Tokens of Our Hearts

Heart Grain

Deuteronomy 16:10 “Celebrate the Feast of Weeks to the Lord your God by giving a freewill offering in proportion to the blessings the Lord your God has given you.”

How the people of Israel celebrated the Feast of Weeks or Pentecost did not affect the harvest they had just reaped. By the time of the feast, most of the grain was in the barns. The things God asked them to do in celebration of this feast were not some sort of payment for what they had received. The harvest was in, and nothing would change that.

Rather, the offerings the Lord asked them to bring were to be a response. They were a token of appreciation for the goodness he had shown to them. They were a symbol that the people had given the Lord something much more interesting to him than the offering. What he wanted was their hearts.

This is why the Lord describes this offering here as a “freewill” offering. There was not some specific amount that God demanded they give. He didn’t even indicate what percentage. They were to make up their minds in their own hearts and give what they were moved to give.

That doesn’t mean that the Lord gave them no guidance whatsoever. He does say that the offering is to be “in proportion to the blessings the Lord your God has given you.” Some years the harvest would be bigger. Some years smaller. Some individuals would have more productive fields, others less so. If God’s people had truly given him their hearts, if they realized that without him they had absolutely nothing, if they were full of the realization that once again he had given beggars like them bread for another year, and even more than they needed, then their offerings would reflect that they both understood and returned his love.

This part of the feast presages how Christ wants the work of taking the gospel to the world supported. In the New Testament, we have no “temple tax.” Although you may hear Christians speak of “tithing,” strictly speaking, there is no “tithe” demanded anymore. God has not attached predetermined percentages to the offerings we bring. They are, like the offering at the Feast of Weeks, “freewill.” As Paul tells us, “Each one should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”

Since this is the case, our offerings are a reflection of our hearts. What does our giving say about us? The average active Christian family gives between 2 and 3 percent of its income for the Lord’s work. They spend more on entertainment. Does that mean that our average family ranks God somewhere behind TV, movies, sports, and weekend trips to the amusement park? Some reach the ten percent mark in their giving. They see no need to grow beyond this. Does that mean we limit the place the Lord holds in our hearts? I have heard some Christians complain that the church seems perpetually needy. But to whom are we really giving: an institution, or our Lord?

When our hearts have become small, and cramped, there is little room for our Lord there. Then there is only one thing we can do. Look back at the goodness he has shown to us. He has not just given us a harvest. He has made us a part of it. By sending his Son, and forgiving our sins, and bringing us to faith, God has gathered us to himself. We are a unique harvest he does not intend to sell by the bushel, or consume through the winter, or store away in barns. He treasures us for himself and gathers us into his own home to live with him forever.

Hearts that are full of God’s generosity to us will overflow with generous offerings to him in response.

God’s Kind of Harvest

Grain Harvest

Deuteronomy 16:9-10 “Count off seven weeks from the time you begin to put the sickle to the standing grain. Then celebrate the Feast of Weeks to the Lord your God…”

The climate in our country means that we harvest grain and give thanks to God in the fall. The climate in Israel meant that all this took place in the spring. At about the same time that the people would be finishing their harvest of wheat and barley, seven weeks after it had started, the Lord commanded them to celebrate a Feast to him. Since the Promised Land was a land “flowing with milk and honey,” they would have a reason to celebrate. Unlike the desert in which they had lived in Egypt, parts of Israel were lush and fertile. This land kept them richly fed.

But there was another reason for Israel to celebrate a Feast to the Lord when they gathered in the harvest. There was a certain predictability to the harvests in Egypt. In addition to the annual flooding of the Nile, man-made irrigation systems kept the fields watered. The promised land, on the other hand, relied upon the rains for water. No “human engineering” could change the rainfall. The farmers among God’s people simply had to rely upon the Lord to send them rain. They were at God’s mercy for the success of their harvest. And when God had been so merciful, their reason for thanking him was impressed upon them more.

God wanted this gathering in of his harvest to lead Israel to do more than look back. As they took a day to celebrate the harvest, he wanted them to look ahead as well. The prophet Jeremiah spoke of the Lord gathering the people of Israel to himself as the first fruits of his harvest. The last chapter of Isaiah describes the Lord gathering the nations together as his people like Jewish farmers bringing their grain offerings to the temple.

Jesus picked up these same pictures in his ministry. He told his disciples in Matthew 9, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore to send out workers into his harvest field.” After talking to the Samaritan woman in John 4, he also told them: “I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. Even now the reaper draws his wages, even now he harvests the crop for eternal life…” An even greater harvest than the grain harvest was the harvest of souls the Lord wanted his people to bring in.

At no time did God make the full meaning of this harvest festival more clear than when he chose this day of Pentecost to give Jesus’ disciples the Holy Spirit and begin the Church’s work of harvesting souls. That first day in Acts 2, Peter’s sermon harvested 3000 souls for God’s kingdom. It’s clear that God wanted the gathering of his gifts of grain to presage Christ’s commission to take the gospel to all the world and bring souls to faith.

We still associate the harvest of our food with God’s harvest of souls. Today, we are still living in the fulfillment of this Feast of Weeks or Pentecost. When Jesus gave his life for our sins at the cross, that was a one-time event. We look back at work done. But he continues to extend his mission to harvest souls through our mission work today.

Advent, the weeks leading to Christmas, gives us a prime opportunity to do just that. What better time to invite a friend to church? Everyone can sing the Christmas carols.  Luke chapter 2 is popular with the general public. At what other time of the year (with the exception of Easter) is the message that God so loved us that he was willing to go to extreme lengths to save us more clear?

Our journey back in time to the Feast of Pentecost provides a timely reminder, as Christmas approaches, that we are still gathering God’s harvest of souls.

The Greatest Adventure

Elijah Chariot2 Kings 2:11-12 “As they were walking along and talking together, suddenly a chariot of fire and horses of fire appeared and separated the two of them, and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind. Elisha saw this and cried out, ‘My father! My father! The chariots and horsemen of Israel!’ And Elisha saw him no more. Then he took hold of his own clothes and tore them apart.”

Nothing scares people more than death. In fact, it is the one thing that seems to be lurking behind every other fear. There are few places we invest so much expense and effort as we do in death prevention, from hiding air bags in every spare inch of our vehicles, to investing billions in medical research each year, to supporting vast armies and police forces and fire departments to keep us safe. We do so in spite of the fact that death is inevitable, that the death rate has remained almost constant since the world began: one per person.

“Ah,” you think to yourself, “but here we have an exception, because Elijah didn’t die.” And you are right. The fact that he reappeared with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration confirms that Elijah was translated to heaven without tasting death, as we see here. But whether God swept Elijah to heaven in a storm, or whether the prophet had keeled over in front of his friend, the effect was the same for Elisha, wasn’t it? He was separated from the spiritual father and friend he cared for so deeply. At least part of Elisha’s reaction was the same as those who mourned a death in the family: he tore his clothes.

But Elijah’s fate also reminds us why God’s promises are faithful in spite of our fear of death and the separation we must suffer. Toward the end of the movie “Hook,” Captain Hook challenges Peter Pan to a duel to the death. Peter Pan replies, “Death would be a great adventure,” and Hook agrees, “Death would be the greatest adventure.”

Now I doubt whether Peter Pan or Captain Hook were thinking about the same thing that I am thinking, but I can agree that death is at least the start of the greatest adventure. That’s not just because there is a sense of mystery about what happens, but because the child of God knows that heaven is waiting for him on the other side. That’s where Elijah went here: “…and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind.” That’s the promise of Jesus’ resurrection for each one of us after we die. “The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom,” the Apostle Paul assured Timothy.

And isn’t that ultimately what Christ came to do for us? He heads the world’s largest and longest running rescue operation: to get people off this spiritually sinking planet to safety in heaven. Each child of God who dies in faith is a success story. In their case, it’s “mission accomplished.” We have finally gotten this one to safety, and now we can turn more of our efforts to reaching someone else. In spite of our sadness at parting, in spite of our fears, we can be certain even death brings us blessing, because he has transformed it into the ladder to safety in heaven.

Embracing Our Need

hand in hand

2 Kings 2:9-10 When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, ‘Tell me, what can I do for you before I am taken from you?’ ‘Let me inherit a double portion of your spirit,’ Elisha replied. ‘You have asked a difficult thing,’ Elijah said, ‘yet if you see me when I am taken from you, it will be yours–otherwise not.’”

Elisha was the heir apparent to Elijah’s ministry. God had told Elijah to anoint Elisha to succeed him as prophet. When he asked for a “double portion” of Elijah’s spirit, he wasn’t asking for twice as much as Elijah had. He was asking for the first born son’s inheritance. In ancient times, since the first born son would take his father’s place in the family, he received twice as much as any of the other heirs. If Elisha was going to inherit Elijah’s position as spiritual leader of Israel, then he wanted the spiritual gifts from God that were necessary to carry it out.

Do you see what Elisha is thinking? He sees that the task in front of him is greater than he is. He is aware of his spiritual poverty, his spiritual neediness, in the face of his responsibility. He was called to lead God’s people back to the Lord. He knows that he is not super-spiritual. He is an ordinary man, a simple sinner. He needs to lean on someone other than himself if he is going to be of any use to God or anyone else.

Is that hard for us to admit? We are no different than Elisha, but that doesn’t sit well with our pride. Even in mundane matters we find it difficult to admit our weakness and dependence on others. That’s why I insist that I can fix the car myself, that I can assemble the gas grill without reading the instructions, that I can lift the heavy box without someone on the other side to help. And what does our pride get us in such cases? Costlier repairs? A dangerous explosion? A wrenched back?

In spiritual matters, the stakes are even higher. We develop a false sense of self-confidence. We believe that we have become spiritually pumped.We think we can do God’s work on our own. We are afraid that if we keep coming to God with empty hands we will develop a welfare mentality. We forget that sin is a permanent disability, at least this side of heaven.

The Apostle Peter was once too proud to receive Jesus’ help when Jesus washed his disciples’ feet. Remember Jesus’ response? “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.” Persistent refusal to depend on God and receive his gifts not only guarantees that our service will flop. That kind of pride cuts us off from God himself.

When we come to the same realization that Elisha had, we are confident in Christ’s power to carry us forward, in spite of our neediness, our weakness, and our dependence. God’s grace did everything to save us. He paid the full cost of every sin. We can trust him to fill us and give us every power we need to do his work.

The Apostle Paul once said of his suffering, “When I am weak, then I am strong.” I am always weak. But when we recognize this, then we are ready to depend on God’s strength. We depend on him not only for forgiveness and life. Even the ability to serve is a gift of his grace. The power to accomplish what he gives us to do comes from him.

Something to Be Thankful For

TurkeyMatthew 6:19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. 22 The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness! 24 No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.”

Ever wonder about giving a child something that can be useful, but that can also be harmful? When is a child old enough to have a sharp knife at the dinner table, or his own jack knife? When is it safe to let him or her use matches? When is a teen old enough to drive a car on the freeway? The law may set a minimum age to bring some order and common sense to the issue, but many parents I know have set a later date for their teen than the one the state allows.

We can readily see that material wealth is useful. It may not be so clear to us that it is also highly dangerous. Scripture is full of warnings about the damage money and possessions threaten to do to our souls.  “People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap, and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction.” “Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.”

And yet, in spite of the danger, God has trusted us. When you consider the wealth of the people gathering to celebrate Thanksgiving around our country, it staggers the imagination. We live in homes or apartments that are cool in the summer and warm in the winter. Many of our families have two or more cars. We have enough clothing to wear something different every day for weeks on end if we wanted to. Televisions, cell phones, refrigerators so stuffed with food that we throw much of it away, even though we can keep it for weeks.

Our Thanksgiving holiday focuses especially on these blessings that come from the hand of our generous Lord. As we give thanks for them, let’s remember the warning Jesus gives us in these words. You cannot serve both God and Money. Then let’s remember the greater treasure waiting for us in heaven, entirely the gift of his love and sacrifice.

The Precious Blood of Jesus

blood drop

1 Peter 1:18-19 “For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.”

If Peter had been writing these words today, he might have chosen something more valuable than silver or gold to compare to the price Jesus paid for our redemption: platinum or diamonds, stock in Microsoft or Apple Computer. But it would have made little difference in the comparison. If you were to put them all together and chart their value next to that which follows, they wouldn’t even be a mathematical point sitting at the very bottom of the chart.

Perhaps that vast difference explains why it is so difficult to appreciate the value of the price with which Jesus did redeem us. We were redeemed with the precious blood of Christ. One could go and find what hospitals charge for a unit of blood, but that is no help. How does one put a price on something so unearthly as the blood of God’s own Son?

Remembering that Jesus is God’s own Son, we might draw comparisons between how we value people dear to us–our parents or our children–and how God the Father must value Jesus. Pondering the thought of killing your own child certainly has an emotional impact. But can our love for family even begin to compare with the perfect love God the Father has for his perfect Son? Can we even begin to know the value that Jesus has to him?

In the end, no illustration will enable us to grasp it. No mountains of descriptions will enable us to feel its worth. Martin Luther once noted that even the tiniest drop of Jesus’ blood would have been so precious, so valuable, that it could have paid for the sins of the world, but God the Father is so gracious that he permitted his only Son to pour out all his blood as our innocent lamb of sacrifice. All that we can do is ponder this. All that that we can do is consider the cost. Perhaps if give it our serious attention, it will help us to value our redemption even more.

Amen!

Amen

2 Corinthians 1:20-22 “And so through him the ‘Amen’ is spoken by us to the glory of God. It is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.”

Since Jesus makes me sure, he inspires me to say, “AMEN,” to all that he has promised. Sometimes we Christians say and sing “Amen” as though we don’t really understand what it means. If you went through Lutheran confirmation as a youth, then you memorized Luther’s words explaining “amen” at the end of the Lord’s Prayer. “Therefore, we say “Amen!” Yea, yea, so shall it be.” In modern translation: “Yes, it shall be so.”

But sometimes we say it as though it were a nice, polite little word tacked on the end of something and meaning little more than “the end.” Paul is not proposing a throw away word at the end of something here. He is talking about a bold statement of faith. This is a great, BIG, “THIS IS SO AND I BELIEVE IT.” We say “AMEN!” to all that Jesus tells us.

Is that arrogance? Not at all. Jesus is the one who makes us sure, not in an arrogant, “Boy have I got it all figured out,” sort of way. Our “Amen” is spoken “to the glory of God.” It honors him and his word. After all, “It is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ.” He himself has given us this faith. We didn’t come up with it on our own. He is the one who “anointed us” with his Holy Spirit, “set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.”

In practice, I don’t always deliver the message with such confidence. It’s not because there is anything wrong with the message, or with Jesus. They are certain. The problem lies with me. I don’t know the message so well as I should. I am not always ready with it when I need it. I find myself intimidated by those who oppose the message and aren’t afraid to make their opposition known. I am sorely tempted to fear men more than I fear God. I am tempted to back down on things God himself has said. I struggle with my own doubts, just like you do. So often my personal experience seems to contradict what God has promised, and so I wrestle with Jesus and his word when it doesn’t seem to make sense.

That’s when we want, that’s when we need, someone who believes, who KNOWS that everything he believes about God’s word and promises is true. Martin Luther once said, “To take no pleasure in assertions is not the mark of a Christian heart. Indeed, one must delight in assertions to be a Christian at all…Away now with the Skeptics and Academics from the company of us Christians, let us have men who will assert, men twice as inflexible as the stoics. Whatever wavers or doubts, that cannot be truth.”

Isn’t that what our Christian hearts really crave? We want a Christian pastor, or brother, or friend, who knows that what he believes is true and isn’t afraid to assert it with power.

When we are suffering absolute misery in the hospital, and we are plagued with doubts— “Does God really care?” — We don’t want someone to come and say to us, “Think about what you are going through this way, and see if that helps.” We want someone who will look us strait in the eye and with an unwavering confidence TELL us, “We KNOW that in all things God works for the good of those who love him…Nothing in all creation can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

When we are wracked with guilt because we have made a mess of our life or someone else’s, we don’t want someone to tell us we have to jump through all sorts of hoops, or lead us to rummage around in our own hearts to find some shreds of hope that things are still okay between us and God. We want a man who will come to us and say with all the authority of Christ himself, “I forgive all your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”

When we are looking death itself in the face, and our last breath is just moments away, we don’t want someone to say, “I think”, or “it seems reasonable to suppose,” or “the best of modern scholarship would lead us to believe…”* But, like Job, we want him to assert with confidence, “I KNOW that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth, and though, after my flesh, worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh I will see God…”

That is the message that we have! “For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by me and Silas and Timothy, was not ‘Yes’ and ‘No,’ but in him it has always been ‘Yes.’” Jesus makes us sure. That is not arrogance. That is God’s word. It would only be arrogance if we were NOT to believe it. And to that word we can say, “AMEN!”

*Thanks to the sainted Siegbert Becker for this turn of a phrase.

“Yes!” in Christ

Yes

2 Corinthians 1:18-20 “But as surely as God is faithful, our message to you is not ‘Yes’ and ‘No.’ For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by me and Silas and Timothy, was not “Yes” and ‘No,’ but in him it has always been ‘Yes.’ For no matter how many promises God has made, they are ‘Yes’ in Christ.”

Paul’s preaching about Jesus had never been (and it would never be), “Yes, this is certain about Jesus,” and then in the next breath, “Well, no, maybe this is not so sure.” Everything Paul preached about him, everything we have recorded about that perfect life of love, is sure. Don’t we have four separate accounts telling us so? There is no doubt Jesus gave his life as an atoning sacrifice on the cross, just as Paul preached. There is no doubt Jesus actually, bodily rose from the dead for our faith and assurance. In his earlier letter to these same Corinthian Christians, Paul had pointed them to over 500 witnesses of the fact. Many were still alive and were available for interview. Everything about Jesus’ saving work was “Yes.” It was true.

Everything Jesus taught was “yes” as well. In the gospels we hear reminder after reminder that Jesus spoke with authority. When Jesus said to a person “Be healed!” that person was healed! When Jesus said, “Son, your sins are all forgiven,” those sins were all forgiven! When Jesus preached his parables and proclaimed, “The Kingdom of heaven is like…” a vineyard, a field, or nets, that is what the Kingdom is really like! How many times Jesus introduces something in the gospels with “Verily, I say unto thee,” “Truly, I tell you.” Everything about Jesus’ message to us is sure.

Even more, because of him, ALL of God’s promises are certain. “For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ.” Jesus himself is the ultimate fulfillment of all God’s promises, the greatest demonstration of God’s perfect faithfulness. Because of him I know that every word of God can be trusted. I know the Bible is true not only because it contains some passages that say so. Of course, those passages are also God’s word, and they are not to be doubted.

But I also know that the Bible is true because this is where I met Jesus. It is still where I meet him today. It is in these words Jesus introduced me to his love. And if Jesus loves me as much as these words say (and he does), then I find the faith that can depend upon him and his Father for everything in every way. Jesus makes me sure.

I don’t have space to review all the promises which are “Yes” in Christ here, but a little sampling will give us a feel for just how many promises Jesus makes certain. Isn’t it Jesus himself who says, “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the Kingdom.” “Come to me all you who are weary, and burdened, and I will give you rest.” “I have come that they might have life, and have it to the full.” “So do not worry saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ for the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” “All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm until the end will be saved.” “I am the resurrection and the life. He that believes in me will live, even though he dies, and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.” “My sheep listen to my voice, I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand.” “He that believes and is baptized will be saved.” “Take and drink, this cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you for the forgiveness of your sins.” “There is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”?

These and so many others are the promises of God which Jesus makes certain. In him we can be sure that every one of them is “Yes!”

Your People Will Be Delivered

Last Judgment

Daniel 12:1 “At that time Michael, the great prince who protects your people, will arise. There will be a time of distress such as has not happened from the beginning of nations until then. But at that time your people—everyone whose name is found written in the book—will be delivered.”

What is this time of distress to which Daniel refers? Here the prophet is speaking about the signs that the end is near, that the last day is upon us and Christ is returning as Judge.

Are we there yet? Don’t expect this time of distress to be so obvious we can predict the exact date. Jesus assures us that day will come like a thief in the night, at an hour we do not expect.

Rather, we know that all of God’s people in every age will be plagued with troubles in this world. Jesus told his disciples Maundy Thursday evening, “In this world you will have trouble.” These troubles and hardships have been growing around us as though we were frogs in a kettle. You are probably familiar with that illustration. Since a frog is a cold blooded animal, when you put it into hot water it immediately detects the danger and jumps out. But if you put it into cool water and slowly bring up the heat, it will sit there and boil to death. It can’t detect the gradual change in temperature.

So it is that we are living in a world whose troubles grow in intensity until the day of our Savior’s return. It is entirely possible that we are living in a time of such unparalleled distress that Jesus’ return could take place at any moment.

That means we can give up our utopian dreams for this present world. We are daily tempted to rest our hearts in this world. We try to carve out a slice of heaven right here on earth. This goes beyond what we commonly term “materialism.” Even when we have resolved to simplify our lives, and we stop trying to purchase our happiness, we suffer from an inbred worldliness that looks to create a paradise out of our present reality. In some cases the resolution to simplify our lives itself comes from the worldliness that makes us materialists. We entertain the false hope that we can create a peaceful and perfectly happy existence here.

Our churches will never be pristine moral havens untainted by sin. Our families will never be unfailing sources of love and nurture. Our country will never be a consistent champion of goodness and justice. That’s not to say we should stop fighting to make these things as good as they can be, but it will always be a fight. This is the place of distress and trouble and hardship. God’s solution is not to transform it into the happy home we all long for.

His solution looks like this: “But at that time your people–everyone whose name is found written in the book–will be delivered.” God will deliver us, and we will escape from this distress we know as earthly life. In the opening words of this verse Daniel gives us a clue as to how he will do this. “At that time Michael, the great prince who protects your people, will arise.” Some things we know about him suggest that Michael, which means, “Who is like God?”, may be another name for Jesus himself. We know that on the last day he will visibly return to put a final end to every enemy who is trying to keep us out of heaven. Jesus certainly protects his people and delivers them.

But this Michael may also be the chief of all God’s angels, the archangel who stands above all the rest. Whether we are being protected by Jesus or his angels, believers know that they are not exempt from the distress of these last times. But the Lord will not let it overwhelm us. We will escape from it with our souls. “Everyone whose name is found written in the book,” the book of life, “will be delivered.” Everyone will be clearly and definitely counted. The Lord will not allow a single one of his chosen children to be lost or overlooked.

For now our troubles may lead us right up to the edge of what we can stand. In the end we hold onto the promise: “…your people…will be delivered.”