This was the heading of a reading by Spurgeon which I was looking at last week and the words have stayed in my mind.
He began to write about the wolves which come to attack the Christian in the ‘evening’ and he painted a very vivid picture. These wolves were all the more ferocious because they had no food all day and were ravenous and vicious by evening time. And the Christian had felt very safe during daylight times when he was walking in pleasant places under sunny skies. Do you get the picture?
There are times when we are much more vulnerable to the attacks of the enemy. Perhaps you have lived through days or hours when life has been hard, when the future has been uncertain or when you have wandered spiritually and are living in a shadowland. There are many ways in which we can feel the night shadows coming around us. And at such a time the wolves that come to snap at our heels and attack us can be very vicious... where is God in all of your present troubles... You’re not really doing well, you’re not going to make anything of this Christian life... etc.
Just at the time I read these words by Spurgeon I had felt the enemy snapping around me and trying to upset me about a particular set of circumstances. But at the same time another verse of scripture stood out from something I was reading:
Cast your burden upon the Lord and He shall sustain you. (Psalm 55:22)
And immediately I sensed there would be a way through! The snapping of the enemy and the swirling of the shadows didn’t disappear immediately but somehow they began to lose their potency and there came a certainty that they would soon be gone. And by the end of the following day it was so.
Always remember that things can be painted very black by the enemy of your soul and when the Sun of Righteousness draws near the shadows can be dispelled in the brightness of His Presence... and the evening wolves are forced to retreat.
Abraham believed God and it was counted unto him for righteousness (Romans 4:3)
Abraham had to wait a long time for the fulfilment of God’s promise in the birth of Isaac. But during all that time he was growing spiritually, he wasn’t marking time. Sometimes he slipped, but he didn’t stay in a low place. He was brought back and he continued to believe. He is called ‘the father of the faithful’ - not because of his own track record but because he kept turning back to God and believed in His faithfulness.
Do we believe God? When we slip, when we doubt, do we languish in a low place for a long time before we are restored?
Though your sins be as scarlet they shall be as white as snow (Isaiah 1:18)
Behold I stand at the door and knock. If any man hears my voice I will come in and sup with him and he with me (Revelation 3:20)
I will never leave you or forsake you (Hebrews 13:5)
Do you believe what He says in these scriptures?
Promises like these should be like the bread of life to us - but you have to ‘eat’ them, digest them - and then they will become nourishment for your soul. And if we believe words like these we will keep coming back to them. We too will grow spiritually and begin to be rooted and grounded in the word of God and not swayed by every circumstance and mood. Our growth comes from drawing our life from Him. He is faithful - learn to believe in Him and trust Him in every situation.
‘Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them’. (2 Kings 6:6)
This story comes from the life of Elisha, when his servant was afraid because he saw the strength of the armies that were on the hillsides around them, ready to attack. But Elisha saw what the servant could not see - the heavenly armies that were present and were far mightier than the earthly armies. He asked that God would open the young man’s eyes that he might see them too.
This verse was in my daily reading and it struck a chord in me because of what I have been reading in the life of David for the past few days. The part I have been reading is the climax of the hunting down of David by Saul. Time after time, Saul seeks the whereabouts of David and sets out to kill him. And time after time God intervenes. At times it looks as if Saul has learned his lesson and repented, but not so - it starts all over again. Until it comes to a climax and Saul overreaches himself - he consults a medium and then word comes from God that he is about to be defeated in battle and killed.
What struck me as I read is the way in which we find that David does not give in to fear and discouragement in this long and weary conflict with Saul and neither does he take the battle into his own hands. Each time there is an escape, he must surely have hoped that the tide had turned and there was coming a change - and then Saul renews his attacks. But David kept following God, believing that his life was in God’s hands - not Saul’s hands. And ultimately the power of Saul was broken and David moves forward in his life and his calling.
At times, life can be wearisome and there seems to be no moving forward but if we look heavenward we will see that God is with us to strengthen us and carry us through and, like David, we do not need to give in to negative thinking. We will perhaps go further and see what Elisha saw - the armies of heaven are around us and there can be victory for the children of God if we keep looking into the spiritual world, and not the world around us. And I love the fact that God opened the eyes of the servant that he too saw the spiritual powers that were protecting them. So, even if you feel you are a very lowly person in the kingdom of God He can open your eyes that you, too, might see!
Lord, help us look into your world and find the strength, the encouragement and the hope that is there for every child of God!
I have heard all about you, Lord. I am filled with awe by your amazing works. In this time of our deep need, help us again as you did in years gone by. (Habakkuk 3:2)
The prophet Habakkuk was speaking at a time when life was hard for the nation and he encourages them to remember what God has done in the past - things such as the exodus from Egypt after years of slavery... the times of the judges when the people fell away and were rescued again and again and given victory over their enemies... the reign of David when Israel grew strong and established themselves as a powerful nation.
And we can add so much more when we look at the New Testament. It looked like total defeat when Jesus was crucified ..... but then there came the resurrection! It looked as if the church would never grow to anything after His ascension and only a small band of insignificant followers was left behind ..... but then there came the Day of Pentecost and the explosion of the power of God. And after that there came Paul, a vicious opponent of the gospel, ..... but after his conversion on the Damascus Road he took the gospel into the Gentile nations and to virtually every part of the Roman Empire.
Dark hours come again and again before the dawn.
Go to your Bible and remind yourself of what God has done in past. He is still the God of the universe and Christ is still the Saviour of the world.
After the victory on Mount Carmel, Elijah scanned the horizon. Then he prayed... and he went on praying... until his servant came back to say he saw a cloud the size of a man’s hand. And Elijah heard the sound of abundance of rain! Don’t be discouraged, read in your Bible of the wonderful works of God... and pray on... and on... for an intervention of God in your personal life (and many have been finding that already) - and in the life of the church and in the worldwide situation that faces us at this time.
My Spirit remains among you, just as I promised when you came out of Egypt. So do not be afraid. (Haggai 2:5)
These words were spoken to a people living in very hard times and it must have seemed to them that the time of the deliverance of their nation from Egypt was a far off memory and so removed from their own situation.
But that was not so. God’s Spirit remained among them. Think of the many times in scripture that God’s Spirit came to his people or to individuals and despair turned to hope, sadness turned to joy. Peter was released from prison... Paul and Silas found their chains broken in the darkness of a prison cell... the disciples found the Spirit outpoured on them on the Day of Pentecost and on many other occasions... John was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day on the isle of Patmos and was lifted into a place where he saw into the spiritual world and forgot for a time the hardships of the world around him.
In some of these situations you have a person, alone, in very discouraging circumstances but they found that ‘His Spirit remained among them'... and God has promised that it will be so for those who turn to Him, even to the end of the age when Christ returns again.
Where are you today? Are you discouraged or feeling crushed by your circumstances? God would remind us that His Spirit remains amongst us - so do not be afraid.
Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace.
You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies... my cup overflows with blessings... surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life. (Psalm 23)
About a year ago I was taking the funeral of a man who had made a profession of faith many years ago but had drifted away and become very cold until his life came into very difficult circumstances. He then grew bitter and angry about what had happened but in the afterward he started coming to church and gradually found a place of peace before he died very suddenly some years later.
At the funeral I spoke from the 23rd Psalm and in particular from some of the words quoted above - You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies.
The psalm was written by David and though he had many enemies throughout his life, he found that God provided for him, very richly, in every situation. But at the funeral I am speaking of, the emphasis was very different. That man’s enemies were the bitterness and anger that he was harbouring in his heart. And the wonderful thing was that God prepared a feast for him even in the presence of these enemies and gradually the love of God and the warmth of His presence worked a miracle and the enemies were defeated.
Often our enemies are within ourselves - enemies of discouragement, fear, a sense of failure. Or anger, resentment and bitterness. But if we come to God, even in the presence of these enemies, we can feed on something very different - He provides a feast of His love, His forgiveness, His care - and gradually the enemies lose their grip and our cup overflows with blessings.
I’m always grateful when I read the 23rd Psalm because it says that not only goodness, but mercy will follow us all the days of our lives. How we need that mercy, because of our weaknesses. Be encouraged, His mercy will follow you all your days and your cup can continue to overflow with blessings until you go to be with Him.
On my calendar this week I read these words written by a Welsh preacher -
‘The word of God is not only pure, it is also purifying’
I’ve been pondering this and trying to let the reality of it be felt in my own spirit. We can easily acknowledge that God’s word is pure - but we can look at it as something out there, distant from us, belonging to a holy God. That, of course, is to miss the point.
The Bible is a living book and the Word is meant to be applied to our lives. And when that happens it is like a stream of pure, living water that comes over and into our souls. It is like standing under a shower and feeling cleansed, invigorated and, yes, loved by the warmth of the water that flows over and around us. This pure stream has the power to do all that and make us clean.
There is healing in that water - sometimes physical healing, emotional healing, spiritual healing. It can be like the lame man going into the pool, in the gospels, when the water has been ‘troubled’ by the angel and finding that he has been made whole. As you read the Bible, let God ‘trouble’ the waters that you read and let the pure streams flow into your inner being, bringing change.
And we are told that ‘out of our inner beings will flow rivers of living water’. Their source is not in us, they come from God . And as we let them come in and purify us, these streams can flow out to others.
Do we read the Bible, looking for all of that? Why not look for it today?
Look! I am placing a foundation stone in Jerusalem, a firm and tested stone. It is a precious cornerstone that is safe to build on. Whoever believes need never be shaken. (Isaiah 28:16)
Familiar words to many of us, and they speak of Christ. These words are quoted in the New Testament by Paul ( in Romans 9 v 33 ) and by Peter ( in 1 Peter 2 v 6).
It is worth noting that it is Paul and Peter who quote this verse. Both of them had very real need of a firm foundation in their lives and one that was safe to build on.
Paul had built his life on the traditions and teachings of the Pharisees and that foundation crumbled beneath his feet when he met Jesus on the Damascus Road. Thereafter, his life was built on Jesus Christ and though every synagogue and every city turned against him and tried to destroy him, his foundation remained secure and he was never shaken. In fact, as you read one after another of his epistles, it becomes so clear that the cornerstone, Jesus Himself, is not only firm and steadfast but is very precious to Paul. And the security that is in Christ has taken root in Paul - it is clear and it is tangible.
And what of Peter? How he needed a secure foundation! He, like Paul, thought he was so strong and so able to stand against every onslaught that came against him. And yet, how wrong he was. He crumbled in a dark hour, and became so aware that when his confidence was in his own strength - and he had more strength than many people - he was building on something that was very shaky. But Peter came from that dark and broken place on to very solid ground in Jesus Christ. And he found a place where he never needed to be shaken again.
With the testimony of these two lives, surely we can be encouraged for our own lives.
If the foundation held firm for the fierce onslaught that came against Paul and Peter, surely it will hold firm for you and for me!
Be strong.......and now get to work, for I am with you says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. My Spirit remains among you, just as I promised when you came out of Egypt. So do not be afraid. (Haggai 2:4, 5)
Last Sunday morning I mentioned the children’s chorus ‘Building up the Temple’ and later discovered that it had been sung in our on line Sunday School that morning. And it’s that theme of working in the Kingdom of God that I want to bring to you today.
In Haggai’s day the temple was in ruins. The people had started to rebuild it but they had grown tired and had been sidetracked into dealing with their own lives, their homes and their business. Haggai brought them back to their commitment to build the temple and in a very short time the work was done.
You may think that this is an inappropriate time to speak about renewing our enthusiasm and commitment to the work of God but I don’t think that is the case. Many people in this time of upheaval have found a new focus on the things that are eternal and already there has been created in many of you a desire to lay aside the things that would distract you and to grow spiritually - and to help others to grow also.
Haggai encouraged the people with a word from God - ‘my Spirit remains among you, just as I promised when you came out of Egypt‘. It was many centuries since they had come out of Egypt, but God was still the same God and His work was going forward. And for us, it is many centuries since the death and resurrection of Jesus and since the outpouring of His Spirit at Pentecost, but He promised ‘I am with you always even to the end of the age’. His Spirit is still moving, and moving amongst us as part of His worldwide church.
Can we get to work - to build a stronger temple for the Holy Spirit inside our lives ( we are told that our bodies are the temple of the Spirit) and to be ready to commit ourselves to the work of God with a sharper focus and greater enthusiasm when we have that opportunity in the days ahead?
And the next morning the area round the camp was wet with dew. When the dew evaporated, a flaky substance as fine as frost blanketed the ground... And Moses told them, “It is the food the Lord has given you to eat”. (Exodus 16:13 -15)
The dew often speaks of the Holy Spirit. And here, His coming is quiet and unseen. There is a line in a hymn which says
Drop thy still dews of quietness till all our strivings cease
and I think there is much to learn in this. It is not learned quickly; it takes time.
We need to learn to be still in the presence of God and to let the clamour of all the voices in our mind die down. When we do that, our spirits can become wet with the dew of His presence and we are refreshed. At the end of a day we can be distracted by many thoughts, we can be tired, we can be discouraged - we need the quiet coming of the Spirit to refresh our souls.
And when we have stilled our souls in this way and the dew evaporates - there is manna from heaven. Sometimes it’s a verse of scripture that is quickened for us, sometimes it is the drawing near of the bread of heaven Himself - the Lord Jesus - and we feed on Him. The manna was white and it was round, speaking of the purity and perfection of Christ. And it was there every morning.
Christ is so near, so accessible if we will quieten all the noise around us and within us, if we will silence the things of earth that absorb us more than they should and feed on the One who is the Living Bread, brought to us by the dew of heaven.
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