The Rock

I have struggled to picture being “in Christ.” For years I have believed it theologically–but I couldn’t wrap my conceptual brain around it. Then Life Group happened last week. One of the members of our group talked about being “held” by God, picturing herself in his arms. An Old Testament image and an old song immediately came to mind. I have to share. First, the Old Testament image.

“The Rock, his work is perfect, for all his ways are justice. A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and upright is he.” (Deuteronomy 32:4 ESV)

I’ve been to Israel and seen massive mountains full of rock caves. Below is a picture of a cave just north of the Dead Sea. img_1668

If God is the Rock, then I can run into Him and be safe. As a matter of fact, I am “in Him.” When storms come, I’m in the Rock. When winds howl, rains descend, the sun scorches, the hail falls, I’m in the Rock. Jesus is the Rock! I am in Him. This is unspeakable comfort.

Moses, in one of his final speeches before his death doesn’t stop there. Listen to how he describes the Rock wooing Israel:

“He found him in a desert land, and in the howling waste of the wilderness; he encircled him, he cared for him, he kept him as the apple of his eye. Like an eagle that stirs up its nest, that flutters over its young, spreading out its wings, catching them, bearing them on its pinions, the LORD alone guided him, no foreign god was with him. He made him ride on the high places of the land, and he ate the produce of the field, and he suckled him with honey out of the rock, and oil out of the flinty rock. Curds from the herd, and milk from the flock, with fat of lambs, rams of Bashan and goats, with the very finest of the wheat— and you drank foaming wine made from the blood of the grape. (Deuteronomy 32:10-14 ESV)

If you are in Christ, you are “found, encircled, cared for, kept, fluttered over, caught, borne up and guided.”

Now the old song. I sang this growing up. Make it your trusting prayer today.

Haters

“Greatly have they afflicted me from my youth”— let Israel now say— “Greatly have they afflicted me from my youth, yet they have not prevailed against me. The plowers plowed upon my back; they made long their furrows.” The LORD is righteous; he has cut the cords of the wicked. May all who hate Zion be put to shame and turned backward! (Psalm 129:1-5 ESV)

Screen Shot 2015-06-19 at 9.51.38 PMI must admit that I write this blog as a white pastor trying to understand the plight of a black pastor–a black pastor who was gunned down while pouring into ten of his parishioners Wednesday night. Ralph West is a black pastor from Houston, Texas whom I podcast. In January he preached a sermon on Psalm 129 called “Haters.” He says it better than I can. “Listen” in to a few excerpts.

It’s one thing to read about haters…it’s something else to be hated. Haters hate. And nobody’s off limits from being hated. Psalm 129 begins with the reality of haters. Ishmael derides the promised child Isaac. He’s a hater. What God blesses God always increases. You would think with all that blessing you would be off limits to any kind of ridicule. The enemies of Israel tried at every attempt to exterminate their existence. Egypt tries to drown them–in return they are drowned. The Assyrians come up against them to try to starve them and God breaks their back. The Babylonians exile them and God emancipates them. The Persians and their soothsayers throw Daniel into the lions den and God closes the mouth of the lions and opens their mouths to eat the very people who threw them in. Then in the 20th century six million Jews were exterminated and yet Israel became a nation again.

People are always looking for ways to handle haters. When haters come against you, read Psalm 27, “The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear?” Or Psalm 59: “the Lord delivered me from my enemy and gave me victory over their power.” Or read Isaiah who says, “No weapon formed against me shall prosper.” You don’t defeat a hater by hating–you give the hater something they don’t know how to deal with: “The LORD is my light and my salvation!

When the Psalmist says, “They plowed my back…” he is talking about suffering and abuse, mistreatment and ill treatment. Here’s the line that needs your attention: but the Lord is righteous. Things were bad for Israel, yet they were able to say in the midst of ill treatment, “But the Lord is righteous.” Whatever evil and wrong comes your way, God may not make it right when you want him to, but according to his divine calendar, God will make it right.

Stop trying to fight haters with hate. God will uproot them and they cannot abide with you. Martin Luther King said, “Violence as a way of achieving racial justice is both impractical and immoral. It’s like abiding by the law, ‘an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ If we deal with haters the way haters deal with us, we’re going to have a blind and toothless society.” You have to let the Lord deal with the haters.

When hate comes your way don’t think God’s mad at you–He’s trying to make you. He’s not trying to break you, he’s trying to bless you. And remember you’ve got a Jesus who’s dealt with it.

To listen to the entire sermon (and it’s 40 minutes well spent), go to: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/the-haters/id627605406?i=315079750&mt=2