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Suffering…Hope’s Distant Cousin

For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him. He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken. On God rests my salvation and my glory; my mighty rock, my refuge is God. (Psalm 62:5-7 ESV)

David returns to his opening thought. (see verse 1)  For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence. Why? For my hope is from him. As I am writing this the forecast is calling for snow tomorrow. I hope it snows–I really do! That idea of hope is not what David means here. Most of the time we use the word hope for “wish.” I wish it would snow tomorrow. I wish the Panthers would win. I wish…

Biblical hope is far more than a wish. Biblical hope is the sure promise of future reward. Paul talks about this kind of hope in Romans 5:

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. (Romans 5:1-5)

Paul tells the believers in Rome that they can rejoice in sufferings. Why? Paul isn’t advocating an emotionless response to the very real pain of life. No! Rejoicing in suffering is possible for the same reason a mother endures the pain of giving birth to a child: the hope of holding that child in her arms as a newborn. Our hope is fixed on the glory of God–we live to honor Him. And strangely enough it comes through waiting and suffering.

Suffering initiates a domino effect: suffering produces endurance, endurance produces character, and character produces hope. Hope grows best in the soil of suffering.  Notice the distance between suffering and hope. Suffering is followed by endurance (which takes time).  Endurance is followed by character (which is built over time). Character produces hope.

For some of you this has been the worst year of your life. Your suffering is so intense that hope seems a distant dream, a far-flung idea. Don’t despair. Hope is coming! Endure–don’t quit!

David writes: He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken. On God rests my salvation and my glory; my mighty rock, my refuge is God. Today, lean in on God. Wait on him–quieten yourself before him. He is your refuge, your safe place…your hope.

Worth Waiting For

How long will all of you attack a man
    to batter him,
    like a leaning wall, a tottering fence?
They only plan to thrust him down from his high position.
    They take pleasure in falsehood.
They bless with their mouths,
    but inwardly they curse. Selah  (Psalm 62:3-4)

David’s quiet waiting on God is punctuated by a reminder that his enemies are real. Often the silent times of our lives reveal our deepest fears. David is in a desperate place. He likens himself to a leaning wall and a tottering fence. Leaning walls are in danger of falling. Tottering fences can easily be compromised. He is under constant attack.

Perhaps that’s where you are today. You feel like a leaning wall, a tottering fence. You wonder how much more you can take, how much pressure you can endure.

Every believer has three enemies: the world, our own sinful nature, and Satan. Our enemies combine forces to do what David describes: they only plan to thrust him down from his high position. Jesus reiterated David’s words in John 10:10, “The thief comes only to steal, kill and destroy.” The world will allure you, your sinful nature will appease you and Satan will attack you. They take pleasure in falsehood. The world lies. Your sinful nature lies. Satan is the father of lies. They bless with their mouths, but inwardly they curse. Sin always has a facade–behind it lies the smell of death.

Selah. Why would David have us pause and think about this?

Here’s why. You will appreciate your rescuer when you realize what He has rescued from. Pause today and reflect on where you would be without Jesus. In John 10:10, Jesus went on to say, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” That’s worth waiting for.

I Will Not Be Greatly Shaken

For God alone my soul waits in silence;
from him comes my salvation.
He alone is my rock and my salvation,
my fortress; I shall not be greatly shaken. (Psalm 61:1-2)

Waiting can be exhilarating or excruciating. Airports unveil both the excitement and the misery. I once sat in an un-airconditioned plane for more than an hour on the tarmac because we couldn’t “take off yet.” On the other hand, I have watched moms hug their sons they haven’t seen in months, seen children run into the arms of their fathers and watched a soldier relish the embrace of his wife. Waiting is both exhilarating and excruciating.

What changes how you wait is who you’re waiting for. In Psalm 62 David says, “For God alone.” Often we wait for what God brings, not for God Himself. At this time of year it is a timely reminder that God is not a divine Santa, He is a dear Savior. David says, “from him comes my salvation.”

On this Sunday morning as you come into worship we will have a time of silent waiting.  As you wait reflect on the God who is your salvation. If you are a born again follower of Christ, He saved you. If you have gone out of darkness into light, He led you out. If you were “sinking deep in sin, far from the peaceful shore” then his “love lifted you.”

When God rescues you, you are secure. You can say with David, “I will not be greatly shaken.”

Whatever seems to have a hold on you stands no chance. God’s grip is greater than your strongest temptation, your bitterest enemy, your greatest fear.

Ignorance is Deadly

My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge;
because you have rejected knowledge,
I reject you from being a priest to me.
And since you have forgotten the law of your God,
I also will forget your children.  Hosea 4:6

Israel traded the glory and grace of God for the shame and disgrace of the world.  They didn’t know God.  Their lack of knowing God resulted in their destruction.  They should have known better.  Hosea’s own life was an object lesson in the deep love of God for His people.

In Hosea 1:2, God gave Hosea a strange command: Go, take to yourself a wife of whoredom and have children of whoredom, for the land commits great whoredom by forsaking the Lord.  Hosea, God’s prophet, married a prostitute.  They had three children together.  Then she left him for another man.

Then Hosea did the unthinkable.  He showed up in the red light district and found his wife, Gomer, selling her body.  He stepped into the fray of lust-filled men and bid on his own wife.  In his words: “So I bought her for fifteen shekels of silver and a homer and a lethech of barley.”  I wonder how she felt.  The embarrassment.  The shame.  What was the look on her face when she looked over the men who wanted her and saw her own husband?  And he wasn’t any husband…he was the prophet to the king of Israel!

Then he said to her, “You must dwell as mine for many days.  You shall not play the whore, or belong to another man; so will I also be to you.” (3:3)  In other words, Gomer, you’re coming home!  I want you to be mine.  There’s no mention that he asked her who she had been with, what she had one, or where she had gone.  He bought her back.

Then, in chapter 4, God calls Israel out for her ignorance.  Israel was ignorant of a God who would stand among the lust-filled suitors of the day and bid the highest price on his bride.  Israel was ignorant of a God who would embarrass himself by condescending to her and bringing her home.

And today most of the world is dying from ignorance:  ignorance of a God who became a human being, was tempted in every way like we are–yet without sin–and was ultimately made sin for us that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:21)

Ignorance is killing people.

They can’t imagine a God who would mingle among the mess of their lives and take them home to live with Him.

He did and He does.  That’s the message of Christmas.  God became a human being, the Creator walked among the created.

Do you know Him?

But You, O Bethlehem

Micah had a resounding message: social injustice.  The rich oppressed the poor.  The haves dominated the have-nots.  I’m reading The Insanity of God by Nik Ripken.  Ripken served as a missionary to Somaliland after the country had been ravaged by civil war.  He describes unspeakable injustice:

I encountered one of the most lasting images of depravity when my Somali guides took me to see the compound that the current leaders had seized (after reportedly slaughtering the family that had previously lived there) to serve as military headquarters and personal residence.  Inside heavily armed gates, the war lord and his minions generated their own electricity, watched satellite television, and ate like kings.  Just outside was a mob of several hundred desperate children, bellies bloated by malnutrition, gathered around the walls of the compound.  The children were anxiously awaiting what was a frequent, though not daily, occurrence.  When the carcass of whatever animal had been slaughtered for the leaders’ supper was heaved over the wall, the starving children descended like locusts, tearing and ripping off chunks of bloody animal hide to chew on and find the little nutritional value that it provided them.

What would Micah say to these warlords?  In Micah 2:1-3 he says,

Woe to those who devise wickedness and work evil on their beds! When the morning dawns, they perform it, because it is in the power of their hand. They covet fields and seize them, and houses, and take them away; they oppress a man and his house, a man and his inheritance.  Therefore thus says the LORD: behold, against this family I am devising disaster, from which you cannot remove your necks, and you shall not walk haughtily, for it will be a time of disaster.”

And then Micah gives the unexpected prediction in 5:2,

But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.

Through Micah God essentially said:  I’ll call the Messiah from an unknown town.  He won’t come from the rich, but from the poor.  My ultimate answer for oppression isn’t political reform, but an unlikely reformer who will come out of Bethlehem.  And how fitting.  Bethlehem means “house of bread.” Where else should the bread of life come from!

This Christmas don’t be surprised at how God brings justice to an unjust world.  And be reminded: God’s ultimate answer for all injustice is His one and only Son, born in an unknown town to an unknown couple, in an unknown cave to make known a great God.