As the title suggests, this book is a lament to God. The first chapter of Lamentations details the changes that have occurred in which the city is deserted and the people taken into exile. Moreover, in the depth of their despair and pity it feels like God has abandoned them – so much so that there is a real sense that not only has their future been stolen away but the presence of God also. In our busy lives – find it here.
Although not the same experience as faced by the Israelites, we too – in our busy lives – can also find our world turned upside down. As I write this, the world is under varying degrees of Lockdown in the collective attempt to beat the pandemic (Covid 19). I am sure that many people in recent months will have (at times) felt alienated, isolated, remote, abandoned, without comfort and even exiled from those they love and cherish. While that might be true in the physical, God’s Spirit will not abandon us – and this is something in the midst of a turbulent and troubled world we can hang on to. For the promise of God is that His Holy Spirit will respond and live within all people – bring comfort, hope and peace.
If you’ve never read the book of Isaiah and this verses sounds familiar to you, it’s because it is! This is Isaiah’s pronouncement – aka ‘The Year of the Lord’s Favour’ – but it is also spoken by Jesus several hundred years later (Luke 4v18) as he brings to fulfilment the prophesy delivered by Isaiah.
That said, the first century attendees had little or no idea as to the impact the verse would have on their lives. Possibly, they imagined it as a time of peace and prosperity where they could recover and take stock of all that has happened to themselves and ancestors. Maybe a return to their homes to worship God as they used to do. But Jesus’ proclamation goes so much further. It’s a declaration of God’s power coming to live within each person through His Holy Spirit – the Third Person of the Trinity who was there, hovering over the waters in Genesis 1 and now living with each person who believes. A guide who lives within each person to guide and explain the truth of God and how to live as a spiritual being. To equip and send each person that they too may
…proclaim good news to the poor (and) bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners…’(Isaiah 61v1). This is the God who lives within all who believe.
Many years ago, I read Watchman’s Nee’s book ‘Release of the Spirit’ then later on his epic ‘The Spiritual Man.’ Both of which have helped to think of the ‘soul’ as the receptacle in which God’s Spirit operates. Now, while this verse seems strange in the sense that it suggests our spirit can be provoked to anger, there are three things to consider here:
- During the time of Ecclesiastes- long before the day of Pentecost – the Holy Spirit did not live within the person but came upon them at God’s direction to facilitate ‘one off’ acts to achieve God’s will.
- Because of this, it’s quite possible the term ‘spirit’ is used here to reference a sense of the person’s emotional response as to what is happening.
- The understanding of our own human spirit is different to that of God’s Spirit. The human spirit being carnal in nature as easily influenced by our human (carnal) nature.
However you understand the term ‘spirit’, one thing is sure – we as humans can easily be provoked to anger where rash actions land us in trouble. That is why we can say something that is cruel in the heat of the moment or hold on to a grudge even though slighted by someone many years earlier. In such times, the advice offered in the wisdom Book of Ecclesiastes is to not be quickly provoked because ‘anger resides in the lap of fools.’
“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.” Matthew 13v44
A good number of years ago, I decided to start an Arts Cafe at the church. As we neared the opening night, the minister asked me how much I was charging for tickets. I told him a minimal amount and he encouraged me to double it because his experience was that when you charge little (or put things on for free) people do not attend. Why? Because without an adequate price tag on it, I had inadvertently suggested to people it was not worth them investing their time. (And I discovered over the years that he was right!)
The verse above – taken from the parable of The Kingdom of God and the Pearl – emphasises the enthusiasm that should accompany such a remarkable find. The realisation that God’s Holy Spirit (like a pearl) is now living in every single believer to guide, strengthen, teach, and equip – should have every believer jumping and shouting for joy – and it does…but all too soon, the fact that His Gift is free can cause many of us to become complacent and idle.
Central to spiritual demise is the incorrect thinking that developing and using our spiritual gifts is an optional task. True, for those people who have no understanding of spiritual things, why would they believe in God or worry about developing their spiritual gifts? However, for those of us who do believe and are aware of spiritual outcomes in this world, the question must be: why wouldn’t we develop our spiritual gifts? After all, to engage with our spiritual gifts is to engage with God – and to reverance the special pearl that now lives within us – that being the kingdom of God!
Want to know how to do this? Then take the free (but incredibly valuable!) spiritual gift test at primary gift.
‘Do you show your wonders to the dead? Do their spirits rise up and praise you?’ (Psalm88v10)
For me, this scripture speaks prophetically into the ultimate purposes of God – namely, that when our human flesh is unable to support us any more and death comes upon us, that will be the time that the sessence of our being – our spirit – will rise up to be with God.
What’s more, the spirit rises not do this to mourn the loss of human life but to praise God to whom the believer’s continued existence becomes manifest in the heavenlt realms.
Truth is, God does not show wonders to the dead but to those who are spiritually alive!
As mentioned at the start of these posts on the work of the Holy Spirit, the term ‘spirit’ is interchangeable in that it can mean one of many things in the Old Testament. So far we have encountered it as relating to human disposition – that is,
- the psyche by which a person’s sense of wellbeing is described by him or her as being happy, morose, jubilant etc.
- the spirit is referred to in a communal way in which one person’s affinity with another makes them kindred just as with Jonathan was one in spirit with David. (That said, CS Lewis would probably more accurately define this as Philia – love of friends as in detailed in his book The Four Loves).
- and lastly, the move of the Spirit that enables a person to do God’s work. As when the Holy Spirit falls upon a person and they prophesise or are renewed with super human strength or knowledge or wisdom. Though the point to note here is that in the Old Testament this is always a temporary infilling as the Spirit rests upon the person for the duration of time needed to bring about the outcome. (Though this changes after Jesus’ death and resurrection once the Counsellor is sent and the Holy Spirit finds a permanent recepticle in everyone who believes in Christ – the measure and capacity of this being determined by the person’s willingness to be obedient to God).
So- with these three definitions explained, a task for you. Which one of the three definitions best describes the opening verses in which ‘King Xerxes was in high spirits from wine?’