Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Week Thirty-Nine - Stay

“Woe to them that go down to Egypt for help and stay on horses, and trust in chariots, because they are many: and in horsemen, because they are very strong; but they look not unto the Holy One of Israel, neither seek the LORD!”  Isaiah 31:1 
Biblically speaking, Egypt is a type of the world.  After having come out of Egyptian bondage, the Israelites seemed to always consider the place a refuge when things got rough.  They would go there during a famine.  They would turn to Egypt for military might.  They seemed to be always longing for the leeks and garlic that reminded them of their 400 years of servitude in Egypt.  It is amazing how often the Lord warns them about their fascination and reliance upon Egypt.
They had soon forgotten that the God who delivered them from bondage had left the horses, horsemen and chariots at the bottom of the Red Sea.  How sad that they could not maintain a reliance upon the God who fed them in the wilderness for forty years and gave them victory in battle with only shouts and ram’s horns.
Over and over their fickle devotion and double-mindedness landed them in dire straights.  Each time God showed up to prove His love and mighty power to deliver.  But the cycle continued, and it continues today.
To “stay” upon horses means to lean upon or rely.  Israel leaned upon and relied upon the power of men and animals.  They failed to transfer their confidence and trust over to God.  They wanted to hear the sounds of horses’ hooves.  They wanted something they could see, not something supernatural.
I’m afraid so many today are the same.  We see the world in great turmoil and we start checking to see who has the biggest tanks and the most technological weaponry.  We think a bigger hammer will fix things.  All the while we have a God that is able with only a spoken word to alter the course of nature.  He is the one we should be leaning upon and relying in.  Only He can be trusted to truly deliver.
Who are you trusting?  Where is your security?  Who are you leaning upon?

 “Who among you that feareth the LORD, that obeyeth the voice of his servant, that walketh in darkness, and hath no light?  Let him trust in the name of the LORD and stay upon his God.”  Isaiah 50:10
You would think that one who feared the Lord and obeyed His voice would expect to have light.  After all, Jesus said, in John 8:12, “…he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.”
Matthew Henry explains, “It is no new thing for the children and heirs of light sometimes to walk in darkness, and for a time not to have any glimpse or gleam of light.  He that is thus in the dark, Let him trust in the name of the Lord, in the goodness of his nature, his wisdom, power, and goodness.  The name of the Lord is a strong tower.  If he walk before God, which a man may do though he walk in the dark, he shall find God all-sufficient to him.  Let him keep hold of his covenant-relation to God, and call God his God, as Christ on the cross, My God, My God.”
To stay means to lean upon or rely in.  It reminds me of the verse repeated in the Psalms 42 and 43 “…why art thou cast down…why art thou disquieted…hope thou in God, for I shall yet praise him…”   I can rely on the Lord in times when I am down and feeling alone.
When we find ourselves confused, when God seems silent and the heavens seem closed to our prayers, we are in good company.  For then is the time when we can wholly rely upon God.  We can learn to lean upon Him because all our natural resources are gone.  All our self-reliance and conniving must cease.  God wants our attention.  It’s like test.  You have been preparing – studying – by fearing and obeying Him, now; He is going to see just how much you really took in.  Do you believe that He will never forsake you?  Do you believe that He is all-knowing, all-powerful and ever present?  Do you believe that He has everything under control and is working His will in your life?  Will you continue to walk by faith – even in the dark?
Jesus faced this same test on the cross.  He cried, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”  He experienced the silence of heaven, the darkness, and yet he knew God was still there.  He knew resurrection day was coming.
We, too, experience these times.  But we needn’t let them defeat us.  We need to stay upon God – to believe that He is still there and will carry us through to victory.  Do you trust him?  Even in the dark?

 “They prevented me in the day of my calamity: but the LORD was my stay.”
 II Samuel 22:19 & Psalm 18:18
The first phrase speaks of “they”.  They are the enemies, the trials, and the difficulties we face.  The verse comes from the song of David in II Samuel as he recounts the mercies of God in his life.  Hiding in caves, being chased by warriors, having to face peril and opposition were some of the calamities that David faced.  But in them all, he says, “…the LORD was my stay.”  Here the word means – support.
Paul was another servant of the Lord who faced calamity.  He records in II Tim 4:17 – “…the Lord stood with me and strengthened me…”  And again in Acts 23:11 - …the Lord stood by him and said, Be of good cheer, Paul…”  Though the word stood and stay do not have the same exact definition, they are both indicative of the fact that God was the means of support.  He was the one who strengthened them in trials and oppositions.  He was the one who gave them the ultimate victory.
It is important to note that the word prevented means to meet, come or be in front, to confront.  They could see the enemy.  They were faced with opposition.  But, the Lord was the support.  In the midst of trials, God was there to hold them up, to keep them from sinking under the weight of the trial.  In due time, God would deliver.  He always does.  But in the middle of the calamity, He is there sustaining and bearing them up.  To have that confident faith is necessary as we face trials. 
Psalm 27:13 says, “I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living.”  Our knowledge of the presence of God in the midst of trials is a source of strength.  We can know that God is there and that He will support us – he will bear us up.  He will be the “…lifter up of mine head.”  Psalm 3:3
Are you facing enemies?  Is there opposition in front of you?  Remember God is there too – lean upon Him.  Let Him be your support.  He will be your stay.

 “Then I said, I will not make mention of him, nor speak any more in his name.  But his word was in mine heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I was weary with forbearing, and I could not stay.”  Jeremiah 20:9  
The word stay can be interpreted to mean contain or to prevail.  Those words do not seem to be related, but when we take time to have a look at Jeremiah we might see that both definitions are adequate to convey the meaning.
Jeremiah, the weeping prophet, endured many trials.  Meyer records that Nineveh had fallen and though there was relief, there was also foreboding as to who would rise to take leadership.  Egypt was at the zenith of her power and corruption was throughout the whole land.  Jeremiah and a handful of faithful followers strived to remain true and strived to resist the downward progress of the people.  This resulted in ever-growing opposition and persecution.  He was faced with the temptation to give up the struggle, to move out of the public light.  He was tired of the battle.
Meyer explains,  “Not dissimilar have been the appeals of God’s servants in every age, when they have measured their weakness against the strength of the evils they have combated, and have marked their limited success: the handfuls of seed wasted upon barren soil; the word spoken in the ear of the wind; the futility of opposing an Ahab or a Jezebel; the ingratitude of those whom they would have gladly saved.  They have been disposed to cry, with the greatest of the prophets, “It is enough, let me die!”   Thus is the cry of Jeremiah.  He wants to just walk off the scene.  But he could not.  He could not contain God’s Word.  It must prevail.
There was a fire in his bosom.  He could see the “multitudes rushing to destruction”.  He “heard the boast of the blasphemer, the taunt of the infidel, the cry of the oppressed, the ribald mirth of the profane, the desecration of all that is holiest and best in man; to think of the grief caused to the Spirit of God, the dishonor done to Him; to anticipate the outer darkness, the undying worm, the bottomless pit…” Surely these burned within him.  “…to restrain...was a weariness, to stay from obeying…was a sin.”  He simply had to speak God’s Word.  No matter how weak and worthless he felt – those were only feelings.  The fact of the matter was there was a God in Heaven and Jeremiah was under His command.  God was with him.  God would be his strength and defense.  With God, Jeremiah was invincible.
That desire to “throw in the towel” is not uncommon.  But if the fire of the Holy Spirit burns within us, He will give us sufficient strength to stay in the battle.  Paul said, “…woe be unto me if I preach not the gospel…”
Take heart, dear Christian friend!  God will be your strength.  Preach on!  Let God prevail.

 “And all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and he doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou?”  Daniel 4:35
This verse forms part of Nebuchadnezzar’s return to sanity.  After he had spent time as an animal living among the beast of the field and eating grass like a cow, he declares that the God of Daniel is the real God.  He recognizes God’s omnipotence and superior authority.  “…none can stay his hand…” means that no one can hold God back or prevent Him from doing what He desires.  No one has the position to question God’s dealings or decisions.
It is interesting to note that the word “stay” comes from the idea of smacking a child on the hand, like when they are about to do wrong in order to restrain them.  The truth that comes to us from this word is that “no one has the power to keep back the hand of God when it is put forth to accomplish the purposes which he intends to execute: that is, he will certainly accomplish his own pleasure.”  (Barnes)
Another wonderful fact is that while God has all right to do His will, He will always do right.  He is always perfect in what He chooses to do.  We can have security knowing that all will be done exactly as it should because his will is founded on the perfection of his nature.  That is enough for us to place our trust in Him.  Our responsibility then is to humbly submit to his authority and will with a solid conviction that whatever God does, though we might not fully understand now, will be the right thing in the end.
I’m sure Nebuchadnezzar did not think that such a radical change of position was a good idea, but it proved to be exactly what he needed to remove the pride that was in his heart.
Has God placed you in some really odd places?  Have you faced trials that seemed to be out of proportion?  Have you questioned God’s wisdom?  Better to agree with Nebuchadnezzar and submit to an all-knowing and powerful God than to even attempt staying His hand.
“Now I Nebuchadnezzar praise and extol and honour the King of heaven, all whose works are truth, and his ways judgment: and those that walk in pride he is able to abase.”  Daniel 4:37

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