Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Dear Pilgrim, are you struggling with condemnation?


Dear Pilgrim, are you struggling with condemnation? Are voices whispering to you that you are no good, leaving you in despair? Are you feeling crushed in your spirit?

O Pilgrim, how I understand! But come, take my hand, let us walk together awhile. There is somewhere we need to go that maybe you haven’t been to lately. Come, into this garden. Breathe in the fragrance of the garden, Pilgrim. Take a deep breath. Isn’t it peaceful and quiet in here?

Come, over here, dear Pilgrim. See the rock….and the tomb hewn from the rock, the tomb where Jesus was laid. See the stone, removed from the entrance. See the strips of linen lying there, and the burial cloth that had been around His head folded up by itself, separate from the linen. See the tomb – empty. It is empty, dear Pilgrim! For He is not here – He has risen!  For God exerted His mighty strength in Christ and raised Him from the dead (Ephesians 1:19)! God has raised this Jesus to life!

We are not far from where you beheld the Lamb of God as He died upon the cross for the forgiveness of your sins, paying the wages of death for your sin. But how easily we forget to walk to the empty tomb to see the victory that has been won! This is the place the enemy will want to keep you from coming, he will do all he can to distract you from coming here, walking around, spending time reflecting on all this means – for this is the place of our Lord’s great victory!

For the truth of this glorious gospel message into which we have been brought by the blood of the Lamb does not end with the blessed news that our sins and iniquities have been forgiven. O Pilgrim, let your eyes behold the revelation of the empty tomb which speaks of new life! The revelation of the empty tomb which speaks of the power of the Spirit! The revelation of the empty tomb which speaks of the victory that He has won!

For if we have been baptised into Christ, we have been baptised into His death. Our whole old self was crucified with Him! Not only were we baptised into the death of Christ – we were buried with Him. Our whole old self is crucified, dead and buried. It no longer has power over us! We no longer identify with it! It is defeated!  We were buried with Him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life! A new life, Pilgrim! No longer a life of slavery to sin, a life of captivity, a life without hope, a life that was no life for it led to death. No matter how many times the enemy tries to whisper to you that you have no hope, that you cannot escape the clutches of sin, that you are guilty, the truth is that now that we have died we have been set free from sin (Romans 6:7)! Yes, Pilgrim, we do daily still wrestle with sin, we daily have to fight against sin, but it is no longer our master! For we have been set free from the power of sin! Set free from the guilt of sin! Set free from the penalty of sin! Set free from the slavery of sin! It was for freedom that Christ has set us free! O Pilgrim, rejoice that your chains are gone! Gone! No longer a slave – a son! A child of God!

Pilgrim, as we stand here in the garden, listen for a moment. Listen. It is so peaceful here, isn’t it? The birds are singing their praises to their Creator, but otherwise all is quiet. It was quiet on those days when Jesus lay here in the tomb. Maybe some thought it was the quiet despair of defeat. It may have looked like defeat, as the Creator bowed His head and breathed His last. It may have looked like defeat, as His lifeless body lay in the tomb for three days. It may have looked like defeat, as all was silent. But His final words, “It is finished!” continued to ring with the glorious sounds of triumph and victory as they resounded through the heavens, as they made the powers and authorities shudder in fear. And then, in the fullness of time, the Voice of the Lord spoke, and shook the earth. The Voice of the Lord thundered, and there was a violent earthquake, the Son of God was raised to life – for it was impossible for death to keep its hold on Him. The power of the Spirit raised Him to life! Victory! But not His victory alone! For thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:57)! We have been raised up and seated with Christ in the heavenly realms! We are more than conquerors through Him who loved us!

Pilgrim, listen again. Listen. What do you hear? There is only one word to describe it – peace. Peace, dear Pilgrim! For this empty tomb – the victory He has won, the victory He gives to us – this means we have peace with God! What were the very first words He uttered to His disciples after He arose? “Peace be with you!” (John 20:19). Who is the one who condemns? Not God! For Christ Jesus who died – more than that, who was raised to life – is at the right hand of God, interceding for us (Romans 8:34). Interceding, Pilgrim, not condemning! There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death (Romans 8:1). You are free, free from the law of sin and death, free to put to death the misdeeds of the body, free to be led by the Spirit of God, free to overcome the world!

Pilgrim, never forget the empty tomb. The enemy will do all he can to keep you from standing here and taking in all that it means, for it is here that it is clear for all to see that he is defeated. Resist him, and he will flee! And may the truth of the empty tomb be forever engraved on your heart.

Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Dear Pilgrim, when He comes, will He find faith on the earth?

 
Mount Carmel ("the vineyard of God")

Dear Pilgrim, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth (Luke 18:8)?

O Pilgrim, it is a challenging word that He has brought to us. He told us that many will turn away from the faith in times of trouble. For it is true that not everyone has faith.

Yet Pilgrim, we know that faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God (Romans 10:17). And Pilgrim, your ears have been opened by the One who looked up to heaven with a deep sigh and said, “Ephphatha!”(Mark 7:34).  You have heard His voice, you have heard the Word of God!

Pilgrim, come with me, come up Mount Carmel, come and see a man of faith. Elijah has heard and received the word of God, that rain is coming, and in faith he announces to Ahab that there is the sound of an abundance of rain (1 Kings 18:41). Three years of drought, three years where neither dew nor rain had fallen in the land, and now an abundance of rain is proclaimed because of the word of the Lord! For this was a man who lived by faith, and not by sight.

Look, Pilgrim! Here, on the top of the mountain, the place where God reveals Himself, the man of God has bowed down on the ground, with his face between his knees. He is praying to his God, Pilgrim. What does a man of God pray in such a situation? These words come to mind: “Remember Your word to Your servant, for You have given me hope” (Psalm 119:49). He asks his servant to go and look towards the sea, that their eyes might see the word of the Lord come to pass. His servant looks, comes back, and says, “There is nothing”. There is no sign.

Elijah continues to pray. He continues to trust in the word of the Lord. He continues to trust in the faithfulness of his God. For no word from God will ever fail (Luke 1:37). Your word, Lord, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens (Psalm 119:89). A second time he asks his servant to report what he sees – nothing.

Undaunted, the man of faith in such a situation reminds himself that “the word of the Lord is right and true; He is faithful in all He does” (Psalm 33:4). “And the words of the Lord are flawless, like silver purified in a crucible, like gold refined seven times” (Psalm 12:6). A third time he asks his servant what he sees – nothing.

Faithfully, the man of God, who perseveres in prayer at His throne, cries out, “I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in His word I put my hope” (Psalm 130:5). He calls to mind familiar words of Scripture and brings them before the Lord in humble submission: “My word that goes out from My mouth will not return to Me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it” (Isaiah 55:11). A fourth time there is no response to his prayers.

Still he does not waver in unbelief regarding the promise of God, but he is strengthened in his faith and gives glory to God, for he is fully persuaded that God has the power to do what He has promised (Romans 4:20-21). He knows that even though heaven and earth may pass away, His words will never pass away (Mark 13:31). A fifth time he is told there is still no sign.

He holds unswervingly to his hope, for he knows that He who promised is faithful (Hebrews 10:23), and he prays aloud for all to hear, “As for God, His way is perfect: the Lord’s word is flawless; He shields all who take refuge in Him” (2 Samuel 22:31). As he prays, he takes up his shield of faith to extinguish the flaming arrows from the evil one, who is whispering, “Did God really say He would send rain?” A sixth time the servant goes to look towards the sea. Nothing.

The man of faith continues knocking, continues seeking, continues asking that the Lord bring to pass the word He has spoken.  He knows that God will bring about justice for His chosen ones, who cry out to Him day and night. He knows that the Lord will not keep putting them off, that His God will see that they get justice, and quickly (Luke 18:7-8). A seventh time the servant goes to look towards the sea.

The servant comes running back to the man of God, breathless with excitement! He has seen something! Oh! An abundance of rain is the promise. What is it that can be seen? The skies filled with ominous dark clouds? No – a single cloud! A cloud as small as a man’s hand is rising from the sea! Do not despise the day of small things, dear Pilgrim! For from this cloud as small as a man’s hand, an abundance of rain will fall over the land! Rejoice that the Lord has heard your cry!

Dear Pilgrim, here, atop Mount Carmel, the mountain of faith, the mountain of belief, He has tested your faith and has produced perseverance as a result! What a thing of beauty your faith in Him is! Is it any wonder that Mount Carmel is known as a mountain of splendour (Isaiah 35:2)? And now, dear Pilgrim, you can join the Psalmist in this victorious cry: “I waited patiently for the Lord; He turned to me and heard my cry” (Psalm 40:1).

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Dear Pilgrim, have you beheld the Lamb of God?


Dear Pilgrim, have you beheld the Lamb of God? The Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world? Have you looked upon the Lamb who was slain?

Come, Pilgrim. Let us ascend, let us climb up to Golgotha, the place of the skull. Oh, Pilgrim, let us take off our sandals as we climb, for this is holy ground.

Pilgrim, well might you be trembling beside me. I am trembling too. For here He has taken up our pain, and bears our suffering. He has been pierced for our transgressions, and crushed for our iniquities. The Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. Oh, Pilgrim, He is bearing our sins in His body on the cross. He is bearing my sin. He is bearing your sin.

When Abraham declared to Isaac “God Himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son” (Gen 22:8), could he have known how these words would be fulfilled? On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided, and here, on the mountain of the Lord, the Lamb, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, was provided.

Just as the Passover Lamb was a lamb without defect, so Jesus Christ was a lamb without blemish or defect (1 Pe 1:19). Pilate declared after examining the Lamb, “I find no basis for a charge against Him” (John 19:6). Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!

Jesus Christ, our Passover Lamb, was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so He did not open His mouth (Isa 53:7). For Jesus made no reply, not to a single charge that was brought against Him (Mt 27:14). Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!

He was like one from whom people hid their faces, for He was despised and held in low esteem. Oh, Pilgrim, let us not hide our faces from Him! Let us kneel here, at the foot of the cross, let us gaze up at our Saviour, our precious Redeemer, who is spilling His blood for you and for me, who is pouring out His blood for many for the forgiveness of sins. Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!

See Him on the cross, the Bread of Affliction (Dt 16:3). The bread of affliction, bread made without yeast, was eaten along with the Passover Lamb by the Israelites in remembrance of the night they fled Egypt. The Bread of Life, the living bread that came down from heaven, became the Bread of Affliction that we might eat of His flesh which He gave for the life of the world.

Hear the Bread of Affliction crying out “I am thirsty”, in order to fulfil the Scriptures. A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips. As they did so, they lay before us the meal that Ruth’s Kinsman-Redeemer offered to her, when he gave her a meal of bread dipped in wine vinegar (Ruth 2:14).

Pilgrim, as we kneel at the foot of the cross, gazing at our Saviour, in repentance feeding on Him as He gives His life for us, listen to the words Boaz speaks to Ruth as she shares this meal: “I’ve been told…how you left your father and mother and your homeland and came to live with a people you did not know before. May the Lord repay you for what you have done. May you be richly rewarded by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge” (Ruth 2:11-12). Oh Pilgrim, how can it be that He would speak in this manner to us? How can we have found such favour in His eyes? How can it be that He would give such comfort to us, and speak so kindly to us, when it is our sin which has caused His suffering, when it is because of our own sin that He hangs on this cross? Yet He does indeed speak these words to us, who have left everything to come and kneel here, at the foot of His cross, we who have fled the city where we dwelt to find refuge in the mountains. We will be richly rewarded by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings we have come to take refuge. For it is in His cross that we have come to take refuge, it is in His cross where we shelter in the shadow of His wings, it is in His cross that we are covered by His blood – His blood in which a rich reward is to be found.

For His blood of the covenant was poured out for many, for the forgiveness of sins. We, who were in slavery to sin, have been redeemed through His blood! We, who were far away, have been brought near by His blood! He has cleansed our consciences from acts that lead to death through His blood! We have been reconciled with our Father in heaven through His blood! We have peace with God through His blood! He makes us holy through His blood! We have been purified from sin through His blood! He has freed us from our sins through His blood! We will overcome by the blood of the Lamb!

Oh, Pilgrim, what precious blood this is! What riches there are in His blood! Oh, Pilgrim, at one and the same time are our hearts not filled with grief that He had to pour out His blood, yet filled with rejoicing at what has been accomplished? What can we do but bow down and worship? Let us fall down before Him and worship! Oh, sing with me, Pilgrim, sing, “Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honour and glory and praise!”

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Dear Pilgrim, have you called on the Lord in your distress?


Dear Pilgrim, have you called on the Lord in your distress? When trouble has come your way, have you cried to your God for help? Have you cried to Him for mercy as you lift up your hands to His Most Holy Place? Have you cried out to Him that He might not be deaf to your weeping? If this is so, dear Pilgrim, then you have the faith to believe that God has ears to hear.

For the idols have ears but cannot hear (Ps 115:6) – yet it is our God Himself who fashioned the ear (Ps 94:9)! Surely His ear is not too dull to hear (Isa 59:1)!

Listen to the thunderous Holy sounds on His Holy Mountain, Pilgrim. From His throne come flashes of lightning, rumblings and peals of thunder. The seraphim above His throne call praises to one another, and at the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds of the temple shake. The four living creatures around the throne never stop saying day and night “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come”. Whenever they move, the sound of their wings is like the roar of rushing waters, like the voice of the Almighty, like the tumult of an army. The twenty-four elders around the throne speak out their praises to Him. And the angels! Oh, Pilgrim, there are thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, singing for joy, shouting for joy!

Pilgrim, can it be true that in such a place of Holy sounds, of Holy thunder, of Holy joy, that from His temple He hears our voices, that our cries come before Him, into His ears? Oh yes, dear Pilgrim, it is true, for our God is the God who hears! The angel of the Lord instructed Hagar to name her son Ishmael as a testament to the God who hears (Gen 16:11)! His ears are attentive to the cry of the righteous!

Cry to Him in the morning, dear Pilgrim, lay your requests before Him and wait expectantly. Evening, morning and noon cry out in your distress, that He might hear your voice. He heard His people crying out in their captivity in Egypt, for He fulfils the desires of those who fear Him, He hears their cry and saves them (Ps 145:19)! He will not hear the prayers of those whose iniquities separate them from their God, whose sin causes Him to hide His face from them (Isa 59:2). Yet when the righteous cry out, those who are walking with the Lord, who are walking before Him in humility, contrite in heart, confessing their sins, these the Lord hears. He hears the cry of His faithful servant who has been set apart for Himself (Ps 4:3).

He heard the cries of Moses, who was faithful as a servant in all God’s house. Most glorious of all, He heard Christ, who is faithful as the Son over God’s house, and Who was able to proclaim “I know that You always hear me” (John 11:42) as He brought glory to His Father during the days of His life on earth. He was heard because of His reverent submission (Heb 5:7). And what He Himself had heard from the One who sent Him, this He proclaimed to the world (John 8:26). He came from Heaven, and He testified of all that He had seen and heard (John 3:31-32). He returned to Heaven and has sent the Spirit to come to us, who now speaks to us only what He hears (John 16:13). And when we do not know how to pray as we should, it is He, the Spirit Himself, who intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words (Rom 8:26) which rise up before Him as fragrant incense and are heard at His throne.

For Pilgrim, it is not the loudness of our prayers that captures His attention. Our God is not one that we need to shout louder to that we might interrupt His thoughts (1 Ki 18:27). Hannah’s voice could not be heard when she prayed in her heart, her lips were soundlessly moving as she poured out her soul to the Lord (1 Sam 1:13-15). Yet the Lord heard her. He hears the needy, the one who has barely any strength to muster up the breath from within to cry out to Him, the one whose heart He has captured. When we can do no more than whisper a prayer to Him out of our distress, be reassured of this truth, dear Pilgrim - He hears, our God hears!

Let us utter these beautiful words of faith with the prophet Micah: “My God will hear me” (Micah 7:7)! Oh, what precious faith is revealed here! Listen to the confidence! Is He your God, Pilgrim? Yes, yes He is, for He has called you, He has chosen you, you heard His voice calling you! Will He hear you, Pilgrim? Yes, yes He will! Oh, may He give us the confidence, the assurance in Him that no matter what situation we face, our God will hear us. May we look back at all He has done for us in the past, and remind ourselves in our present time of need that our God will hear us. May we look to Christ and how He was always heard, and know that as we cry out to our God through Christ, we too will be heard for we come in the precious name of His Son! May we be comforted that we enjoy the favour of our God, that He delights to hear our voice calling to Him, for we come through His precious Son, whose voice He always delighted to hear.

Oh, Pilgrim, may our hearts always be inclined towards Him! May we never cease to cry out to Him! “For He says, ‘In the time of My favour I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.’ I tell you, now is the time of God’s favour, now is the day of salvation” (2 Cor 6:2)!

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Dear Pilgrim, do you sometimes feel you are hidden from the eyes of the Lord?


Dear Pilgrim, do you sometimes feel you are hidden from the eyes of the Lord? When your prayers seem to go unanswered, when your affliction weighs heavily upon you, does it seem as if His eyes are looking elsewhere? As your enemies gather around you, do you cry out in all humility “Arise to help me; look on my plight” (Ps 59:4)?

Pilgrim, be reassured of this truth - the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous. The eyes of the Lord are on those who fear Him, on those whose hope is in His unfailing love. The eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to Him. "Woe to those who go to great depths to hide their plans from the Lord, who do their work in darkness and think, ‘Who sees us? Who will know?’" (Isa 29:15). "They say, ‘The Lord does not see; the God of Jacob takes no notice.’ Take notice, you senseless ones among the people; you fools, when will you become wise? Does He who fashioned the ear not hear? Does He who formed the eye not see?" (Ps 94:7-9)

For our God is unlike the idols which have eyes but cannot see (Ps 115:5). The four living creatures surrounding the throne of God are covered with eyes, in front and behind, all round, even under their wings (Rev 4:6,8). Covered with eyes, Pilgrim! He sees! Our God is El Roi! He sees! Our God, the One who made eyes that see, looked upon all that He had made and He declared that it was very good.  And after sin had entered the world, He saw with grief Adam and Eve hiding from Him in the Garden. He is the One who saw our unformed bodies when we were woven together in the depths of the earth. From heaven He looks down and sees all mankind; from His dwelling-place He watches all who live on earth – He who forms the hearts of all, who considers everything they do (Ps 33:13-15). Oh, Pilgrim, who is like our God, for He is the One who sits enthroned on high, and yet He stoops down to look on the heavens and the earth! Have you considered why He looks down, dear Pilgrim? "The Lord looks down from heaven on all mankind to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God" (Ps 14:2).

And He has delivered His verdict – that truth is nowhere to be found, there is no justice. He saw that there was no-one, He was appalled that there was no-one to intervene (Isa 59:15-16). No-one, Pilgrim! Not one! Oh, have mercy, Lord! Look on our affliction and our distress and take away all our sins (Ps 25:18)! So His own arm achieved salvation for Him, and His own righteousness sustained Him. And people stared and gloated over Him, all who saw Him mocked Him and hurled insults at Him, they were appalled by His appearance which was disfigured beyond that of any human appearance. The One who keeps His eyes always on the Lord, the One who said He could only do what He saw His Father doing (John 5:19), His eyes closed as He died our death. But Pilgrim, He did not see decay (Ps 16:10), for after He suffered, He saw the light of life and was satisfied (Isa 53:11)! What a Saviour!

And behold, our Saviour came! He came and opened our eyes to our sin, and as we looked to Him for salvation, He saw our faith and these words rang out: “Take heart, your sins are forgiven” (Mt 9:2). And ever since the cry of our hearts has been “Why have I found such favour in Your eyes that You notice me?” (Ruth 2:10). It is because He sees the blood, dear Pilgrim (Ex 12:13)! He sees the blood of His precious Son which has been sprinkled over you by faith! Listen to His declaration, Pilgrim: ‘These are the ones I look on with favour: those who are humble and contrite in spirit, and who tremble at my word’ (Isa 66:2). Be assured of your favour in His eyes, dear Pilgrim, as you remain bowed low before Him, submitted to Him in faith. You are not hidden from His eyes. His eyes are not looking elsewhere.

For Pilgrim, as we look at Him now, risen, ascended, glorified, do you see His eyes? Look – His eyes – they are like blazing fire (Rev 1:14). Blazing fire – eyes of love, dear Pilgrim, love for His Bride. Listen to the words of His Bride:

“Place me like a seal over Your heart,
like a seal on Your arm;
for love is as strong as death,
its jealousy unyielding as the grave.
It burns like blazing fire,
like a mighty flame.”
(Song of Solomon 8:6)

How He loves His Bride! How He is jealous for His Bride! Oh, look into those eyes, Pilgrim! Look into those eyes of blazing fire – eyes that see clearly, eyes that burn away the impurities, eyes that expose the darkness and bring all things into the light. What eyes of love! Yet those same eyes will blaze with a holy fire on the day of His wrath when His righteous judgement is revealed. On that day those who do not know Him will cry out to the rocks and mountains to hide them from His face. Even now, Pilgrim, let us cry out to the Lord that they would see His hand lifted high and look to Him in faith that they too would know Him as El Roi.

And may the knowledge that our God is the One who sees strengthen our faith. May this truth give us confidence and assurance in our faith to draw close to Him, to look upon Him with eyes of faith. May He lift our eyes to His that we may be blessed to see His eyes looking upon us, those eyes like blazing fire.

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Dear Pilgrim, do you hear the sound of weeping?

Weeping willow by Andre Karwath (source:commons.wikimedia.org)

Dear Pilgrim, do you hear the sound of weeping? Do you hear the sound of wailing, of mourning, of grief?

This is the Valley of Baka (Ps 84:6), a dry valley, a valley without water, the valley of weeping. This is the place where tears flow like a river day and night, where beds are flooded with weeping and couches are drenched with tears, where streams of tears flow from eyes. This is the place where daughters are taught how to wail, where laments are taught to one another. This is the place where ashes are eaten as food and drink is mingled with tears. This is the place where sackcloth is worn and dust is sprinkled on heads. This is the house of mourning, dear Pilgrim.

Oh, Pilgrim, take courage as you pass through this valley. Be heartened, for this is not the sound of worldly sorrow that you hear, this is not the crying of self-pity that leads to death. Listen, dear Pilgrim. Can you hear this is godly sorrow?

For streams of tears are flowing from eyes because His law is not obeyed (Ps 119:136). Mourning over sin in self and mourning over sin in the land, the cry goes up to heaven that all the tears that fall be listed in His scroll and in His record (Ps 56:8). The hearts of the fathers have been turned away from their children in the land, so here in the Valley of Baka hearts are poured out on the ground in the presence of the Lord, hands are lifted to Him for the lives of their children who are fainting from hunger at every street corner, fainting from a hunger and a thirst for righteousness in the land. For truth has stumbled in the streets, and righteousness stands afar as His laws are disregarded. Is there anyone who can bring comfort? Is there anyone who can build up the wall and stand in the gap?

Oh, Pilgrim, now you are weeping too. Overcome by grief, you are weeping and weeping as you cry out “Is there no-one?”

Do not weep, dear Pilgrim! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed! The Righteous One came, full of grace and Truth, and after He shouted in victory "It is finished!" He rose again, He ascended, He has sat down at the right hand of God, and since that time He waits for His enemies to be made a footstool for His feet. And now that God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us (Rom 5:5), we overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit (Rom 15:13).

For as we travel through the Valley of Baka, it becomes a place of springs. As we acknowledge the Lord, as we press on to acknowledge Him, as surely as the sun rises He will appear, He will come to us like the winter rains, like the spring rains that water the earth (Hos 6:3). In the dry and weary land that you are passing through, as you spread out your hands to Him in your thirst, He will come and He will open your eyes to see the springs of water that He has provided. Where there is no water, He will give you the faith to cry out to Him in your thirst, and He will open up for you an En Hakkore – a caller’s spring (Judges 15:18-19)! He will turn the desert into pools of water, and the parched land into flowing springs (Ps 107:35). The burning sand will become a pool, the thirsty ground bubbling springs (Isa 35:7).

Be ever watchful though, dear Pilgrim, as you pass the springs – for not all are His - there are some deceptive brooks (Jer 15:18). These are springs without water, without His life-giving water (2 Pe 2:17). These are springs which will fail. For not only do some forsake the spring of living water, but they dig their own broken cisterns which cannot hold water (Jer 2:13). Oh, Pilgrim, watch out for those who will lead you astray, who mouth empty, boastful words and appeal to the lustful desires of the flesh, serving up to you muddied water out of a polluted well. There is no life in them! The only cure for bad water is to take a new bowl filled with salt and throw it into the spring (2 Ki 2:19-22).

Be patient as you travel through the valley, dear Pilgrim, waiting for the autumn rains. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop, patiently waiting for the autumn and spring rains. (James 5:7). Be patient, dear Pilgrim, as you go out weeping, carrying seed to sow, as you sow with tears. For you will reap with songs of joy in the fullness of time, you will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with you (Ps 126:5-6)!

And you will go from strength to strength, until that glorious day when you appear before God in Zion (Ps 84:7), where He will wipe away all the tears from your face, where you will drink without cost from the spring of the water of life (Rev 21:6) and where your mourning will turn to laughter (Luke 6:21). And when He comes and places a crown of beauty on your head instead of ashes (Isa 61:3) your joy will know no bounds.

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Dear Pilgrim, have you noticed the beauty of your feet?


Dear Pilgrim, have you noticed the beauty of your feet?

Take a look, dear Pilgrim. Yes, they may be hot and dusty from all the walking you have been doing, but do you see how beautiful they are?

Ah, the quizzical look in your eye…what are you wearing on your feet, dear Pilgrim? Do you see those sandals?

Remember, Pilgrim, when He first called you, when you realized you were standing on Holy ground, He told you to take off your sandals. How awesome was that moment when He revealed His Holiness to you, when you clearly saw for the first time your own uncleanness before Him. Remember how with trembling fingers you unstrapped your sandals as you bowed low before Him. Our God is Holy, Holy, Holy, and we can not bring anything with us before Him that is soiled and dirty. So those sandals which had been walking in the ways of darkness and wickedness had to be removed.

Oh, but Pilgrim, do you remember how He came to you and He Himself put sandals of fine leather on you (Eze 16:10)? The sandals that He gave you demonstrated that you were no longer a slave, a slave to sin, for slaves were given nothing to wear upon their feet. The sandals that He gave you announced before those watching that now you were a son – a son adopted into His family, given the prestige of wearing sandals upon your feet (Lk 15:22)! Oh, Pilgrim, we are not worthy to stoop down and untie the straps of His sandals (Mk 1:7), yet He came and knelt down at our feet as He dressed them in sandals of sonship and declared in great joy “How beautiful your sandalled feet!” (Song of Songs 7:1) What love is this?

Wearing these sandals of sonship, your feet have been released from snares (Ps 25:15), and instead you have been walking about in freedom because you have sought out His precepts (Ps 119:45). The path has become broad beneath you so that your ankles have not given way (Ps 18:36). Your feet have been set in a spacious place (Ps 31:8) as you have followed the lamp of His Word giving light to your path (Ps 119:105). Your feet, fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace (Eph 6:15) have been walking in the good works that He prepared in advance for you to do (Eph 2:10). On occasion it has been necessary for you to shake the dust off your feet (Mt 10:14) but have you noticed, dear Pilgrim, never once have you needed new sandals? For He has been sustaining you every step of the way (Dt 29:5).

Pilgrim, there is a further meaning behind His giving you sandals to wear. For unlike the idols which have feet, but cannot walk (Ps 115:7), our God has been walking ever since He created the world. He walked with Adam and Eve in the Garden in the cool of the day (Gen 3:8), and He promised His people “I will walk among you and be your God and you will be My people” (Lev 26:12). He walked amongst the lost sheep of Israel calling out those who would hear His voice, He walked to Golgotha to bear the penalty for our sin, His pierced feet walked with the disciples to Emmaus, and today He walks amongst His churches (Rev 2:1), speaking words of encouragement, rebuke and exhortation to those who have ears to hear what the Spirit is saying to the churches. Just as He walks, then, dear Pilgrim, we too must walk and follow our Good Shepherd as He leads the way for us, outside the city gate, to bear the disgrace He bore (Heb 13:13). Let us ask Him where He is walking, and let us follow. And do not fail to notice, dear Pilgrim, that as He walks He leads us upwards, ever heading towards Zion.

For there is a coming day when His feet will once again stand on the Mount of Olives (Zech 14:4), when He will gather us to be with Him, and when we will declare “Our feet are standing in your gates, Jerusalem!” (Ps 122:2). For this is the place of His throne and the place for the soles of His feet, the place where He will dwell among His people for ever (Eze 43:7).