I “borrow” a title from a great book by Jennifer Rothschild this week in describing where the Cover to Cover readings took my heart, where the experiences of the week took my soul. This is another one of those weeks where there is so much richness in His Word. The whole post could have been on the wisdom of Psalm 119. I chose not to include it because I didn’t even know where to start. We are all so thankful for the “new lease” on life we’ve been given as we spent eight days in the dark, living in the moment, realizing life is about moments, not necessarily worrying about the next. Fear was a common theme both in my life and in the readings, so many of the verses this week that linger for me involve fear and conversely, courage.
The rest of this is random thoughts, where little converges, except His mercy and love. If you will forgive the lack of transition and lack of a neat tie up, here is what lingers for me:
Esther -Sometimes it just takes one man doing the right thing to make a difference. Mordecai was that man, and through Esther, was the courage that brought the salvation of many.
Ezra 7:28 “Because the hand of the Lord my God was on me, I took courage and gathered leading men from Israel to go up with me.” The Hand of the Lord is who brings courage to those lacking. God’s Hand gave Ezra courage to do the right thing. I noticed how few went with him, not only out of fear, but I wonder if the Jews had gotten used to the lavishness of Babylon, even in their bondage. Do we get too comfortable “in our decorated pit” as Beth Moore describes it, when we aren’t doing what the Lord desires us to do? Apathy and emptiness prevail in our hearts as we just keep doing things the same way, though we hear Him calling us to a new place. It takes courage which God is faithful to supply. Where is that place for me this week? I am not sure, but I am certain of one thing: it is out of my comfort zone. It always is.
Just one more aside: I have loved the correlating Psalms with the historical accounts reading the Bible chronologically. We see how God’s Hand intervenes, how His mercy prevails, how the people of God celebrate and give God the credit for helping Nehemiah and his men get the wall rebuilt around Jerusalem.
Ezra 8:23 “So we fasted and petitioned our God about this, and he answered our prayer.” No question God wants our obedience. But why do we tend to think God answers our prayers because we do something right, or only when He does what we desire? I am very guilty of this. I have found a new dimension with God this year through our chronological readings. I love it when God does things like I think He should, but am convicted on this very thought. Like I think He should? God answers all our prayers if only we diligently seek Him. Not always the way we want, but like Job, “though He slay me, YET will I trust Him.” From the beginning of our readings this year, this verse has literally slain me, with faith no matter what, knowing whatever comes, I am in the best Hands in God alone.
Ezra 9:5-6 “Then, at the evening sacrifice, I rose from my self-abasement, with my tunic and cloak torn, and fell on my knees with my hands spread out to the Lord my God and prayed: “O my God, I am too ashamed and disgraced to lift up my face to you, my God, because our sins are higher than our heads and our guilt has reached to the heavens…” Too ashamed to even lift his head, Ezra looked to God for mercy. Ezra says we’ll never get it right. We keep sinning. What are we to do? Even in our vilest sin and shame, we can turn to God for our healing, for our grace, our provision, for our one and only Solution to the invasive and pervasive sins we have committed against our God-our unfaithfulness to Him in so many ways. Our one Solution-Christ Jesus, His Blood of Righteousness.
Ezra 9:8 But now, for a brief moment, the Lord our God has been gracious in leaving us a remnant and giving us a firm place in his sanctuary, and so our God gives light to our eyes and a little relief in our bondage. Though we are slaves, our God has not deserted us in our bondage. He has shown us kindness…” Even in our bondage, He is gracious, holding out hope for us. Though we continue to sin, as Paul says (Romans 7:15-25), to not do the things we should and to do the very things we try not to…” He gives light to our eyes and relief to our bondage. Thank you, Lord. Until we get it right, which we won’t, as Ezra realized. Only Christ Jesus.
Nehemiah 2:4, 5 “The king said to me, “What is it you want?” Then I prayed to the God of heaven, and I answered the king,” It is wise to pray before you speak and God will give you the victorious words to speak, with humility and grace.
Psalm 107:13-15 “Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he saved them from their distress. He brought them out of darkness and the deepest gloom and broke away their chains. Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for men.” There has been a lot of dark and gloom around here this week. The chains are mostly internal, but we all are prisoners in some way, whether it is a tree blocking someone’s driveway, or a heart that can only feel despair. May we call to the God who saves us in our trouble, who brings us out of darkness, who breaks every chain of bondage.
Psalm 111:7 “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow his precepts have good understanding. To him belongs eternal praise.” I fear so many things, and yet only one fear is a legitimate pursuit, a holy reverence of my Lord and what He desires for my life, for my family, for my “sphere of influence.” Where does He want His Light to go today through me? Forget the fear of looking silly. Forget the fear, whether justifiable or not. There is no fear that is legitimate except the holy fear of the Lord. What eternal difference can I make today in someone’s life? This doesn’t have to be as big as it sounds. A smile to a hurting woman who thinks no one notices, a calming word to the frustrated shopper in the store who stares at the empty shelves. . .who knows what it is for each of us but God alone? Even the smallest gesture of kindness can make a difference for His Kingdom. And the only way we know is to seek Him, seek His wisdom, follow His precepts.
Psalm 121:5-8 “The Lord watches over you- the Lord is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord will keep you from all harm- he will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.” There is no reason to fear. The Lord has us covered. To live is Christ, to die is to be with Him forever.” Thanks be to Him, our “Soul” Provider.
Wherever you are this week, His Word will offer you comfort. Pick up a Bible and start anywhere. I promise it has the answers that you seek. And if you feel the Lord calling you to Him, do not delay. He will save you from every evil.