By Tanya Fernandes
Old Testament: Isaiah 64: 1-9
New Testament: I Corinthians 1: 3-9
In your life, has it felt at times that God is silent? Have you looked for answers that do not come easy as you walk through this upside-down-world? Have you heard, seen, or experienced things that just need an answer??
Today, as we begin to celebrate the coming of Emmanuel—God with us—we are going to look at a very unique human experience: we have finite minds, we are not all knowing nor do we have the mental capacity to handle all information and truths if it were told to us; however, as humans, we constantly want to know all the answers, especially as we see a hurting world around us.
At times in my own life when I have been hungry for answers from God, I am always reminded of a part of Daniel’s story, and I am always ashamed at my own impatience and lack of faith compared to Daniel’s.
Do you know the story of Daniel waiting for an answer in Chapter 10 of the Book of Daniel? Daniel had a vision prior to chapter 10, but he cannot understand it, so he prays for understanding. In fact, we are told in verse 12, that he set his heart on understanding and humbled himself before God – for 21 Days. For 21 days? I feel like I have done a great feat of faith if I spend a focused hour seeking answers from God in prayer.
Then here is Daniel. Great man of God. Chief of the Babylonian Magi says in Chapter 10, “I did not eat any tasty food, nor did meat or wine enter my mouth, nor did I use any ointment at all, until the entire three weeks were completed.” For 21 days, Daniel humbled himself and looked to God for answers. One commentator called his actions mourning. He was heart sick for God’s answer.
He could have gotten impatient with God. He could have lost his faith that God heard him or that God cared enough to provide him answers, but he did none of these things. He knew that his God was faithful. He knew that his God was all powerful and all knowing. He knew that His God was Good. His God cared that Daniel was hurting and confused and desperate for answers…in faith Daniel set his heart upon seeking answers from God.
21 days of waiting!!! But here is “the rest of the story” – God did send an answer. The angel, Gabriel, was sent to Daniel by God. He comes to Daniel on the 22nd day, and he provides Daniel an interpretation of the vision and encourages Daniel.
In verses 12 & 13, Gabriel tells Daniel an amazing fact – please notice that I said fact. What we are about to read will not sound like a fact to unbelievers, but it is a fact!! Gabriel says, “…Do not be afraid, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart on understanding this (vision) and on humbling yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to your words. But the prince of the kingdom of Persia was withstanding me for twenty-one days; then behold, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I had been left there with the kings of Persia.”
When Daniel first cried out to God for an answer to his question—he was heard and Gabriel was sent to bring the answers to Daniel – BUT Gabriel was hindered by the spiritual battle that is going on far beyond our human senses. The angel Gabriel was opposed by the Prince of Persia–this is not a person but a fallen angel who apparently has power or authority over Persia at that time.
In fact, Gabriel talks about three princes in Daniel Chapter 10. He is opposed by the Prince of Persia—a fallen angel. He is helped by the Prince of Israel, Michael—a servant of the Lord. He says in verse 20 that he will return to fighting the Prince of Persia AND he adds that the Prince of Greece is about to come to fight. This is very interesting because we know that the next nation to conquer Israel after Persia is Greece.
Ephesians 6:12 tells us, “Our struggle (some versions say battle) is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Got Answers website says, “The battle is real.” There is a battle in the heavenly realms that impacts this world.
God created a perfect world. At the end of each phase of creation in Genesis, God said, “It is Good!!!”
Then Adam and Eve desired to be like God. They listened to the temptation of satan and chose to not follow God. They welcomed sin and death into God’s perfect creation and satan gained a foothold in this world.
Satan is called the prince of the power of the air in Ephesians 2:2. Revelations 12:4 tells us that 1/3 of the angels followed satan in his rebellion against God. Jude 6 tells us that these are angels who did not keep their positions (as assigned by God), but abandoned their proper abode. They, along with satan, were cast down to the earth (Revelations 12:4) because of their rebellion
This is all heavy stuff. We don’t have to understand all it to get the main point that every believer must understand. The main point that we need to remember is that there is a spiritual battle between Good and evil that is going on around us. We live in a world where satan and evil are active.
I Peter 5:8 tells us: “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”
On Monday, November 6, the day after the shooting in the Texas church where every person in attendance was wounded or killed by a gunman, I found myself talking to the TV, “Come on….come on—ohhhh.” I mourned. What was I watching? I was watching a TV anchor, named Steve, ask a question. My talking to the TV was because two pastors and a priest tried to answer Steve’s question. The first time he asked it, he seemed genuinely interested in an answer. The second time he asked the question, he pushed the pastor and seemed almost angry because his question was not being fully answered. By the third person, a Catholic priest, Steve seemed a little resigned to not getting an answer which satisfied him.
What question did he asked these three religion leaders? “If there is a loving God, how could he allow such atrocities as the shooting in a church…in a church…while people were praying and seeking him?” The pastors and the priest all gave good information about the hope of heaven that lives in believers and about the people keeping their hope in Jesus. They were trying to give people something to hold onto which is good, but their responses did not really answer the “premise” or the principals that Steve set up in his question.
There are a lot of people who are asking the same question that Steve asked. There are a lot of people who are truly looking for answers…and because we are used to an instant world…there are a lot of people who are struggling with their faith because they are not finding an easy answer.
1 Peter 3:15 says, “15 But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect”
As Christians, we are to be ready to explain ourselves. As Christians, we should crave and desire to have words ready to help someone else on their faith journey. As Christians, we should care about the souls who are asking the questions…and want to give them an answer that draws them to the truths of God.
Here is what I would have liked to say to Steve.
There are four facts that are very important to hold in our hearts:
1. There is a God and He is Love. This is a fact.
2. At the same time, there is an active enemy of God. Since God created us for fellowship with himself, Satan is consistently trying to keep us from God. To satan, we are pawns in his war against God. Satan is the enemy of human souls…and he is like a roaring lion in his search for souls to devour. This is a fact.
3. Along with satan and the fallen angels trying to keep you and I away from faith, some humans also cause pain to others. All humans have been given a free will. This means that there are times when humans make decisions or act upon desires that end up hurting other people…and God does not always supernaturally intervene in the consequences of their decisions. Here are two prime examples:
a. Cain and Able
b. David and Uriah
4. Our loving God has promised to work all things together for good for those who love him and are called according to his purpose. This means that God may not supernaturally stop an evil event, but he will take something that satan or another human meant for evil and he will turn it into good for his people. We as limited human beings cannot always see or comprehend what God is doing behind the scenes…we are called to have faith in this promise.
The bottom line is that the principle of Steve’s question is not entirely true. Steve said IF God is good THEN no evil will happen. The truth is that until Christ returns our souls will be loved by God and preserved for true life in heaven WHILE we live in a world that is fallen and under attack by evil
Another important truth to hold onto is what the pastors and the priest told Steve—At the end of this cosmic battle for our souls, those who have faith in Jesus Christ have the promise of heaven, the promise of being reunited with loved ones who had faith in Christ, and the promise of entering into perfect peace and rest. The ultimate “working all things together for good.”
In our Old Testament lectionary reading today, Isaiah cries out to God: “Oh that Thou would rend (tear open) the heavens and come down, that the mountains might quake at they presence….to make your name known to thine adversaries that the nations may tremble at they presence.”
That is the cry of someone who is tired of waiting for things in this world to be put right. OHHHH that you would tear open the heavens and come down…make your name known…
Isaiah goes on to talk about the times when God did show himself to be the living and true God—“when you did awesome thing which we did not expect…neither has the eye seen a God besides Thee who acts in behalf of the one who waits for Him…you meet him who rejoices in doing righteousness who remembers you in his ways…”
To the one who waits and who rejoices in righteousness actions—God will show himself to be God.
This message is a Christmas message, even though it may not seem like it on the surface.
Between the last prophet, Malachi, and the coming of the promised messiah, Jesus, there were 400+ years of silence by God.
The prophets brought the word of God and were at times used as instruments to carry out the will of God…but suddenly, God became silent.
We are told that Israel cried out to God for answers—for 400 hundred years they cried out as they were conquered by Greece and other counties. Their cry became especially loud as they came under the horrible rule of the Romans who were ruthless to the people AND eventually desecrated the Temple by first going into the Holy of Holies two different times and eventually by destroying it.
They were a people heart-sick for answers. They lost sight of the glorious promise that is in the last Chapter of Malachi—Malachi 4: 2 “but unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of Righteousness arise with healing in his wings…”
Malachi is promising Jesus! They had to wait 400 years for the promised messiah to be sent, but God is faithful and God is Good and God keeps his promises and just as Romans 5:6 tells us, “for while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.”
At the right time, Christ was sent. God knew when the right time was to send Jesus.
At the right time, Christ died for us—while we were yet sinners.
At the right time, Christ will return and make all things new…including us.
At the right time—-at the right time!
Christmas reminds us that God loves us and will provide the answers we need in times of trouble…it will be the right time.
Christmas reminds us that God is faithful to his promises. Just as our New Testament reading in I Corinthians 1:9 tells us “…God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.”
The real answer that Steve and all of us need to find is faith. Faith in Jesus Christ. Faith in Emmanuel—God with us! Faith in the things not yet seen by our eyes.
If you have not done it before, believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. Believe that the Christ of Christmas came to save you and to save this world from the roaring lion that is trying to destroy all that is precious to God…including your soul.
Believe that God is Good and that God is faithful and that no matter how things look or feel that the real truth is that God will make everything that satan throws at the child of God work out for good AND believe in the hope of heaven…And remember never get tired of raising your prayers (and questions) to God. In faith, keep asking him all your questions and in faith keep trusting that he hears and will answer you…at the right time.