He was the grandson of Abraham and a chosen son, but Jacob’s life was far from exemplary. After fleeing from his enraged brother Esau, Jacob, the deceiver, had an encounter with God at a place he named Bethe, the House of God. Despite the commitments he made to the Lord that night, a sinful heart led him far away from that place. It took many years and many hard lessons learned, but at last, a weary and broken Jacob listened to the Lord and went “back to Bethel.” In this broadcast of Let the Bible Speak, learn how we, like Jacob, can easily get away from God’s house. Is God calling you back to your own Bethel?
The Bible sometimes uses the word darkness as a metaphor for sin and evil. Other times, we think of darkness as a lack of knowledge and understanding of the will of God, such as the Gentiles who lived in darkness in the dispensation before Christ came. But the Bible also uses the term in another way and this type of darkness comes to all of us at one time or another. It has nothing to do with whether or not we believe and trust God or whether we’re a Christian or not. This darkness overtakes us when circumstances invade our lives that often we have little to no control over and we are left feeling confused as to why we’re experiencing these things and how we’re to find our way out of it. Perhaps you are going through a period of darkness in your life right now. Maybe the death of a loved one, maybe a sickness of someone you know, a loved one, or even yourself. Maybe it’s the loss of a job or other circumstances that are hanging over your head today, making you very anxious and troubled.
There is a passage in the book of Isaiah that should be of great help and comfort to we who are Christians today, and it should also serve as a warning to us—a warning as to what we should NOT do when times of darkness come. This is a prophecy written to the nation of Israel concerning the hope that they were to have in the coming Messiah. There would be many things to unfold in the days to come that would challenge their faith in God and their confidence in His promises. They would not be able to reconcile God’s promise of a Savior with the terrible events that were to come upon them in the meantime. Even though Christ has already come and made Himself known to us today, we sometimes find ourselves in the same position as people have throughout history. If we’re not careful, we fail to trust in God’s promises when circumstances seem to go against us, and things seem to us to be out of control. But the prophet exhorted the nation then and in principle, us today not to make a terrible mistake with our faith when darkness comes. If you’ll really internalize what the prophet is saying here, I promise it will help and comfort you in times of darkness.
Isaiah 50:10-11 “Who is among you that feareth the LORD, that obeyeth the voice of his servant, that walketh in darkness, and hath no light? let him trust in the name of the LORD, and stay upon his God. Behold, all ye that kindle a fire, that compass yourselves about with sparks: walk in the light of your fire, and in the sparks that ye have kindled. This shall ye have of mine hand; ye shall lie down in sorrow.”
What does this mean? How does the prophet’s admonition to God’s people long ago help us in our times of trouble and darkness today? Our subject today will be Dealing with Darkness.
In our text passage, the people are exhorted to place their faith and trust in Jehovah as they go through the veil of darkness and suffering. The servant of the Lord, Isaiah, is prophesying to the people about the Messiah who was to come in the surrounding verses. They were to follow his example in relying on God even as they suffered. That’s one of the most difficult things even for the most devoted followers of Christ to learn to do. Suffering and sorrow—whether it be persecution, sickness, disaster, or simply great loss in life—don’t seem to belong in the life of a true and devoted believer. The fact that such things do often afflict our lives—even the lives of the most holy and devout—is one of the greatest stumbling blocks in the minds of people. They can seriously challenge our faith in God and His word if we allow them to.
But Isaiah says we’re not to allow that to happen. We are not to give in to the temptation to turn away from God and turn somewhere else for answers when trouble comes. He reminds us of some things that can be of help and encouragement to us in our days of distress. First of all, Isaiah tells us that darkness WILL indeed come in the lives of God’s people.
Isaiah 50:10 “Who is among you that feareth the LORD, that obeyeth the voice of his servant, that walketh in darkness, and hath no light? let him trust in the name of the LORD, and stay upon his God.”
Wouldn’t it naturally follow that if one is doing the will of God and is in fellowship with God that he would find himself walking in the light? Enjoying God’s favor? We’re inclined to think that way. In some cases, we’ve been conditioned to think that way and to believe that if God really exists and is all- powerful, and if someone loves and obeys God’s will, then everything should just work out and be wonderful all along the way. The more faith you have, the closer you are to God, so the more sunny and pleasant life should be. But that’s not what he says. He says, …that walketh in darkness, and hath no light. You see, darkness and discipleship are not mutually exclusive. In some ways, they go hand in hand.
Suffering is not always the result of personal sins that one commits, although it CAN be. But suffering is the result of living in a fallen and sin-filled world. Being a Christian may mean that one is forgiven of sin, but it doesn’t take one out of this world where the effects and consequences of the Fall of man are constantly felt. In some regards, following Christ can be the beginning of trouble. Jesus never promised that He would insulate and isolate His people from trials and difficulties. In fact, He told His disciples this:
John 16:33 “…In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”
Paul would later say this:
2 Timothy 3:12 “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.”
We read of Christians in the New Testament getting sick, including Paul, Timothy, and many others. We read of Christians suffering tragedy and loss and all kinds of tribulation. Even Jesus our Lord, the perfect Son of God and Son of Man, faced great difficulty, sorrow, loneliness, and loss within His own earthly life. In fact, if you go back to the fountainhead of the human family, you’ll find that every faithful and devoted servant of God has suffered some type of setback in his/her life. It wasn’t all sunshine and roses for God’s people.
God allowed every earthly thing that Job held dear to be stripped away from him. He lost his farm, his family, his health—everything about his earthly life suddenly fell apart and left him. His three so-called friends came and did what many today do: they tried to blame Job and his relationship with God. Oh, Job! If you were right with God, those things wouldn’t have happened to you. You must’ve offended God in some way. He must be meting out some kind of punishment, they reasoned. But what does the Bible say about Job? It doesn’t say that he was a bad man or a wicked man. It says just the opposite.
Job 1:1 “There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed (or shunned) evil.”
What did Isaiah say? One who fears God and obeys His servant sometimes finds himself walking through a period of darkness. It’s not a matter of whether bad things will happen—they will. The question is, how does the Christian deal with the darkness when it does come? Isaiah says when it comes, let him trust in the name of the Lord, and stay upon his God. What does trust imply? It means that we take God at His word because we believe Him even though we don’t understand what’s happening or why.
If you’re feeling bewildered and perplexed by things that are sweeping through your life, perhaps right now, do you know you’re in good company? You shouldn’t feel like you’ve somehow missed the point. A more brilliant theologian never lived than the great apostle Paul. He wrote nearly half of the New Testament. He was incredibly educated. He was as devoted a disciple to Jesus Christ as ever walked the face of the earth. There is not a human being who gave more, spent more, or sacrificed more for Christ that did Paul. He had the theology of redemption down to every t crossed and every i dotted. Yet he said this:
2 Corinthians 4:8 “We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair;”
That word perplexed means at a mental loss. Paul says we do not understand, but we do not despair. Why? Because like Isaiah admonished the people, Paul feared and obeyed God, but he was walking in darkness. He couldn’t understand all the things that were happening, but he didn’t despair because he trusted in the name of the Lord and stayed upon God. He is a tremendous example of how we should deal with darkness in our own lives. God wants us to trust Him and we have to learn how to trust Him. If we knew and understood everything, would we trust God? The history of God’s people shows that the very opposite takes place. Man becomes self-righteous, self-sufficient and excludes God from his life, his decisions, and his affections. That’s why when times are good and bank accounts are full, when peace prevails and opportunity abounds, spirituality begins to fade. Trusting God in the darkness, as Isaiah says we are to do, implies that we take God at His word–despite the fact that we don’t understand how He will do what He says, but we believe He will. It often necessitates darkness and trouble to learn that lesson. Here is a spiritual discipline that takes place in darkness. Paul learned that.
In 2 Corinthians 12, Paul refers to a wonderful experience that had happened to him fourteen years earlier when God gave him a great vision of Paradise. Paul had an experience that others do not have and then come back to tell about it. But there’s something interesting to what Paul concludes from his experience when he took that trip to the third heaven.
2 Corinthians 12:7-9 “And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”
It takes maturity as a Christian to reach the point where you can glory in infirmity and praise God in the darkness, that you can trust Him in the storm. You see, God was disciplining Paul to not rely on himself, to not glory in himself, to not bank upon the experiences that God had allowed him to have. So, He allowed sorrow and affliction to temper and discipline Paul. To serve as a continual reminder of his dependence upon God and his need for God’s grace. So, God uses the dark periods of life to cultivate the relationship of the human to the divine, the creation to the Creator. We would never develop that relationship were it not for those experiences. We must learn to trust in the name of the Lord when we cannot apply our human reasoning, understanding, and strength to find our way out of the darkness.
It has often been said, it takes the night to show the stars. Someone may say, The stars are really out tonight. But the stars aren’t really any brighter tonight than they were last night. And they are no greater in number at night than they are at noon. The difference is at noon we can’t see them. Think about this: In the day, you see what you think is a long way away. But really, it isn’t. the clouds are but a few miles above the earth. Even the sky itself is merely the atmosphere that envelops the globe only a relative few miles above us. But at night? Stand outside and look at the canopy of stars tonight and even what you can see with the naked eye is a mind-boggling distance from earth.
Someone said that you may have your brightest thoughts at daytime, but you’ll have your deepest thoughts at night. That is so very true. Isaiah says not only to trust in the name of the Lord, but to also stay upon God. Find God and stay with Him. It means we lean upon God. The word stay here is the same word used by the psalmist in the familiar 23rd Psalm when he says, Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me (verse 4). The shepherd had his staff to lean upon for strength and stability, and that’s what Isaiah is talking about. That’s what God is teaching us to do. When darkness comes and you can’t see your hand in front of your face, you need to think about this: what else is there to do but trust and lean upon God? What happens to us if we don’t learn to do that? If instead of allowing trials to shape, mold, and define our faith in God, what if we turn to self? What if we doubt God’s word and His promises and turn to our own wisdom and the wisdom of the world? Isaiah has a warning for us.
Isaiah 50:11 “Behold, all ye that kindle a fire, that compass yourselves about with sparks: walk in the light of your fire, and in the sparks that ye have kindled. This shall ye have of mine hand; ye shall lie down in sorrow.”
When it all goes dark, we scramble to find a light because we don’t like the insecurity, anxiety, and uncertainty of the darkness around us that we cannot see. That’s how we react spiritually to the darkness, too. But the Bible says that is a terrible mistake that will only deal us greater misery. Kindle a fire of your own, walk by the light of that fire, and you will have sorrow from the hand of the Lord. It is better to trust God when you can’t see in the darkness around you than it is to light your own fire to see your way out. It will not solve your problems but compound them.
There is a great Bible example of that very thing. Remember when God told Abram that he and Sarai were to have a son and that He had great plans and great blessings in store for them and for the world through this son? They didn’t understand how this was going to happen. That was a matter of darkness to them. Time passed and there was no son, and they didn’t understand what God was doing. You recall that Sarai hatched a plan to basically help God along. She told Abram to go and be with her handmaiden, Hagar, and conceive a child by her and that way God’s promise would be fulfilled.
That may sound like a good plan, but it wasn’t. The problem was it wasn’t God’s plan. Any son born to another woman besides the one God chose would not be the son of promise. But Abram did what Sarai suggested and Ishmael was born. If you know your Bible history and very much about world history, you know that the children of Abraham have been made to lie down in sorrow ever since that time. The same is true in your life if you refuse to trust God in your darkness and you lean instead on your own understanding.
Let me tell you this, my friend. I don’t have all the answers and neither do you. I haven’t figured out the many mysteries of life and you haven’t either. It seems especially unreasonable when one who loves and fears the Lord goes through suffering and tragedy, but God has the answers. He sees it all, from beginning to end. He knows you, He knows the circumstances, He knows the reasons, and He knows the outcome. There is not one thing that surprises or confuses the Lord. It is all within His sovereign control. The question is, will you trust Him who made the universe and holds it in the palm of His hand, whose knowledge is infinite? Or will you foolishly refuse Him and turn to the vain and ignorant thoughts of mere mortal man?
I can promise you this. For the Christian, the darkness will not last. There is no such promise for the person who does not know Jesus. That’s the folly of living for self and living in sin. The Bible warns of nothing but eternal darkness for the person who lives in sin and rejects the Savior, and that’s an awful prospect. But for the one who trusts God, there is always the promise of a brighter day. There is no circumstance in life that can rob the hope that one has in Christ Jesus. There is always God’s promise of a day when there will be no pain, no suffering, no sorrow, no sin, no death. An eternal day.
If you back up just a few verses in our text, God says this:
Isaiah 50:3-4 “I clothe the heavens with blackness, and I make sackcloth their covering. The Lord GOD hath given me the tongue of the learned, that I should know how to speak a word in season to him that is weary: he wakeneth morning by morning, he wakeneth mine ear to hear as the learned.”
Within His own wisdom and judgment, God allows things to happen. We don’t know the mystery of God’s ways, but He allows things to happen as they happen for His reasons. You see, the darkness deepens our faith when we learn in the darkness to trust in God and stay or lean upon Him. There is something interesting about Psalm 23, going back to that phrase staying upon God. You’ll notice that the psalmist is talking to you and me in the beginning.
Psalm 23:1 “<<A Psalm of David.>> The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.”
He is explaining to us who God is. Then a few verses later, he is not talking about God, but he is addressing God.
Psalm 23:4 “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.”
He is talking to God. When he got into that dark, uncertain, treacherous place where a shepherd would sometimes find himself, he had learned to lean upon God. He was cultivating a relationship with God that he wouldn’t have had outside of that dark valley.
Friend, you need the Lord. Maybe the present circumstance in your life, whatever it may be, is telling you that you need the Lord more than ever before. There is nobody and nothing else that will lead you safely through the storms of life but the Lord. Maybe you find yourself in a time of great darkness and perplexity today. Maybe everything around you is falling apart. Isn’t it a good time for you to seek His face and learn to trust and depend upon the One who has a master plan for this universe and who holds the whole wide world in His hands? If we can help you find Him and His will for your life as revealed in His word, we want to hear from you today.
©2020 BibleWay Media. All rights reserved. BibleWay Media grants permission to copy this material for personal use. Permission is also granted to distribute this transcript as long as it is reproduced in its entirety, used solely for its original purpose of spreading the gospel, and attribution is given to the author and Let the Bible Speak.
This broadcast of Let the Bible Speak originated in August 1979 on KTVT-TV 11 in Dallas-Fort Worth. The host was Johnny Elmore. Bro. Elmore passed through the veil into eternity in December 2019. He faithfully served the Lord and His church for nearly 70 years and preached all across the United States and around the world. Enjoy this vintage broadcast.
The words darkness and salvation seem antithetical but the bible affirms that darkness ofttimes invades the life of a believer. In fact, some of the most devoted people of faith have gone through some of the deepest times of darkness in their lives. Should this be? What should we conclude when this happens and more importantly, how should we react? In this broadcast of Let the Bible Speak, we turn to a powerful passage in the book of Isaiah that can give you great guidance and blessed assurance in your own darkness.
I hope you and your loved ones have remained well in these uncertain and turbulent times. Today is a day when many are thinking about the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ and that’s a good thing because Jesus DID arise from the dead and it changed everything. The world and our eternal future was changed. It brought hope where there was no hope. It secured the promise of tomorrow where there was no promise of tomorrow, the hope of eternal life. We today can know the resurrection from deadness of sin, as well as the physical resurrection from the dead when Jesus comes again. All because Jesus came out of that tomb on the first day of the week, long ago.
But we don’t merely celebrate that on one day of the year. We do so every Lord’s Day. Sunday is the Lord’s Day and His people come together to commune, and in so doing, we not only proclaim the Lord’s death, but we also celebrate His resurrection and look forward to His coming again. I am thankful that Jesus died for my sins and I’m thankful that He rose again securing the hope of eternal life. If you don’t know that hope, if you have not experienced the power of His resurrection through obedience to the gospel, I want to urge you to be thinking about that and to do something about that today.
We certainly continue to pray for all those affected by COVID-19 and all who are facing the fallout of what this has done to the world economically and in many other ways. Our prayers are with our leaders who are tasked with leading the nations of the earth and the governments within them through this turbulent period, the healthcare workers and those who must work to keep our society functioning. Our prayers are with all through this time. May God give you the wisdom and strength to do the right things for all involved.
Speaking of prayer, that’s a popular subject right now. I’ve read articles in the past week or two that pointed out that people have been turning to their faith during this time of trouble. We’re being encouraged, and rightly so, to seek God’s help through this crisis. Burdened with fear and anxiety along with the fact that the pace of our daily lives has been slowed to a near halt, many have been turning their minds to spiritual matters such as reading the Bible, spending time in prayer, and evaluating their relationship to God. We’re constantly told by religious leaders and even political leaders to pray. Just a few weeks ago, President Trump designated Sunday, March 15th as a day of prayer, urging Americans to turn to God and to pray for our nation and the world in the midst of this crisis. I always appreciate any world leader who will acknowledge a power greater than themselves and one who will encourage people to seek God.
The question is, will God hear when we cry out to Him? Can we take for granted that God is listening and will respond to our prayer? We know that the Bible teaches that God hears and answers prayer, and He has certainly commanded His people to pray. He has offered us the comfort and consolation, the opportunity and privilege of prayer. But does that mean when crisis and calamity come, and people cry to the Lord for help that they can merely assume that He WILL hear and answer? We can see throughout history where people have called upon God in times of distress and sometimes He listened and other times He did not. As we look at those times recorded in scripture, there is a common theme that runs throughout. Sometimes God said He would hear and then there were times when He refused His people. So, what was the difference?
Let’s begin our study by reading from the book of Psalm. This is one of David’s psalms of praise extolling the greatness and power of God.
Psalm 145:17-20 “The LORD is righteous in all his ways, and holy in all his works. The LORD is nigh unto all them that call upon him, to all that call upon him in truth. He will fulfil the desire of them that fear him: he also will hear their cry, and will save them. The LORD preserveth all them that love him: but all the wicked will he destroy.”
One of the great comforts of life is knowing that God is ultimately in control of the universe and He is a hiding place and a refuge when distressing things happen that we have no power over ourselves. Since we live in a fallen world, we all must deal with the scars that sin has left upon God’s creation. Because this earth has been corrupted and polluted by sin, terrible things sometimes happen to us or around us, and we’re often left to wonder why.
Last week, we looked at what the Bible teaches is the source of difficulties such as diseases, famines, and natural disasters. For example, many are claiming that COVID-19 is a plague sent from God to punish the world for its sinfulness. If you missed that program, I hope you’ll go to our website or Youtube channel and listen to it. It was called Plagues and Punishment. We discovered that there have indeed been times in history when God actively used such things as implements of His judgment upon sinners, no doubt, but it is pure speculation at best to suggest that this or any other modern disease or disaster is actually sent by God to punish us. When such events occurred in the Bible, they were preceded by warnings that associated the punishment with the prediction, and there was no doubt that these things were acts of God just as He had promised to perform those things to judge sin. There is nothing in the Bible that speaks specifically of this coronavirus or any other modern pandemic as something God would send in His wrath. Disasters occur because of the normal operation of natural law and the consequences of the Fall on creation (Romans 8:20-22).
With all of that said, God is certainly aware of all that is going on in our world today. Make no mistake—He is sovereign, and He is absolutely in control of all that goes on. We can know that God permits or allows these things to occur. But there is a difference in God allowing things to occur and God actively sending things as a form of punishment. God allows the consequences of the Fall and the continuing free will of mankind to occur. Today, there is no doubt that God can and does use events to His own glory, and one of the ways that is accomplished is by getting people’s attention and bringing honest souls to Him. Not only that, the Bible teaches that God sometimes uses such things as a means of testing and refining the faith of His own people—those who are already His children. Such is the case of the Roman persecution faced by the early church. In the Hebrew letter, the writer reminds the church that the trials and sufferings that they faced were a form of discipline by which the Lord was training and refining them as His children (Hebrews 12). Peter emphasized the same principle in his epistles and Paul had difficulties in his life that vexed and troubled him daily. His burden became so painful to bear that he begged the Lord three times to take it away (2 Corinthians 12:7-9). But the Lord refused because through his trial, God wanted Paul to learn to depend upon the Lord and His grace to sustain him.
In what way or to what extent God may be involved in using the current events of our world for His purposes or glory, those are divine mysteries that we cannot necessarily know. But one thing is for sure: when we face trials and life-changing events, people usually cry out to God for supernatural help. It is certainly my hope that good will come, despite the tragedy that we’re seeing today, and that there will be a spiritual awakening throughout the land. Perhaps we’re already seeing that in the lives of some. Perhaps in your life or mind, a needed revival will take place. But to what extent that occurs depends upon more than merely praying or crying out to God. That’s really the point I want to get to today.
Let’s learn some important principles from history when it comes to appealing to God in our times of crisis. The ancient nation of Israel had a great deal of experience in that. Ethnic Israel, which constituted the people of God until spiritual Israel was revealed in Christ, faced many trials and calamities throughout their 2,000-year history. Much of their difficulty was self-imposed. They couldn’t remain faithful to God for very long at a time and they would wander off into sin and even idolatry, getting themselves into some terrible messes. At times, God allowed enemy nations to attack them, to plunder and even enslave them. He allowed disease and pestilence to afflict them, drought and famine to impoverish them. When it got bad enough, they would once again cry out to God to deliver them. God would hear their pleas and rescue them, and you would think that they had learned their lesson and never gone back to it again. But if you know Old Testament history, you know that it wasn’t very long before they were right back where they started. Right back in trouble again.
Some years after they possessed the Promised Land, Solomon became their king and he constructed the grand and glorious temple in Jerusalem. One night after the temple was dedicated, God appeared to Solomon. Knowing the tendency of His people to stray and forsake Him, God told the king this:
2 Chronicles 7:12-14 “…I have heard thy prayer, and have chosen this place to myself for an house of sacrifice. If I shut up heaven that there be no rain, or if I command the locusts to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among my people; If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.”
This was a promise that God made to ancient Israel. It pertained to them in that particular context, and it is a promise that God made and kept throughout the days to come. I often hear this passage quoted today to encourage the world to pray to God in times of trouble. But we need to notice a few things about what God said to Solomon.
First of all, it’s important to note that these were God’s covenant people who would be crying out to Him. God made this promise to His own; not to the nations about them. In that dispensation, God dealt with the peoples of the earth on a national basis. He dealt with physical Israel. They were His special people, and consequently, all other nations were aliens from the commonwealth of Israel as Paul put it.
Ephesians 2:12 “That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world:”
Today, God does not deal with man through a particular nation, but rather, a spiritual nation—the church—which is the true Israel of God. And just as God had a special covenant with the people of Israel back then, so He has a covenant with His spiritual Israel, the church, today. Because His Son Christ Jesus is the High Priest of this spiritual nation and is the mediator between us and God, the church has access to God that others are never promised.
The Bible teaches that God does not hear sinners. In John 9, we read where Jesus had healed a blind man and was later questioned by His doubters and skeptics. The man who had been healed pointed out that the miracle proved that Jesus was from God, that He was who He claimed to be:
John 9:31 “Now we know that God heareth not sinners: but if any man be a worshipper of God, and doeth his will, him he heareth.”
You see, God does not hear just every prayer. His ears are not open to those who have no relationship to Him and who live outside of His covenant in sinful rebellion. The good news is that God wants to have that relationship with you. He wants to be your Father in the spiritual sense, and one of the great privileges that is afforded His children in Christ is that of Him eagerly listening to our prayers.
I don’t want to discourage anyone from praying; rather, I want to encourage you and anyone listening to be sure you’re on praying terms with God through a relationship with Christ. He is the only way of access to the throne of God. There is no way to the Father except through the Lord Jesus Christ and God does not promise to hear just anyone’s prayer. These were God’s people who He told Solomon would be heard when they prayed–not the ungodly pagan and idolatrous people of the world.
Not only were they God’s people by virtue of the special covenant He had with them. Notice here that the promise of God’s help would be conditioned upon the repentance and promised faithfulness of the people when they cried out to Him. Let’s read it again.
2 Chronicles 7:13-14 “If I shut up heaven that there be no rain, or if I command the locusts to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among my people; If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.”
The thing that had to be dealt with was the people’s sin. Then and only then did God promise to heal the land of Israel back then. They had to turn from their sin; not just cry out to God for help when they got into a bind. Unfortunately, that’s the way we often treat God. Isn’t that really the sad history of many of us spiritually? We almost look at God as a supernatural vending machine dispensing victory over our problems when they pop up. A cosmic bellhop who is waiting just down the hall when we summon Him, who comes when we ring the bell and ask for something. Or a genie in a bottle we can summon to straighten out our problems when they get to be more than we can handle.
But that’s not how God operates. God told Solomon, when my people called by my name humble themselves—that is, cast off their pride and stubbornness. So many people live with very little regard for God on a regular basis. They certainly aren’t living a clean and holy life because when things are well, they don’t really need God. At least, that’s what they think. They don’t need God until they get into a bind and want Him, in some great distress. But God said that His people must humble themselves and turn from their sins. That means repentance. That’s a biblical definition of repentance: to turn away from; to change one’s mind and thus his direction; to stop sinning, to cease the sinful behavior. It doesn’t just mean that I regret the mess I made or the problem that’s come about because of my behavior. It means being so sorry for the behavior itself that we completely turn away from it. Sorry for what that behavior has done to our relationship with God, sorry for how that behavior offended Him, sorry for what it has done to me and perhaps others spiritually. Godly sorrow leads one to turn away and repent of that behavior.
Friend, the most important prayer that God’s people can pray is that people will turn their hearts to God in faith, repentance, and obedience. I pray for people’s physical well-being, for their health. That people will survive and that we as a world will overcome this virus that we are now seeing. But the greatest and most important prayer that we can pray in any time of distress, in any type of uncertainty or trouble is that through it all that people’s hearts will be turned to God where they need to be in faith, repentance, and obedience.
Listen to some of the wonderful passages in the Psalms. Remember that these were written from the perspective of one whose trust and faith is in the Lord. One who is living for the Lord in repentance and obedience.
Psalm 4:3 “But know that the LORD hath set apart him that is godly for himself: the LORD will hear when I call unto him.”
Psalm 66:17-19 “I cried unto him with my mouth, and he was extolled with my tongue. If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me: But verily God hath heard me; he hath attended to the voice of my prayer.”
Psalm 85:1-9 “To the chief Musician, A Psalm for the sons of Korah.>> LORD, thou hast been favourable unto thy land: thou hast brought back the captivity of Jacob. Thou hast forgiven the iniquity of thy people, thou hast covered all their sin. Selah. Thou hast taken away all thy wrath: thou hast turned thyself from the fierceness of thine anger. Turn us, O God of our salvation, and cause thine anger toward us to cease. Wilt thou be angry with us for ever? wilt thou draw out thine anger to all generations? Wilt thou not revive us again: that thy people may rejoice in thee? Shew us thy mercy, O LORD, and grant us thy salvation. ¶ I will hear what God the LORD will speak: for he will speak peace unto his people, and to his saints: but let them not turn again to folly. Surely his salvation is nigh them that fear him; that glory may dwell in our land.”
This is speaking of times when God DID actually punish the people by sending trouble and distress upon them. The psalmist says that when they cried out to God He would hear, but let us not return to our folly or sin. The fact is, when sinful people who intend to keep living in sin call out to God, God is not listening. The Bible even says that their prayer is an abomination to Him. God detests their prayer. You see, His patience wears thin with those who give Him their words, but not their hearts. His patience wears thin with those who do not repent when they cry out to Him. The people of God learned that lesson a long time ago.
During the reign of King Jehoiakim, Judah experienced a terrible drought. It became so severe that the nation went into a period of great mourning. No matter where they looked, they could not find water. The farmers could grow no crops, the land turned to dust, the times grew desperate. The prophet Jeremiah interceded on behalf of the people asking God to bring relief. But, you know, God refused. God prolonged the drought. Why?
Jeremiah 15:6 “Thou hast forsaken me, saith the LORD, thou art gone backward: therefore will I stretch out my hand against thee, and destroy thee; I am weary with repenting.”
Do you know what that means? God was tired of the back and forth. God was tired of delivering them only to have them forsake Him over and over again. God’s patience wears thin. We must be very careful about calling out to God without true repentance. God finally meted out destruction because He grew weary of listening to their empty pleas time and again.
What we need today is true revival. What people of this world today need is a true and lasting turn to God and His word, seeking salvation. Not merely physically; His spiritual salvation. Perhaps that’s where you are today. Perhaps that’s what you need at this point in your life. You need to give your heart and life to Christ and find the peace that transcends the fleeting circumstances of this life. Wouldn’t you like to be one of His people who can call out to Him and find refuge in Him? You can if in faith and repentance for the life you’ve lived, you’ll use this opportunity in this juncture of your life to in true faith and true repentance turn to the Lord and obey the gospel of Jesus Christ. Have your sins washed away in His blood in baptism. You will then be in Christ (Galatians 3:27), which puts you in a unique relationship with God that others do not have. That through Christ, you can speak to your Father in prayer. You’ll have a new life and a new relationship with Him (Romans 6:3-6) and you’ll have the right to call upon Him as your Father and your Friend. If we can help you begin that new life and relationship, we sincerely want to do so.
Please reach out to us today and let us help you find what the Bible says concerning what you need to do in order to be saved. You see, the Lord hears those who in true faith and repentance turn to Him. He’s not merely there to bail people out of binds. The Lord is not just there when we think we need Him because trouble comes. The Lord wants a lasting, lifelong relationship with you. What I’m saying is that maybe you’ll use this opportunity to establish that relationship, to see your true need for the Lord, and turn to Him and become His child.
©2020 BibleWay Media. All rights reserved. BibleWay Media grants permission to copy this material for personal use. Permission is also granted to distribute this transcript as long as it is reproduced in its entirety, used solely for its original purpose of spreading the gospel, and attribution is given to the author and Let the Bible Speak.