Today’s Text and Thought of Encouragement:
“Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and He delivered them from their distress; He made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed.”
Psalm 107: 28-29
Revised Standard Version
“Only God will or can bring beauty out of it all. Only He can bring help to our helplessness. Only He can restore joy for our sorrow.”
Today’s Study Text:
“The Lord redeemeth the soul of His servants: and none of them that trust in Him shall be desolate.”
Psalm 34: 22
“A Cry of Desolation”
Meaning of “desolate” in Hebrew: stunned or devastated.
Meaning from English Dictionary: Abandoned and lacking hope.
“It is when God appears to have abandoned us that we must abandon ourselves most wholly to God.”
On what occasion in my life did I cry out to God because I felt He had abandoned me?
Have I ever felt desolate because I perceived God was silent when I needed Him most?
“God abandons no one who is faithful to Him, and He will not abandon you if you rely on Him.”
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
Psalm 22: 1
In our special journey through Matthew 14 the past few weeks, which features “A Day In The Life of Our Lord,” we find the disciple Matthew carefully paints a detailed record of how a particular day in Jesus’ life unfolded when He was ministering on this earth.
It is worth noting that Matthew even takes time to let his readers in on the fact that Jesus’ cousin, John the Baptist, had just been tragically murdered. It was this event which serves as a backdrop for the myriad miraculous occurrences that transpired in just a short period of time.
It is John’s untimely death which is the first of four specific spotlights that shine on a day when we are able to see that God’s appearance, through the life of His Son Jesus, is portrayed by two very diverging elements – light and darkness. By this I don’t mean evil and good. No, I am much more literal in how we are given an encompassing perspective. Call it a view from above.
Let me explain the Biblical panorama as it pertains to a day in the life of Jesus, for understanding the vista before us is critical in helping us comprehend, to some small degree, the conflict everyone of us has or will face at one moment or another in our own lives when we either see our Father in the light of day or are faced with the devastating silence of His apparent absence in the darkness.
Several years ago, Jim and I had a visitor at our home. He had never been to this region in the state of Arizona. When he arrived at our house, with great animation he began to detail his drive up from Phoenix – one we are extremely familiar with. What struck him as completely amazing was that most of the drive is filled with desert sage, tumbleweeds, scrub brush and cactus. It isn’t really a beautiful drive and for those of you who may ever have made the trip up Interstate 17, you’ll concur with my assessment. But as the road becomes steeper and the altitude higher, the foliage turns to a darker green and pine trees and junipers appear, dotting the landscape with greater frequency. If a weary driver decides to pull off at one of the several “Rest Areas” that line the interstate, they’ll get a feast for the eyes, because the higher one goes, the greater the visual understanding of the beauty that so often looks fragmented as ugly little bits of desert stubble as you fly by, going 70 miles-an-hour on a freeway.
I’ll never forget a comment made by this visitor. “For most of the drive I couldn’t imagine why you would want to live in a place like this. That is, until I turned that one corner and dropped into this absolutely breath-taking Red Rock mountain region. All I could say was WOW!”
We hear this sentiment echoed all the time for our little town has an annual visitor rate of between two to three million people. Trust me, the tourists can sometimes become a road hazard for if you happen to be following any of them around one of these corners which opens into an expanse of iron-filled clay, you’d better be prepared to stop immediately for you know the next thing you’ll see are brake lights. And then when the car stops, out come the cameras, cell-phones, you name it, from every occupant in the vehicle.
I share this example with you for in a small sense, I know that for myself, it helps me gain some insight as to what happens in my own life when I feel that all is darkness and the light has gone out and hope is only a pretty sounding word. There are times when all I see on my personal journey are bits and pieces. The bigger picture is obscured.
For a moment let’s review how things looked to Jesus and His friends the day we have been studying. First of all, they were all dealing with the feeling that life was very fragile, especially for those who were doing what God asked of them. When someone like John the Baptist, who had dedicated his entire life to the cause of Christ, rounded a corner and boom, there was a sword ready to separate his head from his body. You can’t blame John’s disciples for coming to Jesus and wanting to know whether He was the one. And if He was, why didn’t He show up as the leader of John’s personal rescue team. This was certainly a dark time. And to those on the outside – God seemed silent.
However, no sooner do we finish reading about John’s demise than we are informed that thanks to the gift of five barley loaves and two fishes, Jesus was able to take what was a meager supply in the hands of humans and turn them into a heavenly banquet with enough bounty left over to fill twelve additional baskets.
This was a miracle not done in secret or in the dark. Absolutely not. This miracle had the potential for being witnessed by 15,000 pairs of eyes and with 15,000 mouths leaving the scene, acting as personal reporters for the “Galilee Herald.” We can only begin to imagine how this tale spread like wildfire. “Something is going on. This man Jesus needs to be crowned king. Just think of the possibilities if He will make our food expand. We had better get on this gravy train but fast.” God was not in the dark here. His hand appeared visible to every eye.
But after this feeding extravaganza was over, it was Jesus, Himself, who sent His dearest friends, His own disciples, out onto a sea in the middle of the night where a storm fomented the water into a raging torrent so violent it scared the disciples for their lives. And then, to make matters worse, a weird apparition began to move closer to the distressed boat, frightening the disciples even more. Talk about wondering where God was when you needed Him most. Think how you or I would have felt, alone on Galilee, the wind lashing out and the waves pushing water into our boat. And there we were, abandoned, or so we thought, hoping we would not capsize at any moment. Don’t you think we’d be bitterly wary feeling as though God had forgotten us and left us to the consequences of the destructive elements of nature?
However, Jesus’ day wasn’t over once He was recognized and entered the boat on Galilee. For upon arrival at the opposite shore from the feeding of 15,000 people, Jesus was met by the needs of all the people in that geographic area who had gathered to be healed, even if it meant only touching the hem of Jesus’ garment.
Do you begin to see a pattern here? I hope so for there is one basic truth which strikes my heart and it is this – no time during this day whether God was in the light or dark, was He absent. Not at John’s death when darkness reigned. Not when Jesus was feeding 15,000 people with a scarce supply and everybody could see what was going on. Not when it was so dark and stormy it was most likely impossible to see your hand in front of your face. And not when victims of disease wanted to touch Jesus to be healed. God was present all the time – every minute of the day – dark or light. And this is exactly how it is today. This isn’t a phenomenon relegated to the days when Jesus walked the earth.
Author V. Raymond Edman, in his book Storms and Starlight, makes this very insightful comment which assists me in seeing a clear picture of my heavenly Father’s love whether He is hidden in the darkness or standing in the brightness of the noonday sun:
“Learn from the experience of the disciples…Who could care more than the Merciful One, the Compassionate Christ? Has He ever forsaken His own, failed them in their extremity, forgotten them? Never! Where He leads He loves, where He points He protects, where He plans He provides, where He sends He saves. Winds and waves will obey the word of Him, who makes the storm a calm…Sail on, despite sneers, snares or storms.”
I’d like to add one more critical piece to the puzzling events which can undermine our trust in God’s love. We find that our Lord Jesus, who came to earth to be one of us in all our heartache and sorrow; in all our joy and pain; and in all our storms and starlight, also felt that moment in time in His own life, as we all do, when through the pitch of darkness, His own Father’s face was not clearly revealed. As Jesus hung dying on a cruel Roman cross, in desolation, He screamed out, “My God, my God, where are You now?” Pastor George MacDonald commenting on this passage states: “This cry comes not out of happiness, out of peace, out of hope, not even out of suffering comes that cry. It was a cry in desolation, but it came out of faith. It is the last voice of truth, speaking not when it can but cry. The divine horror of that moment is unfathomable to human soul. It was the blackness of darkness. And yet He would believe. Yet Jesus would hold fast. God was His God yet. ‘My God’ – and in the cry came forth the victory…the peace of a perfect soul.”
"My God, my God” is our cry, too. Because this is truly the same God whose hand you and I can hold onto whether we can see Him in the light or His face is hidden by the darkness which surrounds us.
I Know Not
“I know not, but God knows;
Oh, blessed rest from fear!
All my unfolding days;
To Him are plain and clear.
Each anxious puzzled ‘Why?’
From doubt or dread that grows,
Finds answer in this thought;
I know not, but He knows.”
V. Raymond Edman
“Why dost Thou shade thy lovely face? Oh why
Does that eclipsing hand so long deny
The sunshine of Thy soul-enlivening eye?
Without that light, what light remains in me?
Thou art my life, my way, my light; in Thee
I live, I move, and by Thy beams I see.
Thou art my life: if Thou but turn away,
My life’s a thousand deaths; Thou art my way:
Without Thee, Lord, I travel not, but stray.
My light Thou art: without Thy glorious sight,
My eyes are darkened with perpetual night.
My God, Thou art my way, my life, my light.
Thou art my way: I wander if Thou fly;
Thou art my light: if hid, how blind am I!
Thou art my life: if Thou withdraw, I die.
Mine eyes are blind and dark, I cannot see;
To whom, or whither, should my darkness flee,
But to the light? And who’s the light but Thee:
My path is lost, my wandering steps do stray;
I cannot safely go, nor safely stay;
Whom should I seek but Thee, my path, my way?”
Dorothy Valcàrcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
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