Who Prayed for the Impossible? Someone.

The apostle Paul is not introduced in the New Testament history in a very flattering way. In Acts 8:1, he is giving agreement to the stoning death of Stephen, the first martyr. of messianic faith. Then, Paul takes center stage once again, as he makes his way to Damascus to arrest and bring back to Jerusalem Jewish disciples of “the way” (G-τῆς ὁδοῦ, H-הדרך).

Luke, the author of Acts, makes a rather interesting statement in Acts 9:1, “Paul, still breathing threats and murder against…” By writing “still breathing threats,” Luke is indicating that Paul’s mission of hunting down Jewish disciples of Messiah went on for a lengthy period, his anger at this Jewish movement, then called “the way,” had not cooled.

Still, as I read the conversion of Paul (Acts 9:1-9), I cannot help but what was happening in the background.

The Book of Acts is careful to record that the early messianic community was a prayerful community, often praying for hours, praying and believing that God would answer them. Praying, perhaps with the words of Yeshua/Jesus in mind, “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes” (Mk. 9:23). Paul posed a significant threat to this community, and for some, he was an obstacle to faith. Yet, I cannot help but think that some Jewish believers would have applied the words of Messiah to Paul, “pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you” (Matt. 5:44).

Nevertheless, to pray for Paul, a man so committed to wickedness, that God would save him probably seemed impossible . Still, I believe someone prayed for this, and, as we know, that prayer was answered.

There are times when we are part of a prayer group, and in a moment of weakness, react negatively to what is being prayed for: perhaps it seems impossible, perhaps we can’t see any way that it could be fulfilled; but, that’s what faith is for: to believe God, even for what seems impossible to us.

Dear reader, the Jewish disciples that Paul was pursuing had no recourse but to pray fervently to the Lord for relief regarding him. They could not go to the authorities, they could not attack Paul directly; but they could pray believing for what seemed impossible.

Many of us are facing things that seem impossible, but in faith, God makes everything probable. Someone or many someones prayed for Paul, the persecutor of messianic faith, who has been, for the last 2000 years its most prominent voice. Glory to God, prayer does wondrous things.

Maybe the Lord will use you to pray for the impossible. Perhaps He is prompting someone to pray for your impossible right now.

Be well. Shalom.

Mountain Mover

“And when they came to the crowd, a man came up to him and, kneeling before him, said, “Lord, have mercy on my son, for he has seizures and he suffers terribly. For often he falls into the fire, and often into the water. And I brought him to your disciples, and they could not heal him.” And Jesus answered, “O faithless and twisted generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him here to me.” And Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him, and the boy was healed instantly. Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not cast it out?” He said to them, “Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you” (Matt. 17:14-20).

In this very well-known scene in the Apostolic Scriptures, a father brings his epileptic son to Yeshua’s disciples to be healed, but when they were unable to heal the boy, he was brought to Yeshua Himself.

Once the father and son depart, the disciple’s wonder, as to why, they were unable to cast the demon causing the seizures out of the boy. Yeshua answers, “Because of your unbelief; for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.”

Jesus is not literally speaking about moving mountains, rather, those metaphorical mountains: the great seemingly unmovable difficulties that we all face in this life. In our text, the boy’s father faced the mountain of his sick son, which caused great distress to his heart. The disciples faced the mountain of doubt from being unable to help the boy.

So how is the mountain moved? After all, Yeshua said the mountain would be moved. First, it is moved by a faith that causes us to pray. Second, by a faith that watches for it to be moved: either by God, or by what He provides.

As an example, several years ago I heard the testimony of a church that needed to move a mountain, actually a large dirt hill behind their building, to make room for an expanded parking lot and recreation facility. The pastor organized a special prayer time dedicated to moving that mountain by faith, and people prayed earnestly for several hours; as you might imagine, the next morning the mountain was still there. That afternoon, however, a representative from the department of transportation visited the church office explaining that the state needed the tons of fill contained in the church “hill” for a road expansion project: the mountain quickly began to move.

Dear reader, there are times when the Lord immediately answers the prayers of His people in the most dramatic and supernatural of ways, but there are also times when He provides the shovel to get the job done.

There are times when we pray for healing, and He provides the medical specialist. There are times when we need to have our personal finances improved, and He provides the job. There are times when we need love, and He provides a friend. There are limitless ways that the Lord can and will answer the earnest prayers of His people; but we must be willing to look and see how He is answering.

This faith is בטחון/bitachon, a simple unwavering confidence in the covenant Lord. Bitachon is the “refuge,” the surety and confidence we walk in on a daily basis, directing us to the agent of faith, Messiah Himself, in all circumstances (Heb. 12:2).

May you be blessed when you see His provision in your lives, and the shovels moving the seemingly immovable mountains.

Be well. Shalom.

The Camel Test

Abraham sends his servant Eliezer (אֱלִיעֶזֶר/help of God) to find a wife for his beloved son Isaac from along his family, “you will not take a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I dwell, but will go to my country and to my kindred, and take a wife for my son Isaac” (Gen. 24:3-4).

Eliezer arrives in Nahor with ten camels, and others treasures in tow as a sign of Abraham’s wealth. He settles by the city well, and formulates a plan: “Let the young woman to whom I shall say, ‘Please let down your jar that I may drink,’ and who shall say, ‘Drink, and I will water your camels’—let her be the one whom you have appointed for your servant Isaac. By this I shall know that you have shown steadfast love to my master” (Gen. 24:14).

She must offer water to both Eliezer and his ten camels? An extraordinary test for an extraordinary mission. This young woman, Rebecca, would draw roughly 100 gallons of water for the camels, in addition to the water draw for her regular chores. This was a test of kindness.

Abraham is known for his faith, see Genesis 15:6 or Romans 4; yet, he is also recognized for his kindness: חֶסֶד/ḥeseḏ. This Hebrew word is difficult to convey in English. It describes so much with so little. Rabbi Dr. Jonathan Sacks defines hesed this way, “What is hessed? It is usually translated as ‘kindness’ but it also means ‘love’ – not love as emotion or passion, but love expressed as deed. Theologians define hessed as covenant love … Hessed is the love that is loyalty, and the loyalty that is love.” Sacks further explains that while tzedakah (charity) can be a gift or a loan of money, hessed is a gift of ourselves to the human other.

Hesed – kindness, loyalty, love – is a powerful, albeit simple word. In the Hebrew Scriptures it describes the covenant relationship of the Lord with Israel, and ultimately, how our human relationships are to be modeled in action.

The cultivation of kindness (חֶסֶד) begins in the home, with children observing the kindness displayed by their familial influences. From generation to generation, לדור ודור/le’dor va’dor, the kindness shown to neighbors develops in the context of family.

Abraham is said to have been an initiator of kindness. In other words, he did not wait to act in a kind manner, he was looking for the occasion to do so. We find this trait in Rebecca, as she initiated the kindness shown to Eliezer’s camels: “When she had finished giving him a drink, she said, “I will draw water for your camels also, until they have finished drinking” (Gen. 24:19).

It is important to note that Rebecca was not a peasant girl. She was from a family of position and social standing. In this we discover the heart of kindness: to bend or reach down. She reached down and showed kindness to Eliezer, by giving him water, and to the camels, by drawing water for them. The test of the camels designed by Eliezer was a test of kindness. Certainly in Eliezer’s mind a bride of Isaac would have to possess the qualities of the house of Abraham. She did.

The lesson we learn from Rebecca is simple, yet, as always, difficult. She challenges us to walk out the covenant commitment of kindness. To walk in a manner that is selfless, and attuned to the need of the wider community around us. From the Word, “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Mic. 6:8). As Yeshua/Jesus expressed it: “Therefore, do unto others as you would have them do unto you: for this is the law and the prophets” (Matt. 7:12).

The name Rebecca (רִבְקָה/riḇqâ) means to ensnare. Yet, when used for a girls name, it implies to ensnare with beauty. It was not Rebecca’s outward beauty that caught Eliezer’s attention, but the beauty of her kindness. We, dear friends, can look beautiful, righteousness, perfect on the outside, but inward be filled with dead men’s bones (Matt. 23:27). This moment in Rebecca’s life demonstrates that the outer appearance is secondary to the inner beauty that reaches out and blesses those in their moment of weakness and vulnerability.

Those born-again, now drawn close to the Living God in Messiah Yeshua by the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, shine out the quality of kindness exampled in the House of God. As He reached down to us, filling and refreshing us, we reach out to those around us in like manner. Let us imitate this (Eph. 5:1), to the glory of our Father, not ensnaring by an outer appearance of righteousness, but catching people up in His kindness that refreshes them in an exhausting world.

As Peter writes: “But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control [a]perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (II Pet. 1:5-8).

As a Bride preparing, His fruit will come forth, and in the watering we will be caught up in Him, by His kindness.

Be well. Shalom.