Daily Light – August 30, 2019

God Wants Your Weakness

Article by Vaneetha Rendall Risner

I am not brave.

I recently heard someone differentiate between bravery and courage, saying that bravery is the ability to take on difficult situations without fear, while courage is taking on difficult situations even when you’re afraid. When I think of courage, I am reminded of Gideon.

I relate to Gideon; he lives life afraid. We find him “beating out wheat in the winepress to hide it from the Midianites” (Judges 6:11). When the angel of the Lord comes to him, Gideon immediately expresses his doubts about God’s faithfulness to the Israelites (Judges 6:13). When Gideon realizes who is speaking to him, he insists that as the least member of his undistinguished clan (Judges 6:15), he can’t be given an assignment.

Gideon isn’t confident to do anything himself. He’s fine complaining about how bad things are, but when he is asked to do something to improve the situation, Gideon backs away. It’s easier to complain than to act.

When God makes it clear that he himself is calling Gideon, Gideon wants a sign — just to be sure (Judges 6:17). After he receives the sign, Gideon obeys God and cuts down the altar to Baal. But rather than doing it out openly by day, Gideon is afraid of the townspeople and even his family, so he destroys it by night (Judges 6:27). Later, when the irate townspeople come for him, Gideon lets his father defend him. Gideon was not brave.

God Knows We Are Dust

It’s easy to criticize Gideon for his doubts, but I’ve doubted as well. I have seen God work in my life, enabling me to do things that I would have thought impossible. But then I still doubt that I can do the next thing. I look at myself and my resources, and I feel inadequate all over again, convinced I can’t accomplish what’s before me. I know that for me, further physical weakness and loss are constants. When I consider the future, I often cry out, “Lord, I can’t do this. I’m not as strong as you think I am.”

“The Lord isn’t looking for your strength, or bravery, or natural gifts; he wants your reliance on him.”

The Lord wants to save Israel by Gideon’s hand, but Gideon wants proof. Twice. He first wants the fleece to be wet on the dry ground, and then wants to see dry fleece on the wet ground, just to be extra sure. From our perspective, Gideon might seem overly skeptical. Why does he keep asking for proof? But then I think about all the times I keep asking for assurance from God. When I feel inadequate to face something, I ask for signs, encouragement from friends, verses that apply to my situation. God understands my frailty; he deals with my weaknesses just like he did Gideon’s — without scorn or chastisement. The Lord remembers that I am dust.

After giving Gideon all the signs he requested, God prepares him to lead the Israelites into battle against the Midianites. Twenty-two thousand people showed up for battle, which the Lord declared was too many (Judges 7:2–3). With that army, the Israelites could take credit for the victory themselves. The Lord tells Gideon to let the fearful warriors go home and choose for battle only those who lap the water instead of kneeling to drink, resulting in an army of just three hundred. The victory would not be credited to the strength of the Israelites; God’s power alone would deliver his people.

What God Sees in You

When Gideon is left with three hundred men, he’s scared. Though he doesn’t voice his fear, God knows his heart and reassures him by offering, “If you are afraid to go down, go down to the camp . . . and hear what they say, and afterward your hands shall be strengthened” (Judges 7:10–11). One would think that if God unequivocally told you what to do, that you’d trust him without proof. But not Gideon. Of course he goes immediately to the camp and must hear for himself why victory is assured. Then finally Gideon believes and moves forward (Judges 7:15).

Throughout this encounter, Gideon doubts, is afraid, and feels inadequate and weak. He only acts when he has proof that he’ll succeed. He wants to trust God, but he keeps doubting himself. Yet, from the beginning, God sees him as a “mighty man of valor” (Judges 6:12), which seems to contradict Gideon’s insecurities and doubts. God sees what we are in him, not in ourselves.

So, if you feel inadequate, weak, or afraid today, take heart. God chooses the foolish “to shame the wise” (1 Corinthians 1:27). Some of the greatest undertakings in the Bible were accomplished by weak people who felt they didn’t measure up to their calling.

‘Lord, Choose Someone Else’

Moses parted the Red Sea and delivered the Israelites from their Egyptian pursuers, but when God first called Moses, he said, “Oh, my Lord, please send someone else” (Exodus 4:13). This was immediately after God had assured Moses, “I will . . . teach you what you shall speak” (Exodus 4:12). When God called the prophet Jeremiah, his first response was, “Ah, Lord God! Behold, I do not know how to speak, for I am only a youth” (Jeremiah 1:6).

God sees what we are in him, not in ourselves.”

Paul wanted God to remove this thorn in the flesh, but the Lord reminded him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Paul then said, “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:9–10).

All He Requires

Today, if the Lord is calling you to a task for which you feel inadequate, remember that the Lord isn’t looking for your strength, or bravery, or natural gifts; he wants your reliance on him. His power is made perfect in our weakness. We know that God saw Gideon as mighty. In the celebrated Hebrews “Hall of Faith,” we are reminded that Gideon conquered kingdoms and the Lord made him strong out of weakness (Hebrews 11:32–34).

We too will be made strong out of weakness when we put our trust in the Lord. As the hymn “Come Ye Sinners” beautifully reminds us, “All the fitness he requires is to feel your need of him.”

Vaneetha Rendall Risner is a freelance writer and regular contributor to Desiring God, who blogs at danceintherain.com. She is married to Joel and has two daughters, Katie and Kristi. She and Joel live in Raleigh, North Carolina. Vaneetha is the author of the book The Scars That Have Shaped Me: How God Meets Us in Suffering.

Daily Light – August 29, 2019

The Vow of Christ

Article by Jared C. Wilson

“Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the LORD do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.” — Ruth 1:16-17

Even in the face of our sin, Jesus doesn’t blink. Nothing surprises him. Nothing fazes him. Not even the prospect of being loved back imperfectly or infrequently will send him packing. Our well-meaning friends may decide the prospect of our pain and junk spilling into their lives isn’t worth it. They see our habits and our baggage and our self-interested patterns and they wish us well, but sadly, like Orpah, choose another path. But not our friend Jesus! He sets his face toward the cross, scorning its shame, and makes his covenant with us to the bitter end.

Jesus, like Ruth, makes his commitment to the ones he loves for better or worse. But unlike Ruth, he knows just how bad the “worse” is going to be. Still he stays.

Ruth stays too, and things do not look great for her in the immediate wake of her commitment. She and her bitter mother-in-law make the journey to Bethlehem. It is hard to see the wisdom in Ruth’s decision. They are poor. They are widows. She is a Moabite. Her mother-in-law is really kind of a downer. I wonder if Ruth ever had second thoughts.

But she went. Why? Because her vow had been made. It had been made out of love for God and love for Naomi. Ruth was willing to venture into the unknown because her love was greater than her fear.

I think of Jesus in that garden mere minutes before his betrayal and arrest, mere hours before his torture and crucifixion. The agony of the cross is already gripping his flesh. In his prayers, he is sweating blood. In the near distance, his friends nap. He is doing this for them?

Yes, and for us. Jesus even prayed for you in that garden. Did you know that? John 17:20says he prayed for all who will believe because of the apostles’ message in the future. “Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me” (verse 23).

Christ’s vow has been made. It has been made out of love for the Father and love for you. Jesus was willing to venture even to death on a cross because his love was greater than his fear. And because his love is greater than your sin.

Jared C. Wilson is the director of content strategy for Midwestern Seminary, managing editor of For The Church, and author of more than ten books, including Gospel WakefulnessThe Pastor’s Justification, and The Prodigal Church.

Daily Light – August 28, 2019

Not “under the circumstances”

A meditation from David Niednagel, Pastor/Teacher.  (David uses the S.O.A.P. method in his morning devotional time, study, observe, apply, pray)

Proverbs 15:13 A happy heart makes the face cheerful, but heartache crushes the spirit.   NIV

When we are happy we have a smile on our face, and when we are broken hearted, we are, by definition, crushed/down. So, is this proverb here just to state the obvious? I think there is more. What if we aren’t happy? Can we do anything about it? Like go to a party or buy something new? It may help temporarily but I don’t think that is the point. 

Ps 9:1-2 says “I will give thanks to you, Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds. 2 I will be glad and rejoice in you;I will sing the praises of your name, O Most High.” Even if our circumstances are not good, and we are sad, we can remember the goodness of God in the past and consciously thank and praise Him. Even if we cant think of good things He has done for us, we can think about what He has done for others (See Ps 77. Yes, read it!) And if we are really down, read Ps 78 and it will bring joy to our heart. 

And if we are experiencing heartache, tell the Lord! Pour out your grief and tears. He was despised and rejected, a man of sorrows and familiar with grief. (Isa 53). He tells us not to be anxious about anything, to to pray about everything, with thanksgiving, and the peace of God will surpass anything we can imagine. (Phil 4:5-8)  He invites us to “cast our cares on Him because He cares for us” (1Pet 5:7)

Lord, thank You that we are not powerless to cope with circumstances. You told us “in this world we will have trouble, but we can be or good cheer, we can take heart, because You have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)  Even if circumstances never change, even if we get killed, You have overcome death and You will raise us to be with You forever! And Lord, help me have a shepherd’s heart that weeps with those who weep, yet also connects them with Your promises and Your presence and Your peace. I praise You that You are not bound by time or circumstances, and You can give us victory in our times and circumstances.  Amen

Daily Light – August 27, 2019

Walk the Endless Shore of His Smile

Why God Delights to Love You

Article by Greg Morse, Staff Writer, desiringGod.org

Rumor has it that when one aging pastor and renowned theologian was asked what was the highest theological peak he had reached in his years of study and preaching, he answered simply: Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so.

Initially, I smiled at the preacher’s cleverness. Later, however, I wondered over the preacher’s answer. Something about it stuck with me.

After a life of exploring mountain ranges men like me have never seen, savoring Christ in ways I have not, speaking of nuances in theology I do not yet understand — after all his decades of travel in the Christian life — this preacher imparted no higher souvenir than can be found on the lips of children. With all his twists and turns, ups and downs, peaks and valleys, he had not escaped the nursery of God’s gospel love. This love stood as crib walls for the childlike heart.

Would I have answered similarly?

God Delights in Me?

When we hear that God loves us, we can imagine strange things. We call it an ocean; we sing songs about it; but too often we float at its surface preferring the more practical, more current, more insightful. A world remains unexplored. But God desires to give full lyric to our nursery song. He says to his people through Isaiah,

You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the Lord, and a royal diadem in the hand of your God. . . . You shall be called My Delight Is in Her, and your land Married; for the Lord delights in you, and your land shall be married. For as a young man marries a young woman, so shall your sons marry you, and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you. (Isaiah 62:3–5)

“To smile more before God, we must rediscover the weight of his smile, his unveiled happiness in his people.”

God likes you. He delights in you. He smiles at you — and not because he sees someone smarter, taller, better looking, or holier standing just behind you. He looks each redeemed child in the eye and tells him of his love for him in his Son. This is who our God is towards us. Not because of our worth, but because of Christ’s.

Your inheritance in Christ shatters all of earth’s piggy banks: God’s smile. He delights to see you, he rejoices to have you, as every smiling groom at the end of the aisle foretells. The God who spoke the cosmos into existence sings over you:

The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing. (Zephaniah 3:17)

Have you been quieted by his love of late? Have you simply sat singing to yourself: Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so? Have you submerged beneath the surface to discover the heart of God towards his bride? The pastor found God’s affection for him to be a bottomless sea to explore. His maturity did not graduate to other seas; it went scuba diving.

He Wants You Where He Is

Some of us think about God’s love in so many clichés and platitudes that we come to think of it as the kiddie pool of the Christian faith. It gives us no pause, therefore, to leave the lyric behind us to higher, weightier things. We forget to marvel as C.S. Lewis does in his famous sermon “The Weight of Glory”:

To please God . . . to be a real ingredient in the divine happiness . . . to be loved by God, not merely pitied, but delighted in as an artist delights in his work or a father in a son — it seems impossible, a weight or burden of glory which our thoughts can hardly sustain. But so it is.

How different we would pray, how different we would evangelize, how different we would worship and explore his word, if we believed that the God whom we sought actually wanted us to draw near. If we worshiped the God of Scripture who summons us under his wings (Luke 13:34).

The pastor knew that our Father does not roll his eyes as he gives the kingdom to his children. Instead, he says, “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32). From such a heart he anticipated the holy commendation at the end of his race: “Well done, good and faithful servant. . . . Enter into the joy of your master” (Matthew 25:23). If we too only realized that Jesus died to keep us from hell and from some remote corner of heaven — that he died to bring us to himself: “I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also” (John 14:3).

He wants us near because he delights in his people. Do we fellowship with this happy God, a God in whom enough joy cascades to submerge his people for an eternity?

A New Smile Every Morning

John Piper has given his life to proclaiming, God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him. And how shall we be satisfied in him? Go deeper in his satisfaction of you in Christ. Stare, without excuse or extensive qualification, at how he desires us; how truly happy he is in his redeemed people. No one forced him to adopt us.

“How different we would pray, if we believed that the God whom we sought actually wanted us to draw near.”

Perhaps many of us are not happier in our Christian lives because we assume God is as disappointed in us as we can tend to be in ourselves. Children cannot long delight in a father that stares indifferently at them — and we have not outgrown this. Children love to be delighted in. They love to cry, “Daddy, watch me!” and see his smile when they complete the somersault. Although we can still displease him with our sin, grieving the Spirit he placed within us, the Father’s smile replaces his displeasure as the sun replaces the moon each morning. His laughter, as with his mercy, is new every morning.

To smile more before God, we must rediscover the weight of his smile, his unveiled happiness in his people that bids us be as merry as we humanly can be — in him. In this is joy: not that we have delighted in God, but that he first chose to delight in us. We will never outlaugh our heavenly Father. His smile, his happiness, not ours, founds the universe. We who desire for God to get the glory due his name will learn to dwell on this regularly. When we do, perhaps a few more of us might near the end of the world’s road and say behind us with a smile, “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.”

Greg Morse is a staff writer for desiringGod.org and graduate of Bethlehem College & Seminary. He and his wife, Abigail, live in St. Paul.

Daily Light – August 26, 2019

(My pastor/friend David provided this post, Days of Praise, by Institute of Creation Research.)

Only Christ Was Sinless

“If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” (1 John 1:8)

Here John is writing to Christians, and his epistle is full of exhortations to the Christian to purge sin from his life, with grave warnings to any who do not. Yet, he also says that for a Christian to claim sinless perfection is self-deception. “If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us” (1 John 1:10).

Only by Jesus Christ Himself could such claims be truly made. The greatest theologian, Paul, said concerning Christ that He “knew no sin” (2 Corinthians 5:21). His closest friends, Peter and John, said that He “did no sin” (1 Peter 2:22) and that in Him is no sin (1 John 3:5). His betrayer, Judas, said, “I have betrayed the innocent blood” (Matthew 27:4); His condemning judge, Pilate, said, “I find in him no fault at all” (John 18:38); and His executioner said, “This was a righteous man” (Luke 23:47). Christ Himself claimed human perfection: “For I do always those things that please him” (John 8:29).

Jesus Christ alone was sinlessly perfect in His human life, and it was because of this that He could die for our sins. It is arrogant for one of us to claim a state of perfection, thus leading such a person into repeated assertions of boasting and self-justification, trying to explain why apparently sinful behavior is not really sinful. Even Paul himself acknowledged: “Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect” (Philippians 3:12).

But between these two key verses in John’s epistle, he gives us the moment-by-moment remedy for sin in a godly believer’s life: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). “The blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin” (1 John 1:7). HMM

Daily Light – August 23, 2019

Health or Rottenness

Daily Meditation from David Niednagel:  Pastor and Teacher.  David uses the S.O.A.P. method for his daily morning devotional time.  (Study, Observe, Apply, Pray).

Prov 14:30   A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.   NIV

We all prefer life and health over sickness and misery. This proverb describes a heart at peace – not the common word for peace (Shalom) but a word with the primary meaning of something that has been healed. It also describes a heart that is not healed,-  a heart that wants more, that does not have peace, in fact it brings disease to our very core – a rottenness to our bones. Pain, weakness, stumbling, brokenness – which no one wants.

The proverb says if we have strong desires for “stuff” we may or may not get the stuff, but we will get rottenness – which we don’t want. If we are past the belief that stuff/things will make us happy, and our heart is healed of those desires, we will have life! 

Of course we need some things, but if we are insecure, we think the more we have the more we will be admired and valued in our culture. That is not true. Other people may want our stuff, but they will not necessarily love or respect us, unless we have a good heart. We can recognize some people who brag about their wealth (like president Trump, entertainers, athletes) and see the truth of this proverb and the bankruptcy of their lives. But those of us who have far less money can also have the same disease in us. God made us to love people and use things, but we often love things and use people to get those things.

Lord, I can so easily want more! Something newer. Something cool. Help me desire You more and have more contentment about things. I know the answer to envy is generosity, so help me have a heart that wants to bless others more than consume stuff. Help me live life to the fullest, not by getting, but by having the mind of Christ. Amen

Daily Light – August 22, 2019

Not One of God’s Words Will Fail

Article by David Mathis, Executive Editor, desiringGod.org

Not one word has failed. Joshua, as leader of God’s people, had said this not once, but twice after God brought them safely into the land he promised (Joshua 21:4523:14).

Several hundred years later, at the height of the earthly kingdom, in his benediction to the dedication of the temple, Solomon echoed Joshua’s declaration: “Blessed be the Lord who has given rest to his people Israel, according to all that he promised. Not one word has failed of all his good promise, which he spoke by Moses his servant” (1 Kings 8:56).

Not one of God’s words had failed. It was an important reminder for the first readers of the book of Kings, as they found themselves at rock bottom (all too soon after Solomon’s reign). Having fallen from those heights to the depths of exile, God’s people were tempted to wonder, Have God’s plan and power failed?

Again and again, 1 and 2 Kings seeks to restore and strengthen the faith of God’s languishing people, not with platitudes and generalities, but with specific details and concrete facts. God’s people need to be confronted with the stark realities of what God had said through his prophets and how, without fail, he acted to fulfill his word.

Specificity Feeds Faith

Two and a half millennia later, such specificity still feeds faith. Generalities about God and his trustworthiness draw on a depleting store, while concrete details, textures, and hues replenish the supply. Which is why God gave us such a big book, a book big enough to feed our faith for a whole life long. God means for his church to move about and feed from the whole pasture, not cluster in one corner of the field. He means for us not simply to remind ourselves that God is good and keeps his word, but to recall specific expressions of his goodness and particular instances in which he spoke and it came to pass, seemingly against all odds.

Some of God’s promises come to pass quickly, even overnight. Others stretch over long periods of time, acting as sinews holding together the history of his covenant people over centuries. Both long-term and short-term prophecies serve to build and renew the confidence of his people. In a previous article, I rehearsed a few of the more arresting short-term fulfillments, but here let’s consider some of the more significant long-term examples of God’s faithfulness to his word. Marvel with me at the power and patience of God, and let the specific details fill the tank of your confidence in him to accomplish, in his perfect timing, all that he promises.

As much as we might suspect differently, God never goes back on his word. As he said to Jeremiah, “I am watching over my word to perform it” (Jeremiah 1:12), even when he watches for hundreds of years. Remembering his long-term care and faithfulness may not, on its own, relieve our pain today in waiting, but through it God does provide strength to endure while we wait.

Two Sons Die the Same Day

In 1 Kings 2:27, shortly after Solomon’s coronation, while the new king is establishing his reign, we learn that “Solomon expelled Abiathar from being priest to the Lord, thus fulfilling the word of the Lord that he had spoken concerning the house of Eli in Shiloh.” This was no day-old prophecy. It was a century old.

The promise went back generations to 1 Samuel 2:27–36, before the call of Samuel, who, in his old age, anointed David as king after Saul. Eli, serving as priest and judge in Israel for forty years, had kept his own nose clean but looked the other way on the wickedness of his sons, Hophni and Phinehas. A nameless “man of God” came forward to pronounce God’s judgment on Eli’s house because of his sons:

All the descendants of your house shall die by the sword of men. And this that shall come upon your two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, shall be the sign to you: both of them shall die on the same day. And I will raise up for myself a faithful priest, who shall do according to what is in my heart and in my mind. (1 Samuel 2:33–35)

The immediate word came to pass in 1 Samuel 4:11. The Philistines slaughtered thirty thousand Israelite foot soldiers, captured the ark of the covenant, and killed Eli’s sons. But then God patiently waited, until the reign of Solomon, to finally unseat the house of Eli, one hundred years later. God’s word did not fail.

Jericho Seven Centuries Later

At the end of 1 Kings 16 comes the first introduction and summary of the 22-year reign of Ahab, a wicked king in Israel. In the writer’s brief summary, he mentions something seemingly incidental that transpired in that span:

In his days Hiel of Bethel built Jericho. He laid its foundation at the cost of Abiram his firstborn, and set up its gates at the cost of his youngest son Segub, according to the word of the Lord, which he spoke by Joshua the son of Nun. (1 Kings 16:34)

It’s a stunning lightning strike of prophetic fulfillment. Seven hundred years have passed since Joshua said, “Cursed before the Lord be the man who rises up and rebuilds this city, Jericho. At the cost of his firstborn shall he lay its foundation, and at the cost of his youngest son shall he set up its gates” (Joshua 6:26).

Now the Kings narrative marks for us, as a simple parenthesis in Ahab’s reign, how God is watching over his word to perform it. What he said through Joshua, he meant. The passing of seven centuries did not negate one syllable of his word.

He Knew the King by Name

For those who know well the story of Israel’s tragic fall, over five centuries, into exile, we know a king named Josiah comes near the end of that tragedy (2 Kings 22–23). So, it’s surprising to hear his name foretold centuries before (1 Kings 13:2). The kingdom is newly divided between Solomon’s son (Rehoboam) and Solomon’s former servant (Jeroboam), and another nameless prophet arises to tell the latter, addressing the altar of his idolatry,

Behold, a son shall be born to the house of David, Josiah by name, and he shall sacrifice on you the priests of the high places who make offerings on you, and human bones shall be burned on you. (1 Kings 13:2)

What, of course, is remarkable is that the prophet gives the specific name of a coming king, in David’s line — a king who will not even be born for almost three hundred years. Then an immediate sign is fulfilled (1 Kings 13:3–5), granting assurance that God will most certainly fulfill his long-term promise.

Sure enough, almost three hundred years later, a young ruler arises who, against the grain, “did what was right in the eyes of the Lord and walked in all the way of David his father, and he did not turn aside to the right or to the left” (2 Kings 22:2). His name: Josiah. Not only does a king ascend by that specific name, but he also fulfills the particular prediction:

The altar at Bethel, the high place erected by Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin, that altar with the high place [Josiah] pulled down and burned, reducing it to dust. He also burned the Asherah. And as Josiah turned, he saw the tombs there on the mount. And he sent and took the bones out of the tombs and burned them on the altar and defiled it, according to the word of the Lord that the man of God proclaimed, who had predicted these things. (2 Kings 23:15–16)

The Thousand-Year Judgment

Finally, and perhaps most dramatically, is the exile itself. The very Trauma that had so unsettled the collective faith of God’s people, and threatened to destroy them as a nation, and called God’s word into question among the faithless, was in fact precisely what God himself had foretold by his prophets. Here at the end of the Kings narrative, during the reign of Josiah’s son Jehoiakim, we discover where the story has been driving all along:

In his days, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came up, and Jehoiakim became his servant for three years. Then he turned and rebelled against him. And the Lord sent against him bands of the Chaldeans and bands of the Syrians and bands of the Moabites and bands of the Ammonites, and sent them against Judah to destroy it, according to the word of the Lord that he spoke by his servants the prophets. (2 Kings 24:1–2)

Now it’s no mention of a singular prophecy, but the sweeping “by his servants the prophets.” This is a thousand-year, multi-prophet project finally coming to its horrible fulfillment. One of those prophets had been Isaiah, who had said to good King Hezekiah, “Behold, the days are coming, when all that is in your house, and that which your fathers have stored up till this day, shall be carried to Babylon. Nothing shall be left, says the Lord” (2 Kings 20:17). Isaiah even pinpointed the specific nation more than a hundred years in advance.

God also spoke “by his servants the prophets” to King Hezekiah’s wicked son Manasseh:

Behold, I am bringing upon Jerusalem and Judah such disaster that the ears of everyone who hears of it will tingle. And I will stretch over Jerusalem the measuring line of Samaria, and the plumb line of the house of Ahab, and I will wipe Jerusalem as one wipes a dish, wiping it and turning it upside down. And I will forsake the remnant of my heritage and give them into the hand of their enemies, and they shall become a prey and a spoil to all their enemies, because they have done what is evil in my sight and have provoked me to anger, since the day their fathers came out of Egypt, even to this day. (2 Kings 21:12–15)

Yet even at this point, God wasn’t done issuing warnings. He spoke to Josiah as well about the coming exile: “I will remove Judah also out of my sight, as I have removed Israel, and I will cast off this city that I have chosen, Jerusalem, and the house of which I said, My name shall be there” (2 Kings 23:27). All along, the ministry of the prophets had been leading here, to exile. God’s people, on the whole, had disobeyed him “since the day their fathers came out of Egypt” (2 Kings 21:15). God sent his prophets, one after another, generation after generation, to awaken his people to repentance and warn of exile to come. But, as a whole, they would not repent.

In fact, God himself had said even through the greatest, most conspicuous prophet, Moses, “They shall go into captivity” (Deuteronomy 28:41), as well as, “You shall be plucked off the land” (Deuteronomy 28:63). And then he said to Moses (to be recorded as a testament against the people),

Behold, you are about to lie down with your fathers. Then this people will rise and whore after the foreign gods among them in the land that they are entering, and they will forsake me and break my covenant that I have made with them. Then my anger will be kindled against them in that day, and I will forsake them and hide my face from them, and they will be devoured. (Deuteronomy 31:16–17)

For those who remembered these prominent words, exile was not a challenge to God’s word, but a confirmation of his plan and power. Nearly 900 years before Babylon ransacked and destroyed Jerusalem, God had said it would happen. And as the time drew near during the reigns of Hezekiah, Manasseh, and Josiah, he confirmed it again and again. A chorus of prophetic voices, spanning almost a millennium, had foretold that God would do the humanly unthinkable. And he did.

He Will Keep His Word

Kings records this important word from God through Isaiah: “Have you not heard that I determined it long ago? I planned from days of old what now I bring to pass” (2 Kings 19:25). Not only does God have the power to make the utterly unthinkable happen in 24-hour cycles; he also has the patience to watch attentively over his words, and bring them to pass — every single one — in his perfect timing, whether it spans days and weeks, or generations and millennia.

To the Christian, even more impressive than century-spanning prophecies about Jericho, Josiah, and the exile are the long-range promises fulfilled in Jesus. More than four centuries before he came, Malachi told of a messenger who would prepare the way for God himself (Malachi 3:1). Seven centuries prior, Isaiah wrote of “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3), who would be “pierced for our transgressions” and “crushed for our iniquities” (Isaiah 53:5).

Even the Kings narrative ends in hope, that God is keeping, and will keep, his promise to David, as the Davidic heir comes into unexpected favor in Babylon (2 Kings 25:27–30). God promised that he would not let the lamp of David go out (2 Kings 8:19), and God always keeps his word.

Every Word Comes True

Now, on this side of Christ’s coming, we take heart knowing that God’s words to us will not fail. Not that they all have come to pass. Not that we don’t have to wait. In this age, we wait for healing, for restoration, for peace, for fullness of joy.

Filled with fresh faith from feeding in Scripture on the details of how God has fulfilled his word in the past, we look with confidence to the day when our world finally rings with this great announcement:

Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. (Revelation 21:3–4)

God never goes back on his word. Not one of his promises will fail. Some will come true even in this life, and all of them in the age to come.

David Mathis (@davidcmathis) is executive editor for desiringGod.org and pastor at Cities Churchin Minneapolis/St. Paul. He is a husband, father of four, and author of Habits of Grace: Enjoying Jesus through the Spiritual Disciplines.