When You’re Crushed Like Dust

Have you ever felt like your spirit is crushed and your heart broken? Like you’ve been pounded into dust or smashed to smithereens?

Those are the definitions for the Hebrew words shabar (H7665, broken) and dakka (H1793, crushed). I bring them up because I want to talk about this verse from Psalms:

Yahweh is near to those who have a broken heart, and saves those who have a crushed spirit. (Psalm 34:18, WEB)

When you’re ground down like dust and broken into pieces, God is there beside you. We often want Him to prevent or remove bad things but it seems that in most cases His preference is to walk with us through hardship rather than stop it from ever happening. We are promised deliverance, but in His timing, not ours.

Suffering and Deliverance

Let’s read some of the context for this verse (you can click here to read the whole Psalm).

The righteous cry, and Yahweh hears, and delivers them out of all their troubles. Yahweh is near to those who have a broken heart, and saves those who have a crushed spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but Yahweh delivers him out of them all. (Psalm 34:17-19, WEB)

It’s clear from this psalm that righteousness doesn’t exempt us from bad situations. In fact, “many are the afflictions of the righteous” and they have to cry to Yahweh for deliverance. That holds true for believers throughout the ages.

I endured those persecutions. The Lord delivered me out of them all. Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. (2 Tim. 3:11-12, WEB)

Here’s Paul, centuries after David, expressing the same truths. Those who follow God must expect to endure afflictions and persecutions, but they can also expect deliverance. Read more

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When God Gives You Something You Can’t Handle

Have you ever heard a Christian say that God won’t give you something you can’t handle? It’s a nice, cozy idea in theory but it quickly clashes with real life.

What about my two Christian friends who committed suicide? Should they have been able to “handle” it according to this reasoning? And what about all the families I know who are reeling in the wake of unanswered prayers for a child who died? Are they being punished because God knows they can “handle” such a tragic trial? Or what about my personal battle with anxiety and depression? Am I failing to “handle it” when I turn to a counselor for help?

While the idea that God won’t give you more than you can handle is taken from a scripture (1 Cor. 10:13), that’s not what that scripture actually says. Church people have twisted this verse into a feel-good platitude when there’s a lot more going on.

A Promise For Help And Protection

When God Gives You Something You Can't Handle | LikeAnAnchor.com
Photo credit: Jantanee via Lightstock

In this part of 1 Corinthians, Paul is talking about what we can learn from Israel’s history. He talks about how Christ interacted with the ancient Israelites, the ways they displeased and tempted God, and the punishments they received (1 Cor. 10:1-10). Then he writes,

Now all these things happened to them by way of example, and they were written for our admonition, on whom the ends of the ages have come. Therefore let him who thinks he stands be careful that he doesn’t fall.

No temptation has taken you except what is common to man. God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted above what you are able, but will with the temptation also make the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry. (1 Cor. 10:11-14, WEB)

The Greek word translated “temptation” is peirasmos (G3986). It means a trial or “putting to the test” of a person’s character. When used of God, it means proving someone by bringing them “through adversity and affliction in order to encourage and prove their faith and confidence in Him.” When used of the devil, it means he’s soliciting someone to sin for the purpose of making them fall (Zodhiates’ Complete WordStudy Dictionary of the NT).

In context, the verse we’re talking about isn’t a promise that God won’t give you more than you can handle on your own. It’s a promise that He won’t let you be in a situation where your fall into sin becomes inevitable. He never sets us up to fail. Read more

In The Secret Place: The Promises of Psalm 91

Last week we talked about claiming promises from God. But we didn’t talk about the verses that got me started on that study. Psalm 91 is packed full of promises that are clearly meant to include the reader. There isn’t even a writer credited, so there’s no clear historical context, and the psalm is addressed to all who make the Lord their God. There’s nothing to distract from the fact that this psalm was written for everyone who’s in a relationship with God, including you as a Christian today.In The Secret Place: The Promises of Psalm 91 | marissabaker.wordpress.com

Claiming Relationship With God

He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of Yahweh, “He is my refuge and my fortress; my God, in whom I trust.” (Ps. 91:1-2, WEB)

The psalm begins with a promise to those who remain, inhabit, and abide (H3427, yashab) in the hiding place or shelter (H5643 sether) of the Most High God. They will “stay permanently” (Strong’s H3885 lun) in the shadowing protection (H6738 tsel) of El Shaddai.

Because of that promise, we get the only “I” statement from this psalm’s writer. They claim the Lord as “my God” and say they will have confidence in Him (H982 baach). And they demonstrate that trust by making Him their refuge, shelter (H4268 machaseh) and defensive stronghold (H4684 matsud). That’s something we can do as well.

Stripping Fear of Power

This psalm contains truly incredible promises of protection in the midst of trials. We’d probably prefer it if God’s protection meant we didn’t have to go through trials. But to be delivered “from the snare of the fowler, and from the deadly pestilence,” there must be someone trying to trap you or a pestilence threatening your life (Ps. 91:3, WEB). And if “A thousand may fall at your side, and ten thousand at your right hand,” then you must be in a location where people are perishing right and left (Ps. 91:7, KJV). Read more

Spiritual PTSD

Why did Elijah flee? It’s a question I’ve heard asked quite often in sermons, typically with some laughter. Elijah just faced down all the prophets of Baal, saw God work a mighty miracle, and finally got the people of Israel’s attention. Then he runs for the hills when a woman threatens him. Really? What an appalling lack of faith, right?

A few weeks ago, my sister asked, “Do you think people can have spiritual PTSD?” Post Traumatic Stress Disorder “is a serious potentially debilitating condition that can occur in people who have experienced or witnessed” a traumatic event such as “exposure to actual or threatened death, serious injury, or sexual violation.” That could very well be something Elijah was dealing with in this story.

click to read article, "Spiritual PTSD" | marissabaker.wordpress.com
Image credit: “Elijah In The Desert” (1818) by Washington Allston

Elijah’s Traumatic Day

The first time Elijah steps on the Biblical scene, he tells one of the scariest kings to ever rule Israel, “As the Lord God of Israel liveth, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, but according to my word” (1 Kings 17:1, KJV). We know nothing of his background save that he was a Tishbite from Gilead. What we do know is that God promptly sent him into hiding first by himself and then with a widow’s family (1 Kings 17:2-24).

I don’t know why God hid Elijah. Perhaps God wanted him to learn patience and trust. Or maybe He wanted to keep Elijah safe. Whatever the reason, there’s no indication Elijah was hesitant to come out of hiding when the Lord said, “Go” several years later. First Elijah presents himself to King Ahab, then he calls the famous meeting at Mount Carmel (1 Kings 18:1-20).

We often read this story and focus on God’s awesome work in demonstrating that He alone is God. Today, let’s try to see it from Elijah’s perspective. Read more

Make It A Spring

Sometimes we walk through a season of life that feels like a wilderness. Barren, lonely, forsaken. We might even feel like this is the end. That things are hopeless.

That’s where Elijah was when he fled Jezebel. He went out in the wilderness, sat by a tree, and asked God to let him die. Instead, God gave him food and water and sent him to Mount Horeb (1 Kings 19:1-8). There, Elijah made his complaint. “Then he said, ‘I have been very zealous for Yahweh the God of hosts, for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant. They have demolished your altars, and they have killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left over, and they seek to take my life'” (1 Kings 19:10, LEB).

Yahweh responds by showing His power, reassuring Elijah that he was not the only believer left, and giving him a job to do (1 Kings 19:11-18). Elijah thought things were hopeless but God had other ideas. He had a plan for Elijah and an even larger plan Elijah didn’t know about.

click to read article, "Make It A Spring" | marissabaker.wordpress.com
Photo Credit: “Spring Runoff” by Ian Sane, CC BY via Flickr

Transforming Your Wilderness

For all of us, it’s easy to feel like we’re insignificant to God’s plan. But no one is too small for God to do marvelous things with. In fact, God often chooses the poor, weak, and little because those are the ones easiest for Him to work powerfully in (1 Cor. 1:26-31; 2 Cor. 12:9-10)

When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue faileth for thirst, I the Lord will hear them, I the God of Israel will not forsake them. (Is 41:17, KJV)

Read more

Obstacles To Temple Building

Both letters to the Corinthian church remind them, “You are the temple of God.” Each member of Christ’s church is a temple, and we’re being built up into a spiritual house of God. This applies to the body as a whole, as well as to individuals.

We’ve been spending time in the book of Haggai the past couple weeks, talking about God’s challenge to the people who were neglecting His temple and what we can do about building up the temple we have today. Like those of us in the modern churches of God, the people of Haggai’s time faced a number obstacles to temple building. They let these obstacles discourage them for many years, but it turns out they weren’t really anything to worry about. Once the people turned back to God and started working on what He commanded, the obstacles didn’t seem so significant.

Obstacles To Temple Building | marissabaker.wordpress.com

Droughts

This isn’t so much an obstacle as it is a result of neglecting the temple in the first place. God tells the people their lives lacked good things “because of My house that is in ruins, while every one of you runs to his own house” (Hag. 1:9).

Therefore the heavens above you withhold the dew, and the earth withholds its fruit. For I called for a drought on the land and the mountains, on the grain and the new wine and the oil, on whatever the ground brings forth, on men and livestock, and on all the labor of your hands.” (Hag. 1:10-11)

Confronted with these struggles, the people might have said, “We can’t build God’s house while so many bad things are happening.” It would have been an understandable reaction from a human perspective. Nothing we do is bearing fruit, so why bother with the temple? God wouldn’t be happy if that falls apart like everything else. But in reality, all the problems they were seeing came as a result of neglecting the temple.

In our own lives, we often find ourselves discouraged from contributing in our local churches, or distracted by other worries from building-up the people around us. We might think we have very little time or ability to contribute to  God’s temple because there’s so much other stuff going on, and often going wrong. In reality, if we prioritize God’s temple, the other things in our lives will start to fall into place (or at least get easier to deal with because we have God on our side).

Then Haggai, the Lord’s messenger, spoke the Lord’s message to the people, saying, “I am with you, says the Lord.” So the Lord stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and the spirit of Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and the spirit of all the remnant of the people; and they came and worked on the house of the Lord of hosts, their God (Hag. 1:13-14)

We need to let God “stir up” our spirits. Focusing only on things that are going wrong in our lives, and then trying to fix them without working on God’s temple, is just going to make things worse.

Comparisons

The previous temple had been the one built by Solomon. Physically speaking, it was the most glorious temple ever built for God. The people working on this new temple knew they couldn’t approach that magnificence, and it was discouraging.

Who is left among you who saw this temple in its former glory? And how do you see it now? In comparison with it, is this not in your eyes as nothing? Yet now be strong, Zerubbabel,’ says the Lord; ‘and be strong, Joshua, son of Jehozadak, the high priest; and be strong, all you people of the land,’ says the Lord, ‘and work; for I am with you,’ says the Lord of hosts. ‘According to the word that I covenanted with you when you came out of Egypt, so My Spirit remains among you; do not fear!’ (Hag. 2:3-5)

You’ll hear something similar today in the church – people looking back to a time when the church was larger, or had more money, or seemed more influential, or had more respect in U.S. Culture. But God doesn’t want His people looking backwards except for productive reasons.

We can learn from past mistakes or take encouragement from past examples of God’s goodness, but being paralyzed in the present because you’re living in the past is unacceptable. God is moving us toward a great and glorious future, and that’s where we must look if we want His blessing now as we build the temples of our lives and churches.

Unstable Foundations

Whatever you’re building, it has to start with a firm foundation. The temple of God is no exception.

“For thus says the Lord of hosts: ‘Once more (it is a little while) I will shake heaven and earth, the sea and dry land; and I will shake all nations, and they shall come to the Desire of All Nations, and I will fill this temple with glory,’ says the Lord of hosts. ‘The silver is Mine, and the gold is Mine,’ says the Lord of hosts. ‘The glory of this latter temple shall be greater than the former,’ says the Lord of hosts. ‘And in this place I will give peace,’ says the Lord of hosts.” (Hag. 2:6-9)

These passages are prophetic, reaching beyond the completion of that physical temple to a new house constructed by God Himself. Part of it is being fulfilled today, as we are “being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood” (1 Pet. 2:5), and part will be fulfilled in the future.

but now He has promised, saying, “Yet once more I shake not only the earth, but also heaven.” Now this, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of those things that are being shaken, as of things that are made, that the things which cannot be shaken may remain.
Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. For our God is a consuming fire. (Heb. 12:26-29)

The author of Hebrews looked back to these verses in Haggai when talking about our future kingdom. To get there, we’re going to have to go through “shakings.” In my Messianic congregation, the Rabbi has given several messages where he reminds us that “everything which can be shaken will be shaken.” In other words, things that are not firmly grounded on Jesus Christ will topple over.

Unclean Hearts

Sometimes, we ourselves can be the obstacles standing in the way of building up a people that glorifies God. Other people can also act as obstacles, of course, but we have to be very careful to make sure we’ve gotten any beams out of our own eyes before trying to pick slivers out of someone else. We must examine our own hearts for uncleanness before we can hope to help others who are engaged in temple building.

And Haggai said, “If one who is unclean because of a dead body touches any of these, will it be unclean?”
So the priests answered and said, “It shall be unclean.”
Then Haggai answered and said, “‘So is this people, and so is this nation before Me,’ says the Lord, ‘and so is every work of their hands; and what they offer there is unclean. And now, carefully consider from this day forward: from before stone was laid upon stone in the temple of the Lord – since those days, when one came to a heap of twenty ephahs, there were but ten; when one came to the wine vat to draw out fifty baths from the press, there were but twenty. I struck you with blight and mildew and hail in all the labors of your hands; yet you did not turn to Me,’ says the Lord. (Hag. 2:13-17)

This takes us right back to where we started this chapter. If bad things are happening in our lives, it should prompt us to engage in self-examination and turn back to God – not stop building up God’s house.

What sort of things do you see holding the church back from growth? what steps could we take to overcome them?

Obstacles To Temple Building | marissabaker.wordpress.com

credits for photos used in blog images:

  • Roadblock” by Greg Westfall, CC BY via Flickr
  • Roadblock” by Olle Svensson, CC BY via Flickr