Saturday, April 25, 2015

"(Now his windows were open in his chamber toward Jerusalem)" Daniel 6:10


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OLD TESTAMENT PARENTHESES (24)

"(Now his windows were open in his chamber toward Jerusalem)" Daniel 6:10

IT might be thought that this is just an incidental remark about Daniel's residence if it were not for the fact that clearly chapter 9 tells of the earlier exercise in prayer over Jerusalem's restoration so that his daily prayer and giving of thanks centred upon the assurance that his earnest prayers had been heard and would be answered. The open windows seem to have a spiritual significance. They indicated the objective of Daniel's persistent ministry of intercession.

HE could have closed the windows and been effectively shielded from the prying eyes of his enemies. That might have spared him from accusation, but to him it would have represented spiritual defeat. It is true that he could not see the far distant Jerusalem, and had he done so, would have had little to give thanks for, since the city was in ruins. But faith can see the invisible; it can so embrace the promises of God as to give substance to what has not yet taken place. Daniel had prayed for God's city and for God's people (9:17-19) and knew that his prayer had been heard.

DANIEL was not praying for himself; he could do that behind closed doors. He was maintaining a thrice daily prayer watch until the promised answer was realised. That answer centred in the rebuilding of Jerusalem, and faith demanded that he keep his windows open in that direction as he prayed. There is something magnificently inspiring in the statement that when he knew of the fatal decree, he just went on with his customary praying (6:10). The man of faith does not panic.

PRESUMABLY it was after his third session of prayer that Daniel was thrown into the lions' den. Since he was released, quite unharmed, very early on the following morning, we may also presume that he went back home, fell on his knees and carried on with his holy privilege of thanksgiving and prayer. The windows were certainly still open. Jerusalem's future was still the objective of his intercessions. And in the first year of Cyrus, captives were released to go back and rebuild the city.

THE lessons to me are to keep on praying about the Lord's interests and leave Him to look after ours. We should not pray in front of a mirror (though we need to pray for ourselves). We should not pray with the limited outlook of our own room, however important that may be. We need to keep the windows open towards God's objective when we pray. And though all Hell should scheme to have those windows closed and that prayer silenced, we should go quietly and purposefully on.

POOR Daniel was not permitted to return with the released captives. That may well have been a great disappointment to him. However his prayers played a vital part in the restoration of the city and, what is more, he was guaranteed an honoured place in the heavenly and eternal Jerusalem, for he was told, "Thou shalt stand in thy lot at the end of the days" (12:13).

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Psalm 122 JOINING UP



ON THE WAY UP (3)

Psalm 122    JOINING UP

SO far the Pilgrim's songs have been wholly personal. This is as it should be for we rightly respond to our heavenly calling with individual faith. At first he feels alone in his venture. But not for long. His quest for holiness brings him into vital relationship with others who are on the same road and heading for the same destination, the house of the Lord in the top of the mountain.

HE is glad to find himself in such company. At times we extol the merits of some district by saying that one can walk for miles without meeting another soul. Well, that may be all right for a holiday but it is not possible, neither is it desirable, for the Christian pilgrim.

NOTE how the singular use of 'I' and 'my' give place to the plural 'us' and 'our'. The tribes -- all of them -- are on the move and they journey together in the will of God. We are joined up as we journey up. Such relatedness brings its problems but it brings divine joys -- "I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go ...". It is a great privilege to be given a place in that happy band of pilgrims.

THEIR hope is so vividly real that they feel as though their feet are already standing in those sacred precincts, though actually they are tramping a dusty road. They are there in spirit. Their first impression seems to be of the marvellous compact unity which is a feature of God's house. They see also that they are in the realm where God alone rules -- "there are set thrones for judgment". The very prospect inspires the psalmist to an appreciation of his calling to be joined up to brothers and companions in this upward movement.

THE welfare of these friends and companions will now be a governing factor in his concerns and prayers. He began with personal preoccupations and found assurance that God would watch over them; now he is joined up with the rest of God's people, so he will concentrate on their affairs too. He will pray for the peace of Jerusalem not only because it is his home but because he knows it to be the home which he shares with all the rest of God's people.

THOSE who are compacted together and ruled by God's throne in their heavenly destination should surely strive for harmony on the way up and gladly submit to the judgments of the throne even now. The psalmist's final words show that he realises that the united testimony of the redeemed is of paramount importance to the Lord Himself. He accepts that his right relationship with others in this great tribal movement upwards is supremely for the pleasure of the Lord. The house they are going to is God's house. The peace that really matters is God's peace. The invitation which he has received is not only to join up with special friends of his own choosing, but to play a loyal part in the concerted progress of all God's pilgrims, who are his brothers because they are God's children.

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The Discipline Of Heeding



By Oswald Chambers

‘What I tell you in darkness, that speak ye in light: and what ye hear in the ear, that preach ye upon the housetops.’

Matthew 10:27

At times God puts us through the discipline of darkness to teach us to heed Him. Song birds are taught to sing in the dark, and we are put into the shadow of God’s hand until we learn to hear Him. “What I tell you in darkness” – watch where God puts you into darkness, and when you are there keep your mouth shut. Are you in the dark just now in your circumstances, or in your life with God? Then remain quiet. If you open your mouth in the dark, you will talk in the wrong mood: darkness is the time to listen. Don’t talk to other people about it; don’t read books to find out the reason of the darkness, but listen and heed. If you talk to other people, you cannot hear what God is saying. When you are in the dark, listen, and God will give you a very precious message for someone else when you get into the light.

After every time of darkness there comes a mixture of delight and humiliation (if there is delight only, I question whether we have heard God at all), delight in hearing God speak, but chiefly humiliation – What a long time I was in hearing that! How slow I have been in understanding that! And yet God has been saying it all these days and weeks. Now He gives you the gift of humiliation which brings the softness of heart that will always listen to God now.


THREE WORRIED MEN

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THREE WORRIED MEN


Reading: Exodus 14:10-18; Joshua 7:1-11; 1 Kings 19:9-18

John H. Paterson

WHEN Christians encounter difficulties or dangers, they usually reassure themselves by recalling the many great promises of God in His Word, promises that He will be with them and help them. Most of these promises were, of course, originally given to great servants of God, whose stories encourage us as we read them. We are stirred by the words of God to Moses, "My presence shall go with thee, and I will give thee rest", or His assurance to Joshua, "As I was with Moses, so I will be with thee", and which of us has not in some time of need read over God's promises to and by Elijah, and sought to make them our own: "I have commanded the ravens to feed thee"; "Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, The barrel of meal shall not waste, neither shall the cruse of oil fail ..."? It is good to have this kind of reassurance in difficult times.

But if we read the sections of the life stories of these same three men of God, we see that there were some occasions on which God responded in a quite different way -- not with comforting reassurances but with a challenge. At a moment when each of these three men was facing a particular crisis, and one of them at least was having a nervous breakdown, God's reaction to their cries for help was 'What's all this fuss about?' Each of them in turn was challenged to account for their actions: "Wherefore criest thou unto me?" (Exodus 14:15); "Wherefore liest thou upon thy face?" (Joshua 7:10); "What doest thou here, Elijah?" (1 Kings 19:9,13). Coming as they do from the God of hope, peace and reassurance, these words may well seem surprising. We must try to understand them.

Moses and His Rod
Moses and the children of Israel were in acute danger. They had left the inhabited part of Egypt, but were not yet safely across the Red Sea when Pharaoh's army recovered its poise after the ten plagues and came in pursuit of them. In no time at all, the unarmed ex-slaves were trapped between the enemy and the sea (ironically, in the same situation as the Egyptians at the end of the 1973 campaign, but with the roles reversed). Clearly, unless God intervened, it was only a matter of hours before Israel's bid for freedom was ended. Moses seems to have expected God to intervene; he tried to reassure the people (Exodus 14:13) and meanwhile he himself was evidently praying hard. It was at this moment, however, that God reacted surprisingly, by saying -- if we accept the Living Bible translation of verse 15 -- 'Quit praying and get moving'. With the sea in front and the enemy behind, God said to Moses, 'What's all the fuss about? You've got your rod, haven't you?'

A rod: what could be more ludicrously inadequate than one rod with which to combat all the king's horses and all the king's men? But God was very clear about it; this was not to be a time for praying -- it was a time for using the rod. And, of course, anyone who follows the career of Moses from his commissioning to his journey's end knows why. The rod had become, as it was to remain, the symbol of authority -- God's authority, exercised by Moses. This authority Moses already wielded, but because this particular situation was extra dangerous, and seemed even more impossible than the ones that had gone before it, Moses was evidently looking for something special in the way of a deliverance -- extra power for extra danger. And God had to remind him -- 'You already have all the power you need. Get on and use it. Quit praying and get moving.'

We shall all no doubt sympathise with Moses, for we know this same feeling: 'This obstacle confronting me is so great and so frightening [43/44] that I shall need a very special provision of grace from God to be able to survive, let alone surmount it.' But that is not true; we already have all we need for survival and success. "All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore ...". Sometimes, it is not a question of praying for more, but of using what we already have. 'Quit praying and get moving.'



"(for the day of that sabbath was a high day)" (John 19:31)

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INSPIRED PARENTHESES (4)
"(for the day of that sabbath was a high day)" (John 19:31)

IT is a feature of John's Gospel that he frequently combines a historical fact with a hidden spiritual implication. This Sabbath, as he reminds us, was a very special one. Phillip's rendering is: "for that was a particularly important Sabbath". This was true in the matter of the Jewish Calendar. Spiritually, though, it was much more than that, for it was surely the most significant Sabbath in the whole of human history. When He spoke of His impending death, the Lord Jesus invariably singled out "the third day" as the day of resurrection. The second day was not mentioned and is seldom considered by us, yet this was the 'high day' which the Spirit urged John to record in his parenthetical remark. It merits some special attention from all readers of the Gospel.

The outstanding feature of the Sabbath was that it was the day when man was required to "cease from his own works" (Hebrews 4:10). The Lord Jesus, however, made no apology for performing His miracles of mercy on that day, and seems perhaps deliberately to have chosen it for the occasion of some of His greatest works of healing. This was doubtless because He wished to emphasise that these were the acts of God. The powers which He displayed were not the works of Man only, but were the works of God. In this way the real implication of the Sabbath was beautifully expressed; the mighty power of God operated on a basis of pure grace.

When we come to this 'high Sabbath', we are tremendously impressed with the way in which it almost seemed that time stood still. The second day was a day of supernatural silence. Whatever may have been happening in those unseen realms where the Lord Jesus had so positively promised to welcome the penitent thief into God's Paradise, in the realm of things visible there was a complete absence of activity. The tomb was sealed; the guard mounted their watch; the sacred Body lay at rest in that cave where death had never before entered. The sorrowing friends of Jesus waited in sad inactivity for the third day to dawn.

They themselves were helpless. The apostles were stunned in dark despair. Joseph of Arimathaea and Nicodemus had done their best to accord some honour to that revered Body, but they could do no more and were left with their bitter-sweet reflections. The women were eager enough to pay their tribute to the remains of their beloved Lord, but the law did not permit them to proceed any further until that day of silence was over. The first day had been a day of tragedy. The third day was to prove a day of glory. The second day, though, was seemingly a non-day. Yet it was, as John tells us, one of very great importance.

What shall we say of the Lord Jesus? What was His attitude towards that second day? For this we must consult the prophetical psalms. They show that His attitude was a positive one -- faith is always positive -- and yet it is declared to be one of waiting. "My flesh also shall dwell in hope: because thou wilt not leave my soul in Hades, neither wilt thou give thy Holy One to see corruption" (Acts 2:26-27). He did not try to rise. He made no effort at all. He waited for that new day, the famous 'third day', when the glory of the Father would raise Him from the dead (Romans 6:4).

This, then, is the meaning of the second day. So far as men are concerned it is the experience of 'hands off', to leave the way clear for the mighty hand of God to show its power. In the verse of Romans 6 which has been quoted we notice that we too are called to walk in this same 'newness of life', and to do it on the basis demonstrated in Christ's resurrection. For us it is not a matter of a day of twenty-four hours, nor of any interval of time as such. The simple principle is one of cessation from all human effort and endeavour in order to give God His opportunity to work in us to will and to do of His good pleasure. When man struggles, God holds His hand. When man waits on God and waits for God, the mighty miracle of resurrection is bound to follow.

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Friday, April 24, 2015

The Bounty Of The Destitute








By Oswald Chambers

'Being justified freely by His grace...'
Romans 3:24

The Gospel of the grace of God awakens an intense longing in human souls and an equally intense resentment, because the revelation which it brings is not palatable. There is a certain pride in man that will give and give, but to come and accept is another thing. I will give my life to martyrdom, I will give myself in consecration, I will do anything, but do not humiliate me to the level of the most hell-deserving sinner and tell me that all I have to do is to accept the gift of salvation through Jesus Christ.

We have to realize that we cannot earn or win anything from God; we must either receive it as a gift or do without it. The greatest blessing spiritually is the knowledge that we are destitute; until we get there Our Lord is powerless. He can do nothing for us if we think we are sufficient of ourselves, we have to enter into His Kingdom through the door of destitution. As long as we are rich, possessed of anything in the way of pride or independence, God cannot do anything for us. It is only when we get hungry spiritually that we receive the Holy Spirit. The gift of the essential nature of God is made effectual in us by the Holy Spirit, He imparts to us the quickening life of Jesus, which puts "the beyond" within, and immediately "the beyond" has come within, it rises up to "the above," and we are lifted into the domain where Jesus lives. (John 3:5.)



On Being a Peacemaker





Garden of the Heart: Chapter 18 - On Being a Peacemaker
By J.R. Miller


No one of the Beatitudes has a greater promise, than that for the peacemakers. "They shall be called the children of God," said the Master. This must be because they are like God. God is a peacemaker, and we become His children just in the measure in which we are peacemakers.

In one of the prophets, God reveals His desire for the peace of His people by saying: "I know the thoughts that I think toward you--thoughts of peace." Always God desires His children to have peace. He wishes them to be at peace with Him, to be reconciled to Him, accepting His grace and love, and entering into fellowship with Him. He wishes them to have His peace, the very peace of God, in their hearts, amid all the trials and sorrows of life. Christ bequeathed His peace to His friends. "My peace I give unto you."

Then He wants them to be at peace among themselves. Strife between brothers is unseemly, undivine. If we are God's children--we will share with Him all these desires for peace.

In a narrower sense, a peacemaker is one who seeks to cure dissensions, to bring together those who are in any way estranged, to remove misunderstandings, and to promote peaceable relations among men. It is a noble mission, one to which every follower of Christ should be heartily devoted. The blessing upon the peacemaker is so great, so exalted, and so divine--that everyone should be eager to win it.

One way to be a peacemaker--is to live a peaceable life oneself. Perhaps there has been too little attention paid to the cultivation of the graces of Christian life. Doctrinal soundness has been insisted upon as a test of Christian life--more than the graces of the Spirit and beauty of character has been. An irritable temper is too often regarded, not, indeed, as a quality to be admired and commended--but, at the worst, as an excusable infirmity, one that must be charitably tolerated, a weakness so common among good people that no one can reprove his neighbor for it. So many Christian men and women are touchy and easily offended, so easily hurt and so likely to hold a grudge--that it seems necessary to leave a wide margin in defining what true religion requires of its followers in the matter of patience and forbearance.

But the teaching of Jesus on this point is very clear. He insists on love, not merely as a fine sentiment--but as a quality of daily life, affecting all its relations and its contact with others. "But I tell you--Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek--turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic--let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile--go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you." Matthew 5:39-44. There would seem to be no place left in this teaching for resisting wrong, for resentment, for retaliation. Certainly strife is not commended by our Master.

In the epistles, too, there is many and exhortation to peaceable living. For example, Paul counsels Christians, as much as in them lies, to live peaceably with all men. If there must be quarreling, it should not be the fault of the Christian. He must not begin it. It must not come through his insisting on his rights. He must do all in his power to get along with his neighbor without strife. If others are disposed to be quarrelsome, he must meet the disagreeable spirit with love, overcoming evil with good. "The finest thing about our rights," says George Macdonald, "is that, being our own, we can give them up."

According to the New Testament, whatever is unloving in act, word, or spirit--is to be avoided. All malice, bitterness, clamor, and evil speaking are to be put off--and all meekness, patience, kindness, and thoughtfulness are to be put on. We may do a great deal as a peacemaker, by always keeping love in our hearts. In the Bahama Islands, wells of sweet water are often seen near the sea. They rise and fall with the tide, and yet they are always fresh and sweet. As the water filters from the sea through the coral it loses its brackish saltiness. A Christian's heart should be such a well, sweetened by the grace of God--and yielding only love, instead of nature's resentment and bitterness.