Have Faith in God


When I awoke yesterday for work, an old hymn began playing through my head. I could only remember the chorus, but it was a good reminder to put my hope in God, not any one man or woman. Remember this truth, whether you are pleased with the election results or not. Our prayers are to be for God and His will, not for a person and their politics. Red or Blue, all of us should pray for our leaders and for God’s will be done. All of us should Have Faith in God. Therefore, I offer the following hymn. The lyrics are below.

Have faith in God when your pathway is lonely; 
He sees and knows all the way you have trod. 
Never alone are the least of His children; 
Have faith in God, have faith in God. 

Chorus:
Have faith in God, He’s on His throne; 
Have faith in God, He watches o’er His own. 
He cannot fail, He must prevail; 
Have faith in God, have faith in God.

2 Have faith in God when your prayers are unanswered; 
Your earnest plea He will never forget. 
Wait on the Lord trust His Word and be patient; 
Have faith in God, He’ll answer yet. [Chorus] 

3 Have faith in God in your pain and your sorrow; 
His heart is touched with your grief and despair. 
Cast all your cares and your burdens upon Him; 
And leave them there, oh, leave them there. [Chorus]

4 Have faith in God though all else fail about you; 
Have faith in God, He provides for His own. 
He cannot fail though all kingdoms shall perish; 
He rules, He reigns, upon His throne. [Chorus]

Psalms for the Election – Day 7

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As we conclude this 7-day journey for praying for the election, I hope you hold on to God’s call to recalibrate our lives around Him and not our political parties or dogmas. May we live with strength and courage; without fear or discouragement, because we know that the Lord will be us wherever we go.

Have the courage to stand up among the assembly, to be that one person who refuses to bow to the pressures of tyranny, regardless of the threat to your life, wealth, or family. Rest in the truth that your victory does not come in the votes of an electoral college but in God. It is He who pushes back your enemies and gives you victory. Put your faith in Him. He is our only hope.


Read Psalm 46

Identify what God is saying about Himself in this passage. Boil it down into a one or two-word summary (e.g., God is ____ ) and confess that truth back to God, asking Him to reveal Himself in this way through your day and this election cycle.

v. 1 Look at the election. If it has not taken place yet, pray this verse as a declaration of trust that God will protect His people and will not abandon us when trouble occurs. If it has ended, pray this verse as a declaration of faith for the future, regardless of who has been elected President.

v.2-3 State how your security does not depend on the circumstances that have played out in this election. Rather, your security is in God alone. Therefore, you will not fear.

Even if you feel like this election has produced results in which “the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters foam and the mountains quake with their surging,” declare your faith and your trust in God.

v.4-6 Confess that you were not created for this nation that we call America. Rather, you were created for the holy city of God where the Most High dwells. Your residence is within a kingdom that will not fall and where God will always help her survive and thrive. Other nations will come and go. Other kingdoms will fall, because God rules not with a scepter or a sword, but with the power of His spoken word. He is the One who spoke and the earth was created. He is the One who wrapped Himself in flesh to pay the penalty for our sins. He is the One who lifts his voice and the earth melts; who reigns forever and ever and invites the one who wishes to take the free gift of the water of life.

v.7-9 Declare the wonders and the works of the LORD Almighty. Ask God to reveal to you what He has done. In this passage, the Psalmist writes that God has “made wars cease … He breaks the bow and shatters the spears; He burns the shields with fire.”  Take a moment and ask yourself: What

Take a moment and consider the symbolism for our country: What are the “wars” that God has stopped in our country? What “bows and spears” has He broken? What “shields” of the enemy has He “burned with fire?”

v.10 Take a minute. Be still before God and know that He is the Lord. Confess the mighty works of His hands. Declare His greatness among the nations. Exalt Him in all the earth.

v. 11 Reaffirm this truth, regardless of who won the election: “The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.”

In Jesus’ name, Amen.

 

Thank each of you who have prayed with me over these last 7 days for the condition and future of our country. May our hearts be continually turned towards God as we seek His face and declare that our trust rests not in man, but in Him.

Blessings on you all.

Psalms for the Election – Day 6

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This year has brought us one of the most divisive elective cycles in recent memory. Many people that I speak to, regardless of political affiliation, are not excited about the choices they have for President. Both candidates have characteristics that could be defined as “unfit,” whether it is in temperament, decision making, morality, unpredictability, criminal behavior, experience, judgment, health, or political vision.  It is in this season that we need to pray for our country more than we do for our political parties. We are a nation off-course and the choice of our leader will make irrevocable changes to the intellectual, emotional, spiritual, and moral direction we take as Americans.

Therefore, I would like to invite you to pray with me for our country. Over the next 7 days, I will be making a new post each day. Each post will include a link to a reading from the Psalms and a brief instruction on how to use this reading as a guide for prayer. Let us put aside our desire to see a specific person win the election and have the courage to pray boldly for God to stay his judgment and place in office the man or woman who will lead us to be the country that God desires (and designed) us to be. 

Will you please pray with me?


Read Psalm 43

Identify what God is saying about Himself in this passage. Boil it down into a one or two-word summary (e.g., God is ____ ) and confess that truth back to God, asking Him to reveal Himself in this way through your day and this election cycle.

v.1 Confess how our nation has been unfaithful. What have we called gods that are not gods at all? How have we exchanged our glorious God for worthless cultural, political, and social idols? (Jer. 2:11-12) Who or what are they? Ask the Holy Spirit to show you how we use the Name of God to excuse the sins of man? Name them by name. If it helps, revisit the prayer guide for Day 3.

Ask the Holy Spirit to show you how we use the Name of God to excuse the sins of man? Name them by name. If it helps, revisit the prayer guide for Day 3.

Ask God to raise up the remnant within our country who have not bowed their knees to these false idols. Ask that they stand boldly before the wicked and the oppressors. Ask that God vindicate us and plead our cause against an unfaithful nation. That He rescue us from those who are deceitful and wicked. Ask that God will both hinder and destroy the plans of the wicked. That He will not allow them to flourish. May this be the time for the holy to prosper because God is our stronghold.

v.2  Confess that God alone is our stronghold. Confess that you have felt alone and grieving this week. Confess how you have felt like mourning because you have been oppressed by the enemy. Ask God to intervene on behalf of His Name and not our own. Ask Him to demonstrate through our election how He alone is our stronghold and how He has not rejected us.

v.3 Ask God to send our nation His light and His faithful care. Ask that He open the hearts and minds of all Americans during this election. May we be humbled and as a result pray and seek His face and turn from our wicked ways so that God’s light and faithful care may lead our nation in the paths that we may go.

Ask that God bring us to His holy mountain, to the place where He dwells.

v. 4 Respond to God by going to Him and surrendering at His altar everything that you have used as a substitute  for joy and delight, instead of God.

Sing praise to God. Let His name and His works be proclaimed through the song that pours out from your lips.

v. 5 Do not let your soul harken back to the worries of this world or the fears of what will happen if the “wrong person” is elected. Put your hope in God. Praise Him alone. Make Him alone your Savior and your God.

If you are finding this difficult, pray boldly for a vision of what a life and a country looks like whose hope is not in God. Ask God to reveal to us that our fears come from trusting in unreliable people or things to sustain or save us, not from Him. Ask that God

Wait. Close your eyes if you have to.

Listen.Ask God to reveal to us that our fears come from trusting in unreliable people or things to sustain or save us, not from Him. Ask that God

What is the image He is giving you? Hold that image in your minds eye? Let yourself feel the depth of the pain that comes from such extreme separation from God. Pray that He will keep our country from such ruin.

Ask God to reveal to us that our fears come from trusting in unreliable people or things to sustain or save us, not from Him. Ask that God break us of our tendency to drift away in fear. May we be a people who will yet praise Him, who trusts only in Him.

In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Quick Thoughts: “You are my God.”

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But I trust in you, LORD; I say, “You are my God.”

— Psalm 31:14

Have you ever thought about this phrase? What does it mean to declare that something or someone is your God?

According to Psalm 31, here are some answers below (corresponding verse in parentheses).

To say, “You are my God” means:

  1. You trust in this person/thing to deliver you out of difficult situations. It is the refuge that you run into for shelter when life is beating you up. (verse 1).
  2. You rely on it to be attentive to your needs, to be quick and effective in the salvation you seek. (verse 2)
  3. You seek wisdom and guidance from it about how to make sense out of your chaotic life. (verse 3)
  4. It is that thing that you seek to glorify with your life, that which you are willing to give the credit for your successes, instead of yourself. (verse 3)
  5. You rely on this person/thing for not only protecting you from present troubles but also future ones. (verse 4)
  6. All that your god embodies is honorable and true to you. Those that contradict your god, you abhor. (verse 6)
  7. You feel that your god understands you and you rejoice in the intimacy you have with it. (verse 7)
  8. You trust in this god to not only deliver you but to also expand your territory so that you have freedom to roam. (verse 8)
  9. You rely on it during times of grief, anguish, suffering, and affliction. When you are at your weakest and an utter derision to all around you, you still cling to this god to keep you from shame. (verse 9-17)
  10. You seek vengeance through it, to give you the justice you cannot get on your own. (verses 18, 23)
  11. You view it as the source of good things and a rewarder of those who are faithful to it. (verse 19)
  12. You trust it to protect you from harassment, physical harm, emotional pain, and hopelessness. (verse 12, 20-22)
  13. You rely on it to give you strength and hope. (verse 24)
  14. You find your resilience grows out of its character and presence in your life. (verse 24)
  15. You decide to surrender your life to its influence and control, to be “true” to it because you believe you cannot manage your life without it. (verse 23)

Let’s be honest. Gods can take many forms. Your god may be money, intelligence, alcohol, sex, food, work, humor, praise from others, self-harm, rationalizations, justifications, learning/reading, social media, depression, Netflix, busy-work, or the many-headed hydra of have to’s that plague us from day to day.

OR…your god may be religion, doctrine, good works, volunteering, going the extra mile for someone in need, false humility, presenting the “perfect picture”to outsiders, guilt, praying (instead of doing), doubt, materialism/shopping, or the unending list of do’s and don’ts that echo daily through our head.

Or it may be something else entirely.

But whatever you proclaim to be your god (even if you do not believe in the supernatural and claim yourself as your highest authority) will eventually be measured. Not by the standard of how well it meets your selfish ends, but by the strength of its character while under duress.

You may pick your god. That is your right. But be careful what you dedicate your life to. Most gods break when tested, for they are full of impurities and their promises are made of thin plastic. That is why you still feel hopeless. That is why there is a longing in your heart for something (ANYTHING!) to be real. For in those times that you see your god for all it truly is, you realize that all you have ever worshiped is a mere facsimile of the original and one, true God. Only He has the integrity to withstand the tests that attack Him and to deliver you from harm as well.

You must decide. To what, or whom, will you say: “You are my God.”

Sitting on the Stool

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“There are two spiritual activities which are to be unceasingly part of a believer’s life, two great pillars that hold up the believer in the matter of daily living.  One is the study of the Word of God.  Two, prayer.”

— John MacArthur

I’m not one to usually criticize John MacArthur, who some would argue is the best exegetical preacher alive today, but when I was listening to his sermon “The Paternity of Prayer” on my way to work the other day, the above quote popped out at me.

Immediately, I thought: Wait a minute. What about service?

I do not disagree that study and prayer are two essential aspects of the Christian life, but if we forget or minimize the necessity of service, we fail to put legs to what our study and praying have revealed. This is why I have often thought of Christianity like a three-legged stool that must continually be in balance, where one leg is study, one is prayer, and one is service.

You cannot neglect one or two of these legs without toppling over. For instance, a person that is great at study but does not pray, he only has head knowledge and can get filled up with the arrogance of much learning. Or if he has a passion for prayer so as to see great miracles occur but does not study or serve, he will not produce anything meaningful. This is why Solomon warns us:

“Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh. The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.” (Ecc. 12:12-14)

And it is why Paul says:

“And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.” (1 Cor 13:2)

In both situations, Solomon and Paul emphasize that the most important thing is not knowledge or faith by itself, but it is adding both of these things to what you do. As Paul later wrote in Galatians 5:6: “The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.” (NIV)

Service, then, is a necessary leg of the Christian existence. If it was not, James would not have argued that it is our deeds that prove our faith (Ja. 2:17-18) Jesus would not have said, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (Jn. 13:35) And the disciples in Acts would not have delegated the work of distributing food to the widows to seven godly men so that The 12 would not neglect “prayer and the ministry of the Word.” (Acts 6:1-4)

I understand that it is safer to remain in one’s study, surrounded by books and excavating truths never before understood. I respect that it feels more comfortable, and at times it feels more spiritual, to pray for a person or a situation, rather than get involved. But God calls us out of our safe places and asks us to leave our comfort zones. This is why Jesus tells us “you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8) Because we are to be a going people. We are to be an engaging people. We are revolutionaries who are on a mission to change the culture of our homes, communities, and nations. We are a people who are to serve “by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 4:11)

We are not to be cowardly or sluggish or foolish. Those are mistakes the anxious. We are not to be arrogant, doubting, or disbelieving. Those are the mistakes of the inactive. We are to be doing, going, and serving. Giving our bodies up as living sacrifices (Rom. 12:1), which is “your spiritual worship” (or, “your rational service“).

Neglect not this third leg of Christianity. It is where you get to see the truth you’ve studied in action, and where you witness your prayers become weapons of warfare. It is where you are allowed to join the holy, sovereign, creating God in the redemptive work He is doing. To reject such an honor is disrespectful. To refuse such a privilege is unthinkable. No man is remembered who does not add service to his study and prayer.

Quick Thoughts: Wisdom and Understanding

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Then he saw it and declared it;
    he established it, and searched it out. And he said to man,

‘Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom,
    and to turn away from evil is understanding.’” (Job 28:27-28)

God saw and declared wisdom. He established it and searched it out. He knows its depths. No part is a mystery to Him. But to help Man in his limitations understand, God reduces it totwo instructions: 1) the fear of the LORD and 2) turn away from evil.

But if the truth is that “None is righteous, no, not one” (Rom. 3:10), how then do we turn from evil? The answer is provided in Matthew 7:11, which says, “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!”

In this verse we learn:

  1. We are all evil.
  2. Evil people can do good things, even  in the midst of their depravity. In other words, depravity may exclude a person from saving himself but it does not exclude one from doing good acts. The conscience is still intact and able to choose between right and wrong. We are like the schizophrenic whose condition does not preclude him from hearing real (or right) voices, but it also doesn’t dampen the unreal (or wrong) voices that influence their decisions.  Evil can be compelling, but it can also be turned away from.
  3. Turning away from evil is a discipline one must continually practice in order to understand or have discernment. Just as repeatedly turning towards evil breeds more evil and corruption of mind (Romans 1) so turning away from evil removes the scales and increases the ability to do more good deeds (1 Cor. 9:25-27)
  4. Turning from evil provides discernment but it does not remove the stain evil has left on us. The more we turn from evil, the more we realize how hopeless our condition is without God. Self-improvement through continual washing never wholly absolves us of the need to bathe again. We can never be whole or perfect without God.
  5. That is why the fear of the LORD is wisdom. We must fear God, both in trepidation and respect, to approach Him in boldness and to ask Him to do what we cannot accomplish, i.e. to cleanse our soul and lead us into the deepest depths of wisdom that only the pure can travel.

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Quick Thoughts: God is One

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Dt. 6:4 – The LORD our God, the LORD is one

Isa 45:7 – I form the light and create darkness,
    I bring prosperity and create disaster;
    I, the Lord, do all these things.

1st Jn 4:8 – “God is love.” We hear this quoted all the time. Sometimes from a person who is trying to justify their behavior to us and sometimes from ourselves. But is God only love? Is He not also Creator, Provider, Sustainer, Judge,Redeemer, Forgiver, Covenant maker, Faithful, the Truth, the Way, the Life, etc?  When we talk about God, when we use the term “the LORD” or “God” do we not reference ALL of who He is? True, God is Love, but God is more than that.  Don’t get hung up on only one characteristic of God to the exclusion of the others. Otherwise, you will not only have an inaccurate view of God but you will also expect God to behave according to your definition of who He is, instead of you adjusting yourself to the reality of His person. Remember, God is one. He is the God who creates both prosperity and disaster (Isa 45:7). He is not separate from the sufferings we endure. Indeed, His love does not prohibit Him from understanding or from creating our calamity. He is sovereign and in control of it all. To some people, this seems like a cosmic sadist is at work, while others would argue that it is unloving to “create calamity.” But is it? A loving parent will often allow natural consequences to reveal truths to their child which promote growth or wisdom or they will implement logical consequences to teach a child. Similarly, God in His providential wisdom does not absolve us from suffering. He uses it in perfect symmetry with His other characteristics so that no part of Himself is separate from another. God is ONE. We cannot worship only the aspects of God that we like or that appeal to our sensibilities. We must worship all of the oneness of God in order to understand Him as the God that is in control of it all.

Quick Thoughts: Repair Your Gate

And Shallum the son of Col-hozeh, ruler of the district of Mizpah, repaired the Fountain Gate. He rebuilt it and covered it and set its doors, its bolts, and its bars. And he built the wall of the Pool of Shelah of the king’s garden, as far as the stairs that go down from the city of David.16 After him Nehemiah the son of Azbuk, ruler of half the district of Beth-zur, repaired to a point opposite the tombs of David, as far as the artificial pool, and as far as the house of the mighty men. 17 After him the Levites repaired: Rehum the son of Bani. Next to him Hashabiah, ruler of half the district of Keilah, repaired for his district. 18 After him their brothers repaired: Bavvai the son of Henadad, ruler of half the district of Keilah. 19 Next to him Ezer the son of Jeshua, ruler of Mizpah, repaired another section opposite the ascent to the armory at the buttress.[f] 20 After him Baruch the son of Zabbai repaired another section from the buttress to the door of the house of Eliashib the high priest. (Neh. 3:16-20)

When you look at the headlines from the last week, you see racial unrest boiling across the country. Terrorist attacks in Bangladesh. Flooding in China. Cops being assassinated in Dallas, Texas. The FBI director being interrogated by Congress. A presidential candidate facing possible indictment for mishandling classified information. Long term unemployment is higher than it was at the start of the Great Recession. And the people in charge (or the people competing to be in charge) do not seem to have any viable solutions to fix the overwhelming struggles that face us. The walls that used to surround our country and protect us from outside forces seem to have been trampled. The gates that used to be heavily guarded seem to have been burned to the ground, leaving us with the feeling that we are left only with rock and ash.

The feeling of powerlessness and hopelessness can be overwhelming. But this is where we can learn a valuable lesson from the story of Nehemiah. Each person came out and repaired the section of the wall that was in front of their home.  They did not huddle into private corners and complain about the sad state of.affairs. They did not discuss the impossibility of the task before them. Rather, they came out of their homes, evaluated the damage to tje wall in front of them, picked up a fresh rock or piece of wood, and stood firm as they repaired what belonged to them! They stood shoulder to shoulder, taking care of their responsibility, and within a short period of time, that which had been destroyed was restored.

Ask yourself: If I was to stop worrying and start working, if I was to take care of repairing the section of broken wall in my family, my community, or my church, what role would I need to play? How could I actively repair with my neighbor the intersecting parts of what used to make our lives safe and our faith strong to create healing within my small footprint in the world? How much complaining would I need to stop doing and how much solution-oriented activity would I need to begin in order to see the walls be rebuilt and the ash swept away?

But, you may ask, how can I be equipped to stand firm and meet the task in front of me?

Fortunately, God gives us this answer in Ephesians 6:10-20 (emphasis mine).

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. 14 Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 16 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17 and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, 18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, 19 and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.

Stand firm. Keep alert. Persevere. Rebuild.

From that day on, half of my men did the work, while the other half were equipped with spears, shields, bows and armor. The officers posted themselves behind all the people of Judah 17 who were building the wall. Those who carried materials did their work with one hand and held a weapon<span class=”crossreference” data-link=”(Q)” data-cr=”#cen-NIV-12377Q” style=”box-sizing: border-box; font-size: 0.625em; line-height: 22px; position: relative; vertical-align: top; top: 0px;”> in the other, 18 and each of the builders wore his sword at his side as he worked.  (Nehemiah 4:16-18, emphasis mine)

 

Quick Thoughts: Whose Joy is It?

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“And they kept the Feast of Unleavened Bread seven days with joy, for the Lord had made them joyful and had turned the heart of the king of Assyria to them, so that he aided them in the work of the house of God, the God of Israel.” (Ezra 6:22, ESV)

Several key thoughts from this passage:

1) As students of history, we have the advantage of hindsight. We know the story and the after-story. We know, for instance, that though the Israelites responded in joy, their joy did not last. Eventually, they lapsed into rebellion again. But is this really abnormal?  Joy, for most of us, is temporary. It is a “now” emotion. It can be summoned by memory but this is only remembering joy. The experience of joy itself is always high, electric, and now. It can last for seconds or, in the case of this verse, it can last for days. But eventually, it passes. The “now” must always conclude and transition into another moment…and another…and another. And these succeeding moments may not be positive, causing us to lose the experience of joy and doubt the God that once lifted us so high.

2) There was one cause of their joy: God and God alone. God made them joyful AND He turned the heart of the king of Assyria to them. In other words, God worked on them both internally and externally to make their joy complete. He did not leave them with the temporary joy of endorphins due to the miraculous change in the political landscape. Rather, God MADE them joyful. He worked in their spirit, pointing them to a joy rooted in Him more than the kings of Earth. This is God-centered joy, the everlasting spring that pours out joy as a response to the person and work of the eternal God. And since He is eternal this joy does not fade away like historical joy.

3)  That is why we do not build a theology around the “now” moments of joy but rather around the God who completes our joy, the One to whom we can sing, “For you, O Lord, have made me glad by your work; at the works of your hands I sing for joy.” (Ps. 92:4) and the One in whom we can proclaim, even in life’s darkest moments, “The joy of the LORD is [my] strength.” (Neh. 8:10)

So, here’s my question: Where is your joy? In what or whom do you find yourself rejoicing? What makes you glad? Is it when your moments temporarily align with your agenda or will? Or is it in the eternal God who moves the hearts of His people, and of kings, to accomplish His agenda and will? Let’s be honest here. Who rules your joy? You or God?

Quick Thought: Whose Battle is It?

Ezra 5:6-17

 This is a copy of the letter that Tattenai the governor of the province Beyond the River and Shethar-bozenai and his associates, the governors who were in the province Beyond the River, sent to Darius the king.They sent him a report, in which was written as follows: “To Darius the king, all peace. Be it known to the king that we went to the province of Judah, to the house of the great God. It is being built with huge stones, and timber is laid in the walls. This work goes on diligently and prospers in their hands. Then we asked those elders and spoke to them thus: ‘Who gave you a decree to build this house and to finish this structure?’10 We also asked them their names, for your information, that we might write down the names of their leaders.[b] 11 And this was their reply to us: ‘We are the servants of the God of heaven and earth, and we are rebuilding the house that was built many years ago, which a great king of Israel built and finished. 12 But because our fathers had angered the God of heaven, he gave them into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, the Chaldean, who destroyed this house and carried away the people to Babylonia. 13 However, in the first year of Cyrus king of Babylon, Cyrus the king made a decree that this house of God should be rebuilt. 14 And the gold and silver vessels of the house of God, which Nebuchadnezzar had taken out of the temple that was in Jerusalem and brought into the temple of Babylon, these Cyrus the king took out of the temple of Babylon, and they were delivered to one whose name was Sheshbazzar, whom he had made governor; 15 and he said to him, “Take these vessels, go and put them in the temple that is in Jerusalem, and let the house of God be rebuilt on its site.” 16 Then this Sheshbazzar came and laid the foundations of the house of God that is in Jerusalem, and from that time until now it has been in building, and it is not yet finished.’ 17 Therefore, if it seems good to the king, let search be made in the royal archives there in Babylon, to see whether a decree was issued by Cyrus the king for the rebuilding of this house of God in Jerusalem. And let the king send us his pleasure in this matter.” (ESV)

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After years and years of rebelling against God and prophets warning what would happen if the nation of Israel did not repent, God eventually gave Israel over to their enemies and the consequences of their depraved minds. For seventy years they were captives in a foreign land. This meant that there was enough time for three or four generations of Israelites to be living side by side in captivity. This was long enough for traditions to change, religions to be forgotten, and an entire culture to be rewritten and erased from existence. But God had promised restoration to His people. And so, according to the word of Isaiah that had been spoken 150 years earlier (Isa. 44:28), Cyrus released the Jews and allowed them to begin rebuilding their city and their temple.

However, this did not go over well with the locals, and they tried to stop the massive rebuilding project that had begun in Jerusalem.

Now, at this point, we need to pause. Pull back the curtain a bit. Let’s look at this from a different historical perspective. Prior to creation, Satan attempted a coup in Heaven and failed. Although he and his followers were cast out, he just regrouped and continued the battle here on earth. Their first victory was the Fall. But the destruction of man’s purity is not the ultimate goal for Satan. Rather, realizing that he cannot compete against a holy God, his goal is to make the playing field even by removing God’s holiness. And the easiest way to accomplish this? To thwart just one of God’s promises. You see, if only one of God’s promises does not come true, then Satan has proved God to be a liar. Imperfect.  Unable to predict and navigate all the variables. In other words, finite and fallible.

So, when God begins to move history and kings in the direction of fulfilling His promise of restoration, when the walls of Jerusalem and the temple begin to be rebuilt, Satan organizes a faction of people with political clout to oppose the work. This is spiritual warfare and the stakes are much higher than a city or a building. It is the character and person of God.

It seems these Israelites knew this as well. For when their  opponents asked who they were (so they could tell the king who was “rebelling” against his kingdom), they responded that they were “servants of the God of heaven and earth.” Their focus was not on themselves, but on preserving the name of the Lord. We see this pattern repeated during many spiritual battles throughout scripture, both in the Old and the New Testaments:

In Moses’ injunction for Pharaoh to “Let My people go!”

In David’s answer to Goliath: “You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.”

In Joshua’s challenge to the people of Israel:  “And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

In Gideon’s battle cry: “A sword for the LORD, and for Gideon!”

In the response of Shadrach, Meschach, and Abednego:  “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. 17 If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king.[d] 18 But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”

In Peter’s response to the Pharisees when told to stop preaching the Gospel:  “We must obey God rather than men.”

In Paul’s writing to the Corinthians: “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”

In James’ pleading words: “Come near to God and He will come near to you.”

And even today, when you are sitting at the dinner table, and your 17-year-old child challenges the core beliefs of your faith, or when you are at work and encouraged to compromise your values, or perhaps when you are alone, everyone else in the house is asleep, and you consider watching that internet site you shouldn’t….Whatever battle you find yourself in, whatever “king” challenges you (whether literal or metaphorical), remember:

1) “We are servants of the God of heaven and earth.” That is your starting place. This opposition is not about you. It is, ultimately, about God. You may be damaged or destroyed in the process but you are not the bullseye of this conflict. Fight not only for yourself. Fight also for God.

2) God is a god of promises. And His promises do not fail. He is not a liar, indeed He cannot lie.

3) For this reason, you can stand confidently in the promises of God.  “Fear not” should not only be an injunction of angels but also the motto for Christian living. If kings must bow to the will of God, why should we bow to kings?