Reaching by man and touching by God is the subject of this week's study- how do we get touched by God, and what do we do to prevent it. God allows Himself to be found by those who dilligently seek Him. What blocks us on that search?
Day one: Our own knowledge. In Galatians 1, Paul is scolding them about "hearing a different Gospel than the one I preached". He goes on to use himself as an example. He was a zealous Jew, a pharisee "beyond many of my contemporaies in my own nation." He knew the Law inside and out, and persecuted those who did not believe as he did. But when Christ touched him, there was no knowledge or booklearning involved; he went into the desert and learned from Christ's revelation, apart from the Apostles or anyone else who had known Jesus. It was when he ceased to believe he knew it all that Christ was able to use him.
Day two: Fear and guilt. In Genesis 50, Jacob dies in Egypt, and even though some time has past, the sons of Jacob are worried at their future. You see, they had betrayed their brother so many years ago by selling him into eventual slavery in Egypt, and they still lived with the guilt. Moreover, Joseph had become powerful in Egypt, and they feared that their father's death removed the only thing keeping their brother from his revenge. Joseph never saw it that way; he was bringing them into the blessings he had been given. Their fear and guilt kept them from enjoying those blessings, and they even invented a story that Jacob himself had given word not to harm them. But Joseph had only love in his heart, because everything that had happened to him was part of God's plan to bring them right where they were. It was only fear and guilt keeping God's blessings from them.
Day three: Failure to apply what you learn by asking questions. God wants us to come into His word with questions. I listened to a sermon Wednesday in which the pastor told a story to illustrate this point. A young man named Glenn Chambers was killed in the crash of a plane headed to Quito, Ecuador. He was going to fulfill his calling to work for the Christian radio station Voice Of The Andes, but the plane crashed on February 15th, 1947. Before leaving the Miami airport that day, he had wanted to dash off a quick letter to his mother. Having and finding no paper, he wrote it on a pice of advertisement in a newspaper he found lying on the floor. The next day, his mother received both the news of her son's death and the note, which was written around the one bit of printing from the ad on the section he'd torn off.
One word: "Why".
To find her comfort, she would have to go to God with the "why" of what had happened. And we as well, especially me, we're more likely to be hit with disaster and go to God with vitriol, anger, even hatred, and if we ask why, we're not really looking for an answer. Or we go there, and don't understand that the answer is, "It is not for you to know yet." What did Mrs. Chambers find when she asked? From the story:
God is too kind to do anything cruel…Too wise to make a mistake…Too deep to explain Himself.
Mrs. Chambers stopped asking Why?…when she saw the Who behind he scene. All other sounds are muffled when we claim His absolute sovereignty. Even the deafening sound of a crashing DC-4.
Day four: We stop "being Algiz". In Phillipians 3, Paul gives his famous discourse about not acting like we have already attained what God wished for us, but "forgetting those things which are behind and reaching foreward to those things that are ahead." Sometimes we expect God to do the touching all on His own, with out our reaching. But look at it this way. Say you, in your struggles, are a drowning man in the water. God is at the shore, and He tosses you a rope. If you stop reaching once the rope is tossed, what happens? You drown, because you didn't keep reaching foreward until you were pulled ashore.
And how does one keep reaching? Paul looks at it as running in a race. Another way that I've always tried to keep in mind is in Psalm 107:23-32. Our life's storms are like being trapped on a ship in a storm. Step one, we call out for God's help (VV28-9). But you know, anyone can call out when the storm is bad- what happens when the waves are stilled? You are still at sea, and the storm can come back at any moment. Look at what happens in verse 30: "Then they are glad because (the storm) is quiet; so He guides them to their desired haven." So you see, there are four elements here- call, response, thankgiving, deliverance. It's not just what you do in the storm, but what you do after. Heres another example, from Luke 17:
11 Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. 12 As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy[a] met him. They stood at a distance 13 and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!”
14 When he saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed.
15 One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. 16 He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan.
17 Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? 18 Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19 Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.
Notice that some of them were healed, but only the one with praise and thanksgiving was MADE WELL. The difference? God, as they say, brings sunshine to the good and the evil, the loved and the unloved. But the true healing- salvation- only comes with appreciating what was done with the rest of your life.
Day five: Just like last week, day five is reserved for those under judgement. In Ezekiel 4, we see how Ezekiel is told to make himself a human sign for falling Jerusalem. He makes a clay model of the city, complete with the siegeworks that surrounded the city at that time due to the Babylonian army. He then puts up an iron plate between himself and the "city", representing that the city will have no recourse to God to turn aside His wrath. Finally, he is told to lie on his side facing the city, 390 days on one side to represent the years of sin that Israel will pay for, and 40 on the other to represent the years of Judah's sin alone. And God finishes this instruction in verse 8 with: "And surely I will constrain you so that you cannot turn from one side to another until you have ended the days of your siege." Simply put, there are those who have consistantly refused the touch of God, who have refused to reach out to Him. And they will be kept from doing so.
Day six: The last reading this week came from the second chapter of Nehemiah.
1In the month of Nisan in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, when wine was brought for him, I took the wine and gave it to the king. I had not been sad in his presence before; 2so the king asked me, “Why does your face look so sad when you are not ill? This can be nothing but sadness of heart.”
I was very much afraid, 3but I said to the king, “May the king live forever! Why should my face not look sad when the city where my fathers are buried lies in ruins, and its gates have been destroyed by fire?”
4The king said to me, “What is it you want?”
Then I prayed to the God of heaven, 5and I answered the king, “If it pleases the king and if your servant has found favor in his sight, let him send me to the city in Judah where my fathers are buried so that I can rebuild it.”
Notice before Nehemiah explained what he wanted, he PRAYED. That is how we reach, and if we want to be touched by God, that is where it starts. Putting aside our pride and knowledge, setting aside our fear and guilt, opening ourselves to hear God's answer, and ready to reach for what He gives us. Using prayer and praise and faith to remove the iron plate before us, that His touch can come through, and continuing to reach so He can pull us home.