I lift up my eyes to the hills.
From where does my help come?
My help comes from the LORD,
who made heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot be moved;
he who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, he who keeps Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
The LORD is your keeper;
the LORD is your shade on your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day,
nor the moon by night.
The LORD will keep you from all evil;
he will keep your life.
The LORD will keep
your going out and your coming in
from this time forth and forevermore.
I’ve just come back from my annual jaunt to the EMW Aberystwyth conference and feeling slightly more refreshed than usual! The messages this year seemed particularly poignant, and coupled with a slightly different circumstances in my role at the conference, meant I was able to listen with fewer distractions. (Let’s just say Ps 84:10 had quite a literal meaning!)
The main speaker this year was (Rev. Dr. – slightly unwieldy!)) Joel Beeke, a minister of a church in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He’d spoken at the EMW conference before, and I’d found God had spoken through Joel’s ministry then, so I had a sense of expectation.
We were taken through four people of God throughout the week, seeing how they struggled with God and their circumstances. On Tuesday we started with Jacob becoming Israel (Gen 32:24) – how he wrestled with God. This would seem to be a foolish thing as God is infinitely greater than he is, both in knowledge and power. However, God was dealing graciously with Jacob, and ultimately demonstrated his power by touching his hip, causing him great pain and disabling Jacob from fighting any further. Through this struggle he would slowly change from being known as a deceiver to being known as one who wrestles with God. Changing from one who is self-serving, to one who serves God.
Secondly we looked at Bartimaeus, who sought Jesus unreservedly, thought nothing of what he already had, and told the world of what God had done for him. Bartimaeus sought to meet with Jesus, seeing Jesus for who he really was, and trusted him completely with his life. Through this, Jesus forgave Bartimaeus his sin, and to demonstrate he had the authority and power to do so, Jesus also healed him.
On Thursday, we looked at Jepthah’s Daughter. This was interesting in that Joel took on a different understanding of the text from most commentators, and had concluded that Jepthah’s daughter wasn’t sacrificed like the surrounding pagan nations would do, but was given in complete devotion to God. We saw how she accepted her situation, made preparations and entered into her calling completely, and in so doing, causing many others to devote themselves to God.
Finally we looked at Daniel, who suffered great hardship through being exiled in Babylon. Taken away from everything he loves and placed in the Babylonian court, to become a Babylonian. By God’s grace, he was enabled to engage with Babylon (the world), yet remain distinctly different. He refrained from adopting many of the practices of Babylon, keeping the commandments of his God, and yet he was promoted to one of the highest post in the land under the king and survived in that post until the end of the line of Babylonian kings.
From all four cases, it is apparent that we should trust God in all things, for he is almighty, just, and loves us.
If he is almighty and just, and also loves us, then what good thing will he withhold from us? If the blood of his Son was shed for us while we were still sinners, that we might be righteous in his sight and become his children, why should we doubt him?
When we doubt, we should confess our sin before God in repentance, pleading only through the merit of our Saviour.
Through seeking to trust him completely, being totally dependent on him, he is able to work in us, to use us for his glory. To enable us by his Spirit to live the life we was designed to live. A life which will glorify our God, which will speak of our Saviour and what he has done for us, and will be attractive to those around us, that they might want what we have, that they might seek God for themselves. We will have a Christianity which is contagious.
A song of ascents.
I call on the LORD in my distress, and he answers me.
Save me, O LORD, from lying lips and from deceitful tongues.
What will he do to you, and what more besides, O deceitful tongue?
He will punish you with a warrior’s sharp arrows, with burning coals of the broom tree.
Woe to me that I dwell in Meshech, that I live among the tents of Kedar!
Too long have I lived among those who hate peace.
I am a man of peace; but when I speak, they are for war
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