The Divine Eagle: Part 2
Sabbath Day Sermon, Saturday 1 November 2003
Click here for Part 1
"When all kinds of trials and temptations come into your lives ... don't resent them as intruders but welcome them as friends!" (Jas.1:2, J.B.Phillips).
We are currently talking about one of the most difficult aspects of the Gospel of Yah'shua the Messiah (Jesus Christ) for we are asking ourselves: "Why does God permit suffering?" And we are simultaneously asking ourselves about the personality or character of Yahweh.
Last week we discovered why Yahweh likens Himself to an eagle, and in particular to the way a mother eagle nourishes her young and then, with apparent cruelty, throws them out of the nest and gives them one of the most traumatic experiences of their little lives. But as we learned last time, her action isn't cruel at all. In fact, it's the kindest and most loving thing she can do, because those little eaglets cannot remain in the nest forever. A time must come when they must spread their wings.
The subject of suffering in the world is a very large one. We must of course always remember that there are two powers operative in this world, the one good, and the other evil. Whenever we break Yahweh's Torah (Law) we give the Enemy legal rights to make trouble for us in the form of calamity, sickness, demonic oppression, and so forth. Sometimes, though, as we know from the story of Job, Yahweh allows Satan to oppress us to test us. And at other times - which is what we are focussing on here - it is to jolt us into awareness of the reality around us so that we can grow up and be put on "the growing edge" so that we can become useful to Him and to each other.
Yahweh overturns our nest in order to push us forward into greater usefulness. Let us now focus on some specific events and occasions when He is likely to be implementing this principle in our lives. He does it, for example, when He overturns the nest of our calm and comfortable experiences and tips us out into the midst of fiery trials and tribulations.
Every single person in this room has been through one calamity or another. You young ones have many to face yet, whether you have accepted Christ or are still resisting Him - fiery trials will come. But when they do, understand that they are purposeful, unless you have wilfully broken the commandments and are getting your just desserts.
Have you gone through periods of your life when it has seemed that everything is running smoothly and you haven't a care in the world - then suddenly calamity strikes, and you find yourself saying, "Just when everything seemed to be going fine - this had to happen!" Many Christians, when faced with such a situation, think that sudden calamity or serious trouble is an indication that Yahweh is punishing them for some sin. This attitude makes victory impossible. We must recognise, of course, that this is a world of moral consequences and that sin does bring trouble, but we are indebted to Yah'shua (Jesus) for showing us that sin and calamity are not always directly connected. In His comment on the fall of the tower at Siloam and on those who lost their lives, He said the sufferers were not worse sinners than the rest (Lk.14:4-5).
The apostle James, who was writing to the twelve tribes of Israel, said:
"My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of Eloah (God), who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from Yahweh; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.
"Let the lowly brother glory in his exaltation, but the rich in his humiliation, because as a flower of the field he will pass away. For no sooner has the sun risen with a burning heat than it withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beautiful appearance perishes. So the rich man also will fade away in his pursuits.
"Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which Yahweh has promised to those who love Him. Let no one say when he is tempted, "I am tempted by Eloah (God)"; for Eloah (God) cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures" (James 1:2-18, NKJV).
Why should we greet trials and temptations as "pure joy" (v.2)? Because what happens to us - sorrows, griefs, losses, disappointments - can help us to expand our wings and soar to new heights and new discoveries of Yahweh. It is our inner attitudes which determine the results.
This, then, is a sacred secret, and not so many people discover it. It is not until we understand it that we can become invulnerable and invincible. Unless we are always looking higher for greater purpose and meaning, we will look down and sink into the abyss.
"He knows the way that I take; When He has tested me, I shall come forth as gold" (Job 23:10, NKJV).
And the apostle Paul reminds us:
"For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal" (2 Cor.4:17-18, NKJV).
If some troubles are the result of sin, and others are Yahweh pushing us out of the nest of our personal comfort zones, then we need to know the difference. And the only way to do that is by making sure we know what His commandments are. That way our conscience is trained up to resist evil and cleave to good. When we blame Yahweh for discomforts caused by our own sinning, and blame the devil for the work of the Divine Eagle, we are simply heaping up trouble for ourselves. It is then that many people lose faith because they do not understand the source of their problems. One of the reasons Job was able to hold out against all his false accusers was because He knew the commandments and he knew he was living them as faithfully as he could. Therefore he had a clear conscience and simply rode the storm until Yahweh's purposes had been accomplished. Had Job not known what the righteousness of Yahweh was, he would never have made it. He would have cursed the Almighty and died as so many people tragically do today because they were too lazy to read the Word.
So we must come to know Torah. That poses a slight dilemma for those Christians who reject it. The other day I met a minister who was telling his listeners that God has done away with the Law but that we should nevertheless read it as a guideline! In fact, the only way he could answer a question posed him was to cite Torah, but because of his silly doctrine he had to downgrade it. Torah is not a mere 'guideline', it's there to prevent us from falling into sin, and to identity sin if we fall into it, so we can repent. It reminds me of that even sillier saying I heard in a film once, which sounded so clever and wise at the time, when an RAF officer said: "Rules were made to be obeyed by fools, and to serve as guidelines for the wise." It is rightly said in Proverbs that "the way of a fool is right in his own eyes" (Prov.12:15, NKJV).
Torah is for everyone - fool and wise alike. We are never permitted to stand above it or to use it as a guideline when it suits our carnal tendencies. So a lie, for example, can bring untold repercussions. Premarital sex can produce a pregnancy. When we violate Yahweh's Torah then we have to suffer the consequences. And don't think that just because you come to Him afterwards in repentance for forgiveness that the consequences of sin suddenly go away. Though the blood of atonement may wash away our transgression, we must still live with the consequences of sin. Pregnancies don't just disappear. A man reaps what he sows. So be wise - know your Torah first so that you know the difference between right and wrong. Relying on your conscience is never enough, because conscience is defiled by sin (Tit.1:15; 1 Cor.8:7).
The troubles which I am talking about, however, are those which arrive upon our doorstep and for which we have no direct responsibility. How should we treat such troubles when we find the nest of life's calm and comfortable experiences overturned? We should look upon them as an opportunity to expand our spiritual wings, soar to new heights in the heavenlies and make some fresh discoveries about ourselves and Yahweh, our Heavenly Father. Ruskin said: "There is no bad weather; there are only different kinds of good weather." There is no bad weather except you take it badly. Adverse weather is only perverse weather as we fail to harness it to our purposes.
The writer of Proverbs says that among the mysteries of the universe is "the way of an eagle in the air" (Prov.30:19). And why? Because although an eagle can soar higher than any other bird, it does so without flapping its wings. The eagle understands the air currents (or thermals) and waits for the right moment, then ascends without any great effort. Adverse circumstances can do the same for you too, provided you move with them in the right way. It's just a matter of knowing how to tilt your wings.
None of this is to say that we should deny the reality of evil or of problems. We are very definitely to be realists. It is, however, absolutely true to say that we should be seeking how to best utilise our problems for the better, as Joseph did in Egypt. When he was in prison he did not crawl into a corner and feel sorry for himself. He determined that he would make the best that the circumstances could afford him. And as a result he was made head of all the other prisoners, gained the respect of his captors, which in turned opened new doors for him. All the time he was improving himself and improving the lot of those which fate had thrown him together with. So a question I would ask you today is this: are you making the very best of the circumstances you find yourself in? Or are you allowing your limitations to torment you? If Yahweh places limitations in our lives, there is always a purpose. Every situation is able to discipline and improve us, whether it be good or evil.
The story of Joseph of Egypt, and of other great people in the Bible who went through tribulation, teaches us another crucial thing: Yahweh's timing is always perfect. Because He has the kind of prophetic eye that we don't, He sees far into the future and plans the best course for us based on the decisions we take and the choices we make. Every choice has a consequence. Let Yahweh calculate how best to work things out for you. You'll mess it up.
A natural reaction of the carnal man is to panic when things seem to be going wrong. It may seem the 'only' thing to do but take it from me it is probably the worst thing you can do! Every military commander knows that if you can get your enemy to panic you are likely to defeat him. Satan knows that too. When we panic, we make irrational choices that may lead to great destruction for both ourselves and for others. Panic is the signal that faith has deserted.
The spiritual man is not the same as the carnal man. The spirit and the flesh are antagonists. The rules of one do not apply to the other. We see that clearly in the behaviour of the Divine Eagle. The prophet Isaiah records: "But they that wait upon Yahweh ... shall mount up with wings as eagles" (Is.40:31, KJV). When our eyes are on our Heavenly Father, we are told, we start to imitate the way of an eagle in flight.
As I said earlier, eagles do not flap their wings to gain height. There is no physical effort involved. Though eagles, of course, flap their wings in order to propel themselves forwards across the sky, they do not do so to gain height. If you wish to rise up into the spiritual realm of the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit), physical action is not going to work.
An eagle typically may perch on a high rock and simply wait. What, you may ask yourself, is it waiting for? Some prey? No, what it is doing is testing the winds. When it feels that the right wind is blowing, it expands its broad wings and is at once lifted up by the breeze into the great heights.
This is the same principle that we are being asked as believers to obey. The Hebrews knew all about these things because they were people of nature, so the meaning was not lost to them. The Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit), you will remember, is often likened to 'wind' in scripture. Yah'shua (Jesus) said to Nicodemus:
"The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Ruach (Spirit)" (John 3:7-8, NKJV).
No human being can tell Yahweh what to do. You cannot, as some false teachers maintain, order Yahweh to do things for you. The 'name it and claim it' doctrine is false. We have not, as believers, been given a magical power to use as we want to - that is occultism. We are to wait, like the eagle on its perch, until the right wind comes. We are to place ourselves in a spiritually high place by meditation on the Word so that when the Ruach (Spirit) comes we can be lifted up and be born away. That is what is meant by "waiting on Yahweh":
"Wait on Yahweh; Be of good courage, And He shall strengthen your heart; Wait, I say, on Yahweh!" (Ps.27:14, NKJV).
We do not command Him, He commands us.
In every trial and difficulty that Yahweh allows to come our way, there is a breeze, that if we wait for it and take advantage of it, will lift us clean beyond the clouds where we will see the face of Yahweh. Our success in walking with Him is dependant, therefore, not so much on our actions but on our reactions. When Yahweh allows things to crowd into your life, such as troubles and difficulties, it is then that reaction counts. And what might those typically be? Let's take a look at them.
You can react in self-pity and in frustration. Or you can sit still and do absolutely nothing. Neither reaction is going to get you anywhere. Or you can react with confidence and courage and turn the trouble into a triumph. When trouble strikes and your nest is overturned - don't panic! Wait for the breeze that is springing up; it will lift you clean into the presence of the Elohim (God). Those that wait, says the Scripture, are those that mount up. This is the eagle's secret of being able to soar so high- waiting!
There is a breeze of the Ruach (Spirit) in every trouble and trial if we have the patience to wait for it. And if you do, defeat will be turned into victory! So when trouble comes, don't panic - don't flap around wasting your energy. Wait - and soar!
"For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Yah'shua the Messiah (Jesus Christ), from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Ruach (Spirit) in the inner man, that Messiah (Christ) may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height -- to know the love of Messiah (Christ) which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of Elohim (God)" (Eph.3:14-20, NKJV).
Click here for Part 3
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Last updated on 25 September 2003
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