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  Asking ourselves 'Where is the Lord?'    - by Jeremy Utley
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Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Jeremiah 2:1-9  1 Now the word of the LORD came to me saying, 2 “Go and proclaim in the ears of Jerusalem, saying, ‘Thus says the LORD,

“I remember concerning you the devotion of your youth,  The love of your betrothals,  Your following after Me in the wilderness, through a land not sown.  3 “Israel was holy to the LORD,  The first of His harvest.  All who ate of it became guilty; Evil came upon them,” declares the LORD.’”

4 Hear the word of the LORD, O house of Jacob, and all the families of the house of Israel. 5Thus says the LORD, “What injustice did your fathers find in Me,  That they went far from Me  And walked after emptiness and became empty?  6 “They did not say, ‘Where is the LORD who brought us up out of the land of Egypt,  Who led us through the wilderness,  Through a land of deserts and of pits,  Through a land of drought and of deep darkness,  Through a land that no one crossed and where no man dwelt?’  7 “I brought you into the fruitful land  To eat its fruit and its good things.  But you came and defiled My land, And My inheritance you made an abomination.

8 “The priests did not say, ‘Where is the LORD?’  And those who handle the law did not know Me; The rulers also transgressed against Me,  And the prophets prophesied by Baal  And walked after things that did not profit.

9 “Therefore I will yet contend with you,” declares the LORD, “And with your sons’ sons I will contend."

 

Twice the Lord rebukes Israel, in verses 6 and 8, with the same word of warning:

6 “They did not say, ‘Where is the LORD

Who brought us up out of the land of Egypt...'"

and again,

8 “The priests did not say, ‘Where is the LORD?’

It is good to ask ourselves whether our Heavenly Father can bring the same charge against us -- could He say of us, "They did not say, 'Where is the Lord?'," or would He find that it is a question we regularly ask ourselves?

And it is good to contemplate our answer to the question: are we on the lookout for God -- to see His purpose in our circumstances and His image in those around us -- or are we preoccupied with other pursuits? If we aren't on the lookout for God, what do we do with this business of seeing? What are we looking for -- and for what reason are we looking?

There are only two answers to the question -- either we do or we do not ask ourselves, "Where is the Lord?"

 

If our answer is no

If we do not as ourselves this, what is the question that we ask ourselves? What are we regularly on the lookout for? If it's not the Lord Himself, chances are, we are looking out for ourselves in some way -- for our own personal gain, for the approval of man, for our own pleasure, for our own comfort, and on and on. Whatever the case may be, it is worth noting that we are regularly in the habit of looking for something. And if it's not the Lord, we are regularly looking for something else -- we are always asking ourselves a question implicitly, and so it is good to at least acknowledge that we are indeed on the lookout for something.

If our answer is yes

If we do ask ourselves "Where is the Lord?", we will surely find that it's a blessed existence -- blessings await in every arena of life. (as a side note: it's not enough only to ask ourselves the question; we actually must go through the difficult work of uncovering the answer if we intend to reap the blessings that await)

Practically speaking, what are the implications of asking ourselves, "Where is the Lord?"

In trials (whether in traffic, with an annoying coworker, when things don't go our way), if we ask "Where is the Lord?", what He shows us is that He is giving us the opportunity to partake of His divine nature!  When we are pressed by a difficulty and look for Him in the midst, we find that His purpose has not changed, but is rather fulfilled by every single circumstance He allows into our lives. We can see God's sovereignty in every situation, when we're reminded that He is completely in control of and has orchestrated the circumstances of our lives to bring about His purpose: namely, to enable us to partake of and reflect His divine nature! (Romans 8:28-29, Psalm 73:28)

In temptation (whether to respond in anger, to lust, to judge, to mislead), when we ask, "Where is the Lord?", He reveals to us that there are two paths we can take: we can either indulge our own will, or we can deny our flesh and submit to His will. If we deny our flesh, His Spirit testifies with our spirit that we are children of God (Rom 8:16)!!! We get to hear the Spirit's affirmation that we are children of God when we enter the Most Holy place by renting the veil of our own self-will.

In times of worry (asking "what if...?", running scenarios endlessly in our minds about the future may hold), when we ask, "Where is the Lord?", He shows us where we need to die, what we've not yet laid on the altar, that which we have yet to fully surrender to Him. Not only this, but He reminds us of His great love for us (Matt 6:25-34). In worry, when we ask "Where is the Lord?", we get a double portion of His blessing: He reveals that we still have idols which we need to lay down, but He also reassures us of His immense love for us. With a Father who loves us, we needn't worry about anything. (Rom 8:31-32)

In working good works (whether prayer, serving, fasting, giving) (good works that He prepared in advance -- scripture ref), when we ask, "Where is the Lord?", He reminds us that He is in secret and sees in secret (Matt 6:4,6,18), and reminds us to pursue a secret life before His face alone, rather than a life which can be (or worse, to be) seen by others. If we work our good works before men, we have our reward in full; but if we "don't let (even) our left hand know what our right hand is doing," our Father who is in secret and sees in secret will reward us. (Matt 6:3-4)

Our experience is that God greatly rewards those who regularly ask themselves -- regardless of circumstance or feeling -- "Where is the Lord?"

 

Discerning a deceptive spirit

Lastly, a brief word of warning regarding a subtle deception as well -- while there are only truly two answers to the question, "Do I ask myself, 'Where is the Lord?'," there are two deceptions we must be aware of and guard against as well. When considering this question, our flesh can deceive us into believing a couple of alternative responses (beyond the simple "yes" or "no" discussed above), and it is good to be aware of such deceptions. (2 Cor 2:11)

The first is, "I've already asked," and the second is, "I will ask," or "I plan to ask."

We will quickly explore why each statement is a deception, and how to guard against them both.

"I've already asked"

In Isaiah 63 (just two pages to the left of Jeremiah 2!!) not long before the Lord rebuked Israel, saying, "They do not ask, 'Where is the Lord?'," we are told in Isaiah 63:11-14:

11 Then His people remembered the days of old, of Moses. "Where is He who brought them up out of the sea with the shepherds of His flock?  Where is He who put His Holy Spirit in the midst of them,  12 Who caused His glorious arm to go at the right hand of Moses, Who divided the waters before them to make for Himself an everlasting name,  13 Who led them through the depths? Like the horse in the wilderness, they did not stumble;  14 As the cattle which go down into the valley, The Spirit of the LORD gave them rest.  So You led Your people,  To make for Yourself a glorious name."

Clearly, God didn't rebuke Israel because they never asked "Where is the Lord?" As Isaiah 63 illustrates, they actually had asked very recently; rather, God rebuked Israel because they stopped asking themselves the question. Is the same true of us, in our own private lives?

"I have already asked" is a subtle deception because it is not good enough to rely upon our past experience. We must be continuously on the lookout for the Lord. We must not be fooled by the law of inertia, but rather, we must be ruled by the law of dependence. Rather than trust that the faith that existed yesterday will sustain us today, we must be RULED by a continuous, complete dependence upon God. We must long for a continual filling of the Spirit, a continual setting of our eyes upon Him.

"I will ask" is the other deceiving answer. If our response to this word is merely to plan to ask ourselves "Where is the Lord?", it indicates a deeper issue. Either, there's a sin issue we're unwilling to give up and we want "just one more slip up" before applying this word to our daily walk, or we have been lulled into a false sense of security by our own good intentions. Merely intending well can cause us trouble because, if we rely upon our own intentions, we often lower our guard due to the comfort we find in intending to do something; we say to ourselves "It's as good as done. I've already completed something if I've intended it." As His word penetrates our hearts, the very moment that it happens, let us move beyond a testimony of "I will..." and step into a life of "I am..." (Heb 3:14-15)

A people listening to and looking for the Lord

We have heard it said that prayer is a conversation: not only talking to, but also -- and perhaps more importantly -- listening to the Father. We have come to understand that praying without ceasing (1 Thess 5:17) may well be described as "listening without ceasing, and occasionally, every once in a while, speaking up."

May we be people who are continuously listening to and looking for God. In every trial, temptation, concern, and good work, may we be those who come to see His great plan for us, to hear Him testify that we are His children, to discover where we still need to die by His grace (and know that we can because of His great love), and to remember that our Heavenly Father is, and sees, in secret, and His reward is to be secretly found.

May this list grow as our experience of the manifest presence of the Lord grows. We eagerly expect that the list of things that He will teach us when we're constantly listening to and looking for Him will grow as we press in to know Him more and more.

Amen.