Jesus speaks of the importance of giving to God that which is His, Paul gives testimony to the beauty and the power of lives that are changed by being given to God and the prophet Isaiah tells us of how God takes all things and uses them for good, for that is His nature. So, let’s take a look at that nature.
Isaiah is writing some 700 years before Jesus is born and - take this in … some 200 years before a Persian king named Cyrus would defeat the might of the Babylonian Empire and be responsible for the liberation of the Jewish people from 70 years of captivity. It is perhaps, next to the prophecies of the birth and life of Jesus, the most amazing declaration of an event that is yet to be, that exists in the Old Testament. God declares the name of a pagan King whose gt, gt, gt, gt grandfather hasn’t been born yet, to bring His people to liberty from a captivity that hasn’t yet taken place – astonishing … and yet, it all took place just like Isaiah declared it would.
God plans all things for good & uses all things for good to bring glory to His name. There is a scriptural pattern of operation at work here: God declares and then God does it.
God describes this pagan King as ‘anointed’ - a sign of authority being given over for a purpose.
God gives him a new name: ‘I surname you’ – He gives Cyrus a title, an honour
God gives him a purpose and a mission and ensures that he is equipped for it.
God blesses him with gifts –treasures and riches and strength
Why? Because; ‘I am the Lord, I am the Lord and there is no other, apart from me there is no God.’
Consider the parallel here with those who have put their faith in Jesus. God calls us and gives us a new title and a new identity – here are but a few: child of God, forgiven, saved, salt, light, appointed, fruitful, wise, protected, significant, accepted etc, etc
God has anointed us with His Holy Spirit: 2 Cor 1,v21, 1 John 2,v27 – we have authority in spiritual realms – it’s up to us to know it and then to use it as God intends us to.
God gives us a purpose and a mission – to bless the world and through the gifts of His Holy Spirit available to us all, we have the means to fulfil it – for we are powerful in Him.
God blesses us with treasure and riches – we have abundant life in Him now and always for that is His nature.
I recently came across these words by Priscilla Shirer which describe further the nature of our God and I include them for you to ponder and for you to enjoy. ‘Who’s your Daddy?’
With God’s Blessing
‘Who’s your Daddy?’
‘He is the first and the last, The beginning and the end
The keeper of Creation and the creator of all
The architect of the Universe and the manager of all time
He always was, always is and always will be
Unmoved, unchanged, undefeated and never undone
He was bruised but brought healing, pierced but healed pain
Persecuted but brought freedom, dead but brought life
Risen to bring power and reigns to bring peace
The world cannot understand Him, armies can’t defeat Him
Schools can’t explain Him and leaders can’t ignore Him
Herod couldn’t kill Him, Nero couldn’t crush Him
He is life, He is Love, He is everlasting and He is the Lord
He is goodness and kindness and faithfulness and He is God
He is Holy and righteous and powerful and pure
His ways are right, His word eternal, His will unchanging
and His mind is on us
He is our Saviour, our guide, our peace, our joy, our comfort, our Lord
And He rules our lives
I serve Him because: His bond is love, His yoke is easy,
His burden is light and His goal for us is abundant life
I follow Him because: He is the wisdom of the wise,
the power of the powerful,
The ancient of days, the ruler of rulers, leader of all leaders and His goal is a relationship with me,
He’ll never leave you, never forsake you,
never mislead you and never forget you,
He’ll never overlook you and never cancel your appointment in His appointment book
When you fall He’ll lift you up, when you fail He’ll forgive you
When you’re weak He’s strong, when you’re lost He’s your way,
When you’re afraid He’s your courage, when you stumble He will steady you
When you’re hurt He’s going to heal you,
when you’re broken He will mend you
When you’re blind He will lead you,
When you’re hungry He will feed you
When you face trial He is with you,
When you face persecution He shields you,
when you face problems, He will comfort you
When you face loss, He will provide for you
and when we face death He will take us home to be with Him
He is everything for everybody, everywhere, every time in every way
He is your God – He is your Daddy’
‘I am the Lord and there is no other, apart from me there is no God.’
If there is a theme that might join our two readings together it might be said to be this: Develop an attitude of Gratitude.
Moses is reminding the people that they should be a people full of thanksgiving and gratitude and Jesus speaks of the importance of recognising the blessings we have and of living a life of gratitude and contentment. Being grateful is a characteristic we like to see in others and certainly to develop in our children, isn’t it? But there is something deeper and greater taking place here that goes beyond ‘good manners’. Thankful, grateful people have a different perspective on life. The Bible tells us to: ‘Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing and give thanks in all circumstances. For this is the will of Christ Jesus for you’ 1 Thes. 5:16-18
Why? Because when we do, our lives have a different focus – a different perspective – when we ‘frontload’ our lives with God things appear differently. Have you ever noticed the fact that we rarely need any help or practice in being grumpy? We do however, need to be ever mindful about being thankful.
I love it when scientific research finally catches up with what the Bible has been saying for thousands of years; for example: I was recently reading an article on some research that had revealed that an ‘attitude of gratitude’ generates better physical and mental health, develops relationships, reduces anger and aggression and helps you sleep better. Wonderful, if a little late in discovery. How great it is to know that God loves us and cares for us so much that these truths were laid down so long ago. They also help to create what might be called a ‘genuine church’ – a Happy, Praying and Thankful church.
Even amongst the turbulent and uncertain world we live in at the moment, we still have a great deal to be thankful for – when we thank God for all He has given us, we feel better, God receives praise and the enemy hates it. There is nothing the enemy despises more than a happy, thankful rejoicing Christian, so let’s help to shut him up and praise God more and more regularly.
The Christian Pastor and writer John Ortberg puts it like this: ‘Gratitude is more than making sure that God knows how much trouble He’s gone to for us – it’s so much more than that. It’s the gift God gives us that enables us to be blessed by all His other gifts. Without gratitude our lives degenerate into envy, dissatisfaction and complaints – taking what we have and always wanting more.’
Our lives will always have times of challenge, difficulty and sadness; times when life’s shadow will fall across our path, but here’s a truth; when you look to the sun, the shadow is always behind you but when you turn your back to the sun the shadow is always there in front of you – covering every step you take. I encourage you then, to look towards God’s Son with thanksgiving and to keep the shadows of life behind you. Let us free ourselves up, live the lives God intended us to and be known as a people of gratitude – Praising God, trusting Him and serving those around us. For when we look to God we will always see things differently.
Rev Dave Clark
Vicar of the Benefice of Upper Wensleydale