I am sitting down here with my laptop and my coffee, because yesterday while I was baking meringues for our Thanksgiving get-together, I was preaching in my head. I sometimes do that. I share from the scriptures to an imaginary audience, and usually the words flow and encourage even me. Yes, I realize this may sound strange. I love moments like that though because, in speaking the words aloud in my head, they seem to arrange themselves into a logical pattern that seems so simple, and concrete. They become more than just a random bunch of ideas, they clothe themselves with the heart of Jesus and they minister to my heart.
In my little “head-sermon” yesterday, I was saying what I might have said if I had taken more time to share to the girls at our high school retreat last week. Yes, I got up to share a portion of scripture with the girls. I know that some of the words reached out and encouraged them. But as I took my seat, I thought about all the things I didn’t say. There is so much more, the word of God is infinitely richer than what I could have shared in less than 3 minutes. I could post a lengthy blog about what I said, and what I could have said, and still not even capture a fraction of the depth of the heart of God towards us.
For my own sake, I am going to write something down, but I know that when I come back to read this again I will have the same reaction as when I took my seat that day at the retreat. There is always so much more to say. Sometimes, words don’t cut it. Sometimes we just need to “see” the heart of Jesus. In this instance, a picture is worth more than a 1000 words.
I have been going through a bit of an overwhelming time in several areas of my life. My teaching job is a huge part of it. Teaching is just time-consuming, y’all. Then there is the ever-present financial stress, which I think Jesus allows so that I could exercise my trust muscle a little more. Add to that several niggly little foxes that threaten to spoil the vineyard and you get the picture.
I was driving to work one morning a week or two ago, just down in the dumps and struggling to keep my head above water emotionally. In this whole season the word of God to me is: “Cry out.” I think he is allowing all of this, so that I will cry out and see his deliverance.
So I cried out. The scripture that came to me was the one in 1 Samuel 30, when David and his men returned from battle to find that the Amalekites had raided the city of Ziklag, burned it down, and had carried away all their wives and children with them. The bible says that David and his men were so grieved at their loss that they wept until they had no more tears left. To make matters worse, David’s men started blaming him for all the trouble and started to speak of stoning him.
Talk about an overwhelming situation. David had done nothing wrong. Yet here he was with nothing left, and even his men turning against him.
I love the second half of verse 6: “…But David encouraged himself in the Lord his God.”
The word “encouraged” in this passage has a precious meaning in the Hebrew. It means to “fasten upon,” with the idea of grabbing a hold of something in order to grow strong. Other words used to describe this word are “to make firm, to bind oneself to, to prevail upon, to restore to strength, to be secure.”
Note the words: “his God.” David had a personal relationship with God. He didn’t just reach out to any god. He grabbed a hold of HIS God. It makes sense then, that he knew who he was prevailing upon when he encouraged himself in the Lord. He understood the character of God, and he knew that there was something in the heart of God that offered him hope, even in the most dire circumstances.
Which brings me to my favorite word in all of the bible. It is the name Jesus.
I have done a word search on the name of Jesus and every time I re-visit it, it never ceases to move my heart to utter adoration for how immensely precious and good and wonderful he is.
Before I write about that, let me just add that God places great value on the names of things and people. In the bible, names can reveal much about the character of a person. David’s name means “to boil with love for his God,” and I cannot imagine a better name to describe him. For all of his flaws, there is one thing that David was passionate about, and that was the presence of God. (Read Psalms 27:4.) Names reflect the character of a person to the extent that when the nature of a person changes, God changes their names too. Thus Abram (exalted father) becomes Abraham (father of a multitude) and Jacob (deceiver) becomes Israel (champion of God).
It is no co-incidence that Jesus was given that specific name. We pray in that name, we quote the scripture that says that “at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow”, we affirm that is a name that is higher than any other name, but too often we do not quite grasp what it reveals about the character of God and his heart towards us.
The name Jesus comes from two root words that are compounded together. The first root word, is “yahweh”, which means the self-existent, or eternal God. My Strong’s concordance describes it as “the proper name of the one true God.”
The second compounded root word is the one that moves my heart to tears of joy and gratitude. It is the one that grows a faith in me that, in whatever circumstances I find myself in, I can grab a hold of my precious God and overcome. It is the word “yasa,” and the basic meaning of it is, to be (or make) wide, open and free. To me it personifies the idea that God’s heart’s desire is to put us in a place where we are unfettered with chains, where we are free to be ourselves, where our steps are enlarged beneath us (Psalms 18:36), where were are unconfined by legalistic restraints and find ourselves in a wide, open, and “large place”. (Psalms 18:19).
If you search deeper into the meaning of the word “yasa”, it means:
to make safe
to bring salvation to
to give victory to
This is the point in my blog where I doubt that I can capture the essence of what I want to say in words. If you are reading this, I want to encourage you to open your heart and read the above paragraph again, slowly, and ask Jesus to give you a word picture of his heart that goes beyond these mere puny characters on a page.
Do you see it? Do you see the heart of God towards you? Jesus could have had another name. His name could have meant “powerful”, because he is. It could have meant “magnificent”, because he is. It could have meant a myriad of other things, because he is so huge and his character stretches so wide to encompass all of those things. But I want to go out on a limb and say that he is magnificent, because he is good. He is powerful because he is good. And he is good because the word “yasa” describes his heart which is beyond loving and generous and kind. He is love, (1 John 4:8) and “yasa” is the perfect outflow of that love.
In the story about Ziklag, David goes on to ask the Lord: (Sumi paraphrase) “What now, God? Shall I go after them? Will I be able to overtake them?” God answers: “Pursue them. You shall surely overtake them, and without fail recover all.”
So, as I drove in my car that day, I grabbed a hold of Jesus. And in his typically sweet fashion, Jesus whispered back to me: “I am Immanuel. God with you.” So, I am holding on to his promise that I will “without fail recover all.” I’m not there yet. I have some more crying out to do. Past experience tells me that in the end, God never fails.
One thing I do know. My troubles are blessings, because far too often they manage to do what the good times cannot. They place me in a narrow and confined place where I, a prisoner, cry out for my Jesus to come and make me wide, open and free. They make me see his face, and how infinitely good he is, and something more than trust is born in my heart. It is called adoration.