Sunday, February 28, 2016

Something's Coming!

A few days ago I came home from Bible study so fired up that I lightheartedly wrote on Facebook an open invitation for anyone to call and listen to me give a sermon recounting a few lessons from Beth Moore on the book of Revelation. (I knew I sure wouldn't be going to sleep anytime soon that night!) Well, you might not be surprised to learn that not even one person took me up on the offer! However, some of the points Beth made in her DVD study, Here and Now... There and Then, are still resonating so deeply on my heart that I feel compelled to share here with hopes it can be an encouragement to others as well.

Truthfully there are so many depictions thus far in our study that have hit me with perfect timing in my life and prayers right now. Even though the first five chapters are among the most familiar to me of the book, I love how God's Word can speak fresh truth every time we open and study it. And I have to add that Beth Moore can bring things out of it more personally and deeply than any human being I've studied under, too. But with all the personal stories and many thoughts I'd love to share, the scene I want to zoom in on now is from the fifth chapter of Revelation. Picture this with me in the words of John the apostle:
Then I saw in the right hand of Him who sat on the throne a scroll with writing on both sides and sealed with seven seals. And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming in a loud voice, "Who is worthy to break the seals and open the scroll?" But no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth could open the scroll or even look inside it. I wept and wept because no one was found who was worthy to open the scroll or look inside. 5 Then one of the elders said to me, "Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals." 
- Revelation 5:1-5 (NIV 84) 

It is such a profound scene--please take it in for a moment.

But here's what gets me: Why are verses 3 and 4 needed? Why doesn't an answer come as soon as the angel asks Who is worthy? Why is there searching in heaven and on earth and under the earth? Why does John weep and weep with intense external expressions of grief? Is there any purpose in the waiting and looking and grieving?

Beth believes there is and explains it like this (paraphrased): Before we can fully appreciate anything of great glory, God will always provide for us to feel the lack, to notice what's missing. That's His usual way.

Then she brought us back to a story from the beginning of the Bible, in Genesis 2:18-22.  Shortly after God created Adam, He said in verse 18, "'It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.'" But the next statement in Scripture is not the one telling how God created woman. Instead we see a reminder of all the animals and birds He created and how He brought each of them before Adam to be named. Beth asks us to consider how that might have made Adam realize his need even more profoundly as the end of verse 20 reiterates, "But for Adam no suitable helper was found." Only after all this do we see God filling in the lack and creating a helpmate for Adam from his rib. God's provision is perfect, but in His own time and His own way.

As Beth was sharing these thoughts from Genesis, my mind suddenly turned back to another of her studies, to something I was scrambling to look up when I got home that night. In the first session of her DVD study, Breath: The Life of God in Us, Beth shares much about the Holy Spirit in the first two chapters of Genesis. One of the points she has us take down asserts, "The creation narrative repeatedly displays a curious method." We then record four examples along with their references in Genesis, showing this progression in the story of creation:

    "Substance without form. (1:2)
     Form without animation. (1:9-10)
     Animation without image. (1:20-25)
     Image without equivalent. (2:18-20)"

And for the conclusion she declares, "The overarching message of what's missing is this: Something's coming!"

Something's coming! That's the phrase I couldn't get out of my head. God is providing, but somehow we can't see or appreciate it until we feel the lack, until we know what's missing.

As I've pondered these thoughts even more over the last few days, many more examples come to mind as well. The entire Old Testament points out over and over again our need for a Savior. The law cannot be kept by anyone. Sacrifices have to be repeated because nothing is good enough, and everyone keeps sinning. After Malachi there are 400 years of silence. God's people wait for "a voice of one calling in the desert" (Isaiah 40:3, Matthew 3:3, etc.). And even now we "groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies" (Romans 8:23).

Something's coming, but we feel the lack. We groan inwardly as we wait eagerly.

"But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently" (Romans 8:24b-25).

Ah, patiently. That's where I can really struggle.

But these reminders spur me on in hope. Even the lesson itself that night shed light on answers to prayer for me. Just one week prior I had finally voiced a concern I had been praying about and wrestling with for at least a month or two. As Beth was teaching, I was overwhelmed with the thought that from the moment I actually articulated the struggle to someone out loud, causing me to feel the lack even more intensely, I then began to see provision after provision, grace upon grace, of God's working and speaking to me in that area. I'm struck by it all afresh even as I type.

At the same time, a heartbreaking situation for a dear friend was on my mind so much as well. I don't want to minimize it. The pain of the immediate and the not knowing are immense, I'm certain. My heart continues to ache and hurt as I pray for all involved, too. But I know God is providing for His beloved children. And I know that when the provision comes, He will be all the more praised because the lack is so evident there is no doubt that only One can fill it.

Something's coming... We don't know when. We don't know what it will look like. We feel the lack, much like John. He wept and wept... but then...

"Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the center of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders." (Revelation 5:6a)


John saw true Provision right in front of him. One day we will, too. Until then, we groan inwardly, we wait eagerly, and we pray.

And those prayers? They are never missed and never forgotten. They're in a bowl, before the throne.
(See Revelation 5:8 and 8:3-4.)

Even so, come, Lord Jesus.