Saturday, June 20th, 2009
I was going to write a blog yesterday after work, but got caught up in other things and ran out of time. I thought the timing was perfect because of the things that have been going on around me. I had oddly had the urge to write it on Thursday, but again got carried away after worship practice. Now, I think it was Providence that I didn’t, considering what has been on my heart last night and this morning. granted, I believe that all things are providentially ordained, but that’s for another time, perhaps.
This past week I’ve struggled with a sin that has been a daily battle dragging on for many years. I had thought I’d been granted victory in this area and then the temptation came again and I took the fall. Most certainly a bit of a pride issue, but again, a side note to what I want to say now. It’s interesting that I can always see a correlation between times of great victory and getting into the Word and digging deep into it and times of struggle and eventual fall into sin when I’m not as diligent to seek God. Perhaps that is the first great sin, but that’s for another time too. (It’s actually in the works; one of those blog ideas I have yet to unveil because it’s not thought out to my standard) If you haven’t guessed it yet, I’m saying that this past week I haven’t been in the Word as much, not sustained by Christ and His bread. (I do this because I don’t want to assume things all the time, especially not here)
Needless to say, I was “behind” in my bible reading schedule, or at least in the Old Testament passages. The last chapter I read previously was Ezra 4 a few days ago. Last night at the SALT retreat, I spent several hours reading my bible and praying after everyone had settled down to sleep. I read quickly through the next 4 chapters, until I came to chapter 9. Verse 3 said that when Ezra had heard that the children of Israel had disobeyed God’s law and intermarried with the pagan peoples of the land, people God commanded them to not associate with but even further to destroy and wipe out from the land, he tore his garments and plucked his beard and fasted in silence. In verse 5, Ezra bows in prayer to God and asks for God’s mercy on the people and confesses their sin before the Lord. The first verse of chapter 10 tells us that he was weeping and the people wept with him. Such was their sorrow over their sin.
It struck me that Ezra saw a great evil being done and, in the tenderness of his heart toward God, he wept for himself and all Israel. His heart broke with sorrow over the reproach it brought to his people and his God. At this point, I spent a lot of time praying about this and journaling etc, but I want to pile scriptures on this before I get to that. This fasting and mournful prayer is a themetic sign of repentance throughout the Old Testament and a physical showing of Jesus’s emotions in the New Testament. Most often, the fasting and weeping was first done by someone not directly involved in the repenting, but rather one who saw the injustice or sin being done and broke before God.
Nehemiah was the next book I read, after I was finished reading and meditating a bit on Ezra. The first chapter is about Nehemiah seeing that the walls of Jerusalem were broken down and the people were in distress and reproach because of it. The first thing he did was sit down and weep over Jerusalem, mourning many days, fasting and praying before the Lord. Again, he saw his people in lack, in calamity, and his response was to weep and mourn before the Lord, praying and fasting. His heart was tender to their need and he mourned over them.
In 1 Samuel 7, verse 2 says “all the house of Israel lamented after the Lord.” Then Samuel said, “If you return to the Lord with all your hearts, then put away the foreign gods and the ashtorehs from among you, and prepare your hearts for the Lord, and serve Him only, and He will deliver you from the hand of the Philistines.” This began a day of fasting and crying to God in repentance, saying, “We have sinned against the Lord.”
In 2 Samuel 112, we read that, after David had sinned with Bathsheba and she bore a son, God’s judgement was that the son should die. David pleaded with the Lord for the child, fasting and laying on the ground. Then, the child died and David went to the house of the Lord and worshipped. His servants asked him, “What is this thing that you have done? You fasted and wept for the child while he was alive, but when the child died, you arose and ate food.” His response was interesting: “While the child was alive, I fasted and wept, for I said ‘Who can tell whether the Lord will be gracious to me, that the child may live?’ But now he is dead, why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him but he shall not return to me.” Again, it is probable that David wrote Psalm 51 during this fasting and weeping.
In 2 Chronicles 34, when King Josiah was read a book of the law that was found in the temple, he tore his clothes. In verse 27, God says “because your heart was tender, and you humbled yourself before Me when you heard My words against this place and against its inhabitants, and you humbled yourself before Me, and you tore your clothes and wept before Me, I will hear you…” This began a time of seeking the Lord by all the house of Israel as the people repented and God prospered them, even though God, like in David’s story above, did not relent on the punishment he would bring on Israel through the Babylonian captivity.
I bring all of this up because each of these stories is about people who saw God’s judgment on sin or God’s glorious name being tarnished and in reproach because of the disobedience of His people. In each case, their response was to fast, pray, weep and mourn. Even Jesus lamented over Jerusalem in Luke 13, desiring that they would believe in Him and be gathered again to their Father. I imagine that lamenting was similar to the emotion of the famous shortest verse in the bible–John 11:35. The people around Him remarked “See how He loved him!” Two verses earlier, John relates that Jesus “groaned in the spirit and was troubled.”
Back in late August, I was in worship, singing on stage and I felt the urging of the Holy Spirit to kneel. I believe the Lord told me that the church was under attack, like the Israelites of Exodus 17. The thought came, “Will you be Joshua and fight the battle? Will you be Moses and lift your hands before the Lord in intercessory worship? Will you be Aaron and Hur who supported his hands?” By the time it was over, I was crying and had made a puddle of saltwater on the carpet. I believe I am supposed to be the leader like Joshua, zealous for God and defender of His people.
Several Sundays ago, I had a similar experience without the weeping part, except I was only reminded of this thing which had happened back in August and the insuing events. I remember times these past many months when I wanted to just weep, to mourn, to release past hurts and pain, but I’d forgotten how. Last night when I read how Ezra heard and tore, saw great evil in God’s people and wept in the tenderness of his heart, My heart cried out, ” Lord, teach me to weep again; make my heart tender toward You. Cause my heart to break when Your heart breaks and mourn with the depth of Your emotion; to hate sin as You do.” God, help me to understand how Your heart breaks when Your creation choses to reject You in the way they live. Cause my own heart to break in repentance when I choose not to follow You in everything I do, say, and think, but even more that I would desire to always glorify You with those things.
Would if the paradox of God’s Sovereignty and free will were only a matter of perspective? ~JA