David said to Gad, “I am in deep distress. Let me fall into the hands of the LORD, for his mercy is very great; but do not let me fall into human hands.”
(1 Chronicles 21:13 NIV)
After committing the sin of taking a census of Israel, King David was given the option of choosing one of the three ways that God was going to punish him for it. “‘Take your choice: three years of famine, three months of being swept away before your enemies, with their swords overtaking you, or three days of the sword of the LORD—days of plague in the land, with the angel of the LORD ravaging every part of Israel’” (1 Chronicles 21:11-12). I like David’s response. He told Gad, his seer, that he would rather have God discipline him than for anyone else to do it. After all, unlike people, God can still be trusted to show mercy, even when angered. When we commit a wrong, it’s wise to have God discipline us His way because He can always be trusted to treat us kindly and lead us to the right path again.
Can you remember the last dream that you had? Did you dwell on it for a moment and shrug it off afterwards, or did you ignore it altogether? I believe that God speaks to us even while we sleep, so we should try to understand the meaning of our dreams. Throughout the Bible are scattered the dreams of people who actually took the time (and some even went to great lengths) to understand their meaning, especially when the dreams seemed to carry deeper meanings. Joseph, for instance, had dreams of becoming a ruler, while Pharaoh had dreams of famine ravaging his country, and both dreams were fulfilled. I wonder what would have happened if Joseph and Pharaoh had shrugged off their dreams as pointless. The lives of many would have definitely been lost. Instead, the Bible tells us that in the morning Pharaoh “sent for all the magicians and wise men of Egypt” to tell them about his dreams (Genesis 41:8). This tells us that Pharaoh took his dreams very seriously, and so should we.
After Hezekiah had read the note from the king of Assyria, he took it to the temple and spread it out for the LORD to see.
(2 Kings 19:14 CEV)
The Assyrian king, Sennacherib, was threatening King Hezekiah of Judah. What I admire about Hezekiah is the manner in which he chose to respond to Sennacherib’s threats and insults to Israel’s true God. Not only did Hezekiah command the people not to answer the Assyrian commanders and asked the prophet Isaiah to pray, but the king of Judah also took the letter, which the Assyrian king had sent, to the Lord’s temple and literally spread it out for the Lord to see. Hezekiah treated the Lord as a friend. He talked to God about the letter.
Years ago, we re-enacted something similar at church. On a sheet of paper, we made note of things that troubled us and then laid the papers on the altar. It was a liberating experience, one that I’m sure Hezekiah experienced. Sometimes, I still like to literally lay down whatever it is that bothers me before God, and it helps every time.
Make a list of your problems and leave it with God.
But when she came to the man of God at the mountain, she fell to the ground before him and caught hold of his feet. Gehazi began to push her away, but the man of God said, “Leave her alone. She is deeply troubled, but the LORD has not told me what it is.”
(2 Kings 4:27 NLT)
Do you sometimes get a sense that something is wrong, but don’t know the reason behind it until much later? This was the case with the prophet Elisha. He could tell that the woman who had come looking for him was sad, but he couldn’t tell why until she told him. I believe that as God’s children, He makes it possible for us to be sensitive to the needs of others, even though He may not necessarily disclose all of the details right away. We should still pray about what we’re feeling and when the time is right, God will make the matter clear to us. The next time you’re overcome with a feeling that you can’t shake off, pray and think about what God may be trying to tell you.
Elisha replied, “Hear the word of the LORD. This is what the LORD says: About this time tomorrow, a seah of the finest flour will sell for a shekel and two seahs of barley for a shekel at the gate of Samaria.” The officer on whose arm the king was leaning said to the man of God, “Look, even if the LORD should open the floodgates of the heavens, could this happen?” “You will see it with your own eyes,” answered Elisha, “but you will not eat any of it!”
(2 Kings 7:1-2 NIV)
Have you ever been in a situation where you truly believed God for something only to have someone discourage you because of their lack of faith? I once had a conversation with someone who said that what I believed God for was impossible with how things were going. I was reminded of the story in Second Kings where the officer of the king couldn’t believe that even the Lord could miraculously provide for His people’s needs, considering the calamity that had befallen Samaria. I love Elisha’s response, “You will see it with your own eyes…but you will not eat any of it!” and that’s what happened. Don’t miss out on God’s best because of someone’s lack of faith. Keep believing and expecting His word to be fulfilled in your life.
Believe God for the impossible and receive the incredible.
“Don’t be afraid,” the prophet answered. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” And Elisha prayed, “Open his eyes, LORD, so that he may see.” Then the LORD opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.
(2 Kings 6:16-17 NIV)
The king of Aram sent Aramean forces to capture Elisha, whose knowledge of the Aramean military plans had enraged the king. The Bible tells us that the king of Aram “sent horses and chariots and a strong force” to capture Elisha (2 Kings 6:14). When Elisha’s servant saw the force, he was terrified. However, in response to Elisha’s prayer, the fearful servant was able to see that God had also sent His own force, “Then the LORD opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.” We’re so accustomed to earthly reality that we often miss out on the unseen reality of the heavenly hosts. We, too, need to remind ourselves of the fact that we can overcome the Enemy because He who is in us is greater than the one who is in the world (1 John 4:4). Only then will we begin to see the unseen.
I was ashamed to ask the king for soldiers and horsemen to protect us from enemies on the road, because we had told the king, “The gracious hand of our God is on everyone who looks to him, but his great anger is against all who forsake him.” So we fasted and petitioned our God about this, and he answered our prayer.
(Ezra 8:22-23 NIV)
After the decree of King Cyrus of Persia permitting the Jews to return to their homeland, many exiled Jews in Babylonia returned to Jerusalem, and Ezra, the scribe, was one of them. Even though grave dangers faced them on the road, Ezra was ashamed to ask the king for protection because he had told him that God would protect them. Therefore, Ezra and the people fasted and asked God for protection and God answered their prayer. The psalmist also prayed, “Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings” (Psalm 17:8).
We’re not exempt from danger either, so where do we run to for protection? I’ve made it a habit to ask for God’s protection every day. In fact, I remember a time when at the end of a workday, God reminded me of how He had protected me from a particular danger that day, without me even being aware of it. God continues to protect those who run to Him.
You are a spring of water giving Israel life and hope. But if the people reject what you have told me, they will be swept away like words written in dust. (Jeremiah 17:13 CEV)
Who would know this better than God’s own prophet? Jeremiah had faithfully passed down God’s message to the people, but he also realized that not everyone would accept it. Similarly, while we’re called to share God’s Word with others, we must also be willing to accept the fact that not everyone will accept it and that we shouldn’t waste time trying to convince them. When Jesus sent out His disciples to preach, He warned them of the same thing, “When you are welcomed into a home, stay there until you leave that town. If any place won’t welcome you or listen to your message, leave and shake the dust from your feet as a warning to them” (Mark 6:10-11). So don’t be discouraged when people reject what you say about Him, and continue to share His Word anyway.
“Stand at attention while I prepare you for your work. I’m making you as impregnable as a castle, Immovable as a steel post, solid as a concrete block wall. You’re a one-man defense system against this culture, Against Judah’s kings and princes, against the priests and local leaders. They’ll fight you, but they won’t even scratch you. I’ll back you up every inch of the way.” God’s Decree.
(Jeremiah 1:18-19 MSG)
When God commissioned Jeremiah as His spokesperson, God told him up front that it wasn’t going to be easy. However, God promised to “back [him] up every inch of the way.” Therefore, Jeremiah would be able to withstand whatever came at him, and his difficult experiences would only make him stronger.
There are experiences in life that can make us or crush us, make us better or bitter. But if we’re being backed up every inch of the way by God Himself, then like Jeremiah, we can expect to come out stronger. If things that would normally affect us are no longer affecting us, then it’s more likely because God has made us “as impregnable as a castle, immovable as a steel post, solid as a concrete block wall” (Jeremiah 1:18-19). The German philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche, said it well, “That which does not kill us, makes us stronger.” And stronger people are powerful people.
Praise God for using the hard times to make you stronger.
Lord, I know that people’s lives are not their own; it is not for them to direct their steps. (Jeremiah 10:23 NIV)
Isaac and Rebekah started out trusting God. Their divinely arranged marriage is an inspiring story (you can read about it in Genesis 24). When Rebekah couldn’t have children, the Bible tells us that Isaac prayed for her and she became pregnant with twins–Esau and Jacob (25:21). And when the twins jostled each other within her, Rebekah was wise to go to inquire of the Lord, and the Lord revealed His plan for her sons. “Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you will be separated; one people will be stronger than the other, and the older will serve the younger” (vv.22-23). But instead of trusting God to fulfill His Word in His own time, Rebekah decided to take matters in her own hands. When Isaac was about to bless his older son Esau, Rebekah manipulated the situation in order for her younger son, Jacob, to receive the blessing (Genesis 27). In this way, Rebekah tried to fulfill the word of prophecy that ‘the older will serve the younger.’ Sadly, this created sibling rivalry and separation for many years. Clearly, this wasn’t what God had intended.
I’m sad to say that there are still many existing ‘Rebekahs’ out there; believing Christians, who start out trusting God but eventually decide that God is taking too long to fulfill His plan for their lives, so they decide to take matters in their own hands. And although outwardly it may seem like they’re doing great and living within God’s will, it’s not long before others begin to smell their cooked up stories (pun intended). Manipulating our circumstances says a lot about us. It says that we don’t trust God enough to let Him handle our circumstances for us and that we know better (when in reality, we only make matters worse!). So let go and let God!