“The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers the from all their troubles. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted.” Psalm 34:17,18.
You may or may not be familiar with these verses, but as you read them, the meaning is clear- God listens to us- he hears us- he delivers us- he is close during trials, tribulation and heartbreak.
So, if these things are true, why do we have unanswered prayers? Why do injustices continue to happen? Why do those who love the Lord suffer and die? If the verses say “he delivers them from all their troubles”, why are we still experiencing times of great trouble? Also, why is the nation of Israel still experiencing such trouble?
To answer that question, we must look at some examples in the Bible, to see how God acts on what he says he will do.
God Uses Moses
The story of Moses is one such example. Moses was a man God chose to bring freedom and redemption to his people (Israel). He was chosen to lead the Israelites out of bondage in Egypt, where they were held captive by Pharaoh. God gave Moses the grand task of leading the Israelites to the Promised Land. God heard the cries and prayers of the Israelites, and he chose Moses to be part of the answer to those cries and prayers. Keep in mind, the cries of the people were not acted on right away. God chose the time and season to act.
Moses did not get the idea to lead the Israelites out of Egypt on his own. God appeared to him in a burning bush (Exodus 3-4). When God charged Moses with being the leader of the Israelites, Moses made excuses, saying, “Who am I that I should go to Pharoah and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” (Exodus 3:11). Of course, God said, “I will be with you.”
Moses was not convinced. God continued to tell Moses about the signs he would perform to convince Pharaoh to let the Israelites go. God even showed Moses signs right in front of his very eyes to convince him. For example, the Lord told Moses to throw his staff on the ground and it turned into a snake.
God promised he would be with Moses
Despite God’s words and signs, Moses said, “Pardon your servant, Lord. I have never been eloquent….I am slow in speech and tongue” (Exodus 4:10). With great patience, God continued to encourage Moses by saying he would help him. God even told Moses he would allow his brother Aaron to speak for him. Throughout this process, God is clear about the fact that he will be with Moses. Finally, Moses agrees to go to Egypt to execute God’s plan to free the Israelites.
God Always Has a Plan
As you see by reading the story, God is sending Moses. There is no doubt God will be with Moses, and there is no doubt about the plan God has in mind. Moses steps into this job, assuming it will be done. The one thing he is not privy to is the timing of how it will be done. Such is the case with our lives. God hears our prayers, but we are not privy to when he will answer them. Moses had an idea of how God would deliver the Israelites so he had a few more pieces of the puzzle. Unlike Moses, we often have no idea how God will answer our prayer. It takes an extra step of faith to wait and see how things play out.
Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh, just as God directed. They said, “The is what the Lord, the God of Israel says: ‘Let my people go, so that they may hold a festival to me in the wilderness.”‘ (Exodus 5:1)
What did Pharaoh do? Did he jump up and say, “Hallelujah, of course I’ll set the Israelites free! One, two, three………… it’s done!”
Not quite! Here is what he actually said,
“Who is the lord, that I should obey him and let Israel go. I do not know the Lord and I will not let Israel go”(Exodus 5:2).
Then, to make matters worse, Pharaoh made the lives of the Israelites even more difficult. He added more to their workload as a punishment, and the slave drivers beat the Israelites all the more mercilessly. As a result, the Israelites resented Moses and Aaron, blaming them for the extra work and oppression.
Sometimes it gets worse before it gets better
Have you ever felt this way? God has told you to do something and then you do it, only to be met with unrelenting opposition! Don’t get me started, or I won’t be able to finish this blog. Let’s get back to Moses….
Moses is downcast and distraught…..
“Why, Lord, why have you brought trouble on this people? Is this why you sent me? Ever since I went to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has brought trouble on this people, and you have not rescued your people at all.” (Exodus 5:22)
We all have been there once, twice or maybe a hundred times! “I did what you asked Lord and now look at me! My friends are mad, my husband won’t talk to me, and even my cat won’t look at me!” You get what I’m saying…….
Moses didn’t have a cat, but he had a life, and it was falling apart. He did what God asked and now everything seemed to lay in ruins.
Yet, God wasn’t worried. His plan didn’t fit Moses’ timeline. God assured Moses the Israelites would be set free, but it would be done God’s way. God told Moses to give this message to the Israelites:
“I AM THE LORD. I appeared to Abraham, Isaac and to Jacob as God Almighty, but my name the LORD I did not make fully known to them. I also established my covenant with them to give them the land of Canaan, where they resided as foreigners. Moreover, I have heard the groaning of the Israelites, who the Egyptians are enslaving, and I have remembered my covenant. Therefore, say to the Israelites: ‘I am the LORD, and I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. I will free you from being slaves to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm with mighty acts of judgment. I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God. Then you will now that I AM THE LORD YOUR GOD, who brought you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. And I will bring you to the land I swore with uplifted hand to give to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob. I will give it to you as a possession.”
God Keeps His Promises
Whoa! What a statement God is making! God told Moses he WILL DO WHAT HE PROMISED! Have you ever been reminded by God that HE WILL DO WHAT HE HAS PROMISED? Just because it hasn’t happened yet doesn’t mean it won’t happen. In fact, there are many promises that have yet to be fulfilled in scripture, and in our lives. IF GOD SAYS IT WILL HAPPEN, IT WILL SURELY HAPPEN, THOUGH IT MAY NOT HAPPEN THE WAY YOU PICTURE IT OR WHEN YOU EXPECT IT!
Moses, though still discouraged, pressed on. He complained to God that he should not be the one to keep speaking to Pharaoh because of his faltering speech. Even though God clearly told HIM to do it, Moses can’t seem to muster enough confidence. He continued to focus on his weaknesses, instead of God’s strength. By the way, at this point, Moses was eighty years old, and his brother Aaron was eighty-three (Exodus 7:6). Perhaps my voice would be a bit shaky at that age too!
God is Patient
God remained patient. He gave Moses and Aaron instructions as to how to deal with Pharaoh. Moses and Aaron followed through and signs and wonders abounded, much to Pharaoh’s horror. The Ten Plagues were unleashed, one by one, and ONLY BY GOD’S TIMING- water turning to blood, plagues of frogs, gnats, lice, death of livestock, boils, hail, locusts, darkness………you get the point! Life became miserable for the Egyptians.
By the time the tenth plague (Plague of the Firstborn) was dealt out, Pharaoh finally relented. He was more than eager to let the Israelites go! He said, “Up! Leave my people, you and the Israelites! Go, worship the Lord as you have requested. Take your flocks and herds, as you have said, and go” (Exodus 12:31,32).
As I said before, God Keeps His Promises…………
So, the Israelites left and Moses led them. It happened just as God said it would. THE ISRAELITES PRAYED FOR GOD TO DELIVER THEM AND HE DID. GOD TOLD MOSES HE WOULD DELIVER THE ISRAELITES AND HE DID. It didn’t happen exactly the way Moses pictured it. It didn’t happen the way the Israelites pictured it, but IT HAPPENED.
If I were Moses I’d picture myself as a robust, muscle-clad warrior, busting into Pharaoh’s palace and demanding the release of the Israelites. Pharaoh, struck by fear, would react to my request with trembling reverence. “Of course I will let the Israelites go!” I would then hold my staff up high and lead a magnificent parade of Israelites to the Promised Land…….and we might even celebrate with a cake!
NOT! What a fantasy! This is quite a tale I’ve spun by my own aspirations. It’s best to let God do the directing and wait for his instructions and perfect timing. GOD’S TIMING IS ALWAYS PERFECT!
God Keeps His Promises to Israel
That brings me to Israel today. Of course God delivered them from Egypt, and they eventually made it to the Promised Land, but then they lost it. Between Israel and Judah there were over 40 kings who reigned. The reigns of those kings were fraught with idolatry, war and corruption. That’s not to say there weren’t a few good kings who sought righteousness. But, as a whole, the nation of Israel inherited the Promised Land, only to lose it due to disobedience. Two Temples were built, but both were destroyed. The Messiah, Jesus Christ, revealed himself to his people, but he was rejected. He died for their sins and for their nation, yet most rejected him. By 70 A.D. the Second temple had been destroyed and the Jewish people were scattered by the Roman Empire.
For centuries, as kingdoms came and went, the Jewish people were mistreated and rejected. They experienced prejudice and hate at the hands of leaders and even Christians. By the time the rise of Hitler came along, being Jewish had become synonymous with persecution. Over six million perished as Hitler implemented the Final Solution.
I’m sure the Jewish people asked the question,”What happened to your promises God? Where is our Promised Land? How can we make it to the Promised Land if we are being exterminated?”
God heard the cries of Israel once again and he answered. After the horrors of World War 2 ended and the Nazis were defeated, something unforeseen happened. The prophecy written about in Isaiah 68 happened!
“Who has ever heard of such things? Who has ever seen things like this? Can a country be born in a day or nation be brought forth in a moment? Yet no sooner is Zion (Israel) in labor than she gives birth to her children.” Isaiah 68:8
God Keeps His Promises: Israel is Reborn
On May 14, 1948, just after midnight, Israel was reborn. Three years after the bloody Holocaust that threatened to wipe out the world’s Jews, the nation of Israel reformed once again. After the horrors of the Holocaust, the need for a national home for the Jews became paramount. The British Mandate over the land expired, and land was given to the Jewish people for a national home. It would be just a fraction of what they had once inhabited in the biblical days. But, they were in their biblical homeland- a piece of the Promised Land.
The Dry Bones Come Alive
The prophecies of Ezekiel 37 foreshadowed what would take place in Israel one day in the future. It would come to pass after the Jewish people recovered from war and entered into their biblical homeland.
“Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life. I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord.’”
‘ So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I was prophesying, there was a noise, a rattling sound, and the bones came together, bone to bone. I looked, and tendons and flesh appeared on them and skin covered them, but there was no breath in them.’
‘Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to it, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Come, breath, from the four winds and breathe into these slain, that they may live.’” So I prophesied as he commanded me, and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet—a vast army.’
Then he said to me: “Son of man, these bones are the people of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off.’ Therefore prophesy and say to them: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: My people, I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them; I will bring you back to the land of Israel. Then you, my people, will know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves and bring you up from them. I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I the Lord have spoken, and I have done it, declares the Lord.’”
Ezekiel 37 : The Return of the Nation of Israel
The verses above are describing the dead nation of Israel. They were a nation of dry bones- simply skeletons with no flesh. This is exactly what happened to Israel after they were scattered and persecuted among the nations. Their temple was destroyed and they were kicked out of their own land. Centuries passed and they continued to be persecuted and driven out. Worst of all, during the Holocaust their bodies were literally burned in ovens and all that was left were bones.
God causes the nation of Israel to Resurrect
But, the prophecy says God will bring life to the dead, dry bones. Flesh and tendons will cover these bones. God says he will literally bring them out of their graves and settle them in their own land! Then, God says YOU WILL KNOW I HAVE DONE IT.
God Keeps His Promises
God answered the prayers of his people, and the prayers of those who love the Jewish people. Jews and Christians around the world rejoiced as the news of Israel’s rebirth rang throughout the world in 1948.
Prayers Take Time
It took time. There were those who might have given up on God answering the prayer to bring the Jewish people home. It had been thousands of years. But, God was working. The plan required years of sowing and planting, and hundreds of puzzle pieces were being put together.
Israel’s battle wasn’t over though. Wars would happen, and once again Israel’s enemies would attack her. The ancient battles against the Philistines would now be realized as attacks by terror groups such as Hamas, Hezbollah and ISIS. Countries like Iran, Turkey, Egypt, Syria and Lebanon would plot their revenge. For a time, Jerusalem would be divided until 1967, when during the Six Days War, Israel would regain the biblical capital of Israel.
Yes, God was answering. He is still answering today. The threats still loom. The rockets continue being fired. But, God is listening and he is working. Only part of Ezekiel 37 has been fulfilled. There is another key aspect that has yet to be fulfilled.
“I will gather them from all around and bring them back into their own land. I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel. There will be one king over all of them and they will never again be two nations or be divided into two kingdoms. They will no longer defile themselves with their idols and vile images or with any of their offenses, for I will save them from all their sinful backsliding, and I will cleanse them. They will be my people, and I will be their God.
“‘My servant David will be king over them, and they will all have one shepherd.They will follow my laws and be careful to keep my decrees. They will live in the land I gave to my servant Jacob, the land where your ancestors lived. They and their children and their children’s children will live there forever, and David my servant will be their prince forever. I will make a covenant of peace with them; it will be an everlasting covenant. I will establish them and increase their numbers, and I will put my sanctuary among them forever. My dwelling place will be with them; I will be their God, and they will be my people. Then the nations will know that I the Lord make Israel holy, when my sanctuary is among them forever.’”
These verses are describing the day when Israel will be ruled by Jesus. “My servant David” is referring to Jesus, who came through the line of King David. One day the nation of Israel will finally receive Jesus as their Messiah, and there will be peace in the land. They will live in their land safely and the Lord will be among them forever. All the nations will know. The Jew and the Gentile will be ruled by one King.
God is Working: God Will Keep All His Promises
God is still working on this part of the prophecy. He hears the prayers of the saints. He hears the prayers of Israel. He hears the prayers of Christians, who long to see the land fully redeemed. The amazing thing about God is that “oppressive, difficult circumstances cannot and will not prevent him from fulfilling his promises. In fact, it is hopelessness that sets the stage for God’s miracles.” I can’t remember where this quote came from, but I love it! Let me just say I have plenty of “hopeless” situations in my life so I’m looking forward to some miracles!
From the story of Moses and Israel we can see God has a timing for everything. The same is true of our lives. “Miracles” are often just around the corner.
God Works In our Lives Daily
Recently I felt very discouraged about several prayers that haven’t been answered. These prayers involve issues in my life that cause great pain and suffering. I couldn’t understand why they haven’t been answered yet. I felt defeated and asked God when he would help. The answer I kept getting was, “the rock.” This happened for at least a week.
On my son’s birthday, something interesting happened. He received an unusual gift from a friend. He received a rock tumbler. What is a rock tumbler you ask? A rock tumbler is a machine used to smooth and polish rocks. The machine itself is basically a soft rubber barrel that spins round and round. Rocks are placed inside the barrel, along with sand (grit) and water.
My son’s rock tumbler came with 18 to 20 rocks. At first glance, the rocks are nothing special. They look like an old rock you’d find on the side of the road. They are dull, abrasive, slightly jagged and are beige/brown in color. The rock tumbler’s job is to turn these drab, ugly, ordinary rocks into polished gemstones. I wish I had taken a picture of them before the process of tumbling began, but at the time I didn’t realize the lesson it was going to teach me!
As I inspected the rock tumbler and the pile of ugly rocks, I was curious as to how long it would take to turn them into pretty, smooth gemstones.
I nonchalantly asked my son how long this process would take.
“Well Mom, it’s going to take 5-7 days in the tumbler.”
That seemed like a long time to me so I said, “Are you kidding? Do you mean the machine has to tumble the rocks all day for 5-7 days?”
My son laughed at me and answered, “Mom, that’s just step one. Then, there’s step two, which lasts for 7 days. Then, you go on to step 3 which is 7 more days. Finally there’s step 4 which is 7 or 8 days.”
I was shocked. How could it take that long to turn a rock into a polished stone? As I stood there contemplating the amount of time, my son said, “Mom, this is actually the fast method. In nature, it takes hundreds of years to turn jagged rocks into polished stones. Rocks are naturally found in the ocean. Over time, they are hit by sand and waves. But it takes a long time to turn them into the gemstones they really are. You have to add water and these packets of grit to the rock tumbler. The water is like the ocean waves and the grit is the sand. In the rock tumbler, the water and grit hit the rocks as the machine spins. That’s what will turn the rocks into beautiful, smooth gemstones.”
As my son described this, I tuned into the very loud sound of the rock tumbler. I imagined this sound persisting for 7 days, then 7 days, then 7 days, then 7 days more! The sound is like continual banging that never ends. How could I endure the loud, annoying sounds for almost a month?
It was at this point I had a EUREKA moment! These ugly, dull jagged rocks would not turn into beautiful, polished stones overnight. It would take a long time. During that time, the rocks would tumble and bump against the sides of the machine, as well as against the water and grit (sand). The noise would persist with a loud, nagging sound- uncomfortable to the ears, yet a constant reminder of what the rocks were doing in the tumbler. But, with time and patience, these once ugly rocks would become beautiful, smooth, shiny gemstones. They would be beautiful to all who gazed upon them.
In that moment I realized, WE ARE THOSE ROCKS! Christians are those rocks! The people of the nation of Israel are those rocks!
Jesus Polishes Us Like Living Stones
All our lives, Jesus is working on us, chiseling away at all our rough edges. We tumble around, get banged up and get gritty. The obstacles of life produce a clamor and noise in our life that’s impossible to ignore. We cry, we complain, we fight against sin………all the while, Jesus is smoothing us out. He’s sanding down the sharp edges. He’s removing the dullness.
The time it takes to smooth us out and polish our lives never ends until the machine stops. For humans, death is when the machine stops! That means, Jesus will continue polishing us up until the day we meet him in heaven.
During our time here on earth we are going to struggle with many obstacles. Like the nation of Israel, we will come up against many enemies. Those enemies may seem like they have a victory over us for a time. But, as we are being polished, we are getting that much closer to the final result- a polished stone.
God Keeps His Promises!
The same goes with our prayers. They may seem forever unanswered. The beloved Patriarch Abraham never saw the end result of what God promised. Nonetheless, the promise was fulfilled. There are Christians who have been martyred that never saw the end result of their enduring faith. Sometimes, the answer to the prayer is still tumbling around, in the process of being polished.
The great thing is that many of our prayers will be answered while we are still here on earth. Some are answered swiftly, while others take years. But, you can be assured they are in the rock tumbler, being smoothed out GOD’S WAY!
God Keeps His Promises to Israel
The nation of Israel has struggled thousands of years. Some of those years were full of blessings, while others were full of torment and agony. They were scattered at one point, and then brought back to their biblical land. But, they are still in the rock tumbler, getting ready for the final polishing that will come when Jesus returns to earth and redeems the nation, and the world.
I love that the ROCK tumbler uses WATER and sand as it tumbles. Jesus is referred to as THE ROCK, the chief cornerstone. He is also the LIVING WATER who gives life. Jesus, the Rock and Living Water, is the one who makes us living stones.
“As you come to him, the living STONE- rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him- you also, like LIVING STONES, are built on a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” 1 Peter 2:4-5
It takes a while for us to get our spiritual house in order. It’s great that we don’t do it ourselves. It is only through Christ, the living stone, and the power of the Holy Spirit that we do it.
Above you see the almost finished product of the rock polishing. Believe me, all of these rocks look drastically different! Even the sizes changed because some of these rocks were much larger.
God Makes Us Beautiful Stones
I suppose as we are polished, sometimes a lot gets chipped off, but at least the end result is humble and beautiful. This also shows that God polishes us all differently based on our life experiences. Some of us may start off as prideful and even larger than life, but Jesus polishes us up, even bringing us to the most humble point of our lives. That humbling may bring us down to a “small” size, but we are polished and shiny nonetheless.
God Keeps His Promises to Israel
And as for Israel, those polished rocks hold great truth as well. They started out as a nation set apart by God, victorious through his mighty power. They were a great rock that couldn’t be moved. But, over time corrupt kings and leaders led them astray, and their nation was broken apart, scattered to the ends of the earth. They’ve been chipped, chiseled, and broken through persecution and abuse by the nations of the world. Yet, God continues to work on them. Like the tiny rocks in my son’s rock collection, Israel itself is now tiny. The land the nation of Israel inhabits today is but a fraction of what is allotted to the 12 Tribes of Israel in the Bible. They are a much humbler nation in terms of land size. But, we can see God has allowed them to be fruitful in the land. They are leaders in technology, medicine and engineering. They are shining light of democracy, surrounded by nations who would gladly wipe them off the map- that is, if they could.
The truth is, God will not let Israel be wiped off the map because as Ezekiel 37 says, he brought them back to life for a purpose. That purpose is to receive his son, Jesus, who is the ROCK. And they will continue to survive because God is not finished with them yet, just as he’s not finished with you and me! Rejoice, for the Lion of Judah has triumphed and he will not rest until he is finished with us!
If you have any prayer requests that seem forgotten or left unanswered, take heart! God always keeps his promises! He has them in the rock tumbler right now. The ROCK will get the job done! You can count on it!
GOD ALWAYS KEEPS HIS PROMISES!!!