I love it when God speaks in themes. Many times He has placed before me the same word or verse or song to sharpen my focus. I can almost hear the Spirit saying “Are you paying attention?” I’ve learned over the years to zero in on those repetitions and ask Him what He wants to reveal to me. Mind you, nothing God says is unimportant, every “jot and tittle” speaks profoundly and powerfully. But there are times where He has a specific, personal word for us that demands our notice. This morning is one of those times.
I don’t normally skim through the Bible. I prefer to settle down with a passage and chew on it thoroughly. But this morning I was thumbing through and landed on two verses at the end of Luke’s gospel. It is after Jesus’ resurrection and He appeared to two of His disciples walking on the road to Emmaus. He talked with them about Himself, but they didn’t recognize Him on the road. When they stopped for the night and sat down to a meal, Jesus broke the bread, gave thanks and gave the men a piece. “Then their eyes were opened and they recognized Him . . .” (v 31). Later He appeared to the gathered disciples and “He opened their minds so they could understand . . .” ( v 45). I underlined both of those and thought, “That’s really cool!” Then I had the urge to jump to Acts and found the story of Lydia’s conversion and this: “The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message” (16:14).
I’m sure you picked up on the theme: opened eyes, opened minds, opened hearts. The word is only used four times in the Bible; twice in the Emmaus passage. It speaks of revelation, of opening the eyes, mind, and heart to truth that is life-changing. And I also noticed is that it is not something the recipient does – it is a supernatural work initiated by God for His purpose.
What does it all mean for you and me? Jeremiah 33:3 says, “Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.” In the original Hebrew this means things we don’t even know to ask about. Beloved, there’s so much to learn. Let’s ask God to open our eyes and mind and heart to all the amazing and wonderful things He wants us to know. Starting with Himself.
“While Jeremiah was still confined in the courtyard of the guard, the word of the Lord came to him a second time.” Jeremiah 33:1
I looked around at the place I was in and I wondered if God was through with me. Did He even know where I was? My life had become a mess of unwise decisions that left me in this depressing and overwhelming situation. I tried so hard to find Him, but I reasoned that God, who is holy and exalted and perfect would never come to me here. I feared He might never come to me at all. Oh, I had once known sweet fellowship with the Lord, had sung His praises, served in His church and felt His presence so near to me. But now. Now I was in the pit and God seem nowhere to be found.
Can you relate? Have you found yourself in a situation or place and wondered if God had left you? Perhaps you have made some poor choices – just some unwise decisions or even outright sin – and thought that God had “washed His hands of you.” Sometimes the actions of others cause devastating repercussions to our lives, even though we are not to blame. Maybe you are disappointed in the circumstances of your life, or your own failures. To compound the misery, God seems nowhere to be found. I think these seasons are common to everyone, and if you are seeking to live for God, they become magnified in your heart and mind.
Recently, while reading through the book of Jeremiah, I came across our key verse and one little word jumped off the page for me. “While.” A little background might help here. The nation of Judah (the Southern Kingdom of Israel) was under siege by the Babylonians. Jeremiah was a prophet of God, and his messages were directed squarely at the religious leaders. They were supposed to be leading the people into obedience to the Lord, but instead they were leading the people into idolatry and pagan worship. For many generations God had compassionately reached out to His people, but, as Jeremiah proclaimed, now their stubbornness and defiance must be punished. The religious leaders had him arrested and placed in a common area for prisoners under guard. And God, the holy, exalted and perfect God, came to him and spoke to Jeremiah in that horrible place. While he was in confinement.
His message to Jeremiah is a sweet and precious promise that still stands today: “Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable thing you do not know. (verse 3)” God is telling Jeremiah, “Even in your captivity, I am listening, I am as near as your next word and I will answer you.” He is declaring His faithfulness to the prophet, His promise to never leave nor forsake him. Despite his circumstances and despite all appearances, God had not abandoned Jeremiah.
He makes the same promise a few verses later “While [the Israelites] are coming to fight…Behold I will bring health and healing, and I will heal them; and I will reveal to them an abundance of peace and truth. (verses 5 & 6; emphasis mine)” In the midst of the battle, with all the shouting and chaos, fear, panic and the stench of war, God comes with His promise of healing, peace and truth.
Throughout the Bible, there is evidence that God is with His people while they are in the most difficult and devastating situations. He was with the Israelites while they wandered through the wilderness. He was with Joseph while he was in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. He was with David while he ran from King Saul and while he grieved over his own sin. God was with the Jews in Persia, while they face a certain death sentence, and He was with the new Believers in Christ Jesus while they were running from Roman and Jewish persecution.
God’s promise to Jeremiah is His promise to you and me as well. Wherever you are, whatever your circumstances, and however you go there, God is promising to come to you while you are there. He is saying to you and me, “Even in your captivity, your disappointment, your mess, your failure, your sin – I am listening. ‘Call to me and I will answer you,’ I am as near as your next word. Despite your circumstance and all appearances, I have not abandoned you.”
This is what Jesus came for. Romans 5:8 says “God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were sinners, Christ died for us. (emphasis mine)” We were lost in our sin, without hope and held captive by the enemy. While we are in our miserable state, Christ comes to us with the promise of healing and restoration and His presence.
While. In circumstances where all hope is lost, God is promising His presence, healing and restoration. Not after you untangle yourself from your messes. Not after the battle has been won. Not after you get your life straightened out. But while you are in the middle of it all, in places you never thought you would be, facing battles that threaten and overwhelm you, God is near and He is listening. He is a close as your next prayer.
“Holy Father, thank You for coming to me while I am in situations and circumstances that threaten and overwhelm me. Thank you for being near to me, no matter where I am. Amen.