GOD’S ENDURING KINDNESS

 

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Pastor Don Woke Ministering Sunday 20/11/2016

“For the mountains shall depart

 

And the hills be removed,

But My kindness shall not depart from you,

Nor shall My covenant of peace be removed,”

Says the Lord, who has mercy on you.” Isaiah 54:10
The mountains and hills were visible symbols of Israel’s security. Mountains were used to illustrate God’s promise of protection and deliverance for His people, “As the mountains surround Jerusalem, So the Lord surrounds His people from this time forth and forever.” (Psalm 125:2). But  Israel often made the mistake of thinking that their security lay in the physical mountains and hills, so they were rebuked for such presumption, “Truly, in vain is salvation hoped for from the hills, And from the multitude of mountains; Truly, in the Lord our God Is the salvation of Israel.” (Jeremiah 3:23). It was God who took care of His people and protected them.

WELL-PROVEN HELPER

We know that mountains and hills are some of the most secure places on earth. It will take a massive earthquake to remove a mountain. God says, even if mountains are removed, ‘My kindness will not be removed; My covenant of peace will not fail.’ What an incredible promise! The Psalmist also declared: “God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble. 2 Therefore we will not fear, Even though the earth be removed, And though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; 3 Though its waters roar and be troubled, Though the mountains shake with its swelling. 4 There is a river whose streams shall make glad the city of God, The holy place of the tabernacle of the Most High. 5 God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved; God shall help her, just at the break of dawn.” (Psalm 46:1-5)

‘Present help’ in Hebrews literarily means ‘well-proven help.’ God has promised to remain our refuge and help even when mountains are removed.  An elderly woman was to undergo surgery. As she laid in the theatre for the procedure, the doctor noticed that she was anxious and afraid and tried to reassure her. The woman explained to the doctor that she was afraid because it was her first time of having surgery. The doctor then said to her, “don’t worry ma’am, it’s also my first time!” But God is an experienced helper, He can be trusted and depended upon to help. God has a track record of helping mankind. He has been doing so since the Garden of Eden.

GOD’S KINDNESS

One of the most recurring words in the Old Testament is God’s kindness. It is from the Hebrew word CHESED. It has been translated by different versions as ‘lovingkindness,’ ‘steadfast love,’ ‘unfailing love,’ ‘faithful love,’ etc. It literally means “an act of kindness, love or mercy shown to someone.” The quality of the kindness shown is usually that reserved for close friends and family members; though the act of kindness can be shown to anyone. It therefore presupposes the existence of a relationship between the parties involved. This kindness is not temporary, it is eternal. “The Lord has appeared of old to me, saying: “Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love; Therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you.” (Jeremiah 31:3). The Bible often contrasts between God’s displeasure and His kindness: the former is always temporal while the later is eternal (Psalm 30:5; Isaiah 54:8). If you ever feel that God is angry with you or that He is displeased with you, know that it was only for a moment. As for his favour and kindness, it is for a lifetime.

WHEN MOUNTAINS MOVE

The Message rendering of Isaiah 54:10 reads: “For even if the mountains walk away and the hills fall to pieces, My love won’t walk away from you, my covenant commitment of peace won’t fall apart.” Mountains and Hills may represent whatever provides us security and confidence. It could be a parent, spouse, job, position, finances etc. It’s a fact of life that times change; things change; and people move. Many changes have happened in our nation in the past two years affecting people’s family, career, finances and relationships. For some of us, there were people in our lives who have been like ‘mountains,’ providing us with the security and support that we needed but today, they are no longer there. We are beginning to feel ‘naked’ and vulnerable. But no matter who left; no matter what departed; remember that God didn’t leave! Sometimes, we are so preoccupied with who left us that we forget who was sent to us!

ABANDONMENT

There are times when we feel abandoned or fear we’ll be abandoned. A family adopted a baby but found that any time she was left alone in the room the baby would wail and cry. The mother had begun to feel frustrated with the situation. When the adoption agency was contacted, they informed the new family that the baby was picked up from a refuse bin where she had been abandoned by her birth mother. So, any time she was left alone, the fear of abandonment grips her. Unfortunately, this is how some Christians feel about God. They have experienced the sour taste of human abandonment that they now feel the same way about God, especially when things go wrong.

There was a time Israel felt the same way about God: “But Zion said, “The Lord has forsaken me, And my Lord has forgotten me.” 15 “Can a woman forget her nursing child, And not have compassion on the son of her womb? Surely they may forget, Yet I will not forget you. 16 See, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands; Your walls are continually before Me.” (Isaiah 49:14-16). Whenever God wants to illustrate His passionate love and care for His people He uses the example of a nursing mother. God understands the bond that exists between a nursing mother and her baby. A nursing mother instinctively feels the need of her baby.

There was an earthquake that happened in an Asian country some years ago. A mother and her baby were rescued from the rubble several days after the incident. When the woman was resuscitated from dehydration she was asked how she managed to keep the baby alive through those days without food and water. She explained that when every source of water was exhausted and she feared her baby was going to die, she had to cut open her skin and feed the baby with her blood. That’s how sacrificial a nursing mother can be. Now, God says, even if such a mother forgets her child, He won’t forget us.

God is saying to you, ‘I will not forget you; I will not abandon you; I have your picture before me always.’ Even in the most difficult times of our lives, God leaves a trail of His Presence (Acts 14:17). There is a poem that illustrates God’s care in the rough seasons of life:

FOOTPRINTS IN THE SAND

One night I dreamed a dream.
As I was walking along the beach with my Lord.
Across the dark sky flashed scenes from my life.
For each scene, I noticed two sets of footprints in the sand,
One belonging to me and one to my Lord.

After the last scene of my life flashed before me,
I looked back at the footprints in the sand.
I noticed that at many times along the path of my life,
especially at the very lowest and saddest times,
there was only one set of footprints.

This really troubled me, so I asked the Lord about it.
“Lord, you said once I decided to follow you,
You’d walk with me all the way.
But I noticed that during the saddest and most troublesome times of my life,
there was only one set of footprints.
I don’t understand why, when I needed You the most, You would leave me.”

He whispered, “My precious child, I love you and will never leave you
Never, ever, during your trials and testings.
When you saw only one set of footprints,
It was then that I carried you.”

There is nothing that can separate us from the love of God. Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death?” (Romans 8:35-36 NLT). Again, we read “… for He [God] Himself has said, I will not in any way fail you nor give you up nor leave you without support. [I will] not, [I will] not, [I will] not in any degree leave you helpless nor forsake nor let [you] down relax My hold on you)! Assuredly not!]” (Hebrews 13:5b AMP). Don’t be preoccupied with your losses. Get back into God’s promises and hold on to them (Matthew 28:20).

God is irrevocably committed to your peace (Isaiah 54:10). To the Jew, the word ‘Shalom’ is not just a greeting but a prayer for well being, prosperity, success etc. God’s commitment to take care of you will not change no matter what happens. “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” (John 14:27).

MERCY TRUMPS MERIT
This Kindness is based upon God’s mercy not on our merit. David was a recipient of God’s kindness so he knew how to extend same to others. “Then the king said, “Is there not still someone of the house of Saul, to whom I may show the kindness of God?” And Ziba said to the king, “There is still a son of Jonathan who is lame in his feet.”” (2 Samuel 9:3). Note that it was ‘the kindness of God’ that David wanted to show to the offspring of Jonathan. Ziba was quick to point out why Mephibosheth was not qualified for such blessing: he is lame in his feet. Mephibosheth’s disability was to disqualify him but the kindness of God transcends our disqualifications.

For the rest of his life, Mephibosheth must have been thinking: “I don’t know how I got here but I know that God’s kindness brought me this far.”  God’s mercy can rewrite the story of a person’s life. God said that the promise of Isaiah 54:10 is anchored on His mercy, not our merit. That should be cause to cheer!

GOD’S NOT DONE BLESSING YOU

Jacob was a man who had more than a fair share of troubles. One day his sons returned the clothes of his beloved son, Joseph to him, And he recognized it and said, “It is my son’s tunic. A wild beast has devoured him. Without doubt Joseph is torn to pieces.”  34  Then Jacob tore his clothes, put sackcloth on his waist, and mourned for his son many days.  35  And all his sons and all his daughters arose to comfort him; but he refused to be comforted, and he said, “For I shall go down into the grave to my son in mourning.” Thus his father wept for him.” (Genesis 37:33-35). Some years later, his sons would return with further bad report to their father. Jacob’s response was: Jacob exclaimed, “You are robbing me of my children! Joseph is gone! Simeon is gone! And now you want to take Benjamin, too. Everything is going against me!” (Genesis 42:36 NLT).

There are times we also feel like everything is going against us, when we don’t understand why certain things should be happening to us. Even at such times, God isn’t nervous because He knows what He would do; He knows how it will all end. That’s what happened in the case of Jacob. As he prepared to die, Joseph brought his two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim for blessing. Israel said to Joseph, “I never expected to see your face again, and now God has allowed me to see your children too.” (Genesis 48:11). What Jacob thought he had lost was not lost after all, instead God made him to receive double blessing for all his troubles.

It’s never over until God says so. God’s enduring kindness towards us will not shift no matter what happens. It is surer than the highest mountain and stronger than a nursing mother’s care for her baby. God is irrevocably committed to our peace. What He will do in our lives is not based on our merits but on His mercy. He is the God we can always rely upon.

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