רָחַב and Psalm 4:1

It is God that does the pushing, the stretching, and the enlarging with the distress as His tool.

Rachab  Ra-kav’

to be or grow wide, be or grow large

  1. (Qal) to be widened, be enlarged
  2. (Niphal) broad or roomy pasture (participle)
  3. (Hiphil)
    1. to make large
    2. to enlarge

In the short letter written by James, the brother of Christ, he extols his readers to “count it all joy” when they face various trials. That is a lot easier to read than it is to live through. What is it about trials that can make it so? Can the exercise our faith encounters in the midst of such trials be the strengthening and stretching of our spirit that allows joy to enter when there is no room for much else?

Recently, I had a short devotional reading that focused on Psalm 4:1 and I noticed something that was such a minor point prior to the study, but became so relevant after. The words used in the translations other than the KJV were accurate in a general way but, they did not convey the meaning, I believe, the psalmist had in mind. In even the NKJV, Psalm 4:1 reads:

“Hear me when I call, O God of my righteousness! You have relieved me in my distress; Have mercy on me, and hear my prayer.”

The word that I focused on was translated “relieved.” The inference was that God, when we are in distress, can be the relief we seek. It is true enough that such relief is often brought to us by the Holy Spirit; but, I kept thinking about how the psalmist. Even in this case, when it is believed to be King David; he did not have the always present indwelling Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit did assist believers in the times prior to Christ’s post-resurrection ascension; but it was not a daily filling, not a fulfilled indwelling and certainly not all believers. So, what was it from David’s perspective that such trials brought to him that could lead him to worship God with such enthusiasm? The answer lies in the Hebrew word that the NKJV translates relieved. The best translation of the Hebrew Rachab is “to be widened, enlarged.” The verse becomes: “Hear me when I call, O God of my righteousness: thou hast enlarged me when I was in distress; have mercy upon me, and hear my prayer.”

Distress enlarges us. It stretches our faith and pushes us to the very brink of ourselves and drives us into something so much more than who we are in ourselves. We may have heard someone say that to go through difficult times will make you be a ‘bigger man’ for it or it will ‘grow you’ as you go through the difficulty.

That is exactly what King David is writing when he says that God has enlarged him when he was in distress. However, we must be clear that it is not the distress, the trouble or difficulty that enlarges the believer. It is God who does the pushing, the stretching, and the enlarging with the distress as His tool.

I cannot help but think of every veteran that I have ever spoken to concerning their basic military training. Every single one hated going through it.  The remarkable part is that those same veterans are unanimous that they would not trade that growing, refining of themselves for anything. That difficult time helped to make them into who they needed to be.

We will never long for the pain that comes with such hardship, but once we have experienced God’s stretching of us through it; we will never regret having been brought down that path. We come away enlarged, grown and grateful when we see our trials through God’s eyes.

cardiac

Right now a missionary couple is going through just that kind of stretching. Their stretching is taking place in 5B North, the Cardiac Services Nursing Unit in St. John New Brunswick. With some vessel surgery planned this week and a triple by=pass scheduled for next, Brad and Bethany are learning more about faith without even barely leaving the hospital floor even as they did as they traveled half-way across the world in the heart of Bosnia-Herzegovina. Nothing can prepare a young married couple for such an ‘enlargement’ but God can hold them through it and we as brothers and sisters in Christ can uplift them while they are in the midst of it. Please remember them as you read this blog and take time with God in prayer to encourage Brad and Bethany in their time of stretching.

Finding Our Place in Heaven

We can live each day, joyously, victoriously, in grateful appreciation of the heavenly home that has already got our name on the mailbox!

Recently we treated the topic of having only about ten minutes left in your life and knowing that it was soon to be over. The topic was spurred on by the recent crash of a Lufthansa flight into the side of the Alps, apparently on purpose. Those on the flight would have known for about ten minutes that they were about to crash. Today we want to take that a step further and consider finding our place in heaven. As we mentioned in the previous offering  there is no biblical support for St. Peter standing at the pearly gates of heaven deciding who should or should not enter.  The GOOD news is that for those who have accepted Christ as Savior, they are already in heaven! You ask how that could possibly be since every morning you wake up and you are still living and working on the mortal plain. If we read what the Apostle Paul wrote to the church at Ephesus, the Lord has already given us every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places and predestined us to adoption. What Paul is helping the Ephesians to understand is that if they had accepted Christ’s forgiveness for their sins, then they were already citizens of the heavenly kingdom. Perhaps an analogy will help us to understand it a little bit better. God had already created a way for us to be adopted us as His children.

Imagine, if you will, that you are a child whose father was in the US Air Force stationed in Germany. When you were born you were born on the U.S. Air base but within the country of Germany. Because you are the child of a U.S. airman you are automatically a citizen of the United States even though you have never set foot in the U.S. Someday you will travel with your parents back to the U.S. and when you arrive you will have credentials that show you are a U.S. citizen even though you have never been in the U.S. and you are immediately admitted. You were, positionally, a U.S. citizen though you had never been in the U.S. That is what Paul meant when he said that God has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places. Just as the child of an American has all the freedoms and rights of every other citizen positionally without ever having been in the country or, for the believer who is positionally a citizen of the kingdom of heaven, never yet having been in the heavenly places.

Paul writes that we were preordained to adoption as sons. Let us use the same example only with an adoption. The U.S. airman and his wife are living in Germany. Both are U.S. citizens. They have an opportunity to adopt an infant who is of German descent. He is, in fact, a German citizen. Once they adopt the little German infant the boy becomes a citizen of the United States positionally because he has never been in the U.S. and was not born there. In this scenario we will make it so that as he gets older, to have his American citizenship he must renounce his German citizenship. He may still have not been inside the United States physically, in fact he may still live in Germany; but his position is one of a full U.S. citizen; adopted as a son of a citizen and given full rights as a citizen. No one will dare deny him access because he is already a citizen. Imagine if when he got to the entry point and they learned that he was the son of the president! The welcome home mat would certainly be rolled out!

When we accept our position as a child of God we will walk up to those gates as a Child of the King; a royal heir to all that is God’s! Talk about a red carpet arrival! The Bible tells us that the angels marvel at us because of what God has done for us. They have been with God since He created them, yet they can never experience being the recipient of the full love we have received and can never be adopted as God’s children. As a Christ-follower, we are children of the King with full citizenship in heaven, instilled with all the rights and responsibilities that are part of our citizenship in heaven.

That is the meaning of Paul’s words in Ephesians chapter 1. I trust it will provide you with comfort knowing that you, if you have accepted Christ as Savior, have already attained your position in heaven. Jesus said, I go to prepare a place for you and if I go, I will come again and receive you unto myself. What a spiritual blessing in the heavens we have already received that our place has been secured, Paul writes, that it is sealed by the Holy Spirit. For those who argue then that we can somehow lose our place there is to believe that we, as failed human beings, Jesus said He understood that we were dust, could take something away from God who has sealed us with the Holy Spirit! Those who live in such a way that one would say they would be in danger of losing their salvation should examine themselves to see if they ever had salvation to begin with. Like the seed that fell on shallow ground and never took root; many need to return to the cross and seek that original forgiveness and then their lives will be eternally changed. The outcome of their human life will be radically different.  Praise God for that!

We have covered a great deal of theology in one lesson but perhaps a reminder for us all. We can live each day joyously, victoriously and in grateful appreciation of the heavenly home that has already got our name on the mailbox!