Point of Reference
by Fred Price
In asking that question last week, we looked to Psalm 11:4 to find encouragement in the fact that even when things are at their worst – by our definition – God still sits on His throne and is still in control. From there we looked at a number of scriptural admonishments for us to be brave and courageous, single-minded in our observance of God’s will and faithful to His word. Such as, “...stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” 1 Corinthians 15:58 And, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have... with gentleness and respect.” 1 Peter 3:15 A number of Biblical examples from both Testaments should inspire and encourage us to do just that.
Abraham’s life was in almost constant upheaval as he was told to leave his family, hometown and country for a better place ‘somewhere out there’; continually on the move even after he reached his destination. On top of all that, he was asked to sacrifice a long-anticipated son; and even though he was stopped short of doing so, Abraham’s willingness to obey was held up as a righteous example for us to emulate. (See Romans 4:3 & James 2:20-24)
Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel had profound impacts on their people; proclaiming the Lord’s will, judgment and redemption for Israel – suffering ostracism, insult and violence for their effort. Each individual initially had an excuse as to why they couldn’t or shouldn’t respond to God’s call. Isaiah thought maybe his own sinfulness should disqualify him from calling others to repentance and even questioned the length of his ministry. (Is. 6:5-11) But in the end responded to God’s query, “Whom shall I send?... who will go for us?” with “Here am I. Send me!” Is. 6:8
Jeremiah’s response to his appointment as prophet to his people was to claim to be only a “child” without the experience or ability to speak. (One of the same reasons Moses gave at his calling through the burning bush.) The Lord explaining that his youthfulness didn’t matter as he was to speak only the words given him to say, assuring him of His nearness and ability to rescue. ( Jeremiah 1:4-7) Jeremiah’s eventual response to the ridicule, insult and reproach of those he spoke to? “...His word is in my heart like a fire...” In other words, ‘I can do nothing but speak it.’ Jeremiah 20:7-9
Ezekiel was overwhelmed, first by his exile to a land not his own, but even more so by the vision of God he received and the mission he was instructed to assume. ( Ezekiel 3:15 & 23) But through the “consumption” of God’s word, he was empowered and emboldened to embrace a unique ministry among his fellow exiles that serves as a powerful example for us yet today.
All these men displayed a certain self-imposed incompetence, which is understandable when faced with the super competence of God; but all likewise found a capacity for service they hadn’t imagined as a result of their minds being filled with visions of God.
Three other prominent characters – Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego – whose entire lives had been upended by circumstances beyond their control; could – and did – dictate their responses. By staying true to their calling in spite of all opposition, they prospered in the king’s court and were later saved from harm in the midst of a fiery furnace. Their response to the Babylonian king’s dictates was not meant as a sign of resignation or defeat, as Job’s “The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away,...” is sometimes depicted . ( Job 1:21) Rather it was based in the same faith acted upon by Mordacai and Esther ( Esther 4:14); exemplifying the same dependence on God Joseph displayed in his seemingly endless list of challenges. ( Genesis 50:20) Raised up for times such as these to bring good from evil.
Their declaration of, “If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to rescue us from it,… But even if he does not; we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” Daniel 3:16-18 Paul reiterating their stance by writing, “...we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28
Other men of renown – Joshua, Gideon and David – were typically asked to do the impossible, finding affirmation, strength and courage through obedience ( Joshua 1:7); gaining confidence and success through a singular dependence on God ( Judges 7:2); with the realization that, “...the battle is the Lord’s...” ( 1 Samuel 12:4); learning that He, “...is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine; according to his power that is at work within us,...” Ephesians 3:20
Elijah reluctantly accepted the task of challenging the King and Queen of Israel to a duel through their prophets of Baal with him representing Jehovah. Bluntly confronting those assembled by asking, “How long will you waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal is god, follow him.” 1 Kings 18:28 The challenge ending with the false god totally discredited, Jehovah and Elijah vindicated, the priests of Baal slaughtered and the people of Israel crying out, “The Lord – His is God! 1 Kings 18:39 Encouraging us all to be a part of something unheard of, unafraid of doing something the world considers outlandish; realizing that, “...all things are possible with God. Mark 10:27
Zerubbabel and Nehemiah, alongside other exiled Israelis, returned to Jerusalem by permission of Cyrus, King of Persia; and later by his successor, Darius – as God directed. ( Ezra 1:1-3) Their attempts at rebuilding a life in their homeland was met with opposition from the start. God reminding them, “I am with you,...” so ‘Don’t be afraid, don’t get side-tracked and get busy.’ Haggai 1:13 He defining their ability to succeed as, “Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’...” Zechariah 4:6
Most of these individuals expressed doubt and concern at some point, yet ultimately displayed the same type of selflessness exemplified by Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane where, after some emotional struggle, he centered himself firmly in his Father’s will, saying “...if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.” Matthew 26:42 Paul encouraging us to, “Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” Hebrews 12:3
Which is only possible when we don “...the full armor of God so that you can defend yourself against the Devil’s schemes.” The belt of truth and the protection of righteousness, feet ready and willing to go where God leads, the shield of faith warding off the blows of the enemy, our head protected by a helmet of salvation – all strengthening our resolve and ability to wield the sword of God’s word; enabling us to respond as these others did, “...so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand .” Ephesians 6:10-17
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Jeremiah Is Courageous, Bold, and Faithful - What an Example!Read Article »
Fred Price - married (49 years), father of two grown children, grandfather of six.
Fred retired earlier this year after 42 years as a factory worker. He has always had a heart for young people and the challenges they face today. Over the years Fred has taught Discipleship Groups for High School and college students.
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