His arrival

In preparation for their Messiah’s arrival, God cleared the way for his people to experience a different kind of life in the Promised Land. For centuries, the Jews had lived in fear of being overtaken by their enemies. God intended to remove the threats to his people’s existence in one fell swoop. The agent of His judgment was Alexander the Great who not only turned the Jews world upside down, but also transformed the world into a single united kingdom through a series of military campaigns that lasted ten years. Alexander was able to overthrown the Persian Empire in its entirety and established a Hellenistic civilization that was still evident in the world until the mid-15th century A.D. God told his people, “And I will encamp about mine house because of the army, because of him that passeth by, and because of him that returneth: and no oppressor shall pass through them anymore; for now have I seen with mine eyes.

Zechariah’s announcement of the Messiah’s arrival was quoted in the New Testament as Messianic and as referring ultimately to the Triumphal Entry of Jesus into Jerusalem (note on Zechariah 9:9). He said, “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass” (Zechariah 9:9). This picture of Jesus’ entry into the city of Jerusalem just before his crucifixion shows that his arrival as the Jews Messiah was linked more so to his death on the cross than to his birth in Bethlehem. The  purpose of the Messiah’s arrival was to make a way for God’s people to live in peace and prosperity. Clearly, the only way that could happen was for Satan to be defeated and the kingdoms of this world to be overtaken by Jesus, the King of the Jews.

Speaking of Jesus’ authority on earth, God said, “And I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim, and the horse from Jerusalem, and the battle bow shall be cut off: and he shall speak peace unto the heathen: and his dominion shall be from sea even to sea, and from the river even to the ends of the earth” (Zechariah 9:10). In other words, the Jews would no longer have to engage in military battles to conquer their enemies. Jesus’ authority would be their key to overcoming the world. The picture of deliverance God gave his people was one of hope. He said, “As for thee also, by the blood of thy covenant I have sent forth thy prisoners out of the pit wherein is no water. Turn ye to the strong hold, ye prisoners of hope: even to day do I declare that I will render double unto thee” (Zechariah 9:11-12). The Hebrew word translated hope, tiqvah is derived from the word qavah which means to bind together. “This word stresses the straining of the mind in a certain direction with an expectant attitude…a forward look with assurance” (6960). God wanted his people to once again expect him to do a miracle on their behalf, which would be the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.

Repentance (Step 3)

Mourning is a necessary part of the process of repentance. Until you’ve had your heart broken and have been crushed under the weight of your circumstances, you can’t fully appreciate the blessings of the LORD. Often times, a traumatic experience serves as a painful reminder of the past that we would like to leave behind. At some point, we will be ready to let go and the pain will begin to subside as hope is restored and we are able to remember there was good along with the bad that we experienced.

Lamentations 3:19-20 shows us that remembering our times of distress has a purpose, to make us humble. It says, “Remember my afflictions and my misery, the wormwood and the gall, my soul hath them still in remembrance, and is humbled in me.” The Hebrew word translated humbled, shuwach (shoo´ – akh) means to sink (7743). Shuwach is also translated as bow down as in to show reverence or respect to someone. I think the best way to express this is to fall down in worship or to sink to one’s knees in prayer.

After you have expressed godly sorrow, and restored your relationship with the LORD, you will start to remember the good things he has done for you. Sometimes it takes an intentional effort to see the good within the bad, but it is there if you want to find it. It says in Lamentations 3:21-23:

This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope. It is of the LORD’s  mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.

To be consumed means that something is completed or finished, “with nothing else expected or intended” (8552). This kind of attitude can cause us to give up and think there is not point in going on.

In Lamentations 3:22 it says, “It is of the LORD’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not.” Essentially, what this is saying is that God is without end, therefore he cannot stop loving us. His love for us continues without any end to it. What we need to realize, and will if we truly repent, is that God has not left us, we have left him. God is faithful, completely reliable, because “that which He once said He has maintained” (530). He does everything he says he’s going to, even the bad, as well as the good.

It may seem like taking matters into our own hands is going to work out well, but in the long run, only God can accomplish that which is necessary for our salvation. His plan is perfect and will yield the best result. It says in Lamentations 3:25-26, ” The LORD is good unto them that wait for him, to the soul that seeketh him. It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the LORD.” Understanding that God’s timing is not the same as our timing is essential for repentance to be effective. As  we wait for the LORD we see that he is still working and will not let us move on until we’re ready according to his standard, which is perfection.

A new thing

The captivity of god’s people provided a short intermission to the playing out of a 2000 year effort to restore fellowship between God and man. While they were in Babylon, God demonstrated his faithfulness to his people by continuing to protect them and by making a way for them to return to the Promised Land (Isaiah 41:3). Ultimately, the goal was for Jerusalem to be rebuilt through a supernatural empowering of those called to be a part of the second stage of God’s  plan of redemption.

Isaiah proclaimed God’s faithfulness and gave his people hope by stating, “Fear  thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness” (Isaiah 41:10). Following the destruction of God’s temple and decimation of the city of Jerusalem, the nations that rose up against God’s people would be destroyed (Isaiah 41:15-16) making it possible for the Israelites to return to the land they had been driven out of.

God used the destruction of Israel and its resurrection as an example of his power and ability to recreate the nation that belonged to him. Isaiah testified to this when he said, “That they may see, and know, and consider, and understand together, that the hand of the LORD hath done this, and the Holy One of Israel hath created it” (Isaiah 41:20). The remnant of God’s people that returned to Jerusalem would go back of their own free will, knowing they would be used by God in a different way than they had before.

Isaiah explained God’s plan in the context of spiritual blindness. He said, “I the LORD have called thee in righteousness and will hold thine hand, and will keep thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles; to open blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness out of  the prison house” (Isaiah 42:6’7). Because everyone else in the world had been cut off from their creator for hundreds of years, the Israelites would be used by God to demonstrate the problem of sin and humanity’s need for a savior.

Unlike the rest of the world, God’s people had not been left in the dark. God’s law had been clearly presented to his people and they were fully aware of the consequences of their sin. As they were being transitioned into a new way of relating to their LORD, the Israelites were told not to expect anymore special treatment. Isaiah declared, “Behold, the former things are come to pass, and new things do I declare; before they spring forth I tell you of them” (Isaiah 42:9).

Be quiet

When my kids were little, behavior was a concern for me if I took them out in public. Because they were close in ages, I had my hands full even though there were only three of them. It was difficult for me to accomplish anything and grocery shopping was a major ordeal. Eventually, they learned through experience that good behavior usually resulted in some kind of reward and bad behavior led to punishment.

In Psalm 31, David said, “Surely I have behaved and quieted myself, as a child that is weaned of his mother” (Psalm 131.2). The word translated behaved, shâvâh (shaw – vaw´) figuratively means to resemble, and by implication to adjust, for example to be suitable for the situation or to compose oneself. (7737).

David was likening himself to a little child in order to express an attitude of submission, of a child that had been trained by a loving parent. David’s relationship with the LORD had matured to the point where he wanted to be like his heavenly Father, to show love and compassion to others as it had been shown to him.

David went on to say, “My soul is even as a weaned child. Let Israel hope in the LORD from henceforth and for ever” (Psalm 131:2-3). A transition was taking placed in the kingdom that caused David to focus on worship rather than warfare. The courage and determination David had shown on the battlefield was no longer necessary. It was time for David to behave like a man of God rather than king of Israel.

The Hebrew word translated hope, yâchal (yaw – chal´) has the connotation of being still, to sit quietly and wait for something to happen (3176). Near the end of David’s life, he realized that the Messiah was Israel’s only hope for survival. As much as David wanted to believe that he could permanently establish God’s kingdom on earth, he knew that peace was extremely difficult to maintain. Like rambunctious children, the Israelites were inclined to fight with their neighbors and could not focus on God for an extended period of time.

David admitted that he did not completely understand the bigger picture when he said, “Neither do I exercise myself in great matters, or in things too high for me” (Psalm 131:1). His humble attitude was a result of God’s discipline and his willingness to let go of the outcome a sign that David had reached the point where he understood that God was in control of Israel’s destiny. David’s main focus was on obedience and an anticipation of seeing his Savior face to face.

This is stupid

If you have ever forgotten to do something you said you would, you can appreciate how difficult it would be to remember a promise for more than 400 years and then fulfill it exactly as you said you would. Imagine if it were not just one promise, but a dozen promises or even a hundred promises, now extend that over not just hundreds of years, but thousands and you can see why God is so awesome and the work he does in our lives so amazing.

David became king of Israel approximately 400 years after they entered the Promised Land. The initial conquests and occupation of the land laid the foundation for what David did 400 years later. It is not only amazing that the Israelites were able to uproot the Canaanites and Philistines, but miraculous that the twelve tribes of Israel became a united kingdom under David’s rule.

Regarding his selection as king, it says in Psalm 78, “He chose David also his servant, and took him from the sheepfold” (Psalm 78:70). God is able to do anything, therefore, his choices are unlimited. When he chooses to do something it is because the thing he chooses to do is the best option for what he wants to accomplish. David is referred to as God’s servant. A servant is someone that is subject to the will and command of his master (5650). God chose David because he knew he would serve him willingly and love him with his whole heart.

The work that God did through David began when Jacob wrestled with God and demanded his blessing. In Psalm 78, it says of God, “For he established a testimony in Jacob…That they might set their hope in God” (Psalm 78:5, 7). The word translated hope, kecel (keh – sel´) means stupidity (3689). Sometimes it might seem like stupidity to put your confidence in God. What God does in an individual life often times does not make sense.

The reason why a lot of what God does seems stupid to us is because God does the impossible. If we could do it ourselves, we wouldn’t need God. If it made sense, then everyone would  be doing it. David wasn’t concerned about doing stupid stuff. He fought Goliath with a slingshot and a few stones. He became Saul’s son-in-law even though he was a peasant. David pretended to be crazy when he was confronted by Achish the king of Gath. Some people may have thought David was a fool…until he became king of Israel.

What’s the use?

A sign that you have hit the bottom is that you start feeling sorry for yourself. The difference between a believer and non-believer is when a non-believer hits the bottom, he gives up. When a believer hits the bottom, he looks up. David said, “So foolish was I, and ignorant: I was as a beast before thee” (Psalm 73:22) when he realized that he had been feeling sorry for himself.

It is not unusual to feel sorry for yourself when everything seems to be going against you. David said in his discouragement, “Verily I have cleansed my heart in vain, and washed my hands in innocency. For all the day long have I been plagued, and chastened every morning” (Psalm 73:13-14).

David had seen the wicked prospering and evil men literally getting away with murder. It did not seem fair that David was constantly in trouble and plagued with adversity. David said, “When I thought to know this, it was too painful for me; until I went into the sanctuary of God; then understood I their end” (Psalm 73:16-17).

What David understood was that the wicked were separated from God. They could only do evil because they had not godly influence in their lives and their only opposition was a conscience that had been numbed to the existence of God. Even though their lives seemed easy, David knew that they were suffering from their sinful behavior and would one day be judged for the wrongs they had committed.

The reason why believers do not give up when they hit the bottom is because God is there waiting for them to look up. When David realized it was foolish for him to feel sorry for himself, he began to focus on the future and what he had to look forward to rather than his present circumstances. What gave him hope was that he would never be alone and would eventually triumph over his greatest enemy, death.

Nevertheless I am continually with thee: Thou has holden me by my right hand. Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel, and afterward receive me to glory. (Psalm 73: 23-24)

All is not lost

When you reach the limit of what you think you can handle and you begin to feel that a situation is hopeless, it is then that you must choose to let yourself sink into depression or hang on to the belief that all is not lost. Even when we know there is nothing we can do to change things, it is still possible for God to step in and rescue us.

The feeling of being stuck in a hopeless situation can be very painful. It is not until we realize that we are stuck that we are willing to ask for help. The reason why I think God often lets us get ourselves stuck is because he wants to move us in a new direction.

After David escaped from Achish the king of Gath, he sent his parents to Moab, the home of his great grandmother Ruth, and he took his men to a hold or fortress where he thought they would be safe. While David was in the hold, it says in 1 Samuel 22:5, “And the prophet Gad said unto David, Abide not in the hold, depart, get thee unto the land of Judah.”

David’s family were members of the tribe of Judah and his family had an inheritance in that land. David had disassociated himself from his inheritance by sending his parents to Moab and taking up residence in the hold. Although the hold felt safe at first, it became a prison that kept David locked up in fear and immobilized in despair.

When David was in the wilderness of Judah, he wrote psalm 63 which begins with the declaration, “O God, thou art my God” (Psalm 63:1). Once David was back where God wanted him to be, his relationship with the LORD was restored and David said, “early will I seek thee” (Psalm 63:1).

I think it is interesting that human nature sometimes causes us to wait until there is no hope left to seek God’s help. We are so used to depending on our own resources and capabilities that we forget there is a God available to us, one that is much better equipped to handle adversity. The word translated seek, shâchar (shaw – khar´) means to dawn and in a figurative sense it implies to be up early at a task (7836). It would be so much better if we would look for God’s help in the morning rather than at midnight, in the middle of a sleepless night.

David used the phrase “My soul followeth hard after thee” (Psalm 63:8) to describe a recommitment of himself to his relationship with the LORD. The term followeth hard means to cling to and is symbolic of glue wherein two things or people are permanently attached as in a marriage bond (1692). This kind of attachment is representative of love, a permanent love that can never be lost.