LIFT UP YOUR EYES

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‘For everything there is a season’ (Eccl. 3:1) says the Bible. Discerning the  seasons is something that is possible with the help of  the Holy Spirit only. Paul the Apostle warns us about the  risk of mistaking seasons. ‘So if you think you are standing, watch out that  you  do not fall’  (1 Cor 10:12).  The risk of falling is  at its  peak when our self confidence  is also at its peak. Current events    should prompt us to take  necessary precautions to avoid this looming danger. If anyone thinks that  he can stand by his own against  the  increasing  attacks of the threefold enemies  – the world, the flesh, and the evil – his folly  deserves our sympathies.

In the second book of Maccabees we read about Nicanor the cruel  commander who, under  orders from Ptolemy marching  towards Judea with an army of  more than twenty thousand Gentiles, to wipe out the whole race of Judea (2 Mac 8:9). Nicanor had  great plans in  his mind. He  would sell the captured Jews to  slave traders  and the   price  was  one Talent per  ninety slaves! Nicanor was so  confident of  his victory that  even before actual commencement of battle he  invited the  merchants from the  towns  on the  seacoast to participate in the  ensuing auction of Jewish slaves!  The  response to  his  invitation was tremendous. ‘The thrice-accursed Nicanor could bring  a thousand merchants to buy the Jews’ (2 Mac 8:34).

Naturally the  Jews were afraid, because with all their  efforts they could muster an army of around six thousand only whereas their enemies were more than threefold in number. They were all Gentiles bringing to our  mind the analogy of the threefold enemies  we  already mentioned.  Judas Maccabeus  was the leader of  the Jews at that time. He was an  efficient commander. But more than that, he was a true warrior of faith. He  knew that  it was the Lord’s hand that brought them victory, not their prowess. So he told his  people to get ready for the battle with the  limited  resources  they had. “For they trust  to arms and  acts of daring”, he said, “but we trust in the Almighty God, who is able with a single nod  to strike down those  who are coming against us, and even, if necessary, the whole world” (2 Mac 8:18).

And his words  truly energized the  ranks. Before proceeding to  the  battlefield Judas Maccabeus did two things that should not  miss our   attention. First ‘he appointed Eleazar to read aloud from the  Holy Book and then gave the watchword ‘The Help of God’ (2 Mac 8:23). Now take a pause and  reflect whether we have the habit of reading aloud the Word of God  in times of   our spiritual battle. Our fall starts the moment when we  ignore the words spoken by the Lord  and  miss the watchword of His help.  

Do you think that  our God will forsake a people who  put all their trust in him? No.  On the first day itself the Jews advanced, attacking enemy positions.  They looted the  money of those merchants who came prepared to  buy them as slaves. The  battle would have ended the next day.  But Judas Maccabeus  was a man of faith  and he instructed his people not  to fight the next day  as it was Sabbath. They resumed the fight after Sabbath and decisively  defeated the enemy. Keeping one day  holy as Sabbath  is something that will bring victory to  us   everyday. Unfortunately we forget  this too in  our rat race to  capture everything.

The root cause of our  fall is that we forget  where to turn for  help. Our help comes from  God and God alone. The Lord expects us to turn to him in times of need. The Psalmist who knew this wrote; ‘I lift up my eyes to the hills – from where will my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and  earth’ ( Ps 121:1-2).

We believe that we  do stand. But we do not know that  we boast  of it while standing  on the foundation of  a faith that is as weak as a reed shaken by the wind.  Though we are blessed with grace,  it is given in fragile earthen pots. If we, poor mortals bound in time and space, think we will hold up the faith till  the end, listen to the words of  Paul who was  once caught up to the  third heaven (2 Cor 12:2). ‘I punish my  body and enslave it, so that after proclaiming to others I  myself should not be disqualified’ (1 Cor 9:27).

Paul fears for his salvation. But we  have the audacity to proclaim that we stand on  firm ground and will withstand  every tempest. This spiritual pride will be our undoing and its sole remedy is  to confess that ‘this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not  come from us’ (2 Cor 4:7).  Let us march forward with the firm belief that ‘God will not let our  foot be moved, and he who keeps us will not slumber (Ps 121:3). If the Lord who is ‘able to  strike down those who are coming against us, and even, if necessary, the whole world’ is  going before us, where is the place for fear?

‘For what other great nation has a god so near to it as the Lord our God is whenever we call to him? (Deu 4:7). In spite of this assurance from heaven if we stumble before the enemy, it is time to do a serious introspection. Does our  faith meet the minimum benchmark fixed by the Lord; a faith as small as a mustard seed? Our Lord is generous and kind-hearted. What he demands of us is  faith and faith alone. With  David who knew  the value of faith and experienced the protection of God in his  life,let us also  proclaim. ‘On the  day I called, you answered me, you increased  my strength of soul’ ( Ps 138:3).  

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