The joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10). At the time these words were proclaimed, the Israelites had just returned from captivity in Babylon. Under the leadership of Ezra and Nehemiah, the people had rebuilt Jerusalem’s ruined walls. Now they set their sights on reestablishing the temple and restoring the nation.
David wrote about brokenness often in his Psalms. He spoke of God’s nearness to those who are broken: “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart you will not despise” (Psalm 51:17). “The Lord is near unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit” (34:18).
God tells us he has put everything created under the feet of man. Consider this passage from Hebrews:
“What are mere mortals that you should think about them, or a son of man that you should care for him? Yet you made them only a little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honor. You gave them authority over all things. Now when it says all things, it means nothing is left out. But we have not yet seen all things put under their authority!” (Hebrews 2:6-8, NLT).
"Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompense of reward. For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise. For yet a little while, and he that shall come will come, and will not tarry. Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him. But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul” (Hebrews 10:35–39).
I want to talk to you about three men whom God used mightily — and how he used failure to produce godliness in them.
Today we hear so much talk about success and how people obtain it. Success in biblical terms is vastly different. As we consider those whom God used to stir their generations, we discover that the elements he used to shape them were torment, pain, sorrow and failure.
For the Lord loves justice, and does not forsake his godly ones; they are preserved forever; but the descendants of the wicked will be cut off” (Psalm 37:28).
In Luke 22, Jesus delivered a serious warning to perhaps his most devoted follower. Christ called the apostle Peter aside and told him the following in no uncertain terms: “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat; but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail” (Luke 22:31–32).
Israel was in a hopeless predicament. They were trapped, with the Red Sea before them and the mountains on their left and right. An angry Pharaoh and his iron chariots were closing in on them from behind.
This is a very familiar story, one you’ve heard your whole church life. The children of Israel were led by God into a horrible crisis where they were surrounded by a fierce enemy. Incredible as it seems, the Lord had purposely led his people into this precarious spot. I believe it is a story with great importance for the church today, indeed at this moment in history.
I am simply amazed at our Lord’s loving response to grief. As I read the Bible, I see that nothing stirs our God more than the soul that is overcome with grief.
Grief is defined as “deep sorrow” or “sadness caused by extreme distress.” Isaiah tells us the Lord himself is acquainted with this most wrenching emotion: “He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3).
In John 2, Jesus and his disciples were invited to a marriage supper in Cana. Evidently, the Lord’s family received the invitation, too, because Jesus’ mother was there. Mary came up to him with a request: “The hosts have run out of wine.”
Jesus’ response to his mother seems a bit strange. He told her, “My hour is not yet come.”
What was this “hour” Jesus was referring to? He wasn’t talking about the moment of darkness he would face three years later, before his crucifixion. At that time Jesus did say, “My hour has come.”