In the book of Acts we meet two men named Ananias.
We meet the first one in Acts 5. He was part of the early church in Jerusalem. God was moving powerfully and the church was growing. The believers were living in communion with God and fellowship with each other and radical acts of love and generosity became common among them. People sold their possessions in order to give to others who were in need. It was a beautiful scene – one birthed by the Holy Spirit and His working in the hearts of these people.
Not wanting to be left out, Ananias also sold a property, but he acted deceitfully, giving a part as though it was the whole. It is very likely that what motivated him to do this thing was a desire to be well thought of by the apostles and the rest of the church without it costing him too much. His sin would cost him his life.
In Acts 9 we meet another Ananias. He lived far from Jerusalem, in Damascus. The Lord asked a hard thing of him – to go into the presence of a man who had travelled a great distance with authority to imprison him and many people he loved. He voiced his concerns to the Lord but when the Lord answered him, he moved out in obedience. Full obedience. He didn’t just go to the window of the house Saul was staying in and shout a prayer as he ran by. He went in, put his hands on the man and prayed for him. And because of this he has a mention in the story of the greatest missionary that ever lived. This Ananias was motivated by the love of God.
Two men, same name, very different stories. The difference is that one was motivated by a desire for his own glory and the other by a desire for the glory of God. The one seeking his own honor was brought to shame. The one seeking God’s honor was himself honored.
2 Corinthians 4:6 For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
We can know the power of God by the works of His hand. We can know the mind of God by the words of His mouth. But we will only know the glory of God by the gaze into His face.
Just a few verses earlier we read:
2 Corinthians 3:16 Nevertheless when one turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.
2 Corinthians 3:18 But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.
Doesn’t this bring to mind the moment in a wedding when the groom lifts the veil that covers the bride’s face and the two gaze at each other, filled with love?
Jesus has unveiled us. Our sin-clouded eyes have been washed that we might see Him clearly, and in the seeing, know His glory.
Those who only catch a passing glance of Jesus as they go about their life will never see that glory. It requires face to face. Stopping everything to gaze upon Him. To linger…beholding the glorious face of Jesus.
The world has been crazy lately in so many ways. It’s been a time of suffering, fear and hopelessness for many. And we don’t know what we may face tomorrow. There is an anticipation (in America at least) that there will be a time of trouble very soon. Turning our attention to the media has resulted in anxiety and fear of the future. But when we turn our attention to the word of God we see that the end of all these things is glorious.
“Then the angel showed me a river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the main street of the city. On either side of the river stood a tree of life, bearing twelve kinds of fruit and yielding a fresh crop for each month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be within the city, and His servants will worship Him. They will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads.There will be no more night in the city, and they will have no need for the light of a lamp or of the sun. For the Lord God will shine on them, and they will reign forever and ever.” Revelation 22:1-5
The days ahead may very well be challenging, but we have a sure word from God – we will see His face. Hold onto this hope and let it carry you through every difficulty.
“God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also he made the worlds; who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high” Hebrews 1:1-3
Sometimes the routineness of religious activity can dull my view of Jesus. I can get stuck in a rut, even though it is a really nice rut, of church attendance, Bible study and prayer meetings. But once I slow the pace a bit the question arises…..where is Jesus?
It is the mercy of God that He reveals to us when we have become content with the activities of religion and have lost sight of the Saviour. Even in the midst of our seeking after Him we can become more focused on the seeking than on Him.
So this is where I found myself as I sensed the Lord telling me “look unto Jesus.” So I started looking in Hebrews and these first few verses literally took my breath away as I saw the glory and power of Jesus Christ so overwhelmingly presented:
The glory that emanates from Him
The divinity of His person
His amazing power in the creation and continuance of all things
His completed work of redemption
His exalted heavenly position
This is our King. This is our Redeemer. This is our Friend.
It is a fact of life that trouble comes to all. To the rich and poor, the proud and humble, the young and old. No one is exempt.
“Yet man is born to trouble, as the sparks fly upward.” Job 5:7
With each new difficulty we are given the opportunity to choose our response to it. What will we do in the day of trouble? This is a question of great importance. I love this quote by Hannah Whitall Smith:
We may make out of each event in our lives either a Juggernaut car to crush us, or a chariot in which to ride to heights of victory. It all depends upon how we take them; whether we lie down under our trials and let them roll over and crush us, or whether we climb up into them as into a chariot, and make them carry us triumphantly onward and upward.
2 Corinthians 4:17 tells us that “our light affliction which is but for a moment is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.”
Each difficulty presented, each sorrow to be endured, each gut-wrenching choice of obedience that must be made, they are invitations to glory. In each new challenge, an opportunity to die a little bit more to ourselves and to become more alive to who He is. Suddenly, our own comfort, even our own personal desires and happiness are no longer as important as they once seemed to be.
One thing is needful. These are the words of Jesus (Luke 10:42). That one thing is fellowship with Him. That is the one thing that I need. I don’t always know that as fully as I should and other things begin to creep in and crowd out the one thing.
I was reminded of this “one thing” concept today when reading the story of Hannah, who was barren: Then Elkanah her husband said to her, “Hannah, why do you weep? Why do you not eat? And why is your heart grieved? Am I not better to you than ten sons?” 1 Samuel 1:8
I’m sure Elkanah was a good husband and provider. We’re told in verse 5 that he loved Hannah. It sounds as though she may have enjoyed a very pleasant relationship with Elkanah. But her heart was longing for one thing, and this one thing is what brought her to the place of pouring out her heart to the Lord in the fervency of her desire for it. She wanted nothing harmful, illegal or immoral. Only what was promised to her: children – a heritage from the Lord.
Elkanah could be a wonderful husband. But he could never be a son. And that was what her heart longed for. What does your heart long for? In those quiet moments when you can still your thoughts and search those secret corridors of your heart – what is that one thing you are longing for? Is it Him?
The longing of my heart to walk more closely with Jesus is almost painful at times. Painful because, to be honest, although I know that this is the genuine desire of my heart, I seem to be so complacent in my seeking after Him. In this complacency the question of the various Elkanah’s of life can be heard – “Am I not better?”
Elkanah will never be a substitute for a son. And absolutely nothing this world can offer – not even spiritual things – can be a substitute for a vibrant relationship with Christ.
Elkanah seemed to be content with the status quo. He didn’t understand Hannah’s longing. I wonder how many of us are like Elkanah – content with another church service, a few songs, a little sermon. But no meeting with God, no glory, a weekly event full of emotion but void of Presence. I KNOW THAT THERE IS MORE!!!!
And standing in church among a crowd of thousands, with voices singing worship choruses in unison, I find myself gazing upward, this question upon my lips – where are you God?
The gospel of John records that when the disciples went to the tomb after the crucifixion and discovered that Jesus was not there, that the burial face cloth was still there, by itself, folded.
As I thought about the face cloth, I remembered the story of Moses coming down from Mt. Sinai with the tablets of the law (the Old Covenant), his face shining so brightly that he had to cover it with a veil. And there was a veil in the tabernacle/temple that kept the place of the presence of God separated from the rest of the sanctuary.
The veil shall be a divider for you between the holy place and the Most Holy. Exodus 26:33
Each year sacrifices were offered and sin was covered, but there was no provision made to allow the people behind the veil, into the presence of God. The veil symbolized the separation that still existed between God and the people, even in the keeping of the law.
But in the initiation of the New Covenant, the face cloth (a word also translated veil) is folded and set aside as something no longer needed. There is now no more divider between us and the presence of God. Christ has entered into that most holy place with His own blood, once for all time. He has cleansed us from our sin and brought us near to God.
Oh, if we only knew, if we could only grasp the privilege we have been given! Those who have called on the name of Jesus for forgiveness of sin have been washed clean, clothed with His righteousness and given access into a fellowship with God that was never before available. It is almost scandalous to think that the holy God allows us to come and commune with Him. But He made a way!!
So let us not be guilty of erecting our own veils of laziness and complacency that keep us from entering this glorious reality. As a bride’s veil is removed when she is given to the groom, let us also remove the veils of separation that we have allowed to stop us from fellowshipping with our God. And then, with unveiled face, let us behold the glory of the Lord.
Jesus went on from there and walked beside the Sea of Galilee. And he went up on the mountain and sat down there. And great crowds came to him, bringing with them the lame, the blind, the crippled, the mute, and many others, and they put them at his feet, and he healed them, so that the crowd wondered, when they saw the mute speaking, the crippled healthy, the lame walking, and the blind seeing. And they glorified the God of Israel. Matthew 15:29-31
While reading this passage today, I stopped to meditate on it for a moment. These great crowds that came to Jesus this day, many of them had with them a friend or loved one with a need. What a massive amount of human suffering was represented in this group of people. I wonder how many of them had given up hope of ever being well and had become resigned to this suffering as their lot in life – some bearing it well, some not so well.
Imagine hearing the news that there is a man who is able to heal. What hope must have begun to spring up in the hearts of the people. So they came, bringing their sick ones. And they did not gently lay them at Jesus’ feet, but the word used here means they flung them down before Him in haste, as many others pushed to get their sick ones before Jesus. What a chaotic scene!
But then imagine the rejoicing that must surely have followed as one after another the sick were healed. Family after family received their loved ones back in wholeness. Oh what a joyous celebration there must have been, with shouts of joy mixed with tears of thanksgiving. Mothers weeping over the child whose suffering from sickness is over, wives hugging the husband whose injury has been healed.
I have wondered what it was like for Jesus to watch the response of the people to the miraculous works He was performing. Did He enter into the joy of the moment? I feel certain He must have. But even more than that, He surely was pleased with this: “And they glorified the God of Israel.”
More and more I find this one phrase has become the passion and desire of my life – “all things for the glory of God.” There is no higher goal, no purpose of life that brings God more pleasure than living all of it for His glory. All my good works, all my diligent devotion, what good is any of it if it brings attention to my (supposed) goodness and knowledge, but does not point others to the glorious God who works in me both to will and to do?
Can I lay down my desire to be noticed and praised in order to bring notice and praise to the only worthy One? By the power of His Spirit I can, and I must. God help us all to live each day, each moment for His glory alone.