How Can We Ensure that God is On Our Side; And How Can We Invite Him to Oppose Us? #233
Happy Lord’s Day, Dear friends! The days are rushing by, 2020 is still behaving awfully, and God is yet on His throne and directing the affairs of the world – blessed be the name of the Lord. I’d love to invite you to join us for our outdoor worship time THIS SUNDAY at 11am – it will be streamed live on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/VBCsalinas/
Today, we are taking a radical diversion away from our normal format – just for today. I see an interesting theme connecting all of our Old Testament passages, and I think we should explore that theme together, with a little bit of commentary tying together each passage, and ending in a place of Gospel triumph in Romans 6. In 1 Samuel 7 and 8, we will read about how God led the Israelites into a tremendous victory over the Philistines, (and how Israel quickly forgot His wonderful rescue) In Jeremiah 44, we will see the Judeans willfully reject God’s Word and God Himself, turning to other gods…and we will see the defeat and punishment that comes from such behavior. In Psalms 20-21, we will see great victory promised for those who trust in God’s salvation rather than human power. Finally, in Romans, we will see the victory of God won through Christ and how that sets us free from the repeated cycle of sin, judgement, punishment, tears, and deliverance we see over and over again in the Old Testament.
Let’s begin with 1st Samuel 7 and 8
If only we could just read chapter 7 today – that would leave a much better taste in our mouth. In chapter 7, we see the cycle of the Judges repeated again. The Israelites have turned away from God and trusted things the Ark of the Covenant to rescue them, rather than God Himself. Happily, however, they come to the prophet/judge/priest Samuel and repent of this and ask him to intercede on their behalf. As they are repenting a mighty Philistine army closes in, promising swift and certain destruction. We’ve had situations happen like this before, haven’t we? We are, at last, doing the right and God-pleasing thing, and all of the sudden – instead of rainbows and unicorns and pots of gold…disaster strikes! And yet God rescues completely the Israelites here, teaching them that the key to victory lies in their faith in God and their turning to Him wholeheartedly. Unfortunately, like us sometimes – they don’t fully learn their lesson and turn right back to trusting in human power, demanding that Samuel turn their theocracy into a monarchy, like all of the other cool nations around them. Samuel protests, but the people insists, and God lets it happen. Alarmingly, there are times when God gives us over to the desires of our heart when we repeatedly ignore His commands and His presence. We see this clearly and terrifyingly illustrated in Jeremiah 44, let’s read it now:
Ugh – that’s not an easy chapter to read. Here the declaration of the Lord, “As the Lord God lives.” I am watching over them for disaster and not for good” (Jeremiah 44:26-27) Many religious people assume the Lord will always be with them and bring them victory over every adversary, but that is simply not at all true. Victory comes when we wholeheartedly trust in the Lord and obey His commands; conversely, disaster and opposition comes when we utterly reject the Word of the Lord and trust in other things to save us, like Egypt, or the Ark of the Covenant, or anything else. Psalms 20, however is going to show us an amazing key to being on God’s side, . Let’s read it!
What a powerful challenge and truth in Psalms 20:
7 Some trust in chariots and some in horses,
but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.
8 They collapse and fall,
but we rise and stand upright.
Perhaps this passage was in King Hezekiah’s mind when he rallied the Israelites as the massive army of Sennacherib was bearing down on them:
7 “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or dismayed before the king of Assyria and all the horde that is with him, for there are more with us than with him. 8 With him is an arm of flesh, but with us is the Lord our God, to help us and to fight our battles.” And the people took confidence from the words of Hezekiah king of Judah.
2 Chronicles 32:7-8
Our takeaway here is to #1 avoid putting confidence and trust in things that aren’t God and #2 trust in God for rescue and deliverance. Some might be saying, ‘duh,’ but I honestly find that, at least in my life, I need to remind myself of this truth just about multiple times a day. It is just as tempting today to trust in the arm of the flesh – money, power, technology, medicine, intelligence, human giftedness, etc – to save us, rather than first and foremost trusting in God’s salvation. (Disclaimer!)
Finally, let’s read and close with the good news from Romans 6. Two amazing contrasts in Romans 6 – the contrast between being slave and free and the contrast between being alive and dead. Interestingly, God’s salvation does not involve utter freedom from slavery – instead, we move from being slaves to sin to becoming slaves to God – infinitely better for us. Also, being saved from death doesn’t involve never experiencing death – the only way to have eternal life in Jesus and in Heaven is to DIE WITH HIM.
8 Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him, 9 because we know that Christ, having been raised from the dead, will not die again. Death no longer rules over him. 10 For the death he died, he died to sin once for all time; but the life he lives, he lives to God. 11 So, you too consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
22 But now, since you have been set free from sin and have become enslaved to God, you have your fruit, which results in sanctification—and the outcome is eternal life!
Romans 6:8-11 and 22
So, there it is: How to walk in victory and be on the Lord’s side: We must die to sin and die with Christ, thus guaranteeing that we will be raised to life with Him, and to walk in freedom, we must be enslaved to the great God of love and liberty – finding that being a slave to God is infinitely better than being a freedman apart from God.
Ponder these truths, my dear brothers and sisters, and may we be the victors through the ultimate Victory of Christ!