Devotional 172: Be Strong

1 Chronicles 19:10-13

10 When Joab saw that the battle line was against him before and behind, he chose some of Israel’s best and put them in battle array against the Syrians. 11 And the rest of the people he put under the command of Abishai his brother, and they set themselves in battle array against the people of Ammon. 12 Then he said, “If the Syrians are too strong for me, then you shall help me; but if the people of Ammon are too strong for you, then I will help you. 13 Be of good courage, and let us be strong for our people and for the cities of our God. And may the Lord do what is good in His sight.”

Joab finds himself in battle because David did an act of kindness, but the ruler to whom he extended the kindness listened to his council, and shamed David’s emissaries culturally to the point where they couldn’t return from their mission. David would not see them shamed for their own sake; he told them to stay elsewhere until their beards grew back, so they had to live apart from their homes and families until they could be restored. No doubt they endured the scorn of the people of the city until that time.

Now we are here.  It has been a tumultuous year, and the normally tranquil passing of winter into spring has become like the pot of the three witches of Macbeth, adding all manner of foul things to it in order to deceive those prone to temptation and pride, destroying everything good around them to capture a moment in time for their own greed and glory. By giving in, they lose the very thing they sought, and are brought down to great sin and shame.

It will be hard for any believer worth the title to deny that in this time of pandemic, international chaos, and filial hatred, we are in the midst of a battle. As believers called out of the world to minister the Gospel to it, this is not a time to hide. Jesus tells us no one who starts to plow and looks back is fit for kingdom service. (Luke 9:62)

In order to be effective, and see what the harvest would yield, we must be strong not just for our sakes, but for the places where we live, work, and play. We must be strong for those around us having a difficult time keeping it together. We must set aside differences, knowing that the kingdom will be made up of all nations. More importantly, we are not to try to display such strength in our own might. The church, if it does not act in this hour, insulating itself and calling for earthly, flawed, and sinful men to lead us out of that which they helped create, will be found wanting and judged accordingly.

So like Joab, we prepare for battle and go out. We must be prepared to fortify one another wherever needed or we face certain defeat. We are still to do acts of kindness in the midst of the fight if and when we can, even if we are shamed for it. If we believe we suffer ill for the kingdom, the Lord assures us it will be to our credit as profitable servants. (Matthew 5:11)

Our enemy is not weak. He is busy, prolific, and makes those who give in to him defile their flesh as he devours their souls. (1 Peter 5:8)

So let us stand together and pray, above all, that the Lord do what is good in His sight.

If He is good, faithful, just, righteous, and true, then when we call on His Name and seek His hand to deliver us, He will respond. The earth is His, after all, and everything that dwells on it. He will respond to contrite hearts and upright spirits. (Psalm 51:17) He will respond to those who earnestly seek Him in the midst of their despair. (Luke 18:15) He has set before us blessings and curses, and told us to choose. We are, in our freedom, bound by His commandments, statutes, and conditions. We are ultimately subject to His will, whether we deny, qualify, or believe in His very existence.

So let us not fight in our own strength, but pray His will upon the battle. Let us not be wise in our own eyes, lest we shamed. Let us fortify each other and go where we are needed to seek and save the lost, our works shining before men that they may see and we can point them to G-d, that they too might come to glorify Him through the Son, and save their souls through faith in Him.

Therefore I pray:

Father in Heaven,

Forgive us, for we have been a wicked and adulterous nation, serving money and pride as we honored You with our lips, but not our hearts. Our love grew cold and covered over as we corrupted Your Word to suit our purposes, that we might pursue the pleasures of flesh under the guise of heavenly servitude.

But You, Father, see as clearly in the darkest night as You do in the noonday sun.

Our hearts were hard soil, and our ears would not hear.

You have again scattered Your church as You did after Pentecost when those who walked with Jesus became complacent ministering among their own, and enjoying the time, but t were not in the field sowing. And so You struck them with persecutions to make them flee and go where You needed them.

It is no different now, and we must heed the call as the prophecies of Christ unfold. But let us glean wisdom from Your Word, and help us to set aside that which would keep us from working together to prepare once more the way of the Lion of Judah, and not the lamb of G-d. We must move swiftly, for lions are faster than lambs.

As Joab prepared his warriors, let us prepare. As he exhorted them, so let us exhort one another. And as he surrendered the battle to Your sovereign will, let us do likewise.

We place our times in Your hand as we go out to make war, to do work, to guard the supplies, to tend the animals in our care, and minister to the children and elders under our watch that You gave into our hands, whether they be of our blood or not.

And above all, Father, we pray that in the midst of this fight, as seek Your face, as we ask, trust, and believe no matter how it looks to us, You will gather the saved  from the harvest fields, and do what is good in Your sight.

In righteousness, peace, and joy may we honor You.

Amen.

Devotional 164: The Time of Visitation

Luke 19:41-44

Jesus Weeps over Jerusalem

41 Now as He drew near, He saw the city and wept over it, 42 saying, “If you had known, even you, especially in this your day, the things that make for your peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. 43 For days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment around you, surround you and close you in on every side, 44 and level you, and your children within you, to the ground; and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not know the time of your visitation.”

Our Lord wept over Jersualem because of the relentless resistance, faithlessness, and rebuke of the religious leaders who relied on scholarly knowledge and loved the praises of man.

As we our now shut in, we see the pockets of resistance to something we’ve never encountered before that has hindered us, and in our earthly arrogance would think to throw off the chains it has placed around us.

In the midst of this, pastors are testing G-d, and some are even asking for donations of personal stimulus checks.

This could be the very hour Jesus comes to visit us not as the Lamb of G-d, but the Lion of Judah. We misread the signs of the times to our peril, and must be more discerning like the sons of Issachar (1 Chronicles 12:32)

It is time to be silent before the Lord, to be obedient and practice wisdom that protects ourselves, our families, and our neighbors. There will be a renewing of our souls as well as the land if we can stay obedient to the call of not moving ahead of G-d’s will; it will not ever be superseded by the will of man. (Zephaniah 1:7)

Let us use this time to spend with our Lord, and recognize this as a time of visitation from Him to reset ourselves, repent of our sins, renew our faith, and renew our commitment to the narrow path that leads to life everlasting, even as we mourn with those who mourn, and rejoice with those who rejoice, not becoming wise in our own opinion. (Romans 12:15-16)

Let us not have Jesus weep over our arrogance, keeping in mind His warning that not everyone who says to Him, “Lord…” will enter into Heaven’s rest with Him. (Matthew 7:21) 

As we cannot know the hour of His return, let us at least discern the hour of His visitation.

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus, 

   The hard teachings have now come to the fore during hard times. As Your followers, disciples, missionaries, ministers, artists, and those to whom You have revealed the Father in order that we might serve the kingdom, we ask that You grant us discernment to come to You and see what You would have us do, how to use our gifts, to point the faithless to the Father as they see our good works, and perceive our love for them and for each other. 

   We would not have this hour pass us by in idleness and distractions. Keep our lamps pure and clear, that we set nothing wicked before our eyes, and let us walk uprightly in our homes. (Psalm 101:2-3)

    We rejoice in the days we are yet given, if not the circumstances we find ourselves in at this time. Let us continue to offer praise to You and the Father, seeking through the Holy Spirit to remain connected to the True Vine. 

    Don’t leave us or forsake us, Lord. Forgive us our backsliding and lapses of faith. We would keep our hands on the plow, and not look back, and not turn back, for then we will not be fit for the Kingdom of G-d. (Luke 9:62) 

    It is a dark hour across the world, and we ask that You reach down to us to keep us in Your presence, lifted above the things of the world that hates us. Like Peter, in this hour we cry out, “Lord, save me!” and acknowledge, as He also did, that You are the Son of G-d to whom all authority has been given by the Father.

    We bow our knees, confess with our tongues, and rededicate ourselves to You in service, obedient to the calls on our lives as You finish the work You began in us.

     In righteousness, peace, and joy may we honor You.

     Amen.