Trouble as a Servant

Have you ever rejoiced over your tribulation? Over your troubles? Honestly.

I’ve been reading the prophet Hosea as part of my morning devotions recently, and the hope found in Hosea 2:14-15 is profound, and yet troubling at the same time; we read,

“Therefore, behold, I will allure her, will bring her into the wilderness, and speak comfort to her. I will give her her vineyards from there, and the Valley of Achor as a door of hope; she will sing there, as in the days of her youth, as in the day when she came up from the land of Egypt.”

Several points stand out. The Lord brings his wayward people into the wilderness (from a root meaning order and speech) to speak comfort to her there: out there, not in familiar places. He will restore peace, represented by vineyards, “from there.” Finally, she will sing “there,” as in her youth when she was brought out of Egypt (Ex. 15).

There is a catch. Sorry. The location in the wilderness has a name: the Valley of Achor. I would translate this as: the Valley of Trouble. Again, sorry.

How we understand the “Valley of Trouble” is vital. As the Lord says, “I will give her … the Valley of Achor as a door of hope.” The door of hope, as the Lord speaks, is found in trouble. Yikes!

From this we learn that trouble actually becomes a servant of the Lord; however, it, trouble, only becomes our servant when we keep the Lord front and center in our heart, mind, and life: trouble forces us to focus.

In the Valley of Trouble, the door of hope is set, and it is open when we begin to “sing there, as in the days of her youth.” The Lord is encouraging us to sing in the Valley of Trouble, the door of hope, an is the days of our youth – as when we were first delivered.

From where does this peace come? Paul writes, “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God” (Ro. 5:1-2). Glory to God!

Those in Messiah Yeshua/Jesus are recipients of God’s uncommon grace, and that grace gives us hope in all situations, even in the Valley of Trouble. God promised to give vineyards from the Valley of Trouble, meaning the fruit of peace in the trouble that is the door of hope. It is Yeshua who stands in the midst of our trouble, giving the hope and peace that comforts. Hallelujah!

God will always backup His Word, as His promise (II Cor. 1:20), and He will keep your confidence in His Word. This hope, and word of promise is not, and I repeat, is not based on your performance, but His promise to enter into, and work “all things” together for our good, in order that we be conformed to the image of His Son (Ro. 8:28-29).

Paul’s use of the word “justified” in Romans 5:1 should be a cause of celebration and rejoicing. Simply: in Messiah, when God the Father sees you, he sees you as Jesus Himself. O praise His name!

Do you find yourself in a Valley of Trouble today? Start singing. He brought you to the trouble in order to draw you to, and deeper into His presence. Sing in the trouble, your door is before you, and His name is Yeshua/Jesus.

Be well. Shalom.

The Watched Pot – An Elul Meditation

Perhaps you’ve heard the proverb, “A watched pot never boils.” In a time when people boiled water over a wood fire, bringing water to boil would certainly seem to take forever; especially if you stood, watched, and waited beside the fire.

And this is the heart of the proverb, as you are waiting for, or anticipating something to happen, time seems to move more slowly; yet the thing waited for has more value.

On the traditional Jewish, and Messianic calendar, we have entered the month of Elul. אֱלוּל/Elul comes from a root meaning harvest; yet as an acronym, it teaches something beautiful.

Elul traditionally is a time of preparing for, and anticipating the fall feasts, specifically Rosh Hashanah (New Year) and Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement). Much like the “watched pot,” Elul takes time, yet it develops longing for the calling from, and connection to the Lord. In Messianic faith this season is a dress rehearsal for, and anticipation of the coming of our first love, Yeshua/Jesus, and the final harvest.

In the Song of Songs 6:3, Solomon writes,

אֲנִי לְדוֹדִי וְדוֹדִי לִי

“I am my beloveds, and my beloved is mine” (Song. 6:3).

The rabbis have long recognized אֱלוּל/Elul as an acronym of the above verse, drawing our attention to the heart of the month itself – the beloved.

In Hebrew “beloved” comes from a root picturing a boiling pot: דוד. (Which is also the root of the name David.) This describes a love and relationship between spouses, friends, and family members developed over time, having an intensity of emotion, and longing continued connection.

Time in anticipation for this connection seems to move more slowly, as in the watched pot. Yet when it reaches a boil, and anticipated hope is realized, the relationships have more meaning and value.

With regularity the apostles referred to their readers as “beloved,” as Jude wrote, “But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life” (Jude 1:20-21).

The apostles recognized the maturation of relationship, and it’s value between humans; to include the joy and pain, separation and connection.

As we face the ups and downs of life, and seemingly daily tribulation, this season is meant to refocus us on our first love, as we learn to experience the grace of this relationship. Waiting for His return may seem to be like a watched pot, it will take time, but Scripture reminds us that the boil is worth the wait, as we long to be with Him in the place He has prepared (Jn. 14:2-3), and we experience the beauty of relationship with each other.

As Tom Petty sings, “the waiting is the hardest part.”

Be well. Shalom.

God’s Logger

Under Midianite oppression, the Lord calls a man: a questioning, doubting, fearful man who is the least of his father’s house. From our point of view, not the beginning of a noble leader: but God.

The Lord calls a man to “deliver Israel from the hand of Midian” (Judg. 6:14) who is threshing wheat in a winepress, a vineyard, in order to hide, both himself and his wheat, from the Midianites (Judg. 6:11).

This will be a deliverer of Israel? Yes, as it is the Lord who has called and sent him (Judg. 6:14).

Once convinced that he is dealing with the God of Israel, Gideon dedicates an altar to “the Lord is peace” (Judg. 6:24), Who settles his nerves.

Gideon’s first act concerning Israel’s deliverance finds him realizing his name, as he cuts down the Asherah poles erected in the town (Judg. 6:25-26, 28.)

Gideon/גִּדְעוֹן, logger/feller/warrior, called to cut down, in order to build up. Joash didn’t name Gideon, the Lord did; and in His timing, Gideon stepped out from the vineyard, and became God’s logger, God’s warrior. Gideon cut down, the Lord built up.

Under the cover of darkness, in trepidation (Judg. 6:27), Gideon broke and cut down idolatrous images. Still uncertain as to his calling, he takes small, yet impactful steps toward Israel’s deliverance; as the Word says, “For who has despised the day of small things? For these seven rejoice to see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel. They are the eyes of the LORD, Which scan to and fro throughout the whole earth” (Zach. 4:10).

The plumb line that the Lord rejoices over ensured the walls of the Temple were plumb and true. It seems a “small thing,” yet from this small thing beauty comes, and ultimately His glory entered (Mal. 3:1).

God called Gideon where He found him – hiding in a vineyard. From a place of fear, Gideon would become a hero of faith when his life and God’s call met. Gideon received a revelation of God’s sufficient grace (Judg. 6:16), and slowly walked into his calling to deliver Israel. A high calling indeed, with a very humble beginning.

Where are you? In a winepress, in a vineyard threshing wheat? It may seem that your present circumstance is the final verdict, but as we learn from Gideon’s life, when hiding, attempting to survive unnoticed, surrounded by enemies, the Lord’s call overcame every obstacle, and enabled by His Spirit, Gideon overcame, not just his own circumstance, but the suffering of many.

Do not despise the day of small things, as it leads to the Lord Himself, and as Paul encourages, “put on Yeshua/Jesus” (Ro. 13:14), and having done all “stand” (Eph. 6:14).

Be well. Shalom.

The Chef and His Ingredients

Romans 8:28 is a verse I return to often, and I would not be surprised if you do as well, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”

Remember to put flesh and blood on the authors and persons found in Scripture. Paul wrote these words, and he is looking back at all that has unfolded in his life to make this statement of faith. This isn’t philosophy, and it isn’t theory, it’s faith that Paul is articulating.

I often marvel at my wife’s ability to prepare food. She can take a handful of ingredients and work together something marvelous. Not surprisingly, given the same time and ingredients, I would not be able to do so.

It is a skill to know just how to work ingredients together and make something edible; even more, it is a gift to make it delightful. I am blessed.

Paul is looking back at his missionary trips to Philippi, to Thessalonica, to Athens, to Corinth, a shipwreck, snake bite, beatings, stonings, mobs, rejections, and insults. He reflects and writes, “And we know that God worketh all things together …”

Paul did not say “we think,” or “I’m hopeful that,” or “He does some things,” or even “most things.” No, “all things.” The Greek is exact.

Like the Potter working the clay, the Lord takes the ingredients of life, and works, or mixes, them all together for our good.

Still, this is a restricted promise that does not work until the calling, and an affirmative response to the voice of the One calling. In the ecclesia of Messiah, the called out ones, they are, as Paul writes, “called to be saints” (I Cor. 1:2).

A “saint” is not a perfect looking person, perfect in all ways. No, they are set-apart to God, committed to Him, who are given over to the working of His grace in their lives. He then works the ingredients in the pot, all the troubles and trial, before and after salvation, “according to His purpose.”

The “all things” that once had a say in your life are now silent in the hands of the Chef. They are powerless to give their opinion, as they are now subject to the will of the One working them all together according to His purpose.

The conclusion of the process is found in Romans 8:29. As I have oft said, Romans 8:28 is only understood when read in light of Romans 8:29, as the Lord is conforming us to the image of His Son, in whom we are called.

So all of the circumstances, past and present, that seem to derail you, in His hand will be worked only for His glory, and your good. Given the same ingredients and time, you and I could not cook up a better dish, as we would leave out those moments of the deepest flavor, or more accurately, pain.

I want to give you hope today, as He is working all things, it may seem that someone is trying to over season the pot, but as Paul concludes, “If God is for us, who can be against us” (Ro. 8:31)? He will work it out.

Be well. Shalom.

“Let them say …”

Psalm 118 is a personal favorite. It’s beauty, simplicity, and expression of deep faith when “things” are not going “right” inspires in the midst of uncertainty. Maybe you can relate?

The psalm opens with a call to “give thanks to the Lord for He is good, His mercy endures forever.” Then the author calls Israel, the sons of Aaron, and all who fear the Lord to give thanks for His enduring mercy.

Put your name in there to, “Let ______ say, ‘His mercy endures forever.” Personalize it, especially when you are encompassed by troubles. Speak the promise of His enduring mercy.

When dangers cause stumbling, when it seems correction is too great to bear, His mercy endures, bringing stability and rejoicing, take that personally.

When trials press in, we rejoice together, because the right hand of God has delivered us in order to declare His wondrous works. The years of wandering and trials will cease, and we will enter the gates of righteousness with praise.

Personalize it. Personalize the rejected Stone Who is now the cornerstone, Yeshua/Jesus, as He goes before you this day, what is made will be measured according to His righteousness, and will conclude in His will, perfectly.

“This is the day the Lord has made, we will rejoice and be glad in it” (Ps. 118:24) is not a declaration of excitement when all is well, but a cry of victory over the present circumstance because of the One who orders our steps.

Rejoice now, when rejoicing is the furthest thing from your mind, and the hope on the horizon will be manifest in the present.

“Let ______ say, ‘His mercy endures forever,” that’s you and me as well.

Be well. Shalom.