Haggai (NLT) 

Discover His heart:  His blessings follow our obedience to Him

Many books and movies tell the story of the farmer who plants the seed and then waits for the sun and the rain to bless his efforts and bring about a bountiful crop.  Because he has invested all he has on the seed, his investment is lost if the rain doesn’t come.  The drama of waiting for a dark cloud, even a small one, to form in the sky is heart-wrenching to watch, and sometimes the families are on edge as they struggle with what to do next.  Anytime a blessing from the Lord seems to be withheld from our lives, it gives cause to consider the reason.

“Look at what’s happening to you!  You have planted much but harvest little. You eat but are not satisfied. You drink but are still thirsty. You put on clothes but cannot keep warm. Your wages disappear as though you were putting them in pockets filled with holes! “This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies says:  Look at what’s happening to you.” (Haggai 1:5-7)  The Israelites returned to Jerusalem with the specific instructions to rebuild the temple, but instead they built their homes and had not worked on the temple.

When life is not going well and our efforts seem in vain, it never hurts to examine what’s happening to us and make certain we are following His plan for us.  God’s love makes Him longsuffering, but He will do what is necessary to get our attention.  When the Israelites realized their disobedience, they turned to the Lord and His gracious response was, “I am with you, says the Lord!” (13)

A drought or dry season in our life may have nothing to do with our willfulness, but it may be a testing time to develop character and prepare us to be used by Him.  I’m sure the 40 years that Moses spent on the backside of the desert caused him to search his heart and question what was happening to him, but God was preparing him for great things.

When our efforts bring little reward and we feel that God’s blessing is not on them, it’s not time to blame Him or to resist Him.  It’s the perfect time to look at what’s happening to us and evaluate our situation.  Are we doing our best to follow His direction for us?  If so, we can be certain that He “causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)  His blessings will come in due time.

Our obedience to God will bring a promise to our lives like the one given to an obedient Israel after the foundation for the temple was laid, “Think carefully. I am giving you a promise now while the seed is still in the barn. You have not yet harvested your grain, and your grapevines, fig trees, pomegranates, and olive trees have not yet produced their crops. But from this day onward I will bless you.”  (2:18-19)  Regardless of how it comes or when it comes, obedience brings the blessing of the Lord to our lives. 

Moving Forward: I am certain of His blessings in due time as I walk in obedience to Him. 

Tomorrow @ Acts 13-14

Ezekiel 1-6 (NLT)

Discover His heart: Even in His discipline, He gives hope for restoration

Our heavenly Father is not the kind of parent who gives empty threats or perhaps is too busy or too lazy to even care.  It’s painful to watch the parent who threatens punishment for a willful child over and over again but never follows through with discipline.  And of course, that child usually remains willful.

Almost 900 years before Ezekiel was written, God had threatened to wipe disobedient Israel off the planet because of the worship of the golden calf.  Up to this point in our reading, He hadn’t done it.  It wasn’t because He was lazy or too busy – something He could never be – but because He was and is longsuffering and merciful.  Aren’t we thankful for His mercy!  However, we find in the book of Ezekiel that punishment had finally come to the house of Israel.

Punishment of our children is seldom helpful to them if we don’t explain the purpose of it.  It may make us feel better to punish them, and children will tell you the old “this hurts me more than it hurts you” is a myth, but it won’t bring about a change in behavior unless they understand the reason for their punishment.  God was interested in change for His wayward child, Israel, and sent prophets to warn of punishment and to explain the reason for it.  Ezekiel was one of them.

Ezekiel was a priest and prophet who grew up during the great spiritual reforms of King Josiah, a king who did right in the eyes of the Lord.  Ezekiel had been exiled from Judah to Babylon during the second exile in 597 B.C., and at 30 years old, this young prophet had an encounter with God that changed the course of his life.  “On July 31 of my thirtieth year, while I was with the Judean exiles beside the Kebar River in Babylon, the heavens were opened, and I saw visions of God,” (1:1) and Ezekiel goes on to explain the four living beings that he saw.

Let me just say, if I had experienced this, I would be on the ground with my face in the dirt, and apparently so was Ezekiel, “Stand up, son of man,’ said the voice. ‘I want to speak with you.’  The Spirit came into me as He spoke, and He set me on my feet.  I listened carefully to His words…‘I am sending you to the nation of Israel, a rebellious nation…I am sending you to say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says!’  And whether they listen or refuse to listen…at least they will know they have had a prophet among them…but the people of Israel won’t listen to you any more than they listen to me!  For the whole lot of them are hard-hearted and stubborn.” (2:1-5;3:7)  Whew!  This was going to be a hard sell for Ezekiel.

It was disheartening for Ezekiel to realize that he would spend the ensuing years of his life as a faithful watchman over Israel, warning of impending doom, yet assured by God that no one would listen. Over the course of time, we learn that very few, just a remnant, listened to the prophet Ezekiel, but they came through the punishment understanding why it happened and more determined than ever before to follow after God.

Today as we attempt to reach a nation much like the one of Ezekiel’s day, we can only hope that God doesn’t choose to use us with the methods and illustrated sermons in Ezekiel.  Would I be willing?  I might not mind 430 day of rest, but 430 days of the same meal?  Help!  But there has never been a day when the gospel has been easier to share than today through the unlimited media of television, radio, the internet and print materials, not to mention the convicting power of the Holy Spirit working through us.

Yes, we will meet some opposition and perhaps persecution along the way and we may not be as popular as we would like when we share the gospel of Jesus, but our responsibility is not in the receiving of it, but in the telling of it. “Whether they listen or refuse to listen…at least they will know they have had a prophet, [a messenger] among them.”  Ezekiel 3:18 assures us that the Lord will not hold us responsible if they do not listen. 

Moving Forward: I will be His watchman over my nation, my personal world that I move in throughout the day.  With His wisdom, I will share the good news, not hindered by fear of rejection but emboldened by His love. 

Tomorrow @ Luke 11-12