. And I was so busy searching for God that I didn't spend nearly enough time revising for the examinations as I knew I needed to. I went into the final examinations only 50% prepared. I prayed for Him to guide me what to revise. He led me to revise everything I needed to know and I was able to answer every question but one. I ended up with a very respectable Grade. What's more God didn't even want me to be a Biochemist even though that's what I was studying. Even when I was at school, writing and teaching were clearly my gifts. So He opened the doors along a road I had not really planned and which I knew that as a human I lacked the skills (then) to walk down. But He saw me through to the ultimate goal, which was this ministry, and whatever ministry is to follow.
I had actually planned several careers out for myself. At one time I was seriously interested in politics but He closed the door on that one for me. I wished to go into even higher education to read for a Doctorate but He closed the door on that one also. I wanted to get a Theology Degree but He closed the door on that one even though I had started it. I wanted to go to Cambridge to do a Philosophy of Science Degree but he closed that door too. I wanted to be a successful writer of Historical Atlases and though He allowed me to write my book He blocked the way in that direction.
As I look back and count the number of times I tried to force my way through doors He did not want me to go through, I feel quite embarrassed. There was even a time when I was planning to emigrate to Israel and another one when I tried to get a job as a school teacher in Greece. And even though I had good qualifications, I didn't get the job. I tried to get a job as a Laboratory Scientist in one of Oxford's hospitals but He closed that door. I see, in retrospect, that I did not always listen as closely as I should have.
You see, I tried to use human reason. I knew that I was a good Biologist and Organic Chemist, I got excellent grades in these subjects, and I was enthusiastic. I had proven teaching skills. But God did not want me to go through that door. His placing me in Oxford was for reasons that I never dreamed of.
After a lot of carelessness and rebellion I gradually started to listen to Him so that by the time I was in my late 20's I was beginning to hear a little better. When my first marriage came to an end, with all the pain I experienced through that, I learned to listen even more closely. I went to Norway, saw a vision, was told to move to Norway, and within days had a teaching job even though I didn't have a Teaching Degree. You see, the vision was vindicated because the door to a job immediately opened up. The job was tough but I got a progressively better salary. Then I made a fatal mistake - I assumed that the Lord wanted me as a teacher in that school for good. I tried to get a teaching job in Bergen, Stavanger, and Tromsø, but the doors were firmly shut. I tried to get teaching jobs in the USA and elsewhere in the world - but the doors were firmly shut. He was telling me that I was to quit teaching but I wasn't listening. I was trusting in my career for financial security and not trusting Him to lead me to do what was right. As the years rolled by I got more and more frightening visions, warning me hat if I remained at the school that it would do untold damage to me. But I was afraid to trust Him. Finally, my health broke, I heard Him tell me directly to quit and I finally - none too late - obeyed.
I want you to notice that although the Lord said that the right path is safe to run along that He did not promise that it would be easy. We are never promised in Scripture that life will be a rose garden. But He does say that we can walk with confidence when we are on the right road and that He will ensure that we will never stumble. But in order to be walking like that - confidently and in safety, He tells us in Proverbs that we must be doing something else too. Let me remind you of what He said: "Keep looking straight ahead, without turning aside. Knowing where you are headed, and you will stay on solid ground. Don't make a mistake by turning to the left or the right."
Ever since I was born-again in 1977 I have known where I was going. I have always known what the goal was. I have never known how I was going to get there until pretty much the last moment. And in my experience the Lord rarely tells you details about the future because if He did we would not walk by faith. You don't need to know the details provided you have your eyes on the goal. He says, very clearly, and many times in Scripture, that we should be looking "straight ahead" and that we should not turn to the left or right. It is Satan who, sending false visions, dreams and 'inspiration', causes you to focus on the here-and-now so that you lose your Christ-focus. And he can do a spectacular job, making semi-accurate predictions that keep you spell-bound, or perhaps giving you supernatural displays of his powers and tempting you to lust after them. But that's all he needs ... your attention .. to get you off the right pPath. That's what he did to Eve in Eden and he's been doing it ever since.
Now think about it. Life is full of changes. I have changed where I have lived, what career I have followed, and even my religious beliefs. There were many things I did or got which I believed firmly would never change, but all of them did. But there was only one thing that never changed. The trouble is we often get so focussed on the intermediary things that we lose sight of the only goal that matters. We can get transfixed and mesmerised by career, ambition, love, church, and a host of other things, none of which actually matter in the end. A career is like a set of clothes to be used and thrown away. These days people change careers dozens of times in their lives - not that I necessarily agree with that.
So, again, I ask you this question: on what are your eyes focussed? Are they focussed on things which are almost certainly going to change - to the extent that they consume your mind and heart to the exclusion of practically everything else - or are they focussed on that which changes not? Listen to what King David said: "my eyes are fixed on you, O Sovereign LORD; in you I take refuge" (Ps.141:8, NIV).
Now think back on King David. What a wildly changing career he had. He was an outlaw hunted by a mad King, he became a King himself, lost his throne and his wives to a rebellious son, got the throne back, did great things and made terrible mistakes. Finally, he came to his senses and got his eyes fixed on what really mattered - Yahweh. He repented of his follies and realised what the truly important things in life were.
David repented - but not all the Bible characters we read of did. Some clung to their foolish ways, even supposedly wise men like King Solomon who ended his days a bigger fool than even his most stupid subject. God warns us in no uncertain terms and says what He will do to those who harden their hearts against Him: "God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes so that they could not see and ears so that they could not hear, to this very day" (Rom.11:8, NIV). Please notice that He isn't necessarily talking about unbelievers - Solomon was a believer but he turned his heart away from the Lord because of his pagan wives. The Lord says that to those who deliberately rebel He will make them blind and deaf. They think they can hear God but because they are not in His will and are turning away from His Word, He closes the doors not only to a right walk in life but to actually hearing and seeing Him too.
I'm sure you have noticed with surprise, if not a little shock, at the way in which Yah'shua (Jesus) healed some blind people. The cure for blindness in almost every case in the New Testament involved the Master spitting into earth and rubbing the mud into that person's eyes. Until yesterday I wasn't sure why He did this but now I do. Spitting is a sign of contempt, and earth represents the physical substance of our flesh. Quite simply God is showing us that if we want to be able to see His will clearly we have to show utter and absolute contempt for that which is of the flesh - pride, vain ambition, anger, envy, laziness, jealousy, and all that is the opposite of the fruits given us by the Holy Spirit. So long as you have these carnal impulses and allow them to steer your spirit, you will remain blind. And God will ensure you remain blind. For a sinner to be able to see as God sees with spiritual eyes, he must have utter contempt for worldliness, and turn his back on it forever. If he doesn't, he will remain blind and think he can see.
How stupid we are, gazing as we do on tangible, worldly ambitions. If we are looking at career, husband, wife, entertainment, church, ministry, or anything that is visible, we are missing the way entirely. Listen to what Paul says: "we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal" (2 Cor.4:18, NIV). He says later on: "Let us fix our eyes on Jesus [Yah'shua], the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God" (Heb.12:2, NIV).
So now, my friends, we have the answer to our original question. We understand what Solomon meant when he said: "Keep looking straight ahead, without turning aside". We are to look at the invisible Christ - not as a mental image or a projection, but as a everything that God is. We understand what Solomon meant when he said: "Knowing where you are headed, and you will stay on solid ground". And finally, we understand why he said: "Don't make a mistake by turning to the left or the right".
When we take our eyes of Yah'shua (Jesus) we shall make mistakes of judgement, the road will be blocked, the journey will appear meaningless, and we will despair. I am sure you all remember King Nebuchadnezzar and the dream he had of a tree being cut down. King Nebuchadnezzar had a very high opinion of himself and so Yahweh sent him a dream to warn him of the consequences of vanity and pride. Daniel the prophet interpreted the dream and told him what it meant, and warned him that unless he mended his ways, saw himself in a more humble light, and focussed on what really needed doing in his country like having mercy on mistreated people, that Yahweh would take all his glory away. Well, Nebuchadnezzar listened respectfully to the prophet but didn't mend his ways.
A year later Nebuchadnezzar relates his own story: "I was walking on the flat roof of my royal palace and admiring the beautiful city of Babylon, when these things started happening to me. I was saying to myself, 'Just look at this wonderful capital city that I have built with my own power and for my own glory!' But before I could finish speaking, a voice from heaven interrupted: 'King Nebuchadnezzar, this kingdom is no longer yours. You will be forced to live with the wild animals, away from people. For seven years you will eat grass, as though you were an ox, until you learn that God Most High is in control of all earthly kingdoms and that he is the one who chooses their rulers'" (Dan.4:28-32, CEV).
Now an ox is a beast of burden, a stupid and stubborn animal. The moment we start taking credit for the gifts that God has given us, and boasting of them, we become like that stupid beast of burden. How many people have boasted of their talents, their husbands or wives, their careers, their possessions, and praised themselves for being so clever? Such people are not usually liked. Arrogance and vanity are the quickest way to lose yourself friends. And Yahweh in particular hates it. Nebuchaznezzar was standing on the roof of his palace, from a position of superiority - he looked down at the rest of the city, exalting himself in his pride. He was talking to himself, thinking how wonderful he was. He was, in short, totally absorbed in himself. He neglected what he should have been doing. He thought he was somebody great but in a second God proved that he was nothing and that all he had was only because God had given it to him. He goes on to say:
"But before I could finish speaking, a voice from heaven interrupted: 'King Nebuchadnezzar, this kingdom is no longer yours. You will be forced to live with wild animals, away from people.'" (v.31).
I want you to note the punishment for vanity and pride. Firstly, that which we exalt is taken away from us. Secondly, we are forced to live with the wild animals, with demons and low life forms, away from people - the people from whom we seek praise and adoration. He continues:
"'For seven years you will eat grass, as though you were an ox, until you learn that God Most High is in control of all earthly kingdoms and that he is the one who chooses their rulers'" (v.32).
Now let's not miss the significance of this. The path we walk in this life is not chosen by us, particularly if that path involves power or influence over other people. God wanted me where I have been, of that I have no doubt. Several people have told me that I could have had jobs or positions of influence and wealth but I know for a fact that the Lord blocked those roads, and for a purpose. I've had people come and tell me that they've had dreams and visions that I would become a millionaire driving an expensive car in England, that I would do this and that, but they were all false. They were Satan trying to deflect me from the path I have been called upon, a path I could not have remotely imagined when I was living in England. I am where I am, doing what I am, because that's where I'm supposed to be and doing what I am supposed to be doing. Tomorrow everything could suddenly change - but for now it is right what I am doing where I am doing it.
Well, Nebuchadnezzar had his vanity and pride burned out of him. He was humiliated. He said:
"This was no sooner said than done - I was forced to live like a wild animal; I ate grass and was unprotected from the dew. As time went by, my hair grew longer than eagle feathers, and my fingernails looked like the claws of a bird" (v.33).
One minute he was on the roof of his palace boasting, and the next he was on all fours. He completely lost his mind. I knew a man like that in England. He actually went mad and spent years in a mental institution. Then suddenly, one day, he heard God speak to him, and he was completely normal again. He was such a humble, sweet and kind man afterwards, a true witness of Christ.
Listen to what happened to Nebuchadnezzar next:
"Finally, I prayed to God in heaven, and my mind was healed" (v.23a).
Up until this time he had been praying to the wrong God. But now, finally, humiliated and repentant, he turned to Yahweh-Elohim, the true God. And this is what he said:
"'I praise and honour God Most High. He lives forever, and His Kingdom will never end. To him the nations are far less than nothing; God controls the stars in the sky and everyone on this earth. When God does something, we cannot change it or even ask why'" (v.34b-35).
Powerful words full of deep revelation. This man, from being focussed on self, was now God-focussed. He saw his own kingdom as absolutely nothing - his own career was just rubbish, and all that mattered was God's Kingdom. You see that? His whole perspective changed. Now he was focussing on the invisible, now he had his eyes on Yahweh, the Eternal One. He didn't argue or struggle. He just accepted the way God had made things. He didn't protest, throw a tantrum, or sink into a depression. He understood that when God has made up His mind to do something, not only can't we change it but we don't even have the right to know why. It's none of our business. If God closes the door to you, you have no right to know why He has. You can be sure He won't tell you. He knows what He's doing. He knows what is right. And He knows what is best for you, even though you may not care to believe it.
Now what happened to Nebuchadnezzar afterwards? He recounts: "At that time my mind was healed, and once again I became the ruler of my glorious kingdom. My advisors and officials returned to me, and I had greater power than ever before. That's why I say: 'Praise and honour the King who rules from heaven! Everything He does is honest and fair, and He can shatter the power of those who are proud'" (v.36-37).
Do you hear that? Nebuchadnezzar testified after all he had gone through that Yahweh is honest and fair! What ever God decides to do to us is right and fair. From being absorbed with his own kingdom, the new Nebuchadnezzar was focussed only on GOD'S KINGDOM. Though his throne was restored to him and he had more power than before, he didn't care about the worldly kingdom anymore - now he cared only for the unseen Kingdom of which Yahweh is the Eternal King. Hallelujah! The king, you see, had finally become a subject.
May Yahweh bless us all to always have the right perspective and may He not have to punish us too severely for our stupidity. But remember, if He does punish, it is not to inflict pain on us, but to make us see sense and get a right view of things. Nebuchadnezzar's selfishness made him negligent of those who needed his attention. His pride and vanity made him careless. He saw his kingdom as a means to obtain wealth and fame for himself and forgot that the only reason God had made him king was so that he could serve his people.
So, let us keep our eyes on Yah'shua (Jesus) and His Kingdom and let the course we are to walk in this life be determined by God, remembering that everything earthly and temporal for a Christian exists to serve not his own ambitions but God's ends, which is to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man. As Solomon said in another proverb: "In the way of righteousness there is life; along that path is immortality" (Prov.12:28, NIV). Is the path you are on leading to immortality and eternal life? If it isn't, it's leading only to death. Amen.
This page was created on 18 March 2001
Last updated on 18 March 2001
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