Running on empty for God?

‘When my spirit grows faint within me, it is you who watch over my way. In the path where I walk people have hidden a snare for me.’ Psalm 142v3
Our understanding of this scripture is greatly aided by remembering that David spent  much of his early life as a fugitive. On the run from King Saul, David often experienced hardships in which his heart grew faint with fear at the overwhelming odds and the injustice of the charges made against him. That said, his plight was straightforward enough:
  • Loyal to a troubed King who wanted him dead.
  • Fighting the enemies of Isreal.
  • Living in the wildereness with a band of reneged soldiers that were loyal to him
  • Evading capure from the King and his men.

Is it any wonder that David attributes his safety and wellbeing to God who nurtures his spirit when faint and keeps him save from the snare (ambushes) of King Saul and other tribes that wanted him dead. That’s why David’s praise is genuinely heartfelt because he is going through hard times and taking each day as it comes being thoroughly reliant on God and his provision.


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Spiritual awareness and obedience to God?

‘Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?’                                  (Psalm 139v7)
 David’s reference to God’s ‘Spirit’ in this psalm appears to be something akin to an inescapable omniscience that hems him in at every turn.  Of course, there is an issue with this in that  although David’s sense of God’s presence is so tangible that he experiences it in a physical reality, others do not experience it in such a way. Which begs the question…
Why doesn’t everyone in the world have the same experience of God as David?
If possible,  how does one nurture and cultivate their relationship with God so that they also have a similar spiritual experience that manifests itself in an overwhelming and embracing way?
Moreover, is this experience linked to the person’s calling and depth of experience of  responding to God and being oppedient to thet call?
Now, while there are many factors to consider here, one explanation regarding God’s spiritual presence within the person relates to their openess to receiving the Holy Spirit. Or put more simply, their willingness to be obedient to what God is calling them to do as noted by many Christian teachers but most notably Watchman Nee’s ‘Release of the Spirit’, The Spiritual Man’ etc.
So, in summary,  our spiritual experience will increase as we go deeper with God but with that there also comes the call to a greater obedience and relationship with God.

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Seeking God’s Will?

‘…for they rebelled against the Spirit of God, and rash words came from Moses’ lips.’       (Psalm 106v33)
Okay, three things.  It’s not that God’s people reject and rail against God outright but rather they rebelled  against His Spirit – that is, they thwart the Comforter who cajoles, convicts and urges them to do right.

Second, God does not force them to conform Instead, the God of love gives humanity the freedom to accept or reject him, must also operate within these limitations to bring about his good and perfect will using others who will be open and obedient.

Lastly, God’s people rebelled against the Spirit of God, yet the harshest of the words came from Moses’ lips.’ God does not  judge the people in this moment but Moses does. He’s angry and wants them to know it! A problem that will lead him in a few years  to angrily strike the boulder at Meribah after God instructs him to speak to it – a poor decision that in turn results in Moses not entering the Promised Land. (Numbers 20v11)

 

 

 


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Understanding God’s promise and provision?

‘A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out,
till he has brought justice through to victory. In his name the nations will put their hope.’ (Matthew 12 v20-21)

This week we take a momentary break from considering the activity of the Holy Spirit in Old Testament history to reflect on an incident recorded in Matt 12.

It’s the Sabbath and Jesus and his disciples  are walking through a field (v1,2) picking the corn and eating it. Ordinarily, this wouldn’t have been a problem for Jesus or his followers but to the Prarisees that had spotted them doing this, it was a grevious offence  because it was considered as an act of defiance against God and his rules.

Jesus’ reply to the Pharisees, reminding them of how King David once helped himself and his men to the consecrated bread in the temple, angers the Pharisees even more who (unable to counter his argumant or defend their zealous actions) leave for home – but Jesus is not finished with them yet because:

‘…going on from that place, he went into their synagogue,  and a man with a shriveled hand was there. Looking for a reason to bring charges against Jesus,they asked him, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?” He said to them, “If any of you has a sheep and it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will you not take hold of it and lift it out?  How much more valuable is a person than a sheep! Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.” Then he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” So he stretched it out and it was completely restored, just as sound as the other. 14 But the Pharisees went out and plotted how they might kill Jesus.(v9-14)

But what has all this got to do with Isaiah’s prophesy about how Messiah (Jesus) will neither quarrel nor cry out, nor break a bruised reed? To understand this we must look to Jesus’ generosity to his detractors, refusing to chasticse or speak revenge on them. Indeed, in the same way he was gentle to those who would persecute him and those in their care, but he is loving and forgiving too.

 

 


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Physical death and spiritual resurrection?

‘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!

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The difference between God’s Spirit and our spirit?

I remembered you, God, and I groaned…I meditated, and my spirit grew faint.I remembered my songs in the night. My heart meditated and my spirit asked: “Will the Lord reject forever?Will he never show his favour again?  Has his unfailing love vanished forever? Has his promise failed for all time? Has God forgotten to be merciful? Has he in anger withheld his compassion?” (Psalm 77v3, 6-9)

Those who have been following this blog for a time will remember that at the start of this exploration into the work of the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament, we considered a few ways of understanding the term ‘spirit.’

The first (in the OT) being where the Holy Spirit came upon an individual to temporarily equip and compel them to fulfil a God-given task (or tasks).

The second (in the NT) being where the Holy Spirit enters the person, filling them with the Presence of God which remains within them throughout their lives unless curtailed by decisions that thwart His Divine activity within them.

The third instance being those occasions (in the OT) which the term ‘spirit’ is used  as metaphor to describe  feelings or thinking that are bettered rendered as something akin to heart or decision. So, to be clear…

…when David implores God: ‘Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me,’ his understanding is that the Holy Spirit is resting upon him and not a permanent indwelling. After all, David fears God’s Spirit will be taken away.

Converesely, in Luke 14v26 where it is recorded that ‘the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and…remind you of everything I have said,’ this is understood as a permanent infilling because the Spirit is thereafter continually active in the person in as much as He is allowed to operate.

And lastly- for Psalm 77 – in which the Asaph observes that his spirit grows’ faint’ (v3)  and his heart ‘asks’ (v6) after God, these are essentially linked to the psalmist himself (and not to the  Holy Spirit living within or speaking through him). Yes, Asaph is inspired to pray but it is his own response of motivation (as akin to being emotionally overwhelmed) that leads him into this action.

Okay, so in summary, three things to consider about the Holy Spirit as He operaters within the Old and New Testaments.

 

 

 


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How should we understand difficult scriptures?

‘He breaks the spirit of rulers; he is feared by the kings of the earth.’ (Psalm 76v12)
Although the psalm of Asaph starts with God being described in rather  humanistic terms  – by that I mean owning a tent (v2),  being able to ‘break arrows’  (v3), plundering  the enemy (v5 ) (etc ) – none of these adequately describe God or do the Divine justice.
Indeed, the difficulty for humans in describing what God is like requires that we be limited to those metaphors and vocabulary that are known to us which are (at best) insufficent for the job. In much in the same way that a toddler’s drawing of his/her mother can never chart her shape, form and love.
True, some of the other attributes that follow later in this psalm in which God is described as ‘light,’ or like a ‘king’ (v4), or ‘occupying heaven’ (v8) or providing ‘salvation’ (v9) are all helpful but we are again limited in our understanding of what it is the psalmist wants us to comprehend.
Could it be that when we read in v12 that ‘God breaks the spirit of rulers; he is feared by the kings of the earth’ that this is an observation of how the enormity of God should render each of us as awestruck and reverent before our powerful and indiscribable God? If it doesn’t, it should do.

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Why is it important to have a broken and contrite heart before God?

‘Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me….My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.’ (Psalm 51v11-12 &17)
I think most christians become familiar with these verses early on. This scripture – with its accompanying storyline – resonates with us and the constant battle we each have with temptation.
However, the response from King David is far more than an utterance to forgive his wayward actions or a messed up thought life. Nathan challenges David over three things:
  1. David’s act of adultery with Bathsheba while husband Uriah is away at war.
  2. David’s attempt to hide her pregnancy by recalling Uriah from the frontline in the hope he will sleep with Bathsheba, think the child is his own and raise him.
  3. David’s descent into murder by sending Uriah back while hatching a plot that he be inadvertantly killed by the enemy as support is withdrawn from around him.

Sent by God to challenge David over the incident, Nathan tells the King a story that lures him into moral outrage in which he heaps judgement on the perpetrator who could steal from another with such scant regard only to realise at the end that the story that is actually  about him – read it here in 2 Samuel 11 and 2 Samuel 12

Caught in his sin, David realises the gig is up! But rather than being  proud or bitter, David acknowledges his sin as he realises that for God to send Nathan to him, suggests something of God’s plans to restore him in the future.

Yes, David has sinned! Moreover, there is a consequence. Indeed, this incident will haunt David and Bathsheba for the rest of their lives…but God is still open to forgiving and restoring them despite David’s weakness and failure – something each of us would do well to remember and act upon when called to face up to the consequence of our actions. Hence, the reason why David feels confident enough to utter these words in hopeful expectation:

My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.’


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The value of a pure heart and steadfast spirit?

‘Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.’ (Psalm 51v10)
Interestingly, the verses before this give us an insight as to why David requests that God renew a steadfast Spirit within him.

‘Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
    wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
Let me hear joy and gladness;
    let the bones you have crushed rejoice.
Hide your face from my sins
    and blot out all my iniquity. ‘(Psalm 51v7-9)

Now, while many people believe the psalm to be David’s confession to God having sinned with (Uriah’s wife) Bathsheba, the thing that I take from this is how reflective the king becomes in the light of the mistake he has made.

Almost instantly, David recognises he has done wrong and he identifies the problem: that being that David has a wayward heart. One that is prone to wander and lust for things that are neither glorifying to God nor himself. And what is David’s solution to the problem?

  1. He asks God to (re) create in him a pure heart that will make him obedient in future.
  2.  He requests God renew a steadfast spirit within him so he won’t be inclined to wander in future.

David’s request of God tells us something about his contrition and sorrow at his mistakes. Moreover, his desire to change and become wiser from the events that have come upon him. Something that all of us can learn from in order to be more obedient to God.

verses indicate that David is in meltdowne realise how


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How is God close to the brokenhearted?

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.’             Psalm 34v18

This is a familiar scripture – I wonder how you read it? I think all of us can relate to those times in our lives when we have been brokenhearted or weighed down by circumstance so much so that it felt like our spirits were being crushed beyond repair. Interestingly, the verses that come before it in v13-16 carry this instruction and insight:

‘Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.                                                                                 The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are attentive to their cry;                        

Does this mean that God is promising that if we turn away from evil that tragedy will never befall us?

No! The very fact we live in a world  where people have freewill means that they will misuse this freedom to make choices that affects both themselves and others. This alone should be evidence enough why this world is never going to be a harm-free place. Moreover, it explains  why God’s heart is directed towards that are brokenhearted – who, through no fault of their own, have been crushed and disregarded by others.

So what does this mean for us?

Well…in v19 we read that ‘The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them, he delivers them from all their troubles.” Here, what is most important to recognise is that for us to be delivered from something, necessitates that we are in a place or circumstance from which we cannot save ourselves. Here, we understand the insidiouness of sin in which ‘all of us  have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.’

In summary, it has never been a case of them and us – just those people who recognise they have sinned and  need of a saviour and those for whom it never crosses their mind.

 


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