My Dear Friend,
Today’s devotional is somewhat longer than ones more recent. Please take your time in reading it, perhaps dividing it into two or three sessions. My prayer is that in pondering it, you will be drawn closer to the face of God.
Love in Christ Jesus,
“Guess Who Moved”
When you said, “Seek My face,” my heart said to You, “Your face, O Lord, I shall seek.” Do not hide your face from me… Psalm 27:8-9
Then the Lord appeared to Solomon at night and said to him, “I have heard your prayer and have chosen this place for Myself as a house of sacrifice. If I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or if I command the locust to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among My people; and My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray, and seek My Face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, I will forgive their sin, and I will heal their land. My eyes will be open and My ears attentive to the prayer offered in this place.” 2 Chronicles 7:12-14
“I will return again to My place till they acknowledge their offense. Then they will seek my face; in their affliction they will earnestly seek Me.” Hosea 5:15
I would like to begin today’s devotional with the second stanza of a beloved hymn written in 1914: “Since Jesus Came into My Heart,” by Rufus H. McDaniel.
“I’m possessed of a hope that is steadfast and sure,
Since Jesus came into my heart;
And no dark clouds of doubt now my pathway obscure,
Since Jesus came into my heart…”
In our church, we have an elder that has been with us since our very first worship service in August of 1993. Talk about faithfulness! Except for a period of time when her daughter was very ill, you could probably count on one hand how many times she has missed a worship service since 1993. Now 84 years of age, whenever the doors are open for worship, Bible study, or prayer, she can still be relied upon to be there.
This elder’s life has certainly not been easy. But people who have gotten to know her over the years cannot help but be struck by her steely disposition, even when faced with the most harrowing of challenges. To both young and old, it is obvious that she is “possessed of a hope that is steadfast and sure” – the same kind of hope that the songwriter testified of – since Jesus came into his heart.
I wish I could have met this songwriter who was “possessed” of such a hope that he would write a song about it! But I do have the privilege of knowing our faithful elder, and over the years, she has reiterated two principles she has lived by since Jesus came into her heart. One is her favorite verse of Scripture, and the other is an aphorism.
Her favorite verse is Matthew 6:33-34 (NKJV & NIV): “But seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
And the adage that she has quoted many times is, “If you feel far away from God, guess who moved.”
(Now, before proceeding, please go back to the top of this devotional and re-read 2 Chronicles 7:12-14. I will place a few asterisks below to make it easy for you to find your place when you return.)
Now that you have read 2 Chronicles 7:12-14 again, think about it:
It speaks of great hardship, in this case droughts and pestilences.
It says, “If I send…” But it is important to understand that in the Older Testament, when God “sent” hardships, it often meant that God allowed them at the hands of other persons or forces.
When these hardships (plagues) came, the answer was for God’s people to (a) humble themselves; (b) pray; (c) seek His face; (d) turn from their wicked ways.
The result would be (a) God would hear from heaven; (b) God would forgive their sin; (c) God would heal their land.
(Now, before continuing, please go back to the beginning of this devotional and read Hosea 5:15. I will place a few “plus signs” below to make it easy for you to find your place when you return.)
+ + + + + + +
Now that you have read Hosea 5:15 again, please think about it: God said, “I will return to My place…and then they will seek My face.” What is the meaning of this? It means that in effect, by “returning to His place,” God would “hide His face,” and wait until the people were so aware of their need for Him that they would actively seek His face to see it again.
Of course, God’s “place” is Heaven. But earlier, God told Solomon that He Himself chose the temple as the place of sacrifice. He said, “My eyes will be open and My ears attentive to the prayer offered in this place.” But the people were backslidden and felt that they could live with, or without, God. They began to act as if it didn’t matter if the temple doors were open or closed. Not feeling needed, (God has feelings too), God withdrew and went back to His place – until the entire nation came back to Him and sought His face. God withdrew and the people would eventually come to feel that God was far away.
But guess who moved first.
The Older Testament is clear: In times of national distress, corporate worship in the House of the Lord should be considered essential. When the nation was plagued, God declared to Solomon that He Himself chose the temple to be the place where He would “open His eyes and His ears to be attentive to their prayers.” And when the nation was plagued, God declared to Jeremiah that it was in the House of the Lord that He would receive the people’s sacrifices of praise (Jeremiah 33:11).
The New Testament is also clear. Hebrews 10:25 enjoins the people of God not to neglect assembling together, as is the habit of some, “and all the more as we see the day of Christ’s return approaching.”
“All the more…” Hmm
People are free to make their own choices. But at just the time it is needed “all the more,” one man unilaterally decides that, proper safeguards notwithstanding, the House of the Lord should be off limits indefinitely. And, alas, even some of God’s own people think this to be the “safest,” most prudent thing to do.
So then, if it feels like God has gone farther and farther away from us as a nation desperately in need of healing, there’s no further need to guess.
We have moved.
For this, we should be prayerfully concerned. Nevertheless, I want to encourage you as an individual to do what the songwriter did and to do what our dear, faithful elder has done to assure steadfast hope in these darkest of days: Invite Jesus into your heart, seek God’s face continually, and trust that He is in complete control.
Seek the Lord and His strength; seek His face continually. 1 Chronicles 16:11
Then you, too, can sing, “I’m possessed of a hope that is steadfast and sure; since Jesus came into my heart. And no dark clouds of doubt now my pathway obscure, since Jesus came into my heart!”