your God."
Jonathan Cahn of Hope of the World Ministries teaches that the Hebrew word for harvest is "Katzeer." He tells us that God's children need to learn the law of the Katzeer which says that we should not reap the ends or corners of our land but leave them for the poor and the stranger so that they may be fed. Since most of us are not farmers, how does this law apply to us? It has to do with our mindset. It requires us to have faith in God that there will always be more than enough. What does this look like? It means making a choice to give away portions of our possessions like time, energy, money, and love. These are the corners of our fields. When we give to others in this way God fills our cups to overflowing and makes our harvests spectacular.
In just two weeks, the Jews will be celebrating their New Year, Rosh Hashanah. Central to their celebration is the reading of the story of Abraham and his willingness to sacrifice his son, Isaac, at the command of God. Because of his act of faith in God, Abraham has become known as The Father of Faith. He began to demonstrate faith when God first spoke to him at the age of 75. God said to him, "Go from your country, your people, and your father's household to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all people on earth will be blessed through you." (Genesis 12:2-3) Abram, as he was known then, put feet to his faith and set out for the Promised Land.
Abram had another encounter with God when he was 99 years old. God said to him, "As for me, this is my covenant with you. You will be the father of many nations. No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations." (Genesis 17:4-5) To seal the promise God was making, He required all males to be circumcised as a sign of this everlasting covenant.
Faith was to become the key for all nations to be part of the family of God. That faith must be established through our belief that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and died for our sins. If we make this decision, the righteousness of Christ is given to us. Romans 4:9 tells us that "Faith was credited to Abraham as God's righteousness!" (TPT) Faith in God and righteousness go hand-in-hand. Romans 4:3, in The Passion Translation, explains this. "Because Abraham believed God's words, his faith transferred God's righteousness into his account."
Romans 4 also makes it clear that this righteousness is available to every person on the face of the earth. Look at Romans 4:10-11. "How did he (Abraham) receive this gift of righteousness? Was he circumcised at the time God accepted him, or was he still uncircumcised? Clearly, he was an uncircumcised gentile when God said this of him! It was later that he received the external sign of circumcision as a seal to confirm that God had already transferred His righteousness to him by faith, while he was still uncircumcised." (TPT)
God's promises to Abraham were ultimately fulfilled through Jesus Christ who is in Abraham's line. Notice that God did not select a perfect man in Abraham. We can see the mistakes that he made and sins that he committed. He learned through these and grew in faith. The ultimate test of his faith was when he was told to sacrifice Isaac, his only son. He traveled approximately 50 miles to Mount Moriah and had an abundance of time to reconsider what he was about to do. But Abraham demonstrated that he loved God more than he loved the promise. Through his commitment to follow God's command, he was rewarded with blessings that confirmed his faith in God.
We can be assured that our faith in God will be tested. That is the only way for it to grow. God wants to increase His righteousness in our "accounts" through increasing our faith. Why else would He send his Son to earth to die? "God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God." (2 Corinthians 5:21) It seems to me that when we pass our tests, we get a double bonus: increased faith and righteousness.
In 1989, missionary and Christian author, Elisabeth Elliot published a book titled On Asking God Why. I was drawn to it immediately, because my inclination is to ask Him this very question. I do not know about you, but I rarely receive the answer to my why questions. However, I now find myself in a season where I want to ask that question again. All the catastrophic events that are happening around the world lead me to that place of asking "Why?" There is the fire in Maui, the floods in Southern California and Norway, the migrant crisis around the world, those people who take advantage of children and young adults by placing them in slavery, the killing of millions of babies through abortion, the terrorist organizations that torture and kill those who do not agree with them, the Christian communities that are being destroyed around the world, and more.
We can find innumerable plights in our world that draw us to chip away at our Christian foundation and belief that God is good. Shakings are a part of life. But as Christians, we must use them to embed our anchors even more deeply into the truth of God's love for us. Christ alone is our Rock and the One who sacrificed everything for us.
In Scripture, Job was the first one to ask the why question. And who could blame him? He was a wealthy man of integrity who offered burnt offerings to God every morning. God pointed this out to Satan and asks him to notice how Job was blameless and feared Him. Here is Satan's reply: "Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has?" "...But now, stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face." (Job 1:10,11) A plethora of losses began to plague Job, and eventually Satan afflicted his body with painful sores. His friends came to sit with him, and it is said of them that "...they could hardly recognize him..." (Job 2:12) In his suffering, Job began to ask why questions of God: "Why did I not perish at birth and die as I came from the womb?" (Job 3:11) "Why is light given to those in misery, and life to the bitter of soul?" (Job 3:20) "Why is life given to a man whose way is hidden, whom God has hedged in?" (Job 3:23) The Psalmist also asked the question why. Here is one: "Why does your anger smolder against the sheep of your pasture?" (Psalm 74:1)
Elisabeth Elliot helps give us some insight into asking the why question: "There would be no sense in asking why if you did not believe in anything. The word itself presupposes purpose. Purpose presupposes a purposeful intelligence. Somebody has to have been responsible. It is because we believe in God that we address questions to Him. We believe that He is just and that He is love, but that belief is put to severe strain as we wrestle with our pain and perplexities, with our position in His ordered universe." (Page 12)
Psalm 22, a psalm of David, prophetically asks a question that would be repeated by Jesus while He was on The Cross. "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (Verse 1) Both Matthew 27:46 and Mark 15:34 quote Jesus as calling out to His Father: "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" Of course, Jesus knew about the agony of His death before He came to earth. So why did He ask the question? God used the death of His Son to redeem us so that we could spend eternity in heaven with Him. Jesus was bridging the gap between His sinless Father and sinful people. Perhaps He was quoting Psalm 22 because those witnessing the crucifixion would have been familiar with it.
Elisabeth writes, "Christ's radical diminishments—His birth as a helpless baby and His death as a common criminal—accomplished our salvation..." (Page 19) When we have no explanation for what is happening around us, we look to God. Elisabeth says, "It's got something to do with that great principle of loss being the route to gain, or diminishments being the only way we can finally be enlarged, that is conformed to the image of Christ." (Page 20) What is the bottom line for a Christian? We must be able to live with the mystery of God and trust in Him who is omniscient, omnipresent, and omnipotent. He is transforming us into the image of His Son, and it is our responsibility to cooperate with Him even if we do not have the answers to our why questions. As we trust in the Lord, it is precious to Him.
Joan E. Mathias