Holy Week Musings: The Ascent

Tomorrow 4/16/2011 is Palm Sunday.  It is the day of Jesus triumphant entry into Jerusalem with people proclaiming Him as King. A lot of time is spent remembering that day as it is celebrated in churches throughout the world.  How much time is spent thinking and talking about the approach to Jerusalem?   There are several events and teaching that transpire as Jesus approaches the city and the enfolding of His mission with the suffering that will soon follow.  Each gospel account references different things that happened as Jesus moved with purpose from Jericho to Bethphage to Jerusalem.  He approach the city knowing full well what was to come.  He did so faithfully without wavering.

Outside of the actions and teachings of Jesus leading up to Holy Week, my mind is going to what Jesus was experiencing during this time,  as He knew what was to come, that suffering, betrayal, and death awaited.  Here is one incredible thing, as he ascended to Jerusalem, to that which God set before him, He experienced a wide range of emotions and maintained his course. He did not shrink back, pull back, or hold back. He moved ahead.  Think for a minute Jesus focusing on Psalms 120 through 134 the Psalms of Ascent and knowing that what He was about to do created the help, peace, and salvation.  Jesus kept the focus and surrender and moved ahead, knowing what He knew, He still followed and surrendered.  Jesus knew the personal cost to him, but He also knew the purpose and intent of what He was to endure. He knew the victory and salvation it would bring.

Now in our life and call, we do not know the details like Jesus did, but we do know that there is victory.  We do know that God is faithful even when we do not understand what is before us.  If we follow God’s leading, we will receive His blessing in God’s time and in God’s way.  For we know that God is love and while there is pain, suffering, and threats untold, God is greater.  Sure, we may endure great suffering for a time, but as we walk the road God set before us and approach that which He has called us to, God’s purpose will be fulfilled always.  There may be great pain and suffering getting to where God calls, but His will and His love will always be served. Whatever are the evil intents, if surrendered to following God and His ways, He will always bring the victory.

Yet, folks do and will lose out.  The losing out happens when any one of us leave the path of ascent.  We when go down our own way and leave God’s path there are consequences. When we do not surrender, trust, and obey there is loss. Loss that can impact many more than just our self.  This is seen over and over in scripture as deviation and distrust bring choices that have great impact.  The choices is ours minute by minute, as we are all in the ascent, approaching that to where God want us, until we reach the final moment when “It is finished” for this life and we move on to New Jerusalem.

Some principles of God’s provision found in 1 Kings 17

In a previous post, there was a requested direction of prayer for the missionaries in Haiti for God’s provision but natural and supernaturally. The article and request referenced Elijah being fed by ravens and the widow with oil and flour that would not cease. Those stories are found in the Bible at 1 Kings 17. The passage points to certain principles related to God’s provision in the midst of suffering. The suffering in 1 Kings was a drought that was brought on as a consequence of the spiritual condition of Israel and to draw the nation back to God. On examining the chapter, there are a few principles that are applicable to today.

The first principle is that everything starts with obedience to God. In order for God to provide, we need to have two things operating. We need to listen and obey. Before we can obey, we need to be able to know what God desires. Knowing what God desires involves listening to God. It is having a relationship with the Creator of the Universe. Interacting with the Creator cannot just be a once in a moment thing. It has to be ongoing, moment-by-moment. We need to have our ears and eyes attuned to attending to Yahweh. It is in that ongoing relationship that God does make his leading and will known. Once we hear from God, we need to obey. Elijah obeyed God in declaring the famine. He obeyed God in walking in faith and following God’s direction. If Elijah had not gone where God directed he would have missed the provision of being fed by ravens or the source of water that was provided by the brook. If Elijah had not followed God when the brook ran dry, then he would never have met the widow that allowed God to give supernatural intervention. It is also to note, that obedience was not just an action from Elijah. The widow also obeyed God at the risk of her own life. She could not see a possible way to survive if she gave to Elijah her last, but God did provide.

The second principle is that God’s provision comes in many ways. God sometimes works using the natural, sometimes the supernatural. God is capable of providing in ways far beyond what our mind can even imagine. For Elijah God used first natural provision. He provided by ravens and Brooke. Yet, the time of that was limited. When that provision ran dry, God led Elijah to a place where He would provide supernaturally in response to obedience. It is interesting to note that when God intended to provide for Elijah supernaturally, he did so not in a way that blessed not only Elijah, but also in a way that blessed others as well. God’s supernatural interventions are not just for the needs one individual. When God gives supernaturally, it is intended to be used beyond self-interest. His supernatural provision is always done for his greater will and to bring Himself glory and demonstrate His love to others.

It is interesting to note, that even in the midst of God’s supernatural provision events related to the tyranny of suffering connected to the fall of man occurred. The widow’s only son became sick and died. Neither the widow nor Elijah understood that in the midst of His supernatural provision that such suffering was allowed. The widow thought that God was be upset with some sin she had committed. Elijah’s response was to cry out genuinely to God as to why and plead for the child’s life to be returned. God did restore the child’s life. It was something beyond understanding, but God intervened for His glory. His love and provision do not return empty, even amidst appearances, what we can see or understand. There will be times when in obedience and receiving divine intervention that are beyond human understanding. But God is always at work and will bring glory to His name.

The third principle is really that through it all God is the source of life. Ultimately, God restoring the child’s life really demonstrates that God is the source of life. He provided the oil and flour. Yet, God is the source. Now God has frequently used oil connected to the Holy Spirit, and bread in connection to the word of God. We are led and fed by the Holy Spirit and by the Word of God. In our relationship with God, both these sustain us each day. In walking in genuine response to God’s love and reflecting that love to others, the Holy Spirit and God’s word will never run dry. They are fuel to living and interacting with God. God brings us life. In however God’s provides in our lives and for whatever period of time we must remember that God is the source of life.

The fourth principle see at work here, is God’s provision matches our needs. Scripture is filled with God providing at an equivalent to what the needs are at the moment. God’s provision is not over and above what is needed, but rather what is needed, when it is needed. God’s provision here was what they needed each day. The same is true for Israel in the wilderness. God gave them what they needed, when they need it. Too often people teach and look to God to provide in ways over and above the actual needs. The view is that obedience brings prosperity in this world. Yet, biblically the example is that obedience results in provision needed at the moment. Actually, there is a difference between God’s provision and God’s blessings. God’s provision is given but at times he also gives blessings over and above. When he does bless, he does so always to bring himself glory. Yet, more often than not, what we expect is blessing in return for following God’s lead. Blessings come as God sees fit according to His purpose. Often our response is to demand blessings to meet our needs and desires, rather than looking to what serves God’s will and purpose in our lives and the lives around us.

So in looking at those four principles, the basic foundation is that God provides in such a way that serves His will and purpose. We do not always understand or see what is going on around us at the moment. We can easily get wrapped up in self and even expect what is beyond what God intends. He works in ways that we do not understand. When He gets involved supernaturally, it is always for His greater purpose with scope beyond the interests of one individual. Everything starts and stops with God. It is important to stay in the moment and continue to be in relationship with the Creator, obeying and following His lead.   God will provide. What we need to do is respond in obedience and keep focused on God over even our own wants and needs.  It is a walk of faith  to things that we cannot even possibly see a way out.  It is an attitude that will give of our last.  It is an attitude even of receiving others sacrificial giving.   Personally, asking a widow to give of all that she has left would be confusing and hard to walk in obedience, yet both Elijah and the widow obeyed.  God provided at their moment of need with what they needed.  In their obedience suffering still occurred, but God is always in control and brings Glory to his name and turned that of death to life.  He does so  in all our lives, be it in tragic circumstances such as Haiti, or other more personal struggles in our own day to day lives.  God is the same in all circumstances.