Are You the Leader?
So many of us today think we are in control and have to take care of everything. I sometimes fall into this faulty thinking myself. I get too bound up in the thinking that everything rests on my shoulders. I am actively involved in preparing for whatever might come and sometimes get the mindset that “I’m ready”, when in fact none of us can be fully prepared for an unknown future. The reality is that I really have little control over anything beyond my own actions. I can plant a garden, but I don’t control the weather. I can store food, but I can’t prevent thieves, wild animals, a swarm of insects, an earthquake, or a tornado from damaging or destroying it. I can eat healthy and exercise, but I cannot guarantee that I won’t develop diabetes or cancer or some other illness. I have responsibility to do my part, but I have to listen to the One who knows far more than me. I simply must follow His lead. As a wife, I also follow the lead of my husband, who also seeks God’s guidance. We serve the same God, and so we hear the same voice and often the same instruction, though there are times when God speaks to Hugh and then Hugh to me, since Hugh has the God-given role of head of our home. There are times we disagree, but I submit to Hugh, as Hugh has the ultimate responsibility of leadership in our family, just as a sergeant is in charge of his troops though he is not the general. God is the general with the big picture plan. Those who want to work with Him rather than against Him will listen and submit to Him and to those He has placed in positions of authority over them.
The problem occurs when we as individuals become the leader separate from God. I don’t mean the leader to organize people on a particular project or activity, because we need human leaders; I mean if we become god to dictate what is right and wrong and are the ones in control, absent of God. If we are not following God and listening to Him as our authority, we won’t recognize His voice to know how to handle the tasks He gives us. Without listening to our all-knowing God’s instruction If we are human leaders, we will lead people into destruction. Anyone who dictate their own plan and commands outside of God’s authority, do so without God’s intel and without cooperation of the cosmos, which submits to its Creator. Proverbs 14:12 tells us, “There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.”
Noah knew how to build a boat that would sustain the great flood of the Earth because he listened to and obeyed God. He knew God’s voice and followed it. Joseph knew how to interpret dreams, and in spite of his hardships he remained faithful to God and was used to save the world (and his family) from the famine. Again and again, the Bible reveals hardships that God’s people endured; however, those who walked with God and knew Him were able to get through those hardships because they knew His voice, were able to follow His instructions, and were saved.
Story of the Maccabees
In the past few weeks, the Jewish people have just celebrated Hanukkah and remembered the rededication of the second temple. Included in this historical remembrance is also the story of Judas Maccabeus and his followers. Antiochus IV Epiphanes, the Greek ruler over the land that included Judea, for more than five years prior had been pushing his polytheistic culture upon the Jews. They had been bombarded with this foreign culture of multiple gods and indulgent immorality. Many were beginning to accept it, but some were holding true to the standards given by YHWH. Antiochus IV Epiphanes was unhappy that there were some who were refusing his authority to assimilate into the Greek culture. He sent squads through the towns to demand loyalty. When Judas Maccabeus was approached by some of the compromising priests and Greek leaders, he killed them and fled with other faithful Jews into the hills. Antiochus IV Epiphanes had the temple desecrated by, among other things, having pig’s broth poured over the altar. (Pork is an abomination on the Lord’s table– the alter.) The Greek army rose up against the group of Maccabees, but the Maccabees miraculously prevailed in the end against enormous odds and were able to return to the temple to cleanse and rededicate it and begin worshiping the LORD as He commanded once again. I have no doubt that none of these things could have occurred had there not been people following and listening intently to the Lord and then courageously taking action!
With God As Leader, Even in the Midst of Great Hardship, Good and Even Great Things Can Occur
I mentioned the story of Joseph earlier. Whew! He endured a lot of tragedy before he saw greatness and the point of it all! He was rejected, abandoned, and sold into slavery by his own brothers. Eventually, he was taken as a slave to Egypt, far from his home and family. It looked like things were getting better when he was given responsibilities in his master’s household, but then his master’s wife falsely accused him of impropriety and he was imprisoned. He could have been angry and turned against God at that point, but he didn’t. Instead, Joseph continued to pray, and while in prison remaining faithful to God and used his God-given ability to interpret dreams. Eventually Pharaoh became aware of Joseph’s ability and summoned him to interpret his tormenting dream. As a result, Joseph told of God’s plan to use Egypt’s crops to build a storehouse in preparation for a coming long-term famine, and Joseph was given ultimate power over Egypt’s resources to save the world including Joseph’s own family who became the tribes of Israel from which our Savior, Jesus, came. So saving them all was certainly a great thing. Joseph lived with honor and wealth and was able to bring all of his family into that land and give them land of their own to work for awhile, until a new pharaoh came into power and Joseph was forgotten.
God can use hardships and even tragedy for good. Tragedy actually brought Hugh and I together in the beginning of our relationship, as it was what we had in common. It was a life-threatening situation, and it was our faith in God to see us through that brought us together. We both trusted God to handle our circumstances, and He miraculously has. Furthermore, we are more blessed than we could have imagined back at that time. We just had to pursue Him, follow His Word, and listen to His voice.
Here’s another interesting look at what is thought to be bad but God has also used for good. I recently read about Tisha B’Av, which is the day that both of the ancient temples were destroyed and that many Jews fast and mourn because of these sad events as well as the many other calamities and massacres that have occurred on this date. However, this is also the day that Christopher Columbus set sail for the Americas and found a “safe place” in the west where the Jewish people, suffering from the religious persecutions in Spain and Portugal and elsewhere, could go. It is in America that these people have prospered. Columbus helped build a nation that centuries later rallied to restore the nation of Israel. Even in North America’s infancy, it was a safe haven for many who sought religious freedom to follow the Bible rather than man’s oppressive religious institutions that were ruled more by politics, quests for power, and tradition than anything to do with God’s instructions for life and how to honor Him. Many came to the Americas to escape religious persecutions rampant throughout Europe. So, on a day that seemed to be associated with many sorrows, Christopher Columbus’s journey to establish a haven began. It was a bright and beautiful day for the Jewish men who were sailing with Christopher Columbus and all of those families who would later have a place to go to escape persecution in Europe.
Can You Recognize His Voice?
If you are in a crowd and you hear your father’s voice call your name, you probably recognize it, don’t you? If you are in a fox hole and you hear your commander’s voice give an order, you know to respond immediately. You don’t follow just anyone’s command, do you? You surely don’t want to follow the one who desires your destruction!
We have an all-knowing, loving, holy, all-powerful God, who invites us to belong to Him and participate in His plan. However, we have to follow Him rather than expect that He will follow us. We need to spend time in His Word, learning how He speaks (recognizing His instructions) so that we will recognize His voice and know when we hear a voice whether it is consistent with His or not. It is only in knowing Him and following Him that we will recognize this great Commander’s instruction if and when it is time to run for the hills, store the plenty for the time of famine, pick up the sword, get on a ship for a different land, or step out of the boat and walk on water. We must listen to His voice, because He knows the future and what is best for each and everyone of us.
By listening to God’s voice, I don’t mean a literal audible voice. I mean that we must listen to His Word. God spoke to the masses of His people who had left Egypt with Moses, but they were afraid of God’s voice, as the mountains shook, so they pleaded for Moses go up the mountain and speak to God and then tell them what God said. They said to tell them what God wants of them and they will do it. So, God wrote some of His instructions (the Ten Commandments) by His own hand and gave others audibly to Moses. He also spoke through the prophets and then sent His Son, who lived according to all that God had instructed before. Then His Son, Jesus, said He was leaving His Spirit with believers. The Father, Son, and Spirit are unified and instruct us. So, read God’s word, study what our Savior did, considering the language (Hebrew), idioms, and culture with whom He was speaking. Obey and pray that His Spirit will help you to understand the truth and apply it in your life. He will guide you in big and small matters, if you study and seek. Your desires and thinking will begin to align with God’s as you adjust your life to follow His instructions. Answers will come to you as you pray and apply His Word.
As you contemplate 2017, maybe you should back up and examine objectively what you are doing and re-think who you want to follow. Maybe you should choose your leader and get 100% behind Him. (Joshua 24:15) Are you the sole leader, or are you letting God lead sometimes or all of the time? Are you studying His Word and listening to His voice or are you just listening to mens’ voices and what men say second-hand about His Word? Are you living as Jesus lived and worshiping the Father as Jesus did and that the Father instructed, or are you worshiping in ways that make you feel good and assuming that if you like it and it is your intention to honor God that He’ll appreciate it, even if it isn’t consistent with His Word? Are you going through the motions of reading His Word and worship, even if you are doing them biblically, without the heart involved?
It’s a good time to take an assessment and make an adjustment. Be committed. Don’t let the New Year’s resolution to follow the Lord be one that is broken.