Wednesday, November 26, 2014

TOTAL DEPENDENCE

“For the Lord thy God bringeth thee into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and depths that spring out of valleys and hills . . . a land wherein thou shalt eat bread without scarceness, thou shalt not lack any thing in it. . . . Beware that thou forget not the Lord thy God . . . lest when thou hast eaten and art full, and hast built goodly houses . . . and when thy herds and thy flocks multiply, and thy silver and thy gold is multiplied . . . then thine heart be lifted up, and thou forget the Lord thy God, which brought thee forth out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage . . . and thou say in thine heart, My power and the might of mine hand hath gotten me this wealth” (Deuteronomy 8:7-14, 17)).

The Lord is speaking here not only to Israel but to us today. The purpose of their test in the wilderness was never in doubt: it was “that he might humble thee, and that he might prove thee, to do thee good at thy latter end” (Deuteronomy 8:16). He had to teach Israel how to handle all the goodness He was about to pour out upon them. And God will test us the same way He did them.

You see, although the children of Israel were blood-secured and delivered, supernaturally guided and the object of God’s love and miracle-working power, they lacked one thing: They were not dependent upon God!

The blood can cover your sins, but it does not make you dependent on Him. Miracles can deliver you from Satan’s power, but they can’t make you dependent. You can be led by God and still not lean wholly upon the Lord.

God has to strip us of all self-assurance and destroy all that remains of self-righteousness, spiritual pride and boasting. He must (and He does) humiliate all who are destined to inherit His great spiritual blessings.

He will take a Saul of Tarsus—self-assured, self-righteous, consumed with a knowledge of the Scriptures, full of God’s zeal, ready to die for Jehovah—and strike him blind! Saul had to be humiliated before the world, led around like a child and waiting helplessly for days, until God moved. He was humiliated to a point of total dependence!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

THE TEST

The children of Israel were absolutely helpless—fathers, mothers, princes, leaders—all with no place to turn. There were no pack camels loaded with supplies. No dried fruits, dried fish, bread, figs, dates, raisins or nuts. No doubt they had seen Pharaoh’s supply train swept away: huge canvases loaded with food, floating along on the Red Sea! Their logic must have been: “God knew the very day and hour we would leave Egypt. Moses talks with God, so why didn’t he tell us to bring a six-months supply of food? Even the gods of Egypt treat their soldiers better. Why were we told to borrow all this gold, silver and jewelry? We can’t eat this stuff; it's worthless out here!”

There was not a blade of grass in sight—no animals to hunt, no fruit trees, no foreigners to trade with. They could not have gone back to Egypt even if they had wanted to because the Red Sea was blocking their retreat! And if they could have gotten around the sea, the Egyptians would have blocked their return with every stick and stone in Egypt, having had their fill of plagues.

So now there was nothing but a howling, foreboding desert ahead. The children were crying and wives were wringing their hands. Every father and husband was helpless and humiliated. They all gathered around Moses and complained: “Ye have brought us forth into this wilderness, to kill this whole assembly with hunger” (Exodus 16:3).

This was a humiliation for Israel and it is a lesson for us today. “These things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted. . . . They are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come” (1 Corinthians 10:6, 11).

God brought Israel to a place of total humiliation.

The Israelites’ test was not about having courage to face powerful enemies, because God had already pledged to fight their battles for them. It was about the blessings for which they were unprepared: good houses, vats full of wine, rivers of milk, an abundance of honey, wheat and cattle—not to mention all kinds of spiritual blessings.

“He humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna . . . that he might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord doth man live” (Deuteronomy 8:3).

Monday, November 24, 2014

THE MEASURE OF FAITH by Gary Wilkerson

The gospels make clear that whatever measure of faith we receive is up to us.

“The next day there was a wedding celebration in the village of Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, and Jesus and his disciples were also invited to the celebration. The wine supply ran out during the festivities, so Jesus’ mother told him, ‘They have no more wine’” (John 2:1-3, NLT).

Have you ever run out of anything? Perhaps patience for your rebellious child? Hope for your marriage? At this wedding in Cana, Jesus’ mother, Mary, saw that the celebration had run out of wine. So she went to Jesus and said, “Do something.”

Jesus replied, “My time has not yet come” (2:4). Mary could have accepted her Son’s reply as a firm edict: “Well, it has been sovereignly declared from heaven that wine won’t be multiplied at this wedding.” Instead, she acted like a good Jewish mother or any other kind of mom, for that matter—and ignored her son’s response. “His mother told the servants, ‘Do whatever he tells you’” (2:5).

Theologically, I am very big on the sovereignty of God. I believe nothing happens unless He decrees it. But sometimes God’s sovereign decree is, “I’m leaving this up to you.” The clear impression from this passage is that Jesus was not going to act on Mary’s request. He even had a solid theological reason for it: “My time has not yet come,” meaning, God hadn’t yet announced His public ministry.

But Mary could not wait on the calendar of heaven. She needed God to move immediately—and so the calendar moved! “Jesus told the servants, ‘Fill the jars with water.’ When the jars had been filled, he said, ‘Now dip some out, and take it to the master of ceremonies.’ . . . When the master of ceremonies tasted the water that was now wine, not knowing where it had come from . . . he called the bridegroom over. ‘A host always serves the best wine first,’ he said. ‘Then, when everyone has had a lot to drink, he brings out the less expensive wine. But you have kept the best until now’” (2:7-10). This was not just “replacement” wine. It was the very best!

A miracle occurred, surpassing even Mary’s expectations. Yet things could have been very different. She might have been discouraged by Jesus’ response. She might have accepted His words at face value, agreeing, “I guess it’s not the right time.” Instead, she made a withdrawal of faith from the heavenly bank when she hadn’t even made a deposit yet.