Grow like God

And Jesus kept increasing in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men. – Luke 2:52

Greetings, friends!  I am here to day to share some of my observations regarding the humanity of our Lord and Savior and how that might relate to us today.  One of the greatest mysteries about our faith is how Jesus Christ, God the Son, humbled Himself and came down to us incarnate as a man.  In that time, He was both 100% deity and 100% human.  We can often forget the 100% human part.  This means that He had to go through all the things we do.  He had to discover the world for Himself just as all babies do.  He had to receive instruction from His earthly parents, just as we all did.  He went through the natural maturing process.

Jesus Christ, the Son of God, had to learn.  Though He was God, there is absolutely no indication in Scripture that He had all knowledge and wisdom from birth.  In fact, we can see from the verse highlighted above and others nearby (ie Luke 2:40) that He had to undergo a growth process in many areas.  The four areas of growth underwent by our Lord about which Luke writes here are growth in stature, growth in wisdom, growth in favor with God and growth in favor with men.  Since we are to strive to be like Jesus and conform to His image and His ways (1 John 2:6, 1 Corinthians 11:1, 1 Peter 2:21, Ephesians 5:1, Romans 8:29, etc.), it is a good practice to look at Scripture to find out what Jesus was like and what He did.  In this case, what He did was grow, and grow we should as well, in the same four ways.

In most instances of growth, there are aspects in which we cannot control and must simply let growth occur on its own time.  Nowhere is this better seen than in physical growth.  The Bible says that Jesus grew in stature.  The Greek word translated “stature” can mean maturity or age as well, but is also connected with actual physical stature.  It is the same word used to describe Zaccheus’s height in Luke 19.  It is also the same word used in John 9:21-23 regarding someone being of age to speak for himself.  So it can be seen that this word regards both maturity in terms of age and responsibility as well as the physical growth one naturally undergoes.

Growth in stature, then, has a very natural aspect to it.  We cannot control our rate of aging.  We could not control, as children, how quickly we grew taller or reached puberty.  This is all done at the pleasure of our Lord, who ordained one to be a tall man and another a short man.  He ordained one man’s voice to crack at 13 while another’s waited until 17.  Everything God does in us is part of His great purpose, though we are far too small to see the big picture.  Everything is done on His time (Ecclesiastes 3:11).  So it is with our aging.  Jesus grew in stature as part of this natural process.  The Bible does not indicate that He rushed things.  In fact, there is a pretty sizeable gap between Jesus at twelve years old, as He was during the time described in Luke chapter 2, and the fifteenth year of Tiberius Caesar (around 26 AD) described in Luke 3:1.  The difference is somewhere between 10 and 20 years, probably in the 16-18 range.  This is the time of Jesus’s growth.  He did not rush it.  He allowed Himself to grow on God’s time, as we all should.

Growth in stature does have an aspect where we, as those growing, can have influence, however.  How do we do this?  One way is being obedient to God’s word regarding ourselves.  Psalm 136:25 indicates that the food we eat is a gift from God, and go no further than the parable of the talents if you want to find out how God expects His people to handle His gifts.  We are called to be good stewards of God’s gifts and use them for the best use possible and for the good of His kingdom.  We are called not to misuse His gifts.  I will be the first to admit that I have misused food over the years and it has taken a toll on my body.  I have repented of this sin and am, by God’s mercy, grace and power, changing my wicked habits and my outlook on this gift.  Read through the book of Proverbs as well to find out how often the word of God lumps gluttony in with drunkenness.  At the end of the day, remember that we live by God’s word before food.  On a short side note, I would also encourage the occasional fast, which can help in numerous ways.

Growth by eating right is not the only thing one can control.  In 1 Corinthians 9:27, Paul talks about the importance of keeping his physical body under discipline.  It is clear that we are to take care of the temple of the Holy Spirit (our bodies).  It is also clear that we can control this.  Like gluttony, laziness is condemned in the book of Proverbs and beyond.  So we can control how we eat and what we do with our bodies, and thereby we have some control over our growth.  We, like Jesus, should endeavor to grow in stature rather than letting the bad habits prevalent in today’s society stunt that growth.

Second, Jesus grew in wisdom.  It cannot be overstated how important the concept of wisdom is in the Bible.  Read Proverbs 3:13-18.

How blessed is the man who finds wisdom and the man who gains understanding.  For her profit is better than the profit of silver and her gain is better than fine gold.  She is more precious than jewels; and nothing you desire compares with her.  Long life is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honor.  Her ways are pleasant ways and all her paths are peace.  She is a tree of life to those who take hold of her, and happy are all who hold her fast.

This was not a subtle point Solomon was trying to make here.  Solomon prayed for wisdom (an understanding, or hearing, heart) and was directly granted his wish by God.  For this to be his one wish, as king of all of God’s people, and God to be pleased by that wish shows how important wisdom is to God as well as to life in general.

We too have the promise of wisdom if we will only ask God in prayer, according to James 1:5.  This is a very powerful Biblical promise; I would encourage you to make asking God for wisdom a part of your daily prayers.  James 3:17 calls wisdom from above “pure… peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy.”  Who would not desire such a gift?  How do we grow in wisdom?  We ask God.

Wisdom is also a practiced and learned attribute.  Proverbs 19:20 says that you gain wisdom by listening to counsel and accepting discipline.  Proverbs 14:16 advises that wise people are cautious and turn from evil, which are habits that those who wish to grow in wisdom should cultivate.  The bottom line can be found near the beginning of the book of Proverbs, in chapter 1 and verse 7: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.”  It all comes back to God.  The fear of God is something that is rarer and rarer these days, yet it is the very beginning of knowledge.  Read the word of God in the book of Job:

And to man He said, “Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding.” – Job 28:28

Proverbs 8:35 says that those who find wisdom find life as well, and obtain favor from the Lord.  This is a perfect segue into the third way Jesus grew: in favor with God.  None of these aspects is an island; Jesus grew in all four together.  So you see how they might be linked to one another: find wisdom and grow in God’s favor.

The Bible has a lot to say about the favor of God.  It seems to be something God rains down upon those who obey Him as Lord.  Consider Psalm 5:12, which indicates that the Lord covers the righteous with His favor as though it was a shield.  But it is not only the very pious gaining favor, though obedience is something to which all Christians are called.  Proverbs 18:22 says that those who get married obtain favor with the Lord!  It says getting married is good!  I wholeheartedly agree.

Ideally, a Christian should only marry once, though, and Jesus was not married, so He must have grown in other ways.  Most often, in the Bible, this is through obedience.  Consider Deuteronomy 28:1.

Now it shall be, if you diligently obey the Lord your God, being careful to do all His commandments which I command you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth.

If you love God, you will do His will and keep His commandments (see John 14:15).  God, in turn, will grand you divine favor, something which all of us need and in which all of us should strive to grow.

As another segue, I would like you to see how the Bible links favor with God and favor with men, the fourth way Jesus grew.  It is interesting how keeping the commandments of God and heeding His teaching will help a Christian grow in both areas:

My son, do not forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments; for length of days and years of life and peace they will add to you.  Do not let kindness and truth leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart, so you will find favor and good repute in the sight of God and man. – Proverbs 3:1-4

It is important to note that the qualities which gain you favor with men and help you grow in that favor are qualities that are bestowed upon you by God.  Esther 2:15 shows how someone can win the favor of men by listening to sound advice.  Proverbs 11:27 says that seeking good amounts to seeking favor.  There seems to be a theme here among a lot of these growth categories.  Doing the right thing, seeking God, listening to sound advice and not despising correction can go a long way in growing in wisdom, favor with God and favor with man.

Moses wrote thousands of years ago how a hard man named Potiphar, a high-ranking officer in ancient Egypt, had favor on one of God’s men.

Now his master saw that the Lord was with him and how the Lord caused all that he did to prosper in his hand.  So Joseph found favor in his sight and became his personal servant; and he made him overseer of his house, and all that he owned he put in his charge. – Genesis 39:3-4

If the Lord is with you and you allow Him to work through you, though you probably won’t be liked by the world for it, you will find favor with the people who matter.  You grow in favor with men by being closer to the Lord.

God wishes us all to be like Christ.  One of the things that entails is growth in the ways we discussed.  Peter ended his second letter with a command to grow in the grace and knowledge of God.  This is what we are instructed to do.  To stop the growth process and fall into complacency is to disobey God, who suffered and died so that we may live!  Don’t grow in a race with others, but in harmony with the things God is doing every day to perfect you as a born-again follower of Christ.

For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. – Philippians 1:6

Thank you for reading, and God Bless!

- Brother Brian

Hold your Husband

Scarcely had I left them when I found him whom my soul loves; I held on to him and would not let him go until I had brought him to my mother’s house, and into the room of her who conceived me.

-          Song of Solomon 3:4

 

In Hebrew, the title for this book is “Solomon’s Song of Songs” which both attributes the song to King Solomon and indicates that it is greatest among songs, in the way God is the greatest of Gods and the greatest of Lords when Deuteronomy 10:17 describes Him as “God of gods and the Lord of lords” and also when Paul describes Christ as the greatest of all kings in 1 Timothy 6:15 with the famous phrase “King of kings”.  What makes the Song of Solomon so great a song?  Many have called the Song of Solomon a direct allegory for God and Israel, or Christ and His church.  While this is definitely applicable, I would argue that the merit of this canonical book goes much further than a one-for-one allegory.  It is a biblical description of love at its core, and since God is love (1 John 4:8), it gives us a glimpse into God’s very character.

Although the scope of this amazing book goes far beyond, the love illustrated in Song of Solomon between the bride and groom depicted therein paints a wonderful intense picture of the love a husband has for his wife and vice versa.  Many places in Scripture, especially Ephesians 5 and 2 Corinthians 11, indicate that we, the church of believers, are the very bride of Christ.  We, as members of this body, are to love Christ with the love a bride has for her husband, since He has more love for us than any human bridegroom could have for his wife.

Just before the verse quoted above, there is a short sadness involving the phrases “I sought him” and “I did not find him”.  I think this is something we can all relate to.  Since we know that we love Jesus because He first loved us (1 John 4:19), we can be sure that if we seek, though we cannot find Him by our own power, He will surely find us, and the disappointing feeling we get from the early words of this chapter will soon pass.  The Lord Jesus says that He already knocks at the door and if anyone is willing to open up, He will come to him (Revelation 3:20).

When we get to the meat of verse 3:4 we see three things that the bride exclaims about her renewal to her beloved.  In our case, we are the bride of Christ and this is a model of what our response should be.  The bride says “I found him,” “I held on to him,” and “I brought him.”  These three action verbs, to find, to hold and to bring, we will examine in more detail.

First, the bride exclaimed, “I found him.”  We should exclaim, “I found Him” with such joy on a daily basis!  It is admittedly true that in one sense God is the one who finds us, since in our sinful nature we were unable to come to God on our own and Jesus is the one who knocked on our door.  However, there is a longing in most men to find meaning in life, a search for truth or God.  If there was no such longing, why would there be so many false religions out there?  Jeremiah 29:13 says, “You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.”  So there is obviously a sense of being able to find God, especially regarding His people (see Matthew 6:33 and 7:7).

What do we proclaim when we exclaim, “I found Him”?  First of all, there is a sense of assurance.  When proclaiming something like that, there is no room for doubt.  There is no, “I think I know God now,” or “When I die, I am pretty sure I’ll go to heaven”.  Not at all!  This is definite!  This is a declaration!  “I found Him!”  It was also in one sense the end of an arduous journey.  How long and hard could one search for someone whom her soul loves?  When the task is finally complete, the exclamation, “I found him” expresses a sense of relief, but also of content and joy.  There was no one else for whom she was looking.  There is no one else for whom we are looking, or when it comes down to it, the rest of humanity for that matter.  Nobody else could satisfy the desire of the speaker but her beloved, just as nobody or nothing else can satisfy the ultimate needs of men than can the Lord Jesus Christ, and let me tell you, I am happy that “I found Him!”  If you cannot say with honesty “I have found Him” and “He is my lord and savior”, I would encourage you to read the Scriptures and trust the words written about the Christ.  They are true, just as He will always be true.

Second, the bride exclaimed, “I held him, and would not let him go,” What a powerful statement that is.  This brings up another point in which there is a sense where this isn’t applicable, but another where it is.  In one sense, it is absurd to think that the bride would be able to “not let him go”.  The bridegroom in Song of Solomon is described as powerfully muscular while the bride is compared to a slender palm tree: she would have no power to physically restrain the bridegroom if he wished to escape.  In the same sense, we have no power over God the Son, our Bridegroom.  We cannot restrain Him or force Him to do this or to do that.  We have no power to “not let Him go” in that manner, if He willed it otherwise.

But the Lord does knock at our door and He does wish to know us.  However, since Scripture does not indicate that He will force such a relationship on unwilling men, the sense of “holding Him” most certainly applies.  So it is by His very power that we hold Him: that we do not let Him go.  Apart from His will and Him being so generous as to walk with us on a daily basis, we would have no way of holding on to God Himself.

But in what ways do we hold Him?  We hold Him in our hearts, remembering what it was like to be without God in our lives and determining for such emptiness, such a lost existence to never happen to us again.  We hold Him in our hearts, making Him what we treasure.  We set Him on the throne in our hearts and above all the petty scraps this world sees as riches.  We hold Him in our hearts, denying all other loves (idols, sins).  Just like any husband, He is a jealous and wills us to be a faithful bride.  We are to keep ourselves pure for Christ.  May I encourage you: if you have Jesus in your life, hold Him.  Renew the grasp you have on His lordship.  Never let Him go.

Third, the bride “brought him” to her mother’s house, to meet and begin a relationship with people whom she loved.  She did not keep her relationship with the love of her life a secret from all others, but shared the love!  There are two aspects of this I think we, as Christians, should heed.  First, the bride brought her love to her mother’s house.  We might look at this as our family, our brethren and elders in Christ.  We should certainly share the love of Christ with others whom He has regenerated.  We should be sharing His word and His love in communion with those with whom we fellowship.  Second, we the bride brought her love to the place of her conception.  Although in the passage, this would refer to the same place, we were all conceived into a sinful world (Psalm 51:5), and we are certainly called to bring the light of Christ to those who do not yet have it (Matthew 5:14-16).

When we think about “bringing” Christ into the communion of other believers, it might be important to emphasize getting our hearts in the right place before we go to church or embark on a Christian ministry of some kind.  We should dispose of petty arguments and controversies before going into those environments (Matthew 5:23-24) and focus on sharing the love of God with our brothers and worshiping Him together in fellowship.  Too often church gatherings concentrate on harping on who is wrong rather than focusing on He who is right!

When we think about “bringing” Christ into the world, we first must realize that everyone is in need of Christ.  There is only one way to get right with God and thereby avoid eternal punishment and achieve everlasting life in heaven: belief by faith in Jesus Christ (John 14:6).  As the gospel group Greater Vision put it, “He’s not the good, not the best, but the only way”.  Therefore, the world desperately needs Jesus.  As we have seen from the simple formula presented in Song of Solomon 3:4, only those who have found Him will have Him, and thereafter bring Him to others.  We must facilitate this process in others and bring him!  We are the light of the world!

I hope this has caused you to read Song of Solomon in a new light.  It is an amazing book, especially when looked at in the light of the relationship between Jesus Christ and His bride, His church.  We should have the adoration for Him that a bride is expected to have for her husband, for He treats us with far greater love than any husband could hope to provide his wife.  He laid down His life for the sake of all of us (John 15:13).

Thank you for reading, and God Bless!

-          Brother Brian

A Pure Priesthood

Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘Speak to the priests, the sons of Aaron, and say to them: No one shall defile himself for a dead person among his people, except for his relatives who are nearest to him, his mother and his father and his son and his daughter and his brother, also for his virgin sister, who is near to him because she has had no husband; for her he may defile himself.  He shall not defile himself as a relative by marriage among his people, and so profane himself.  They shall not make any baldness on their heads, nor shave off the edges of their beards, nor make any cuts in their flesh.  They shall be holy to their God and not profane the name of their God, for they present the offerings by fire to the LORD, the food of their God; so they shall be holy.  They shall not take a woman who is profaned by harlotry, nor shall they take a woman divorced from her husband; for he is holy to his God.  You shall consecrate him, therefore, for he offers the food of your God; he shall be holy to you; for I the LORD, who sanctifies you, am holy.

-          Leviticus 21:1-8

Greetings and blessings to you!  Today we will look into the characteristics of a priest from the time of Moses.  Such a study is of great historical significance.  It can enlighten believers today as to the way God’s covenant with His first chosen people was to work.  It can show us the devotion Old Testament Jews had in their worship of the Lord.  We can better understand the culture of everyone mentioned in the Old Testament and the Gospels, since they lived under the very Law from which this passage comes.  There are many indirect reasons to look at the protocols of Old Testament Law.  However, this particular passage has special significance to believers today.  I will allow the apostle Peter to tell you why, from the second chapter of his first letter.

You also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

-          1 Peter 2:5

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;

-          1 Peter 2:9

Indeed, we should look increasingly closely at God’s instructions to Old Testament priests because God, through His apostle Peter, tells the member of His Body that we are all now part of this royal priesthood.  We are not blood descendants of the high-priest Aaron, but we are blood-bought and redeemed by the Savoir Jesus Christ, who is referred to in Hebrews 2:17 and throughout the letter as our new high priest, so we are priests under His authority.  I’m sure a lot of us have heard the phrase “priesthood of all believers”.  Take a step back and really think about that for a second.  In the Old Testament, there were prescribed earthly mediators who had to do things by careful ritual in order to intercede to God for His people.  According to 1 Timothy 2:5, under the new covenant there is just one mediator, and that is the high priest Jesus Christ, and we are his priests now.

We may have time to go deeply into the duties of a priest at another time, but for now, in short, a priest was chosen by God to do specific things for Him and His people.  Before going into it, I will quickly point out that to be chosen was a special privilege.  No other people of Israel were able to get as close to God (the ark where He dwelled) than the priests.  It was a great privilege.  Likewise, we are privileged in our ability to get closer to God than anyone else.  But as for the priestly duties, one of the most important, and the one alluded to by Peter, was sacrifice.  Now, we no longer make sin sacrifices, as Christ, our high priest, made the final sacrifice for all sin (Hebrews 10:12), but our sacrifices are now of a spiritual nature, such as purifying our bodies, offering our money and assets for His kingdom, good deeds and praise (Hebrews 13:16).  In addition to sacrifices, priests were teachers (Leviticus 10:11), judges and mediators (Deuteronomy 21:5).

What made a priest different from everyone else besides his lineage, his privileges and his duties?  I imagine that it would be important to know a priest from a layperson in Old Testament society.  They were a people set apart by God and this reflected in their appearance and lifestyle.    They were to remain even more ceremonially clean than was the standard for Israel.  They were to have a distinctive appearance that separated them from priests of other gods.  Their lifestyle was to be holy.  They were not to profane God’s name or offer substandard sacrifices.  Even their spouses were held to high standards.  They were to consecrate themselves and be consecrated by other priests.  They were the holy representatives of a holy God.  We ourselves are priests of God now, so we should see how these protocols regarding priests might apply to us as 21st century Christians.

The first important thing that set priests apart was their constant need for ritual cleanliness.  Priests were selected to be holy representatives of God, and they themselves had to be as clean and pure as the sacrifices they offered.  Among the many ways one could become ritually unclean was contact with the dead or even the place where someone died (see Numbers 19:11-14).  In order to fulfill a priest’s sacrificial duties, they had to avoid those contacts excepting extreme circumstances regarding their family.  Today, our offerings are not sacrificial food but our assets, our deeds and our prayers.  Nonetheless, such things can be defiled if we are not careful to keep ourselves pure in our business practices when earning money, in our dealings with others regarding our honesty and fairness and in our prayers, because if we have unchecked sin in our lives, our prayers and praise are worthless.  “If I regard wickedness in my heart, the Lord will not hear,” the Psalmist writes in Psalm 66:18.  However James 5:16 tells us, “The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.”

The things we offer as sacrifices to God must be just as pure.  Leviticus 22:20 says that offerings which have defects will not even be accepted.  Think about that as you think about your own priesthood and your own offerings.  When you earn the money you offer to the Lord, earn it with a pure heart and an attitude which is worthy of a sacrifice to God.  When you do good things for others, do so in a pure way, not with ulterior motives or with your own gain in mind.  This way it will be a pure sacrifice.  Your prayers should be offered with a pure heart, having repented of all wrongdoings and sincerely asked for forgiveness, which He has promised to freely and mercifully give.  These are the sacrifices we are called to offer to the Lord, and these sacrifices are to be pure and clean.

It is interesting that the writer of Leviticus, traditionally thought to be Moses, goes from talking about uncleanliness by contact with the dead of the relatives one is mourning to talking about shaving one’s head and beard.  The explanation for this is that in Moses’s day, a common mourning practice included the shaving of one’s head and beard.  The prophets Isaiah (22:12), Amos (8:9-10) and Micah (1:16) all foresee a time where Israel will lament and mourn and included the practice of shaving one’s head as a sign.  But priests are to be representatives of the living God to their people and in that role there is no place for mourning, but only joy and reverence.  An additional reason for the specific regulations around hair and beards might be the grooming practices of pagan tribes who lived around Israel, who commonly trimmed the corners or forelocks of their hair in certain ways (see Jeremiah 9:26, 25:23, and 49:32).  God’s priests should always distinguish themselves from the unbelievers around them.

The lives of the priests were to be as holy as the sacrifices they made.  They were also told to be careful not to profane the name of the Lord.  Leviticus 19:12 indicates that, probably among other things, swearing falsely by the name of God is profaning His name.  This was, of course, sinful for any Israelite, but was especially reiterated for the priests.  Priests are watched by those not as close to God, so they must hold themselves to a high standard.  The profaning of God’s name, in fact, was one of the indictments the prophet Malachi had against the priests of his time (Malachi 1:12) for which God would discipline them.  Nothing has changed regarding God’s discipline for His priesthood today.

God’s will was also for His priests to enter into the covenant of marriage with pure Godly spouses.  While things like divorce were provisioned for the people of Israel, it was never God’s plan for His people.  Priests, who are held to an even higher standard than most people, are instructed to choose a spouse who has never been divorced.  The priesthood today should take a lesson from God’s instructions regarding what a covenant marriage really is.  Finally, priests were a consecrated group.  They were associated with that which is sacred, and were so set apart by other priests.  One priest would consider another holy, for he offered food to the holy God who is the final authority in all sanctification.

In summary, there are two important observations regarding the priests of old I would have you take to heart and apply to your current priesthood in Christ.  First, a priest had a distinctive look both in his outward appearance and in how he conducted himself.  At a glance, an onlooker could differentiate between a priest of God and a non-believer.  Just by observing the priest in his daily routine, anyone watching could see him and exclaim, “Now that is a priest of the Almighty God!”  Likewise, we should be immediately recognizable as servants of God through Christ.  We should conduct ourselves differently in such a manner as to immediately be recognizable as Christians.  We should appear sanctified, as we are by the blood of the Lamb.  Second, both the priests and the sacrifices they offered were pure and clean.  They spent time ritually purifying themselves and ritually preparing the offerings they were presenting before the Lord.  Why should that no longer be the case?  Our bodies are now not only the subservient bodies of priests (though they are that as well) but they are now the very temple of God Himself (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).  We should honor God by putting the same attention and effort into cleansing and purifying the temples He has given us as the priests of old did with the temple they had.  Our offerings are those same bodies and everything we do with them (Romans 12:1).  Everything we do for God should be prepared in reverence to who He is.

Soon we shall serve God face to face in eternity and have the privilege of seeing His face as we serve Him.  (Revelation 22:2-4) We shall be in His very presence and our deeds in service to Him will doubtless reflect His majesty then!  It should be no different now.  The Holy Spirit dwells within you at this moment!  You are always in the presence of God!  You have the authority and the power to live a pure and holy life, for you are holy priests of God, set aside, consecrated and sanctified for the purpose of doing the will of the Creator of the universe!  Take joy in that thought.  Love and serve the Lord.

Thank you for reading, and God Bless!

-              Brother Brian

Promises and Patience

“I will stand on my guard post and station myself on the rampart; and I will keep watch to see what He will speak to me, and how I may reply when I am reproved.  Then the LORD answered me and said, ‘Record the vision and inscribe it on tablets, that the one who reads it may run.  For the vision is yet for the appointed time; it hastens toward the goal and it will not fail.  Though it tarries, wait for it; for it will certainly come, it will not delay.  Behold, as for the proud one, his soul is not right within him; but the righteous will live by his faith.’”
–              Habakkuk 2:1-4

In the 2nd chapter, Habakkuk is being addressed by God in response to his question in the first chapter.  This question was based off Psalm 73:3: “For I was envious of the arrogant as I saw the prosperity of the wicked.”  In verse 1:13, Habakkuk asks God, “Why do You look in favor on those who deal treacherously?  Why are You silent when the wicked swallow up those more righteous than they?”  Basically, Habakkuk observes that God doesn’t seem to be keeping His promise to help His people and punish the wicked.  However, from God’s response in 2:1-4, we can make some important observations of our own.

We can observe four things regarding any Biblical promise and those who wait on its fulfillment.  We can observe that all promises come with a delay, that one who waits on a promise adopts a certain attitude, that he who waits works in true belief of the promise, and that there is a difference in how people react to the test inherent in a delay.  In short, when God promises something, He is promising for the future, so there is a natural delay in its fulfillment.  The true believer will have the attitude that the promise will certainly be fulfilled, and his actions will reflect that.  Some people, when tested by the delay, will lose faith, which produces an observable difference between those who lose faith and those who hold faith.

First is the sense of delay which comes with God’s promises.  It is important to note that the Bible shows us in many places that God’s time and our time are not the same.  They are measured differently.  One might argue that God completely transcends time.  Whatever the details end up being, the fact is that a delay for us is the right time for God, because His plan is infinitely better than ours could ever be.

So a Biblical promise is not something for which you can personally decide the timeframe.  The Lord told Habakkuk, “For the vision is yet for the appointed time.” It is God who appoints the time: the first reason of many to wait with patience.  The patience is warranted, because all promises of God hold true.  “It hastens toward the goal and it will not fail,” He says, “Though it tarries, wait for it; for it will certainly come, it will not delay.” God’s promises always repay our patience, and when God’s appointed time finally arrives, nothing will stop it.  So you’d better be ready!  The word of the Lord is as true to the time He appoints as to the thing itself.  Don’t let our human perspective of the length of time discourage you from remembering that it was God who promised in the first place.  He breathed life into you; He can and will follow through on His promises.

Secondly, and admittedly backtracking a bit, we see a good example of the attitude a believer ought to have when waiting on God’s promises.  We should remain watchful as well as patient, for God’s time is known to Him, but is not necessarily always known to us.  We should also be prepared to receive correction and reproof as well as blessings He has promised.  Remember, God is our Father.  Fathers shower their children with many blessings, but also firmly and lovingly correct them.

It is clear from Habakkuk’s description at the beginning of the chapter that the attitude of the man matters.  He stood on his guard post, which indicates a determined and possibly thoughtful attitude.  He kept watch, which indicates an attentive attitude.  This attention was on one thing: “I will keep watch to see what He will speak to me.” His thoughts and attention were to be taught by God, without any apparent preconceptions.  He stationed himself on the rampart, which indicates a patient attitude.  He spoke in the singular, which could indicate an attitude willing to stand alone, in a solitary position.  Though he was patient for the blessing, he was thinking as to how he would reply when the Lord reproved him, so he expected the fatherly reproof as part of God’s teaching.

The point is that a man of God is always ready for his Lord, and in many aspects.  We aren’t only ready for His eventual return or to receive amazing blessings.  We are also to be ready for God’s reproof, for He is constantly teaching His children.  The delay doesn’t seem a source of anxiety or a curse to the man of God, but a blessing.  It is precisely the delay that allows the man to take up these attitudes in preparation for what God has in store.  God doesn’t just give gifts when a man thinks he should have something, but when that man is truly ready to receive them!  Thereby the blessing will be all the greater when it does come.

Third, the believer, in trust that God will fulfill His promise, acts as such.  His works indicate a confidence in God.  In all he says and does, there is no doubt, but he actually realizes the coming fulfillment of God’s word in his very soul.  He declares it certain.  In Habakkuk’s case he actually recorded it in black and white, since to him it is an unquestionable fact.  He declares it plainly, so that others may understand it.  In Habakkuk’s case, it was written clearly so a runner might read it.  He declares it permanently.  This isn’t something to put in pencil to erase in case your faith wavers.  The Bible says “inscribe it on tablets.” The vision God gives you of His promise should be able to be referred to at a later date.

This may seem silly, but when you look at it, it shows strong faith to actually declare something and even more to write it down for all to see.  Weak faith and fake faith often do not mention their expectations and the promises of God because they do not trust Him.  These days it is unfortunately considered fanatical and unwise to be positive that God will keep His promises.  The real believer, however, doesn’t think so.  He acts on the Lord’s promises the way he would deal with an honest man’s contractual obligations and beyond, because God is more trustworthy than any man could ever be and His promises are a more solid lock than any contract in the history of mankind.  The true believer treats God’s promises as real and lives in hope that others will do the same.

Finally, it is important to contrast the graceless to the just.  The graceless man is too proud to wait on God as the Lord’s servant would do, because “As for the proud one, his soul is not right with him.” He himself is dishonest, so he suspects God and all others.  This prevents him from finding any comfort in God’s promises, which is one of the main purposes for Him revealing the promises in the first place!  The just man, by contrast, believes the word of the King.  He waits in full assurance.  “The righteous will live by his faith,” the Lord says.  This verse is so important that it is referred to three times in the New Testament: Romans 1:17, Galatians 3:11 and Hebrews 10:38.  The Psalmist wrote in the 62nd Psalm and the 5th verse, “My soul, wait in silence for God only, for my hope is from Him.”

If we were more humble, we would be patient.  A beggar, who is worn with hunger, will wait at the rich man’s gate for hours and hours with the hope of food.  Most of us will leave a doorstep after one or two rings of the bell.  Impatience shows pride.  It shows God, or whoever we’re impatient with, that our time is worth more than what we’re waiting for.  This is why patience is a virtue.  But we are like the beggar at the rich man’s gate.  We do have a need to be fed by God, and we will surely die without His grace.  We must, therefore, be patient.

“You too be patient; strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near.” – James 5:8

Thank you for reading, and God Bless!

- Brother Brian