Tag Archive | God

Kay Cude poetry: Our Fortress Prevails

Poetry by Kay Cude. Used with permission. Artist’s statement below.

I keep returning to our (me!!) needing to “remember” God’s promises and provision. GOD THE I AM is the only fortress in Whom we find a righteous protector, defender and provider. He is the only place of eternal refuge from the world’s continuing tragedies and chaos. He is the stronghold Who is and Who will provide peace, wisdom, understanding, instruction and endurance.

OUR FORTRESS PREVAILS

How could Jonah sleep during the storm?

Our pastor began a new series Sunday on Jonah. He is taking it slow and luxuriating in our verse-by-verse exposition, which means I am too.

I want to say how delighted that he opened the sermon by explaining that the Book of Jonah, with all its supernatural wonders, and especially the great fish swallowing the prophet, was history and really happened as the Bible says. As the wrongly attributed George Orwell quote goes, “In a time of deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.”

Don’t take for granted both the real and spiritual slings and arrows that are flung against your pastor for being brave in preaching the unvarnished truth to a skeptical world. Be sure to pray for him for his spiritual, physical, and emotional health and well being.

Here is the sermon if you’d like to listen. It was delivered at North Avenue Church and its upload is dated June 7, 2017.

I love the prophets and I love the book of Jonah. So on the Monday after our pastor delivered the sermon  I listened to four sermons on Jonah, and on Tuesday I listened to one more. There are multiple layers in Jonah, lots of deep, rich aspects one could go in the journey through this wonderful book. I know our pastor will bring out many truths as we sit under his preaching throughout the summer.

But being practical and being logical, and having been a mariner in my younger days, there was one question that bugged me. I could not find an answer to it in any sermon, commentary, or study Bible note. Until it hit me. It hit me like a thought-comet the Holy Spirit flung at my mind.

Here is the scene:

The LORD hurled a great wind on the sea and there was a great storm on the sea so that the ship was about to break up. 5Then the sailors became afraid and every man cried to his god, and they threw the cargo which was in the ship into the sea to lighten it for them. But Jonah had gone below into the hold of the ship, lain down and fallen sound asleep. (Jonah 1:4-5).

The storm was rough. The word ‘hurled’ in describing the Lord’s hurling of a storm is the same word that was used to describe King Saul’s hurling of the spear to David. This was not an ordinary storm, and the sailors knew it. Mariners don’t exaggerate. If anything, they understate the height of the waves or the intensity of the storm. Later, with a cup of grog in hand, they might say, “Aye, the boat bounced a bit.” Or “The waves were stirring all right.” Sailors are tough.

So it’s notable that the sailors were afraid. The word in Hebrew is terrified, also reverent. They knew it was some god that was doing this and they were religiously afraid. They prayed to whichever god they followed to appease him or her.

Before throwing over the cargo, the sailors would have been shortening sail. Billowing sails in a storm blow out and become tatters. So they’d reef the main and take in the jib. When that doesn’t work they take in the main sail completely and go under bare poles. They would throw the attached anchor overboard to help stabilize the boat. They would shift ballast in the hold. They would cut the dinghy away if they had one. Then they would throw over the cargo. Last, they pray, because foxholes are filled with praying people. Activity on a boat during a storm is at a pitched and chaotic level.

Does anyone know where the love of God goes when the waves turn the minutes to hours? Gordon Lightfoot, The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald
It is also loud. In winds that high, the waves roar, and even the spray is loud. The spray and foam mix with the air and it’s hard to breathe, you’re breathing water half the time. The high winds whistle and beat against the mast and buffet the sailors. The waves slam and beat against the boat, which in turn creaks and makes all manner of tortured sounds. Mariners have to scream to be heard when they give directions, and when the wind becomes too loud, they just use hand gestures. Sometimes that doesn’t even work because darkness and spray obscure all sight. Anything on deck or below deck not in place or lashed down moves, skids, flings around like crazed maniacal ping pong balls.

Though the above activities are not mentioned, that is what they would have been doing. When the usual marine protocols failed, the sailors resorted to a last resort: throwing the cargo overboard. This lightens the boat and makes it bob in the water higher, so the tall waves have less chance to over-swamp the boat and capsize it or break it apart. Sailing with cargo is a money-making enterprise, and you do not want to anger the ship’s owner by having thrown over what amounts to his money. So when we read that the sailors threw over the cargo, this is very last resort.

If you’re down below, sailors have to tie themselves in or raise the bunk boards, so they aren’t flung across the cabin like a rag doll.

Against this backdrop, Jonah was asleep. Depending on the translation, scripture says not only that Jonah was sleeping, but he was fast asleep, sound asleep, in a heavy sleep, a deep sleep. How, how could Jonah sleep through all this?

It bugged me. It was not normally possible to sleep that way during a storm as severe as described. I pondered this over and over again. It seemed an important juxtaposition, the sleeping prophet as the boat is almost sinking.

Then it hit me. Jonah wanted to die.

The book of Jonah is clear about this fact. It’s stated several times that Jonah wanted to die. He would rather die than obey God in evangelizing the Ninevites. At the least, when Jonah ran away disobeying God it was a usually a death warrant. Jonah would have been aware of the cost for disobedience in the Holy of Holies, and also Uzzah’s penalty for disobeying when he touched the ark.

Jonah wanted to die as seen in Jonah 1:12 when he could have repented on deck and asked God’s forgiveness, but he chose instead to be thrown into the sea, to be tossed around like a peanut then drown alone.

In Jonah 4:3 he explicitly said he wanted to die, rather than live. He said it again in Jonah 4:8. So four times we see Jonah acting in ways that showed or stated he was serious about dying.

Elijah wanted to die because people were so bad. Jonah wanted to die because God was so good.
People who are intent on death often suddenly display an eerie calm. As the sailors were above fighting the storm, what they were really fighting for was their lives. Not Jonah. He was not fighting for life, he was resigned to death. He fell asleep. Deeply.

In this article called Recognizing Suicidal Behavior, we read,

However potentially even more worrying is a sudden calmness, and many individuals who are contemplating suicide have a sense of resignation that can result in them acting very calm and even peaceful in the days leading up to their attempt. If they have gone from appearing excessively sad and exhibiting mood swings, to suddenly acting calm and peaceful then this can be a very dangerous sign and it’s important to look out for other signs that the calmness may not be all it seems.

Jonah was serious about dying. He wasn’t exaggerating. It wasn’t hyperbole. It wasn’t an idiom. He really preferred death to obedience, death to being an instrument of God’s compassion and love toward the pagan and evil Ninevites.

Elijah the prophet wanted to die, too. After the showdown against the Prophets of Baal and Queen Jezebel, we read,

But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he asked that he might die, saying, “It is enough; now, O LORD, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers.” 5And he lay down and slept under a broom tree. (1 Kings 19:4-5a).

Elijah’s sleep was a regular sleep, a completely different Hebrew word than Jonah’s deep sleep. Another difference is that Elijah wanted to die because people were so bad. Jonah wanted to die because God was so good. (Jonah 4:2-3).

I wonder if Jonah spent three days in the belly of the fish rather than one day, or one minute, because he hoped to die again. Maybe as the fish swallowed him, he was thinking, “OK, this is convenient, no one lives in a fish, now I can die!” But when it didn’t happen and didn’t happen, and on a third day it didn’t happen, then Jonah prayed his prayer. I wonder if it was his stubbornness kept him inside a foul, airless, acidic, sewage, rotting belly of a fish for all those days, only praying when he realized the Lord was going to keep him alive no matter what. Sigh. So realizing the Lord was going to supernaturally keep him alive anyway, he prayed his famous prayer in Chapter 2 and was released. Because in chapter 4 he said two more times he still wanted to die.

sos

Who or what is your life ring? Who do you call for your S.O.S.?

So that’s the story of the death-seeking Jonah. It tells us a lot about him on that boat, that he wanted to die rather than see thousands come to Christ. That he could sleep amid a hurricane. God dealt graciously and kindly toward Jonah.

Which is good, because He deals with us graciously too. When we complain, run from Him, exhibit racist tendencies, or are just knowingly but stubbornly resist His will, He is patient. The Book of Jonah ends with a question that once again displays God’s love:

Should I not have compassion on Nineveh, the great city in which there are more than 120000 persons who do not know the difference between their right and left hand, as well as many animals?

Should we not have compassion on the lost, as God seeks their salvation and is slow to anger, that all would repent?  We were rebellious, once, too. The LORD is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love. (Psalm 145:8).

Do you know how fast God can run?

I’m reading through Jeremiah. It’s been about ten years since I read through and so it’s time again. What a blessing God’s word is! I am overfilled and overwhelmed with just the first 11 verses in chapter 1.

And the word of the LORD came to me, saying, “Jeremiah, what do you see?” And I said, “I see an almond branch.” 12Then the LORD said to me, “You have seen well, for I am watching over my word to perform it.”

I enjoy the natural history aspects of scripture. As I read verse 11, I stopped to learn more. The first chapter deals with Jeremiah’s call to his fifty-year-plus long prophetic office, almost all of which was difficult, depressing, and discouraging.

The word of the LORD came to Jeremiah, opening with the famous line-

Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
and before you were born I consecrated you;
I appointed you a prophet to the nations.

This is an example of foreordination, where God does not merely react to events on earth, but ordains them from before He created the world. He not only knows the end from the beginning, He authored it, ordained, it and performs it.

I was curious about the linkage of the almond tree with God’s word. What it is about an almond tree that I need to know so I can understand this verse better? How is an almond tree like God’s word? Why is an almond branch being used as a promise from the LORD that He will perform His word?

Spurgeon helped here, preaching an entire sermon on just verse 11. (sermon #2678, THE LESSON OF THE ALMOND TREE)  His sermon is ripe with meaning, insight, and background. It was extremely illuminating.

The almond tree is the first tree to awaken in the winter, hastening to put out leaves and then ripe fruit before any other tree. Spurgeon said that the Hebrew word for almond is wakeful.

Observe, first, that THE ALMOND IS A WAKEFUL TREE. The Hebrew word which is rendered “almond” comes from a root signifying to be wakeful, so this passage might be read thus, “I see the wakeful rod.”

Now, to my question about the linking of the almond tree with God’s word. In the section of his sermon explaining the almond tree with God being quick in performing His promises, Spurgeon said in part,

“Oh, but!” says one, “There are often long delays before peace is enjoyed.” Then it is because you make them, for God does not. “But sometimes we have to wait,” says one. Yes, yes; I know all about that waiting. Do you remember, in the parable of the prodigal son, where he waited? Why, with the harlots and others with whom he wasted his substance in riotous living, or with the swine, when he was feeding them with the husks with which he would gladly have filled his own empty belly. That is where he waited; but when did he end his waiting? When he said, “I will arise and go to my father.” He did not wait any longer, for we read, “And he arose, and came to his father;” and then it is written, “When he was yet a great way off, his father saw him,

and”—”and”—”and”—”and stood still, and waited for him to come”? No, no; I know that God waits to be gracious; but, according to the teaching of that parable, “when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran.” Do you know how fast God can run?

But again I ask, can you tell me how fast God can run? No, you do not know, you cannot tell; but you do know that He is all on fire with love to embrace a poor penitent sinner, and He speeds towards him at an amazing rate. … Swift as the lightning’s flash is the glance of divine compassion that brings life to a penitent soul.

I’ve always been slain and humbled by this fact. In my own conversion, I was in a dire spiritual circumstance, at very rock bottom. My next stop was the pit to be lost forever. At the end of myself, the only place I had to look was up. I was 42 years old, having pursued sin all my life. Yet when I cried out to Him for “help”, He helped me immediately. He didn’t say, ‘Wait, you decades-old sinner.” He did not say “Let me think about it.” I pled for my soul and He answered immediately. He ran!

He is a good God, a just God. I would have deserved my place alongside other sinners in hell. Yet he hastened to fulfill my appeal. Do I know how fast God can run? Yes, I do. I am eternally grateful.

Holy Week: A Personal God

God is a personal God. Even the thunderous, Mt. Sinai, pestilence-bringing, smiting God of the Old Testament. Yes. Especially the Old Testament God. And of course in the New Testament God is a personal God, too. We see Him in Jesus, who is both fully man and fully God. He had come to serve. He did so meekly and humbly, even washing feet.

We read in Genesis that God created the worlds, He did it personally and carefully, with precision. He spoke them into life.

‘In the beginning, God said’… He spoke.

And God said, And God said, Genesis 1:3, 6, 9, 11, 14, 20, 24.

When it came time to form man, God did not speak. He did it Himself, personally, and with His own breath.

then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature… (Genesis 2:7)

Therefore, we see that God’s intimate formation of the world got even more intimate when He made man.

It gets even better.

Because of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, we have an even more intimate relationship with Him and He with us. We are His body, His blood covers us. We are IN Him.

It is holy week, so it bears thinking about Him on a special level. We are “in Christ”. We read it in 1 Peter 5:14; Philippians 1:1; Romans 8:1, Colossians 3:3. We have it explained in Galatians 3:26-28-

for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

John MacArthur explained about what it means to be “in Christ” in his inimitable way in the sermon, Under the Law, or In Christ? He opened the salient portion of the sermon this way before going on to spend time expounding what it means to be In Christ. I recommend the sermon.

To ask the question, “What is a Christian?” That question is simply answered, right here. A Christian is one who is in Christ. That’s all. You can imagine following the teachings of Buddha, following the teachings of Confucius, or following the teachings of Muhammad, but you can’t imaging anyone saying, “I’m in Confucius. I’m in Buddha. I’m in Muhammad.” There’s no such thing as a Christian who isn’t in Christ. You see, we’re not following the teachings of a man, we’re in union with Him. If that boggles your brain, you haven’t heard anything yet. In Christ.

We have a personal God. We have a loving God. He is expressly concerned with His creation, and particularly concerned with His children.

It is holy week. Hallelujah to the Lamb!

God created a colorful world. He didn’t have to…

Genesis 1:1:

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth

When God created the earth, He could have made it colorless. He could have used only His brush strokes of black, or gray, or brown. The world could look like this:

Did you ever wonder why God graced us with a common grace of color? He has made the world beautiful in its time, says Ecclesiastes 3:11. This beauty includes the spectrum of colors which we enjoy in all its prettiness. I particularly enjoy colorful flowers.

The Bible has in it of course, references to colors. It doesn’t, however, really explain if colors of the tabernacle meant anything, if they individually had a symbolism. Other colors do have a symbolism. Here is Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary’s entry on color:

Color, Symbolic Meaning Of

Although the Bible contains relatively few references to individual colors, their symbolic associations are theologically significant. Colors usually symbolize redemptive and eschatological themes. The Bible is, however, silent on whether the colors used in the tabernacle, temple, and priestly garments held symbolic meaning.

Black signifies gloom, mourning, evil, judgment, and death (Lam 4:8; Micah 3:6; Zechariah 6:2 Zechariah 6:6; Revelation 6:5 Revelation 6:12). Its image is often one of dense, impenetrable darkness (Job 3:5; Isa 50:3). The terms “darkness” and “night” parallel this usage (Job 3:3-7; Joel 2:2; Zeph 1:15). Hell is the place of “blackest darkness” reserved for the godless (2 Peter 2:17; Jude 13).

The pale horse of Revelation 6:8 resembles the color of the terror-stricken and corpses (cf. Jer 30:6; Dan 10:8). The horse’s color matches the work of its rider. Its rider is called Death, who, with Hades, goes forth to kill a fourth of humankind.

An expensive dye, purple represents wealth and royalty (Judges 8:26; Est 8:15; Daniel 5:7, Daniel 5:16, Daniel 5:29; Luke 16:19); for this reason, idols were attired in purple (Jer 10:9). The purple dress of the harlot symbolized Roman imperial rank (Rev 17:4; Revelation 18:12, Revelation 18:16). Before his crucifixion, Jesus was robed in purple in mockery of him as “king of the Jews” (Mark 15:17, Mark 15:20; John 19:2, John 19:5; cf. Matt 27:28,; “scarlet robe”). Garments of purple suitably clothe a wife of noble character (Prov 31:22).

Red symbolizes blood. Israel’s sin as brilliant scarlet and deep-red crimson is analogous to the bloodstained hands of murderers (Isaiah 1:15 Isaiah 1:18). The images of red, blood-soaked garments of God as an avenging warrior (Isa 63:1-6) and the fiery red horse bringing slaughter through warfare (Zech 6:2; Rev 6:4) describe divine retribution against evildoers (see also Joel 2:31; Rev 6:12). The red color of the dragon (Rev 12:3) and beast (17:3) symbolizes the shedding of innocent blood (11:7; 16:6). The red heifer (Nu 19:1-10) and scarlet wool (Heb 9:19) symbolize the Old Testament means of purification through blood; the New Testament powerfully expresses the fullness of Christ’s atoning work through a contradictory color image: believers’ robes are washed pure white through the blood of the Lamb (Revelation 7:9 Revelation 7:13-14 ; 19:13-14).

White signifies purity and holiness. It depicts complete forgiveness of sin. David and Israel’s bloodguilt would be fully removed, leaving them whiter than snow/wool (Psalm 51:7; Isa 1:18). It represents the absolute moral purity of God (Da 7:9), Christ (Rev 1:14; Mark 9:3; pars.), angels (Mark 16:5 ; pars. Acts 1:10), and believers (Rev 2:17; 3:4-5; 4:4), and thus of the divine judgment of God (20:11) and Christ (14:14). It indicates the certainty of God’s conquest and victory over evil (Zechariah 6:3 Zechariah 6:6; Rev 6:2; 19:11).

H. Douglas Buckwalter, Bibliography. G. W. Thatcher, Hasting’s Dictionary of the Bible, 1:456-58; P. L. Garber, ISBE, 1:729-32; A. Brenner, Colour Terms in the Old Testament; “Color, ” BEB, 1:494-96.

Color is a common grace. Every person on the planet whether young or old, saved and acknowledging the creator or unsaved and worshiping the creation, enjoys the colors of this earth. Everyone can admire a sunset, colorful avian plumage, floral hues that delight the senses.

Theopedia defines common grace as

Common Grace refers to the grace of God that is common to all humankind. It is “common” because its benefits are experienced by the whole human race without distinction between one person and another, believers or unbelievers. It is “grace” because it is undeserved and sovereignly bestowed by God.

The Lord God created a world that is beautiful. Its beauty is enhanced by the colors He created for us (and Him!) to enjoy in our common grace. The painted desert, the lush tropics, the animals, insects, and fish in all their rich tones and hues are a joy. He didn’t have to But He did.

Thank you Lord!

El Shama: A God who hears, He is a God who listens

Doesn’t it just crush you to pray to Jesus…and know He hears us? It’s incredible, and a privilege we always remember in gratitude.

As Isaiah cried in his wonder and grief, “I am a man of unclean lips!” (Isaiah 6:5). In my case, a woman of unclean lips. Why should I be able to use these lips to pray to Jesus when I am the chief of sinners, wretched woman that I am? What is man that God should be mindful of us? (Psalm 8:4). Why should He hear us?

But He does.

Though ‘El Shama’ is not an official name of God, it refers to the fact that God hears…He listens. God told Hagar to name her soon to be born son Ishmael. Ishmael is is a combination of el and shama, “God hears” or “God listens”. The name would be a reminder to Hagar and all who knew them that He heard Hagar’s cry in the wilderness. (Genesis 16:11). He listens.

Psalm 17:6 says

I have called on you, for you will hear me, O God: incline your ear to me, and hear my speech.

Gill’s Expositions says of the Psalmist’s plea in verse 6,

“for thou wilt hear me, O God; God is a God hearing prayer; he is used to hear his people, and they have frequent experience of it, and they may be assured that whatsoever they ask according to his will, and in the name of Christ, he will hear; and such an assurance is a reason engaging the saints to a constant calling upon God, Psalm 116:2; and such confidence of being always heard Christ had, John 11:41;”

1 John 5:14 says,

And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us.

Did Peter forever relive his anguish each morning of his remaining life, when he heard the rooster crow the day awake and remembered his own perfidy? Owww, Peter, I understand your grief, the pain of betraying Jesus in word or in deed from our own sinful actions. Yet…Jesus prayed for Peter. Luke 22:32. He did not pray for Judas. Both men betrayed Jesus, but Jesus prayed for Peter.

If you’re a Christian, Jesus prays for you, too. It’s staggering to consider that the God of the Universe prays for us. He hears us, and He prays for us. We have a superlative God, One who is true and kind and loving and compassionate. Sister, no matter what you are going through, Jesus hears your prayer and He takes your cares to the Father in prayer. Be encouraged.

be strong verse