Jesus has very specific instructions on where to go and where not. So, each place we are led to, even if it ends in a breaking, we can be sure, was always purposed by Him.
Jesus knew many Jews’ hearts would be hardened and yet He went to His own first. For that was always His plan: to restore the House of Israel unto Himself and to keep the covenant He had made unto them.
And yet it is because they did not at first receive Him, as they looked to the outward and not the inward, that the grace of God could be extended to us Gentiles:
John 11:11-13 ESV
He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
Likewise, when the Good News we share today is not received in the places God leads us to, we need not fret and be discouraged. For, we fight from a place of victory for victory. Where God calls us out of a place that has not received His Word in us, He is inviting us to release our fleshly perspective, for His heavenly perspective: to fight with the sword of life, instead of the sword of death:
“Let them alone; they are blind guides. And if the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.” (Matthew 14:9, ESV)
Just look at this beautiful Promise given to the Jewish people:
Romans 11:11 ESV
I say then, they did not stumble so as to fall, did they? May it never be! But by their transgression salvation has come to the Gentiles, to make them jealous.
That shut door upon their hardening hearts, as God led His disciples out into the world to draw all men unto Him, was never God turning His back! They may have stumbled, but held safe in the Promise, they could never “fall”, for their weakness and stumbling was always known by God and purposed to open the door to us Gentiles. An open door that would make His own jealous and draw them back home also.
Now, as I look back on the seven years since Jesus brought this lost sheep home upon His shoulders, I see all the places God led me into and back out of with new eyes. I see God purposely opening and shutting each door, to lovingly train and discipline me to see situations and people, as He sees them.
He was uprooting my pride, my clinging to fleshly control and my reliance on my own ability to attract others to Jesus, through my squeaky clean outward adherence to the law. For, as I wanted to point the finger at those rejecting me, God put a mirror up to my own face to uncover my own blindness and hypocrisy:
Matthew 23: 23- 28 (ESV) “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel! “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean. “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.
He has not just been cutting off branches (people) that were bearing no fruit in my life, He has also been exposing and uprooting the weeds – of unbelief, hatred, envy, greed, bitterness, unforgiveness, idol worship and pride – the enemy had planted in my own heart.
He has been cleansing the inside of my cup, showing me that it’s not about what we put into our mouths (i.e. the religious rules we adhere to, as we try to steer clear of what is “unclean” or “evil”), but about what comes out of our own mouth that defiles us. For, what comes out of our own mouth, springs up out of our heart: the wellspring of life. And if that heart is infested with weeds, these weeds will choke the beauty and life of Christ in us.
I have blamed others for the sins I committed – seeing their sin as the root cause of my own. I have felt helpless, as I have battled in the flesh. I have been consumed by fear, as I have focused on all the evil I see around me, on the sins others are committing that are wounding my brothers and sisters in Christ. I was blinded by my own iniquity. And yet, God tells me:
“Ever since the creation of the world, God’s invisible qualities—God’s eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, because they are understood through the things God has made. So humans are without excuse” (Romans 1:20, CEB).
I am without excuse. I cannot blame others for my own sin or the sin of other traumatized brothers and sisters of mine, when I have seen God’s eternal power and divine nature in action. No spiritual power of darkness has power over me or those I am interceding for, when I worship my sovereign God and acknowledge His power and control over all.
Resting in Jesus, when others sin against me or when others sin against my brothers and sisters, and returning to Jesus, when I am convicted of my own sin, is what enables me to be an overcomer – to fight sin with the Promises of my God and with His love and grace, and not with self, unbelief, hatred, bitterness, unforgiveness, envy, greed, selfishness and idol worship.
I now see that God purposely made me outwardly unattractive to those I idolized, in my confession of weakness and sin. For, He knew that the rejection of those I idolized, as I chose to obey Him, would put me before a choice: I could stay and deny Him, by continuing to fight against flesh and blood (the blind leading the blind), or I could go and bear fruit that abides.
Empowered by my Savior, who delivered me from sin and death, I chose to do the latter. I chose to join Jesus in His death and resurrection to fight against the principalities, against the powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places, by declaring the authority and victory of Christ over sin and death. I released those I left behind into the hands of my Alpha and Omega, whom I trust to complete what He has begun in them and in me.
What I now see is that the more pruning I have been through, the more the gentle and meek Spirit of the LORD has been growing in me. For, through each breaking, God has compelled me to surrender my fleshly control and fighting to receive His fruit of self-control and peace. He has been teaching me to fix my eyes on that which is eternal – Jesus – and to rest in His sovereign control and completion.
Through each and every breaking, God has cleansed my eyes to see as He sees. I can almost hear Him saying to me, after each breaking, what Corrie ten Boom said to her carer in her final years: “Child, you have to learn to see things in the right proportions. Learn to see great things great and small things small.” (p.25, The Five Silent Years of Corrie ten Boom, Pamela Rosewell Mooore). I now see that it is all of these closed doors that have in fact placed me in the center of God’s will for me – now strengthened, trained and equipped for what is about to unfold.
Yesterday, one of my sisters and I were talking about my Mum and how we know that even though she went to heaven at 59 years of age, it was her time to go home and to hear Jesus say: “Well done, good and faithful servant.” God didn’t fail my Mum or us, in taking her home so young. He gave us the gift of cleansing our eyes to see what He sees: His Kingdom come on earth, as it is in heaven.
Now, when I catch my heart aching as I watch other women walking with their children and their Moms, I find myself speaking a blessing over these women and their Moms. I now know that these Moms, unlike mine, have not yet fulfilled their task on this earth. God is teaching me to cast my burdens upon Him – upon His living and abiding Word.
What of those Moms who God takes home, when their own children are not yet adults? I cannot speak for those children or their Dads and the pain they must carry. But I do know my God well enough now that even if my own human heart fails me on this earth and God takes me home, before my girls have grown up, I trust Him to be a Mother to them and a Wife to my husband.
I trust my God to make something beautiful of it all and that ultimately they will see me again and I will see them again: fully healed and whole. Because as God reminds us:
[Our] flesh and [our] heart may fail, but God is the strength of [our] heart and [our] portion forever.Psalm 73:26 (ESV)
Five years ago, Jesus woke me up to read the story of Him feeding the five thousand and that very morning my then little three year old said: “Mama, Jesus is hungry for the bread and the fish.” She affirmed what God had spoken to me, just as she has again recently.
There were 12 baskets left over on that day Jesus fed five thousand with the lunch the little boy gave Him. 12 baskets filled with bread and fish. Jesus told me: “Anna, don’t you see? I am already with the fish. My broken Body is already lying right next to the fish.” And those 12 baskets are the 12 tribes of Israel: all of His people accounted for, not one star is missing or gone:
Lift up your eyes on high and see: who created these? He who brings out their host by number, calling them all by name; by the greatness of his might and because he is strong in power, not one is missing.Isaiah 40:26 (ESV)
6 Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker; 7 for he is our God and we are the people of his pasture, the flock under his care.PSALM 95:6-7 NIV
And what has Jesus drawn my attention to repeatedly in the last few years, but I didn’t “get” until today? That in the other miracle of Him feeding the 4,000, there were seven baskets of left-overs. Seven is the number of divine completion (just have a read of Revelations: e.g. 7 churches, 7 lampstands, 7 plagues) and reminds us in the incomplete we see, to look to the eternal completion of God: to see by faith and not by sight.
5 When the disciples reached the other side, they had forgotten to bring any bread. 6 Jesus said to them, “Watch and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” 7 And they began discussing it among themselves, saying, “We brought no bread.” 8 But Jesus, aware of this, said, “O you of little faith, why are you discussing among yourselves the fact that you have no bread? 9 Do you not yet perceive? Do you not remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many baskets you gathered? 10 Or the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many baskets you gathered? 11 How is it that you fail to understand that I did not speak about bread? Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” 12 Then they understood that he did not tell them to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.Matthew 16:5-12 (ESV)
Did you know my father-in-law’s name means “exalted Father” and my husband’s name means “behold a Son” and my name means “grace”. Each of us carry names given to Jewish men and women. Even in that I see God speaking of His Promise of restoration and redemption – declaring that He is the Alpha and Omega. The First and Last is He! As Bettie heard in prayer yesterday: “We are His garden, with the planting of His choicest love within us for Him.” And our Good Gardener has the final say over His garden. Praise Him!
Colossians 2:10 (KJV) And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power: