Despair in my life has mostly been revealed when I was unable to overcome my loneliness, when I was unable to find that friend to be with me in my pain, my uncertainty, my deprivation, my losses, and at times, my hopelessness. In the midst of those times, I was appreciative of my parents, and my then few good friends and relatives, who came alongside me and walked with me, and made provision for me, and prayed for and with me, and encouraged and inspired me, and revealed to me a future after those days of despair. Those human companions were most helpful to me, but they were not enough, and the more effective ones of those were the ones who, while wringing their hands with me, nudged me – even re-pushed me – back into the arms of Jesus Christ, in the Spirit. There, I found that I was, in fact, never alone, and never would be, and that I would have perfect companionship and leadership and assurance, no matter what were, or became, the circumstances of my life, no matter what brought my emotions to want to embrace despair.
My despair, in the past, broke through my pride and inspired me to seek the Word of God so that, like Isaiah told the king and people of Jerusalem (Isaiah 8: 16), I might “Bind up the testimony, (and) seal the law . . .” in my head and heart. And in so doing, that I might know the deeper reality of who Jesus is, and the deeper reality of His presence in my life, and the deeper reality of His call on my life, and the deeper reality of His companionship in my life – indeed, that I might know the deeper reality of His presence in such a way that I would never be alone. And I have not been.
My experience is that despair tends to give us tunnel vision, as we stare at what despairs us. But then out of the despair, we look around for relief, and I am ever thankful for those who re- pointed my vision to Jesus Christ for that relief, and helped me see that it was His miraculous intervention in my life that brought me through, over time, the circumstances and consequences of my decisions and despair.
I am ever thankful that I could see, and today, I want to be one of those who prepares you for times of despair that may be here now in some of you, and such times to come, one who points and re-points your vision to Jesus Christ for your assurance of His plans for you being accomplished in spite of your despair. Today, I encourage you to see, and to know in the fullness of your hearts, what King David knew, and what I came to know, and what so many of you have come to know, (Psalm 16: 7-11; Acts 2: 25-28; see also Psalm 139: 7-16), that “I will bless the Lord who has given me counsel; my heart also instructs me in the night seasons. I have set the Lord always before me; because He is at my right hand I shall not be moved. Therefore my heart is glad and my glory rejoices: my flesh will rest in hope. For You will not leave my soul in Sheol, nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption. You will show me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”
We find such comfort in this passage, and such instruction:
- That the Lord provides us counsel and is always available to be at our right hand – right there with us, sothat we are not alone.
- That we should emulate King David and always put theLord before us, in our priorities, where we can see Himin our mind’s eyes.
- That in embracing these concepts, our heart will alsoinstruct us in the night seasons, so that when we seemmost alone, we will be comforted by His presence.
- That, therefore, our heart will be glad and our glory will be rejoicing and that in His presence – in our everyday lives – we will everyday be blessed with a real “fullnessof joy”.
- That, therefore, our flesh will rest in hope that theLord’s presence – Emmanuel, God is with us – will transcend our flesh and transcend the consequences of sin, that we will not be left in Sheol, but will find the path of life.
- And that, therefore, we can be assured that even in His man form, Jesus’ body did not see corruption in His human death.
- His promises are forever, His presence is forever.
- So, if we receive the Lord’s counsel, and if we set Him before us at all times in our priorities, and if we receive and welcome Him at our right hand, then we wouldnever have need of despairing.
When Isaiah prophesied the birth of Jesus, Isaiah 7: 14, he called His name Immanuel, “God with us.” And in Matthew 1:21, upon the angel appearing to Joseph to explain the immaculate conception and the forthcoming virgin birth, the angel said “you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins”. And in the next verses, Matthew 1: 22-23, it is written, “So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet (Isaiah), saying: ‘Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel, which is translated, ‘God with us.’’” In God’s plan, He knew that, for most of us, we could be saved only by His presence in our lives, His being with us, that only His presence would give us the confidence and the inspiration to accept His counsel and His promises forevermore – they are all based on His presence in our lives. And it was and is His plan that we all be saved in Christ and to come to the knowledge of the truth, I Timothy 2: 4. And so the actual presence of God was made available to us, and is available to us, in Christ, that we might be saved and by His counsel we might come to the knowledge of the truth!
We know from Scripture of the close relationship of Moses and God. We know that Moses sinned against God in such a way that God spoke and ordained the consequences: in Numbers 27:12-22, “Now the Lord said to Moses, ‘Go up into this Mount Abarim, and see the land which I have given to the children of Israel. And when you have seen it, you also shall be gathered to your people, as Aaron your brother was gathered. For in the Wilderness of Zin, during the strife of the congregation, you rebelled against My command to hallow Me at the waters before their eyes.’ (These are the waters of Meribah, at Ka-desh in the Wilderness of Zin.) Then Moses spoke to the Lord, saying: ‘Let the Lord, the God of the spirits of all flesh, set a man over the congregation, who may go out before them and go in before them, who may lead them out and bring them in, that the congregation of the Lord may not be like sheep which have no shepherd.” And the Lord said to Moses: ‘Take Joshua the son of Nun with you, a man in whom is the Spirit, and lay your hand upon him; set him before Eleazar the priest and before all the congregation and inaugurate him in their sight, and you shall give some of your authority to him, that all the congregation of the children of Israel may be obedient. He shall stand before Eleazar the priest, who shall inquire before the Lord for him by the judgment of the Urim. At his word they shall go out, and at his word they shall come in, he and all the children of Israel with him – all the congregation.’ So Moses did as the Lord commanded him. He took Joshua and set him before Eleazar the priest and before all the congregation. And he laid his hands on him and inaugurated him, just as the Lord commanded by the hand of Moses.”
We see here that there were consequences of Moses’ sin: He was forbidden to go into the Promised Land, though he could see it, and he lost some of his authority over the children of Israel. (And also notice how God raised up His choice, Joshua, for leadership in the congregation.)
Yet, nevertheless, God’s love of Moses never wavered, and God’s faithfulness to Moses never changed, and God’s presence with Moses was never withdrawn. Let’s readDeuteronomy 34: 1-10, “Then Moses went up from the plains of Moab to Mount Nebo, to the top of Pisgah, which is across from Jericho. And the Lord showed him all the land of Gilead as far as Dan, all Naphtali and the land of Ephraim and Manasseh, all the land of Judah as far as the Western Sea (the Mediterranean Sea), the South and the plain of the Valley of Jericho, the city of palm trees, as far as Zoar. Then the Lord said to him, This is the land of which I swore to give Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, saying, I will give it to your descendants.’ I have caused you to see it with your eyes, but you shall not cross over there.” So Moses the servant of the Lord died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of the Lord.
And He (the Lord) buried him (Moses) in a valley in the land of Moab, opposite Beth Peor, but no one knows his grave to this day. Moses was one hundred and twenty years old when he died. His eyes were not dim nor his natural vigor diminished. And the children of Israel wept for Moses in the plains of Moab thirty days. So the days of weeping and mourning for Moses ended. Now Joshua the son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom, for Moses had laid his hands on him; so the children of Israel heeded him, and did as the Lord had commanded Moses. But since then there has not arisen in Israel a prophet like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face.”
Yes, we see here that even though there were consequences to Moses’ sin, in his earthly life – he did not go into the earthly Promised Land, and he parted with some of his authority, to Joshua, God never left him. He remained healthy and vigorous until his death at 120 years (calling to mind God’s admonition that after Noah and his sons, men would not live past 120 years), and God personally showed him from the mountains the views of the earthly Promised Land, all the way from what is now the nation called Jordan to the Mediterranean Sea almost 100 miles away! And Moses was one man of whom Scripture says that he knew God face to face: that is how personal was God’s presence in Moses’ life.
Jesus assured us that when he ascended from His earthly life, we would still have the presence of God available to us, that He would send the Holy Spirit to us to be the presence of God dwelling in us and among us. (John 14: 16-17.) What Jesus was telling his disciples then, and it is true today, that though He left as one man, He would return to all as Holy Spirit. Paul writes in II Corinthians 3: 17, “Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.” Yes, with the Holy Spirit with us, God with us, Emmanuel, we have liberty from our circumstances, no matter how bad they are and no matter how much despair those circumstances push upon us.
The Holy Spirit comes to us to bring conviction to all mankind for the purpose of convicting and convincing of sin, righteousness and judgment, John 16:8. But the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of the Lord Jesus, has not made the whole world his dwelling place. He dwells only in those who are born again, who are convinced and convicted of sin, righteousness and judgment, and who become new creatures in Christ! The Holy Spirit is not here as a passive influence in the lives of men and the life of mankind. The Holy Spirit is as real in the spirit as you are yourself in the body, in the flesh: He hears, sees, talks, listens, knows and acts.
What if today, on your way out of here, Jesus suddenly was with you in the flesh, as on the Road to Emmaus, and revealed Himself to you for who He is. What would you say to Him, what would you want to tell Him and ask Him? Would you disconnect from your personal agenda for the afternoon and share with Him the burdens of your heart? Would you tell Jesus who you have compassion for, and what resources you see are needed for and by that person or persons? Would you seek His help in powerful, personal help with problems and things that make you despair over things in your own life? You would do those things, right? You wouldn’t run away from Jesus, would you? But you would welcome and relish and enjoy that one-on-one time with Him, right? And that is what is constantly available to us in the Holy Spirit, that one-on-one time with Jesus in His Spirit form, a form as real as His fleshly form. Harpazo, seize the opportunity and move forcefully through, even abandoning your personal agenda, and seize the opportunity available to you every day to have the kingdom of heaven as your earthly domain.
Paul shares God’s wisdom, in the Spirit of Wisdom, I Corinthians 10: 12-14, “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man, but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it. Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.” Paul is reminding us that God is with us in all temptations, even when despair tempts us to reject God and seek his replacement in idols, that God is always with us and He always provides a way of escape from such temptation.
Surely, Paul endured those temptations, temptations to abandon God who seemed not to be doing anything but forging the character of Christ in Paul as he endured many of the sufferings of Christ (as listed in II Corinthians 11: 23- 28). Yet Paul’s deepest concern remained concern for all the churches (verse 28). He, like King David, always kept the Lord before him and at his right hand. Paul, like David, and like Moses, lived with great vigor and passion and purpose because they found, and held onto in trying and desperate times, the liberty necessary to so live in vigor, passion and purpose, because in the Spirit of the Lord, and in the Lord Himself, they found that freedom, that free-ing from temptation to idolatry, that truest of liberties.
I submit to you that all those ways of escape that Paul knew of, learned of, and wrote about, lead from God and back to God, and God is with us, Immanuel, always. We need never despair, and give in by so doing, to bondage to sin and death. We should always seize, even violently, the liberty of the Spirit of Jesus. He dwells in us who believe in Him and, therefore, we are never alone. If God is for us, who can stand against us. If we are weak, God is strong: we are never without His love, faithfulness, mercy, grace, wisdom and strength. Most of all we are never without His presence.
Amen and God bless you+