I had something of a revelation this week. I could write entries going forward from here as though I’m through my “wasteland” time.
But that would kind of defeat the object of this journey. My reason for wanting to share the journey I’m on is to (hopefully) demonstrate God’s Faithfulness when we stick with Him.
I found myself thinking about Daniel a few days ago. I try not to write until the thought is complete – which can lead to some long periods of silence – so although I’m still very much in Wasteland, I’ve got some stuff I can share going on.
Daniel prays twice of note in his story.
While I was speaking, praying, confessing my own sin and the sin of my people Isra’el, and pleading before Adonai my God for the holy mountain of my God — yes, while I was speaking in prayer, the man Gavri’el, whom I had seen in the vision at the beginning, swooped down on me in full flight at about the time of the evening sacrifice, and explained things to me. He said, “I have come now, Dani’el, to enable you to understand this vision clearly. At the beginning of your prayers, an answer was given; and I have come to say what it is; because you are greatly loved. Therefore look into this answer, and understand the vision.
Daniel 9:20-23 (Complete Jewish Bible)
The great thing is the message Gabriel (Gavri’el) brings. The statement that he was sent at the beginning of Daniel’s prayers with the answer.
Just think about it for a moment.
Daniel starts to pray. He opens his mouth to speak to God. And as he does so, God hands Gabriel the answer and despatches him.
Daniel hasn’t actually finished talking to God when the answer is sent to him. In fact, he hasn’t even got through the first sentence.
That used to trouble me, except then I realised God looks at our heart. Everything in Daniel’s prayer is in his heart as he begins to pray – and God sees it as soon as Daniel inclines his heart to present it to God for an answer.
King David would take his plans for battle before the Lord and never moved until he heard an answer. Moses did nothing until he’d spent time in God’s presence asking for guidance and arguing with God about what was to happen next.
Yes, you read that right. Arguing with God.
I think God actually enjoys debating the next step with His children. It’s through debate that we come to a mutual understanding of the move. We truly own the step before we take it through active debate because we get a chance to grasp why God is guiding us in that direction by interacting with Him.
These days church tells us we should have a “monkey-see monkey-do” attitude. It’s in the book, so that’s how we’ll do it.
The result is looney-tunes pastors playing with rattle-snakes, spraying their congregation with bug spray and drinking disinfectants and detergents because they latch onto one particular verse and build their entire theology around it.
In “Red Dwarf”, the cult sci-fi comedy, Arnold Rimmer, the hologram crew member tells his crew-mate Lister that his family are “Seventh Day Adventist Hoppists” thanks to a typo in their edition of the Bible that made it read “Now there are three things that last for ever, Faith, Love and Hop. And the greatest of these is Hop”. As a result on Sundays his entire family would only hop on one leg to go anywhere.
Now obviously that was written for comedic effect, and the scene made me roar with laughter the first time I watched it (apologies if the quote isn’t exactly verbatim – it’s been several years since I watched it). But it made an impression. The incredible lunacy of taking a single verse in a single translation – any translation – and making a doctrine out of it is mind-boggling.
Yet we do it all the time.
There’s a scene in “Deep Space Nine” where Ben Sisko is discussing baseball with his girlfriend, Cassidy Yates, and she tells him about a revival of the sport in the outer colonies of the Federation. Sisko asks her about the rules they use, the size of the field and even the material the bats are made from. I had visions the first time I watched it of him suddenly screaming “HERETIC” about any detail she shared with him.
Whilst it’s funny in fiction, in reality it’s not so much.
And in the church there’s no place for it at all.
I was told today of a village in Kenya where one denomination came to distribute food to the people who are starving there. They only gave to families that belong to their particular denomination. Irrespective of need.
Actually, not so much. Daniel’s first prayer answer is despatched before he has the chance to finish speaking it out loud. A matter of moments and the answer is given to him.
But then look at chapter ten.
At that time I, Dani’el, had been mourning for three whole weeks. 3 I hadn’t eaten any food that satisfied me — neither meat nor wine had entered my mouth, and I didn’t anoint myself once, until three full weeks had passed.
Daniel 10:2-3 (CJB)
Three weeks. Twenty-one days Daniel has been praying, and no answer has come yet.
He’s fasted. He’s done everything he can, but there’s no sign of an answer to his cries to God.
If Daniel had been an average member of a 21st Century Western church, he would have quit.
Probably after the second day.
But Faith includes waiting sometimes. We don’t know what might be going on in the Spiritual areas.
Gabriel arrives, and tells Daniel he was delayed by a spiritual force for three weeks.
But Daniel’s answer was given to him the time Daniel first prayed!
There’s the lesson for us.
What looks like wasteland, may be a time of preparation. It may be that the enemy has recognised the importance of the answer we are waiting on and is fighting hard to prevent us receiving it.
It’s very hard to not get an instant response to prayer. I’ve seen both extremes in my own life, instant response and delayed by days, weeks, months and even years sometimes. And a delayed response isn’t necessarily God saying “wait”, it may be the enemy saying “oh crap!”
We can often delay receiving an answer from God. We limit God’s ability to Bless us by being unable to believe we are “worthy” of receiving a Blessing from God at a certain level. We may refuse to accept the Blessing as a result. God may be wanting to Bless us far more than we realise or can believe we are going to receive.
Limiting God is a far more complex issue than I can deal with in a single portion in a post, so I’ll go into it in more depth another time.
But right now, just remember that even in Wasteland times we get blessings from God throughout the journey.