I don’t know whether you have come across the comparison between what we are experiencing right now and the exile of the Israelites? I have certainly seen it on a few facebook posts and blogs and the like suggesting we in a similar situation and in some ways, it does feel like we are. We can’t go to our churches, we can’t see our families and friends, we feel like we are far away from where we want to be and our world is very different to what we are used to. However, John Drane argued against this in some teaching I attended via Zoom last week saying that what is happening to us now is not a punishment from God as it was for the Israelites. We have not been scattered because we have been disobedient like the Israelites were. God has not abandoned us.
One of the best quotes I heard over the week was that “God is not on lockdown”. The fact is, we are still saved. By God’s grace, we are still able to have a relationship with him. We have experienced full forgiveness and will never be separated from him. And He is still working. God is not on lockdown. God hasn’t left us to this. He is here with us but he is not restricted in any way. He is still all-powerful, all-loving and able to do more than we will ever even begin to dream or imagine.
God is not on lockdown – and we are not in exile.
So where are we then? What period in scripture could work as a comparison for us now? The comparison that Dr Drane used instead was that of the disciples between Easter and Pentecost.
I’m referring to three different passages from the bible today. The first is from John 14. It’s a passage you may have heard spoken on in funeral services. In it, Jesus tells his disciples that he is going away and will be preparing a place for them. Thomas points out that they don’t know where he is going and asks how they will know how to get there and Jesus says those famous words, “I am the way, the truth and the life.”. This whole passage is about Jesus and his relationship with the Father and our relationship with both of them. He promises that we will do even greater things and will do whatever we ask in His name. Jesus announces that he will be leaving them but that they won’t be alone because he will send an advocate – the Holy Spirit who will teach them and remind them of what Jesus has said. He promises them peace.
In Luke 24, we see Jesus explaining that he has fulfilled the scripture through his death and resurrection, telling them that he will send what his Father has promised and asking his disciples to stay in the city until he has clothed them with on power from on high, before being taken up into heaven.
In Acts 1, the passage from Luke is expounded a little (Acts was also written by Luke!) and goes on to say that when the Holy Spirit comes, they will be Jesus’ witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and to the ends of the earth and again tells them to wait.
So, here they are. Jesus had died and are all heartbroken and thinking that life as they were hoping for was basically over. Then they discover that he has been raised from the dead and had to begin to get their heads around that. Now he is telling them that he is off again but that they won’t be left on their own.
How does that compare with us right now?
Obviously, we are in the very same position as them in terms of the Christian calendar. We have just celebrated Easter and in a couple of week’s time, we will be celebrating Pentecost and the coming of the Holy Spirit. We know that Jesus is alive and we know that he has plans for us but those plans, in terms of what we have been used to and what we were expecting, have been interrupted and we are being told to wait. We know that there will be an end to this situation at some point and that we will be free once again to live our lives for Jesus and to be his witnesses to those around us and maybe further afield.
But – and this is a really big but! – we do not have to wait for the coming of the Holy Spirit to guide us and teach us and remind us of how Jesus has called us to live. We do not have to wait for the power of the Holy Spirit to be released into our lives so that we can have an impact on those around us, so that we can show God to those who we are able to be in touch with at the moment. Last week, we spoke about the Fruits of the Spirit and we considered how they are growing in us even in this time. You can still grow and develop. The Holy Spirit is with you, right where you are, right now! Be encouraged!!
I want to leave you with the words of a song that became really special to me as I felt God calling me to ministry but just seemed to have to wait so long. It’s special again now as we all find ourselves in a period of waiting. God, through the Holy Spirit, is with us. He is leading us and guiding and empowering us. He is, as the song says, ‘working in our waiting’ and ‘his plans are still to prosper’ because he is forever faithful! Be encouraged!!
Sovereign Over Us – Michael W Smith
There is strength within the sorrow
There is beauty in our tears
And You meet us in our mourning
With a love that casts out fear
You are working in our waiting
You’re sanctifying us
When beyond our understanding
You’re teaching us to trust
You are wisdom unimagined
Who could understand Your ways
Reigning high above the Heavens
Reaching down in endless grace
You’re the lifter of the lowly
Compassionate and kind
You surround and You uphold me
And Your promises are my delight
Your plans are still to prosper
You have not forgotten us
You’re with us in the fire and the flood
You’re faithful forever
Perfect in love
You are sovereign over us
God bless you and keep you safe!