<![CDATA[ Dread Lord - Blog]]>Thu, 03 Mar 2016 16:07:57 -0800Weebly<![CDATA[A Tale of Two Kings (in three parts)]]>Wed, 17 Feb 2016 20:18:10 GMThttp://dreadlord.weebly.com/blog/a-tale-of-two-kings-in-three-painfully-long-partsHezekiah and Ahaz          2 Kings 16, 18-19           2 Chronicles 28-32          Isaiah 7, 36-37

Book the First: King Number One

When Ahaz was king of Judah, two kings united to wage war against him.  Rezin, king of Aram, and Pekah, king of Israel, besieged the house of David at Jerusalem, and it scared everyone pretty badly.  Being trapped in a city is a recipe for a long, nasty death.  When Ahaz found out what was going on, “his heart and the hearts of his people shook as the trees of the forest shake with (from before) the wind” (Isaiah 7:2).  I know this feeling.  My heart has often shaken this way, creating visceral reverberations throughout my entire body.  When fear enters your mind, it quickly takes over your whole body.  Ahaz and the people of Judah were inwardly quaking at the thought of what was coming against them. 
Isaiah was the Lord’s prophet at the time, and the Lord gave Isaiah these words for the King.  “’Take care and be calm, have no fear and do not be fainthearted because of these two stubs of smoldering firebrands’” (Isaiah 7:4).  This is a tough word to hear when you’re between a rock and a hard place.  These folks played for keeps when they went to war.  They slaughtered and pillaged and did gruesome things to everyone.  They were not respecters of persons, literally tearing up pregnant women and children as soon as they’d hew down a man.  And there was not one, but two kingdoms coming against them, ready to swallow them up whole.  And yet, it seems like God is asking Ahaz to ignore his senses.  How can he ignore the smell of the campfires of the armies, the taste of their stale food, the feel of the dirty streets piling up with refuse, the sound of the swords being sharpened, the sight of war all around him?  It seems a mockery for God to tell Ahaz to be cool, calm and collected.  Yet here is God commanding Ahaz to bolster his heart.  And here is God smirking at these mighty kings as little stubs—little embers pretending to be mighty fires.  But to all of Ahaz’s five senses, these kings are mighty fires ready to consume him. 
But God is not ignoring nor asking Ahaz to ignore all the proofs around him.  God acknowledges the situation as it is on the ground.  Indeed, they have “’planed evil against you, saying, “Let us go up against Judah and terrorize it (cause it a sickening dread), and make for ourselves a breach in its walls”’” (Isaiah 7:5-6).  Yes, God is saying.  It is true that you are being hunted down.  Your fear is real.  There are people coming against you, and they want you to be sick to your stomach with terror.  This force wants to tear down all your defenses, invade your safe place and annihilate you.  It is all true, but…but there is a greater truth.  For, “’thus says the Lord God: ‘It shall not stand nor shall it come to pass”’” (Isaiah 7:7).  The thing about the Master of the Universe is that the Creator is He “who opens and no one will shut, and who shuts and no one opens” (Revelation 3:7).  So while the circumstance may clearly appear to be unchangeable, His force of will is not at all hampered by those very real but very impotent circumstances.  He can say, “It shall not be as it seems,” and He has the ability to make it so. 
God is testing Ahaz with the test of faith.  Will you believe what your eyes see, or will you dare to believe what I say will be that is yet unseen and unthinkable as a potential outcome of this catastrophe?  That God testing Ahaz’s faith is clear by His next declaration through Isaiah.  “’If you will not believe, you surely shall not last (be established)’” (Isaiah 7:9).  God is drawing the line in the sand.  Believe what I have said for you, and you will see my salvation spring forth from nowhere.  But if you will not believe Me, if you will choose to fear the men who come against you and believe what your own powers of deduction tell you about the outcome, what you fear will come upon you. 

And then, God makes a move that I still cannot fully digest.  God asks Ahaz to ask Him for a sign.  “Then the LORD spoke again to Ahaz, saying, ‘Ask a sign for yourself from the LORD your God; make it deep as Sheol or high as heaven’” (Isaiah 7:10-11).  Jesus repeatedly announced that only the wicked seek for a sign (Matthew 12:39, 16:4), and Ahaz knew, from his knowledge of the laws of Moses (Deuteronomy 6:16) that it was forbidden to put the Lord to the test.  Yet, here is God Himself commanding Ahaz to ask for a sign—and not just any sign!  Because I cannot see His face, I am imagining what is going on here in the heart of God, much as Ahaz must have been as he sat listening to the prophet Isaiah claim to speak the words of the LORD God.  I am wondering if this is more testing, but I am also daring to wonder if God isn’t giddy with excitement—nearly bursting with this sign that he wants to share with one of His children.  Because this is a big sign coming.  This is the sign of all signs, and you are going to have to brace yourself for it as Ahaz had to brace himself when God let this one loose.  So it makes me wonder if God was not trying desperately to help Ahaz believe by giving him the best sign He had ever given to anyone, saying, in essence, believe me because I have even more wondrous things ahead.
But Ahaz chose, it seems, to believe that this was a test.  Or maybe he was pulling out some false holiness, or challenging Isaiah’s holiness.  We can’t fully know why, but he responded to God with “’I will not ask, nor will I test the LORD!’” (Isaiah 7:12).  And immediately, we see that Ahaz chose wrongly.  Isaiah is instantly up in arms. “’Listen now, O house of David!  Is it too slight a thing for you to try the patience of men, that you will try the patience of my God as well?  Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign’” (Isaiah 7:13-14).  As God’s prophet, Isaiah speaks with the authority of God.  For whatever His reasons, God has delighted in giving Ahaz a sign.  That Ahaz refuses, claiming the law as his excuse is not seen as righteousness, but as disobedience and pride.  It reminds me of Simon Peter. 
Jesus, God incarnate, has indicated that He means to wash Simon’s feet.  This act is a very important sign.  This act of foot washing indicates in the tangible world that the Messiah is the humble servant of all—that He is lowering Himself beneath a slave and serving up to His own followers His very life.  Peter seems to have the understanding of Ahaz—some breed of pride or misunderstanding or adherence to form and law over God-breathed word and truth.  Simon Peter is repulsed by the idea and declares, “’Never shall you wash my feet!’” (John 13:8).  That this sign repulses Peter shows how far he is from understanding the call of God on the Messiah.  Jesus makes it clear that partaking in this sign is essential for being a Christ follower.  “’If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me’” (John 13:8).   I have to do this dirty deed of cleaning you, Peter.  It is a necessary evil.  It is what I have been called for.  Oh, man, does Simon do a 180 then.  He is flailing all over the place asking Jesus to give him a full-body bath in some over-compensation that Jesus does not indulge.  Exactly the prescription was all that was required, and Jesus gets down to the business at hand.  Ahaz does not seem to have time for backpedaling before Isaiah.
In response to Ahaz’s unwillingness to ask for a sign, Isaiah just gives it to him anyway.  “’Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel (God is with us)’” (Isaiah 7:14).  It makes me stagger, even to write it.  To this king whom we don’t even register in the who’s who of our faith is this holy sign being delivered square in the face.  To this undeserving man, to this king who wouldn’t even ask for the sign when God was telling him to ask for it, God gives this most precious word—I am sending you the Messiah!  Do you need a sign?  Do you need proof that I mean what I say?  Do you need further witness that I intend to make you great as I have been promising to your people since I made them a people?  Do you not already understand that I want to be for you, defend you, and make you great if only you will believe?  Here you have it.  I am coming down to wash you clean.  You won’t even ask for it, but you need it.  You don’t deserve it, but I am doing it.  Watch and see if I will not tear open my own veins and wash you white as snow. 
And Isaiah goes on to tie it together for Ahaz.  These two kings that you fear so very much?  They will be rendered as nothing before this Messiah can even formulate clear thoughts.  You dread these kings who will be utterly nothing when my Son is crawling on the carpenter’s dirty floor.  And you will be overtaken exactly as you fear, try as you might to stem the tide (Isaiah 7:15-25).  And Ahaz tried.
Ahaz chose to fear what he could see rather than the God he could not see.  He set about absolutely raping the house of God in order to gather enough shiny things to present to the King of Assyria as a bribe to come and save him.  “So Ahaz sent messengers to Tiglath-pileser king of Assyria, saying, ‘I am your servant and your son; come up and deliver me from the hand of the king of Aram and from the hand of the king of Israel, who are rising up against me.’ Ahaz took the silver and gold that was found in the house of the LORD and in the treasuries of the kings house, and sent a present to the king of Assyria” (2 Kings 16:7-8).  Ahaz plunders the house of his true Father to make a present for a no-name king in order that he might purchase a defender, a father, a savior. 
God just goes right on speaking to Ahaz.  He cries out to him, calling Ahaz to a higher fear.  “’”You are not to fear what they fear (their fear) or be in dread of it.  It is the LORD of hosts whom you should regard as holy.  And He shall be your fear, And He shall be your dread.  Then He shall become a sanctuary”’” (Isaiah 8:12-14).  You are looking for sanctuary, Ahaz.  You are clawing for a safe place.  You are willing to sell all that is precious to try to buy security, but it is only found in me.  Oh, that you would fear Me instead of these two insignificant kings.  If you would only stand in holy dread of Me and so obey My heed, I would become your everything.  But Ahaz feared not the voice of God.  He went right on plundering the precious temple, cutting off the brass ornaments and rearranging the furniture to make room for altars to idols and even sacrificing his own son’s blood as an offering to the gods of his enemies in attempts to stem the tide that just kept mounting against him (2 Kings 16).  Because God kept His word.  Even though the king of Assyria did come and captured and killed and exiled, it did not go well for Ahaz or for Judah.  “So Tilgath-pilneser king of Assyria came against him and afflicted him instead of strengthening him.  Although Ahaz took a portion out of the house of the LORD and out of the palace of the king and of the princes, and gave it to the king of Assyria, it did not help him” (2 Chronicles 28:20).  The one who was supposed to be his new savior came and took over his kingdom to the extent that when Ahaz died, he was not even buried with the kings of Judah.  Ahaz died a nobody, without even a proper burial.
Book the Second: King Number Two

Meanwhile, God kept calling to His people in His bizarre and unsearchable ways.  The exiles continued in the ways of Ahaz.  They “did not fear the LORD; therefore the LORD sent lions among them which killed some of them” (2 Kings 17:25).  God sent actual lions to do devouring work in order that He might drive some toward holy fear.  The King of Assyria himself figured out that God was displeased.  Though he didn’t know or serve God, he called back an exiled priest to teach people how to follow God!
So one of the priests whom they had carried away into exile from Samaria came and lived at Bethel and taught them how they should fear the LORD...”You shall not fear other gods, nor bow down yourselves to them nor serve them nor sacrifice to them.  But the LORD, who brought you up from the land of Egypt with great power and with an outstretched arm, Him you shall fear, and to Him you shall bow yourselves down, and to Him you shall sacrifice.  The statutes and the ordinances and the law and the commandment which He wrote for you, you shall observe to do forever; and you shall not fear other gods.  The covenant that I made with you, you shall not forget, nor shall you fear other gods.  But the LORD your God you shall fear; and He will deliver you from the hand of all your enemies" (2 Kings 17:28, 35-39).
As a result of this return to the law, the next king's reign is marked by a renaissance of understanding God and aiming to obey Him.  Ahaz’s son Hezekiah grew up in the wisdom of God.  “The LORD was with him; wherever he went he prospered” (2 Kings 18:7).  From the loins of a most faithless king comes a king who “did what was good, right and true with the LORD his God.  Every work which he began in the service of the house of God in law and in commandment, seeking his God, he did with all his heart and prospered” (2 Chronicles 31:20).  Hezekiah absolutely delighted in running back to the God his father has worked so hard to desecrate.  He destroyed the idols and the high places his father had built for their worship.  He opened and repaired the doors to the house of God, making a literal way back to God for his people (2 Chronicles 29:3).  He restored temple worship and reinstituted the Passover with such genuine zeal and delight that even though he did not follow the law precisely in the carrying out, the LORD pardoned the sin and was pleased with their worship and the whole of the kingdom extended the feast for an additional seven days just for the joy of it all (2 Chronicles 30). 
This tale is of two kings.  The first “did not do what was right in the sight of the LORD his God, as his father David had done” (2 Kings 16:2).  But the son of this first King was an entirely different sort of man.  And what made this second king different from his father had everything to do with the One to Whom he clung.  We will see that Hezekiah was no less fearful than his father.  And he had no less to be fearful of than his father did, for Judah was more heavily assailed upon after Ahaz got buried in the city plot.  The marked difference between the wicked father and the faithful son was where each chose to place his fear.  The second king feared the LORD his God and clung to Him.  Hezekiah chose the better part.
Hezekiah inherited his father’s mess.  The Assyrians to whom his father had scraped and groveled and played the fool were now the enemy.  Ahaz had bribed the Assyrians into coming into his land only to bring upon himself and his people and even mightier enemy than the kings he was seeking protection from, so that Hezekiah ascended a very wobbly throne amidst oppressors who had made themselves home in his own kingdom.  “Now in the fourteenth year of King Hezekiah, Sennacherib king of Assyria came up against all the fortified cities of Judah and seized them” (Isaiah 36:1).  When Ahaz saw the enemy approaching, he ran to look for a bulldog to save him.  Now that bulldog had turned on his son, and his son did not run to find another bigger mercenary.  His son stood in the confidence of God.  He dammed the water supply to keep the water within the city.  He shored up the wall and placed armed men all over it, and he followed in the tradition of his God-fearing forefathers in shoring up his own heart and the hearts of his men with courage. 
Like David charged Solomon with the building of the temple, and like Elisha charged his servant at the onset of attack, Hezekiah “spoke encouragingly to them (upon their hearts), saying ’Be strong and courageous, do not fear or be dismayed because of the king of Assyria nor because of all the horde that is with him; for the one with us is greater than the one with him.  With him is only an arm of flesh, but with us is the LORD our God to help us and to fight our battles’” (2 Chronicles 32:7-8).  Hezekiah knew the good, enduring word of the LORD.  Because Hezekiah feared the LORD his God more than the warriors trapping them in the city, he could gently speak faith into hearts that trembled just like their father’s hearts had trembled one generation prior.  We serve a more fearsome force than the men who threaten our lives.  These men have breath only in their nostrils and strength only in their flesh.  We have a God who moves in Spirit, who wages war with a thought, with a rumor.  On their side are chariots and horses.  On our side is the one who can pull the spirit of life from the lungs of all men without lifting a sword, without using a single arrow.  Does it sound familiar yet?  Hezekiah is speaking the words of God that Isaiah had spoken to his father.  He is reminding them of whom they should fear—where they should put their hope.  And in the exact same spot that God told His messenger Isaiah to meet Ahaz for the delivery of that marvelous word, this enemy king places a messenger to shout out his terrifying word to King Hezekiah and anyone else who would listen.  The messenger’s name was Rabshakeh and he stood at the conduit of the upper pool on the highway of the fuller’s field, just as Isaiah had posted himself for his holy message.  But this was not holy prophecy, this was a prophet of another kind delivering pure blasphemy.  Two messengers.  Two entirely different messages from two entirely different kinds of kings. 
Then Rabshakeh said to them, “Say now to Hezekiah, ‘Thus says the great king, the king of Assyria, “What is this confidence that you have (trust)?  I say, ‘Your counsel and strength for the war are only empty words.’  Now on whom do you rely, that you have rebelled against me?...But if you say to me, ‘We trust in the LORD our God,’ is it not He whose high places Hezekiah has taken away?...Now therefore, come make a bargain (please exchange pledges) with my master the king of Assyria, and I will give you two thousand horses…Have I now come up without the LORD’s approval against this land to destroy it?  The LORD said to me, ‘Go up against this land and destroy it’”’”                                                                    Isaiah 36:4-5,7,8,10
This is so unabashedly the voice of the devil himself—this word that the servant of the King of Assyria is literally crying out in his loudest voice.  This wicked messenger is contradicting the word of faith Hezekiah brought to them.  He is calling the people away from the fear of God to the fear of man.  He is challenging the object of their worship as valid.  And like the serpent’s challenge in Genesis 3:1, it is full of misinformation.  Did God not say…?   Hezekiah had indeed taken away the high places, because they had become sites for idolatry, but this messenger is suggesting otherwise and calling into question Hezekiah’s fitness.  Then there is the bold invitation to strike a deal for horses, when God had clearly called His people not to boast in chariots or horses but in His name alone (Psalm 20:7).  Horses were an understood as a direct measurement of military power.  Like Satan offering Jesus worldly kingdoms (Matthew 4:8-11), Rabshakeh is tempting the Judeans to cast off their trust in God for a trust in things that can be seen and touched and smelled and heard.  And the messenger takes it a step further so as to suggest that the God of the Judeans has actually given His consent and commissioned this unholy army to come and destroy His people.       
It is more than the servants of Hezekiah can bear.  Hezekiah’s folks are getting hot with shame and ask the messenger to speak in Aramaic so that the men of Judah will not be frightened by these taunts, but it only emboldens Rabshakeh who makes it clear that his choice to speak in their tongue is entirely intentional.  “’Has my master sent me only to your master and to you to speak these words, and not to the men who sit on the wall, doomed to eat their own dung and drink their own urine with you?’” (Isaiah 37:12).  Like the enemies of Ahaz, these enemies are delighting in the terror they are stirring up.  They know the power of the fear of man.  They know that as long as these people fear God more than they fear them, they will not tremble sufficiently to be overtaken.  “They called this out with a loud voice in the language of Judah to the people of Jerusalem who were on the wall to frighten and terrify them, so that they might take the city.  They spoke of the God of Jerusalem as of the gods of the peoples of the earth, the work of men’s hands” (2 Chronicles 32:18-19). 

This is true fearmongering.  You are going to die miserably.  It is going to happen.  We are stronger than your God.  “Then Rabshakeh stood and cried with a loud voice in Judean and said, ‘Hear the words of the great king, the king of Assyria, Thus says the king, “Do not let Hezekiah deceive you, for he will not be able to deliver you; nor let Hezekiah make you trust in the LORD, saying, ‘The LORD will surely deliver us’”’” (Isaiah 36:13-14).  This messenger is daring to call them deceived while all the while attempting to deceive.  He is calling them fools.  You idiots!  Do you really believe your king, or even your God, can save you?  “Don’t be hoodwinked,” cries the hoodwinker.  And he goes on to describe the bounty that they would receive if only they would put their trust in his great king.  He even uses the language God used to describe the Promised Land bounty, declaring that they will have grain and new wine if they will make peace with Assyria’s king.  And then he calls on reason and history—on statistics and probability. 
“’Do you not know what I and my fathers have done to all the people of the lands?  Were the gods of the nations of the lands able at all to deliver their land from my hand?  Who was there among all the gods of those nations which my fathers utterly destroyed who could deliver his people out of my hand, that your God should be able to deliver you from my hand?  Now therefore, do not let Hezekiah deceive you or mislead you like this, and do not believe him, for no god of any nation or kingdom was able to deliver his people from my hand or from the hand of my fathers.  How much less will your God deliver you from my hand?’”                                                                                                         2 Chronicles 32:13-15  
He reminds them that no one and no one else’s gods have been able to stand against Assyria.  Just open your eyes to the facts.  You are going to be decimated like everyone else who tried to stand against us.  Your God cannot save you anymore than anyone else’s gods could.  The messenger is vying for their fear.  Fear us, not your impotent God.  But Hezekiah’s men were silent, because he had ordered them not to utter a word.  They were not to entertain the messenger with a response.  So they turned and took the words to Hezekiah.  “And when Hezekiah heard it, he tore his clothes, covered himself with sackcloth and entered the house of the LORD” (Isaiah 37:1).  It is precisely here that we see the difference between this king and his father.  When this king is distressed, he humbles himself.  This king tears his clothes to show his vulnerability and his horror and then he runs straight to the house of his God, not to ransack it for money but to call out for help to the God of the house.  And he sends for the prophet to ask him to join the king in prayer for deliverance.  “So the servants of King Hezekiah came to Isaiah.  Isaiah said to them, ‘Thus you shall say to your master, “Thus says the LORD, ‘Do not be afraid because of the words that you have heard, with which the servants of the king of Assyria have blasphemed Me.  Behold, I will put a spirit in him so that he will hear a rumor and return to his own land.  And I will make him fall by the sword in his own land’”’” (Isaiah 37:6-7).  Again!  This is the same sort of unbelievable command from God for a man facing certain death.  Do not be afraid.  Why?  Because I AM.  Do not be afraid of what you can see, because I orchestrate the seen and the unseen.  I am going to kill this king with a spirit and a rumor.  I can do that, and I am your God, so you don’t need to fear. 
Book the Third:  The King of Kings

The king of Assyria has already begun his downfall.  He has already begun to follow the rumor to his destruction, but is still sending Rabshakeh back with terrifying letters.  And he is taking it further.  Beyond suggesting that Hezekiah is deceiving his people, he is now suggesting that God Himself is deceiving His people.  He “wrote letters to insult the LORD God of Israel, and to speak against Him” (2 Chronicles 32:17).  “’”Do not let your God in whom you trust deceive you, saying, ‘Jerusalem will not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria”’” (Isaiah 37:10).  The Assyrian king has done it all.  He has tried to make God small and powerless and to make himself large and terrifying.  He has challenged God’s power, and now he is challenging His character.  Your God is not only incapable, but untrustworthy.  You can’t believe in His might or His word.  But Hezekiah is just continuing to follow his heart in running to cling to the living God.
Then Hezekiah took the letter from the hand of the messengers and read it, and he went up to the house of the LORD and spread it out before the LORD.  Hezekiah prayed to the Lord saying, “O LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, who is enthroned above the cherubim, You are the God, You alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth.  You have made heaven and earth.  Incline your ear, O LORD, and hear; open Your eyes, O LORD, and see; and listen to all the words of Sennacherib, who sent them to reproach the living God.  Truly, O LORD, the kings of Assyria have devastated all the countries and their lands, and have cast their gods into the fire, for they were not gods but the work of men’s hands, wood and stone.  So they have destroyed them.  Now, O LORD our God, deliver us from his hand that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that You alone, LORD, are God.”            Isaiah 37:14-20
Hezekiah was not operating out of ignorance.  He was not pretending that there was nothing to fear.  He says it like it is.  Yes, these guys have left a path of destruction behind them, but YOU are God of it all!  He has got the facts right there, but he is spreading them out before the eyes of His God, because He is fully aware of whom the fear is due.  He knows that his God, the God of Israel, is the One on the ultimate throne.  There are fears round about Hezekiah, but there is One who is to be feared above them all, and that is where Hezekiah casts his lot.  He sees rightly, therefore he is able to obey the word of God through Isaiah.  Hezekiah fears God more than he fears the devils dancing on his walls.  He believes that God can do more valiantly than all the men whom He created.  He is able to calm his heart and to believe the God Whom He cannot see and the outcome that this God has promised that seems too ridiculous to be plausible.  This is the unbelievable word:
“’Therefore, thus says the LORD concerning the king of Assyria, “He will not come to this city or shoot an arrow there; and he will not come before it with a shield, or throw up a siege ramp against it.  By the way that he came, by the same way he will return, and he will not come to this city,” declares the LORD. ‘”For I will defend this city to save it for My own sake and for My servant David’s sake”’” (Isaiah 37:33-35). 
And as the LORD said, so it was.  That king did not get the satisfaction of his armies shooting so much as one arrow.  In shame Sennacherib turned and hightailed it right back to his own miserable god’s house where his own sons slew him with swords while he prostrated himself before his idol (2 Chronicles 32:21).  And then the angel of the LORD just absolutely decimated the Assyrians in an all-out massacre--the LORD himself by His own hand and not through any men.  “Then the angel of the LORD went out and struck 185,000 in the camp of the Assyrians; and when men arose early in the morning, behold, all of these were dead”  (Isaiah 37:36).  There was no battle.  No shield nor siege ramp was lifted, because none could be lifted against the Lord.  He took them out with His mighty hand before they knew what was coming. 
And what became of Hezekiah?  Well, he “trusted in the LORD, the God of Israel; so that after him there was none like him among all the kings of Judah, nor among those who were before him.  For he clung to the LORD; he did not depart from following Him, but kept His commandments, which the LORD had commanded Moses” (2 Kings 18:5-6).  He lived a long and prosperous life.  He saw more wild miracles from the hand of God and when he died, he wasn’t thrown in the city plot with his father Ahaz.  When Hezekiah died, he was put with his rightful fathers: the men of God, the sons of David.  “So Hezekiah slept with his fathers, and they buried him in the upper section of the tombs of the sons of David; and all Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem honored him at his death” (Isaiah 32:33).  And that sign that Ahaz refused to ask for but received anyway?  The Messiah issued from a virgin who was a descendent of Hezekiah (Matthew 1).  Almost no one remembers Ahaz or Hezekiah or any of the kings they feared.  But every knee will bow before Jesus.  This is The King to watch. 

<![CDATA[Anxiety is the nice way to say fear]]>Wed, 17 Feb 2016 20:01:10 GMThttp://dreadlord.weebly.com/blog/anxiety-is-the-nice-way-to-say-fear"But Martha was distracted with all her preparations; and she came up to Him and said, 'Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone?  Then tell her to help me'" (Luke 10:40).

Martha had a sister, but we worriers all have someone who annoys us  with their laissez faire living.  It wasn't until I was married to a man who doesn't say what he doesn't mean , doesn't do things for show, and doesn't rush for anything but contusions that I started to realize that most of the stuff I fret and fuss over just doesn't matter to anyone but me.  Martha wanted everything just-so because the Messiah happened to show up for tea.  I get that.  The problem is that Jesus wasn't there for her hospitality.  Martha's preparations distracted her.  She thought she was doing the real work, but she was actually breaking herself up into little pieces.  She was sure that Jesus cared about what she cared about--that He would chide her lazy and irresponsible sister.  But Mary understood that when the Savior shows up, the whole point is to get as close to Him as possible and stay there. 

"'Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her'" (Luke 10:41-42). 

It is almost inconceivable to worriers (and can seem harsh even), but Jesus does not care about the "many things" that we care about.  What He cares about (rather WHO He cares about) is your eternal self (1 Peter 5:7).  Because Mary picked up on that, she was able to sit "at the Lord's feet, listening to His word" (Luke 10:39).  According to Jesus, "only one thing is necessary,"  and because Mary chose that one thing--that good part--she could rest absolutely secure.  Jesus made it clear that what she had chosen would not be taken away.  I guess that is the most interesting part of the story for a woman plagued with Martha tendencies.  Because every single one of the "so many things" that I go wildly anxious about can and do get snatched away from me so very easily.  I can't tie any of it down.  I can't make things behave and stay put according to my desires.  The parts are always moving and I have to face the fact that, "'If then you cannot do even a very little thing, why do you worry about other matters?'" (Luke 12:28).  And here is God saying that there is one thing that will never be taken away from me.  As always, the thing is not a thing, but a person.  If I will choose gazing only at Him over being torn apart with frantic, darting glances at a million different moving parts, I will end up with a relationship with a person that can never be changed or ruined or wrenched away.    

Mary chose rest because she understood that God was doing all the important, lasting work.  I believe that is why Sabbath rest is so close to God's heart.  When we choose to sit at His feet, we are declaring that all our running around will not produce anything of value if it is not done according to His will (Psalm 127:1).  When we take time to gaze at His supreme loveliness and hear His will, we are participating in the healing act of becoming a whole being (mind, will, emotions, strength) unified on one purpose--His. 

This was Jesus' comfort for the worrier: "'Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has chosen gladly to give you the kingdom'" (Luke 12:32).  Clothes, food, and all the trapping of this life are distractions, and we will never be able to do a better job at provision than the Creator of all provisions.  Our long-term well-being is secure.  The kingdom is ours.  What lies between the now and the not yet is only the one thing: to remain in Him.


<![CDATA[What descends on the lake]]>Wed, 14 Oct 2015 19:04:35 GMThttp://dreadlord.weebly.com/blog/what-descends-on-the-lakeLuke 8:22-25

When I find myself astonished by what God is asking of me, I do well to remember that I have chosen the narrow gate, not the wide.  Sometimes I forget that there is a very "good" reason that the vast majority choses the broad way, while very few even find the other (Matthew 7:13-14). 

When Jesus told His disciples they were going to the other side of the lake, the disciples set to the work of it, and Jesus set about napping.  That makes me smile.  Jesus was humanly exhausted, and He expected his fisher-buddies to do what they were well-equipped to do.  Certainly, He could have just appeared at the other side or walked over the water, but He gave them this meaningful work of literally bringing Him to others, and He rested.  "But as they were sailing along He fell asleep; and a fierce gale of wind descended on the lake, and they began to be swamped and to be in danger" (Luke 8:23).  This is not a metaphor.  Their boat was flooding and they were in actual danger of dying.  What had descended upon the lake was threatening their whole crew's existence.  So they did the logical thing in waking the miracle-worker and declaring, "'Master, Master, we are perishing!'" (Luke 8:24). 

So far, this all makes sense to me.  But Jesus opens His mouth, and I get completely sideswiped.  "And He got up and rebuked the wind and the surging waves, and they stopped, and it became calm.  And He said to them, 'Where is your faith?'" (Luke 8:25).  I feel incredulous, honestly.  My mind just persists in asking, "What in God's name is He expecting from these mortal men?"  But the answer, of course, is that exactly in God's name and in that power He expects everything from His followers--even their lives.  Even though it seems a really steep calling, Jesus was asking them to hang on every word He said.  "Take care how you listen" He kept insisting, because only those who actively heard were going to "get it" and continue to receive more (Luke 8:18).   He told them that they were going to the other side, and that is exactly what was going to happen.  He was expecting them to have the faith that He could make that happen no matter what descended upon the lake.  If they had been listening, they would have been dwelling on the power of the Man and not the power of the waves, according to Jesus.  The reason "they were fearful and amazed" is because they still did not see and understand Who they were dealing with, "saying to one another, 'Who then is this, that He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey Him?'"(Luke 8:25). 

Jesus was asking after their faith, because it was not present in this scenario.  Jesus expected them to believe in His ability to achieve the purpose He set out over their own experiences--over their own five senses.  "For I the LORD will speak, and whatever word I speak will be performed" (Ezekiel 12:25).  How could He possibly ask them to believe in His ability to perform His will over the absolute catastrophe playing out in their midst?  Because He has command over that water.  It struck me today that we are in our "right mind" when we are "sitting down at the feet of Jesus" (Luke 8:35).  There are a lot of states of mind that seem right to a man, especially when he is knee deep in water.  These states of mind seem accurate and logical and even self-protective, but that is not so.  No matter the "proofs" before us, we are not perishing, my friends.  We are headed for the life eternal (John 3:16).  The most right mind we can have is the mind of Christ.  When we set our minds on Him we understand that the only real life we will ever experience is nestled entirely in His actual person (Colossians 3:1-4, Philippians 4:4-9).  I have no empirical data on what it would have looked like if the disciples' faith had shown up in this instance, but I have this lovely idea.  So, I am working up the courage today to let loose the riggings into the gale winds, take my exhausted, sopping wet self, and snuggle in beside my Master in the belly of my battered boat.
<![CDATA[Ransomed with Blood]]>Tue, 06 Oct 2015 00:29:23 GMThttp://dreadlord.weebly.com/blog/ransomed-with-blood"If you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each one's work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay on earth; knowing that you were not redeemed [ransomed] with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ" (1 Peter 1:17-19).

We ought to fear God because we are commanded to fear God.  He is God in every right and worthy of our fear.  We do well to fear God because there are immediate and eternal blessings for those who do so. It is an intelligent and strategic move to fear the Omnipotent One.   Fear of the LORD is also just simply the natural response when we see Him as He truly is.  He is fearsome.  Everyone who has caught a glimpse, even just of His robes and backside, has lost all decorum and fallen on their face in terror and wonder.  We will fear Him if we are rightly seeing the real God.  But there is another reason, if you will, to fear God.  We were ransomed with precious blood.

I am trying to imagine returning dirty and hungry but unharmed to the castle, to the bounty and the privilege and to the warmth of the Father's arms with one giant thing missing: the presence of the Prince, the firstborn Son.  I am vainly trying to attain insight as to how one would carry out the rest of her days after cheating torturous death by the torturous death of her elder brother.  How does she properly console her Father, the King?  How does she ever measure up to be worth all that sacrifice for the kingdom?  Of course, the analogy is brittle and cannot hold much weight, let alone the glory of the resurrection, but we must consider the breakup our sin has cost the Trinity.  There is no way to fathom the agony that was endured by the Godhead when sin separated Christ from Father and Spirit for the first and only time in all of an otherwise eternity of oneness.  

The Son Himself is most probably best suited to inform our lifestyle from here on out.  "'I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that have no more that they can do.  But I will warn [show] you whom to fear; fear the One who, after He has killed, has the authority to cast into hell; yes, I tell you, fear Him!  Are not five sparrows sold for two cents?  Yet not one of them is forgotten before God.  Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered.  Do not fear, you are more valuable than many sparrows'" (Luke 12:4-7).   The ransom Himself has told us how to live. 

Christ's words follow the same progression we see in all of scripture: fear of God that leads to release from the fear of man.  We are instructed to live in the fear of God.  This is important to call attention to, because it is terribly easy to assume that Jesus did away with fear.  But Jesus confirms His message for those who may be hard of hearing or incredulous.  Yes, I am actually telling you to fear God (exclamation point)!   He follows this command with the reassurance of why this works, why this is the only way it works.  We are invaluable to God.  He has vested all His interest in us.  He has bought us with absolutely everything of value, and He has made sure He will never have to do that again (1 Peter 3:18).  We aren't going anywhere.  The King claimed us, bought us, cleaned us up and made us heirs.  He has tally on our hairs and our tears and our thoughts (Psalm 56:8, Psalm 119:1-4).  He has achieved the joy set before Him, and nothing in all of creation has the power to snatch us away from His life-grip (Romans 8:35-39).   We honor His sacrifice by remaining in Him.  We remain in Him by fear that keeps us in a state of obedience to absolutely whatever He commands.  There is nothing else to fear.  It is finished.  We are home.  We are His.

<![CDATA[some more reasons for fearing God (hint: blessings!)]]>Sun, 04 Oct 2015 23:45:21 GMThttp://dreadlord.weebly.com/blog/some-more-reasons-for-fearing-god-hint-blessings"Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget none of His benefits; Who pardons all your iniquities, Who heals all your diseases; Who redeems your life from the pit, Who crowns you with lovingkindness and compassion; Who satisfies your years [desire] with good things, so that your youth is renewed like the eagle" (Psalm 103:2-5).

David was mentor and parent to his soul.  He was given to encouraging, reminding, and even chiding his soul.  When his soul despaired, he spoke encouragingly to it with the truth of God's nearness (Psalm 42:5).  When his soul was anxious, he quieted it as a mother calms a weaned child, telling it to rest (Psalm 131:2).  When his soul felt helpless and terrified, assailed on every side, David commanded it to wait in silence for God, Who was surely coming to the rescue (Psalm 62:5).  David brought his childish soul into submission to his spirit-man.  I am heartily encouraged that David also unabashedly bolstered his soul through the trials of life with the hope of being rewarded.  Whether it is from forgetfulness, or from shame for having needs and desires, or from bashfulness to claim the benefits of being a child of God, or from lack of faith, I am not entirely sure, but I often shrink from taking hold of the promises of God.   

If you are anything like me, then your soul is due for some encouragement.  Oh, dear one, there is so much encouragement to be had.  Every single one of the following verses holds a promise specifically for those who fear the Lord.  Drink deep, my God-fearing friends.  Gently tell this to your thirsty soul:

If you fear the Lord...
God's eye is upon you  .Psalm 33:18
God will deliver your soul from death  .Psalm 33:19
God's mercy will be upon you generation after generation  .Luke 1:50
God will instruct you  .Psalm 25:12
your soul will abide in prosperity and your descendants will inherit the land  .Psalm 25:13
God's secret and His covenant will be made known to you  .Psalm 25:14
God will spare you and make you His possession  .Malachi 3:16-18
you have been given His banner for deliverance  .Psalm 60:4-5
continual good and survival will yours  .Deuteronomy 6:24
you will be blessed with mighty descendants, wealth, riches, and righteousness  .Psalm 112:1-3
you will be happy, and it will be well with you  .Psalm 128:1-2
you, your spouse and your children will be blessed  .Psalm 128:3-4
you will be rewarded with riches, honor, and life  .Proverbs 22:4
the angel of the LORD encamps around you and rescues you  .Psalm 34:7
it will be well with you and with your sons forever  .Deuteronomy 5:29
it will prolong your life  .Proverbs 10:27
you will keep away from evil  .Proverbs 16:6
you are blessed  .Proverbs 28:14
God will favor you  .Psalm 147:11
you will be praised  .Proverbs 31:30
God will give you food  .Psalm 111:5
you have begun wisdom  .Psalm 111:10, Proverbs 1:7, 9:10
God is your help and shield  .Psalm 115:11
God will bless you  .Psalm 115:13
you have strong confidence, a refuge, a fountain of life in which to avoid the snares of death  .Proverbs 14:26-27
you will want for nothing  .Psalm 34:9
the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings for you  .Malachi 4:2
you will go forth and skip about like calves from the stall  .Malachi 4:2
you will tread down the wicked  .Malachi 4:3
it will be healing to your body and refreshment to your bones  .Proverbs 3:7-8
it leads to life so that you may sleep satisfied, untouched by evil  .Proverbs: 19:23
it will be well for you  .Ecclesiastes 8:12
you are perfecting holiness  .2 Corinthians 7:1
<![CDATA[Walking in Darkness]]>Sat, 03 Oct 2015 22:40:43 GMThttp://dreadlord.weebly.com/blog/walking-in-darknessI gave My back to those who strike Me,
And My cheeks to those who pluck out the beard;
I did not cover My face from humiliation and spitting.
For the Lord GOD helps Me,
Therefore, I am not disgraced;
Therefore, I have set My face like flint,
And I know that I will not be ashamed.
He who vindicates Me is near;
Who will contend with Me?
Let us stand up to each other;
Who has a case against Me?
Let him draw near to Me.
Behold, the Lord GOD helps Me;
Who is he who condemns Me?
Behold, they will all wear out like a garment;
The moth will eat them.
Who is among you that fears the LORD,
That obeys the voice of His servant,
That walks in darkness and has no light?
Let him trust in the name of the LORD and rely on his God.
Behold, all you who kindle a fire,
Who encircle [gird] yourselves with firebrands,
Walk in the light of your fire
And among the brands you have set ablaze.
This you will have from My hand:
You will lie down in torment.
Isaiah 50:6-11

I want my whole life to be lived out in the light.  I want to walk always beside still waters and in green pastures.  My fears circle almost entirely around my disdain for the dark places of pain, humiliation and suffering.  I am in good company.  Jesus too was less than eager to endure the deep dark things He was destined for.  We know that He sweat blood over it and asked to be excused from it, but for the joy set before Him, He chose ultimately to endure it all (Matthew 26:39, Luke 22:44, Hebrews 12:2).

"Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death [valley of deep darkness], I fear no evil [harm], for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.  You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You have anointed my head with oil; My cup overflows.  Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever" (Psalm 23:4-6).  I want the abundant table of God's provision to be set in a fine, bright room, but often God has set it for me in a horrid, menacing courtroom in the presence of my accuser where I am struck and plucked and bloodied.  I cannot full tell why, but  I know that there I have come to understand His provision and His affection and His anointing and His goodness in ways that a safe, fine hall with floor-to-ceiling windows shining glorious rays on all of my admirers and friends gathered round me would never have afforded. 

"If I say, 'Surely the darkness will overwhelm me, and the light around me will be night,' even the darkness is not dark to You, and the night is as bright as the day.  Darkness and light are alike to You" (Psalm 139:11-12).  I have imagined that God's people always dwell in sundrenched landscapes, but I am seeing now that it has more to do with in Whom we dwell, no matter the locale.  He Himself is our light.  "In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men.  The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend [overpower] it" (John 1:4-5).  There, in my pitch-black hours, He has been most luminous to me.  There I have most definitely experienced His nearness and been transformed by what He thinks of me.  There I have even tasted of ecstasy as I transcend suffering and see past the veil into life as it is in heaven, where God's glory is the light, and His son is the lamp (Revelation 21:23). 

Through Isaiah, Jesus was calling out for a people.  These people would look like this: they would fear the Lord, obey His voice and walk in the dark places (Isaiah 50:10).  He was calling these people to keep trusting in God alone in the absence of external light.  He was calling them to faith that, by definition, walks forward in complete darkness with no sight whatsoever.  These are the clay-jar people strategically situated in darkness whose cracks seep His light for the lost to run toward (2 Corinthians 4:6-7).  And this is what He has to say of those who refuse to dwell in the dark places--who are so determined to be out of the inky trials and into the sunlight that they will make their own fires, or gather around lesser lights for comfort: from God's own hand, they will receive torment (Isaiah 50:11).  

This is the truth. "But for you who fear My name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings; and you will go forth and skip about like calves from the stall" (Malachi 4:2).  We who are willing to fear God more than the gloom and the suffering will find, right there in the darkness, our healing, our liberation, our wholeness, our delight.  "Because of the tender mercy of our God, with which the Sunrise from on high will visit us, to shine upon those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace" (Luke 1:78-79). 

"He knows what is in the darkness, and the light dwells with Him" (Daniel 2:22).  We no longer have to fear the dark, my friends.  The Light Himself is within us.  We have overcome.

<![CDATA[the Good Report]]>Wed, 30 Sep 2015 02:11:41 GMThttp://dreadlord.weebly.com/blog/the-good-report"But they, our fathers, acted arrogantly; they became stubborn [stiffened their neck] and would not listen to Your commandments.  They refused to listen, and did not remember Your wondrous deeds which You had performed among them; so they became stubborn and appointed a leader to return to their slavery in Egypt.  But You are a God of forgiveness, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness; and You did not forsake them." (Nehemiah 9:16-17).

I am sobered by the biblical assertion that "the demons also believe, and shudder" (James 2:19).  This is one of those truths that separates the men from the boys.  Yes, we do well to believe in the one true God.  Yes, we do well to tremble and shudder and rightly fear His awesomeness.  But we must also recognize, foolish fellows that we are, that we are still in the same camp with the demons if we stop there (James 2:20).    Faith without works has passed away (James 2:17).  God does all the heavy lifting, but the work that we do is to carry the torch.  We keep the fire burning.  When we can't see Him or how He could possibly be in this, we still believe in who He is and what He has promised.  We take that first step into the Red Sea.  We take that first assault into the Promised Land.  In that manner, our work IS our faith--they are of a living whole.  Our works are our faith in living color, in motion.  We work out and workout our belief, not just that He exists, but that "He is a rewarder of those who seek Him" (Hebrews 11:6).  We act as if those things He has promised are true, because they are.

God made it crystal clear that He would be giving His people the Promised Land as a gift.  Promised was the imperative word.  This was something they could take to the bank.  When God says, "I am going to give," then that is the end of the story (Numbers 13:2).  That is going to be the last page, no matter how the chapters wend and wind.  So the Israelites go on this truly unbelievable adventure that puts their toes right on the border of their land.  By God's permission, they send spies for reconnaissance, one man per tribe.  Eleven return with a bad report.  Yeah, sure, the land is swell, but it is currently under the possession of giants, therefore it is a no-go.  "'We are not able to go up against the people, for they are too strong for us...we became like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight'" (Numbers 13:31, 33).  So, by their own admission, they bring back a bad report based entirely on sight.  Then the lone remaining spy clears his throat.  Caleb knows that this has nothing at all to do with what can be seen any more than it has to do with what "we" are able to do.  He delivers the good report, the report of faith.  "'We should by all means go up and take possession of it,'" says Caleb, ''for we will surely overcome it'" (Numbers 13:30).  God has been speaking the good report to us since Father Abraham.  See with your faith the opportunity YHWH has set up for His glory to reign here.  Remember the darkness before Passover.  Remember the desperation before the Red Sea.  Replenish your oil.  Let Him find us ready and waiting with our lamps still lit.

But the other eleven spies' bad reports have already seeped in through the Israelites ears and begun the work of melting their hearts (Deuteronomy 1:28).  In the place where their faith was lying dead, fear immediately took up residence, and fear was not resting in peace or ineffectual, but brimming with fruit and works.  Immediately, the whole nation began to grumble, weep and throw themselves unabashedly into full-fledged self-pity (Deuteronomy 1:26-30).  Fear had them going so far as contradicting the very nature of God--declaring that the hatred of the Lord had brought them there (Deuteronomy 1:27).  Fear had them organizing leaders to take them back to the slavery of Egypt (Numbers 14:4). 

Moses and Aaron knew this fear of man was sin (Numbers 14:5).  From the floor, in prostrate fear of God, they join Caleb in begging the people, "'Do not be shocked, nor fear them.  The LORD your God who goes before you will Himself fight on your behalf'" (Deuteronomy 1:29-30).  "'If the LORD is pleased with us, then He will bring us into this land and give it to us--a land which flows with milk and honey.  Only do not rebel against the LORD; and do not fear the people of the land, for they will be our prey.  Their protection has been removed from them, and the LORD is with us; do not fear them'" (Numbers 14:8-9).  Please, shore up your hearts, people!  This fear is arrogance--assuming you will do or not do based entirely on your own strength and ability, wiping God out of the equation.  This fear is stubbornness--a flat-out refusal to listen and obey regardless of feelings or forecast.  This fear is forgetfulness of the nature of God and of His impeccable track record (Nehemiah 9:17, Exodus 34:6).  This fear is rebellion--putting the strength of man as supreme over the omnipotent God in your hearts and minds.   This fear is divination--a fortune telling of the future in direct contradiction to God's omniscient word.  

"'But for all this, you did not trust the LORD your God, who goes before you on your way'" (Deuteronomy 1:32).  So the Lord gave them over to the fear they had chosen.  "'As I live,' says the LORD, 'just as you have spoken in My hearing, so I will surely do to you'" (Numbers 14:28).  They became the grasshoppers they imagined themselves to be and hopped around the desert for forty years until every single one who had grumbled against the Lord had dropped dead (Numbers 14:29, 32).  God told them that their grumbling, their fear, and their refusal to believe that He would do what He said He would do equaled rejection of His gift, so He tucked it away for their kids and let them have what they had determined for themselves (Numbers 14:31).  What they prophesied for themselves in fear, what they muttered and grumbled under their breaths, they received in full. 

"'How long will this people spurn Me?  And how long will they not believe in Me, despite all the signs which I have performed in their midst?'" (Numbers 14:11).  Fear is a refusal to believe in Him.  It is a spurning of the Almighty.  It is a choice to believe the world's eleven bad reports over His one good report.
<![CDATA[cour.age, noun. strength in the face of pain]]>Tue, 29 Sep 2015 01:28:59 GMThttp://dreadlord.weebly.com/blog/courage-noun-strength-in-the-face-of-pain“These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace.  In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

I believe that all of my fear and anxiety comes directly from this fact: I am desperate to avoid tribulation.  I do not want to be destitute of spirit or hungry or persecuted or mourning.  I am filled with anxiety at the thought of being misrepresented or taken advantage of.  I am terrified of harm coming to my children or sorrow coming to my soul.  I do everything I can to protect myself and my loved ones from any pain whatsoever.  This, of course, is a very natural thing to be and do.  It is a relief that I am not a masochist and that, at the very least, I have the primal instincts of fight and flight intact.  But the marvelous, horrible reality of being a Christian is that we are called to rise above the natural to the super(situated over)natural. When I am like a wild beast, running helter-skelter to avoid suffering, I am running from blessedness.  In our Savior’s economy, the people smack in the middle of tribulation are the blessed ones (Matthew 5:1-11).  The people resigned to the humble state of meek neediness are the fortunate ones, according to the blessing-giver Himself.  

Jesus had just been saying this to His disciples.  The scattering hour is at hand.  It is about to get really ugly for all of us (John 16:32).  This is going to hurt.  We are going to have big trouble.  But remember these things that I have been speaking to you.  I am going to be glorified (John 13:31-32).  You will soon join Me in glory (John14:1-4).  “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you” (John 14:18) in the form of the Helper Who will be an advantage to you (John 16:7) because We, the Godhead, are actually going to make our home in you (John 14:23).  “These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace (John 16:33), “so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full” (John 15:11), “so that you may be kept from stumbling” (John 16:1).  

Jesus is Himself imminently cross-bound, and He is promising his friends a great deal of torment too.  To keep them from stumbling under the weight of that sorrow, He is giving them the remedy ahead of time.  Here, hold onto this victual, my dear ones.  You are going to need this healing remedy very soon.  And this is the elixir: I AM.  Though you head toward certain torture and death, “Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful” (John 14:27).  I am going to be in you, and you are going to be in Me, and in that communion there is peace and even joy, though they tear you limb from limb.  Take courage.  Take it.  Courage is pluck in the presence of pain.  This kind of daring fearlessness is not an emotion but a birthright as children of the Victor!  Are you discouraged by the tribulation at hand?  Dis is a Latin prefix for the idea of pulling away or asunder. Do not let your birthright, your courage, be stolen from you.  Take back your grit, your nerve, your ability to persevere by reminding yourself of this: I know how this all shakes out-- I AM the overcomer and you are My heirs!   

As sure as His promise of tribulation is His promise of victory.  But His victory never quite looks as we expect.  I am thinking of the way He let His own home--the temple where He literally dwelt in Shekinah glory and Jerusalem which He named “The LORD is there” (Ezekiel48:35)--become an utter desolation in order to discipline and thus win back His people.  I am thinking of the way He let himself be overcome by proud men and nailed to death in what could only be seen as defeat and contradiction of His claims in order to ransom aliens and strangers into heirdom.  The God we are dealing with is not above being humiliated in our eyes.  He is not concerned with the appearance of things.  He will not avoid suffering.  He knows what comes of tribulation.

“’Look at this,’ John said in his dream, as the devastation continued to play out before him. ‘It’s horrible. It’s too horrible.’ The presence beside him smiled.  John could feel it. ‘No, it isn’t so horrible,’ said the being. ‘It depends on what you want to see. Look.’ In the dream, two jumbo jets had just collided in midair, raining twisted metal and fire and broken bodies on the ground below.  But when John looked more closely, he could see that every piece of wreckage was transformed as it hit the ground.  All the debris was recombining, slowly growing into an airport.  The people who had been killed in the collision were walking through the new buildings, boarding new planes. ‘You see,’ said the presence beside John, ‘they are going places they could never have reached before. It’s not so bad, really.  It’s just that you don’t understand how it works’” (Expecting Adam 234).

<![CDATA[the Grammar of Fear]]>Fri, 11 Sep 2015 00:50:13 GMThttp://dreadlord.weebly.com/blog/the-grammar-of-fearWhen you go out to battle against your enemies and see horses and chariots and people more numerous than you, do not be afraid of them; for the LORD your God, who brought you up from the land of Egypt, is with you.  When you are approaching the battle, the priest shall come near and speak to the people.  He shall say to them, “Hear, O Israel, you are approaching the battle against your enemies today.  Do not be fainthearted.  Do not be afraid, or panic, or tremble before them, for the LORD your God is the one who goes with you, to fight for you against your enemies, to save you.”   Deuteronomy 20:1-4

The Lord Himself has commanded us not to fear.  The command is always in the imperative mood.  This means, simply, that it is not a polite suggestion.  The command is an order, and a righteous order is only given when there is full capacity to obey.  For a long time, I was absolutely certain that there was nothing I could do to escape fear and anxiety.  My enemy had me completely convinced that I was powerless to change, because these were simply natural responses and emotions.  I was even slightly prideful that I was no ostrich with my head in the sand, pretending that everything was fine when everyone knew damn good and well that it was not.  I saw things for how bleak they were, and I loved God anyway.  Certainly that was to my credit, no?

When God ordered the transfer of my fear from the myriad fears of man to the singular fear of Him, I was made to understand that this was something I was capable of obeying.  This was a choice I could make that had nothing to do with my perception of reality or how I felt.  It had to do with a redirection of gaze.  It had to do with actually opening my eyes.    

I started noticing a pattern in the commands.  Every command regarding fear contained a conjunction that introduced a dependent idea.  Every command had a very little, very powerful word that linked the reason with the result.  Let’s take a look at an example. 

“’Do not fear,’ declares the LORD, ‘for I am with you’” (Jeremiah 47:28). 

“Do not fear” is the imperative command and the result we are all (including God) after.  “For” is the powerful little conjunction.  It is the red flag wildly waving that says, “Here is how you will accomplish this task.  Here is a crucial piece of information.  Here is the means for bringing about the end in mind.

“I am with you” is the reason we are not to fear.  “How do I stop fearing?” you may ask.  How does one obey this seemingly impossible command?  A shift of gaze from the thing you have been fearing to Immanuel—God with you.  I had to stop listing verses like these when I had filled a single-spaced page with scriptural references bearing this exact same formula.  I will give you a little appetizer.

“’Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has chosen gladly to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32).

“Do not be afraid of sudden fear nor the onslaught of the wicked when it comes; for the LORD will be your confidence [at your side] and will keep your foot from being caught” (Proverbs 3:26).   

“’Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine!...Do not fear, for I am with you’” (Isaiah 43:1,5).     

Can you find the conjunction after every single command?  Can you identify the common reason that fearing what the world fears is illogical?  Yes!  It is two simple words: I AM.  You do not have reason to fear because He is with you (Genesis 26:24).  You can fear disaster no more, because I AM has taken away His judgments and cleared away your enemies (Zephaniah 3:15).  Don’t be shocked.  Your God has decided to go on ahead before you and fight on your behalf.  He’ll turn back and carry you too. (Deuteronomy 1:29-31).  You need not be dismayed, for I AM is the warrior, not you (2 Chronicles 20:15-17).  You can rest now.  Go ahead.  Lay down and sleep without fear of ten thousands, because salvation belongs to Him (Psalm 3:4-8), and He has chosen to dwell in your midst (Deuteronomy 7:17-21).

This is why Elisha was not afraid when armored hordes gathered to slaughter him—a lone, unarmed prophet who was messing with their war.  “Now when the attendant of the man of God had risen early and gone out, behold, an army with horses and chariots was circling the city, and his servant said to him, “Alas, my master!  What shall we do?’” (2 Kings 6:15).  The servant of Elisha was trusting his five senses and freaking out.  I can relate to this fearful little guy.  Certain doom was all he could see.  He was wringing his hands, taking stock of the prowess of a man of God against an army of trained fighters, looking for what they could possibly do.  But it had nothing at all to do with what they could do.  “So he answered, ‘Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them’” (2 Kings 6:16). 

Then Elisha prayed to God and asked Him to open his servant’s eyes.  This had to be entirely exasperating for this poor servant who couldn’t possibly have shut his eyes for a solitary moment.  Certainly he kept his irreverent eyes peeled on this gathering multitude of flashing swords even during Elisha’s prayer.  He had to be as eyes-wide-open as one can be.  He was in absolute terror.  But that is exactly the point.  The servant was operating entirely by sight while Elisha was operating entirely by faith.  Elisha was not afraid because he understood where I AM stood in all this.  Elisha had his spiritual eyes open and their gaze was fixed entirely on He Who was with them.  “And the LORD opened the servant’s eyes and he saw; and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha” (2 Kings 6:17).  Open your eyes, my sister, my brother.  The angel of the Lord and all His host are in the mountains round about you.

<![CDATA[Sword, famine, wild beasts and plague]]>Tue, 01 Sep 2015 18:16:38 GMThttp://dreadlord.weebly.com/blog/sword-famine-wild-beasts-and-plague“Neither fear them nor fear their words, though thistles and thorns are with you and you sit on scorpions; neither fear their words nor be dismayed at their presence” (Ezekiel 2:6).

The prophets, man, the prophets of old had it hard.  I have heard some modern-day prophets, and I like them.  I like what they say.  A lot of it is really warm and fuzzy and, honestly, they seem to be respected and even kind of Hollywood-style idolized these days.  But that seems to be a problem to me—that they are so sparkly and loved and full of these honeyed words.  It doesn’t fit the calling I see historically in scripture.  I am not saying that God can’t do a new thing.  I am merely saying that the only prophets like that in the Bible were the ones that the Lord was woe-ing and condemning for speaking falsehood and lying divination, for saying their own words of peace when God was saying, “sword, famine, wild beasts and plague” (Ezekiel 14:21).  The entire job description of a prophet is this: speak the word of the Lord.  But the saccharine prophets in the Old Testament, the ones God had to slay because they were leading His people to slaughter, were speaking their own words “from their own inspiration…following their own spirit” (Ezekiel 13:2, 3).

I think we are like those false prophets “who see visions of peace for her when there is no peace” (Ezekiel 13:16).  Her was Jerusalem back then.  Her was God’s people who wanted to be chosen and blessed, but in the luxurious sort of way that fit with the spirit of the age and kept them from sorrow.  If you are like me, you and I are the new Her.  We are fearing, more than anything else, the trials and suffering that the Spirit of the Lord has already promised are coming.  Paul says that we are “fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him” (Romans 8:17).  That is a gigantic IF INDEED and SO THAT, all hinging on our willingness to suffer with Christ.  And here we are running from it with every last bit of our energy.  Here we are hungry for prophetic visions of bliss and blessings.  Here we are living terrified of what we are surely meant to endure from the hand of our compassionate God—our calamity-bringer.

It was God, not Satan, who sent judgement on His people.  It was calamity with a purpose of driving His people away from their idols and back to His arms (Ezekiel 14:21-23).  The Lord makes it very clear that the horrible terrors and disasters that He strikes His creation with are His miracles (Exodus 3:20).  We like the healing sort of wonders, but plagues and smiting have really disappeared from our thesaurus of miracles.  But even the New Testament guys still got that. 

“If God is for us, who is against us?  He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also freely give us all things?” (Romans 8:31-32).  The One who is for us was pleased to crush His only begotten Son (Isaiah 53:10).  This is the God we are dealing with.  This is the God who is ALSO going to freely give to US.  But what are we waiting for?  Paul goes on to describe the things we are going to be given, and they include tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril and sword (Romans 8:35).  Sound familiar?  The very same word that was coming through the prophets of old, kept coming through Paul from the same Source, the Spirit of the living God.  Notice that it is not in spite of these things that we will remain in the love of Christ, “But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us.  For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:37-39).  Do we understand that all these things are coming?  These are the myriad fears of man, the fears of things created.  Created by Whom?  These things are all created by the One who still holds the whole world in His hands and allows those “things to come” for us.  And we live our lives in fear of them, desperately trying to tap dance around them and somehow to avoid at least some of them.  But they are coming.

God told His prophet Ezekiel that that those things were coming for him too.  He had a whole list of bizarre and horrible things for Ezekiel to endure and say and do, but the first was to eat something. “Open your mouth and eat what I am giving you” (Ezekiel 2:8).  Oh, God is about to give me something to eat!  It must be sweet and creamy or thick and savory, because it is from God.  Peace, peace!  Oh, okay, no.  “Then I looked, and behold, a hand was extended to me; and lo, a scroll was in it.  When He spread it out before me, it was written on the front and back, and written on it were lamentations, mourning and woe” (Ezekiel 2:9-10).  What!?  Yes!  God was feeding His obedient son a book full of horror and desolation.  But, friend, watch!  Ezekiel is God’s child, so he opens his mouth and His tender, loving God puts him up in the highchair and feeds him a gigantic, airplane-style, swooshing bite of bitter scroll.   And what does this child of God say? 

“Then I ate it, and it was as sweet as honey in my mouth” (Ezekiel 3:3).  And that is where our knees should hit the floor.  Because the truth is that God called Ezekiel away from fear for a reason.  He told Ezekiel that his ass was destined for thistles and thorns and scorpions, but that he was not to be afraid.  Why?  Because I AM.  Because I AM was in the midst, and I AM can make roads in the wilderness and streams in the desert (Isaiah 43:18-19).  When you are His, you are bound for the difficult places.  But there is nothing to fear, my dear brothers and sisters, because you are going there with HIM!  Nothing is going to separate you from Him—nothing at all on this entire journey. Stop clenching your teeth and pursing your lips. Let him strap you in to the high chair and fasten your bib.  Open wide your mouth, for even the lamentation you were dreading He will make as sweet as honey.