Are you just not the exuberant type of Christian?

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Get ready for the ‘M’ word!

Yes, I’m talking about mathematics.  I hope you don’t still suffer from nightmares about how dumb you might have felt in high school math class. I’m not sure which causes more shuddering among adults I meet, memories of foreign language classes or all those required math courses.

But seriously, there exists a God-given math principle which helps us understand his word.  Do you recall something called ‘the transitive property of equality’?  (I had to look up its name, but my husband and I apply it often when reading our Bibles).

I used it the other day when I came upon a favorite promise in Isaiah.  It goes like this: 

If A=B and C = B, then A= C

For thus said the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel, “In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.” But you were unwilling. Isaiah 30:15 ESV

Immediately, the Lord brought to mind Nehemiah’s encouragement to the people of God who had been standing all morning listening to the Levites explain the scriptures being read out loud. They began to weep when they understood their sin.  At that point, with all the people feeling genuine sorrow for breaking God’s law, Nehemiah stops the mourning to give them a message of peace:

Then he said to them, “Go your way. Eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions to anyone who has nothing ready, for this day is holy to our Lord. And do not be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.” Nehemiah 8:10 ESV

As I read Nehemiah’s description of divine strength, the Holy Spirit connected that to the Isaiah verse, stirring up that long ago math lesson.

-If repentance/turning back to God and trusting the Almighty produce strength.

-And if believing and rejoicing in the word of God gives strength.

Then, it follows that trusting God and rejoicing in/being glad about the written Word  are two ways of saying the same thing.

Why am I drawing out this principle?

Because for some of us, our personality type keeps us from connecting with that term ‘joy’.  So, I get stuck on the word ‘rejoice’.  In my mind, I picture fans of a winning football or baseball team’s exuberant excitement. And that’s not me.

So, when I see the phrase – rejoice in the Lord, I simply use one of Strong’s synonyms for the Hebrew term rejoicebe glad.

Now THAT I can do with authenticity. Hands down, I am VERY glad to belong to God’s family and to have Jesus as my master, friend and older brother.  Nothing settles me more; nothing produces more contentment than knowing God. 

So, dear friends, if a certain verse or word doesn’t fit or connect with you, pull out that transitive property of equality and search out something that will help you understand scripture in a more meaningful way.

How the Lord guides us

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Isaiah 30:20-21 And though the Lord give you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, yet your Teacher will not hide himself anymore, but your eyes shall see your Teacher. And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left.

Direction, wisdom, guidance from God – don’t we believers all CRAVE certainty from Him!

That’s why these verses in Isaiah linger in my thoughts; I keep coming back to them.  Turning them over this way and that way, pressing them to tell me more. How will we see our Teacher? What form will He take? Why does the voice come from behind?  Why does the pilgrim hear the voice either AS he makes a choice of which way to go or right after?  Is God influencing his opting for one over the other?  Or would either have been God’s will?

I don’t have anything specific at the moment for which I am undecided or at a loss about direction.  But the teaching here FEELS weighty and timeless.

Facts:

  1. Hard times come from God. That’s explicit in verse 20.  Makes sense, since God sovereignly creates, sustains and directs every molecule.  I’ve heard RC Sproul quoted multiple times: ‘There are no maverick molecules!’
  2. As Isaiah records, times occur when we FEEL as God is hiding. We experience darkness and confusion.  But those are periods of time that He purposes. They have a start and an end point.  Often we don’t know the reason for the hard time. I’m learning that likely my Father has LOTS of purposes for the shadow times when I don’t understand. BUT the good news is, there is an appointed end.  Whether we are Jonah, Job or Jesus.
  3. Seeing our Teacher, maybe that refers to seeing something in Scripture that pops out at us, seemingly personalized.  But what shapes me more than that idea is the encouragement to LOOK for my Teacher, rather than focusing on the problem OR the confusion. So how do I look for my Teacher who is Spirit?  With eyes of faith.  This morning I bathed in the balm of Psalm 23:6For sure! goodness (towb) and mercy (chesed) are pursuing me today and every day of my days on earth.  That’s how I see God – I think about what He is like, what God has promised in His Word.
  4. Staying with Psalm 23:6, I see a theme that repeats, God behind me….chasing me down, on my heels, just like in Isaiah.  I have to trust that the crossroads are not a problem for God.  Whether I go right or choose the left path, He works with that and brings me to His desired destination.

Finally, does EVERYone of us believers SEE the Teacher or experience the reassurance from Him about the chosen path? I don’t think so.  For just 6 verses prior to 21 is another landmark promise from God:  Isaiah 30:15 For thus said the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel, “In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.” But you were unwilling.

O Comforting Holy Spirit of God –  Keep bringing me to repentance. I don’t want to wander away from You, away from Your reassuring voice.  I want YOUR rest and quiet, YOUR strength and salvation. I want to know that You alone make my path straight.  Amen!

 

 

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