Through the Word in 2020 #91 – Aug. 7 / Gloom, despair and agony on me!

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Does life ever get you down? It sure does me. A global pandemic and all the uncertainties surrounding it; an economy in free-fall; a virtual circus of political insanity; moral decay on every front; Evangelical leadership bringing shame on the cause of Christ; in-fighting among Christians; isolation; 24 hours of bad news pumped into our homes; social unrest at a new high; racial tensions, and more. It reminds me of the refrain from the old Hee-Haw show:
“Gloom, despair and agony on me,
Deep dark depression, excessive misery.
If it weren’t for bad luck, I’d have no luck at all.
Gloom, despair, and agony on me.”
That’s what makes the opening verses of Nehemiah 2-4 stand out in such a startling way.
I’m Reid Ferguson and we’ll consider that passage today on Through the Word in 2020.
Luke 9:49–56; Psalm 119:9–16; 1 Timothy 1:1–2 and Nehemiah 2–4 are our reading sections today.
And what a striking reference verses 1 & 2 are in Nehemiah 2. This almost off-handed comment shouldn’t be overlooked. Especially in context.
Think about it, Nehemiah was in captivity due to the sins of his people. He was conscripted into the service of a pagan king. He was but a slave in a foreign land. And yet – his usual countenance was one of such joy and contentment, that to be noticed as being sad was notable indeed. And it leads me to ask how are you and I in our circumstances? Would others find it odd that we are sad? Or do we walk about as though our God has abandoned us and forsaken our needs?
Nehemiah is a wonderful exemplar in this regard.
The story is told of the Reformer Martin Luther on the occasion of his having been brooding for a few days. He was troubled by persecution, reports of groups of peasants in revolt, political pressure from the Roman Church on the nobles who were backing Luther to turn on him. He always took his own sins very seriously and then there were those who used his name and cause to do things he would never countenance. He felt truly hopeless.
One morning, deep in his melancholy his wife appeared at breakfast dressed for a funeral. He was used to her being pretty cheerful but not today.
When he asked her what was wrong, she replied with sadness: “God is dead.” Luther shot back: “Woman, that is a terrible heresy. God is not dead, nor doth He sleep. Never say that The Eternal has died. When heaven and earth shall pass away God will remain.”
To which she retorted: “Then why do you waken each morning with such a doleful expression on your face? Why go through the day sighing like the north wind? In your university classes you claim to interpret the mind of God. You have appeared to know Him well, and I became certain, from the expression on your face, that God must surely have expired.”
The account continues that at that – Luther burst out laughing and said: “You have convinced me, Katie, dear, so, if ever you see me again with a melancholy countenance, remind me that God is living, that He will live forevermore. I promise you that I shall try not to appear as dour as a shriveled turnip.”
Maybe it would be good for you and I to remind ourselves too that no matter what happening to us, or around us – God is living. And He will live forever more.
Father, forgive me for how easily and quickly my joy can be taken away, and my countenance prove to be an indictment of your goodness toward me. May the rulers of this age find it odd to observe a Christian with sadness, when we have been promised the fullness of life in Christ both now and forever more.
God willing we’ll be back Monday.

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