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“O my God, I say, take me not away in the midst of my days– you whose years endure throughout all generations!” Of old you laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. They will perish, but you will remain; they will all wear out like a garment. You will change them like a robe, and they will pass away, but you are the same, and your years have no end. The children of your servants shall dwell secure; their offspring shall be established before you” (Psalm 102:24-28). 

Whoever wrote Psalm 102 (some say David, some say Asaph) was extremely insecure. But, if we are honest, aren’t we all? We look for affirmation from various things and people – academic credentials, jobs, spouses, ministries, family, possessions, supervisors, financial savings, etc. – wanting to feel good about ourselves and our situation. This writer was no different. He understood the fleeting nature of his life (Psalm 102: 2, 11) and was in the midst of a time of great turmoil, pain, and affliction. Even worse, he felt God was uninvolved (102:2) and had abandoned him in anger (102:10). The psalmist was, by any definition, insecure about himself and his circumstances. Although maybe not to this extreme, can you identify? I sure can. 

I’m so glad the Bible shows God’s people with “warts and all.” They were frail and filled with foibles. And so are we. Insecurity is such a common theme in fallen humanity that, I believe, this passage and others give us guidance on how to deal with our lack of confidence. In this Psalm, like us, the writer tended to look at himself rather than God. When he turned from his feelings and looked at the facts, He saw the greatness and goodness of his God. Not in himself or his circumstances did he find the salve to soothe his insecurity. It was in the immutability of God. 

And what is God’s immutability? Maybe the word “unchangeableness” would be easier to understand. In his systematic theology, Wayne Grudem  (if you don’t have one, get it) defines this attribute of God by explaining that “God is unchanging in His being, perfections, purposes, and promises, yet God does act and feel emotions, and He acts and feels differently in response to different situations.” Beyond being changeless God is also timeless. Both of these concepts are found in the psalmist’s consolation in this passage (see 102:26-27). In the midst of his weakness, this child of God chose to cling to God’s ultimate prominence and infinite power as opposed to his own limitations. The Psalmist understood that contemplating our God’s immutability is a wonderful antidote to our insecurity. His comforting conclusion is found in verse 28: “The children of your servants shall dwell secure; their offspring shall be established before you.”

So what’s the application? In ourselves we are insecure (and have every reason to be). But as blood-bought followers of Jesus our security and identity are found not in ourselves but in the unchanging immensity and integrity of God. And this becomes a reality when we embrace that “who we are” is found only in the person of God’s son, Jesus. And, even more amazing, His identity has been placed into us. This is Paul’s thought when he says in Colossians 2:6-7, “Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.” Walking in Him means that, no matter our situation, we are persevering in faith-filled hopefulness and trusting He is at work in us. In other words, Jesus, and nothing else, is our identity and security! We know this because we, “being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6). This means that part of His good news is that, no matter how imperceptible it may be, He is building us up!

As we battle our insecurity with the immutability of God that is experienced through our union with Christ, let’s ponder James 1:17-18: Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.” Consider what makes you feel whole, fulfilled, or complete. Is there something outside of Jesus that is your identity or security? Ask God to reveal and imprint the sufficiency of Christ in every aspect of your life and pray that you never look to anything or anyone else to make you feel complete.

Insecure? Let’s find our identity in “Jesus Christ [who] is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). The God who promises that He never changes His mind or breaks His promises (Numbers 23:19). He is the One that has “granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4). Our immutable Lord is worthy of our faith – He can be trusted in our weakness. For through Him we have the confidence that only comes because we have “Christ in [us], the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27).

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“He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint” (Isaiah 40:29-31).*

*You will need your Bible for this study. If I copied all the texts this post would be a small book.

Isaiah 40 contains a passage that many Christians hold dear. We often cling to verses 29-31 when we are exhausted in our journey to follow Jesus amidst life’s challenges and trials. The principle of an indescribably awesome (in its truest and fullest sense) God supplying us soaring, sustaining, and steadfast power brings great comfort (see Isaiah 40:1-2) to those in dire need of such strength. Yet often this energy seems inaccessible and merely words – words that we believe but rarely experience. And why is this? Because these magnificent promises are only understood and realized as we digest and apply what precedes them. In other words, one must interpret Isaiah 40 backwards to get the full picture.

The 2 previous verses to our focal text tell us that this power is connected to faith: “Why do you say, O Jacob, and speak, O Israel, “My way is hidden from the LORD, and my right is disregarded by my God”? Have you not known? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable” (Isaiah 40:27-28). Clearly the prophet says we must believe in order to experience the strength of an all-knowing and all-powerful God. But faith in what?

Faith in Him and Him alone. We see this from the previous verses where Isaiah’s oracle makes fun of the silliness of idols in light of the nature of the one and only true God (vs. 18-26). He mocks those who erect false gods that can’t even stand on their own (verse 20 reminds me of “Weebles wobble but they don’t fall down” as it describes the wish to craft an idol that won’t topple over). Ridiculous, eh? But for our purposes, an idol is not a graven image but anything that we treasure, love, and desire more than God. An idol can even be seemingly good things (like religion, humanitarian efforts, ministry, or family) that supersede God in importance in our lives. This includes the most insidious of idols – our own energy, effort, and ingenuity (let’s just call this self-sufficiency or pride). The prophet says that to experience the unfathomable power of God we must believe in Him in all of His greatness and nothing can be more important than Him.

But moving further back in the text, we see that it’s not just believing in God but having a right vision of His awesomeness and boundless might. This is what we see in verses 12-17. Here He is described as an immeasurably powerful Creator and the sustainer of all things. What we have described in these verses is mind-boggling. It, as best limited human language can, portrays God as incomprehensibly mighty. As compared to our pathetic, limited, and vastly inferior ability, we see that, “For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God…” (Deuteronomy 10:17). As James MacDonald says, “It’s not that your problems are too big. It’s that your God is too small.”

But how are we connected to this awesome God? In and through the Son of God who became Jesus the Christ (vs. 1-11). Scripture shows Him to have this same power and character as Yahweh, Jehovah God (John 1, Hebrews 1, and Colossians 1). We see the mighty ruling arm of God (v. 9) become the lovingly tender arm of God (v. 11) by way of Jesus (vs. 1-5). This is called the good news (v. 9 – better understood as “great news”) of the Messiah, whose coming was heralded by John the Baptist with Isaiah’s words, “A voice cries: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God” (v. 3). And this is the “Word of our God that will stand forever” (v. 8).

So, in summary, to access the unfathomable strength of God (29-31) we must have genuine faith (27-28) in God and not ourselves or our God-substitutes (18-26). And our trust must be in an awesomely large and limitless God (12-17) that has connected us to His immeasurable power through our surrender to the person and power of Jesus (1-11) and experienced through His Holy Spirit.

So, if we want the soaring, sustaining, steadfast strength of our supremely awesome God, it will only come from Jesus when we:

• love Him above all else and lean only on Him

• yearn for Him and yield to Him

• are devoted to Him and dependant on Him alone

• are surrendered to Him and sustained only by Him

• faithfully fix our gaze on Him and feast on His Word

The New Testament equivalent of the powerful principle of Isaiah 40 is found in Hebrews 12:1-3. The writer connects the dots and gives us a passage to call our own as we seek the strength of God found only in Christ:

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.”


*Section 2 – Kingdom Conduct

Fifteen – The Reliability of  Our Words

“Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but keep the oaths you have made to the Lord.’ But I tell you, Do not swear at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one” (Matthew 5:33-37).

The principle of “my word is my vow” has largely lost its power in contemporary culture; the same was true during Jesus’ earthly ministry. Middle Eastern peoples of the time were often required to swear in order to validate their word. Unfortunately, saying one thing and doing another was so commonplace that vows of sincerity were added to verbal agreements. When Jesus delivered His Sermon on the Mount, He encouraged listeners to live as people of integrity. In short, believers should not say it unless we mean it; we should not claim to take care of something unless we plan to see it to completion. A person of integrity speaks with such honesty that “yes” means just that. An added validation of sincerity proves unnecessary.

Jesus taught that the common practice of swearing—confirming one’s word by the taking of an oath—does not align with the character He desires to see in His new kingdom’s dwellers. He said that we should not swear or promise anything in order to authenticate our words; instead, we should prove our verbal  commitments through action.

Understand that Jesus spoke not against the taking of all vows, such as those required in a court of law, on a legal document, or at a wedding ceremony; Paul, for instance, was likely “sworn in” before he was allowed to speak to Roman authorities. Instead, Jesus taught that adding “I swear on this or that” serves as an indictment on one’s credibility. The issue regards a person’s internal and spiritual state. Why, Jesus’ teachings prompt us to ask, would anyone need to insist his words are true if he can just as easily prove himself trustworthy?

Modern Christians trivialize the critical concept of honesty to a rudimentary restatement of one of the Ten Commandments: “Do not lie” (Exodus 20:16).  Worse, we tell ourselves that God concerns Himself only with the “big lies” we tell—as if a sliding scale provides an appropriate measure for truth. I believe, however, that God desires that His followers show integrity in every word and action.

Consider this example. Jack, a disciple of Jesus who faithfully shares his testimony with anyone who’ll listen, promised his boss that he’d complete a company project by start of business on Friday. On Wednesday, the boss checks in to make sure Jack’s on target to complete the task. “I swear,” Jack says, “I’ll have it done before I leave Thursday afternoon.” Friday’s lunchtime rolls around before Jack turns in his assignment. Though he apologizes for failing to keep his commitment, the damage is done. Jack’s boss no longer trusts his word. One might call Jack’s oversight a mistake but his integrity has been breached. He gave a false statement; he failed to live out what he claimed. His late action expands upon the Decalogue’s concept of bearing false witness.

Jesus said, “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much” (Luke 16:10). Christ saw our unwillingness to keep small commitments as a lack of trustworthiness and honesty. He knew that people’s perception of our character would suffer as we choose to display dishonesty through our words. Why, for instance, would Jack’s boss care to listen to him extol the virtue and beauty of our sin-forgiving Savior when Jack doesn’t bother to do what he promised? The boss might wonder if the Jesus his employee claims to serve proves as untrustworthy as His follower.

The Lord rightly demands that His followers demonstrate integrity. Our hope is built upon the veracity of who Christ is and what He has said. We trust His words and stake our eternal destiny on them, but if we want others to do the same, we must project honesty and uprightness in all we do. Paul taught, “In  everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be  condemned” (Titus 2:7-8). We’ve got to help people understand that One exists who will always keep His word. We must serve as illustrations to this truth.

Let’s make sure that our “yes” truly means yes and that our “no” really means no! Living in Christ’s kingdom requires careful honesty. Ephesians 4:25 admonishes: “Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body.” Our utterances must prove completely reliable so that others will see the steadfast nature of the One we trust.

Apply It.

Read and contemplate Numbers 23:19 and Hebrews 6:18-20. Does God’s inability to lie give you hope and a sense of security? How should God’s absolute integrity alter the way you use your words? Pray that others might see the integrity and promise-keeping nature of God in you.

*This is an excerpt from Captivated by the King and His Kingdom: A Personal Encounter with the Sermon on the Mount published by Crossbooks in 2010.

The links for this book are:

Amazon in book form – http://www.amazon.com/Captivated-King-His-Kingdom-Encounter/dp/1615073418/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1302820767&sr=8-1

Amazon Kindle – http://www.amazon.com/Captivated-King-His-Kingdom-ebook/dp/B004KAA9UC/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&m=AG56TWVU5XWC2&s=books&qid=1302820767&sr=8-2

Barnes and Noble in book form – http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Captivated-by-the-King-and-His-Kingdom/Linden-C-Wolfe/e/9781615073412/?itm=3&USRI=captivated+by+the+king

Other eReader formats – http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/33572

If you follow along with this category (albeit backwards) by the same name as the book, eventually, Lord willing, we will have walked through the Sermon on the Mount verse by verse in a devotional commentary approach. I pray that this series impacts you as much as it did me as I studied this passage and wrote this book. Grace to you!

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