So it was, when the days of feasting had run their course, that Job would send and sanctify them, and he would rise early in the morning and offer burnt offerings according to the number of them all. For Job said, “It may be that my sons have sinned and cursed God in their hearts.” Thus Job did regularly. – Job 1:5 (NKJV)
In the previous blog, I mentioned that the word ‘barak’ was translated as ‘curse’ in four verses in the Book of Job. The first instances is in Job 1:5, when Job said that probably his sons had sinned and cursed God in their hearts. The literal translation must read as: “Perhaps my sons have sinned, yet blessed God in their hearts” (YLT). So how do we understand that?
First let us see why the translators changed the meaning of ‘barak’ from blessing to curse, based on the context. Since Job was worried about his sons committing sins while being drunk, we won’t imagine that the sin would involve blessing God. Most of the drunkards curse God, or take the Lord’s Name in vain. So, changing the meaning of ‘barak’ from blessing to curse fits into our simple understanding of sin.
Simple understanding of sin is quite ‘simple, it is white and black in nature. This is sin, this is not. So, we group curse with sin, because both are dark in nature. We won’t group blessing with sin, because they are polar opposites. But, true Christians, who have battled with sin, like Apostle Paul writes about in Romans chapter 7, would know that sin is not that easy to define. It is not a simple – “they were drunk, they had sinned, therefore they would have surely cursed God”.
Sin makes people stupid. It blinds their eyes. Now, let us read the Young’s Literal Translation again.
“Perhaps my sons have sinned, yet blessed God in their hearts.”
Can we bless God while sinning? Can we give thanks to God, while doing something unholy? Unfortunately, the answer is yes. In my Christian life, I have seen three types of people thanking God while sinning.
1. The flippant ones: I have seen some rich kids, who are Church-goers, brought up in good Christian family, getting wasted on one of those days, spending so much money on sin, and say, “Thank God, my old man is loaded.” Did they really thank God? No. But deep in sin, in a flippant manner, they thank God for giving their parents so much money.
2. The guilty ones: This is the majority crowd. I have seen young believers thanking God so profusely, if we don’t know why they were thanking God, we would be easily deceived. I have spoken with some of them, and have found that they were leading a double life. They have committed sin knowingly and all the time, they have been praying, “Lord, please let no one know about this sin. Please. If You have to punish, You punish me. But, let no one else find out.” And when they are not caught red-handed in their sins, they actually thanked God for the ‘mercy’ He has shown them. I mean, they sincerely pray to God while sinning, and thank God for His mercies. It took me a while to make them understand that sin is an abomination to God and instead of asking Him to cover your sins, next time pray that you do not sin.
3. The ones with no chance: Many years back, I had this Christian friend who used to visit me during weekends and we would go to the Church together. One weekend, he was a no-show. But when I came back from the church, there he was, with a guilt-ridden face. I found out that he had a sexual encounter with a woman he did not even know, and hence did not feel like coming to the church. When I heard this, I just asked, “What were you thinking?” And he blurted out his answer and it sort of stunned me. His answer was, “I guess, I was really thanking God for this.” He was sincere in his response and when I probed further, he explained. He was from a strict Christian family, where even looking at a TV ad was considered a deadly sin. Because of his upbringing, he had trouble talking with girls, and hence had no friends from the opposite sex. Boys also had avoided him, because he was considered “a walking woman repellent”. So, he was very sure that he was never going to marry and that he would be die as a virgin. So, when he got a chance, though he knew it was a sin, he was grateful that God had given him a chance after all. He was genuine in his thanksgiving.
Now, I know it is stupid. Blessing God for a chance given to sin. But, sin makes us stupid. It makes us to do stupid things. I had seen people doing stupid things because of sin, was astonished how could they be that stupid, and then went and did those very stupid things because I had fallen in sin. Is it hypocritical? Yes, it definitely is. Is it inappropriate? Without any question. Yet, people keep doing that, because sin makes us hypocritical and stupid.
Now stop and think about Job’s sons. They had everything to live a luxurious life; yet, the Bible tells that on his appointed day (Job 1:4), each would arrange a feast in their houses. The appointed day refers to their birthdays. These were rich kids. Their day to day life could have been a feast. But once a year, on their birthdays, they had feasts. Even then, the next morning, they had to wake up early, so that they could be sanctified by their righteous father. In such an austere life, Job had every reason to believe that they might have blessed the Lord while sinning. And it is worse than sin itself – thanking God for giving a chance to sin, implies that God is the reason for sin. It is against the nature of God Most Holy. It is blasphemy and scandalous. It is also hypocritical. In every way, blessing while sinning is worse than sinning and cursing. That was why Job called his sons early in the morning to sanctify them.
Job had understood human nature better than us, and knowing how sin would make us do stupid things, like blessing God for a chance to sin, he said: “Perhaps my sons have sinned, yet blessed God in their hearts.” It is our limited understanding which changed the meaning of the word ‘barak’ so that we understand the verse as we wanted to. Sin makes us stupid. Let us accept and praise the Holy Spirit for opening our eyes so that we can see the price of our stupidity, the Savior Who was crucified for our iniquities.
… and the rest, some on boards and some on parts of the ship. And so it was that they all escaped safely to land. – Acts 27:44 (NKJV)
As the ship faced the wrath of tempestuous head wind, Euroclydon, everyone in the ship lost their hope. It had been nearly two weeks since they saw sun or even a star, and they had no idea where they were. Amidst all those who had lost hope, Paul stood like a light shining in the dark, and declared that they all would be saved; not one man would lose his life. And he proclaimed, “I believe in God, and it shall be even as it was told me.” (Acts 27:25)
The Word came from God and it was believed by the man of God, and soon it came to fruition. Except not in the way we would describe as the majestic manner in which God delivers those who trust Him. The Bible says that some of them held on to boards and others to broken pieces from the ship and escaped.
How often in our life we have faced such circumstances? We were in a very tiring situation and the Lord gives His Word to us. That He would deliver us from evil. That He would not let us be ashamed because we put our trust in Him. That before the eyes of our enemies, He would exalt us, and show to them that He is with us and He loves us. And we are jubilant, waiting for that moment of great glory to come, where the Lord in His majesty, comes down from the Heavens, lifts us from our troubles and anoints us before our enemies.
But nothing of that sort happens. As we are waiting for the mighty arm of the Lord to appear, we see some wooden boards, some broken pieces passing by. Of course, we could take hold of them and reach land safely. But did not the Lord promise great things? Nah, these broken pieces and boards are for mere mortals. Not for the righteous who lives by faith. I will not use such mundane means to escape; no, no, I have suffered so much to escape in such a whimpering fashion. Let those broken pieces and boards pass. See the salvation of God. I wait. I wait. I am waiting. I am still waiting. I am wondering why God has not delivered me yet. Now, I am waiting, but confused. I am waiting, but my faith is shaken. A little. Okay, a lot. Now, there are doubts in my heart. Did I misunderstand what the Lord told me? Or did God lie to me? No, no, He does not lie. Have I lost something in the translation? I am wondering.
But as I wait with tired eyes, all I see are more boards and broken pieces. And a still voice telling my heart, “This is the way out. Grab it.” But I refuse. It cannot be the voice of the Almighty. It has to be the devil, trying to deceive me. I know that the Lord will deliver me in a spectacular fashion. That will shut the mouths of all my enemies. That will vindicate all my silent suffering.
Yet, all I see is more and more boards and broken pieces of wood, and that voice still telling me, “Grab it. Don’t ignore the little things that God, in His infinite wisdom, has provided you.” Now slowly, I realize that it is the Spirit of God talking to me. But, then, what about all the promises? Yes, they are still there, safe in Christ Jesus. They are “Yes” and “Amen” in my Savior and Redeemer. Then how come I have to be delivered in such a prosaic manner?
Then the Lord teaches me that lesson I must have learned long back. My faith must never feed my ego. My faith must make me humble. My faith must not fill me with pride. All those spectacular escapes I was dreaming about, those were to satisfy my ego, not for the glory of my Father. I was waiting for them, because my pride wanted such a great show for me, not for the Son of God Who loved and gave His life for me.
Oh, somewhere along being filled with faith, I have fallen prey to the oldest sin – pride. The broken pieces of ship represent what I have to be. The ship, though majestic and grand, could not take me to the land safely. But when it is broken into pieces, one of the smallest pieces is all God needs to fulfil His promise for me, and it will take me home safely.
When I am full of myself, like that ship, I may falter in reaching the destination. But when I am broken, tossed around by the wind and the waves, I know that I will reach the shore safely; and I will also help someone else to reach safely, by just hanging on to me.
Oh Lord, break me into broken pieces, so that my pride sinks in this sea. Break me, so that I can learn humility. Break me, so that You can fulfil Your promise and Your Name alone be glorified. In Jesus’s Name, I ask, Amen.
Shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil? – Job 2:10 (JPS)
As I wrote yesterday in my blog, I was pleasantly surprised by the blessing that the Lord gave me. But something else happened, that disquieted me. After the phone call, we were about to start our morning prayers, and clearly I and my wife were very nervous. How would the day be? Would I be able to travel for a whole day? How about eating out? We were very nervous and even thought of asking our cousin to postpone the trip. Then as we started to pray, something happened.
Suddenly the Spirit of the LORD moved us to realize our errors. Say, if the LORD has given a severe affliction yesterday, like I had to endure last year, what would have we done? We would have accepted it as a lesson that the Lord is teaching us, that He would give enough grace and strength to go through the trial, we would have praised Him for considering us worthy to stand such a trial and we would have thanked Him for the lesson He taught us using the trial. Yes, we would have accepted the evil from the hand of God, because we know His loving hand is behind the rod that chastens us.
But the moment a blessing comes our way, something good comes our way, we are wary of so many things that could go wrong. Our attitude is so tuned out, that till we started praying and the Holy Spirit made us realize, we did not understand that this good, this blessing is also from the same loving hand of our Father. That He may choose this very blessing to teach a valuable lesson to us. That He would give enough grace and strength to go through the day. That if I praised Him for the affliction, then I must praise Him more than ever for this blessing; thank Him that He considered this poor man’s prayer and is showing me a favor that I do not deserve; that even in this blessing, the good Teacher has a way to teach His lessons.
Yes, the Lord rules over everything – both good and bad; whatever reaches you, who is under His mighty arm, reaches you only because God our Father allows it; whatever we receive, an affliction or a blessing, it is only because our Lord and Redeemer Jesus Christ has given us enough grace to sustain, to endure without falling.
So, for the last one year, the Lord taught me that He is the Ruler over everything and whatever He allows in my life is aimed at my sanctification and edification; but my mind has taken it only for the afflictions and trials. Yesterday the LORD corrected my learning. God our Lord is the Ruler of EVERYTHING. And, if we humble ourselves, we can always learn from our blessings as well as from our afflictions. True devotion is not only accepting evil from God, like Job did; but also accepting the two-fold blessing in an equanimous manner, just like Job did. Amen.
I will bless the LORD at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth. – Psalm 34:1 (NKJV)
When I read this verse the first time, I was in my teens and did not know what life means. This verse appealed to me, and I would sing (or, as some people called, I would “bray”) at all times. But then, life came into the picture. Failures upon failures befell me; one sickness followed another. As I started to lose my vitality to my depression, it became harder to bless the Lord at all times. Even if I was singing a Christian song, it would be more a pathos, not a praise.
Oh, easy it is to bless the LORD when you are successful, when the days are shiny and your steps are peppy. How easy it is to praise Him continually when everything goes your way, when all your losses are recompensed, when you are filled with so much energy. Yes, it is not hard to bless the Lord sometimes. It is not hard to praise Him on certain days. But David says that he would bless the LORD at all times, that his mouth would praise God continually.
Does not David say that the Lord desires truth in the inner parts (Psalm 51:6)? How can I be sad at what has happened, yet bless the Lord at the same time? How can I praise Him when all I want to do is curl up in a fetal position and cry till I am too tired to stay awake? The Lord surely desires truth in the inner parts, right? I was confused about all these.
Then one day the Holy Spirit moved me to read the heading for Psalm 34, which says that this Psalm is sung by David, when he pretended to be insane before the Philistine king Abimelech, who drove him away. It was then David sang this song.
This was David, the anointed one, the one to become the next king of Israel, the son-in-law of the present king of Israel, and a man after God’s own heart. And he had to go to a Philistine king for protection, and being afraid of what would happen to him, he was acting as if he was insane and was driven away. And he chose that moment to say: I will bless the LORD at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth.
It was not when he won against Goliath, he sang this psalm. Not when he was victorious in battles after battles; nor when he married the daughter of the king of Israel. No, he sang this psalm at one of his worst moments; when he had to humiliate himself; when he was afraid for his own life. Yes, God did save his life, but imagine all those who were with David. What would they have thought their champion, acting like he was insane to save his life? They trusted him and followed him and here he was, acting like a mad man to save his own skin, all because of a “wise” decision he had made. Yet, in that moment of abject disgrace, David only saw the grace of the Lord saving his life, though he had erred by trusting his own counsel.
Now, I am no David. But almost all the embarrassing moments in my life were due to myself following my own counsel, decisions that sounded right and wise at that moment. What I forgot were how I had to struggle with depression because of those decisions, times when I had decided to commit suicide, times my hands have picked those sleeping pills and various medications. Yet, every time, the LORD intervened and saved my life. Why did He do that? Do I deserve another chance to live? Of course, not.
Yet, in His mercy, the LORD has forgiven me of my trespasses. And my Saviour Jesus Christ knows my weaknesses and He has been interceding for me. There were times when all around me, I saw accusing eyes, I looked up at the Cross, to see those eyes, those eyes that pierced the heart of Peter the night before, the eyes covered with grace and compassion, looking at me, telling that He understands my agony, that He has taken up my failures in the Cross, that He was forsaken so I could never be.
One look at the love of God our Father exhibited at the Cross… one look at my crucified Redeemer’s eyes… hearing the sound of the inexpressible groans with which the Holy Spirit praying for me… all these when I was in the worst state of my life… oh, how could I stop my heart from blessing this Triune God? How could I prevent my mouth from praising Him all the days of my life?
Oh, my heart, bless your Lord at all times. Oh my lips, praise Him continuously. Let the world think that I am insane to be singing the praises of my Immanuel at such a moment in my life. Let the people think that I have gone crazy to be blessing my Ebenezer, during these darkest hours of my life. But, I will bless the Lord at all times and His praises will be on my lips ever so continually. May the Lord accept this sacrifice of thanksgiving for ever and ever more! Amen.
When I am afraid, I will trust in You. – Psalm 56:3 (NIV)
When I am afraid, it is easy for my soul to take the path of least resistance. There are many things that can calm my nerves. I can watch a serial or a movie, which will help me to forget my fears – for time being. If I am suffering pain, hey, there are pain killers which will alleviate the intensity of the pain. There are so many things like these. But, then the pain comes back. The hurt that is deep within is still fresh after binge watching a serial or movies. The wounds have not healed. When there is a sign of distress, I am afraid and I want to take refuge in one of the few things that will give temporary relief.
But how long can I go on like this? How long I have to live in this fear? How long am I going to allow the wounds of my past to dictate the life I am living today? How many more times I am going to let the failures of past to decide on my plans for the future? Unless the root of my fear is identified and is completely obliterated from my memory, I am going to be afraid often.
Yes, after everything else fails, I do tell this verse. Whenever I am afraid, I will trust in You. But by now, along with my fears, I also know that I am saying it by memory. I don’t mean it anymore. I trust in the Lord, but not when my fears take the “rational thinking” route. God is my last Refuge. Come to Him when nothing can quench your fear.
Though I give Him the last place when I am afraid, His grace is so much, that He never pushes me to the last place. My Father in Heaven knows my fears. My Saviour and His Son, Who is seated at our Father’s right hand, knows what fear is. Yes, the High Priest I have knows what agony means. Jesus Christ is there to intercede. The Spirit of God is praying for me, as I have no idea what to pray for.
Now my fear is being quelled; my heart beat is becoming normal. I still do not know the root cause of my fears, and it scares me. It scares me, because I am worried that I may, yet again, give my Father last place, when my fear comes to haunt me. I know I will, for I have done it before. As I sit there worried, the Spirit of God moves in my heart, in a mighty way.
“Don’t stop with trusting Him. Show your trust in your actions”, He keeps telling me. I tell the Spirit of God, “Yes, yes, see my actions. I am not afraid anymore.” But deep in my heart, I am still scared. I just was hoping that the Lord Who knows all things might miss my fears. But the Spirit of the Lord is gentler than I have understood. In a gentle way, He keeps reminding me that my actions must not be the actions of this world, but actions of the Word. I am confused. Very confused, till He Himself leads me to the next verse.
I trust in God. I praise His Word. – Psalm 56:4 (NIRV)
“Praise His Word. Praise His promises. Praise the Lord for all the promises He has given you. Don’t worry about the wounds. Don’t worry about the failures of the past. Don’t you worry about the fear that is sneaking around. Praise His Word. Show your trust in God by your actions. Praise Him”, commands the Holy Spirit.
Now I open my mouth. My lips are sealed together. My throat is parched. I am still scared. My words are nothing but mere mumbles. It feels like a travesty is being enacted. But the Spirit of God says, “It is okay. Your Father knows your fears. Your Brother is interceding for you. They know what is in your heart. Just keep going.”
As I try further and further to praise His Word, suddenly Life enters my soul. My voice is back. Tears flow for no reason at all. As I praise more of His Word, I don’t know what the wounds are, but I can feel them being healed. As I praise the Lord for His promises, the fear of past failures repeating again in my life, they vanish in thin air. Even now, I know the fear is lurking somewhere, waiting for a chance to show its ugly head. But all that fear is gone, when I hear the heavenly hosts join along with me in praising His Word. And suddenly I realize that His Word is Jesus Christ Himself. And all the promises are “yes” and “amen” in Him. Yes, I will praise Him more and more. I will praise the Lord our Father, for providing me His Son. And all my fears are conquered. I will trust in You, Lord and I will praise Your Word all the time.
As I write this blog, I still remember those days when I was bound by sin few years back. I wish I could tell that those were the days of innocence, when I did not know what was right and wrong. But, I am still today ashamed to think of those days, because I knew what I was doing. But even those days, when I was feeling disgusted at myself, there were times when I realized that the LORD still loved me. But instead of running into His wide-opened arms, I shrunk back.
But one July 17th morning, as I was singing my morning devotional song, the Spirit of the Lord moved me to sing a Tamil Christian song in which one of the line is from Psalm 16:10.
For You will not abandon me to Sheol. – Psalm 16:10 (HCSB)
As I started to sing the song, I got stuck at that particular line. I was singing just that one line for nearly five minutes, I was unable to move to the next song or even next line. Suddenly the Lord opened my eyes and made me see myself in the Light of His Word. If I was disgusted with myself before, now I abhorred myself completely. And the Lord broke my heart and with tears in my eyes, that morning, I pleaded only one thing from our LORD: please do not abandon me to Sheol, O Lord. I kept singing that song. By that evening, the Lord broke the bondage of that particular sin in my life and delivered me from going to the pit.
And I remember that very night, when I sat there to pray, I was too stunned about my utter stupidity. It took few days for me to realize in what precarious position my soul was in. It took me more than few weeks to realize what great mercies and grace that the Lord had showered on me on that day.
On that night, on July 17th, I started to write in my diary about what I had done and how the Lord saved me in His grace and all I could utter where the words of Balaam.
The utterance of him
who hears the words of God,
who sees the vision of the Almighty,
who falls down, with eyes wide open…
– Numbers 24:4 (NKJV)
It was during that time the LORD made me realize that I needed more spiritual support to proceed further and it was then I thought of writing a blog. For whenever I start writing a blog, I remember that these are utterances of him, who fell down with eyes wide open… though he was hearing the words of God, and was seeing the vision of the Almighty. It makes me realize every time I blog, that I am standing only because of the grace of the Lord. If not for His grace, I would be falling down, with my eyes wide open.
O my Father in heaven, thank You for Your grace. Thank You for providing Your Spirit, Who convicted me of my sin, Who broke my stubborn heart. I thank You, especially for the gift of Your Son Jesus Christ. It is His blood that cleansed me of my sins. It is His blood that gives me the strength to face my accuser. It is the faith of Your Son which is the Shield by which I am extinguishing the burning arrows of the evil one. Thank You, Father. Help me to grow more in Your grace. Through Your Son and my Saviour Jesus Christ, Amen.
God only knows who His elect are. If our sons and daughters are numbered among them they will be saved. Not one of God’s chosen ones will perish. Christ will have those whom He has redeemed. In God’s time, He will call His own from death to life by the power of the Holy Spirit. If some of our children are not chosen of God, they will not be saved. They will not believe. And those who will not believe deserve to perish.
But it is our responsibility to do what we can to bring our families into the family of God. I offer these words of instruction to you who believe, to you who are interested in the immortal souls of your sons and daughters.
1. If you want your family to be saved, see to it that you worship God with your family. If you do not see to it that your children hear the gospel, it is because you do not care for their souls. If you neglected to feed your children, it would be reasonable to assume that you cared nothing for their bodies. And if you do not provide them with the gospel of Christ, both by private instruction and by bringing them to hear the Word preached, it is obvious that you do not care for their souls. You can do nothing that is more positively harmful to your family than to rob them of the ministry of the Word.
2. If you care for the souls of your children you will exercise loving discipline in your home. Eli was a believer. He showed his wicked sons the way of faith and life in Christ. He taught them the gospel. He taught them right from wrong. And he prayed for them. But he was a miserable failure as a father, because he exercised no discipline over them. ‘He restrained them not!’ God told him plainly that the cause of his sons’ death was his lack of’ discipline as a father.
3. If you want your children to follow Christ, let them see that you follow Christ. By all means see to it that your sons and daughters regularly attend the ministry of the gospel. See to it that you pray for them and discipline them. But if your religion is all lip service, they will soon detect your hypocrisy. Set before them an example of love for, faith in and devotion to the Lord Jesus Christ.
– From “Grace for Today” by Don Fortner
When we feel like we are in the wilderness, with all our hopes lost and nothing left to put our trust in, the most dreaded of all fears come across our hearts – we are alone in this. There is no one who can understand what we are going through. It won’t even make sense to them. Suddenly we realize that we have no friend to confide in.
Alone. The fear of being lonely. Especially when we have followed the guidance of the Lord. We have only obeyed His instructions. Yet, here we are. We have nothing left. It is a wilderness all around us. Nothing to trust in. No hopes left. Your faith is struggling. And it sure looks lonely.
But dear friend, you are not alone. Because if you have followed the Lord, if you have obeyed His Word and you find yourself in a wilderness, remember that the Spirit of the Lord is with you.
Remember when Jesus found Himself in a wilderness, where He was tempted for 40 days and nights (Luke 4:2)? Where the devil questioned Jesus if He is the Son of God? And how did Jesus Christ reach that point of temptation? The Bible says that Jesus was filled with the Holy Spirit and was led by the Spirit of God into the wilderness. (Luke 4:1)
Yes, dear friend, when you are in the midst of the wilderness, when it looks like there is no hope left, when suddenly you realize that you are all alone, remember that the Spirit of God has led you up to this point and He is with you. The Comforter is with you.And HE will give you rest. (Isaiah 63:14)