Month 6:22, Week 3:7 (Shibi'i/Sukkot), Year:Day 5940:170 AM|
TESHUVAH 22/39, 2Exodus 1/40
Gregorian Calendar: Tuesday 16 September 2014
Impatience and Divine Purpose I
Continued from Part 21
Shabbat shalom kol beit Yisrael and may the grace of our Master Yah'shua the Messiah (Jesus Christ) be with all assembling to hear the Davar Elohim (Word of God) here in Sweden and around the world on this the twenty-second day of teshuvah (repentance).
The Knight and the Loose Horeseshoe
The story is told of a knight from olden times whose horse needed to be reshod. The voice of prudence urged him to to keep riding and not to pause for even one moment because his enemies were in hot pursuit behind him. But the still small voice of wisdom urged him to halt for a few minutes at a blacksmith's forge and have the horseshoe replaced. In spite of his fear - for he could hear his pursuers galloping hard behind him - he anxiously waited those minutes while the blacksmith replaced the worn horseshoe. Leaping in the saddle as soon as the blacksmile had nailed in the last nail, and just as the enemy appeared no more than a hundred yards away, he dashed away from them and made good his escape on his horse now shore-footed and refreshed. Had he not paused those few minutes - had he not listened to the still small voice of wisdom - his horse would almost certainly have been incapacitated, resulting in his capture or death .
Pursued by Enemies
I share this short story to remind us that sometimes Yahweh calls us to do things that makes no sense at all and which at first site may seem to cause us disadvantage and risk, even apparently running contrary to what He has said before. Common sense and prudence are not easy to override with the less tangible impulses of the Ruach (Spirit) but when your life is in danger you tend to take risks you might not otherwise take by overriding the flesh for the sake of that higher realm. I remember the day, many years ago, when in hot pursuit by satanists in cars in a forested area outside Karlstad here in Sweden who wanted one of their ritual victims back who had come to us for help, listening to the Ruach (Spirit) obediently and instantly meant the difference between life and death. There were several close shaves with a pursuing car behind and a tractor blocking the narrow forest road - at such times of heightened awareness I could hear the Ruach (Spirit) dictating 'turn left!' or 'turn right' with literally only 1 or 2 seconds to respond. If I had reacted a second too slow I might not be recounting this to you now. However, that kind of situation does not mercifully occur all the time.
When Life Makes No Sense
I am quite sure that you, like myself, get frustrated and impatient at times because what Yahweh is doing in your life seems to make absolutely no sense at all. Indeed it may at times seem as though He is singling us out for misery rather than simcha (joy). We have our ideas and plans, and He has His. We have our limited perspective that we think is so large, but He has the perspective of eternity, in all the dimensions of space and time.
Martin Luther's Trial
You can, I am sure, think of many instructions in the Scriptures to men of Elohim (God) that not made no sense to them whatsoever but seemed to run contrary to what He had told them before. When Martin Luther was on trial for his life, and called by the Roman Catholic Church to recant his teachings, he naturally wanted time to think over such a hugely important choice. Should he abandon all that he had learned and experienced with Yahweh, or should he meekly surrender to that corrupt church institution and possibly save his life? So he asked for time to think, pray and meditate, fully expecting to be accorded mercy. He must have been shocked to be told that he had only 24 hours to decide. What was he to do in so short a time? How could he review his entire life, and the thoughts and events that had led him to making life-changing decisions, without days if not weeks to do so thoroughly? Not only that, but locked away in solitary confinement in his cell, he had no one to ask for counsel. Have you ever had to make a decision like that, or be the prophetic davar (word) for someone from Yahweh telling them they had to make such a decision? Luther was alone with his Elohim (God). He prayed, implored, begged for a clear direction, but got no answer. In despair, with only hours of his life left, he wrote the following words:
The Hidden Elohim
"O my God (Elohim), where art Thou? The devils rage, and Thou art not there. The devils hound me, but where art Thou?"
Like the navi (prophet) Isaiah, His pitiful cry at death's door was:
When Yahweh is Silent
"Truly You are Elohim (God), who hide Yourself, O Elohim (God) of Israel, the Deliverer (Saviour)!" (Isa.45:15, NKJV).
I have been feeling some of that lately, and though He openes the heavens to me in revelation for others when they need a davar (word), there are increasingly frequent times when He seems to be silent when it comes to what I perceive my own needs to be. That in turn can, if our emunah (faith) is weak, make us anxious. And as Scripture testifies:
The Need of the Word of Yahweh
"Anxiety in the heart of man causes depression, but a davar tov (good word) makes it glad" (Prov.12:25, NIV).
We need to hear the Davar Elohim (Word of God) frequently for our spiritual nourishment, both the written and the spoken, whether by means of others or directly from the Ruach (Spirit). Sometimes we do not hear because unrepented sin is blocking us, sometimes it is because we have grown lazy and our spiritual ears calloused, but sometimes there is a purpose in His silence, testing our emunah (faith) and making us understand who really is Sovereign.
Understanding Divine Timing
I have often been frustrated and bewildered at what He is doing, the years of waiting on him for the fullness of the calling He originally gave to me have not at all been easy. Yet Moses endured his 40 years in exile in Midian only to face another 40 years of ministry that would challenge him a hundred times as much as that long waiting period. Are we sure we always know what we are asking for? Could Moses have carried the load of responsibility Yahweh had ordained for him if he had come out of his exile ten or twenty years earlier? Probably not. But it may not only have been because of his unpreparedness, but often we must wait patiently for others to be ready too. Twenty years earlier and the children of Israel might well have rejected Moses' message altogether. Not only that, but even Pharaoh might not have been ready for his rôle! Divine timing is not in our ken (knowledge), therefore we must trust Yahweh in matters concerning our appointments in life. Are we so sure, when we get anxious, that our timing for the fulfilment of His promises is truly in line with the heavenly program? Having made so many mistakes in the past now, in my autumn years, I dare not rush ahead again, for their are not so many years left to make up for lost times caused by rash decisions. It is always wise to wait on Yahweh, even if it is for 40 years like Moses or even longer like Abraham, or for the years Job had to wait until he was healed and his fortunes restored to him. Balanced against that, of course, is the very real need not to procrastinate. When He gives the command, we must be prepared to move - instantly. Remember, there is only one kind of obedience, and it is the instant kind.
Being Busy While You Wait
The fact that we are waiting for something to happen that has been promised is, however, no excuse to be idle in the interim. Are you waiting for some thing to roll up in your life? If you are, be busy and productive in other things while you wait. Waiting on Yahweh is never a passive thing. When Moses fled to Midian, he didn't go and live in a cave. He married, raised a family, involved himself in the community who hosted his exile, and had a productive job as a herder. We are to be busy about our duties and labours, imitating the Messiah in our walk, however humble, while we may be waiting for bigger things. Has he called you somewhere? Be busy in your witness and daily labour where you are until He opens the door and commands you to walk through it. Did Abraham hang around despondent while he waited for the promised seed? No, he was productive, raising the family that he had already been given him, and working hard at his profession as a herder. We are not, in any case, to focus on the cherished thing we are waiting for but on Yahweh Himself and to take His many other daily instructions in what may seem mundane but which are nevertheless important because they are character-building . What we do now prepares us for callings that may come later. Waiting on Yahweh's promises is not like waiting at a bus stop or a railway station - even there you can be productive in talking or witnessing to people, reading, learning, meditating, praying.
The Patience of Job
I have titled today's sermon, Impatience and Divine Purpose in the rhythm and rhyme of Jane Austen who wrote classics like Pride and Prejudice. I chose the word 'impatience' because of the proverbial 'patience of Job' which has become a fixture of our English language. This is actually an unfortunate turn of phrase, borrowed as it is from a poor translation in the King James Version where we read:
The Perseverence of Job
"Ye have heard of the patience of Job..." (James 5:11, KJV).
Nearly all modern versions correct the error and render the correct word "perseverance of Job" (James 5:11, NKJV). Was Job patient with people? Hardly! Consider how he often responded to his feckless friends. He was very impatient with them! He is commended by the apostle James not because of his patience with people, which clearly he did not always have, but for his steadfast endurance of adverse circumstances. Job was impatient both with people and with Yahweh but he did endure to the end and so receive his reward. How close he was to not persevering is impossible to say but that was not the point - what counts is that he stuck it out, he did not capitulate, he did not cave in, he did not curse his Elohim (God) and die as his wife wanted him to (Job 2:9). He was steadfast, holding on to His Elohim (God) in spite of all the devil threw at him in the form of the loss of his children, wealth and health. Had he lived in our day, I can only imagine what the heretical 'health and wealth' preachers would have made of him.
Is Impatience Alright?
I am not, of course, saying that so long as we persevere, that it's just fine to be impatient. Impatience is neither neutral nor a virtue. "Ahavah (love)", Paul tells us, "is patient...it is not rude...it is not easily angered" (1 Cor.13:4-5, NIV), or as another translation puts it, it is "not ill-mannered...or irritable" (1 Cor.13;5, GNB). Since "Elohim is ahavah (love)" (1 Jn.4:8,16, NIV) and since we are commanded to love, then clearly we are not given licence to be impatient.
Job most certainly sinned in this matter, as we all unfortunately do and must work on, overcoming that fleshy tendency. What makes Job stand out, though, is not his patience but his perseverence. And perseverence is that steady persistence in a course of action, a purpose or state, especially in spite of difficulties, obstacles, or discouragement. And for the believer, it is a continuance in a state of grace to the very end, leading to eternal salvation, showing undeserved loving kindness to others, no matter our circumstances, or problems, or pain, just as Yahweh does to us. Then we can testify with Job - because we have not denied the Ruach (Spirit) or our calling to endure to the end:
The Blessedness of True Perseverence
"For I know that my Redeemer lives, and He shall stand at last on the earth; and after my skin is destroyed, this I know, that in my flesh I shall see Elohim (God), whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!" (Job 19:25-27, NKJV).
Clearly this is a special kind of perseverence or endurance - it is without malice or bitterness or any sense of resentment. It is the quality of divine perseverence in which the heart remains clean and acceptable before Elohim (God). This is perseverence without turning away from the Creator, and it is a truely great thing.
Out of Touch With Yahweh
One of the things that Job laments over toward the end of the book named after him was that he, like Luther felt in that death-row cell during his last 24 hours, had lost touch with Elohim (God). Just listen to his complaint:
Job's Loss of Communion
"If only I knew where to find Him (Yahweh); if only I could go to his dwelling!" (Job 23:3, NIV)
Does that seem incredible to you? We often assume that the great servants of Elohim (God) were in daily contact with Heaven, with revelation coming in a constant stream, with such intimacy that it was like talking to Yahweh face-to-face from dawn to dusk. Yet Job was so sure he had lost Elohim (God). He had lost communion with El Elyon (the Most High) and he tried so hard to restore that communion. Listen again:
Continuing to Trust
"Look, I go forward, but He is not there, and backward, but I cannot perceive Him; when He works on the left hand, I cannot behold Him; when He turns to the right hand, I cannot see Him" (Job 23:8-9, NKJV).
Job has by no means become spiritually lazy. It's not that he has quit praying - far from it! It's not that he doesn't know Yahweh doesn't exist or that He is good - it's just that he cannot sense His presence any longer! He can testify, along with Nahum:
Confusing Head with Heart Communion
"Yahweh is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; and He knows those who trust in Him" (Nah.1:7, NKJV).
But is still seems as though a brass wall is up between him and his Maker. How is this possible? Because in this situation his head can say 'Amen' but his heart cannot. And I want to suggest to you that this is not only not an unusual position for Yahweh's talmidim (disciples) to find themselves in but that such an experience is actually a mark of spirituality. I frankly do not trust those believers who are baffled by Job's experience, who insist that they have always had communion from the day they first believed and are, by implication, a furlong or two ahead. I do not believe them. Such people cannot have had any real depth of communion in their spiritual lives and in many instances may have confused head communion with heart communion. Sadly, for many, the Besorah (Gospel) is only of the mind - the intellect. They have no real emotional connection to Yahweh at all. He is a theological proposition that accords well with their intellectual perception of reality. Have we forgotten that the Master Himself experienced what can only be described as spiritual desertion? Did He not cry out from the desperation of His soul:
So Much Shallow Testimony Today
"'Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? - My El (God), my El (God), why have You forsaken me?'" (Matt.27:46, NIV).
And whilst Yah'shua's (Jesus) experience as the Elohim-Man (God-Man) has a unique quality to it, many of the qodeshim (saints, set-apart ones) down the ages have experienced similar things - the lives and experiences of Jim Elliot, Hudson Taylor, George Whitfield and John Wesley, to name but a few, and men like them, are a testimony of just how shallow most Christian and Messianic experience is today. Much of it appears just to be theological, mere intellectual propositionism. All these men knew of Elohim (God) what it was like to go through tought times where they were close to despair, times when like Isaiah, they could cry out:
Crying Out to Yahweh and Not Choosing Atheism
"Justice is far from us, and righteousness does not reach us. We look for light, but all is darkness; for brightness, but we walk in deep shadows. Like the blind we grope along the wall, feeling our way like men without eyes. At midday we stumble as if it were twilight; among the strong, we are like the dead. We all growl like bears; we moan mournfully like doves. We look for justice, but find none; for deliverance, but it is far away" (Isa.59:9-11, NIV).
They must all have had times when, like Job, they cried out, "If only I knew where to find Him!" It is not a sin to be in despair because you are searching earnestly for emet (truth) and righteousness, and are perservering. The sinning is in failing to endure - in giving up, in ceasing to exercise emunah (faith) - in choosing not to trust or believe any longer, in choosing atheism. So be very careful of those who tell you that they have never ever felt deserted by Elohim (God) because they are often trusting in an image of Elohim (God) fashioned in their own heads, and therefore themselves, rather than the One who is alive and vibrant and imparts this chayim (life) to those who come to Him with a right heart.
Other Songs of the Night
Scripture - and especially the Psalms - records many a 'song of the night' that Yah's people go through. Psalm 74 deals with the problem of Yahweh's apparent absense from the covenant community. See how it begins:
And then it climaxes with the words:
"O Elohim (God), why have You cast us off forever?" (Ps.74:1, NKJV).
Just How High is Your Spiritual Stature?
"Arise, O Elohim (God), plead Your own cause" (Ps.74:22, NKJV).
Now let me ask you an embarassing question: how many times, when you have been going through hell, and unbelievers and your enemies look upon you rejoice and mock - how many times have you pleaded to Yahweh as Moses did, telling Yahweh that He has to do something because His Name is being disgraced? Do you remember how Moses begged Yahweh not tod estroy Israel after the Golden Calf apostacy, and pointed out that He would be viewed as a failure by the pagan nations if He did? Well, Moses was not wrong in doing that, but the more important question is - do we have the spiritual stature of Moses? What is it that we have actually been called to? And have we been disobedient in any way? We might want to be careful before we try reminding Elohim (God) of how disgraced He will be if He doesn't immediately step in and make us something special. You'd be surprised how easily pride can creep into such a scenario, especially in the heart of an immature believer. After all, Moses had not only been through a 40 year purge in Midian but had endured years of abuse in the desert of Sinai too. We should not therefore over-estimate the height of our own spiritual stature! Clearly the issue in so many cases like that the question is whether we have made adequate teshuvah (repentance) or not.
David Like Job
Let us return to David. The Psalmist has listed the evidence that leads him to believe that Yahweh has withdrawn from him. But then, in Psalm 77, which comes pretty close to describing Job's own experience, we hear:
Forgiveness Does Not Cancel Out Consequences
"I cried out to Elohim (God) with my voice -- to Elohim (God) with my voice; and He gave ear to me. In the day of my trouble I sought Yahweh; my hand was stretched out in the night without ceasing; my soul refused to be comforted. I remembered Elohim (God), and was troubled; I complained, and my spirit was overwhelmed...Will Yahweh cast off forever? And will He be favorable no more? Has His mercy ceased forever? Has His promise failed forevermore? Has Elohim (God) forgotten to be gracious? Has He in anger shut up His tender mercies?" (Ps.77:1-3,7-9, NKJV).
Now, admittedly, David had brought a lot of his own trouble on himself because of his adultery and murder, and as we read through his life story we see that in spite of his making teshuvah (repenting) and doing right, that the consequences of his sins were so dire that out of mercy Yahweh caused him to experience the backlack in installments throughout his life and instead of all in one go, which almost certainly would have overwhelmed him. It is well to remember, especially if you are one of those who thinks Yahweh's grace is a casual matter, that whilst forgiveness comes quickly from Yahweh when genuine teshuvah (repentance) has been made, that, like rippless spreading out in a still pond when a stone is cast into it, returning to source when they bounce off the edge of the pond, so our sins - if they are great - return to us, and often many times, even if we have got right with Yahweh, because of all the people we affect by our sins. And when that happens, we must simply be man or woman enough to take our medicine and try not to complain, for after all, we are the ones who created those waves in the first place. If you have created an earthquake in your life by committing gross sins then face the facts: there will be consequences that you can do nothing about, except to ensure that you don't repeat those errors again. Amongst many of the things that may be damaged is trust in others, something that may take years to earn back. If you have destroyed that trust, then start by accepting you have some work to do.
David Does Not Sink into Depression and Self-Pity
Notice, please, that even though David complains in Psalm 77, it is seasoned by his remembrances. He recalls when in years past Elohim (God) proved Himself reliable in the midst of adversity, proved His grace - His undeserved loving kindness - and His compassion. David has not given in - he has taken hold of himself, refused to sink into self-pity and despair: and yet at the time it seems to have made very little difference. But this is the crucible in which character is made. This is the time when really important choices are made that will cause a man or woman to either grow in spiritual stature or to shrink. David suddenly stops his lament when he remembers what? When he remembers what Yahweh did for Moses, just as we are commanded to do every year at Pesach, and as we shall continue to do until, in the Second Exodus and Final Gathering we - and especially you, the last generation - shall come to remember even greater miracles and be strengthened in them!
Notice that Psalm 77 ends with no note of triumph. There is no word about any renewed confidence in Yahweh's mercy, in spite of the fact that David has undoubtedly done the right things. Why does the psalm stop like this? Read it afterwards and see. The reason can only be because he has understood that 'doing the right things' has not helped him in his crisis - his despair is still great and he still seems to be out of communion with the Most High. In this, he is exactly like Job:
"Oh, that I knew where I might find Him" (Job 23:3, NKJV).
Now don't get the idea that Job was mistaken in his theology. Yahweh-Elohim is omnipresent - He is everywhere - Job has by no means forgotten that. There isn't a nook or cranny in this Universe where Yahweh is not to be found. David knew that too and testified:
Job Was Not Describing Reality
"If I ascend into heaven, You are there; if I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there Your hand shall lead me, and Your right hand shall hold me" (Ps.139:8-10, NKJV).
Amen? Amen! Job is not describing reality or objective facts but the feelings of his heart, because Yahweh seems not to present to him. Here we are called to exercise emunah (trust) and not trust in the fickle feelings of our heart. Just because we feel something, doesn't make it real, which is why existentialist theology is so dangerous. Emet (truth) is not what you experience, emet (truth) is far greater than anything you could ever experience, even if in your experience you may be getting a large spoon of emet (truth). If we could experience all emet (truth) we would become All Emet (Truth), and only Yah'shua (Jesus) is that, and we are not Him. We are but reflections on a human level. Experience is important and wonderful but that is not what me must invest out ultimate emunah (faith) in but in Yahweh Himself - because "emunah (faith) is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen" (Heb.11:1, NKJV).
Be Patient Too
We shall continue with this theme next Sabbath, Yah willing, as we tie in the whole idea of salvation to emunah (faith) to life's sometimes very challenging circumstances. In the meantime, remember that Yahweh is near even if you don't feel He is, recall previous deliverances and times of communion, and wait in hope for His further revealing to you, recalling this poem by J. Danson Smith:
Waiting! Yes, patiently waiting!
Till next steps made plain shall be;
To hear, with the inner hearing,
The Voice that will call for me.
Waiting! Yes, hopefully waiting!
With hope that need not grow dim;
The Master is pledged to guide me,
And my eyes are unto Him.
Waiting! Expectantly waiting!
Perhaps it may be today
The Master will quickly open
The gate to my future way.
Waiting! Yes, waiting! still waiting!
I know, though I've waited long,
That, while He withholds His purpose,
His waiting cannot be wrong.
Waiting! Yes, waiting! still waiting!
The Master will not be late:
He knoweth that I am waiting
For Him to unlatch the gate.
If Yahweh is presently hidden to you, remember that that is His privilege, and know that His timing both for revealment and for the actioning of His promises to us is ultimately beyond our ken. Keep busy in your service to Him in the meantime, do not despair or sink into depression, but trust in Him, persevering. Perseverance is what Job was acdtually rememebred for, not patience. So hold out! Amen.
Continued in Part 2 (Impatience and Divine Purpose)
Continued in Part 23 (Teshuvah 2014)
 L.B.Cowman, Streams in the Desert (Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan: 1996), p.155
 See, The Nine Character Tests
Comments from Readers
 "I love this, I really love this. The silence is what brings us into maturity, it's what brings us into His stillness. I learned this the hard way, by being thrown into complete silence...and the silence amplified my sinfulness to such a self-loathing level I could hardly bear it, and then it produced repentance, and repentance produced a closer oneness. I told a pastor of a church this a few months ago, he literally dropped his cake and walked away!" (SP, Ireland, 16 September 2014)