(The Faith Forum Series – Batch 10)
In Genesis 28:20-21, after Jacob had left his parents in Beersheba so as to flee from his brother Esau and was on his journey to Haran, it says:
- “And Jacob vowed a vow, saying, If God will be with me, and keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on, So that I come again to my father’s house in peace; then shall the Lord be my God.”
The place that Jacob was in when he made this vow, was named Luz but the Bible states that he renamed it Bethel (vs. 19).
Years later, after he had been blessed with wives and children and wealth and was on his way back to his father’s house, the Lord having preserved his life, Jacob had experienced God’s hand upon his life. God had indeed been faithful in preserving him where he went and providing for him bountifully. It is no wonder therefore, that, while on his journey back, God instructed him to return to the same place, Bethel and to spend some time there. In chapter 35:1, it states:
- “And God said unto Jacob, Arise, go up to Bethel, and dwell there: and make there an altar unto God, that appeared unto thee when thou fleddest from the face of Esau thy brother.”
God wanted Jacob to go back to the place where he had made his vow, that special place where, in his vulnerability, without knowing what lay ahead, he had asked God to be with him, to keep him and to provide for him. And God had done and demonstrated just that. Throughout the years, he had kept him safe, just as he had asked and provided clothes and food for him. Indeed, the Lord had expanded him and his wealth, far more than he had ever thought possible and God wanted him to now go back to the place where the vow had been made. When there, he did not want him to be hurried and to rush off on to his father’s place but to spend some time there, in meditation of his goodness and to worship him.
He told him “dwell there” and “make there an altar unto God.”
I firmly believe that we bring God glory when we think back on how far he has taken us and where he brought us from. I believe this to be especially so when he enables us to make milestone achievements in life and to reach heights that we may have never even thought possible. It is my view that he wants us, before enjoying our mountainous moments, to remember how He was with us when we were in the valley. He was there when we were vulnerable, afraid and lonely, when he future looked uncertain and we had not a clue what to do next and nobody else but Him could have helped us. He guided us on our journey, navigated our path through that valley or wilderness experience and in His time, brought us out and into a large place.
Before rushing off to enjoy the spoils, is it any wonder, that God wants us to spend some quality time with him, remembering and reflecting on his faithfulness?
This is what David did in Psalm 18. He remembered his distress. He remembered his helplessness and he remembered how God came through and intervened on his behalf. In the Psalm, he declared, in recollection of his experience:
- “I will love thee, O Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower. I will call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised: so shall I be saved from mine enemies. The sorrows of death compassed me, and the floods of ungodly men made me afraid. The sorrows of hell compassed me about: the snares of death prevented me. In my distress I called upon the Lord, and cried unto my God: he heard my voice out of his temple, and my cry came before him, even into his ears… He sent from above, he took me, he drew me out of many waters. He delivered me from my strong enemy, and from them which hated me: for they were too strong for me. They prevented me in the day of my calamity: but the Lord was my stay. He brought me forth also into a large place; he delivered me, because he delighted in me. (1-6;16-19)
In acknowledgement that God had indeed been faithful and surely appreciative of all that He had done for him, Jacob obeyed God’s instruction. He told his family in verse 3:
- “And let us arise, and go up to the Bethel; and I will make there an altar unto God, who answered me in the day of my distress, and was with me in the way which I went.”
Even after this time, God continued to be faithful to Jacob, preserving him and providing for his needs, so that he lived to a ripe old age. When there was famine in the land, he made arrangements through his son Joseph, who was second in command in Egypt, to sustain him and his family, so that he was fed. Yet, although God was with Jacob throughout his life journey and had been faithful, in reflection on the life he had lived, Jacob acknowledged that it had not been easy. He had had difficult moments, suffered loss, betrayal and heartbreak.
When Joseph brought him before Pharoah and Pharoah asked him of his age therefore, he replied, “The days of the years of my pilgrimage are an hundred and thirty years: few and evil have the days of the years of my life been…” (Genesis 47:9)
This assessment reminds me of what Job summed up in Job 14:1. In the bowels of his affliction, he stated of mankind, “Man that is born of a woman is of few days, and full of trouble.”
Undoubtedly, life is full of trouble for all human beings, including God’s people. Christians don’t get a pass from trials. As a matter of fact because they have acknowledged the truth, that Jesus Christ is Lord and believe on his resurrection in their hearts, they have become prime targets for the devil’s venomous attacks.
Yet, when it comes to his children, no matter what, God is there. He never promised us a bed of roses, a problem free life or one filled with ease but based on his character, He is a God that has promised to never leave us or forsake us. As he demonstrated time and time again in the old days, his character remains the same. His faithfulness remains the same. As he indicated to the Israelites, he will be with his children through thick and thin. No adversity could ever separate them from his love.
In Isaiah 43: 1-3, he declared through his prophet:
- “But now thus saith the Lord that created thee, O Jacob, and he that formed thee, O Israel, Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine. When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee. For I am the Lord thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Saviour…”
To those who did his will, God promised the Israelites that he would be there for them faithfully, no matter what life threw at them. In Isaiah 58:11, he told them, through his prophet:
- “And the Lord shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought, and make fat thy bones: and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not.”
Thankfully, nearing the end of his life, Jacob acknowledged the faithfulness of God, who, although he had experienced troubles, had provided for him and sustained him, even as he had to his father and grandfather. Indeed, his faithfulness endured throughout the generations! (Psalm 119:90). Jacob said in Genesis 48:15, “…God, before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac did walk, the God which fed me all my life long unto this day.”
That life is hard is a fact but that God is faithful to his children through life’s hardships is also a fact. While he does not promise us that we would be exempt from the waters, the rivers, the fires and the floods or that famine and drought will not exist in the place where we are He promises to be faithful through all of that, so as to take us through it and out of it safely. For some, this means deliverance while on earth but for others, it means deliverance on the other side of eternity.
We have certainly seen evidence in the Bible of God’s faithful character.
We have seen that even if we are being stoned, He is there. When Stephen was being stoned to death, as a martyr, he certainly would have felt the pain and he eventually succumbed to his injuries from the endless blows of stones but God was with him.
Prior to his stoning, which was a result of him sharing the truth about Jesus Christ, Jesus himself showed up, allowing him to have a glimpse of him in glory, giving him the support he would need and to strengthen him, before ushering him into eternity.
Surrounded by his enemies, it says of Stephen in Acts 7:
- “But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God, And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God.”
Right before his life ended, from the endless stoning he mercilessly received as a result of his utterances, verse 59 states, “And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”
Even if we are placed in the fiery furnace of any kind of affliction, God is there. He was there when king Nebuchadnezzar, outraged that three Hebrew boys refused to worship the golden image that he had set up, placed Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego into an actual furnace full of fire, heated seven times more than it was to be heated.
Daniel 3:24-26 reads:
- “And these three men, Shadrah, Meshach, and Abednego, fell down bound into the midst of the burning fiery furnace. Then Nebuchadnezzar the king was astonished, and rose up in haste, and spake, and said unto his counsellors, Did not we cast three men bound into the midst of the fire? They answered and said unto the king, True, O king. He answered and said, Lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God.”
The Lord Jesus showed up and was with them in the fire, protecting them from its effects.
In response, the king went near to the fire and instructed the three men to come out of the fire, which they did. Such a spectacle was this, that it attracted all the princes, governors, captains and the king’s counsellors. The scripture says, that “…being gathered together”, they “…saw these men, upon whose bodies the fire had no power, nor was an hair of their head singed, neither were their coats changed, nor the smell of fire had passed on them.” (vs. 27).
The Lord had not just been with them but he had kept them and well, so much so, that it brought a heathen king to give glory to the true and living God and to state, after seeing the Lord’s miraculous act of faithfulness, on behalf of his children:
- “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who hath sent his angel, and delivered his servants that trusted in him, and have changed the king’s word, and yielded their bodies, that they might not serve nor worship any god, except their own God.”
King Nebuchadnezzer could attest, by what he had witnessed, that this God was worthy of such service! For, he was not a God that turned his back or left his children when they were in trouble. He was there with them, to guide them, to comfort and strengthen them and to deliver them.
Paul in the New Testament, could also attest of the wonderful faithfulness of God, contrasted by the fickleness of man. He recounted, that although all had forsaken him when he was going through his difficult time, God had been with him. In 2 Timothy 4:16-18, he stated:
- “At my first answer no man stood with me, but all men forsook me: I pray God that it may not be laid to their charge. Notwithstanding the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me; that by me the preaching might be fully known, and that all the Gentiles might hear: and I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion. And the Lord shall deliver me from every evil work, and will preserve me unto his heavenly kingdom: to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.”
Whether physically (like in the case of Shadrach, Mesach and Abednego) or spiritually therefore, God is there. He never allows us to go through life’s ordeals alone, even if everybody else deserts us. This is a comforting thought, to know that there is nothing that we could ever go through in life as God’s children, that could separate us from him. He will never allow us to go through whatever he has allowed us in his sovereignty to go through, without Him by our side. People may turn their backs on us or accompany us for a while and then get tired and abandon us on life’s journey, as I have oft experienced. Yet, God is with us forever.
Hebrews 13:5 records, “…for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee” and he is a God of his word. He makes himself available and shows up, no matter how hard, long or difficult the path, so that we can draw from his strength and obtain support, to bear what seems to others, to be unbearable. In so doing, we learn something more of what it truly means to depend on our Saviour and know of a truth, that without him, we can do nothing.
And for many, the Lord gives a testimony right here on earth, when he brings them out on the other side, without them exhibiting any sign of the troubles, the pain, the hardships that they’ve been through. They are radiant, perhaps moreso than those who did not go through what they went through and they are filled, like Jacob must have felt when he returned to Bethel with a heart overflowing with gratitude.
Joseph is another man who, although he went through great troubles and trials, God demonstrated his faithfulness in his life experience. Joseph was thrown into a pit, then sold to strangers who carried him by force to Egypt, where he was again sold as a slave in Potiphar’s house. As if this was not enough, he was then put into prison for something that he did not do. Psalm 105:18 says of him, that they hurt his feet with fetters and that he was laid in iron. Undoubtedly, he felt the pain of all that he endured for several years with no sign of abating. Yet, in the midst of all that, the Word of God testifies, that the Lord was with him.
Genesis 39:1-3 states:
- “And Joseph was brought down to Egypt; and Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, captain of the guard, an Egyptian, bought him of the hands of the Ishmeelites, which had brought him down thither. And the Lord was with Joseph, and he was a prosperous man; and he was in the house of his master the Egyptian. And his master saw that the Lord was with him, and that the Lord made all that he did to prosper in his hand.”
Later on, when, in refusing to commit adultery with Potiphar’s wife, Joseph was lied on and sent to prison, Potiphar’s wife alleging that he had tried to rape her, verses 20-23 states:
- “…And he was there in the prison. But the Lord was with Joseph, and shewed him mercy, and gave him favour in the sight of the keeper of the prison. And the keeper of the prison committed to Joseph’s hand all the prisoners that were in the prison; and whatsoever they did there, he was the doer of it. The keeper of the prison looked not to any thing that was under his hand; because the Lord was with him, and that which he did, the Lord made it to prosper.”
Daniel is another example of a life in which God showed his faithfulness. Daniel was put into a den of lions due to envious men who were upset at his work ethic, his excellence and the favour it procured with the king. They hatched a plan to get him killed and the king unwittingly went along with it. Daniel was found to be in breach of the king’s command and so he was put into the den of lions. The natural course of things would have been for him to have been devoured. However, having spent the entire night in that den and surely thought to be dead by his enemies, the next morning when the king went to see what had become of Daniel, hoping that somehow, the God of whom Daniel loved so dearly, would have found some way to deliver him, it was found that God had indeed been faithful!
Verses 19 to 23 of Daniel 6 states:
- “Then the king arose very early in the morning and went in haste unto the den of lions. And when he came to the den, he cried with a lamentable voice unto Daniel: and the king spake and said to Daniel, O Daniel, servant of the living God, is thy God, whom though servest continually, able to deliver thee from the lions? Then said Daniel unto the king, O king, live for ever. My God hath sent his angel, and hath shut the lions’ mouths, that they have not hurt me: forasmuch as before him innocency was found in me; and also before thee, O king, have I done no hurt. So Daniel was taken up out of the den, and no manner of hurt was found upon him, because he believed in his God.”
This brings to mind what David declared in Psalm 23:4. He stated, no doubt due to the faithfulness of God that he had experienced, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.”
(Written on 9th January, 2024)