Monday, March 7, 2016

Do You Want Peace? Expect a Battle and Be Prepared!






Did you ever think that in order to have Shalom in your heart and life you’d actually need to expect and be prepared for a battle? Or that you’d have to be really careful and discerning about whose prosperity you were actively seeking and working to obtain? Or that you’d have to do some serious self-examination, remember God’s blessings and warnings, and be humble? (Or humbled.) Today we’ll learn how critical all of these things are to achieving Shalom (rest, peace prosperity).

           
            In this edition of Broken Hearts, Redeemed, we spread out our Searching for Shalom (rest, health, prosperity) treasure map in the book of Deuteronomy. Our first stop will be in Chapter 2 at verse 26. But in order to fully comprehend the results of this verse, we’ll need to read through verse 30. Moses is reminiscing about past events.

           
            “And I sent messengers from the Wilderness of Kedemoth to Sihon king of            
            Heshbon, with words of Shalom saying, ‘Let me pass through your land; I
            will keep strictly to the road, and I will turn neither to the right nor to the
            left. You shall sell me food for money, that I may eat, and give me water
            for money, that I may drink; only let me pass through on foot, just as the
            descendants of Esau who dwell in Seir and the Moabites who dwell in Ar
            did for me, until I cross the Jordan to the land which the LORD our God is
            giving to us.’

            “But Sihon king of Heshbon would not let us pass through, for the LORD
            your God hardened his spirit and made his heart obstinate, that He might
            deliver him into your hand, as it is this day.

           
            Let’s take a magnifying glass look at what happened here. Moses had been moving through the land with the Israelites, and been able to purchase food and water for them from the descendants of Esau (Jacob’s brothers descendants). Then he asks for the same provisions to be made to them by Sihon, the king of Heshbon as they travel through his land. Moses sends him a friendly notice of peace (Shalom) with the request, promising not to loiter or cause any problems.
           
            Only King Sihon doesn’t reciprocate in an equally friendly manner. Why? Well, the passage indicates that God orchestrated the events so that Sihon would not respond in a friendly manner, so that Sihon would be booted off his throne and the Israelites would gain control of that land.
           
            Dr. John MacArthur says, “Sihon, by his own conscious will, refused Israel’s request to journey through his land. God confirmed what was already in Sihon’s heart, namely arrogance against the Lord and His people Israel, so that He might defeat him in battle and give his land to Israel.”
           
            In a nutshell, Sihon was puffed up and arrogant. So puffed up and arrogant that he turned down an honest offer of Shalom. And God used that weakness against him.
           
            And that’s one thing we can learn from this passage: Sometimes words of peace do not work with a person because of their arrogance, and because God has planned to use their pride against them, for your eventual — and big — benefit. He plans for them to fail and for you to have victory.
           
            And don’t miss another important point: God is the one fighting the battle for you!
           
            I’ve witnessed so many examples of this, especially in work situations, where it is clear that one person has the hand of God upon him and continues to be uncannily blessed in almost all that they do. It appears that everything they touch turns to gold. Another co-worker, (usually one who thinks and acts like they are pretty hot stuff and who is perpetually looking for a promotion ladder to climb), takes note of the “lucky” person’s perpetual good fortunes, and — without understanding or inquiring about the source of the blessing — lashes out in arrogance and jealousy. And despite repeated overtures of goodwill and Shalom toward him, the negative behavior continues and often worsens.
           
            It can be frustrating, and emotionally and physically exhausting for the peace-extending person to endure. The offended person sometimes seems bent on making the co-worker’s life miserable. And when you’re on the receiving end, you’re likely crying out to God for help and relief. You don’t understand why it’s happening, why your overtures of Shalom aren’t working. The confrontations and emotional battle can be brief or persevere for weeks or months.
           
            And then one day it all ends. Just like that. And you find out the offended person has suddenly been removed from having to interact with you, or they’ve been reprimanded, demoted or fired. Suddenly life is calm and peaceful again. And maybe you didn’t even have to go to battle over it, like Moses did. Or maybe you did. But after you take the time to look back over all that transpired, after mentally reviewing every event, you’re hit with the realization that God was working behind the scenes to ensure the outcome went a certain way, in your favor. Just read some of the miraculous accounts soldiers and officers have written about battles that seemed sure losses for them, until Heaven intervened.

           
            But now we’ll leave the victory story and move forward to Chapter 23, verse 6. In order to appreciate this verse, we’ll start at verse 5.

           
            “Nevertheless the LORD your God would not listen to Balaam, but the LORD
            your God turned the curse into a blessing for you, because the LORD your God
            loves you. You shall not seek their Shalom nor their prosperity all your days
            forever.”

            
           Wow, aren’t we to always actively seek someone else’s Shalom and prosperity?    

           Well, maybe not.
           
            To understand this, let’s review briefly what we learned about Balaam in our February 29 study, and get a clear picture who Moses is referring to and why God says this.
           
            Balaam had sought to undermine and destroy Israel from the inside
out — by encouraging intermarriage and yoking together with “strange” people who followed false gods and worshiped idols. By doing this, the Israelites compromised and weakened their faith and would eventually be drawn into worshiping these other gods.
           
            And God is also talking about the time when the Ammonite and Moabite people did not meet the Israelites with bread and water on the road when the Israelites came out of Egypt. (In a nutshell, they didn’t extend hospitality to the Israelites to meet their basic needs.) The Ammonites and Moabites are also the ones who hired Balaam to curse the Israelites.
           
            While this admonishment seems antiquated to us today, it is anything but stale. We need to dig deeper into this censure and see how it applies to our 21st Century lives. Because it does apply. The Apostle Paul told use it does.
           
            In 2 Timothy 3:16, Paul notes: “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” And the Scripture Paul is referring to there is the Old Testament, because the New one had not yet been written!
           
            So God’s admonishment to the Israelites thousands of years ago is also one for believers today. And in his second letter to the Corinthian church, Paul said we are not to be unequally yoked. And he asks the questions: “For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness?”
           
            Don’t we need to be honest and ask ourselves the same questions today? If we ignore this teaching, we’ll eventually end up compromising and undermining our faith. And there is no faster way to disharmony and lack of Shalom than when believers yoke themselves to unbelievers in marriage, business partnerships, or covenant contracts. Sometimes even joining together in close friendships.
           
            And — dare I say it in this politically correct-driven world? — spiritual gatherings. Here’s Dr. J. Vernon McGee’s interpretation of this passage:
           
           
            “This sounds harsh, but it is a warning against linking up with false religions.
            False religion is satanic in origin. The devil is not to enter into the
            congregation of the Lord. It is false religion that has damned this world more
            than anything else. It is possible for a beautiful church building with a high
            steeple and a lovely organ to be the very den of Satan. We are to beware of
            false religion. False religion has no place in the congregation of the Lord.”
           
           
            Violating this principle can be results that are spiritually, emotionally and physically exhausting, and sometimes heartbreaking. When you do these things, you are actively seeking out someone else’s Shalom or prosperity. And you’re indelibly linking it to your own!
           
            Again, it is clear that this censure is as practical for our lives today as it what for the Israelites thousands of years ago. And not only is it practical, it is protective!

           
            Now we’ll make one last stop in Deuteronomy, at Chapter 29, verse 19. And I’ll start at verse 14 and go through verse 20 to get the whole picture.

           
            “I (Moses) make this covenant and this oath, not with you alone, but with him
            who stands here with us today before the LORD our God, as well as with him
            who is not here with us today (for you know that we dwelt in the land of
            Egypt and that we came through the nations which you passed by, and you
            saw their abominations and their idols which were among them—wood and
            stone and silver and gold); so that there may not be among you man or woman
            or family or tribe, whose heart turns away today from the LORD our God, to
            go and serve the gods of these nations, and that there may not be among you
            a root bearing bitterness or wormwood; and so it may not happen, when he
            hears the words of this curse, that he blesses himself in his heart, saying,
            ‘I shall have Shalom, even though I follow the dictates (stubbornness) of my        
            heart’— as though the drunkard could be included with the sober.”

           
            This passage is a reminder of what the Lord had done for the Israelites, so they would not become complacent or prideful and follow their own misguided hearts, and convince themselves that they were doing the right thing. And still enjoy God’s Shalom in spite of their sin!
           
            Do you ever hear that advice today? “Follow your heart.” Or have someone ask, “What does your heart tell you to do?” Unfortunately, the heart is fickle and can’t always be trusted. If you have a “new” heart given to you by the Lord, then you are more likely to follow the right path when you hear your heart’s call. But if your heart call is not aligned with God’s, then beware. You’re likely to be in for a lot of heartache and pain if you follow yours! And God has no choice but to judge the sin.
           
            This passage speaks directly to idolatry, and if you read on, you will find out what God thinks about that, and what happens to the arrogant—dare I say “fool”—who decides to go his own way, pat himself on the back for it, and advertise it to everyone!
           
            Dr. Charles Stanley in his Life Principles Study Bible says, “Obedience matters.
God must judge sin, and believers are not exempt in this world.” He uses Acts 5:1-6 and 1 Peter 4:17 to confirm his point. For Acts, Dr. Stanley notes:

            
            “The fear of God purifies the church and puts it in a reverent frame of mind
            that encourages God to do amazing things through it. When we fear God, the
            fear of mankind will never dissuade us from doing God’s will.”

            Using the First Peter passage, Dr. Stanley says,

            “For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God, and if it
            begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel
            of God?”

            
            Sobering thoughts, for both the believer and naysayer.

           
            Let’s now do some soul searching together to see how these three passages will help us achieve Shalom in our lives.


Questions to Ponder

1) As we looked at Moses’s Shalom overtures to King Sihon, we learned that Shalom overtures don’t always guarantee peace. Why? Because the other person needs to reciprocate in peace. They need to be seeking peace as much as you do. And that’s something good to remember: Do not assume that the other person desires peace like you do. Remembering that will prepare your heart for rejection. 

We also learned that reaching out in peace might actually lead to all-out war. If we remember that, nothing will surprise us. (And we will be prepared for it!) And if the other person does reciprocate with an honest intention of peace and shakes hands on it, then our grateful hearts can bask in delight! But we need to remember that battles are not always fought on a traditional battlefield. As Paul warns us in his letter to the Ephesians, our battle now is primarily spiritual, for which we need to put on spiritual armor daily. Again, this speaks of preparation for anything that gets slung our way. The lesson here? When you approach an adversary in Shalom, expect a battle and be prepared!
           
            
            Do you know someone who is marking life difficult for you, despite your
            peace overtures to them? Ask God to reveal to you why that might happening?
            Pray for patience as you pray for that person or situation. Rest assured that
            God will one day change this person’s heart or change your situation so peace
            reign! Knowing and believing God is in control, and trusting Him for the outcome, 
            is enough to make sure Shalom reigns in your heart in the midst of the struggle.



2) Looking at God’s directive to the Israelites in Deuteronomy, we learned that there may be certain people for whom we are not to seek their Shalom or prosperity. While we are directed to pray for our enemies and love them, and not to repay them evil for evil, I can’t find anything written in Scripture directing us to actively seek (ferret out, actively look high and low for) their prosperity. (If you find a verse, please share it with me!) You’re not repaying theme evil for evil; you’re just no exerting energy to make them prosper!

Have you ever experienced this? A co-worker wants you to help them with his work, or asks you to use your position of influence to gain his favor in high places; or the co-worker notices your success and works to ride to his success on your coattails? I have a friend who is constantly besieged by emails and phone calls from a co-worker who sees my friend “going places” in the company, and incessantly asks her to “put in a good word for him” or says, “You could get me in on that project.”  

There's an underlying problem here, though. The problem is that my friend learned that this friendly, ladder-climbing co-worker was saying nasty, degrading and inflammatory things behind her back. He only wanted to use her to get where he wanted to go, be crowned with the recognition he thought he deserved. There was really no friendship there, or mutual respect. It was underhanded, calculated self-service. My friend had tried repeatedly (before she learned of his backbiting, underhanded ways) to help this person, but her efforts always seemed to backfire. She actively sought out this person’s Shalom and prosperity and ended up suffering for it — emotionally, physically, and spiritually. Warning: Be careful and discerning about whose prosperity you seek!

After she learned of the deceit, she was, of course, devastated. Then she smartened up and started praying for this co-worker rather than working for his prosperity. Immediately Shalom re-entered her life, and work is now a much more enjoyable place. She doesn't feel obligated to return his phone calls or answer his emails, which sometimes arrived at a couple dozen a day. She has drawn a boundary line for herself and protected her heart, and her own emotional prosperity!

           
            Now I’m going to ask you to be brutally honest with yourself. Do you have 
            someone  in your life you can identify as someone who has actually wronged 
            you and not sought your forgiveness, who you actually try to help too much? 
            Someone you work hard to serve, and join together with in his labors to achieve 
            Shalom and prosperity? I’m not talking about extending grace to someone, I’m 
            talking about you rolling up your shirtsleeves and exerting sweat over helping 
            and aiding.

           
            Is it time to pull back from the work, the relationship, the heartache and
            frustration? Ask God to help you identify any of these situations in your
            that are affecting your personal Shalom. And — here’s another brutal one —
            ask yourself why you continue to help them? Is it boosting your ego? Are you  
           doing it out of a sense of guilt? Or do you get a lot of spiritual or emotional
            mileage out of being a martyr? If you can identify with this and need to make
            some changes in order to have Shalom, ask God how to graciously remove 
            yourself from them.


3) In our final passage, we learned about the dangers of errantly following our hearts and forsaking God and His authority, then boasting that nothing bad happened to us and that we still have Shalom! My answer to that is: “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap” (Galatians 6:7). You might think you’re getting away with it now, but sooner or later, if you don’t judge yourself, God will have no choice but to render judgment for, and on you.

It’s far better to get it over with now and honestly judge yourself!

           
            Pray honestly and ask God to reveal to you where you gone astray, and displayed
            arrogance over it. Ask Him to forgive you. Ask Him to humble your heart and 
            show you how to redirect your path. He’ll be faithful to do it!



Next week we’ll make a rest stop to review all that we’ve learned so far and read through our journal to review what we’ve discovered so far about God, ourselves and Shalom!


Until then, may your week be full of blessings that you receive and give, your heart be full of joy and thankfulness, and your days be filled with laughter! Build a little heaven in your life right now, and watch your heavenly garden grow!

In Christ’s love and peace,

Andrea

When the eyes of the soul looking out meet the eyes of God looking in, heaven has begun right here on earth. ~ A. W. Tozer


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