Theme: Still Nothing Can Separate
In this week’s lessons, we are reminded of the Lord’s abiding presence with his people, even in the midst of great trials and hardships.
Scripture: Psalm 114:1-8
In Romans 8:39 Paul wrote that nothing “will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” What are these forces arrayed against us? In yesterday’s study we looked at trouble, hardship and persecution. As we continue with this list, remember that all these forces, though powerful, will bow before the presence of our God.
4. Famine. The ancient world knew famine in a way very few today do, though there are places that experience chronic famine, such as areas of North Africa. Hunger is a terrible thing for those who do experience it, but even this cannot detach us from Christ.
5. Nakedness.Today this word means a state of undress normally associated with sex or pornographic magazines. But in Paul’s day it had to do with poverty so severe that the person involved was unable to buy the clothes he or she needed. It is a corresponding term to famine and, like it, may refer to economic hard times deriving from natural disasters or war.
6. Danger.Dangers too are of various types, though the focus here is on dangers to which Christians are exposed simply because they are Christians. In some places Christians are arrested, tried and imprisoned. In others they are attacked, beaten and even killed.
7. Sword.This last term pushes the violence implied in the earlier ones to their furthest extremity, viewing circumstances in which Christians are executed or even murdered for their faith.
Organizations that deal with international violations of human rights say that even today as many as 600,000 Christians are killed every year for their faith. But even if we are not literally being put to death for our religion, Christians are nevertheless often thought of as sheep fit only to be slaughtered, as Paul says. If God were not our protector, even in modern enlightened western lands like the United States of America, we would soon be cut off. It is the Lord’s providence that averts such injuries, or overrules events for the protection of his people.
In view of these many dangers, toils and snares that come into the lives of Christians, how can Paul say that there is nothing that can separate us from Christ’s love? The answer, of course, is the power of God before whom no evil can stand and in the nature of his covenant love. Therefore, in view of that power and steadfast love, we may well look at the troubles of this life and cry out boldly, “Make way before God.”
Here is one last thought for those who have not yet believed in Christ. Notice how the last verse speaks of the earth trembling before the approach of God. It has, of course; the psalm has described it. Yet the startling and utterly inexplicable thing is that human beings, who are in far greater danger than the earth, which is actually in no danger at all, fail to do what the earth does. Human beings face judgment apart from Jesus Christ. Yet they go on as if all is well with them and as if they do not need a Savior.
If that has been true of you, I encourage you to learn from nature even if you will learn nowhere else. An earlier psalm says, “Kiss the Son, lest he be angry and you be destroyed in your way, for his wrath can flare up in a moment. Blessed are all who take refuge in him” (Ps. 2:12).
1. In what ways have you experienced any of the remaining forces that are against us?
2. How are humans in greater danger than the earth?
Prayer: Talk to missionaries about Christians they know who are facing any number of these forces. Pray for them specifically.
For Further Study: Many psalms speak of hardship, pain, sorrow, and distress that befell God’s people, and which still afflict us today. A careful reading and study of this treasured portion of God’s Word can provide comfort and hope to those who suffer. Order your copy of James Boice’s three-volume set and take 25% off the regular price.