Be Silent!

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One key point to Bible study is the principle of repetition. When God repeats something it is because He wants us to pay careful attention to it. One word has been repeated in my daily Bible Study this week, and not just repeated but almost raised up off of the page – like 3D print. I’ll share the two verses with you and see if you can spot it.

“The Lord is in His holy temple; let all the earth be silent before Him” (Habakkuk 2:30)

“Be silent before the Sovereign Lord” (Zephaniah 1:7).

I’m sure you guessed that the word is “silent” and in Hebrew, it is an interjection. For those of us who’ve been out of school for a while, an interjection is an abrupt remark made to snap the listener to attention. Thus, these verses would be delivered sharply and with an exclamation. “Be silent!” Why? Because you are before the Sovereign Lord who is in His holy temple. Because – if we really knew Him, we would be on our faces in silent awe and adoration. This is the One who rules and reigns in holiness and righteousness and complete authority.

What impressed my heart so clearly is the contrast of this command against the shouts of protest and words of anger that are so prevalent in the United States right now. Many Christians are asking, “What are we to do? How do we respond?” I believe we are to turn our eyes away from the scenes of violence and hatred and turn them to God. I believe we are to come before Him in silence, recognizing that “the Sovereign Lord is in His holy temple.” In other words, He is still on His throne. He is still reigning over all the earth. He is still in complete control. He is still God.

Wicked men have been causing chaos and destruction since the beginning of time. But none of it has unseated the Lord God. He always wins in the end. Always. Read it again. A.L.W.A.Y.S. Friends, evil has not won the day, because the day is not over. God will never let His people down. Never. Read it again. N.E.V.E.R. Besides, I read the end of the book. Evil loses. God wins. Beloved, don’t be anxious but turn your eyes to Almighty God. And be silent.

Will I Go to Hell Because I Yelled at God?

crying-babyMy heart grew hot within me, and as I meditated, the fire burned; then I spoke with my tongue.” Psalm 39:3

I yelled at God.  I was aggravated because He wasn’t doing things like I thought He should.  The truth is, He wasn’t doing anything at all.  A difficult situation was just festering, and so was my frustration level.   I had prayed so much about this issue.  I had begged God to intervene; I had pleaded for His help with my face down in the carpet.   I told Him all the reasons why He needed to act on my behalf.  I pointed out how devastating this situation would become if He didn’t.    The longer the situation drug on the shorter my patience became until I just exploded—at God.  I told Him that I couldn’t take this situation any longer.  I asked Him what He was waiting for.  I asked Him if He was paying attention.  I even asked if He was trying to push me over the edge of sanity.

Lest you think I’m being disrespectful and irreverent, God and I have worked out the situation and we are still on very good terms.  But I’m telling you this because in our human nature we all tend to get impatient and frustrated with God.  Really—it’s okay to admit it.  Do you think He doesn’t know?

That day I sat in the floor of my study, my face red and streaked with tears, yelling at the God of heaven and earth—and He never yelled back at me.  In fact He didn’t say anything for a long time, He just let me rant on and on until my anger gradually gave way to quiet exhaustion.  I leaned my head against the wall, closed my eyes and took a deep breath.  And that’s when I “heard” a quiet voice in my spirit say, “Feel better now?”  I’m not sure I felt better about the situation, but my anger was spent and I quietly answered, “Yes.”  Then the Lord reminded me of the lesson I had taught just a few days before; that God is sovereign over our lives and He is able to take the most impossible situations and bring amazing things from them.

I had talked about Joseph who was sold into slavery by his own brothers, forced into servitude and thrown into prison on trumped up charges, yet God used every step in his journey like rungs on a ladder to elevate him to the second highest position in the province of Egypt and to save the lives of his entire family.  Had his brothers not sold him into slavery, he would have never been in Egypt.  Had he not worked as a servant and been thrown in prison he would have never encountered Pharaoh’s cupbearer who recommended him to Pharaoh to interpret his dream.  Had he not interpreted Pharaoh’s dream he would have never been placed over the entire kingdom’s food resources.  Had he not been in that position, his family would have starved to death in the famine and the nation of Israel—along with our Savior—would die with them.  Though all his challenges, the Bible never shows that Joseph became impatient or frustrated with God.  He quietly trusted God and waited for the Lord to act on his behalf.  He believed that God was able to take rejection by his family, slavery and prison and work them all together for a good purpose.  I’ll bet Joseph never yelled at God.

So what do we do with our pent up emotions?  Deny them?  We’ve already established that He knows our feelings.  Stuff them?  That’s a sure recipe for a pressure cooker explosion like the one I had.  Nor do I think God wants us to pretend that we are so spiritual we are not affected by these difficult times.

Remember that we are made in the image of God, and Scripture frequently tells us that God experiences emotions.  God feels delight – “The Lord your God  . . .will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing” (Zephaniah 3:17).  God feels sorrow – John 11: 35 tells us that Jesus wept at the tomb of His friend Lazarus.  God feels joy – when His disciples returned rejoicing over the wonders they performed in His name, Luke says that He was “full of joy through the Holy Spirit.”  And yes, God also gets angry – though His anger is righteous and just.  The Israelites angered God on more than one occasion with their faithlessness and idolatry.  Job 42: 7 says that God declared His anger at Job’s “friends” because they spoke untruthfully about Him.

God knows that we have emotions – including anger – and He knows that in our finite human minds we get frustrated over things we do not understand.  Surely if God would have sat down with me and told me His plan for this situation I would have been able to control my emotions as He worked it all out.  But then, that doesn’t require much faith does it?

So that day I had it out with God, and you know, He never berated me for losing control.  He didn’t turn and leave in a cloud of offense.  He didn’t respond with His own blast of anger at me.  He let me purge my heart of all that I was feeling, then like a good Father He wrapped His tender love around me, calming my anxious spirit and assuring me that, indeed He was watching, He cared and He had a plan.  And as time moved along, I saw Him faithfully resolve the issue.

Beloved, God is big enough to take your honest emotions, in fact He insists that we come to him in truthfulness—and that includes your feelings of disappointment, discouragement, frustration and, yes, even anger.  We do so with honesty and reverence knowing that He will not reject us, but rather draw us close as His child and soothe our hearts with His love.   So take all your raw emotions to God and tell Him how you feel, even if you have to yell a little.

Holy Father, I am thankful that You know me so well; You know that I am fraught with human emotions that I sometimes can’t control.  Lord thank You for hearing my heart’s cry and for touching the deepest part of me with Your peace and tender love.  Amen

Come Together

“For He Himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility.” Ephesians 2:14

There are a lot of people in recent days talking about what divides us as a nation and how to bring some sort of reconciliation between people. We have all seen the protests and the anger and hurt. We have seen grief and sadness and bitterness and distrust – and all our protesting and postulating and town-hall meetings only seem to make the chasm wider. In this season of Christmas, this time when there should be “peace on earth” (Luke 2:14) and we should “love one another” (John 13:34) we see everything but. How did we become such an angry society? What is the root of our discord? And how do we reclaim the peace we’ve lost?

We can try to lay the blame on any number of societal issues: race, prejudice, poverty, substance abuse, distrust, hatred, abuse, oppression, even down to the simple matter of differences of opinion. But the truth is there is one deeper root, one all-encompassing cause to which we can point and say: “This is the heart of all our problems.”

We stand in enmity against God.

From the beautiful Garden of Eden, throughout the history of humanity to this very day, mankind has set himself against the Creator and righteous King and declared himself as his own authority and ruler. He has turned away from God, not realizing that he has made a deadly eternal choice.   We don’t like to admit it, but the truth is that at our core, we are all sinners. We have all inherited a sin-nature from Adam and Eve, the first man and woman and the first sinners. It is not our sin that makes us sinners; it is our sinful nature that makes us sinners and leads us into sin.   It is that sinful nature that sets us against God as His enemy. It is that sinful nature that says we deserve to be punished and condemned. God is righteous and He will judge every human; we will not stand in judgment before Him in our standard of goodness, but in His.

Yet . . . God, who is righteous and holy in His nature and His judgment is also loving toward all His creation – toward Adam and Eve and every person throughout human history, right down to you and me. His holiness demands judgment, but His loving heart passionately desires to be merciful.   And that is the heart of the Christmas story: God’s mercy breaking through man’s sinfulness and rebellion like the star that cast its light on the face of an infant in a manger. Jesus. All God’s love and mercy was wrapped in human flesh and swaddling clothes.  And He later wrapped Himself in mankind’s sin – your sin and mine – and died on the cross to take away our sin and break our sinful nature; to bear our punishment and condemnation. God gave Jesus as His gift to humanity to reconcile the creation with the Creator. To bring us peace. And when we are restored to God, when we have peace with God, we can then be restored in our human relationships and have peace with one another. But not until we first receive the gift of Jesus into our lives.

The apostle Paul said “God reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:18). This is not reconciliation between men, but rather a ministry of reconciling man and God as Paul also said: “His purpose was to create in Himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which He put to death their hostility. (Ephesians 2:15, 16-emphasis added). Restoration and peace between angry people will not be settled as long as we are out of fellowship with God. The root cause of all the hostility in the world is man’s hostility toward God, and the fighting and hatred will never stop until we are reconciled to God. True peace will never come until we have peace with God.

The season of Christmas can become the starting point of a new life, of being reconciled to God and of having true, lasting, real peace – peace that spills over onto those around us. Come to Jesus, not just the babe in the manger, but the man on the cross – and let peace on earth start in your heart today.

Holy Father, please stir in our hearts a desire to be reconciled to You, to know and share Your peace in this angry, hurting world. I pray that the person who reads this will come to receive Your gift of love – Jesus Christ – who alone will bring “peace on earth.” Amen.