Bricks and Sycomores

Isaiah 9:8-10. “The Lord sent a word into Jacob, and it hath lighted upon Israel. And all the people shall know, even Ephraim and the inhabitant of Samaria, that say in the pride and stoutness of heart, The bricks are fallen down, but we will build with hewn stones: the sycomores are cut down, but we will change them into cedars.”

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This passage begins a section that takes us through to chapter 10:4. After the wonderful promises of vv. 6-7,  God speaks further denunciations of evil and warnings of impending judgments. The people had to be reminded that the promises of vv. 6-7 would not be fulfilled until things grew so bad that there seemed no hope at all of help and deliverance.

The reference to Ephraim, in this context, refers to all of Israel.They were guilty of persistent hardness of heart. Even after the failure of their alliance with with Syria, there was no repentance. They looked at the destruction and said, “Well, sure, the bricks have been taken apart, but WE will rebuild with stone hewn out of the quarry. We will replace the sycomore trees with cedars.”

You’d think, wouldn’t you, that suffering under the hands of Syria and Assyria would have brought them to some semblance of humility before God?  Not yet. They had to suffer more, a lot more, before they turned back to God.

Judgment and Justice

Isaiah 9:7. “Of the increase of His government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon His kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from hence forth even for ever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.”

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When Jesus returns to establish His kingdom, the world finally experience the peace that so many are crying for today. The difference will be that no human ruler will be in charge. Jesus Christ Himself will sit on the throne of David, and the extent of His government, and the peace He will create, will have no end. This, by the way, is what a much loved Christmas carol is actually about:  Not His birth, but His return as King of King and Lord of Lords.

When Jesus establishes Himself on the throne of Dave, 2 Sam. 7:16 will be fulfilled. His judgment and righteousness will never end.

One of my sources indicates that the word zeal in this passage would better be rendered as jealousy.  W.E Vine says: 

His jealousy will have two goals. It is a fire of indignation against all who mistreated His chosen earthly people; it is also a fire that burns with such a love for them and zeal for their welfare that it must consume all unfaithfulness in their midst.

 

Sunday Morning Coffee:A Setback

I was doing so well. Got my staples out of the incision, was feeling really good. Then I went to a store with Terry, stayed on my feet for maybe half an hour, walked a little, stood still  a little. Knew I needed to get back to the car. Little pinchy twinges in the right lumbar.

“NO!”  says I to myself. ‘I’ll be fine once we get home and I can stretch out on my bed. This is just a temporary setback.”   But I knew.  Really, deep inside, I knew.

My right-side lumbar pain is back. Not the one the surgery targeted. That seems fine. The one that started this whole mess two years ago, that’s what is rearing its ugly head.

So I’m back to resting, not sitting much, using the bed Terry set up in the living room. And maybe I can get ahead of it. If I have to, I’ll start taking my pain meds again.

What did I do to cause this?  Probably nothing. I’m always careful these days.  I took my cane with me, even though I don’t use it at home any more. It just happened.

So, how can I make a spiritual application here?  Always, it’s  good to look for that. It helps me to understand that God knows all about it, and I don’t have to  try to figure out.

First, it’s yet another opportunity to trust Him.  He knows I’m supposed to go back to work in  just a little over a week. He knows  what I can tolerate as far as sitting is concerned, and He will make a way for me to be able to deal with my situation. In my head, I know this is true. My emotions, however, are less stable and will take more convincing.  That’s one reason why we need to follow what we know to be true, not how we feel. Feelings change from moment to moment. God’s truth is always the same.

Second, it’s  an opportunity  to give Him my fear. I don’t like pain. I don’t like knowing that I will be dealing with pain, at some level, for the rest of my life. I have a condition, not an illness that will eventually be healed. Conditions like mine don’t disappear. The pain can be treated and eased,  but the underlying problem will not disappear.  I have to  give that to the Lord on a regular basis. Give Him my fear, and grab the promise, again, that He will be with me through the valley of the shadow of death. I’m not being melodramatic here.  I’m just looking to the future. If I don’t learn to trust Him now, through the small stuff, then I won’t trust Him later.

Faith, I’m learning, is a step-by-step journey. One step, one hour, one day at a time.

Depression and the Bible

(First posted January 18, 2013)

 

Hoo boy.  This can be a really hot topic, and I’m sure there are many who would not agree with some of the things I’m about to say.  The attitude that depression is simply a sin problem is still alive and well out there.  Those who ascribe to that position will tell you that if you will confess your sin, forsake it, and get right with God, your depression will lift.

Is that ever really true?  Sure, I suppose it can be.  Clearly, living with hidden or overt sin in your heart will make you unhappy and out of sorts with both God and man if there is any sense of right and wrong in you.  The Holy Spirit moves in our hearts to convict us of sin.  When He does, we need to confess, repent, and forsake that sin if we are to be right with God and able to sleep peacefully.

However, I disagree strongly with the idea that all depression is simply a sin problem.  That’s an over-simplification.  I have known people both personally and professionally who have struggled with terrible depression and have begged God to reveal their sin to them, only to fall more deeply into misery when they hear no answer, drowning in a quagmire of guilt.

It seems to me there has to be a more balanced explanation, and I believe there is.  If you will go back and read my other posts on depression, you will better understand what I’m about to say here.

Let’s look at the story of Elijah in I Kings 18: 17-19:15.  Please read it for yourself.  What you’re about to get here is my condensed version of this great story.

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King Ahab had told Elijah that he, Elijah, was “troubling Israel.”Elijah’s response was direct and condemning;  Ahab and his ancestors were the ones to blame for the present drought, because they had forsaken God and turned to idols. Elijah then challenged Ahab to gather up all the   people of Israel, along with the prophets of Baal, the false God, and send them to Mount Carmel for a little contest.

When everyone had arrived, Elijah proclaimed himself to the only true prophet of God who remained.  You want to talk about lonely?

He then challenged the false prophets to make an offering, and to lay it on an altar stacked with wood, but to lay no fire under the altar.  He would do the same.  He then instructed them to call on the name of their god, and he would call on the name of the Lord.  The God Who answered with fire would then be proclaimed the true God of Israel.

Well, you know what happened.  Baal’s priests cried and prayed, moaned and wept; they even cut themselves so blood would flow, to impress their god.  Elijah mocked at them in 18:27, suggesting that perhaps Baal had taken a little nap, or was on a vacation.   It was all to no avail. They jumped up onto the altar, bleeding “copiously,” while Baal did nothing.  Silence.

Then Elijah ordered the people to come closer to him, and he built an altar with twelve stones to represent the tribes of Israel. He dug a huge trench around the altar, and commanded that four barrels of water be poured over the offering.  The water would be captured in the trench.  Then he told them to do it again.  Four more barrels. A third time, and the trench was filled, the meat sodden, the wood soaking wet.

At the time of the evening sacrifice, Elijah prayed.  He said, “Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Israel, let it be known this day that Thou art God in Israel, and that I am Thy  servant, and that I have done all these things at Thy word. Hear me, O Lord, hear me, that this people may know that Thou art the Lord God, and that Thou hast turned their heart back again.”

And the fire of God came down and consumed the sacrifice, the stones, the wood, and the water!  Wouldn’t you love to see the video of that? The people repented, and Elijah told them to gather up all the false prophets, and he took them down to the brook Kishon, and he killed them all there. Not one of them escaped.

Do you think Elijah may have been a little weary after such a busy day?  Do you think he was spent emotionally, physically, even spiritually?  Sure he was.  We all would be.  This was a day-long trial.  He was exhausted, even though God had given him such a victory.

So what happens next?  Well, Elijah told Ahab to go get some lunch, because it was going to rain, children.  And Elijah went back up the mountain, sat down, put his head between his knees, and while his servant watched, he waited for the rain. When it came, God strengthened Elijah and we are told that he tied up his robe around his waist and raced Ahab, who was riding, and went to visit Queen Jezebel.

I’ve always wondered why he did that.  Jezebel wasn’t overly fond of Elijah.  When Ahab told Jezzie what had happened, she sent a message to Elijah that told him she would have his life by the next day. Our great man of God, who had won the day and conquered evil, then turned back around and ran for his life, fleeing to the wilderness.

Finally, he sat down to rest under a juniper tree and begged God to let him die.  He was weary to the bone, sick at heart, defeated and dejected because the queen wanted his head. The rest of the story tells how God revived him, spoke quietly to him, and set him back on his feet.

What was Elijah’s great sin?  I suppose you could say he lost his faith that God would protect him, and that would be true as far as it goes.  However, I believe that lapse of faith was based on more than simple unbelief.  Elijah’s great faith is clearly apparent in the preceding events, after all.  No, I think there was physical exhaustion, emotional emptiness, spiritual depletion that all played in to a  time of depression.  He wanted to die!

How quickly we can forget what God has already done for us, and fall into a period of wanting to give up, to just drift into nothingness, and leave all our worries and troubles behind!  When this happens, it is of course partially  spiritual.  But we cannot discount the impact of being completely physically spent.  When our bodies wear out, so does our ability to think biblically and logically.  We can be consumed with our emotional reactions, and lose sight of our faith for a while.

Even Jesus went aside to rest when he was constantly ministering to the crowds.  If He needed a time apart to restore His spirit, how much more do we!

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5 thoughts on “Depression and the Bible”

  1. Glenda

    I also agree with you. It’s too easy for us to tell people that they need to get rid of the sin in their lives, as if we ourselves are not guilty of having sin in our own lives. Thank you for your insight, and I’m enjoying this discussion about depression very much!

  2. Excellent post! We shouldn’t brush off the idea that depression can be a sin problem, but the Bible examples of godly men suffering from depression shows us that it isn’t always a sin problem.

  3. Reblogged this on COW PASTURE CHRONICLES and commented:

    My blog, from which these posts on depression are being reblogged, is a Bible study blog. Just about everything I write has to do with God’s Word, or is at least influenced by my faith. That is true of the depression posts. I just wanted to be sure you’re aware of what you’re about to read 🙂

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Prince of Peace

Isaiah 9:6. “. . .the Prince of Peace. . . ”

I’ve thought about this Name for several days. Why Prince of Peace, and not King of Peace?  Why Prince of Peace when we know that there will be rebellion even during the Millenial Kingdom?

I think the answer to my first question lies in the fact that Jesus, the Son of God, the King of Kings, will sit on David’s throne. the Son of the King is the Prince.

Even though there will be rebellion, it will be quickly destroyed. It will be a peaceable kingdom because no one will try to support or protect those who would lead a rebellion against Jesus.

And finally, the best kind of peace:  the deeper, more foundational meaning of peace is “the spiritual harmony brought about by an individual’s restoration with God.”  There will be peace in our relationship with God. We will experience the peace of unity and restoration with Him. There won’t be political parties, elections, and all the surrounding fanfare of human politics.

Peace. Shalom, in Hebrew. I can’t wait.

Everlasting Father

Isaiah 9:6.”. . . .the Everlasting Father. . . ”

Eternal:  Everlasting, having no end or beginning.

Father:  He Who is Creator, He Who owns all that was, is, and ever will be.  He Who chooses to send His Son, Jesus, to die for the sins of all, that all may have eternity in heaven with Him if they believe in Him.

A father is a seminal being, the beginning of a new family, the head of that family. He is the one the family relies upon. A godly father welcomes that responsibility and glories in what he is able to do for his loved ones.

We have an Everlasting Father Whose delight is to give us what we need.

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.”  James 1:17.

The Mighty God

Isaiah 9:6. “. . .The Mighty God. . .”

To be mighty is to be powerful, strong, invincible.

Through the ages, the forces of evil have done their best to destroy Christianity. They crucified Jesus, but that didn’t work.  They persecuted early believers, but that didn’t work. They burned the Book, but that didn’t work. They made laws against the practice of Christianity, but that didn’t work. They tried to forbid prayer in public places, but that didn’t work. They’ve tried to close down God’s church, but that didn’t work. They’re still trying all these things today, and such thinking is even infecting America.  It won’t work.

It may seem as if there is victory, but God is The Mighty God. He will not be defeated. He will conquer every foe who rises against Him, in His own time. He will rule the earth. He will rule eternity.

He is Wonderful, Counsellor, the Might God.

Amen.