Last week I offered some Scriptural quotations to help us face difficult times in life. Today I wish to continue looking at some passages of holy writ which will comfort and console us when life does not go our way.
Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them. The LORD said to Satan, “From where have you come?” Satan answered the LORD and said, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.” And the LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?” Then Satan answered the LORD and said, “Does Job fear God for no reason? Have you not put a hedge around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But stretch out your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face.” And the LORD said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your hand. Only against him do not stretch out your hand.” So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD (Job 1:6-12).
My wife sometimes says that she wonders if Satan didn’t go before God and the LORD asked, “Have you considered my servant Justin?” With all due respect to my sweet wife, that’s just thinking far too highly of me.
But, there is great hope in this text and here it is: Satan can only do what God permits. While the Adversary walks to and fro upon the earth seeking the souls of men, he can only do what God permits. No more. No taking people captive beyond what God allows. No temptation beyond what God allows. What blessed assurance that any struggle we face, we could face much, much worse if God did not limit Satan.
My help comes from the LORD,
who made heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot be moved;
he who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, he who keeps Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
The LORD is your keeper;
the LORD is your shade on your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day,
nor the moon by night.
The LORD will keep you from all evil;
he will keep your life.
The LORD will keep
your going out and your coming in
from this time forth and forevermore.
The first rule of proper exegesis is that you do not take Hebrew poetry and take it as prose; many false doctrines have arisen from people doing so. However, this “Song of Ascents” was, in all likelihood, sung by the Hebrews as they made their pilgrimages to Jerusalem; they would travel over rough terrain, over hills and through valleys, with the sun beating down on them and a pre-scientific age fear of the moon — God promises to keep them from peril along the way. God, likewise, promises to be with us on our journey of life. The most blessed part of this Psalm is the promise that God does not sleep — no matter the hour, no matter the difficulty, no matter the middle-of-the-night crisis, God can and will help his people. What a blessed promise!
Though the fig tree should not blossom,
nor fruit be on the vines,
the produce of the olive fail
and the fields yield no food,
the flock be cut off from the fold
and there be no herd in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the LORD;
I will take joy in the God of my salvation.
GOD, the Lord, is my strength;
he makes my feet like the deer’s;
he makes me tread on my high places.
Habakkuk describes what we might think of as “the end of the world.” In 3:16, he speaks about his great fear. As I write this, the Commonwealth of Virginia, where I am so privileged to live (to say we love Virginia would be a huge understatement; even giving up pulpit work, we have absolutely no plans to move), is preparing for Hurricane Joanquin to flirt with our coast. You would think the Apocalypse is near: schools are out or dismissing early (my wife and I did make the decision to keep our two boys home today — even though Botetourt County Schools are dismissing two hours early; we didn’t want them to ride the bus in torrential downpours with creeks rising and with winds at 35 MPH) and my thirteen year-old and I ran by Kroger yesterday to get something for supper and the shelves were wiped clean (and we live a good distance from the coast). For Habakkuk, great disaster is near, but he knows where to take his fears: to the God who made heaven and earth. No matter what happens, no matter the obstacle, no matter the pain, Habakkuk knew that God reigned, that God is good, and that God is worthy of our trust. Praise be to God!
I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:
“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
“O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Cor 15:50-57)
The historical fact of the resurrection of Jesus Christ gives my life purpose. This world with its sorrow is not all that is. Jesus Christ has been raised! Jesus Christ will come again to give me a new body. Death is not the end. Death does not win. When Jesus arose from the dead three days after being crucified, death was forever defeated, and, one blessed Day, I, like Jesus, shall take part in the defeat of death! Praise God for his indescribable gift!
These verses give me hope in my suffering. What verses help you?