Restoration by God – Psalm 126

It Is God Who Restores Us After He Disciplines Us

1 When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion,
we were like those who dreamed
2 Our mouths were filled with laughter,
our tongues with songs of joy.
Then it was said among the nations,
“The Lord has done great things for them.”
3 The Lord has done great things for us,
and we are filled with joy.

4 Restore our fortunes, Lord,
like streams in the Negev.
5 Those who sow with tears
will reap with songs of joy.
6 Those who go out weeping,
carrying seed to sow,
will return with songs of joy,
carrying sheaves with them.

Dreaming after Discipline

When we are being disciplined, it can seem as if there is no future.  Our very dreams may be stripped from us as God allows us to be sifted like wheat.  The fortunes of yesterday become the poverty of tomorrow.  Women who bore children may now be barren, and any thought of success is marred as God does the opposite in our lives.

5 And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons?

“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
nor be weary when reproved by him.
6For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
and chastises every son whom he receives.”

7 It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8 If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. 9 Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. 11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

It may seem impossible to dream of the future while God is disciplining us.  And although discipline is designed to bring about the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it, the training may seem excruciatingly painful, cruel, unloving, and hateful.  But that is our Earthly emotional response to the unpleasantness that is required for training.  If we focus on the feelings rather than the goal, we can become embittered, disillusioned, distant, withdrawn, and even depressed.

While a significant portion of discipline is achieved through God allowing Satan to have his way with us, God does sometimes supernaturally intervene through the withholding of His blessing and hedge of protection for reasons that appear obtuse to us.  Even His silence during this time is calculated to drive us closer to Him in prayer, with pleading and tears, rather than anger, scorn, and bitterness.

When your dreams seem like a distant echo of some great feast of long ago, let go of them to embrace the discipline that God is using to train you.  It may very well be that God is trying to sanctify you by removing the Earthly dreams and desires that you have so that He can give you new Heavenly desires and future visions of His plans. For when the discipline is over, the time to dream dreams has arrived.

Jubilant Joy

When God restores our fortunes, we will have songs filled with joy and praise on our lips.  And like a woman who has travailed through a long, difficult, and painful childbirth, the joy of seeing her child for the first time makes her forget the pain that she endured to birth him/her.

For the first time in what seems forever, we will have laughter on our lips, and God will give us a new song in our hearts to praise Him.  The former things will have passed away, and the current joy will overshadow any pain that we may have endured.  This does not mean that we won’t bear the scars.  The emotional, psychological, and physical scars of our discipline may well follow us throughout the rest of our lives.  But God will restore and sanctify what was once broken.

It is the scars that remind us of where we came from, what we came through, and where we are going.  Humans are a forgetful people.  That is why God needed to tell us that we should praise Him in remembrance when He prospers us.  Soon after the pain is over, if we do not remember our training, like a dog returning to its vomit, we may very well return to our old ways of living.  That is why God had His people erect Stones of Remembrance.

Nations Notice

When God restores the fortunes of His people, the nations take notice, and they see the grace, mercy, and provision of the Lord God Almighty.  In 1948, God kept His promise and restored His people to their land.  In 1967, God kept His promise and His people threw off the yoke of Gentile control for more than 2,000 years.  God has been restoring the fortunes of His people, and it has been a great and mighty testimony to the faithfulness of God.  And while the enemies of God and God’s people gnash their teeth and cry out in agony at the sovereign power of Almighty God, YHWH, as He marches forth His sovereign plan, the rest of the world looks on in wonder and envy as Israel grows, strengthens, and prospers.

Howling and Hymns

When we sow with tears, we reap with joy.  God is close to the brokenhearted, and hears their cries for His help.  God is not deaf to the suffering of His people:

13 “When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people, 14 if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. 15 Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place. 16 I have chosen and consecrated this temple so that my Name may be there forever. My eyes and my heart will always be there.”

Growing and Garnering

The Bible says:

Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.

When we sow seed in weeping, God will send us away with joy in our hearts as we reap the efforts of our labors with the fruit that will satisfy us.  God gives us not only physical provision, but also spiritual provision as well.  He will give us the fruit of our labor, and we will be satisfied in it.  When we drink from the fountain of living water, and eat of bread of communion, we are filled with such great abundance of joy and satisfaction that the world in its desire to physically satisfy its carnal desires cannot even begin to appreciate what we have.  For the deepest hunger of our hearts – the spiritual need and desire to be in communion with God – will be truly fulfilled, and no amount of wealth, food, or Earthly attainment can compare to the immense riches of the blessings that we have in our Heavenly inheritance.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  When faced with trials and discipline, am I able to see God’s endgame – my sanctification and His glory – through it?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, Your discipline seems like blows on my back.  I can sometimes barely even breathe under its weight.  Give me strength through my trials, and keep my heart steadfastly focused upon Jesus, that I may honor and glorify Your name though them.  Father, even Your Son, Jesus Christ, asked three times to have His cup removed.  Father, may Your will be done, not mine.  Help me to endure my trials as Jesus did His.  Help me to see the light at the end of these trials, so that I can look forward to laughter, joy, and song, and dreams again.  May my suffering and loss glorify Your name. Please use my pain, suffering, sorrow, and loss for Your glory so that I may know that my suffering serves some greater purpose.  Thank You, Father, for all that You are and all that You do.  May Your mercy and grace be upon me and my family through all of our trials.  Remember me – act divinely upon my behalf – this day, and give me what I need to both survive and thrive.  This I ask in Jesus’ Holy Name, Amen.

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Restoration by God – Psalm 90:13-17

May God Remember and Restore His People In Their Afflictions

13 Relent, Lord! How long will it be?
Have compassion on your servants.
14 Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love,
that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.
15 Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us,
for as many years as we have seen trouble.
16 May your deeds be shown to your servants,
your splendor to their children.

17 May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us;
establish the work of our hands for us-
yes, establish the work of our hands.

Compassion for Crushing

Moses was a man who spent so much time, and time spent so closely with God, came back from his meetings with God with his face glowing.  Moses, in this psalm, implores Almighty God to relent from His affliction upon the people.  They had been afflicted for so long, that a generation of people had lived and died in affliction, only seeing difficulty, and never seeing rest.

Moses cries out and asks that God would have compassion on His people, and relent from His anger.  How much do we do each day, whether in commission or omission, that angers God?  Our affliction is often brought upon us as a character building exercise.  We need to both remember that God is for us, and that we aren’t yet ready.  It is OK to ask God to relent and to show us compassion.  We are but a wisp of smoke, here now, fragile, and quickly dispersed.

Lavish Love

Moses asks that God satisfy us by lavishing His love upon us.  In the Western World, consumerism and competition vie for our efforts to earn more money to buy more things to supposedly satisfy and satiate our desires.  The only real satisfaction we receive is when we are reconciled to God, and we experience His peace through His Love.  It is only then that our restless hearts can be satisfied, and only with the love that He provides.

When we are satisfied by our relationship in God, we are much more able to experience joy in our hearts.  We know in our minds that everything that God says is true.  It is only after experiencing the truth of God’s love, and the truth of His word as it becomes real to us through experience, that we are truly able to tightly grasp our Savior, and cling to Him with joy and contentment.  It is only then that we can set aside the desires to accumulate wealth and power and importance and other things that the world offers.  For it is in the gentle, loving embrace of our Savior and Father and constant Companion that we are able to truly be satisfied.

Reciprocal Response

Moses goes on to ask God to grant us a time of gladness that is in exact proportion to the time that we have spent in affliction.  This may seem a little odd, as most people spend only a short time in affliction.  But ask anyone who has been afflicted with difficulty for more that a decade, and they will tell you how difficult and life-changing it would be to be rid of their affliction, and to receive a commensurate time of gladness following the trial.

Oh, what joy that would be!  To not only be rid of the constant pain that wounds and reminds us of its power in our lives, but that there can come a time of gladness.  For when a person deals with prolonged pain, suffering, and misery (especially misery), it can seem that the time of gladness will not come until the sweet separation of the spirit from the body in death.

Generational Good

Moses asks that God lavish His love and compassion not only onto this generation, but to each successive generation of people as well.  It is very important to parents that their children have every opportunity to thrive and survive, and generational, continual oppression through the wrath and anger of God and cause sane men and women to want to give up hope.  But if their children can continue to receive the bountiful blessing that they have received, even late in life, the pain, suffering, and misery was worth it.

Establish Efforts

One of the ways that Moses asks that God blesses His people is to establish the work of their hands.  Imagine that everything you did, no matter how spectacular or seemingly good, was immediately wasted or produced not real results.  What if everything that you did had no lasting meaning.  It is one of the most discouraging things that can happen to a man is to realize that all of their efforts came to nothing – that everything they did and worked for had no meaning.

While we should all find our meaning in Christ, men are wired to also find meaning in the successful labors of their hands and hearts.  When that comes to nothing, it can have a devastating effect upon people.  Moses therefore asks God to establish the work of God’s people’s hands, that they can look back upon their efforts and see that they did not waste their life and energy in vain.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  How do we cope with constant, unending, unyielding affliction?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, everything that You do is right, and You can do no evil.  Give me strength and courage as I remember Your character, for my affliction in great, and my suffering severe.  Have compassion upon me, Lord, and relent from Your anger towards me.  Though You use these trials to shape and mold my character, I ask that You remember me – act divinely upon my behalf – and restore me as You did Job once my trials have been completed.  Please do not leave me in my affliction without recourse, for I hope to believe that there is relief apart from death.  And once You have finished Your work  in these trials, I ask, Lord God, that You give me as many years of joy and gladness as you have sorrow and misery.  Remember me through all of this, Lord God.  Amen.

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Restoration by God – Psalm 71:19-21

It Is God Who Brings Down And God Who Restores

19 Your righteousness, God, reaches to the heavens,
you who have done great things.
Who is like you, God?
20 Though you have made me see troubles,
many and bitter,
you will restore my life again;
from the depths of the earth
you will again bring me up.
21 You will increase my honor
and comfort me once more.

Regaling Righteousness

David has the foresight to recognize and desire to see that the righteousness of God is to be made known to all.  Earlier in this Psalm, David writes:

13 May my accusers perish in shame;
may those who want to harm me
be covered with scorn and disgrace.

14 As for me, I will always have hope;
I will praise you more and more.

15 My mouth will tell of your righteous deeds,
of your saving acts all day long-
though I know not how to relate them all.
16 I will come and proclaim your mighty acts, Sovereign Lord;
I will proclaim your righteous deeds, yours alone.
17 Since my youth, God, you have taught me,
and to this day I declare your marvelous deeds.
18 Even when I am old and gray,
do not forsake me, my God,
till I declare your power to the next generation,
your mighty acts to all who are to come.

As God’s children, we should greatly desire that the glory and righteousness of God be magnified among men.  Not only should we be displaying the righteousness of God in our everyday lives, but we must also speak the truth about His righteousness to others.  Faith comes through hearing the word of God.

It has always been known by the enemies of God that faith comes through hearing.  That is one of the reasons why there is such a great effort placed on muzzling the voice of truth in society.  They know that if people hear the truth, and believe the truth, the truth will set them free.  Only by silencing the truth and then speaking lies are the enemies of God able to continue to exert their control over people.

There is an old nursery rhyme that exemplifies this truth:

Sticks and stones will break my bones, but names will never hurt me.

This is a bald-faced lie told to children to help them cope with the emotional trauma of the power of the spoken word.  Words DO hurt.  And words CAN help.  When we pretend that what we say has no effect upon others, we deceive ourselves and lay the groundwork for all manner of mischief.  After all, if spoken lies have no power, then lying must be OK, because it doesn’t hurt anyone.  But Jesus addressed this very poignantly:

You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.

When we lie, we murder the truth.

Terrible Trouble

God is sovereign.  We know this in our minds, but question it in our hearts when terrible things happen to people – murder, rape, theft, disease, and all other manner of difficulty and trials.  The understanding that God is sovereign and is responsible for allowing difficulty into our lives is characterized well in the life of Job.  Job recognizes the sovereignty of God, and tells his wife after his afflictions:

He replied, “You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” In all this, Job did not sin in what he said.

Job’s relatives, after Job had gone through his trials, acknowledged the responsibility and sovereignty of God in their actions and words to Job:

10 After Job had prayed for his friends, the Lord restored his fortunes and gave him twice as much as he had before. 11 All his brothers and sisters and everyone who had known him before came and ate with him in his house. They comforted and consoled him over all the trouble the Lord had brought on him, and each one gave him a piece of silver and a gold ring.

We would do well to remember that God has not forgotten us in our trials, but rather has sovereignly allowed them into our lives to bring about change in us and glory to Him.  And after those trials are over, God restores us.  We must also remember that God does not do evil, but may allow evil to come into our lives through our circumstances for His purposes and our sanctification.

Rescued in Resurrection

Not everyone is restored in this life after trials.  Job and many listed in the annals of the righteous in Hebrews were restored while they lived on the Earth.  Jesus was not restored on the Earth.  He passed into glory to fulfill what God has intended for our benefit and His glory.  Many who endure great trials will not be redeemed until the second coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.  We can take heart and have peace, knowing that our pain and suffering will not last forever.  God will rescue us from all our troubles, even if it is not on this side of life.

David recognizes this and records it for us to give us the opportunity to soberly consider these things.  And just because God does not redeem a person during their life certainly does not mean that He will not redeem them going forward.  We must always have our eyes fixed upon the cross of Christ and the future glory that awaits as we will patiently wait for God to act.

Pleased in Peace

David consoles himself knowing that God will restore and increase his honor at a later time.  He knows that God will comfort him at a future time, in God’s time, for God’s purposes, to bring about the maximum glory to God.  We can rest as well in the knowledge that God will comfort us in our afflictions, for He has promised to never leave us nor forsake us.  Using our intellect, we must direct our will to force our emotions into line with the truth.  Otherwise, we will be led by our emotions, and that can have disastrous consequences.  Everything has its proper place and purpose.  Let us reassure ourselves in the character, power and sovereignty of God when all seems bleak.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  What comes out of our mouth when we face trials of various kinds?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, Your glory is over the Earth.  You are to be magnified and glorified.  My lips should be singing praises to You, and revealing Your great and mighty deeds to those who will listen.  Give me the courage to stand strong when people seek to silence the truth.  Help me to remember Your goodness and mercy and grace as You allow me to suffer through my trials.  Help me to overcome, and to speak of Your deliverance to your people so that they would be encouraged.  Help me to speak to strangers and those who do not know You that they may know that the Living God loves them and desires to be in relationship with them.  Prepare the hearts of the people, Lord God, and direct me to them that You would be magnified and glorified.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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Combat Training with God – Galatians 6:1-2

Carry Each Other’s Burdens

1 Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. 2 Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.

Seized by Sin

The sin nature within us never is satisfied.  Without constant vigilance, it is easy to slip up, and begin to justify sin.  Once sin has been embraced, it ensnares us and keeps us in bondage.  We need to remember this when we see other Christians who have been ensnared by sin.  It is with compassion and gentleness that they need to be confronted, and brought out of slavery and back to righteousness

Righteously Redeem

Paul instructs believers to gently restore those who have been caught in sin once more.  Sometimes, it is the unwrapping of grave-clothes of the newly released captives that needs to be addressed.  Other times, it is seasoned disciples that have gone astray.  Look at how far David had fallen.  God raised him from being a shepherd of sheep to the King of Israel, leading His people.  And while he was noted as being a man after God’s own heart, he raped Bathsheba and murdered her husband, never batting an eye.  Nathan the prophet was sent by God to restore him.  In the restoration of one who is entrapped, it is crucial that we do so gently.  Harsh or judgmental attitudes usually do not bring about the needed atmosphere for repentance.

Elude Entrapment

When we go to restore one who is in sin, we must be extra vigilant, for we ourselves may be tempted by the very same sin that we are trying to help another disciple overcome.  Oftentimes, it is something that we may have struggled with.  Sometimes, there is demonic activity involved, and the demons causing encouraging the behavior will try to do the same to the person who comes alongside the fallen.  They would like nothing better than to entice another disciple with their evil taunts, warping the thoughts of even the most pious people.

Bear the Burdens

Paul further encourages us to bear one another’s burdens.  This does not mean that we become enablers of lazy people by doing their work; rather, we help them with the things that weigh them down so that they can breathe again to complete that which they have been called to do.  Moses was confronted by Jethro regarding the way he was administering the law.  Jethro suggested that Moses find men who were capable men that feared God to help him with the task.  This greatly reduced the burden on Moses’ shoulders, and greatly reduced the time for justice to be enacted.  When you see someone who has an overwhelming burden, and you have the time and ability to help, offer what you can so that the person can be more effective.

Complete the Commandments

When we carry one another’s burdens, we fulfill the law of Christ – to love one another as Christ loved us.  Love fulfills the law, and helping each other is showing unconditional, sacrificial, and volitional love towards others.  And outsiders will know that we are the disciples of Christ when they see the love that we have for one another.  For if you love Jesus, you will obey His commands.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I loving others by helping them to bear their burdens?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You have said through Your Son, Jesus Christ, that we should take His yoke upon us, for His burden is light.  Yet it is absolutely impossible without yielding our lives to You so that Your strength can flow through us to complete Your goals.  Help me to be yielded to You.  Show me how I can help others be more effective in their ministry, and help me to be more effective in mine.  Send others to help bear my burdens when they become too weighty, and help me to be there when You have enabled me to help them with theirs.  Father, help me when I engage others to help restore them from sin that I would not be tempted in the same manner that they were.  Guard my heart so that I would not because a casualty in the battles we face with spiritual enemies.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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Restoration by God – Amos 9:14-15

God Does Everything He Promises To Do

14 and I will bring my people Israel back from exile.

“They will rebuild the ruined cities and live in them.
They will plant vineyards and drink their wine;
they will make gardens and eat their fruit.
15 I will plant Israel in their own land,
never again to be uprooted
from the land I have given them,”

says the Lord your God.

Prophesy Provided

There are many who believe in replacement theology – that God has abandoned Israel in favor of the church.  While there are some areas where the church is being used the way Israel was supposed to be used, God is not done with Israel.  This particular prophesy is evidence of it.

God not only provided this prophesy, but others as well, showing that His had is upon His people.  God is far from being done with Israel.  And the blessings and curses for those that bless or curse her are still binding and occurring.  The last two nations on Earth that were Israel’s friends – The United Kingdom and The United States of America – have turned their backs on Israel.

The United Kingdom is now being plagued with descendants of Ishmael who follow the teachings of the one who declared that his god was the greatest of all deceivers. Talking of the one that they follow, Jesus said:

You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.

The United States of America, whose President has turned away from Israel, and is even now welcoming and transplanting the very same people that are plaguing the United Kingdom and all of Europe into its country, will soon suffer the same fate.

God Gathers

Not only is this prophesy evidence that God still loves and has great plans for the Israelites, but many in this generation have seen it come to pass with their very own eyes.  In 1948, the dry bones became as flesh, and Israel, the only nation ever to have been scattered to the four winds, was once again a nation, and her people repatriated to her.  What had become a desert began to flourish.

But although God gathered them, they were still under Gentile control.  On June 6, 1967, after the Six Day War, God delivered them from their oppressors and Israel once again, the only nation ever to have done so, became completely sovereign over its land after millenia of being scattered.  God doesn’t mess around, and He does EVERYTHING He says He is going to do.  Even if it takes more than TWO MILLENNIA. And He ALWAYS does it at the exact right time.

Verdant Ventures

Have you ever took a look at what Israel looks like from space?  It is a verdant, lush country.  What was once desert has been terraformed by Israel with the help of Almighty God.  At the Eastern edge of Israel, it looks as if God had used his finger to outline the edges of the country from other land.  On one side, it is green and lush.  On the other, it is dry and desert.  God is blessing Israel and protecting it.  They are able to grow their own food, and drink their own wine, because God promised this to them more than TWO THOUSAND YEARS AGO.

Is God slow in answering His promises?  Absolutely not!  God has perfect timing.  Why now, you might ask?  Because He foretold it in Daniel over 2500 years ago, and then gave Daniel the time for it to occur and only defining the time after the death of Christ.  We often find that we must wait for a while in order to come through our issues.  But God is faithful, and no matter how long it takes, He will always fulfill all that He has declared.  The Israelites have personally experienced this.  In 2 Peter 3:8, in the Greek, a hEmera is as a thousand years.  While hEmera has been translated as the word “day” here, it can also be translated as a time.

Permanent Planting

The formation of Israel as a nation and the repatriation of its people is not just some random event, or temporary situation.  God has promised that He would not allow them to NEVER be uprooted from their land again.  Since God keeps all of His promises, any efforts at removing the Israelites from Israel will result in great backlash from God.  Nations who try to do so should soberly consider the consequences of their actions should they try to take from Israel what God has now given to them through His promise and give it to anyone else.

Ask any nation who oppressed God’s people what happened to them after God finished using them as His tool of punishment.  It might be hard to ask; all have fallen.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Do we love Israel, the people AND the nation, the same way that God does?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You are perfect in all of Your ways.  You have shown me in Your word how much You love Israel.  Help me to love Your people as You do.  Give me a desire to show them Your love so that they would desire You in a greater way.  Show me how to pray for Your people that they would be blessed, protected, enriched, and turn their hearts to You.  Open their hearts that they may see Your Son for who He really is.  Restore Your people to Yourself, and help me to be prepared for what is next to come.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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