01/13/W – The Lord’s Instruction

1 Chronicles 6:31-81; Acts 26:9-32; Psalms 7:1-9; Proverbs 3:11-12

NT: “In fact, I myself was convinced that it was necessary to do many things in opposition to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. I actually did this in Jerusalem, and I locked up many of the saints in prison, since I had received authority for that from the chief priests. When they were put to death, I was in agreement against them. In all the synagogues I often punished them and tried to make them blaspheme. Since I was terribly enraged at them, I pursued them even to foreign cities. I was traveling to Damascus under these circumstances with authority and a commission from the chief priests. King Agrippa, while on the road at midday, I saw a light from heaven brighter than the sun, shining around me and those traveling with me. We all fell to the ground, and I heard a voice speaking to me in Aramaic, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’ “I asked, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ “And the Lord replied, ‘I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting. But get up and stand on your feet. For I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and a witness of what you have seen and will see of me. I will rescue you from your people and from the Gentiles. I am sending you to them to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a share among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’ “So then, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision.” (‭‭Acts‬ ‭26:9-19‬ ‭CSB)

At one point in his life, I’m sure Paul viewed himself as a patriot of sorts, likening himself to the Ezras and Nehemiahs of old who passionately rooted out unrighteousness and dealt with it firmly and convincingly. He believed Jesus of Nazareth to be a false prophet who died a humiliating and cursed death. He viewed this new sect of Jesus-followers as a threat to Israel’s sanctity and was indignantly (righteously in his mind) against them. So convinced was he of the righteous nature of his cause, he used unscrupulous methods to bring the followers of the way to justice – believing firmly that the end justified the means. Yet Paul is not respected for his righteous indignation and his efforts to preserve the sanctity of Israel. Paul is respected for how quickly and completely he repented when confronted by the Lord.  Paul is respected for how humbly he laid aside his own causes and love for country to wholeheartedly pursue the purposes of the Lord… purposes that would lead him to minister to people he once considered his enemy and people he once considered beneath his attention. Paul was storming down a path that was righteous in his mind when The Lord confronted him and told him he was wrong. Once Paul was shown the error of his ways, he humbled himself and repented – and for the rest of His life, he did not stray from the heavenly vision.

As I read this story this morning, the thought that came to mind was this: In our current tumultuous environment where so many are “righteously” indignant about so many different things – on both sides of the political spectrum; if the Lord confronted us in the midst of our white-hot passion, would we respond the way Paul responded, or would we ignore the instruction and discipline of the Lord and keep storming down our self-made paths. So many are convinced that they are right and others are wrong. Have we taken the time to ask the Lord what His thoughts are? Have we taken the time to ask the Lord what He is doing? Have we taken the time to ask Him what we should be doing, where we should be spending our time, and what we should be focusing our efforts on? For me personally, I would hate to be so committed to a cause that I would storm right past the Lord and completely miss what He is doing, and miss out on His efforts to reconcile a lost world to Himself. Lord, I welcome Your instruction. Search me, know me, show me.

Psalms: “Lord my God, I seek refuge in you; save me from all my pursuers and rescue me, or they will tear me like a lion, ripping me apart with no one to rescue me. Lord my God, if I have done this, if there is injustice on my hands, if I have done harm to one at peace with me or have plundered my adversary without cause, may an enemy pursue and overtake me; may he trample me to the ground and leave my honor in the dust. Selah” (‭‭Psalms‬ ‭7:1-5‬ ‭CSB)

This psalm was written by David in response to the words of Cush the Benjamite. Cush was one of the members of Saul’s court who apparently twisted the truth and falsely accused David in some way to gain King Saul‘s favor. David was justifiably angry. He had been wronged. He wanted the truth to be known, the false accusations disproven, and his enemies brought to justice. David was confident in his innocence, but he wasn’t arrogant. He wanted to make sure that he hadn’t done anything to contribute to the mess he was in. So in trust and humility, David opened up his life before the Lord and made himself vulnerable – asking the Lord if he had any culpability – willing to receive any discipline that he needed. And then he waited… selah… for the Lord to respond. Before David demanded justice, he wanted to make sure he was walking justly before the Lord and according to His standards. He didn’t trust completely in his own judgement, so He asked the Lord for His. He desired to please the Lord, so he willingly and humbly opened his life to God’s instruction and discipline… and he was blessed because of it.

Proverbs: “Do not despise the Lord’s instruction, my son, and do not loathe his discipline; for the Lord disciplines the one he loves, just as a father disciplines the son in whom he delights.” (‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭3:11-12‬ ‭CSB)

When my children were younger, there was so much about the world that they didn’t know… so much about the world that they didn’t understand, and they relied on my wisdom to help them understand what they didn’t know… to point them in the right direction when they didn’t know where to go… to correct them when they were wrong. I instructed them, corrected them, and disciplined them because I loved them and was committed to their growth, their maturity, and their success in life. I wasn’t committed to what they wanted. I was committed to what was best for them. My children are now adults. They are respected in the circles they live in and contribute far more than they take… all because they didn’t despise my instruction as they were growing up. The Lord is the same way with us. Though we may be adults in biological age, there is so much that we don’t know, don’t see, don’t fully understand. It is easy for us to lose our way or jump into something with limited understanding and foresight. While our Lord loves us, He is not committed to our comfort or our causes. He is committed to our growth, maturity, and success in life. He is committed to seeing His purposes for our lives come to fruition. The only way to live life fully and be all that we were created to be, is to humbly open our lives to God’s instruction and discipline… and be willing to lay down our causes and desires when they conflict with His.

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