Sunday, August 30, 2009
Mathew 11 Spiritual Depression
Some days are shockers. Bombshells. Pure disasters.
And it came to pass, when Jesus had made an end of commanding his twelve disciples, he departed thence to teach and to preach in their cities.
2 Now when John had heard in the prison the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples,
3 And said unto him, Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another?
It was Herod the Great's son Herod Antipas (4 bc - 39 ad) who ordered the imprisonment of John the Baptist because of Johns criticism on his marriage to his brother's wife Herodias (Luke 4 vs 19). During Herod's birthday party Herodias suggested the beheading of John (Matt 14: 1-12). According to the historian Flavius Josephus the imprisonment, the party and the execution took place in the fortress of Machaerus.
John was 'in prison,' in that gloomy fortress of Machaerus which Herod had rebuilt at once for 'a sinful pleasure-house,' and for an impregnable refuge, among the savage cliffs of Moab. The archaeological excavation of Machaerus was begun in 1968 by Jerry Vardaman, of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. In 1973, the German scholar, August Strobel, identified and studied the wall by which the Romans encircled the defenders within the fortress. The two main periods of occupation were Hasmonean (90 BC-57 BC) and Herodian (30 BC-AD 72), with a brief reoccupation soon after AD 72 and then nothing further—so complete and systematic was the destruction visited upon the site by the Romans. The halls of luxurious vice and the walls of defence are gone; but the dungeons are there still, with the holes in the masonry into which the bars were fixed to which the prisoners including John. Were fixed.
No wonder that in the foul atmosphere of a dark dungeon the spirit which had been so undaunted in the free air of the desert began to flag; nor that even he who had seen the fluttering dove descend on Christ's head, and had pointed to Him as the Lamb of God, felt that' all his mind was clouded with doubt.
Yes, in the history of the world, great men are sometimes killed because they stand up for what is right. And the day that they are killed, the mountains seem to shake, the trees
tremble, the sun and the moon darken. It is a black day for the nation. That day is a shocker, a bombshell, a pure disaster for the country.
Such it was the day that John the Baptist was killed. His head chopped by King Herod. John the Baptist was the first authentic voice of God in Israel for four hundred years. People flocked out to the Jordan River to hear John preach. People revered the Baptist. Honored him. Venerated him. Held him up in highest esteem. But one day he was brutally murdered, and the nation was shocked, stunned, and staggered.
We may well take to heart the lesson of the fluctuations possible to the firmest faith, and pray to be enabled to hold fast that we have.
The Condition That Holds Us.
Dry 1 As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God.
2 My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God: when shall I come and appear before God?
Depressed My tears have been my meat day and night, while they continually say unto me, Where is thy God? 4 When I remember these things, I pour out my soul in me: for I had gone with the multitude, I went with them to the house of God, with the voice of joy and praise, with a multitude that kept holyday.
Drowning O my God, my soul is cast down within me: therefore will I remember thee from the land of Jordan, and of the Hermonites, from the hill Mizar. 7 Deep calleth unto deep at the noise of thy waterspouts: all thy waves and thy billows are gone over me.
Our disillusioning world is desperately difficult. The magic and the glamour of the morning are banished by the light of common day. There is a modern version of 'Twinkle, twinkle, little star', a laconic lament for the loss of mystery —
'Twinkle, twinkle, giant star, I know exactly what you are, An incandescent ball of gas, Condensing to a solid mass.
Twinkle, twinkle, giant star, I need not wonder what you are,
For seen by spectoscopic ken, You're helium and hydrogen.'
Defeated Psa 43 1 Judge me, O God, and plead my cause against an ungodly nation: O deliver me from the deceitful and unjust man.
2 For thou art the God of my strength: why dost thou cast me off? why go I mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?
But it is not only advancing knowledge which threatens to despoil with its sophisticating touch the magic of the morning: far more than that, it is the sheer pressure of life that does the damage, dulling our sensibility, blunting the fine point of conscience, and blurring our souls with sin — until from the afternoon of life we look back ruefully to what we once were in the morning —
'Sing me a song of a lad that is gone, Say, could that lad be I?
Billow and breeze, islands and seas, Mountains of rain and sun,
All that was good, all that was fair, All that was me is gone.'
9 I will say unto God my rock, Why hast thou forgotten me? why go I mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?
10 As with a sword in my bones, mine enemies reproach me; while they say daily unto me, Where is thy God?
11 Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God.
Sad as the wind that sweeps the ocean, telling the earth the sorrow of the sea
Vain is my strife, just empty idle motion., All that has been is all there is to be.
Psa 43 3 O send out thy light and thy truth: let them lead me; let them bring me unto thy holy hill, and to thy tabernacles.
4 Then will I go unto the altar of God, unto God my exceeding joy: yea, upon the harp will I praise thee, O God my God.
Matt 11: 4 Jesus answered and said unto them, Go and shew John again those things which ye do hear and see:
5 The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them.
6 And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me.
There is a telling fragment of conversation from John Galsworthy's Maid in Waiting: I am sure the situation has been repeated in many an Australian home, the girl Dinny is talking to her mother, Lady Cherwell. 'I suppose there is an eternal Plan, she says, 'but we're like gnats for all the care it has for us as individuals.' 'Don't encourage such feelings, Dinny,' says her mother, 'they affect one's character.' 'I don't see,' replies the daughter, 'the connection between beliefs and character. I'm not going to behave any worse because I cease to believe in Providence or an after life.' 'Surely Dinny —' 'No; I'm going to behave better; if I'm decent it's because decency's the decent thing; and not because I'm going to get anything by it.' Whereupon her mother asks, 'But why is decency the decent thing, Dinny, if there's no God?' That is the ultimate problem. Why, out of an unspiritual universe, should spiritual facts have arisen? Why is decency the decent thing, if God is a dream? Where did the beauty of a Beethoven sonata come from? Why should Captain Oates have walked out into the blizzard to die, like a hero, for his friends? Oates is known for his honorable suicide when, aware his ill-health was compromising his companions' lives, he told them "I am just going outside and may be some time" before walking out into a blizzard. In 1910, he applied to join Scott's expedition to the South Pole Oates disagreed with Scott many times on issues of management of the expedition. 'Their natures jarred on one another,' a fellow expedition member recalled. When he first saw the ponies that Scott had brought on the expedition, Oates was horrified at the 'greatest lot of crocks I have ever seen' and later said: 'Scott's ignorance about marching with animals is colossal.' He also wrote in his diary "Myself, I dislike Scott intensely and would chuck the whole thing if it were not that we are a British expedition....He [Scott] is not straight, it is himself first, the rest nowhere...". However, he also wrote that his harsh words were often a product of the hard conditions. Scott, less harshly, called Oates "the cheery old pessimist" and wrote "The Soldier takes a gloomy view of everything, but I've come to see that this is a characteristic of him". Scott also wrote in his diary, "We knew that poor Oates was walking to his death, but though we tried to dissuade him, we knew it was the act of a brave man and an English gentleman"
The unbeliever's scheme of things will allow no answer except that all the loveliness of life, all the fine and noble and heroic things, are — as Bertrand Russell has put it candidly — 'the outcome of accidental collocations of atoms', and all the order of the universe the product of blind chance. That, to me, sounds as sensible as to say that you could take a bag full of single letters of the alphabet and throw a few handfuls of them up into the air anyhow, and they would fall down in the form of a Shakespeare sonnet or the prologue of St. John. The thing is absurd! Let me put it like this. 1, as a believer in God, have to face — as the unbeliever does not — the mystery of the existence of evil. I admit that. But here is the other side of it: the unbeliever has to face — as I, who believe in God, do not — the mystery of the existence of good. And his problem is definitely more insoluble than mine.
The Care That Challenges And Brings The Demise of Doubt
Challenged By The Authenticity of Jesus
(The Scriptures) 5 The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them.
So Christ attacks it in its roots by referring him back for answer to the very deeds which had excited his doubt. In doing so, He points to, or indeed, we may say, quotes, two prophetic passages (Isaiah 35:1 The wilderness and the dry land will be glad; the desert will rejoice and blossom like a rose.2 It will blossom abundantly and will also rejoice with joy and singing. The glory of Lebanon will be given to it, the splendor of Carmel and Sharon. They will see the glory of the Lord, the splendor of our God. 3 Strengthen the weak hands, steady the shaking knees! 4 Say to the faint–hearted: "Be strong; do not fear! Here is your God; vengeance is coming. God's retribution is coming; He will save you." 5 Then the eyes of the blind will be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped.
6 Then the lame will leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute will sing for joy, for water will gush in the wilderness, and streams in the desert; 7 the parched ground will become a pool of water, and the thirsty land springs of water. In the haunt of jackals, in their lairs, there will be grass, reeds, and papyrus.
8 A road will be there and a way; it will be called the Holy Way. The unclean will not travel on it, but it will be for him who walks the path. Even the fool will not go astray. 9 There will be no lion there, and no vicious beast will go up on it; they will not be found there. But the redeemed will walk [on it], 10 and the ransomed of the Lord will return and come to Zion with singing, crowned with unending joy. Joy and gladness will overtake [them], and sorrow and sighing will flee.
Isa 61:1 The Spirit of the Lord God is on Me, because the Lord has anointed Me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and freedom to the prisoners; 2 to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor, and the day of our God's vengeance; to comfort all who mourn, 3 to provide for those who mourn in Zion; to give them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, festive oil instead of mourning, and splendid clothes instead of despair. And they will be called righteous trees, planted by the Lord, to glorify Him.
Prophetic of Messiah. It is as if He had said, 'Have you forgotten that the very prophets whose words have fed your hopes, and now seem to minister to your doubts, have said this and this about the Messiah?'
Challenged By The Reality of Jesus
(The Miracles) Go and shew John again those things which ye do hear and see:
Further, there is deep wisdom in sending John back again to think over the very deeds at which he was stumbling. It is not Christ's work which is wanting in conformity to the divine idea; it is John's conceptions of that idea that need enlarging. -What he wants-is not so much to be told that Jesus is the Christ, as to grow up to a truer, because more comprehensive, notion of what the Christ is to be. A wide principle is taught us here. The very points in Christ's work which may occasion difficulty, will, when we stand at the right point of view, become evidences of His claims. What were stumbling-blocks become stepping-stones. Arguments against become proofs of, the truth when we look at them with clearer eyes, and from the proper angle.
Miracles DID happen.
Yes miracles STILL happen. God does intervene and show us the truth of His reality.
Steve Poteat and I discussed th3e various rue authenticated miracles of healing that we had personallyseen over 30 years of ministry the other day. God does still intervene, and if you look back in your life, you can see God's hand of intervention, perhaps not in a miracle of healing, but in a miracle of Providence, as you look back. The same God who did that then is the same God who is with you now, although depression may have ensnared your soul!
Challenged By The Authority Of Jesus
(His Word): His Promise: 6 And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me.
Darkened eyes are flooded with light by His touch, and see a new world, because they gaze with faith on Him. Lame limbs are endowed with strength, and can run in the way of His commandments, and walk with unfainting perseverance the thorniest paths of duty and self-sacrifice.
Matt 11: 7 And as they departed, Jesus began to say unto the multitudes concerning John, What went ye out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken with the wind? 8 But what went ye out for to see? A man clothed in soft raiment? behold, they that wear soft clothing are in kings' houses. 9 But what went ye out for to see? A prophet? yea, I say unto you, and more than a prophet. 10 For this is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee. 11 Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist: notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. 12 And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force. 13 For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John. 14 And if ye will receive it, this is Elias, which was for to come. 15 He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.
But if you believe Christ, that tragedy need never happen: it has been beginning, then it can be arrested and annulled. 'Here in My gospel,' declares Jesus, 'I offer you the secret of the child-heart that inherits the kingdom of God. I offer the perpetual power of inward daily renewal to keep your spirit fresh and young and full of wonder. Learn of Me, make Me your travelling Companion along the road, permit Me to cleanse your vision and to quicken your receptivity and to bestow upon you the authentic insight of the pure in heart — and dullness and languor will fly away; even the hardest miles will find your spirit undismayed and your courage unabated and your peace of mind unbroken. Go through the world with Me, and will always be morning with you, full of zest and loveliness and hope; and in the morning, then ye shall see the glory of the Lord.'
'Who is among you that feareth the Lord, that walketh in darkness and hath no light? let him trust in the name of the Lord, and stay upon his God.' —- Isa. 51:10. 'Unto the upright there ariseth light in the darkness.' — Ps. cxii. 4.
THERE IS A VERY MOVING SCRAP OF CONVERSATION NEAR the beginning of the Pilgrim's Progress. Poor burdened Christian had met Evangelist, and begged for help and guidance. Whereupon Evangelist pointed to the far distance, and asked, 'Do you see yonder wicket-gate?' And Christian looked, and shook his head, and answered 'No.' Then Evangelist tried again, 'Do you see yonder shining light?' he asked. And Christian peered away to the far horizon, and noticed something — one spot that seemed not quite so dark as all the rest; and he answered, 'I think I do.'' Keep that light in your eye,' said Evangelist, 'and go up directly thereto, so shalt thou see the gate.'
I fancy that if some one enquired of you or me, 'Do you see the answer to the riddle of life and the mystery of sorrow?' we should have to answer, as bluntly as Christian did, 'No, I don't see it.' But if the enquirer went on to ask, 'Do you see any points of light, any places where the darkness of the mystery is not quite so dark as elsewhere?' some of us, with Christian, would reply, 'I think I do.' It is some of these beams of light that I invite you to consider now. It may be that if we keep them before us and trust their guiding, we, too, may 'see the gate'. For the darkness in which we walk is not impenetrable gloom; and the night — thank God — has stars.