Saturday, March 14, 2015

Teach us to Pray, part 20: Jehovah Mekoddishkem, The Lord Who Sanctifies You

And He said to them, "When you pray, say: 'Father, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. 'Give us each day our daily bread. 'And forgive us our sins, For we ourselves also forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation.'" (Luke 11:2-4 NASB)

Jehovah Mekoddishkem
Jehovah M'kaddesh
The Lord Who Sanctifies You

M'kaddesh is an alternate spelling of Mekoddishkem and comes from the root word qâdash, a verb meaning to sanctify, dedicate, or make holy. It means to "set apart". It is used twice in Scripture and, in both instances, it indicates that the Lord sanctifies His people. (Exodus 31:13 and Leviticus 20:8). The passage in Leviticus begins with a prohibition against human sacrifice, cursing parents, and witchcraft. It is particularly interesting because, in the verse immediately prior to the name of God, the instruction to "Consecrate yourselves, therefore, and be holy" is given. 

1 Thessalonians 4:3 tells us, "This is the will of God, your sanctification..." Oswald Chambers wrote about this process of sanctification and the difficulty of it in My Utmost for His Highest. "There is always a tremendous battle before sanctification is realized - something within us pushing with resentment against the demands of Christ. When the Holy Spirit begins to show us what sanctification means, the struggle starts immediately... In the process of sanctification, the Spirit of God will strip me down until there is nothing left but myself, and that is the place of death. Am I willing to be myself and nothing more? ... We say, 'But this is strict. Surely He does not require that of me.' Our Lord is strict, and He does require that of us."

I have recently been reading a classic book by J.C. Ryle, Holiness, and I strongly recommend it. Ryle speaks of sanctification and emphasizes that there can be no holiness without sanctification. In fact, he suggests that those of us in the church prefer grace to the exclusion of sanctification. That can never be, he says, because we serve a holy God who has called us to holiness, as well. 

Our Lord did not sacrifice His only, much loved Son as the payment for our sins in order to leave us as we were. He intended His sacrifice to cleanse us and change us, yet we kick against the change. We want grace without change, without sanctification, don't we? 

I am not exempt from this rejection of holiness. Although I know the beautiful truth of His divine cleansing for my sin-riddled soul, it is entirely too easy for me to embrace sin long rejected. Pride, self-righteousness, critical and judgmental spirit are welcomed back into my life before I even realize it, and then I have a choice to make. 

Will I choose holiness or continue in the sin that seems so insignificant to me in comparison to so much happening in our world today? My sin is not insignificant to God. His Son had to die to redeem me from the price of that sin, and God does not take that lightly, nor should I. 

He demands holiness, and I am to choose holiness. Even when I long to be holy, I find that it is too high a goal for me. I can never achieve it, and that is why I needed the grace of God and the mercy of Jesus' sacrifice for me. 

I cannot achieve holiness on my own, yet choose it I must. Once chosen, God Himself will handle the sanctification process. He is our Jehovah Mekoddishkem, and He will sanctify me, if I am only willing, but obedience to His calling to holiness is required. 

Every day, every moment, I stand at a crossroads with a choice to make. Will I choose the way of the world or the way of the Cross? Will I choose my own path or the path of holiness? 

This is a hard word, but must be spoken. The problems in our nation and in our world are a result of sin. It is not the responsibility of a lost world to act like Jesus, and it is foolishness to expect it. That is the responsibility of His people. I am to be salt and light in a dark and desolate place. Unless I choose sanctification, I can never be the light I am called to be, and those living in darkness can never be drawn to the light of Christ.

One day, I will stand before our Lord and answer for my choices. I shudder to think of it. The Grace of Christ will be sufficient, and I rejoice in that, but I will be accountable for my choice of the world or the way of Holiness, the way of Sanctification. 

Did I love my Lord with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength? Did I love my neighbor as myself? The life I live now will give the answer to those two questions, and I must prepare for the accounting to come. The words of Joshua are as appropriate today as they were when he stood before the children of Israel thousands of years ago.

"If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve... but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord." 
Joshua 24:15 NASB

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Teach us to pray, part 18: Jehovah Shammah

And He said to them, "When you pray, say: 'Father, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. 'Give us each day our daily bread. 'And forgive us our sins, For we ourselves also forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation.'" (Luke 11:2-4 NASB)

Jehovah Shammah

Although we could continue the study of Jehovah Rapha for several more days, we are moving to Jehovah Shammah today. We have seen previously that Jehovah comes from the word Havah, meaning "to be" or "to exist". Jehovah, then, means "The Existing One" or "Lord" and is an indication that we have a God who makes Himself known to us, He reveals Himself. One of those ways in which He reveals Himself is through His name. 

Shammah comes from the Hebrew word sham, meaning "there". Jehovah Shammah, then, means "The Lord is There". This name of God is used only once in Scripture and is found is Ezekiel 48:35, where Ezekiel relates his vision of the holy city. It is not specifically named as Jerusalem, but is felt to represent the new Jerusalem, the holy city. Ezekiel ends by telling us something wonderful about the city. 

"and the name of the city from that day shall be 'the Lord is there'." Ezekiel 48:35 NASB

The name of the city will be Jehovah Shammah because the Lord dwells there. His presence fills the city, just as His presence filled the temple in Isaiah's vision. (Isaiah 6) It is that presence that gives us comfort and hope, and Jesus also spoke of His presence with His people as He was returning to Heaven. 

"and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Matthew 28:20b

This truth of the presence of God is vitally important to our understanding of the Christian life. No matter what trial, difficulty, sorrow, or circumstance we face, the presence of God in the midst of it is certain. We are not alone, for He is with us. 

We are not alone.

I am writing from the comfort of my bed, mug of steaming coffee at hand, two dogs dozing peacefully next to me. Through the windows, I can see the day dawning as the sun begins to rise. The riotous concerto of birds provides my background music. It's a beautiful morning and peace reigns. God is here and I am not alone. 

There have been times, however, when the presence of God was less obvious, times were less certain, comfort was less apparent, the future of peace less solid, yet God was no less present. I was never alone. There is a song we sing in choir that says, "Never once did He leave me on My own." It is absolute truth. Jehovah Shammah has been here for every step of my path, and He has been present for every step of your path, too. You have not been alone, and you never will be alone because Jehovah Shammah, The Lord is there. No matter how difficult your circumstances, Jehovah Shammah is with you in those circumstances.

What a comfort it is to know that the presence of God is with us! How, then, do we hallow the name of Jehovah Shammah? We acknowledge His presence, celebrate that He is with us, every step of the way, from now and through eternity, and we order our steps to honor His presence. He is there. Wherever we are, He is there. 

We serve a God who cares enough about us to be with us always. What could possibly be better than that? 

Teach us to Pray, part 17: Jehovah Rapha, Healer of the Brokenhearted

And He said to them, "When you pray, say: 'Father, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. 'Give us each day our daily bread. 'And forgive us our sins, For we ourselves also forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation.'" (Luke 11:2-4 NASB)

Jehovah Rapha

The previous post discussed the issue of physical healing and referenced the passage in James 5 about asking for healing. Healing our body is important, but we must remember that God is concerned about more than our physical ills. Scripture is replete with references to healing our emotional/spiritual hurts, as well. In fact, when Jesus presented His "mission statement", a quote from Isaiah 61, it included an important reference to healing emotional hurts but did not include a reference to physical healing (although He spent quite a bit of time healing and His healing ministry drew many people to faith in Him.) This is what Jesus said:

He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted...
Isaiah 61:1 NASB

If you've ever been sick or ever had a loved one with a significant illness, you know the longing to be healed as well as the devastation that illness can bring. As much as health issues can disrupt our lives, why didn't Jesus include physical healing in His mission statement? Perhaps one reason is that a fractured spirit is, in some ways, so much more damaging to our lives than physical illness. 

What? At first glance, that doesn't sound right, does it? When we experience devastating illness but, in the midst of that illness, are able to maintain our faith, hope, love, and peace, it is much easier to find cause for rejoicing in our suffering, much easier to focus our attention on Christ. When we have a fractured spirit, when we are brokenhearted, all our focus revolves around the source of our sorrow, whether our body is injured or not. We take our eyes off our Lord and place them on ourselves and our situation. That kind of perspective can never bring peace or joy. 

Rapha shabar leb chabash atstsebeth
He heals the brokenhearted, and binds up their wounds.
        Psalm 147:3 NASB

It is our Lord's desire that we have abundant life, regardless of the circumstances that come our way. When we experience the hurts of life that leave us brokenhearted, the place to turn is to our Lord, who heals our hearts and binds up our wounds. If I turn to our Lord, Jehovah Rapha, with my broken heart, will He heal it? Absolutely! 

There's one condition to that, however. Healing requires that I allow Him to heal. I have to be a willing participant in healing, and sometimes that participation involves things like forgiveness, relinquishing bitterness or anger, or turning from a sin long enjoyed (judgmental, critical spirit, pride, etc). Is it hard to give up my right to hurt feelings, unforgiveness, anger, or any other sin I've embraced long enough to feel comfortable with it? Of course, but the benefits are more than emotional. Sin can be like a ball and chain we drag around, weighting us down. The freedom that comes from soul-healing brings with it peace, joy, and a lightness of spirit that is worth having. In fact, it often brings an improvement in physical conditions, as well. 

There is one more reason that the emphasis is on healing the brokenhearted rather than the physically ill. God's perspective is eternal. To Him, a thousand years is like a day. He cares about everything that touches us, of course, but His great concern is for the eternal, and our bodies are anything but eternal. Our soul, however, is eternal. It is our soul that goes to heaven, not this frail body, and God is constantly working in us to prepare us for that glorious eternity in which we will know no sorrow, no pain, no suffering. 

If God's desire is to make our eternal soul fit for eternity, should that not also be our desire? Yes! How, then, do we hallow His name, Jehovah Rapha, Healer of the Brokenhearted? We look past our physical ills and allow Him to examine our hearts, to look for the hurts, the wounds that sin has caused (whether ours or that of someone else), and invite Him to heal what must be healed, change what must be changed, and, in the doing, create in us not just a clean heart, but a wholly healed heart, as well. 

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Teach us to pray, part 16: Jehovah Rapha and the quest for healing

And He said to them, "When you pray, say: 'Father, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. 'Give us each day our daily bread. 'And forgive us our sins, For we ourselves also forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation.'" (Luke 11:2-4 NASB)

(Note: This is not what I intended to write, but I've left it to stand because it is true.)

Jehovah Rapha'

We began a look at Jehovah Rapha, the Lord Who Heals, in the previous post. As we discussed, Jehovah Rapha is the Healer of wounded bodies, distressed land, and overwhelming illness. It is easy for us to believe that God healed in Bible stories, but there is a tendency to assume that He no longer heals today. If He is "the same yesterday, today, and forever" (and He is), then God still heals. He does still heal, and I know that because I have been healed and have seen others who have been healed.

James 5 has some important information about the subject of healing, and it is worth a closer look.
"Is anyone among you suffering? Then he must pray.
Is anyone cheerful? He is to sing praises.
Is anyone among you sick? Then he must call for the elders of the church and they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up, and if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him.
Therefore, confess your sins to one another, 
and pray for one another so that you may be healed. 
James 5:13-16 NASB

I'm not sure how much clearer this could be written. The first point that must be understood is that James was not writing to the world at large. He was writing to "the twelve tribes who are dispersed abroad", the church of Jesus Christ. This letter was written to people who believed in Christ, many (but not all) of whom had been persecuted and had left their homes as a result of that persecution. He was writing to people who had done more than walk an aisle, join a church, or experience baptism. James was writing to people who had an ongoing, personal relationship with the risen Lord and were empowered by the Holy Spirit. He was writing to disciples, and, were we describing them today, we might call them fanatics.  

This business of healing requires some obedience on the part of the elders in the church as well as on the part of the sick person. Don't forget that Jesus said some things can only come out by prayer and fasting. Not only do the elders need to be obedient in prayer and anointing, but they likely need to be obedient in fasting, as well. In addition, the prayer that is offered must be "in faith". The elders who pray for healing have to actually believe that God can and will heal.

The person who is sick is not without responsibility, either. First, by the intended recipient of his letter, we know that James was speaking only to disciples of Christ. Second, the person who wants healing must "call for the elders" and submit himself/herself to the authority of the elders in his church. 

Now comes the hard part. Confession of sins. This is not describing a general confession of ourselves as sinners saved by grace. "Confession of your sins" is confession of specific sins and specifically asking for forgiveness. It requires repentance and a desire to be done with the sin. I admit that I don't love confessing my sins to other people. I'd rather just tell God and let Him deal with me, because I know His grace and I know I can trust Him. Other people? I'm not always so sure about them. The problem comes when I read this scripture. 

"Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed." James 5:16. 

It appears that, If I want the "so you may be healed" part, I have to be obedient to the "confess and pray" parts. Although confessing my sin to someone else is hard, there are times when confessing my sin is easier than the "praying for one another" part. James did not say to pray only for those people who please me, like me, or enjoy my company, nor did he say to pray for only those people whose company I enjoy. He simply wrote, "pray for one another," and (according to Jesus) that includes praying for our enemies. 

There is also an interesting point about this section of Scripture that we don't often seem to notice. When we do what is said, the result is that the one who is sick is restored, the Lord "raises up" the one who is sick, and our sins are forgiven. What about healing? That happens, too, but sometimes, the restoring of relationships and forgiveness of our sins are the parts that are most important and pressing to God. 

This is outrageous, and I admit it, but there are times when I just want God to heal someone. Maybe you feel like that, too. I don't want to worry about their sin, or about restored relationships. Just heal the sickness! How unlike God that attitude is! God was concerned enough about our sin that He sacrificed Himself on the cross to cleanse us from it. Dealing with sin is always going to be a priority for God, and it should be for me, as well.  

You may be wondering, "What about healing?" That is possible, too. Does it happen every time we pray for someone? Yes. Sometimes they are physically healed in this world, and sometimes their healing is delayed until they enter eternity. Why? We often want to ask why God doesn't give us what we want when we want it, and I don't have the answer to that. He is God, and I am not. 

Jehovah Rapha is still in the healing business and if we are sick and in need of healing, we should do exactly what James says. We should ask God for healing. Sometimes, we will have physical healing this side of heaven, but even when we do not, the restoration of fractured relationships and forgiveness of our sins makes it worth the asking. 

How do we hallow, or honor, the name of Jehovah Rapha? We turn to our Healer when we, or those we love, need to be healed, and we do it exactly as Scripture has said, confident that the One who Heals, still does exactly that.

(tomorrow we will look at the healing of the brokenhearted)

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Teach us to pray, part 15: Jehovah Rapha, our Healer

And He said to them, "When you pray, say: 'Father, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. 'Give us each day our daily bread. 'And forgive us our sins, For we ourselves also forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation.'" (Luke 11:2-4 NASB)

Jehovah Rapha'

The purpose in studying the names of God is to learn more about who He is by learning what He says about Himself, as well as what people say about Him as they experience His grace. Today, we look at one of my favorite names of God, Healer. Rapha comes from root words that mean "to sew together, to mend" and is used in Scripture in several ways. It is used to indicated healing a wound or a wounded person (as in sewing up the wound) as well as to heal a sick person of illness. Rapha is also used to indicate "healing" of a group of people, a nation, or land and, in this use, it carries the idea of restoration and pardon. Rapha is also used to indicate the giving of comfort, with the idea of healing a sorrow. 

When God says He is our healer, our Rapha, He means that He can, and will, heal our hurts, our physical ailments, our sorrows, and the results of our sin. In fact, the first time the word is used in Scripture is when He heals the barrenness of Abimelech's household as a result of Abraham's prayer. (Genesis 20:17) In Exodus 15:26, God promises that He will protect those who obey Him from the diseases of the Egyptians, "for I am the Lord that healeth thee". The Hebrew words translated as "I am the Lord that healeth thee" are actually "Yehovah rapha'" (Jehovah Rapha). 

Rapha is the word used when Elijah restored the altar of God (1 Kings 18:30) and for healing the land (2 Kings 2:21). It is also the word used when Elisha healed the poisonous water in the spring (2 Kings 2:21). Two years ago, I sat with my picnic lunch beside the spring of Elisha and drank from the water. Thousands of years ago, that water was miraculously healed by God and it is still clear and fresh, still healed, today. Isn't that how it should be with us? Healing is one of the ways that God demonstrates His power, as well as His love, for His people. When we have a hurt, be it physical or spiritual, that is completely healed by God, we should not only stay healed, but be a monument to His power for centuries to come. 

We will look at Rapha in greater depth as we go along, but, for today, let's remember the ways in which God has brought healing to our lives. Has He healed us physically, healed us of the blight of sin and it's consequences, healed our land, restored us when we were brokenhearted? Let's be sure to thank Him for the gift of healing He has accomplished and live in such a way that all can see the remarkable difference He has made in our lives. Let's be sure our lives are a monument to His power and love.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Teach us to pray, part 13: Jehovah Nissi

And He said to them, "When you pray, say: 'Father, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. 'Give us each day our daily bread. 'And forgive us our sins, For we ourselves also forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation.'" (Luke 11:2-4 NASB)

Jehovah Nissi

Jehovah Nissi is translated as "The Lord My Banner". Nes is a Hebrew word that is translated as "banner", which is the insignia under which an army would fight. We might think of it as an identifying flag, the sight of which would give courage and hope to the soldiers. 

It is used only once in the Old Testament, in Exodus 17:15. The Israelites had just finished fighting Amalek and his army. While the men fought, Moses stationed himself on the top of a hill with the staff of God in his hand. As long as Moses held his hand up, Israel prevailed, but if he left his hand down, Amalek prevailed. Eventually, his arms were so tired that he couldn't hold his arms up any longer, so Aaron and Hur dragged a big stone over for Moses to sit on and they stood on either side of him, holding up his hands. The two men held his arms up until after sunset, and Joshua and the army won the battle. 

Afterwards, Moses built an altar and named it "The Lord is My Banner", or Jehovah Nissi. While the men were fighting, they could look to the top of the hill and see Moses with his hands raised, holding the staff of God. It would have been easy to think that Moses and his upraised hands were the banner over them, the rallying point and the source of their hope and courage. After the battle, Moses, the most humble man who ever lived, built an altar to God and named it Jehovah Nissi. In doing that, he made it very clear that neither he nor his upraised arms were the banner over them. It was Almighty God alone who was their source of hope, their source of strength, their source of courage. It was God, and God alone, who had delivered them, and it was to Him alone that they should look for help in time of trouble. He is the banner over us, under which we work and do battle. 

We would do well to remember this important lesson. No matter how it looks, no matter the circumstances, any victory that is achieved is not because of our ability, because of how well we obeyed, nor because of the ones who helped up to accomplish the task. All the credit, all the glory, must go to God alone. When we know God as Jehovah Nissi, we look to Him for our hope and our courage. We look to Him in the midst of battle, and He is the banner to which we look when our faith falters. As long as the flag still flies, an army is not defeated, and we serve a God whose banner never falls. 

How, then, do we hallow the name of Jehovah Nissi? We must be careful to honor Him as Moses did, giving Him all the credit, all the glory, and, especially in victory, pointing toward our Lord and away from ourselves. He is our banner. Let's be sure we keep our eyes fixed on Him.

"He has brought me to his banquet hall, 
and his banner over me is love"
Song of Solomon 2:4