July 20, 2019

365 Days of the Great Names of God, Day 232: God of David

God of David

"The LORD is my shepherd; I have all that I need. He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams. He renews my strength. He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to his name. Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me. You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies. You honor me by anointing my head with oil. My cup overflows with blessings. Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the LORD forever." (Psalm 23:1-6 NLT)

The Lord was David's shepherd because He is Yahweh-Rah, the Good Shepherd: "God...has been my shepherd all my life to this day" (Genesis 48:15).

The Lord let David rest in green meadows because He is the Resting Place: "This is the resting place, let the weary rest" (Isaiah 28:12).

The Lord led David beside peaceful streams because He is the Living Water: "Lord, you are...the spring of living water" (Jeremiah 17:13).

The Lord renewed David's strength, because He is our Strength: "O my Strength, to you I sing praises, for you, O God, are my refuge, the God who shows me unfailing love" (Psalm 59:17).

The Lord guided David along right paths because He is the Divine Leader: "Remember how the LORD your God led you all the way" (Deuteronomy 8:2).

The Lord was close to David even in the dark valley because He is the Lamp: "You are my lamp, O LORD; the LORD turns my darkness into light" (2 Samuel 22:29).

The Lord protected and comforted David because He is our Refuge: “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble" (Psalm 46:1).

The Lord made a feast for David in the presence of his enemies because He is the Victor: "Now I know that the Lord gives victory to His anointed; He will answer him from His holy heaven with mighty victories from His right hand" (Psalm 20:6).

The Lord honored David by anointing His head with oil because He is the One Who sets up kings: "Blessed be the name of God for ever and ever. to whom belong wisdom and might. He changes times and seasons; he removes kings and sets up kings; he gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding (Daniel 2:20,21).

The Lord filled David's cup to overflowing because He is our Portion: "God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever" (Psalm 73:26b).

The Lord pursued David with His unfailing love and goodness because He is the Faithful God: "Know therefore that the LORD your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments" (Deuteronomy 7:9).

The Lord gave David a place in His house forever because He is our Home: "Lord, you have been our home since the beginning. Before the mountains were born and before you created the earth and the world, you are God. You have always been, and you will always be" (Psalm 90:1,2).

And all God was to David, He is to us.

* * * * * *
God, You are my Shepherd and my Home and everything in between, as you were to David. Break and heal and mold and shape and change my heart as you did his, so that my heart, too, might look like Your heart.

July 19, 2019

365 Days of the Great Names of God, Day 231: God of Hannah

God of Hannah

"'As surely as you live, I am the woman who stood here beside you praying to the LORD. I prayed for this child, and the LORD has granted me what I asked of him. So now I give him to the LORD. For his whole life he will be given over to the LORD.'" (1 Samuel 1:26-28 NIV)

If, when we get to heaven, we're permitted a little Q&A session with some of the ancient faithful, I'll be adding my name to Hannah's sign-up sheet straight away. 

Here is a woman who not only does not have the children she desperately longs for (and we must always remember the stigma attached to childless women in that culture), but she has to watch her husband's other wife (and we must just accept that there are certain normalcies of life in ancient times that are always going to be tough to swallow) get what she herself wants—and taunts Hannah to boot! Talk about adding insult to injury.

Then, after "this went on year after year" (1 Samuel 1:7), when poor Hannah is so heartbroken and so mistreated by her rival that she cannot eat for all her weeping, her husband asks her, essentially, "What's the matter with you? Why are you upset?" (Elkanah, PLEASE: work with us, here.)

Yet after all this, Hannah still believes in the goodness of the Lord enough to pray to Him and pour out her soul to Him (1 Samuel 1:15) and to offer to give back to Him the thing she wants most in the world, if only He will give it to her in the first place.

This vow of a woman who trusts in the loving-kindness of her God comes after years of not getting what she wanted. Years of not getting what other people had. Years of not getting something God Himself said was good: "Children are a gift from the LORD; they are a reward from him" (
Psalm 27:3). Hannah's story would read entirely differently if she had been begging God to give her something He was on the record as opposing. But the longing of her heart was for something God had repeatedly indicated His favor toward. 

And then there is the fact that we are clearly told, "The LORD had closed [Hannah's] womb" (1 Samuel 1:5). Hannah's barrenness was not the result of living in a broken world that sometimes comes with bodies that do not do all we wish them to do. It was the result of the intentional act of the Lord Most High. Whether or not Hannah knew God had "closed her womb," she certainly knew He could open it if He wanted to but had chosen not to.

I think this is one of the stickiest, trickiest part of faith: acknowledging that God often does not do things that seem to us to be good, that He, for whom nothing is impossible, is capable of doing.

Hannah did not only trust God "if." She did not only trust Him "when." She trusted Him. Hannah's story shows us that God can open what He closes. He can lift up what is downcast. He can bring life from death. But if He does not, He is still good, and He is still God. 

When (not if) there are good things on this earth that, for reasons I cannot understand, God chooses not to bless me with, I have to get to the point where I understand that this world is not my home. I am not supposed to feel completely content here. And if the longing for something I do not have on this earth causes me to turn again and again toward God Who is the ultimate Fulfillment, then the loss of that longed-for thing has led me to the greatest gain.

* * * * * *
God, let Hannah's song be my song, too: "my joy is in your salvation."

July 18, 2019

365 Days of the Great Names of God, Day 230: God of Lydia

God of Lydia

"On the Sabbath we went outside the city gate to the river, where we expected to find a place of prayer. We sat down and began to speak to the women who had gathered there. One of those listening was a woman from the city of Thyatira named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth. She was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message. 
When she and the members of her household were baptized, she invited us to her home. 'If you consider me a believer in the Lord,' she said, 'come and stay at my house.' And she persuaded us." (Acts 16:13-15 NIV)

When my daughter Lydia was not quite five years old, she told her grandma (my husband's mom) that she wanted to ask Jesus into her heart. My mother-in-law says she remembers thinking maybe it was something Lydia should do with my husband and me, but she decided her granddaughter's heart was ready and so led Lydia in a prayer of salvation.

All these years later, I'm so glad my mother-in-law seized that moment, because Lydia has never turned back from that decision. It was a deliberate, informed, intentional choice born out of a lifetime (short as it was at the time) of hearing truth about who God is at home, from her grandparents and other trusted adults, in Sunday School and junior church, at vacation Bible school, at preschool. 

God opened her heart...and our Lydia invited Him in.

Our older daughter's Biblical predecessor, Lydia of Thyatira (a city famous for its purple cloth), is considered the first recorded convert to Christianity in Europe. Lydia knew of God, believed in Him, reverenced Him. But that day, when she went down to the river to worship the God she knew, she met the Living Water she did not yet know—and invited Him into her heart. 

Up until that time, Lydia had visited God's house, so to speak. But in that hinge moment, she took her seat at the family table as God's adopted daughter.

One line in the page of Lydia's story recorded in Scripture informs all our stories, too: "The Lord opened her heart to respond." Paul delivered God's message, but the Holy Spirit moved Lydia's heart to take possession of it.

When I'm sharing God's story with someone, I always feel a burden to "make" them believe it and respond to it. But of course that is not my job. It is not the job of any of us. Our job, like Paul's, is to lay the wood for the fire and then to trust God Himself to ignite it. Our job is to plug people in and then trust God to supply the spiritual current. 

This should be comforting and freeing, and in some ways, it is: it is not my responsibility to save anyone (as if I could). And yet the control freak in me dislikes this necessary letting-go. It leaves too much to someone else's will: God's will (perfect though it is) and free will, which can always choose to walk away. I want God's best for the people I love and care about. I want their hearts to be moved toward Him.

But then I hear God's gentle voice: "Don't you think I want that, too? I love them more in one second than you could love them in a lifetime. I love them most, in fact. But this is not a contest. I am already the Victor of every race. You just keep running toward me and invite others to join in along the way, and one day, we will cross the finish line together."

* * * * * *
God, thank You that You still open hearts. Help me to share your message and then trust You to do the saving.