Category Archives: Word Studies

Studies from the Word of God involving specific words and phrases.

The God Who Prays

Here’s a thought: “Today, Jesus prays for you!” Wait a minute, what?
Yes, today, Jesus prays for you! It is true. Hebrews 7:25 says, “He (Jesus) always lives to make intercession for us.”

“Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.” Hebrews 7:25

So seriously, Jesus, King of Kings and Lord of Lords is praying for you. Yes, the same Jesus, who is described in Phil. 2:9-10 as “…being exalted on high by God so that at the name of Jesus every knee in heaven and on earth and under the earth will bow, and every tongue will acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord…,” is interceding to the Father for you and me.

To make it even more incredible, Jesus’ intercession on our behalf seems to be part of His saving work on our behalf. Heb. 7:25 says, “He is able to save to the uttermost (completely; to the final end/ to the uttermost limit) those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for us.”

Intercessor
Intercession is an act of love. It is, in a sense, an act of humility. Intercession can involve meeting with another person for the explicit purpose of a conversation which can consist of consultation and or supplication on behalf of another.

Actually, intercession involves words like: plead, beseech, entreat, implore and ask. The word intercession as used in scripture generally means to pray to God; to entreat God; to beseech God on behalf of another person.

Moses is an example of someone who interceded on behalf of others. Exodus 32:31-32 is an example of bold yet humble prayer of intercession.

So Moses returned to the Lord and said, “Alas, this people has sinned a great sin. They have made for themselves gods of gold. But now, if you will forgive their sin—but if not, please blot me out of your book that you have written.” Exodus 32:31-32

Hebrews 7:25 provides this picture of Jesus interceding for us. Jesus is beside the throne of God and is pleading with the Father on our behalf. It seems this is a continual occurrence, as “He always lives to make intercession for us.”

Romans 8:34 repeats this very same truth, describing a similar scene: “Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.”

Intercession as Advocacy
The scriptures reveal that Jesus is at the right hand of God interceding for us. 1 John 2:1-2 gives us a better understanding of Jesus intercessory work.

“My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.”

The term advocate adds to our understanding of intercessor.  In general, advocate means help, console, and intercede. More precisely in this verse the term advocate is used in a legal sense. It was used to indicate one who pleads a cause before a judge. Our equivalent today might be a “defense attorney.”

A defense attorney comes alongside a person to plead their cause, to intercede on their behalf before a judge.  Jesus is in heaven, seated at the right hand of God presenting evidence to God on my behalf. Again, we see that Jesus’ advocacy is not a one time thing, but rather it is a continuous process. The word “have” in the phrase “we have an advocate with the Father” is a present tense indicating a continuous action!

Intercession Brings Hope
Jesus’ intercession, advocacy or prayers on our behalf are based on His atoning work on the cross (1 John 2:2), and on His identity as the eternal High Priest (Hebrews 7:23-27).

What exactly is Jesus saying to the Father when He intercedes?  Is He providing His evidence on our side when Satan comes to accuse us? Is He praying a prayer for unity as He prayed in John 17? Is He praying for us to be daily sustained by the hand of God? I do not know, but I know it is revealed in the New Testament scriptures three times that Jesus intercedes and prays for us.

This truth brings me hope. It gives me hope for all those impossible situations I have in my life. It gives me hope for those I love who seem to be so far away from God. It gives me hope that I am not in this alone, and that there is a spiritual power greater than me involved in my life. It gives me hope that no matter how I have messed up – Jesus is speaking on my behalf before the throne of God.

You have heard the saying that it is good to have friends in high places. As believers in God and Jesus, we have a Friend in high places – Jesus. In fact, He is seated at the right hand of God. Let the truth of Jesus, who He is and what He has done and continues to do for us, give you hope.

                                                 **********************

“For if, while we were God’s enemies,
we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son,
how much more, having been reconciled,
shall we be saved through his life!  Not only is this so,
but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom
we have now received reconciliation.” Romans 5:10-11

What Child Is This – The Prince of Peace

What do you think of when you think of the word “peace?” I think of sitting in a comfy chair near a fireplace, in a quiet room with strains of classical music in the air, and an engaging book in my lap. It is calm, there is a sense of quiet, contentment, and all is well with me and those around me.

God has a slightly different definition of peace from mine.  A word most frequently used for peace in the language of the New Testament is eiréné.  Eiréné primarily means “one,” as in to join, to tie together into a whole. This definition makes sense, since a lack of peace is when there is disagreement, dissonance, and fighting.  

Peace – Oneness
We have seen the oneness that is implied in the word peace. We have seen it in the relationship of Jesus and Father God. Jesus describes this oneness in John 17:22 – 23:

  • “I have given them the glory that You gave Me, that they may be one as We are one I in them and You in Me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent Me and have loved them even as you have loved Me.”

And prior to this prayer in John17, Jesus clearly stated that “I and the Father are one,” in John 10:31.  Jesus and the Father are in total harmony and peace; they are as one whole entity.

Peace can also mean a state of secure welfare, as in the promise of Philippians 4:6-7 that states when we give thanks to God and pour out our requests to Him, He will give us a peace, that is, a sense of security and well-being in the midst of trouble.

  • “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Phil. 4:6-7

Peace Implies War
If there is talk of peace then there has been enmity or war. In order to understand that Jesus is the Prince of Peace, we need to know that there was/is a war.

We see in scripture that there is a spiritual war going on of the Light versus the Dark. There is a war between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of Satan. This is clearly outlined in Ephesians 6:11-17.

We can trace this war as far back as the early chapters of the Bible. In Genesis 3 we see enmity between God and the Dark One:
“And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; He (Jesus) will crush your head, and you will strike His heel,” Genesis 3:15.

Also, there is an internal war of the flesh versus the spirit within each one of us. This is depicted in passages such as James 4:1; 1 Peter 2:11 and Galatians 5:17.

  • What causes conflicts and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from the passions at war within you? James 4:1
  • Beloved, I urge you as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from the desires of the flesh, which war against your soul. 1Peter 2:11
  • For the flesh craves what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are opposed to each other, so that you do not do what you want. Galatians 5:17

The Prince of Peace is Lord of the Battle!
In Is. 28:29, God is named “Lord Sabbaoth.”  Sabbaoth is translated Lord of Hosts. “Hosts” in the context of this verse refers to the angel armies.

  • “This also comes from the LORD of hosts, Who has made His counsel wonderful and His wisdom great.”

“Sabbaoth” can also mean battle; war; or a leader of the army. God is the leader of the heavenly army. He is the Lord of the battle.

Rev. 19:11-21, shows us Jesus as “Lord Sabbaoth.” Jesus, the Prince of Peace, is depicted as the Lord of the Battle. He is described as a fierce warrior king leading the heavenly hosts in battle against the dark enemy to procure peace.

  • And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He who sat on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war. His eyes are a flame of fire, and on His head are many diadems; and He has a name written on Him which no one knows except Himself. He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies which are in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, were following Him on white horses. From His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty. And on His robe and on His thigh He has a name written, “KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.” Revelations 19:11-21

The Cross and the Prince of Peace
A horrific battle scene of the Prince of Peace – the Lord of the Battle, shows Jesus being flogged close to the point of death; nailed to a tree, hanging in shame and agony before a jeering, uncaring world. In this seeming act of total defeat and shame, Jesus is procuring peace for us with God. The Prince of Peace is the crucified Messiah. In His death and resurrection this mighty warrior achieved eternal victory for us.

We were enemies of God, hanging out in the darkness, but Jesus procured peace with God for us. Through our faith in Jesus we can be “one” with him and the Father. This oneness is true peace.

  • “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God.”  Romans 5:1-2

The blood from the battle scene at the crucifixion obtained peace for us with God through our faith in Jesus, our true Prince of Peace.

  • ”For God in all his fullness was pleased to live in Christ, and through him God reconciled everything to himself. He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of Christ’s blood on the cross.” Col. 1:19-20

What Child Is This?
This child is Immanuel, God in the flesh. He is the Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father and Prince of Peace, Isaiah 9:6.  

As you start this “new year,” think about Jesus, and ask God to open the eyes of your heart that you may see Him for who He is, value Him, and live a life that honors Him.

What Child Is This: Everlasting Father

Jesus was born in a stable and slept his first night in a manger which is nothing more than an animal feed box! Yet, on this same night, a different and unusual star appeared over that stable, and in the field nearby, a host of angels proclaimed his birth, Luke 2:9-14.

700 years prior to Jesus birth, Isaiah defined who this “child” born in a stable was and is. Isaiah said He is the “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Is. 9:6

In two previous blogs entitled, “What Child Is This,” we learned that this child is our Wonderful Counselor and Mighty God. In this blog we will look at the title given Him of “Everlasting Father.”

How Can It Be?
It is hard for me to grasp this thought that Jesus is both the Son of God and Everlasting Father. However, when I consider all the references to this truth in scripture I know that He is indeed both.

In John 8:57-58, Jesus declares this truth: “Then the Jews said to Him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and You have seen Abraham?” “Truly, truly, I tell you,” Jesus declared, “before Abraham was born, I am!”

In John 10:30-33, Jesus boldly states this truth that He and the Father are One, and the response of the religious leaders’ was to stone Him because they knew exactly what He was saying about Himself, but they choose not believe.

“I and the Father are one.” At this, the Jews again picked up stones to stone Him. But Jesus responded, “I have shown you many good works from the Father. For which of these do you stone Me?” We are not stoning You for any good work,” said the Jews, “but for blasphemy, because You, who are a man, declare Yourself to be God.”

Today as you read these passages, think deeply about what they reveal about Jesus, then look again at that baby in the manger, what do you see?

Always Was and Is and Ever Will Be!
Isaiah states that Jesus is the “Everlasting Father.” “Everlasting” comes from a Hebrew word that means: from ancient times past unto eternity. It signifies “continuous existence; existing forever.”

Paul reveals this truth about Jesus in Colossians 1:16b-17;
“… All things were created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.…”

The expression,“from ancient times past and into eternity,” in the above definition reminds me of the description of Jesus in Daniel 7:9.

“As I continued to watch: thrones were set in place, and the Ancient of Days took His seat. His clothing was white as snow, and the hair of His head like pure wool. His throne was flaming with fire, and its wheels were all ablaze.”

Jesus, the Ancient of Days, has always existed within the Father. He is the “Everlasting Father.”

Throughout the book of Revelation we see various images of Jesus similar to the description in Daniel’s vision. Each description emphasizes Jesus’ divinity and eternal existence.

” and among the lampstands was One like the Son of Man, dressed in a long robe, with a golden sash around His chest. The hair of His head was white like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes were like a blazing fire. His feet were like polished bronze refined in a furnace, and His voice was like the roar of many waters…” Rev.1:13 -15

This Ancient of Days, this Lord of Lords – Jesus, is the child in the manger!

Forever Father
Jesus is our “Everlasting Father.” The term for “father” in Hebrew has several applications. It does refer to “father” as in being a parent. It also refers to a “father” in the sense of: author or maker; a great chief or leader; and a founder of a nation or household.

Let’s look further at Jesus as a father in the sense of “author and maker/giver of life.”

Father – Author and Maker
The scriptures clearly present Jesus, “Everlasting Father,” as the Author and Maker of life.

  • John 1:1-3,10 -“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being … He was in the world, and though the world was made through Him, the world did not recognize him.”
  • Colossians 1:15-16 – “The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in Him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for Him.”
  • Acts 3:15 – “… and you killed the Author of life, but God raised Him from the dead, and we are witnesses of the fact.”

With a True Father’s Love
I think a passage that brings home to me the truth of Jesus being our Everlasting Father is in Matthew 9:22.

In this touching passage, Jesus heals a woman who had an incurable flow of blood. In faith she reaches out and touches His garment, and she is healed. Jesus turns to speak to her and calls her “daughter.”

“Jesus turned, and seeing her he said, “Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well.” And instantly the woman was made well.” (Mt. 9:22)

We could pass this off as a traditional saying of a Rabbi to a woman of Israel, but I do not read anywhere else in the gospels that Jesus referred to a woman as “daughter.”

When I hear the name “Everlasting Father” I think of someone great, powerful and distant. However, when reading this account in Matthew 9, I see Jesus, the Everlasting Father, who wants to make a deep personal connection with His children, with me.

Jesus cared enough to ask who touched Him. He deliberately stopped, turned to look at her, and spoke to her. Jesus addressed her specifically as “daughter.” I can just hear the tenderness and kindness in His voice. She went from an outcast to a daughter of the Everlasting Father.

Jesus is Immanuel, God in the flesh. He is the Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father and Prince of Peace. Take time to think of these names that Isaiah used to define Jesus. Allow the meanings of these names impact your heart. May you to stand in awe of Jesus, but also remember His tender love that calls us “daughter,” or “son.”

What Child Is This

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6

God Has a Thing for Names 
Everyone wants to know the name of the new born child, even before the actual birth of the child we eagerly ask the parents, “What is his or her name?” That is because we know names hold out meaning and promise.

God was very specific about names. He used names in several significant ways:

  • to communicate messages (as in Isaiah 7 when God instructed the prophet to name his son Shear-jashub meaning a “remnant will return”);
  • to commemorate wondrous events  (as when God met with Jacob through the ladder to heaven and the place was named “Bethel”- the gate of heaven, Gen. 28:16-19);
  • to define Himself (YHVH Shalom-God of Peace, Judges 6:24; Elohay mikarov– God Who Is Near, Jer. 23:23; El Elyon-God Most High Gen.14:18).

Considering this, it is not strange that God would give His son a specific name(s) that would reveal Hus  nature, character and mission.

There IS Something in a Name
In this holiday season of Christmas when many Christians honor God becoming a man in the sending of His Son, Jesus, “Emmanuel,” God with us (Matthew 1:22-23),we look at the names given Him in Is. 9:6.

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace.”

These are amazing names. The more I learn about them the more I am filled with awe and wonder as to who Jesus is and what He does. For this season, in a series of articles, we will look into each name.

Wonderful Counselor
The name “Wonderful Counselor” is transliterated as pele yäats in the original language. Pele is translated wonderful and has several shades of meaning that enhance our understanding.

This term is usually used to refer to the deeds of God. Pele is translated as wonders of God in verses like:

  • Exodus  15:11- “Who among the gods is like you, LORD?Who is like you— majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, working wonders?”
  • Psalm 77:14 – “You are the God who performs miracles; you display your power among the peoples.”
  • Isaiah 25:1 – “LORD, you are my God; I will exalt you and praise your name, for in perfect faithfulness you have done wonderful things, things planned long ago.”

Astounding-Miraculous!
Pele refers to the “miraculous,” that which is supernatural. It is that which is extraordinary, hard to be understood by the human mind. This word points to something beyond the realm of human understanding. It points to the supernatural, even miraculous, wisdom of God as described by Paul:  

“But we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.” 1 Cor.1:23-25

In addition to the “Wonderful Counselor” bringing us understanding of the deep truths of God, Our “Wonderful Counselor” speaks words that have life changing and demolishing strongholds power (Heb.4:12) (Rom. 1:16-17).

If you want power to change, seek out the “Wonderful Counselor.”

A Trustworthy Counselor
The word translated counselor in most Bibles comes from the Hebrew word yäats. This word has shades of meaning that enhance our understanding.

It is translated: to advise; to consult, to counsel, to deliberate, to strategize, and to plan.  It is said that this word indicates the innate quality of the person and not simply their actions or words.  Again we see the connection to Jesus, literally, being the wisdom of God (1 Cor. 1:23-25).

Some students of scripture have suggested that the title “wonderful counselor” could be translated as “wonder knower” or “wonder genius.”

Who better than the One (Jesus) who resides in the bosom of the Father to reveal the wisdom of God, the character of God, the mysteries of God and the heart of God to us. The counsel of Jesus can be trusted because He is One with God.

  • “No one has ever yet seen God. The only begotten God, the One being in the bosom of the Father, He has made Him known.” John 1:18 (Berean Literal Bible)
  • No one has ever seen God. God’s only Son, the One who is closest to the Father’s heart, has made him known.” John 1:18 (God’s Word Translation)

Jesus is able to “advise” us because His qualifications surpass all others.  In Colossians 2:2-3, Paul reminds us that all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden in Jesus.

  • “My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”

Jesus has a deep understanding of our human nature. He, being God, knows us from near and afar; knows when we rise up and when we sit down; He perceives our thoughts and knows the very words that are on our tongues. Psalm 139 tells us that His knowledge is too “wonderful” for us to grasp.

Jesus, our counselor, can relate to us since He, who is “Emmanuel-God in the flesh”has endured troubles and trials the same as you and me. (Hebrews 4:15-16)

What Now?
I am just a woman of ordinary skill and average intellectual ability. On my own I cannot understand the deep truths of God and the salvation He offers. The truths and mysteries He reveals to us are extraordinary. They are astounding. They are pele– of a miraculous quality. But we have a “wonderful counselor” who advises us.

Jesus asked his disciples who do you say I am, Peter answered you are the Christ (the Messiah), the Son of God. Jesus said that Peter did not know this in and of himself, but that God revealed it to Him. In the birth of Jesus the marvelous wisdom revealed is that God became a man in order to become the sin offering for us!

As you move into this holiday season take time to read the words of Jesus. Ask Him to teach you how to live each truth of His wise counsel.

God: A Personal Friend

Picture this: It is the dark of the night, the sky out in the country is brilliant with stars, myriads of stars, countless, dazzling, bright stars, against the dark backdrop of night (imagine no street lights). As we watch the scene, Abraham stands looking up. He seems to be talking to someone, someone who has his arm around him and seems to be pointing to the stars. The scene seems to present two friends appreciating the night sky and conferring with each other.

Something like that really did happen to a man named Abraham. It is recorded in Genesis 15:4-6.

  • “Then the word of the Lord came to him: “This man will not be your heir, but a son who is your own flesh and blood will be your heir.”  He (God) took him outside and said, “Look up at the sky and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.” Then He said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” Abram believed the Lord, and He credited it to him as righteousness.”

Now picture this: you seated on your couch with God next to you. Maybe He is holding your hand or has an arm draped around your shoulders, talking to you and you to Him.

Can’t picture it? Let’s see where we get this idea about a very personal God.

Come Sit with Me
Psalm 25:14 states: “The secret of the Lord is for those who fear Him and He will make His covenant known to them.”

The word translated secret” inherently implies some type of intimacy. Like one friend whispering a confidence to another. The word “secret” is “cowd” in Hebrew. It means “counsel, consultation; familiar converse; intimate conversation.”

Actually this word “cowd” comes from a primitive root that means a couch or a cushion upon which someone reclines, indicating people sitting together leaning in towards each other and conversing.

  • The NIV translates this concept as: “The Lord confides in those who fear Him;
    He makes His covenant known to them.”
  • The ESV translates it as: “The friendship of the Lord is for those who fear Him,
    and He makes known to them His covenant.”

Both translations catch the intended meaning with the words “confide” and “friendship,” but the primitive root of “cowd” captures the intimacy of this relationship. We need to be careful that our “religion” does not obscure our vision of the relationship that God is longing to have with us.

A Second Look at an Old Friendship
So what does this very personal friendship with God look like? If we take time to look closely, and beyond the way we have always seen the story of Moses and God, we can get a glimpse of it.

We see this relationship throughout the life of Moses. Let’s look at one snapshot of their relationship, such as when Moses was called to work with God to deliver Israel from Egypt. This meeting is recorded in Exodus 3 and 4.

I am used to seeing this meeting of God with Moses at the burning bush as God, the Sovereign LORD, giving a command to His servant Moses. But, on second look, maybe what we really are seeing is God reaching out to a man (Moses) to bring him into a friendship and partnership with Him.

What signs of friendship do I see?
I see God’s reassurance of His presence with Moses, like he isn’t going it alone; it doesn’t all depend on Moses.
      And God said, “I will be with you…” Ex. 3:12

I see it in God, like a true friend, being transparent and revealing His true identity to Moses.

  • God said to Moses, “I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you.’” God also said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites, ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob—has sent me to you.’ “This is my name forever, the name you shall call me from generation to generation.” Ex. 3:14-15

I see it in God, as a good friend, sharing His strength and power with Moses.

  • “Then the Lord said, “If they do not believe you or pay attention to the first sign, they may believe the second. But if they do not believe these two signs or listen to you, take some water from the Nile and pour it on the dry ground. The water you take from the river will become blood on the ground.” Ex. 4:8-9

In chapter 4, we see Moses, so to speak sitting on the couch” with God, having intimate converse or consult with God. Moses shares his weakness and fears with God, and God provides support for Moses in each thought. There is intimacy; there is encouragement; there is frustration and even anger expressed; but always, God is the friend, the help, the advocate.

Many other instances in the life of Moses reveal this close personal friendship and partnership between God and Moses. We can see it in the life of Hannah, David, Hezekiah, Elijah, Elisha, Daniel and countless others, but the question is do we see this for our life today?

In the End It Is “Religion or Relationship”
So many times in my life I have tripped over my practice of religion and missed the depth and beauty of a real relationship with God. God is all about this relationship. He has set it up from before the creation of the world for us to be close to Him.
Eph. 1:4 – 6 states this truth clearly. Look for the relationship words.

  • “For He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless in His presence. In love He predestined us for adoption as His sons/daughters through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of His glorious grace, which He has freely given us in the Beloved One.”

While God is Almighty, all powerful, and the sovereign Lord, He does extend Himself to us as our intimate friend. In the next article we will explore this relationship as seen in others in the scriptures; God’s many invitations; and what it takes for us to have this relationship.

God: A Keeper – Part 2

In the ups and downs of life it can be difficult to believe that God is really there for me. One of the reasons I struggle with this at times is because I do not have deep understanding of the character of God. Another reason is because I tend to go by my feelings instead of the truths I know about God.

I have set out on a journey to learn more about the character and truths of God to help keep my faith stable.

God, a Keeper of Old
In the Old Testament there are many beautiful descriptions of God, one of them being that He is our Keeper. One sense in which God is our Keeper is that He keeps us within His presence during times of difficulty.

In Psalm 31:19-20 we see that God keeps His goodness stored up for us during times of difficulty, and He keeps us our hearts safe in His presence during times of challenge and trouble.

“How great is Your goodness, which You have stored up (tsaphan) for those who fear You, which You have wrought for those who take refuge in You, before the sons of men! You hide them in the secret place of Your presence from the conspiracies of man; You keep (tsaphan) them secretly in a shelter from the strife of tongues.”(NASB)

In Isaiah 26:3,  we learn that God keeps faithful watch over us, so that even in times of trouble or sorrow, He is there watching over us and assisting us through our trials.

“You keep (natsar) him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.”

In Psalm 12:7, David uses the Hebrew word “shamar” in this psalm to indicate God as a keeper who  builds a spiritual hedge around our heart so that we are not spiritually destroyed during dark times. So, in a sense, God keeps us so that we can keep holding onto God.

“You, O Lord, will keep (shamar) them; You will preserve (natsar) him from this generation forever.” Ps. 12:7

David is an example of someone going through significant trials, especially in reference to his relationship with Saul, yet, even in the midst of his troubles David understands that God “keeping” him.

Jesus An Appointed Keeper
I am very drawn to the picture of Jesus as our keeper in John 6:37.
“All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away.”

The expression “drive away” is associated with Jesus as our keeper. “Drive away” means cast out or banish.  In a sense Jesus will not remove us as a part of Him. He will not withdraw His love or step back from a relationship with us. He keeps us.

In some instances the term “drive away” carries the connotation of being “rejected or cast away” as in John 9:39, “They answered him, “You were born in utter sin, and would you teach us?” And they cast him out (of the synagogue).”

I find this thought reassuring that even in my inner struggles and trials of life, Jesus will keep holding onto me. This is a remarkable truth, especially considering during these times I may not be thinking and saying uplifting things about or to God.

Hear It Again
Jesus wants us to get this truth about “keeping us.” In the same chapter of John two verses following verse 36, this truth is repeated again using slightly different words. Jesus is driving this point home.

“And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that I shall lose none of those He has given Me, but raise them up at the last day.” John 6:39

The term “lose none” implies keeping, protecting and guiding so that we do not perish but rather hold onto eternal life. This term brings up pictures of the story of the Father and his prodigal son, as well as the Good Shepherd guarding and leading His sheep.

John 6:39 brings out another encouraging truth about God and that is: it is God’s will, His preferred desire, His deliberate intention for us to be kept. This reveals the heart of God towards us that He wants us to be in a right relationship with Him. He sent His Son to be the atonement for our sins so that we can be in a right relationship with Him and then in that relationship He “holds onto us.”

Take a Spiritual Selfie
Meditate on these passages and study them out for yourself. Let the picture of what they say be engraved in your heart. Take a picture of Jesus with you as your “keeper.” What do you see?

The next time you are undergoing difficulty, hanging on the precipice of fear, and doubt; and wondering where God is – pull up this picture and let the truth behind it uphold you.

Wonder of Wonders

Have you ever been “stuck” in your faith, in trusting God during a rough season, one of those dips or pits in life? Struggles of a physical, spiritual, emotional or relational nature show up in our life on a regular basis, at least they do in mine.

These are the times when we question God about: His love, His good will towards us, His power, His truth and even His presence in our life. It seems odd that we should question the very character and nature of God, but when overwhelmed with turmoil or suffering, our perspective is often blurred and confused.

Psalm 77 describes a dark time in the life of the psalmist. During this time he wrestles with some strong feelings about God and asks seemingly  accusatory questions.

  • He asks where God is and if He (God) has rejected/abandoned him in verse 7- “Will the Lord reject forever?”
  • The psalmist goes on questioning, asking God if He cares about him and if He loves him in verse 7b and 8 “And will He never be favorable again? Has His loving-kindness ceased forever?”
  • He even questions the faithfulness of God in keeping His promises in verse 8b – “Has His promise come to an end forever?”
  • The psalmist continues his lament and asks God if He has forgotten to bless him or has forgotten about him in verse 9a – “Has God forgotten to be gracious?”
  • He asks if God is mad at him, verse 9b – “Has he in anger withheld his compassion?”

The psalmist is so discouraged that he could not sleep (notice he blames God) and he could not even speak about it,You have held my eyelids open; I am so troubled that I cannot speak.” He asked God some of the same questions I have and perhaps you have asked at some time in your life.

What to Do in a Faith Funk?
The psalmist knew where to go, and was able to drag himself to that source even in the midst of his turmoil. The psalmist decides he will remember the truths he already knows about God. He makes a decision to “recount the wonders of God.”

“I shall remember the deeds of the LORD; surely I will remember (recount)Your wonders of old. I will meditate on all Your work and muse on Your deeds.” Psalm 77:11-12

The psalmist did not look inward to himself, or outward to others, but interestingly enough he looked back at the great deeds of God for help. As he reviewed these deeds, he fanned the flame of his faith because he remembered how great, powerful and loving God is.

What Are the “Wonders?”
The word “wonders” as written by this psalmist comes from a root meaning something wonderful, admirable; extraordinary; astonishing and hard to grasp. It often refers to the wondrous acts of God’s redemption towards man. Words like miracles, marvelous things and mighty deeds are used to define “wonders.”

However, we should note that this word “wonders”  not only refers to God’s might deeds, but it can also refer to His counsel (Isaiah 9:5), and His interaction with man (Isaiah 29:14).

Wonder About the Wonders!
In Psalm 77:13-20, the psalmist details some of these wondrous works that God did for Israel as he delivered them from Egypt.

I like wonder at the wonders of God by scanning through the Bible and recounting the wonders of God. When I do this, I come away renewed in my faith. When read one right after the other it takes my breath away.

I stand in awe of God, who He is, and how intricately and complexly He wove His love and power through the history of His people to bring about the salvation of mankind. Then I remember that this God, I am reading about, is the same God who walks in a relationship with me through my faith today. This renews my faith. Keeping a ready reference of these wonders close by me has lifted my soul out of despondence and doubt many times.

Reminiscing
Here are few of my favorite wonders of God from the scriptures.

  • God spoke things into existence, Genesis 1-2.
    “By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.” Hebrews 11:3
  • God made man in His image and gave him dominion over all the earth, Gen. 1:26.
  • God enabled a100 year old man and a 90 year old woman to give birth to the child from whom would descend the Messiah, the Son of God, Romans 4:19.
  • God divided the waters of the Red Sea and Israel walked across on dry land, Ex.14:21-22.
  • The Lord delivered 3 young men from a fiery death, in fact He walked within the fire with them, Daniel 3:23, 25.
  • God let fire fall from heaven in answer to a prophet’s prayer in order to show Israel that He is God and there is no other,1 Kings 18:30-39.
  • The Almighty God who creates and sustains all life became flesh and dwelt among us full of grace and truth, John 1:14;Philippians 2:6-8.
  • In compassion, Jesus healed a leper, Mark 1:40-45.
  • Jesus raised a young girl from death, Mark 5:35-42.
  • Jesus calmed the storm and the sea, Matthew 8:23-27.
  • Jesus, God in the flesh, became the sacrifice for my sins so that I might become the righteousness of God, 1 Peter2:24; 2 Cor. 5:21.

Chronicle the Wonders
There are many “wonders” of God in the scriptures, as well as ones He has worked in your life. I encourage you to scan through the Bible and find the wonders of God.

  • Read them.
  • Meditate on them.
  • Paint pictures of them in your mind.
  • Journal about them.

Create a ready reference of them, then in times of discouragement, deep wrestling and doubt you can be restored by remembering the wonders of our great God!

Come and see the works of God, Who is awesome in His deeds toward the sons of men.
Psalm 66:5

God – A Keeper

The other day I was sorting through things in my home with the intent of “minimalizing.” As I sorted through things I realized that I “kept” or held onto things based on their value or their use, and also, if it held a special memory or emotional connection.

As I read my Bible during the days of my minimalizing project, the word “keep” continued to come into my focus. The word keep” is used numerous times in the scriptures, especially in the book of Psalms, and I am finding it has a different meaning than just holding onto something for its use, value or sentiment.

A Deeper Meaning
The word “keep” in the scriptures is used often to refer to an action of God on our behalf that is seemingly separate from our value or use.

There are several words in the Hebrew language for keep. We will consider three of them: shamar, tsaphan and natsar.  When we look at these words it is in a sense “splitting hairs” because they all have the same general meaning “to keep”, yet they differ slightly in shades of meaning. I guess if the Holy Spirit thought it necessary to use several different words to communicate the same thought then we should sit up and pay attention to what the Spirit is saying.

Tsaphan – Hide Me Away O God!
Tsaphan
 meaning “keep,” comes from a primitive root meaning to hide, to cover over implying hiding to protect; store away secretly; to keep hidden, as in hidden from harm. Psalm 31:19-20 brings out this meaning.

  • “How great is Your goodness, which You have stored up (tsaphan) for those who fear You, which You have wrought for those who take refuge in You, before the sons of men! You hide them in the secret place of Your presence from the conspiracies of man; You keep (tsaphan) them secretly in a shelter from the strife of tongues.”(NASB)

In Psalm 31 we see David trusted that God was “keeping” him from the harm of the conspiracies of men that were going on around about him.

We too can trust that God is sheltering us; He is keeping us- hiding us away in His secret shelter from the tongues of men, and protecting us from the danger of their gossipy words, angry or jealous talk, or outright evil intent. When we trust in God, He keeps us safe in the secret place of His presence. How special is!

Natsar- Faithfully Keep Watch Over Me!
Natsar
is translated “Keep” and comes from a primitive root meaning to guard with fidelity; to watch over with the emphasis on faithful watching over. It is also translated preserve; save.

This concept is illustrated in Isaiah 26:3.

  • “You keep (natsar) him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.”

God faithfully keeps our soul in peace and calm in the midst of difficulties as we trust in Him. Perhaps Paul was thinking of this scripture when he penned Phil 4:6-7, “The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Shamar – Put a Hedge Around Me!
Shamar means “keep”
and comes from a primitive root meaning to hedge about, in the sense of surrounding a thing for protection or containment. However, it is also translated: to observe, to keep watch over; to guard; to protect; to keep safe; to preserve and to treasure.

We see this word used in several psalms but I want to point out two of them: Psalm 140:4 and Psalm 12:7. Note David uses both shamar and natsar in these verses, enriching the idea of God as our Keeper.

  • Keep (shamar) me, O Lord, from the hands of the wicked; preserve (natsar) me from violent men who have purposed to trip up my feet.” Ps. 140:4
  • “You, O Lord, will keep (shamar) them; You will preserve (natsar) him from this generation forever.” Ps. 12:7

As we know from the scriptures David was anointed king but was chased around the countryside by Saul who intended to kill him. Things were so bad that David hid in caves and even went over to the enemy and pretended to be out of his mind. In the midst of these difficulties David called upon God to keep him, to put a hedge of safety around him, and to faithfully watch over him to preserve him and deliver him.

God is the same in character and heart today as when He interacted with David. We too can ask God to put a hedge around us and to preserve us in the midst of our trials.

This Doesn’t Feel Like Safety and Security
Whether you “feel” like it or not- God is “keeping” You. It is a part of His character and heart in relationship with us. When God “keeps us” it does not mean that we are free from all trouble and pain, but rather that He preserves us, our spirit, and yes sometimes even our life in the midst of difficulty. So have faith and trust God as your Keeper.

Think about some well-known accounts of God “keeping” his people.

  • Daniel in the lions’ den: Daniel lived his faith in God before unbelieving men. He was punished barbarically by being thrown into a den of hungry lions. Where was God his keeper? Right there, closing the mouth of the lions! (Dan. 6)
  • What about Joseph? Where was God, the Keeper, when Joseph was falsely accused and thrown in a dungeon to rot? He was right there with Joseph blessing everything he did, waiting to bring things together at the right time to exalt Joseph and deliver Israel. (Gen. 37-50)

We could flip through the pages of scripture and find many such examples from Adam through to the Christians in the first century church.

What about you?
Your circumstances may be painful or messy; your emotions may be blinding you to the truth of God’s presence, but He is there surrounding you, faithfully guarding your soul and preserving you. God is your Keeper!

Take time out to think of all the ways God has been “keeping” you. Think of the many ways God has protected you and surrounded you with His grace and love, and then give to Him the praise that is due Him.

 

Forget God!?

Forget God? “Impossible! Preposterous!” you say, especially about anyone who is actively involved in “walking with God.” Yet forgetting God is s very real phenomenon. I believe we forget God in ways that seem small to us and are barely noticeable on a daily basis. Think about it.

Forgetting God Is Real
In fact, the phenomenon of forgetting God is so real that we read passages in the scriptures in which God predicts that His people will forget Him, and passages in which God charges them with forgetting Him.

In Deuteronomy 6:10-12, before Israel entered the “promised land” God encourages the people to remember Him and not forget Him after they become settled into their new land and new way of life.

“When the Lord your God brings you into the land He swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to give you—a land with large, flourishing cities you did not build, houses filled with all kinds of good things you did not provide, wells you did not dig, and vineyards and olive groves you did not plant—then when you eat and are satisfied,  be careful that you do not forget the Lord, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.”

And we see a similar warning again in Deuteronomy 8:12-14:
“… Otherwise, when you eat and are satisfied, when you build fine houses and settle down, and when your herds and flocks grow large and your silver and gold increase and all you have is multiplied, then your heart will become proud and you will forget the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.”

As Israel progressed in life, we clearly see that it is not only possible for a people in a covenant relationship to forget God but it is a reality. Listen to this very heart breaking statement from God in Jeremiah 2:32.
“Does a young woman forget her jewelry, a bride her wedding ornaments? Yet my people have forgotten Me, days without number.”

The book of Judges documents the truth of a people in a covenant relationship with God who continually “forgot” God. Throughout the Old Testament we read of such warnings, statements of reality of them forgetting God, as well as ways that God encourages His people to remember Him. Some of these ways included: writing His command on their door posts; walking in the way with their children and telling of God’s great deeds; erecting stones of remembrance; celebrating feasts such as the Passover, and so on.

The Root of Forgetting God
There are many ways we forget God and many causes for our ungodly memory dysfunction. The psalmist in Psalms 78 reveals a major truth about this memory problem.
“That the generation to come might know…That they should put their confidence in God and not forget the works of God, but keep His commandments, and not be like their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation, a generation that did not prepare its heart and whose spirit was not faithful to God.” Psalm 78:6-8 (NASB)

So what is at the root of the problem? We see some clues in verses 6 to 8, such as, the statement that they should put their confidence in God, which implies the generation before did not put their confidence in God but in something or someone else. We know Israel put their confidence in idols, in worldly practices of the nations around them, in pacts with other nations to protect them, and in their own wisdom.

Also, we see that they forgot the “works of God,” the great ways He delivered them and the mighty deeds He did on their behalf. It is further revealed that they forgot God’s law and how to obey it from the heart. They set their will up against God’s and so they are called a stubborn and rebellious generation.

The most revealing clue is in the phrase “a generations that did not prepare its heart.”

Prepare Your Heart
What does this phrase mean? It comes from a Hebrew term that means: to establish; to make provisions for; to make preparation for; to plan. In other words these people did not make provision to be faithful to God. They did not establish themselves in their relationship with God by planning to remain faithful to God.

Most of us have plans for our future. We make plans for our children. We plan to save money. We plan for our education,our vacation, our careers, our homes, our families, etc. We plan to be faithful to our spouse – even to the point of saying vows of love and faithfulness before others regarding our marriage relationship. Yet what about our relationship with God? What is my plan to remain faithful to God? What is your plan?

Note well: There is much to learn on this topic of “forgetting God.” Future blogs will add more to these thoughts. For now it is good to reflect on your memory of God, of His goodness and mighty deeds in His Word, as well as in your life.

What is your plan to remember God every day?
Think beyond your usual prayer and Bible reading!

Bible Bytes: God: Awake, Alert and Oriented

God Awakens to Help Us

“O Lord my God, in you do I take refuge; save me from all my pursuers and deliver me… Arise, O Lord in your anger; if yourself up against the fury of my enemies; awake for me; you have appointed a judgment.” Psalm 7:1 and 6

Things happen in our life and our relationships that cause us pain, anxiety and inner turmoil. Sometimes these events are of our own doing because of choices we have made; or ways we have sinned. Sometimes we are caught in the fall out of another person’s choices, fears, problems or sin. Whatever the cause, we feel the oppression of the event. At times, I have wondered where God is.

In Psalm 7 we read about David speaking to God about such an event in his life and he seems to be wondering where God is; better yet, David is crying out to “wake” God up to see his trouble.

It seems an accusation or charge was leveled against David by Cush the Benjamite. An interesting side note in these few verses is that David had a heart to accept blame and accountability for his actions should he be shown to be at fault. In the midst of the pain of what he thought were false charges, he had a humble heart. We see his heart in verse 3:

” O Lord my God, if I have done this , if there is wrong in my hands; if I have repaid my friend with evil or plundered my enemy without cause, let the enemy pursue my soul and overtake it…” .

God: A Proven Refuge
But the greater truth here is that David went to God with all of this before taking any action himself. David trusted that he could go to God in his time of need because God had proven true to David before in his relationship. Every time David reached out to God, he found God answering him in some way.

David is so sure that God will help him that he frantically calls to God to wake up and see what is happening to him. He seems to think God has not come to his aid yet, because God is not aware of his situation. He asks God to “awake for me.”

Awake for Me
Awake comes from a primitive root word that means “open your eyes.” David cries out to God to look at what is happening to me here – open your eyes- SEE this and help me.

In a literal sense, “awake” means to rouse up from slumber, to open your eyes as you do in the morning to see around you. Figuratively it means to stir oneself up; to incite to action. A truth here is that in any difficulty that I am in, God will awake for me.

God and Me
I am so encouraged by this choice of words that David uses. It reveals characteristics of David’s heart and faith that I need to imitate:  his ever awareness of God’s nearness to him; his belief in God’s willingness to come to his aid; and how “personal” David is in communicating with God. On one hand David acknowledges God as the One who is all powerful and can deliver him and save him; on the other hand David calls out to, so to speak, “wake up his Father.”

No matter what my difficulty, God will awake and rise up to help me. He will provide a way out, or a way to stand up under the pressure. As we read through Psalm 7, we see within the context that we have to  take refuge in God (verses 1, 10); call upon Him to help; have a heart to repent of our fault/sin ( verses 3, 4,5,12), and praise God for His righteous response (verse 17).

Call out to our Father today to awaken on your behalf concerning trials and troubles in your life.

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“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.”
Psalm 46:1a