Peter continues to write, to us, “who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. Many centuries before, the Prophet Habakkuk wrote a similar phrase as he admonishes his readers to wait patiently for the vision to be completed. “Write the vision, …for the vision is yet for an appointed time; but at the end it will speak, and it will not lie, though it tarries, wait for it; because it will surely come, It will not tarry. Behold the proud, his soul is not upright in him; but the just shall live by his faith.”
All of us will be led down to the place of testing, the place of the shadow, the place of silence, the place where our faith in the Faithfulness of God will be tried. Job had everything a man could hope for. He had a place of honor and prominence in his community. His family was close and well. His finances were in order. His investments were growing. His lands were manicured. His flocks were healthy. His crops yielded an abundance, until that day of sudden destruction. Its unbelievable shock had turned his life into an inescapable nightmare. He had been struck by the hand of the Almighty and he was stunned.
Confusion leapt upon him like a lion in the night. Why? What had he done to so enrage the Almighty? His mind could give him no explanation. His head was spinning. His heart shut down, melted within him. Hope fled.
Even more distressing than the irreversible loss of his children, was the disturbing silence of the God. This same God he had given himself so fully to honor and obey had turned on him. He sat disgraced in the presence of those inferior in faith and service who interrogated him from their place of untested strength.
Shame bound Job as he sat in the shadow of the silence. “Even today my complaint is bitter: my hand is listless because of my groaning.” All he had left were words, words that could all too quickly become his enemy and turn him over into the hand of bitterness.
David, another servant of God cries out to the Lord in his trouble and poured out his complaint before God. (Ps. 143) No one drew near to help him. Even his fellow soldiers had seemed to forsake him. “For there is no one who acknowledges me, …no one cares for my soul.” (Ps. 143:4).
Nothing afforded David a place of refuge. His strength remained in the faithfulness of God, the only One who could hear or would listen. “Attend to my cry, for I am brought very low; deliver me from my persecutors, for they are stronger than I.” (Ps. 143:6). And in his darkest hours David learned to use his last bit of strength to choose to praise the LORD, rather than worship at the altar of worry and woe is me. He found courage to look, like Abraham, not at things seen, but at things not seen and obtain the promises of God by faith.
Moses complains about the burden of responsibility he carries for the welfare of the millions of people he is leading through the wilderness. “If You treat me like this, please kill me here and now-if I have found favor in Your sight- and do not let me see my wretchedness!” To him the way out of his misery and the kindness of God looked like being struck dead!
Paul lifts his voice along with the great champions of the Old Testament to cry out “O wretched man that I am, who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Rom. 7:23). Bound by the things he did that he did not want to do, he felt himself being torn by his desire to do good and controlled by a thing that warred against that desire. For him, it was no longer a matter of will power or taking responsibility, it was only his wretched helpless inability to be perfect and walk in God that remained to taunt him.
The evidence is overwhelming. Every man or woman who seeks with any sincerity to serve or follow the Lord God, Creator of heaven and earth will be tested. Their endurance, their resolve, their own abilities to please God will not bring them into a closer or more pleasing place with God. We must be broken, chastened, and emptied out until all that remains of us is Him.
Our righteousness is as filthy rags though many of us have taken those rags to the professional tailor to have them sewn into a more acceptable garment. God has already woven for us a robe of righteousness matched to the fabric of His Own Son’s heart. Apart from the breaking process, and the emptying out of self, we are not qualified to wear it. The test becomes one of surrender to God, not giving up or giving in to the temptation to go along with fear, or its twin, control.
Your test today may be a foreclosure, a bankruptcy, a sick or dying child, children who are mean and ungrateful, a false accusation made against you, a bitter son, a divided house and compromised health. The trials are as different as they are the same. They are as unique as they are unfair.
But the purpose is always one and the same. The test is always a test of trust. Will God keep His Word? Can He be trusted when I have run out of resources, ideas, or friends? In times like these the only reasonable question left for us to ask is, not “why me?” or “where is God?” He’s in the same place He’s always and ever been. The question is more, “O wretched man that I am, WHO will deliver me from this body of death?” (Rom. 7:24).
And in that question we discover, in recognizing our own wretched, helpless condition, is that God is Who He said He is. He sees us. He has not forgotten us. He will bless us at the right time. So, in the mean time, and it is a “mean” time of injustice and fear and discouragement, it is time for the courageous son and soldier and servant to submit themselves to the goodness of God and rejoice.
Remember, Rejoice is the action form of the verb, “Believe”.
PRAYER: You are The LORD God and I will rejoice in You even in the midst of this crushing crisis. “You know the way that I take; when You have tested me, I shall come forth as gold. My foot has held fast to Your steps, I have kept Your way and not turned aside. I have not departed from the commandments of Your lips; I have treasured the words of Your mouth more than my necessary food.” (Job 23:10-12). Amen.
PURPOSE: We are in the days of our purification. In your patience possess your soul until He comes and you receive the fulfillment of all His good promises to you, His Beloved.