In Psalm 27, David beseeches God in an intense urgent prayer. He pleads in verse 7, “Hear, O Lord, when I cry with my voice: have mercy also upon me, and answer me.” His prayer is focused on one desire, one ambition, something that has become all consuming for him: “One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after” (27:4).
David is testifying, “I have one prayer, Lord, one request. It is my single most important goal in life, my constant prayer, the one thing I desire. And I will seek after it with all that’s within me. This one thing consumes me as my goal.”
What was this one thing that David desired above all else, the object he’d set his heart on obtaining? He tells us: “That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in his temple” (27:4).
Make no mistake: David was no ascetic, shunning the outside world. He wasn’t a hermit, seeking to hide away in a lonely desert place. No, David was a passionate man of action. He was a great warrior, with huge throngs singing of his victories in battle. He was also passionate in his prayer and devotion, with a heart that yearned after God. And the Lord had blessed David with so many of the desires of his heart.
Indeed, David tasted everything a man could want in life. He had known riches and wealth, power and authority. He had received the respect, praises and adulation of men. God had given him Jerusalem as the capital for the kingdom and he was surrounded by devoted men who were willing to die for him.
Most of all, David was a worshiper. He was a praising man who gave thanks to God for all his blessings. He testified, “The Lord laid blessings on me daily.”
David was saying, in effect, “There is a way of living I seek now—a settled place in the Lord that my soul longs for. I want uninterrupted spiritual intimacy with my God.” This was what David meant when he prayed, “That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in his temple” (27:4).
In ancient Israel, the ark of the covenant represented the mercy of the Lord, a powerful truth that came to be embodied in Christ. We are to receive his mercy, trust in the saving blood of his mercy, and be saved eternally. So, you can ridicule the law, you can mock holiness, you can tear down everything that speaks of God. But when you mock or ridicule God’s mercy, judgment comes—and swiftly. If you trample on his blood of mercy, you face his awful wrath.
That’s exactly what happened to the Philistines when they stole the ark. Deadly destruction came down on them until they had to admit, “This isn’t just chance or happenstance. God’s hand is clearly against us.” Consider what happened when the ark was taken into the heathen temple of Dagon, to mock and challenge Israel’s God. In the middle of the night, the mercy seat on the ark became a rod of judgment. The next day, the idol Dagon was found fallen on its face before the ark, its head and hands cut off (see 1 Samuel 5:2-5).
Beloved, this is where America should be today. We should have been judged long ago. I say to all who mock and challenge the mercy of God: Go ahead, try all you want to bring Christ’s church under the power of secularism or agnosticism. But if you mock the mercy of Christ, God will cast all your power and authority to the ground. Jeremiah says, “It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not” (Lamentations 3:22). Yet when men make a mockery of that great mercy which is Christ, judgment is sure.
It is only the mercy of the Lord that delays judgment. And right now America is benefiting from that mercy. Incredibly, our country is in a race with the rest of the world to remove God and Christ from society. Yet the Lord will not be mocked; his mercies endure forever, and he loves this nation. I believe that is why he’s still pouring out blessings on us. His desire is that goodness will lead us to repentance (see Romans 2:4).
We are not to despair over the present condition in America. We grieve over the awful corruption, mockery and sin, but we have hope, knowing God is in full control. We know the mercies of God endure forever.
To be a member of God’s true church, you must be known by the name of Jehovah Shammah—“The Lord is there” (Ezekiel 48:35). Others must be able to say of you, “It’s clear to me the Lord is with this person. Every time I see him, I sense the presence of Jesus. His life truly reflects the glory of God.”
If we’re honest, we have to admit we don’t sense the Lord’s sweet presence in each other very often. Why? Christians spend their time involved in good religious activities—prayer groups, Bible studies, outreach ministries—and that’s all very commendable. But many of these same Christians spend little if any time at all ministering to the Lord, in the secret closet of prayer.
The Lord’s presence simply can’t be faked. This is true whether it applies to an individual’s life or to a church body. When I speak of God’s presence, I’m not talking about some kind of spiritual aura that mystically surrounds a person or that comes down in a church service. Rather, I am talking about the result of a simple but powerful walk of faith. Whether that’s manifested in a Christian’s life or in an entire congregation, it causes people to take note. They tell themselves, “This person has been with Jesus,” or “This congregation truly believes what they preach.”
It takes much more than a righteous pastor to produce a Jehovah Shammah church. It takes a righteous, shut-in people of God. If a stranger comes out of a church service and says, “I felt the presence of Jesus there,” you can be sure it wasn’t just because of the preaching or worship. It was because a righteous congregation had entered God’s house, and the Lord’s glory was abiding in their midst.
In the midst of their trial God told Israel to do three things: “Fear not. Stand still. See the salvation of the Lord.” His call to Israel was, “I am going to fight for you. You’re simply to hold your peace. Just be quiet, and put everything in my hands. Right now, I’m doing a work in the supernatural realm. Everything is under my control. So, don’t panic. Trust that I’m fighting the devil. This battle is not yours” (see Exodus 14:13 and 14).
Soon dusk fell over the camp. This was the beginning of Israel’s dark and stormy night. But it was also the beginning of God’s supernatural work. He sent an awesome, protective angel to stand between his people and their enemy.
Dear saint, if you’re a blood-bought child of God, he has put a warrior angel between you and the devil. And he commands you, just as he told Israel, “Do not fear. Stand still. Believe in my salvation.” Satan may come against you breathing every evil threat. But at no time during your dark, stormy night is the enemy ever able to destroy you.
“Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the Lord caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind all that night” (Exodus 14:21).
What a storm it must have been. And what a fearful time it had to be for Israel. I ask you, what was God up to here? Why would he allow such a terrible windstorm to go on all night? Why didn’t he just tell Moses to touch the water with his mantle, and part the waves supernaturally? What possible reason did God have for permitting this awful night to take place?
There was but one reason: The Lord was making worshippers. God was at work the whole time, using the terrible storm to make a path for his people out of the crisis. Yet the Israelites couldn’t see it at the time. Many were hiding in their tents. But those who came outside witnessed a glorious light show. They also beheld the glorious sight of waves mounting up, mighty walls of water rising to form a dry path through the sea. When the people saw this, they must have shouted, “Look, God has used the wind to make a way for us. Praise the Lord!”
John 6 contains one of the hardest passages for me in all of Scripture because it speaks of followers who end up rejecting Christ and turning away. It is a scene in which people literally left Jesus in droves (see John 6:66).
Jesus had just miraculously fed a crowd of thousands. The people were amazed and thrilled by what he had done, ready to follow this wonder-working Messiah. But when he challenged them about what they were really after, they scoffed and left by the masses.
Underlying this passage is a question for anyone who would follow Christ: “Who is in charge of your life, you or Jesus?” Do we allow God to have total direction of our lives? Or do we try to determine for ourselves what God wants of us?
Every Christian faces this question early in his or her walk with the Lord. From the outset, a battle takes place in us, a clash of two warring cultures. First, there is the outer culture of the world, which constantly urges, “How can you benefit from this?” Then there is the culture of God’s kingdom, which asks, “How can you serve the Lord and your neighbor?”
Jesus had already preached that the kingdom of God was at work in the world: “The kingdom of God is near” (Mark 1:15, NLT). In other words: “The kingdom of God is present among you.” Most of Christ’s listeners that day had the world’s mindset. They were driven mainly by what they could gain for themselves. When Jesus came along offering blessings, they flocked to him, saying, “Sure, if you’re going to provide me with everything, I’ll follow you. If you’ll heal my sick family members and answer my prayers, yes, absolutely, I’ll be your disciple.”
But what happens to our faith commitment if these things don’t come to pass for us? How committed to Jesus are we when we realize he’s not just our “assistant” in life? The same people in this scene who were quick to follow Christ were just as quick to reject him. Disappointed, they left, giving up on him.
Jesus knew this would happen. That’s why on the heels of performing a great miracle for those multitudes, he confronted them: “I tell you the truth, you want to be with me because I fed you, not because you understood the miraculous signs” (John 6:26, NLT). Is the same true of us today? Do we follow Jesus mainly because of his blessings or because he is Lord?