Wide Open Spaces

A couple of weeks ago I went in for an MRI exam on my back. Have you ever been in an MRI tube? It can get a little tight and close in there. Fortunately, I’m not claustrophobic when it comes to physical space.

But I am when it comes to my spiritual space. I don’t like it at all when guilt and shame press in around me because of something I’ve done that was loveless or dishonoring of God. I don’t appreciate it a bit when I feel the hurt and anger of others closing in around me because I’ve said or done something sinful and damaging. I definitely begin to feel “pressed in upon.” And it’s no one’s fault but my own.

God’s forgiveness and deliverance sometimes feels to me like emerging from the MRI tube. Even if the room that holds the machine is not very large, it feels cavernous compared to where I’ve just been. I can move, stretch, and shake off the feeling of being enclosed in a giant mailer-tube.

That’s what Jesus does for me on a spiritual level. Only his grace and forgiveness take me much further than just into a slightly bigger room. Jesus removes me completely from my sin and guilt, “as far as the east is from the west,” into the wide open spaces of his freedom, hope, and life.

And it’s all because he was willing to be squeezed and closed-in for me. On the cross, he experienced the immense pressure of being “crushed for my iniquities.” In a tomb he was sealed completely, enclosed for three days to pay the price that I should pay.

King David, the author of Psalm 18, was constantly pursued by enemies in both the physical world and the spiritual world. He had to be constantly vigilant against the attacks of Saul, the Philistines, even at times his own friends and family. He also had to endure the assaults of the devil, the world, and his own sinful flesh.

David looked to the Lord at times like this, to rescue him from his claustrophobic feelings of being “pressed in upon” by those enemies. And as David writes in Psalm 18, a “spacious place” for his soul was the result of the Lord’s love and deliverance:

“He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me” (Psalm 18:19, NIV).

Lord, I pray that you will delight in me, through Christ. Forgive me of my sins. Deliver me from my guilt and shame. Through your grace and mercy, bring my soul out into a spacious place.

Our Bible reading for Tuesday, February 3, is Job 30:1 – 32:22, Matthew 22:15-46 and Psalm 18:16-24.

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…to this day

Sometimes you get amazing wisdom from children. And sometimes it comes from those who have been around the block a time or two.

Jacob had definitely been around the block a few times. He lived to be 147 years old, and shortly before his death he asked his son Joseph to bring his grandsons, Manasseh and Ephraim, to him. He wanted to give them his blessing.

It’s as he’s bestowing a blessing upon Joseph and the two boys that Jacob (by then renamed Israel) says, “Then he blessed Joseph and said, ‘May the God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked faithfully, the God who has been my shepherd all my life to this day, the Angel who has delivered me from all harm—may he bless these boys'” (Genesis 48:15-16a, NIV).

At the very end of his 147 years of life, Jacob looks back and affirms that God had been with him all the way, had walked with him and shepherded him throughout his life, and had protected him every time something threatened to harm him… to this day.

What was Jacob thinking in that exact moment? Was he contemplating all the sins of deception he had committed? Was he reflecting on his brother Esau’s once murderous intentions toward him? Was he considering his father-in-law Laban’s cheating, conniving ways that cost him 20 years of that life? Was he pondering the time he wrestled with the Angel of the Lord? Or the time when Esau and his 400 men were riding out to meet him as he made his way back to Canaan?

Maybe it was all of the above. But whatever it was from the past, Jacob claimed that the very same shepherding and protecting was still happening in the present!

Jacob saw it all clearly, both the past and the present. He saw God’s providence and protection… to this day. He spied many evidences of God’s love… to this day. He witnessed many instances of God’s guidance and forgiveness… to this day.

How about you? As you look back, do you see in your own life what Jacob saw? Do you see the same shepherding and protecting… to this day?

Lord, give me the eyes of Jacob. I want to see you as he did. I want to have the eyes of faith to know that as I walk through life, I am in your eyesight. You are shepherding me every day. You are delivering and helping me at all times, keeping me from harm… to this day!

Our Bible reading for Saturday, January 24, is Genesis 47:13 – 48:22, Matthew 16:21 – 17:13 and Proverbs 3:1-10.

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