The Rock of Ages

Isaiah 26:4: Young’s Literal Translation, “Trust ye in Jehovah for ever, For in Jah Jehovah is a rock of ages”      

Darby Bible Translation, “Confide ye in Jehovah for ever; for in Jah, Jehovah, is the rock of ages.”

I’ve been listening to a new Steven Curtis Chapman CD (Deep Roots available at Cracker Barrel or Crackerbarrel.com) of old familiar hymns including Rock of Ages. I’ve sung that hymn probably 100s of times, yet it’s only since I got this CD that the lyrics really started speaking to me. I feel a smile come over my face as a picture forms in my mind when I hear, “Rock of Ages cleft for me, let me hide myself in Thee.” I see the Rock moving to form a space, a shelter in which I can hide. In that cleft (cave) I am enveloped in The Lord’s strength, embraced by His power, and safe in His love. Whether it’s translated The Rock ofAges, The Eternal Rock, or The Everlasting Rock, this Rock will never crumble, crack, or roll away. Our God is strong steadfast, and true.

1 Chronicles 16:11 (NASB),  Seek the LORD and His strength; Seek His face continually.

When we’re in the “cleft” of the Rock, we are in His presence. One of the reasons I like this verse is the word continually. We need to seek God’s presence continually, not just in the hard times. Could it be that we might be able to miss some of the hard times if we did this. Some versions of this verse use the word presence instead of face. Both words are good, but I like the face version of this verse because it emphasizes we need to be seeking God’s face and not just His hand of provision and protection. Face time with the Lord. I want face time like Moses (Exodus 33.11, 21-23) and Elijah (1 Kings 19:9-18) had with the Lord. Even Abraham was called God’s friend (Isaiah 41:8, James 2:23) and he conversed and even debated with the Lord (Genesis 18:16-33). God wants us to be real and truthful with Him. Even if what we are feeling is anger, fear, or doubt, we can bring it all to God because it is the real truth of how we feel. There is no point in prentending or sugar coating things for God. He knows our thoughts and the condition of our hearts. He just wants us to come to Him acknowledging that He is bigger than our problems and only He can help us through them.

I find much wisdom and solace in the Psalms. David sometimes lamented to God about the trials he was going through. Read Psalm 22. http://niv.scripturetext.com/psalms/22.htm This is a great example of how David cried out to God in his troubles, yet he never forgot that God was more than able to meet his needs and rescue him from his troubles. Sometimes we just need to pour out all those feelings, to let go of them. That’s okay, more than okay. Just don’t forget that He is The Rock of all the Ages and He will never let you down. It’s a matter of trusting God and His timing to make it all work out for us, the ones He loves, that He has called to fulfill His purposes for our lives (Romans 8:28) and the lives of people we touch. The hardest times we will have to face in our lives (tests) then become our testimony. Our testimony is what has prepared us to help others through similar experiences. God reveals Himself to us and through us to other people. So, when you are going through trials, seek the Lord, but also ask Him to direct you to another believer who can come along side of you to help you walk through the test/trial. Then, when you have gone through and have your testimony, keep your eyes and ears open for God to lead you to someone else who needs your help in the same way. I have found it truly amazing how the Lord has seen me through some of the hardest times in my life, brought someone else into my life with similar cicrumstances that I could be His hands, feet and mouth (to speak). I have seen God changes lives and I have been able to praise God for the troubles I had because I was able to relate to and help another person through their trials. It is healing to your own soul, too. Hallelujah! God is good!

David knew what it was like to be afraid and tired of his circumstances. He spent years running and hiding in caves as King Saul pursued him wanting to kill him (see 1 Samuel 19:1-31:6 for the story of Saul’s pursuit of David to kill him and how both men handled their relationship with God). David not only wrote psalms of lament, but also wrote many about the Lord being his Rock, Shield, and Fortress  (ex: Psalms 18,  19, 28, 31, 33…). He found safety and protection not only in the physical caves, but in the presence of the Lord. That’s where we need to live. In so personal a relationship with the Lord that we are comfortable in His embrace and continually talking to Him, sharing our inmost fears, wants, and needs.

Remember this when you are going through trials in your life and you don’t think you can take another moment in your circumstances: 2 Samuel 22:2-3, 47 The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation. He is my stronghold, my refuge and my savior– from violent people you save me. “The LORD lives! Praise be to my Rock! Exalted be my God, the Rock, my Savior!

Blessings,

Julia

Yoked to Jesus

“So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the LORD your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you.” Deuteronomy 31:6 NLT

As I am sitting here watching a Food Network Challenge, I am inspired by the work of these sugar artists. As these sugar artists work, they face many challenges. This hot, liquid sugar can give a severe burn if it gets on your skin. If it’s not heated to the correct temperature or does not set up properly the integrity of the piece can be compromised. They heat the sugar then, working quickly, they pour it into molds or use it to make blown-sugar pieces, in a similar manner to glass-blowing. It is quite remarkable to watch. Then, comes the really tricky part. Connecting the pieces into an amazing sculpture. These sculptures are quite fragile. Too much weight, too much vibration, not perfectly balanced and it can crack, lean or completely shatter.

Sometimes we feel as fragile as a sugar sculpture. We may feel as though the slightest weight or imbalance will make us collapse or completely shatter. But we have promises from God that we can use to prop us up and give us added strength to endure the weight of trials. We also have the gift of the Holy Spirit to teach, comfort, and guide us, so we can withstand the vibrations that threaten to shake us to our very core and shatter our mental stability. In the Deuteronomy verse (above) God assures us that He will not fail us or abandon us and that He goes before us. He knows what will be coming our way. We can be confident, strong and courageous, because the Lord is completely trustworthy.

“Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.”  Isaiah 46:4 NIV

There is no situation that we cannot handle, so long as we keep our eyes on Jesus. This verse in Isaiah gives me such comfort and peace. He has made us. We are His. He will always be there to carry, sustain, and rescue us. The word that touches me the most here is, sustain. The merriam-webster.com dictionary defines sustain as:
1 : to give support or relief to
2 : to supply with sustenance : nourish
3 : keep up, prolong
4 : to support the weight of : prop ; also : to carry or withstand (a weight or pressure)
5 : to buoy up
6 a : to bear up under
Such richness in this word, sustain. God promises to support us, to nourish us, to keep us going, to support and carry us, and hold us up when we feel the weight of life dragging us down. And then there’s number five, to buoy up. I have never felt buoyant in water. I almost drowned as a child. I do not like being in the water. I cannot relax enough to float. Yet in the sea of life God promises to help me float and not sink. I am reminded of Peter walking out to meet the Master on the waters of the Sea of Galilee. So long as Peter kept His eyes on Jesus he stayed on top of the water. But, as soon as he looked at the wind and waves Peter began sinking. When the weight of life gets us down we just need to remember God is there to sustain us. He has not promised to take away our troubles, but He has promised He will never fail us or abandon us in our troubles. He will not let the troubles become more than we can bear with His help. These bolded words are key. We have to realize we are not meant to face life alone. Our strength is still weakness. We need the Lord’s strength to see us through. Jesus also made a promise that He would relieve our burdens.

Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light (Matthew 11:28-30 NLT).

Like many promises in the Bible, these verses have an If/Then scenario. We have a part to play in this promise — If come to Jesus, give Him our burden and take His yoke, Then, He will teach us, give our souls rest and lighten our burdens. I used to think of the yoke Jesus gives as just a lighter, easier version of the one we already have, but I never thought about how a yoke works. I did some research online. There are a couple different kinds of yokes.

A yoke for animals is made from carved wood that is shaped to tie two animals together to make the most of their strength, but they must work together. If they fight each other they won’t get anywhere. A lot depends on how well the yoke itself is made. It should fit well, so it does not cause pain or sores. The animals being yoked together must be equally matched in size, strength and family. You cannot yoke a donkey with an ox and expect to get anywhere. Also, there can only be one lead animal.

I get this picture now of what I think Jesus is describing to us in these verses. He has a yoke that is made to fit just right and enable us to work the most efficiently. I see us yoked with Jesus. He is the lead. When we submit to his lead and put our all into the work God has for us, it makes the work easier for us, because we’re not carrying the burden alone. A yoke also makes it easier to keep looking ahead, so we are not distracted by other things around us. But, if we try to go our own way against Jesus’ leading, not only will we not be productive, but we will hurt ourselves fighting against the yoke.

There is another kind of yoke, a human yoke, made to fit over the shoulders of slaves. It allows them to carry a heavier load. The Bible calls it an “iron” yoke (Deut. 28:48). In a spiritual sense this is the kind of yoke we are born with, that has us in bondage to sin. In 1 John 5:3 says, “Loving God means keeping his commandments, and his commandments are not burdensome” (NLT). The Lord does not want us to live burdensome lives. He wants to set us free from sin and lead us in a life of freedom in Him. It means if we love Him we will be obedient to His Word and listen to His voice.

When we choose Jesus and allow Him to trade our yoke of bondage for his easier (double) yoke joining us to Him, our burden is shared and He leads us on the right path. When temptations come our way that would seek to make us fight against that yoke or even try to get us to change back to the “iron” yoke, we have these verses to give us strength:
“The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure” (1 Corinthians 10:13 NLT)
This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin (Hebrews 4:15 NLT).

Following the discipline of Christ’s yoke is work, but Jesus said if we choose it, we will find His yoke is easy. That does not mean no troubles, but we don’t have to go through them alone. Our struggles will not overwhelm us, because Jesus said if we take His yoke we will find rest for our souls.

I spent too much of my life with a very restless, frustrated, and stressed out soul. Why? Because I tried to do everything in my own power, not following Jesus and not cooperating with the Holy Spirit. I have been learning that the more I cooperate with the Spirit following where Jesus leads me, the more rested and at peace I feel. Following Him isn’t always easy and it can be painful at times. The Good News is that this pain is not as hard as the pain of the life I left behind when I chose to receive Jesus as my Savior AND Lord. Sometimes we forget that He is not only Savior but also the Lord and King of our lives. That can be hard for control freaks like me to accept, but when we do learn to submit to God and His leading through the Holy Spirit, even our trials are easier, and I believe shorter in duration, than if we choose to fight against the yoke that joins us to life in Jesus.

You may balk at the thought of being yoked in any way. But, every person is born with the “iron” yoke of slavery. Jesus’ offer of a lighter yoke is the better choice and the only alternative to that “iron” yoke. There is no such thing as a yoke-free life in this world.

If you have never asked Jesus into your heart to be your Savior and Lord, why not do it today. Read my welcome message for a guide to receiving the joy of salvation through Jesus Christ.

Blessings,
Julia