Psalm for the week: A humble victim of a violent take-over

Greetings to all. I have been away from the blog for a short while. It turns out that I needed a break from blogging just to find time to recharge. I’m back fresh, eager, and hopefully humble.

Today, we dig straight into Psalms. The last article in this series was about King David prophesying about Jesus being the King of all the kings of the world. It was a bold prophesy that most likely upset the giant kingdoms of the day.

Now comes Chapter Three, and David is in deep problems. He has had a take-over from within. One of his children has decided to take over the throne instead of waiting for a succession plan. Absalom has moved the people of Israel to rally behind him, forcing David to run away from Jerusalem to seek refuge in the wilderness. The story is covered in the book of Chronicles. It is a moving narration.

Do not be afraid.
Do not be afraid.

But this is what Psalms records:

“Lord, how are they increased that trouble me! many are they that rise up against me.

Many there be which say of my soul, There is no help for him in God. Selah.

But thou, O Lord, art a shield for me; my glory, and the lifter up of mine head.

I cried unto the Lord with my voice, and he heard me out of his holy hill. Selah.

I laid me down and slept; I awaked; for the Lord sustained me.

I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people, that have set themselves against me round about.

Arise, O Lord; save me, O my God: for thou hast smitten all mine enemies upon the cheek bone; thou hast broken the teeth of the ungodly.

Salvation belongeth unto the Lord: thy blessing is upon thy people. Selah.”

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Psalms‬ ‭3:1-8‬ ‭KJV‬‬ http://bible.com/1/psa.3.1-8.kjv

Absalom, the vindictive

Of all the characters of the Old Testament, I find Absalom a very disturbing figure. He does not have a forgiving heart, he’s very ambitious and he’s a skimmer par-excellence. His character first shows up when his half-brother forced himself on Absalom’s sister. This shameful act caused Absalom to react. He plotted an elaborate plan to avenge his sister’s shame. He effected a 2 year plan, and finally managed to kill the perpetrator.

For taking matters into his own hands, the king banished him out of the kingdom. After some years, he was brought back but never enjoyed audience with the king. The state of affairs made him a bitter man. So he planned how he would gain audience again. And it involved setting on fire the harvest of the Army General, just to get his attention, and used him to ask David to meet him.

It worked. But this did not satisfy him. He went on to plan a super grand coup de tat of all times. He hatched a 40 year plan to take over his father’s throne. Talk about focus and determination. 40 years is equal to a generation. And that’s how long he took to implement his evil plan.

In the end, it worked just as he had planned. He took over the throne, kicked the king out of his city, slept with the king’s concubines to debase the public image of David, and had the backing of the majority of the population.

Unfortunately, he missed a point or two in his plan.

David, the humble but wise

Now, enters King David in the picture. When David fled the throne, the High Priest joined him, and came along with the Ark of Covenant. This was the ultimate symbol of God’s presence, and by extension, the spiritual proof that the king was indeed God’s chosen.

But then David does the unthinkable. He asks the priest to take back the Ark to Jerusalem, right in the domain of the enemy. He wanted to see the Ark in its rightful place, rather than clinging to it to legitimize his kingship. He does not utilize the Ark, to serve his personal needs.

And David refuses to fight the young man. Yet, he plans to set his counsel to nought. So he sends into the victorious plotter’s camp, a strategist whose sole purpose was to bring down the new rulership.

By the way, along the way, those that had a gripe or two with king David took advantage of the situation to bad mouth the king. The king’s followers were not pleased with this, and one of them demanded to chop off the offender’s head. David, not surprisingly declined, and took the insults in his stride. What a man!

In the end, Absalom got defeated, killed, and David got restored. The king used the power of humility and wisdom, to get rid of his enemies, and left a big lesson for us all.

Jesus, the more humble and much wiser

Again, this is a prophesy for Jesus. His enemies planned against His downfall for much longer than 40 years. For we are told that He was crucified before the foundation of the world. Genesis introduces the anti-Christ in the Garden of Eden that would bruise His heel. And when He came to the world some 2,000 years ago, the enemies were right beside Him, doing all they could to frustrate His ministry, and in the end terminated His life.

But just like David, Jesus resolved not to fight back. In fact, He forgave those that were baying for His Holy Blood. That’s an amazing character. He died, but that was not the end of it. He rose up Immortal, and is beyond the powers of this world. He is the most powerful person as we speak.

King David, the Brave

So here comes my favourite part:

Verse 6: I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people, that have set themselves against me round about.

Whoa! There’s more than meets the eye here. Ten thousands of people, is a huge crowd if they constituted the camp of the enemy. So King David was not a coward after all. He just wanted God to intervene. Those are the words of a brave warrior, who never allowed fear to dominate his life even in the darkest moment. He never lost sight of his God, and believed that he would return to Jerusalem in his former glory.

In our day to day life, often we get disturbed by what people say about us. It may be a mouth or two. It may not even be 20 individuals. But then, we allow this to ruin our day, our lives and even our relationships. David here says, even if they were more than 10,000 souls, it would mean nothing as long as God was in control. Think about it.

King Jesus, the Ultimate Warrior

The humble King who was struggling to carry His cross on the way to Golgotha had much more to offer than what the people of His day saw. He was not afraid to face death. He was not ashamed to be crucified as a sinner on our behalf. For He knew He would emerge a victor, having conquered hell and death.

Just like Absalom, the devil got hoodwinked. The external humility of these kings, masked the powerful wisdom that figured out the enemy’s plot, exploited the enemy’s pride, and both emerged victors. And behind that vulnerability, beat a heart that knew no fear.

Of all the prophesies about Christ, I find this one outstanding. And yes, there’s so much to learn from it on how we should deal with life, when caught in our weakest moments. We must turn to God, and not fight back the way the world expects.

When push comes to shove, try to use humility, wisdom and bravery, and see what God will do for you.

Read It Again: Humble Thyself Before God

There is nothing better than the sense of achievement. When you accomplish a difficult task, it feels like you have conquered the world. Nothing, and I mean, nothing can stand in your way.

I’m all too familiar with the deeply intoxicating feeling nowadays especially when I have successfully completed a difficult hike. I can sense my levels of confidence rising up, and more often than not I find myself staring in the face of what used to make me tremble.

Having a Sense Of Accomplishment
Having a Sense Of Accomplishment

This must be a good thing, right? Well, it depends. There’s nothing wrong in gaining confidence and having a sense of accomplishment. However, it is also easy to let the spirit of pride take ahold of you.

In the book of Proverbs it says man’s pride shall bring him low, but honour shall uphold the humble in spirit.

So this is to me. I need to understand 1 Peter 5:6, which says “humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time”. The act of humility has to be done by me, no one else can do for me.

Therefore, I need to read it again. I must have a humble spirit as I conquer one summit after the other. You should do the same. For it is very pleasing to the Lord.

God bless you.

Read It Again: The Tree of Life

Amazing views from nature.
Amazing views from nature.

 

One of the joys of hiking is getting to see all the amazing trees nature has to offer. For instance, on Mulanje Mountain you get to see Mulanje Cedar, a coniferous species endemic to this massif. When fully grown, the cedar has a wide girth it would take two teenagers to encircle it by holding hands to each other. And while being still on Mulanje, the tallest mountain in Malawi, you also get to see protea, a supple tree with brilliant blossom. It has a bulbous flower, with silky tendrils that wrap around the petals when the flower is closed. And when the bulb opens, it exposes beautifully arranged petals in white, or mixed colors of white and pink or soft red. And I think I have seen some with traces of yellow. Whatever the color combo, the exquisite flower is a beauty. A species called King protea is the national flower of South Africa.

 

Around many rivers and at the bottom of several mountains in Malawi, you get to see the mighty m’bawa tree also known as mahogany in English. It is a towering giant with strong roots that have been known to upheave foundations of structures that are built near it. Most people still mistakenly plant it near schools, hospitals and churches. M’bawa will weigh the foundation of these buildings and will find them wanting. In other words, it will destroy anything it will catch its in radial root architecture. Other than its underground adventures, mighty m’bawa offers plenty of shade in summer, and unfortunately, it is also susceptible to illegal harvesting due to its sought-after hardwood. M’bawa gets to live for hundreds of years, and when fully grown, it will take several grown up men to ring it by holding each other’s hands.

 

On Kilimanjaro, you get to see another towering giant at the bottom of the mountain, and a strange looking tree towards the top. The latter has a jacket of old leaves, which it uses to cover itself when the temperatures drop low.

 

Jacket-wearing trees on Kilimanjaro
Jacket-wearing trees on Kilimanjaro

 

Another wonder that comes to mind is the baobab tree. A giant of immense proportions, this fruit tree is a darling to many children due to its sweet and sour summer treats. The fruit is covered in a hard shell, decorated by a thin layer of short velvet hair. Once you break the shell with a help of stone, you are treated to rows of white, compact powder wrapped around a black seed. The rows are separated by coils of fibre that protect the seeds. You eat the fruit by letting it dissolve in your mouth, or if you are impatient, by sucking it just like sweets. To the more aggressive souls, you can break the seed by biting hard into its black shell to reveal a soft white paste, more like the meat of groundnuts. The baobab tree prefers hot weather and it is found in abundance in districts along the lakeshore, Nkhotakota, Salima and Mangochi. You can also find it in Mwanza, a district in the Southern Region. The tree is also found beyond the borders seeking refuge in many parts of Southern Africa.

 

By the way, despite its immense size, the baobab is hollow inside acting like a giant reservoir. It will absorb the scarce rainfall whenever the patched grounds it prefers to grow on receive any rains. And sometimes, when it has drunk more than it can handle, it gets compromised and will fall down to its side due to its relatively weak root system. It is not uncommon to see the octopus like roots sticking in the air, next to the fallen hero after drinking one to many a raindrop. Such is the beauty and diversity of trees one gets to see in the wild.

 

But then the Bible introduces another type of a tree. It is called The Tree of Life, and it is first mentioned in the first book of the Bible, Genesis. We are told it was in the midst of the Garden of Eden, next to the tree of knowledge of good and evil. The latter had a fruit that was pleasant to look at, and would make one wise. Now, that’s some tree.

 

But before going for the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Let’s look at the Tree of Life. It appears in the last book of the Bible, at the end of the New Testament. In the book of Revelation, it is mentioned three times. Access to the tree had a special clause in Genesis. It could only be taken if and only if man would not eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. And in the Book of Revelation, its fruit will only be eaten to him that overcomes (Rev 2:7). This special tree will only grow along the pure river of life, clear as a crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb in New Jerusalem, that will rest upon a great and high mountain (Revelation 21 & 22).

 

It does not stop there. It says the Tree of Life will bear twelve manner of fruits, and will yield her fruit every month. And its leaves will be for the healing of the nations.

 

So read the passages again. Of all the trees that are in the world, of all the wonders that they offer in terms of fruit, flower and other potent uses, none can compare to the Tree of Life. This is the only tree that was protected by the flaming fire of a cherub. And in the new world to come, it will only be found in one location, and enjoyed by one group of people – those that overcome. Now, that sounds to me like a motivation to face life’s challenges not as cowards but those that are determined to rise above the limitations of fallen humanity to celestial beauty of a saved life. All thanks to the precious works of our only Redeemer and Provider, Lord Jesus Christ.

 

I want to see the Tree of Life, enjoy its joys perched high above the world on the greatest and highest mountain in the world while sipping the cool waters of Life flowing from the Throne of God and of the Lamb. This is not just another good story. It is the Good Story for mankind.

See you at the top.

Read It Again: Mount Transfiguration

A view from a mountain
A view from a mountain

 

This natural world is amazing. When you see the photos of the natural wonders of the world, and if you are privileged to go and visit them, you get to know earth is an incredibly beautiful part of the universe. Yet despite all these splendid displays, there’s a yearning for something more. Something better.

The Bible provides for another avenue of awe – an introduction into the spiritual world. And for our story today, Jesus invites three of his trusted disciples to ascend a high mountain. What a great outing! I cannot imagine a better day to spend with our Lord than to go out in the wild and hike. I would be watching how He would be placing His feet, how He would breathe. We would discuss the flowers, trees, insects, birds and anything of interest.

He would know where the best brooks would be. And if the water was not as fresh, I would know a water transforming miracle would be within reach. And on a day like this, there would be no pesky flies getting in our way. Snakes, spiders, centipedes would keep their distance. There would be no fear of injury or death, seeing that the One with the keys to hell and death is in our midst. This would be a hike with the Holy One who said He was Resurrection Himself.

What a special hike it must have been for Peter, James and John. Peter was later to refer to it (2 Peter 1: 16 – 18). This is one hike you would not want to come to an end. But it did. They reached the top and settled in for a private praise and worship session. Our Lord, in His tradition, must have shared great insights from the Scriptures. He must have taught them about prophets, God and His death. The first two topics must have been very thrilling to the disciples, but the last one must have been a horrible subject. Peter, in particular, did not want to hear about Jesus facing death, and hanging on the Cross. Humans, up until this day, do not see victory through suffering. But then, how can you have victory without a fight? How do you become a victor without facing your challenges?

Then something better than a natural hike takes place. As Jesus begins to pray, He transforms before them into one exceedingly beautiful celestial form. They break into the Heavenly dimension and witnessed the Father grant authority to Jesus. This was the first time for mankind to witness a heavenly occasion. Jesus was being made the mouthpiece of God. Mankind would now have to listen to Jesus, and understand Him. And the disciples were privileged to see people that had crossed the river of death. There was Moses and Elijah, speaking to Jesus about His decease.  And a heavenly cloud shrouded them all.

But read it again. The face of Jesus did shine as the sun, his raiment was white as the light. That is power, endless power of Life. That is divine. That’s the same description like the Burning Bush that Moses saw, only that this time the same Glory was on a human face. That’s the same Light that struck Paul down on the way to Damascus. The same Light that said was Jesus, when Paul asked for Its Name. To witness this, to behold such beauty was, is and will always be better than the plumage of the most exotic bird, or the sight of cascading water falling into a picture-perfect pool of the most crystal clear waters. This is better than any adventure ever devised by mankind.

Peter, James and John, as earthly witnesses had a single experience, and it lasted them a lifetime. Moses and Elijah, as heavenly witnesses had prior experience with the Pillar of Fire, but never anything like this.

Now, that’s what we are all yearning for. Just to behold the Lord’s beauty, in its celestial form, is better than anything life can give. I’m searching for my Mount Transfiguration hike, and I hope to witness it in its strength one of these days.

 

 

Read It Again: Heavenly Comfort

Heavenly Comfort
Heavenly Comfort

 

Wouldn’t it be nice if everything was smooth, and there was no single problem in our lives? I have often heard others say that life would be boring. I’m not sure I share similar sentiments. I do not like having problems. And I know a lot of people who do not like having any trouble.

Things get complicated however, when we put God in the midst of our problems. Most people expect that by virtue of being the Children of God, they will get exempted from earthly troubles. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The Bible in the Book of Corinthians says God comforts us in all our tribulation. The Bible does not say that God will avert all troubles from us. No. It does not say that we will never know how to spell the word problems because we will be floating on the clouds of Angels, surrounded by Heavenly Anthems and Blessings.

Let me quote the entire verse. 2 Corinthians 1: 3 – 4 

Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.

What is that comfort then? Well, I would say it is the knowledge that God is not oblivious to our pain. It is the power of knowing that God is the Father of mercies, and that even in the darkest moments He is not very far from us. It is truly comforting to know that God is in control. But it does not stop there. The Bible then says that we should in turn comfort others in the same manner God comforts us.

So read it again. Find meaning in your problems by offering words of comfort to others as you get rest assured God, who is full of mercy, loves and comforts you. It will take the sting of your troubles away. And once you get to this level, you will bless God as Paul did in the passage we just shared above.

Child of God, be comforted from above.

Read it Again: Eternal King, Immortal, Invisible

The Bible has some outstanding statements that simply will blow your mind. That is, if we only read them correctly. For instance, when the Bible mentions eternal, or eternity, we often interchange the meaning with forever, or long lasting. Forever is a long, long, long, long time (pardon the stretch on Grammar here). But it is still time-based.

However, eternal means never had a beginning, so certainly, there will never ever be an end. It is from everlasting to everlasting, and beyond. That is mind-blowing.

Paul in 1 Timothy 1: 17 says we have a King eternal, immortal, and invisible. So read it again.

There are certain attributes of God that have a beginning. For instance, Jesus cannot be an eternal son. Simply because all sons must have a beginning. They must come from a father. Jesus, was begotten of the Heavenly Father.

But God says He’s an Eternal King. Meaning, He always was a King. And He will always be King. Even when other kings come in the future to reign with Him (Revelation 5:10) He will remain KINGS OF KINGS (Revelation 19:16).

He was always The King. No wonder all kingdoms must fall. All kingdoms must have an end, so that He can establish His Kingdom, that will not have an end.

It makes everlasting sense to me.

Read It Again: I Change Not

Malachi is the last book of the Old Testament. It only has four chapters but contains a powerful end-time message. It closes off with a prophesy on the First Coming and the Second Coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. It also prophesies about each coming being preceded by Elijah the prophet.

But today’s reflection is on the passage that is found in Chapter 3. God declares that He’s the Lord and He changes not. What does that mean? Is that a good thing or a bad thing? Modern thinking says that if someone does not change, he or she would be regarded as being rigid, perhaps old-fashioned, unreasonable and so on and so forth.

In the case of our Lord, is that statement restricting or liberating? Well, let’s consider the following:

  • What if I presented a battery that changes not? It would run forever.
  • What if you packed food that never changes? It would never go bad. There would be no expiry date on it.
  • What if you had a bank account that changed not? It would never run out of funds.

Do you now get the idea?

So read again Malachi 3: 6.

And the God that changes not?

  1. He will always be All-Powerful (Omnipotent).
  2. He will always be All-Knowing (Omniscient).
  3. He will always be Ever-Present (Omnipresent).
  4. He will always be the Only Healer (Jehovah-Rapha).
  5. He will always be The Only Provider (Jehovah-Jireh).
  6. He will always be Our Peace (Jehovah-Shalom).
  7. He will always be Our Shepherd (Jehovah-Raah).
  8. He will always be Our Guide (The Holy Spirit).
  9. He will always be Our Teacher (The Holy Spirit).
  10. He will always be The Prophet (The Son of Man).
  11. He will always be The Way (Our Lord Jesus Christ).
  12. He will always be The Truth (Our Lord Jesus Christ).
  13. He will always be The Life (Our Lord Jesus Christ).
  14. He will always be The Light of Men (Our Lord Jesus Christ).
  15. He will always be The Lamb of God (Our Lord Jesus Christ).
  16. He will always be The High Priest (Our Lord Jesus Christ).
  17. He will always be The Author and Finisher of Our Faith (Our Lord Jesus Christ).
  18. He will always be The Christ (Our Lord Jesus Christ).
  19. He will always be The Eternal, Immortal, Invisible King (Our Lord Jesus Christ).
  20. He will always be The Creator (Our Lord Jesus Christ).

I could go on extolling His Wonderful Name. But you get the idea.

With all these great attributes, why should He ever change? This is our Assurance. This is our Comfort.

The fact that He changes not, it’s the best thing that ever happened to us. And being such a versatile Creator (just look around), He is not rigid at all. On the contrary, He is simply Amazing.

Now, that’s a God I can freely worship with all my heart, all my strength, and all soul!