Praise Your Way Out of the Whale

SMILING WHALE BLUE - BIGGER

In the book of Habakkuk, the prophet, under the inspiration of God, says, “Though the fig tree should not blossom, and there be no fruit on the vine; though the yield of the olive should fail, and the fields produce no food; though the flock should be cut off from  the fold, and there be no cattle in the stalls; yet I will exult in the Lord. I will rejoice in the God of my salvation. The Lord God is my strength. And He has made my feet like hinds’ feet, and makes me walk on my high places.” (Hab. 3:17-19).

Habakkuk has made a decision of his will to refuse to let natural circumstances control him or his life. Natural circumstances give him absolutely no reason to praise God. Yet he decides to praise Him and exult in Him. Why? Because he has a reason that far outweighs the circumstances.

His exultation and rejoicing are in the fact that he knows God is his salvation. That word salvation, from the original Hebrew, means much more than having our sin washed away. The word translated salvation, in both Hebrew and Greek, means “deliverance, health, prosperity, protection, and peace.” Habakkuk knows that no matter what the trouble he faces, he has a God Who will deliver him and bring him out in victory, if he will remain faithful and keep his eyes on the Lord.

When Habakkuk talks about the Lord making his feet like hinds’ feet, he is referring to the fact that the hind, which lives high up in the mountainous areas, walks fearlessly along the steep sides of the mountains, and the narrow ledges over steep drop-offs. This dexterity comes from the fact that God made the hind to be able to leap from ledge to ledge in such a way that the two back feet come down in exactly the same spot that the two front feet just left. So the animal is perfectly confident as it leaps and walks in the most dangerous places.

The prophet realizes that as long as his trust is in his God, he can be confident that no matter how dangerous or treacherous the way in the midst of trouble, he will not fall, but will leap from point to point, as sure-footed as the hind. And he will come at last to the highest level of victory over the problem.

Habakkuk is not alone in recognizing the value of praising his God in the face of bewildering negative circumstances.  David, when he and his men returned to Ziklag (1 Samuel 30), found it had been burned down completely, and all their wives and children had been taken captive by the Amalekites. David and all of his mighty warriors were so distraught and horrified that the Word says they wept until they had no more power to weep. Then David’s men began to talk about stoning him, because he had been the one responsible for their being away from their homes at the time of the attack. David had absolutely nowhere to turn for help. No one even wanted to talk to him, let alone befriend him at that time. But the Word says “David encouraged himself in the Lord his God.”

Once he turned away from what he could see and hear and feel, and began to build himself up on what he knew to be the truth about his God, David gained new spiritual strength, and put himself into a place of being able to hear from God. He then called for the priest to bring the ephod, which was a tool God had given Israel’s leaders to aid them in hearing from Him. After centering all of his attention on God, David was then in a place to hear what God told him. And because he was again in a place of faith, God was able to instruct him to pursue the enemy and recover everything he and his men had lost. God was able to give the victory, but David had to be able to receive it. And he could not do that in a state of hopelessness and despair — but only in a state of faith.

Another well-known Old Testament prophet speaks almost the same message in the midst of what I perceive as the most bazaar, hopeless situation that I can imagine. Jonah,  in chapter two of the book named for him, speaks while inside the belly of the whale. (Scripture calls it a ‘great fish,’ but ‘whale’ will suffice for this lesson.) He describes the total ugliness and hopelessness of his situation, but then he says, “While I was fainting away, I remembered the Lord; and my prayer came to Thee, into Thy holy temple. … I will sacrifice to Thee with the voice of thanksgiving. That which I have vowed I will pay. Salvation is from the Lord.”  (Jonah 2:7-9).

Here again, in the midst of the most severe trouble and the direst prognosis for the future, the prophet concentrates on the truth which outweighs all that he sees and feels:  God is the source of salvation (deliverance,) and therefore, is worthy to be praised. Jonah makes a decision to worship God and give Him the sacrifices of love and praise which are due Him.

Pastor John Osteen, of Houston, Texas, once made the point, while teaching on Jonah, that we have none of us ever been in so negative a situation as Jonah. He said no matter what we’re facing, we can look in some direction and see at least a little light or encouragement; but no matter where Jonah looked, all he could see, in any direction, was whale. How true. We should be thankful for even the smallest encouragement from any direction.

But Jonah, with absolutely no natural encouragement at all, made his decision and praised his God. And notice what happens in the very next verse:  “Then the Lord commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah up onto dry land.” The chronological order is very important here. Praise first; deliverance second. It is after we make a decision to praise God and acknowledge Him as our complete salvation that the Lord can move freely on our behalf.

You see, we must use our spiritual vision and see that very real salvation (deliverance, healing, prosperity) which is in the spirit realm. Being in the spirit realm, it is eternal and unchanging, and more powerful than any natural circumstances, which are always bound to change when pressured by things of the spirit. We don’t deny those circumstances, but we make up our mind that God’s Word is true — more true and more trustworthy than the circumstances.

Once that concept if firmly established in our hearts, then we will praise and worship our God, even though the fig tree is dead. Our praise and worship will release our faith and unlock the doors between Heaven and Earth, allowing the salvation and resurrection life of God to flow freely into our situation. That’s when we will begin to see circumstances change in manifested ways. Then the fig tree will blossom, and then the vine will begin to bear fruit. †


(Scripture references taken from New American Standard Bible, Copyright © 1960,1962,1963,1968,1971,1972,1973,1975,1977,1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.)

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Overcoming Impossible Circumstances

O Lord, how my adversaries have increased!
Many are rising up against me.
Many are saying of my soul,
‘There is no deliverance for him in God.
But Thou, O Lord, art a shield about me,
My glory, and the One who lifts my head.

I was crying to the Lord with my voice,
And He answered me from His holy mountain.
I lay down and slept;
I awoke, for the Lord sustains me.
I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people
Who have set themselves against me round about.

Arise, O Lord; save me, O my God!
For Thou has shattered the teeth of the wicked.
Salvation belongs to the Lord;
Thy blessing be upon Thy people!”

(Psalm 3, NAS)

 

These words, penned by David, but spoken by God, have much to tell us about what to believe, and how to act in the midst of trouble. Very rare indeed is the Christian who cannot relate to the words of verses 1 and 2, especially in these latter days. It seems that the enemy has pulled out all the stops and attacked the faithful from every conceivable angle.

Almost every devout Christian that I’ve talked with the last couple of years has felt that the battles against him have intensified to a frightening degree. One attack seems to follow hard on the heels of another, and for many believers, it seems that the enemy is encroaching from every possible angle at the same time, and that his forces have grown stronger. Our adversaries have increased, and we hear that insistent, nagging voice say, “You’re not going to get the victory this time; just look around you; there’s no help coming for you from God now.”

How I hate that voice! I must have heard it thousands of times during my walk with God. And the particularly aggravating thing is that even after God has proven that voice a liar and delivered me many times, the next time I face a battle, the enemy jumps up again and says loud and clear, “But this time’s different; this time’s worse; you won’t be able to hold on for the victory this time. How well we can feel what David was feeling when he wrote these words. Our enemies may not be mighty armies on horseback, as some of David’s were at this time, but they are just as dangerous and just as deadly serious about attacking and destroying us.

What do we do when we’re overwhelmed by the attacks of the enemy? When all natural intelligence tells us there’s no reason to hope for deliverance or victory? When our circumstances and thoughts, and even some of our Christian friends tell us we’re fools to keep expecting God to step in and deliver us? We do what David did. We look to the One who identifies Himself as our God, our Savior, our Deliverer, the great I Am.

That name which God first declared to Moses, and which we generally translate as “I Am,” actually has a much more involved meaning. The name, from the Hebrew, literally means: “I Am that I Am; I will be what I will be; the Self-existent One who causes all other things to exist.” Now it’s of paramount importance, dear Christian, that we really understand this name. If our God is the self-existent One who will be whatever He wants to be, then He will be whatever we need at any particular time, and be something totally different for each one of us at the same time, in order to meet our needs and accomplish our deliverance and victory. The Creator of the universe willingly adjusts Himself to the needs of each of His children, when we fully believe Him and operate in complete faith and trust, thus keeping the channels open for Him to move.

So David is surrounded by an advancing enemy, rapidly increasing in numbers and strength (most probably a real army of defectors led by his son Absalom). There seems to be no escape, and if he would believe his senses and the voices of the demons sent to torment him, there’s no help even in God. But David knows God from the days of his shepherding, when he killed the lion and the bear, and from the day of Goliath’s defeat. So he turns his eyes to that same God and sees that He is exactly what he needs right now: A Shield!

Now, the word translated “shield” in this passage is extremely interesting. David isn’t talking about just a little shield that he would hold on his arm. He says God is a shield “about” him. All around him, in other words. And that’s why he’s chosen this particular word. The Hebrew word, as it’s used in this verse, refers to the “scaly hide of the crocodile.” That being the case, we get a whole different picture of God’s protection. The hide of a crocodile is made up of heavy scales which continuously overlap one another all down the length of the creature’s body. They leave no open area through which a weapon can penetrate. Virtually complete coverage.

Now, of course, since God ordained that man was to be in dominion over all the creatures of the earth, He has given man the wisdom to eventually learn how to get past that almost impenetrable armor and kill crocodiles when necessary. But that is not the case with the protective shield God wraps around us. When we remain faithful to God, He wraps us in that impenetrable shield and does not open it up to the enemy.

Unfortunately, we have often given the enemy dominion over us and exposed ourselves to his weapons – either by deliberate disobedience to God and His covenant, or by ignorance of His Word. We must live in that Word and devour it until it has created the faith in us that receives and applies that protection from the Lord. Remember, it is the Word alone that creates faith (Romans 10:17). Nothing but the Word has the power to create faith, because it is only that Word that can show us the reality of the promises of God.

We must keep in mind the fact that there are two realms: the natural realm and the spiritual realm. And it is that spiritual realm – which we cannot access by our five senses – that is the most real and the most powerful. The things that we can see, feel, and hear are temporal (temporary and subject to change), but the things that are not accessed by our five senses are eternal. (2 Cor. 4:18). The Spirit God created everything that is natural. So all things natural are subservient to the spirit realm.

When God’s promised protection becomes more real to us than the enemy and his threats, we will say continually out of our own mouths that God is our shield and protection and that no evil can befall us. And we will be at rest, because the protection has become more than just words on a page to us. But, thank God, even when we fail at this responsibility, God still has mercy enough to deliver us from the results of our own foolishness and disobedience. Repentance and a return to His Word, will open the door to that mercy triumphing over what we justly deserve.

So much for the shield. What about God’s being the “lifter of our head”? This description of the Lord refers to a long-held tradition among the Israelite nation. When a man was troubled with a problem or burden, he would often go about in a dejected manner, with his head downcast. It was common practice among the Hebrew people that if a friend of the troubled man walked up to him, put his hand under his chin, and lifted his head, that meant that the friend was willing to take on the problem of the troubled man and help him solve it.

So it is that our Lord Jesus, the Hebrew of Hebrews, comes to us, the sons and daughters of Abraham, when we are troubled and pressed down even to the point of despair, and He lifts our heads. He says, “Cast all your care on Me, for I care for you.” (1 Peter 5: 6-7).

Now, the Lord has several ways of putting His loving hand beneath our head and lifting it up, but one of the most common ways is through His Word. In the midst of the worst oppression, when we open that Word and feed upon it, it saturates us,and our head is lifted, our soul is lightened, and our spirit soars to meet God and receive His victory.

No wonder David could say that he would lie down and sleep in peace, knowing he would awake safe the next morning because God was with him. No wonder he boasted that he wouldn’t be afraid, even if ten thousands of his enemies surrounded him on every side. He knew, like Elisha before him, that the horses and chariots of fire from Heaven were much more numerous than all the hosts of the enemy. Elisha had said, “Fear not, for they that be with us are more than they that be with them.” (2 Kings 6:11-23).

Dear Reader, beloved of God, have your adversaries increased? Are you surrounded on every side by the enemy forces attacking you and your loved ones? Are you facing problems that, in the natural, have no solution: serious illness, indebtedness and foreclosures, broken marriages, children addicted to drugs? The list is virtually endless. Are you feeling desperate? Are you hearing the enemy say, “There’s no help for you in God?” Then you must do what David did. You must set your eyes, without wavering, on God. Elisha’s servant had to have his spiritual eyes opened miraculously to be able to see the chariots of God. But, dear one, we have only to look into God’s Word.

Open up that Word and devour it. Let it fill your eyes, your mind, your heart. That Word will show you God, your shield; that Word will bring the hand of Jesus beneath your chin and lift your head; The Word will show you the angels of God and their chariots of fire, prepared to move on your behalf.

Stay in that Word until your Deliverer is more real to you than all of your enemies. Stay in that Word until every word out of your own mouth says what God says. Then you’ll be able to testify with David: “I cried unto the Lord, and He answered me from His holy mountain and delivered me!”