Always With You, Never Changing

Today’s reading is Psalm 102 with the title in my Bible reading, “A Prayer of One Afflicted When He is Faint and Pours Out His Complaint Before the Lord.”

This Psalm begins very sad with the psalmist saying the following…

Hear my prayer, O Lord;

let my cry come to you!

Psalm 102:1

For my days pass away like

smoke,

and my bones burn like a dry furnace.

My heart is struck down like

grass and has withered;

I forget to eat bread.

Psalm 102:3-4

If those verses don’t tell you enough about what a sad state the psalmist is in, read all of Psalm 102:1-11.

What gives you strength in tough times? What provides you comfort in challenging moments? Where does your sense stability come from even during “normal” times? Many may say it’s from a relationship with a spouse, a parent, son/daughter, or friend. This could be good for a period of time, but the reality is it won’t be permanent. We, as well as those we have relationships with, are human…meaning we and they are prone to sin so these relationships could weaken and even end, or they will end because we or they pass away. There is a saying out there about “having faith in people.” Those who know me well have said I tend to always try to find the best in people, and I do like that saying. However, if taken literally and too far…it will eventually leave us feeling let down, lonely, and sad if we rely on people alone.

The psalmist realizes and reminds himself and us there is only One who is truly ALWAYS there for us and will never let us down.

He regards the prayer of the

destitute

and also does not despise their

prayer.

Psalm 102:17

He says a few verses later…

Of old you laid the foundation of

the earth,

and the heavens are the work

of your hands.

They will perish, but you will remain:

they will all wear out like a

garment…

Psalm 102:25-26

And again in verse 27…

But you are the same, and your years have no end.

Psalm 102:27

We see public figures let us down and mess up. We hear about pastors who were not really men/women of God, and we even find out family members who we revered made mistakes because they are well..human like us. Only God will never let us down. Only He is perfect. Only He has always been and always will be there for us. You may be reading this and saying my life is not going as I planned and blaming God, but that’s not because of God..that’s because we live in a world filled with sin which was not in God’s original design. Despite all that’s happened to you, God has been there with you the whole time. He hears your groans, and He cares.

When Jesus called Nathanael to be a disciple in John 1:46, He says “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit.” When Nathanael asked Jesus how he knew Him Jesus says in John 1:47, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” When Nathanael hears this, he immediately calls rabbi or teacher. Some scholars believe Jesus comments hit Nathanael between the eyes because he may have been sitting under the tree not only by himself where only God could have seen him, but also possibly saddened about a recent event or misunderstanding  where he was incorrectly blamed for something and was crying out to God because He had done no wrong. Jesus comments that He not only saw Nathanael, but that He knew there was no deceit in him were not coincidental which is why Nathanael immediately knew He was the Messiah and called Him teacher.

What’s the point? Jesus was there with him. Jesus knew. Jesus cared. Jesus is with you. Jesus knows. Jesus cares. Lean on Jesus. He will always be there for you. The world and people change and will let you down. Jesus won’t..ever.

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

Hebrews 13:8

He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.

Revelation 21:4

Ancient of Days

When you hear the word wisdom, what image comes to mind? Is there a specific person you think of?

Today’s title or attribute of God we are focusing on is the Ancient of Days from Daniel 7:22 which reads, “until the Ancient of Days came, and judgement was given for the saints of the Most High, and the time came when the saints possessed the Kingdom.” I must admit I wasn’t too familiar with this title for God and had to do a little more research, but Daniel uses this title 3 times in Daniel 7:9, Daniel 7:13, and Daniel 7:22.

The 7th chapter of Daniel is his prophetic vision showing God the Father ultimately rules over eternity and will accomplish this through the son of man (Daniel 7:13). This chapter is significant because Jesus uses the title of the son of man for himself more than any other name. The son of man approaches the Ancient of Days in verse 13 and the Ancient of Days is described in verse 9 as not only having clothing white as snow, but “the hair of his head like pure wool.” This gives us an image the Ancient of Days which seems to represent (not a literal picture though) God the Father as an older man with white hair. I also think of the references to God the Father as “Alpha and Omega” and “him who is and who was and who is to come” from Revelation 1:4 and Revelation 1:8. These, verses along with entire chapter of Daniel 7, and God’s title of the Ancient of Days remind us the God is ruler over all and no matter what terrible things we see or experience in our lifetime, He will ultimately claim victory (Daniel 7:27). In this life, we can live with the peace of knowing we fight from victory…not for victory (Isiah 26:3).

At the beginning I posed the question about what image or person comes to mind when you think about the word wisdom. These days we all seem to know someone who has experienced dementia or Alzheimer’s in old age, and unfortunately, I think we now lump many of the elderly into a group that many would even call senile. However, if God the Father is described in the image of the Ancient of Days as an older person with white hair, let this be a reminder that much wisdom can be gained from the elderly who have learned and experienced far more than we have in our younger years. Near the end of 2018, I wrote a post called Angels We Have Heard in Brooklyn about 93 year old Thomas King who spoke so much wisdom and inspiration to us while on a mission trip at exactly right time. Sadly though, Thomas told us when his church recently recognized him for his years of membership, they would not even let him speak…although his wise words to us cut sharply like a knife to us. As we go forth today, let us not only remember God the Father’s sovereignty as the Ancient of days and learn from Him through the Word, but let us also remember as we interact with the elderly the words Job 12:12 which read, “Wisdom is with the aged, and understanding in length of days.” We can learn from them as well

Eternal Perspective

Today’s reading is Job 38.

Yesterday, we read Job 1-2, so we know Job was a man who had it all so to speak…personal wealth/possessions, family, and health. Then, it was all taken from him. Like mine, your Bible may have headings for the chapters of the book of Job that follow. Just a quick skim of these can show you the many emotions and feelings of Job through troubling times which are likely some of the same we have during trials.

In March of 2018, Coach Tony Bennett and his Virginia Cavaliers basketball team became the first #1 seed to ever lose to a #16 seed in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. Some would be right in saying this disgrace is not worse than divorce, poor health, or financial troubles, but no doubt this disgrace was bad and in the public spotlight. It seemed like every year it would come up that a #1 had never lost to a #16 with many experts saying it would never happen. Not only did Virginia lose, they lost badly. While Coach Bennett’s teams had done well in recent years, many had already questioned him and his coaching strategy which is different than the norm in college basketball with hard-nosed defense and a slow style of play that many call boring to watch. Many also questioned his coaching style which showed little fire and emotion on the outside in that game, as it does in every game. What would critics say now, and how would Coach Bennett react to the loss? Well, not only did he give credit to the other team for their play in his interview outside of the locker room immediately following the game, but he admitted they simply “got their butts whooped.” Then, he followed up by saying, “I’m trying to tell the guys in there..this is life. It can’t define you. Enjoy the good times and you gotta be able to take the bad times.”

Although he didn’t state it on the outside to the public, I would imagine Tony Bennett had his Job-like moments privately to himself, if not verbally to family or those closest to him. He likely wondered what God’s plan was in all of this and why God let it happen to Him, a faithful Christ follower who likely also plays by the rules when many coaches in college basketball don’t. He may have even wondered if his critics of his slow down coaching strategy and calm demeanor were right. Could he really get the job done? If Tony Bennett thought these things, we do not know what the Holy Spirit may have said to him. However, we do in fact, know what God said to Job here in Job 38. God reminded Job that he in fact was sovereign and in charge. In Job 38:4-6 He states, “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements-surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it?” God continues to speak to Job with this message and in Job 38:12 says, “Have you commanded the morning since your days began, and caused the dawn to know its place?” If we read on to Job 42, Job ultimately confesses and repents, and God rewards Job for that confession and repentance by giving him twice as much as before (Job 42:10-12).

Ultimately, Job did not think that God knew the physical and emotional pain and public disgrace he was going through. Thankfully, we know that now through Jesus, God experienced every type of pain we have. Knowing of His upcoming scourging and crucifixion, He experienced emotional stress so great that when He prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane He sweated drops of blood (Luke 22:44). He experienced relational distress and abandonment of those He thought were friends when one of His 12 closest friends, Judas, betrayed Him leading to His death (Luke 22:48), not to mention another one of his 12 closest friends Peter denying He knew Him not once but 3 times (Luke 22:54-62). He even had family relational turmoil and abandonment with His brothers telling Him to leave and not believing Him (John 7:3-5). He experienced public disgrace and embarrassment when the soldiers mocked Him (Luke 22:63-65), and the crowds yelled “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” requesting the release of a murderer in Barabbas instead of Him (Luke 23:18-21). Wait…even Jesus experienced the unfairness of bad things happening to good people and good things happening to bad people!? And of course, He experienced the physical pain of the scourging (John 19:1) and then being nailed to the cross (John 19:18). How blessed are we that during trouble times we can have peace knowing that we can talk to and pray to God who felt what we are feeling?

Just a year later here in 2019, after being down in the first round to a #16 seed again by 14, Coach Tony Bennet’s team won the national championship! Coach Bennett said he played the song Hills and Valleys by Tauren Wells for his team before the game. He said, “It just means that you’re never alone in the hills or in the valleys. And we faced those from last year to this year. But the credit goes to those young men, and I can’t wait to celebrate with my wife and my kids and my parents. And I do want thank my Lord and Savior.” He also said, “I think there was a bigger plan going on here. I wasn’t needed but I was used in it, and I hope that it’s message for some people that there can be hope and joy in resiliency and I’m thankful for what happened.” I’m sure he wasn’t thankful last year after the loss, but now the bigger picture and plan can be seen.

When we take an eternal perspective on the hills and in the valleys, it changes everything. As we reflect on Maundy Thursday today, Good Friday tomorrow, and Easter Sunday, let us not forget that our story is part of God’s story. He took the absolute worst event in the history of mankind, the only truly innocent person to ever walk the earth being tortured and killed, and turned it into the greatest event in the history of the mankind…brining us together into oneness with Him through the forgiveness of sins which gives us eternal life.

Coach Tony Bennett quoted to his team last year after their terrible loss Psalm 30:5 which says, “Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.” Joy truly does come with His resurrection on Easter morning. It not only means that we can face whatever trials this life brings, but most importantly, it means He conquered death, and now so can we.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8iDuZv_5MQk