Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Week Thirty One - Prepare

 “…for Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the law of the Lord, and to do it…” Ezra 7:10  
“…prepare your hearts unto the LORD and serve him only…”  I Samuel 7:3 
The definition does not mean to get ready; it means to be already ready.  Ezra had prepared.  His heart was established, steadfast, firm and certain.  He had decided long ago that he was going to seek the law of the Lord and be obedient.  His heart was set just as the Psalmist who says his heart is fixed – set upon, prepared – to trust the Lord.  (Psalm 57:7, 108:1,112:7)
In I Samuel, the prophet is telling the nation of Israel that they, too, need to get their hearts in order, steadfast and certain, as they prepare to see God deliver them from the Philistines.  They need to let go of the idols of this world and settle themselves into the promise and certainty of the Lord.  They need to be ready.
Having a prepared heart is a decision.  When God placed his law in my heart and I saw the beauty and truth that was held therein, I decided that this was the path for me.  I determined that I would be obedient.  And that decision has not changed.  However, there are times when I can see the idols of this world – the cares, fears, and threats – pushing their way into my heart.  Fretting can take over.  Or, sometimes, it is the longing to be “normal”, to just give into the pressure of the world to ignore God and have my own way for a change.
Then, I hear the challenge from long ago, “choose you this day whom ye will serve.”  And I know that I must return to my initial decision.  I must serve Him only.  It is that prepared heart, that established and certain heart that will keep me in the love of God.  My fickleness or wavering will be only for a moment, because my heart is truly fixed.  It is anchored in Jesus, and though all around me and in me might be in turmoil, I can know that my hope is sure and steadfast.
What about you?  Is your heart fixed?  Do you see yourself wavering at times?  No fear.  God remembers your surrender to Him, and he will lovingly bring you back to obedience.  He is the anchor.

“…Prepare ye the way of the LORD make straight in the desert a highway for our God.” Isaiah 40:3  
No doubt this is a reference to John the Baptist – the voice crying in the wilderness to prepare the way of the Lord.  His job was to prepare the hearts of the people for the coming of the Messiah and the Gospel message.  Here in Isaiah the message is that the people of God must be prepared, by repentance and faith, to receive what God has designed for them.
The word means to turn to or to regard.  They are being called upon to take heed to their ways.  They need to turn from sin and order their lives so as to be ready.  God is about to bless Zion.  We can see this happening at other times in Israel’s history.  For example, when they were about to hear from God after the exodus from Egypt, strict instruction was given for them to prepare.  They were to sanctify themselves, wash their clothing and abstain from all sexual relationships. (Exodus 19:10-15)  It was important for them to show the due reverence and preparation before God could speak.
Our own preparation for the receiving of God’s blessing is also important.  We cannot wander aimlessly through our Christian lives and expect to see the richness of God’s blessing.  We need to take time to think about what truly is the way of the Lord.  Are we really taking heed?  Do our lives exemplify biblical mandates?  Are we making decisions based on God’s Word?  Are we holding God’s Word in reverence and high regard?
If God were ready to bless you today, would you be ready to receive it?  Is your life such that others can find their way to God?  Are you preparing the way for the Gospel message?
“Prepare thy work without, and make it fit for thyself in the field; and afterwards build thine house.”  Proverbs 24:27
This is a fascinating little proverb.  It literally means that when one is getting their farm or business set up, they should first see to the business – the thing that will make the income – before they building their dwelling.  The basic definition means to set up, establish or to stand aright.
I knew a man who took this verse to heart.  He purchased a large tract of land on the south side of my hometown and built a great barn.  People laughed that he had built the barn first and questioned him.  I remember him quoting this verse.  For a few short years that was all that was on the property, but eventually a beautiful home was erected.  No one was laughing then.  He had honoured God’s Word and direction, and God had blessed his business.
I think this can be applied in different situations as well.  I see young people who want to serve the Lord; they start following the call but get in too big of a hurry.  They have not prepared before they met the storms and temptations.  They haven’t made things ready before they moved into deeper commitment.  In their zeal to do a work for God, they forget that it is God that does the work.
The older I get the more wisdom I see in waiting.  To build a barn and let the community laugh doesn’t seem wise.  However, God does not work according to the schemes of man – he has a much higher design.  To spend three or four years in college and then five to ten in ministry preparation may seem like a waste of time, but the man who waits upon the Lord is the one who can run the longest – he is the one who will not faint.
Are you giving God time so your life is fully prepared?  Or, are you in a rush to get on to bigger things?  Remember God’s timing is not ours – his is much better!
“In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so I would have told you.  I go to prepare a place for you.” John 14:2    
“But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.”  I Corinthians 2:9
 “Heaven is a wonderful place, filled with glory and grace.  I want to see my Saviour’s face, Heaven is a wonderful place.”  It is a place prepared for those that love him: a place of splendor, peace and true worship.
The word means to make ready or to provide.  God is preparing a place for us that is totally beyond description.  We can read in Revelation that it has streets of gold and the walls are of jasper and each of the twelve gates are a precious stone.  The foundations are solid and beautiful.  It is foursquare in shape and is hung in the heavens above the earth.  There is a throne there whereon sits God the Father with cherubs and music and praise.  There is no death, no tears, and no sadness. 
We are happy with what is revealed in Scripture, but God has even more prepared for us.  Sometimes I wonder what that could be.  I will have perfect peace of heart, no sin will trouble me, all of my co-dwellers will be of the same mind and heart, and I will be with my Saviour in a beautiful, safe place.  What more could I ask for?  I’m sure I don’t know.  But God does.  He knows there is more that we need.  And He is preparing it.
The only prerequisite for this place is to love God – to know Him through His Son.  Are you prepared?

Jonah 1:17 – “the Lord had prepared a great fish…”
Jonah 4:6 – “The Lord God prepared a gourd…”
Johan 4:7 – “God prepared a worm…”
Jonah 4:8 – “God prepared a vehement east wind…”
Poor old Jonah is the subject of many a sermon.  This prophet knew what God had instructed, but due to his own arrogance and personal prejudice he made a conscious decision to directly disobey.
So God prepared a great fish to swallow him up.  God already knew Jonah’s heart and stubbornness.  He knew that only a deep and stinky situation would break it down.
Jonah, though, was only half-convinced.  He went on to Nineveh, but his heart was not in it!  He preached, but only out of spite and anger.  He probably enjoyed spouting doom to the residents.  When it was all over God had a few more things prepared for Jonah.  A gourd to give him shelter which made Jonah happy.  Then, there came the worm, that smote the gourd and withered it.  Jonah was left without shelter.  And finally, God sent the vehement east wind to beat upon his head causing him to faith and wish for death.
All of these things were prepared to teach Jonah a lesson about his spiteful attitude and the mercy of God.
The word means appointed or assigned.  God assigned each of these, the fish, gourd, worm and the wind.  They were prepared to teach Jonah a lesson.  God uses a variety of things in our lives as well to teach us lessons.  A great fish might not swallow us up, but we can be swallowed up in debt, poor relationships, or fear.  We might not take comfort in a withered gourd, but we can find ourselves seeking comfort in some rather unusual places and wind up without comfort by misplaced expectations.  And a vehement wind might not be what we literally face, but we can face the proverbial winds of opposition and persecution.

What has God prepared to get your attention?  Are you yielding or stubbornly holding onto your own arrogance and personal prejudice?

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