“[God] didn’t create everything because He was lonely. He created us because He wants us to partake in His eternal joy. I think children need to know this primarily because it is true of God, but also because it helps them know that God made them from an overflowing heart of love.” - Quina Aragon
God is glorified in His mercy. He is also glorified in His judgement of sin. In Jerusalem’s captivity, God reveals Himself as a God who keeps His word (Deuteronomy 28:58-68) and displays justice, holiness, and infinite power.But how can God be both merciful and just? Doesn’t His justice nullify His mercy, and vice versa? When we look at Christmas, we have to say “no.”
Imagine the anxiety when Sennacherib of Assyra shows up in Judah, 8 years after the North's exile, with these words: “Has the god of any nation ever delivered his land from the hand of the king of Assyria?... Have they rescued Samaria from my hand?” (2 Kings 18:33-34). It was true. Samaria had been crushed by Assyria...would that same hand now wreckJudah?
Israel sacrificed her children in fire and used divination and yet claimed to “know” the Lord (Hosea 8:2-3). In what ways does sin deceive our hearts into believing that we are “close to God” when, in reality, we are far from Him? Does God’s patience and willing forgiveness inspire obedient praise or does it expose a presumptuous heart? Let's examine ourselves this Advent season as we wait to greet the Savior with our full and humble submission, gratitude, and love. Amen.
Reading 2 Kings 14 brings to mind Jonah 4:2; there, Jonah calls God gracious and merciful, “slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster.” The description captures God’s hesed or steadfast love. Jonah’s phrasing is seen throughout Scripture but first appears in Exodus 34:6 during God’s covenant renewal with Israel. The Northern Kingdom was called to belong to a patient God who relents from disaster. God’s far-reaching kindness elects to help a rebellious king and his people. In Jonah’s ministry, we can see God’s mercy extended to those who are far and near: wicked Nineveh and wayward Israel are helped. Who then is beyond His grace?
If I, being evil and having no righteousness of my own, know when and how to pray for my wife because I have stood in her place for 36 hours—how much more will the Perfect Man, Jesus of Nazareth intercede effectively on behalf of His Bride, the Church, knowing her struggle for 33 years (Matthew 7:9-11)! We would not have this confidence if it were not for Jesus’ coming to be born of a woman, born under the law “for us men and for our salvation” (Galatians 4:4-5).
The floods have lifted up their voice. But the LORD on high is mightier than the thunders of many waters (Psalm 93:3-4). And He hears prayer.
The God who clothed a despairing Adam and Eve doesn’t change (Genesis 3:21)! That same God justified a filthy high priest named Joshua and He continues to exchange insufficient coverings for a garment of His own making (Zechariah 3:4-5). Those who trust in Him alone for salvation receive a robe made white by the blood of the Lamb (Revelation 7:14). “Naked, I come to Thee for dress; helpless, I look to Thee for grace." I’m so thankful that Jesus, the Rock of Ages, is my all-sufficient covering!
If I had known that the little baby--whose sleeplessness often tested my patience--would grow up to pray for my rest, I would have maintained more joy on those weary nights. But I didn’t know; and there’s been many other moments of impatience and failure as a mom in my daughter’s young life. But love covers over a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8).
As Israel uncovers herself to whore with Baal for the price children and rain, the God of heaven and earth looks and declares: “no birth, no pregnancy, no conception! Even if they bring up children, I will bereave them till none is left. Woe to them when I depart from them (Hosea 9:11-12)! Yet His burning anger in Hosea is graciously weaved with the hope of His salvation. And so He beckons: “Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap steadfast love; break up your fallow ground, for it is the time to seek the LORD, that he may come and rain righteousness upon you” (Hosea 10:12). Like a loving Husband longing for the contrition of His adulterous wife, God, through Hosea, calls His people to return (Hosea 14:1-4).
On August 2, 2008, I stood before God and witnesses and made a vow of love, honor and fidelity to Eric J. Dolce. I was certain of the LORD’s hand in the union. My husband and I marveled as a rainbow appeared over our reception. Indeed, God's promises for us in Christ have been “Yes and Amen” (2 Corinthians 1:20)!
Today marks seven years since that day. The years have passed quickly but my love for my husband has not. In truth, I adore him now more than ever…and here’s why:
Surely, the LORD is good and strong! In His sovereignty, God works through Hannah’s prayers to establish His will for her and Israel. This same God has given us His own Son. What more then will He withhold from us, His children? Our Father in heaven gives good things to those who ask of him (Matthew 7:7-11). So pray Christian, for the sake of His glory and the praise of His grace, pray!
If common experience makes for good friendship, Naomi and Job would have gotten along well. Speaking of the loss of his own health, property and children, Job states: “For the arrows of the Almighty are in me; my spirit drinks their poison; the terrors of God are arrayed against me” (Job 6:4). Naomi and Job knew pain well. And they knew God well, for they attribute their suffering to Him. In short, the two never deny God the honor of His sovereignty amid their pain.
In the days of the judges when everyone did what was right in his own eyes, a Moabite woman does what is right in God’s eyes (Ruth 1:1; Judges 21:25). Ruth reflects God’s own covenant love for His people in choosing to leave her familial home for the saving of another. She turns from father, mother, and country for a people she does not know and finds refuge under the wings of Israel’s God (Ruth 2:11-12).
I wonder as I read: how early did Jochebed rise to prepare her basket? Were her eyes blurry with tears as she worked? Did her lips quiver in whispered prayers as she nursed her child for what may have been the last time? Did her heart pace within her as she set her son in the river? A daubed basket in the Nile was more merciful than the fatal hands of Pharaoh so Jochebed released it, trusting her baby to the water and ultimately to God. In all, she simply didn't want her child to die. It was just that simple.
an you imagine being hated by your own husband? His cold eyes for you transform into longing whenever your sister walks by. What tears those weak eyes must have shed! Surely, Leah was a woman acquainted with many sorrows. Just consider the following: she is treated as an object of deceit by her own father; she endures the rape of a daughter (Genesis 34:1-2) and then the murderous revenge of her sons (Genesis 34:3-25); she bears the shame of her eldest son’s illicit relationship with his father’s concubine (Genesis 35:22); and witnesses the painful death of her sister (Genesis 35:16-19).
As I write, some 3,400 persons have died from the outbreak – leaving families in dismay and children orphaned and stigmatized. Worse still, the virus continues to spread uncontained. The CDC estimates 1.4 million Ebola cases by the end of January! They see no end to the outbreak at present.
Today, I remember the Good Shepherd in light of the persecuted church. As I write, thousands of Iraqi Christians are displaced; threatened by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militants to either abandon home, convert to Islam, or face death. Many roam today as refugees in Mosul without the promise of food or shelter.
In Northern Nigeria, the Islamic militant group, Boko Haram, continues to bomb churches, murder Christians and abduct girls for forced marriages. Christians there are living under the constant threat of death – they are indeed sheep trailing through the valley of the shadow of death!
Hagar flees again in Genesis 21:1-14, —only this time, she is sent away. As she and her son stumble around in the desert, dehydrated and near death, the God of Beer-lahai-roi shows up as living water. The LORD hears the cries of Ishmael and comes down to Hagar in her grief to provide water and life to her and her child (Genesis 21:15-19).
George Whitfield, is credited with the saying: “God loves to do great things by weak instruments that the power may be of God, and not of man.” Sarah’s story is not unique to Scripture. Her narrative, like others, reveals our God. Whether it is a dead womb or a dead spirit given solely to sin, it is God who awakens to life. Salvation is of the Lord; sisters, let us boast all the more gladly of our weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon us (2 Corinthians 12:9)!