Day 133

How to Deal with Desperate Times

Wisdom Psalm 60:1-4
New Testament John 7:45–52, 8:3-11
Old Testament Judges 16:28a

Introduction

I remember so well interviewing Rick and Kay Warren at our Leadership Conference at the Royal Albert Hall in London. A year had passed since the devastating death of their son by suicide, aged twenty seven. They spoke of how God can work even in the ruins of our lives.

Kay said, ‘We definitely felt our lives had been ruined when our son died. But one of the things that kept me tethered to life and to hope was believing that God was not helpless in those ruins. God was still working his plan of love in those circumstances that were so devastating.

‘I might be on my face in agony and tears, and not know what to do, but I believe that with God’s help I can rise again. There is hope. There is a new dawn. There are new beginnings. God does bring beauty out of ashes. He does bring good out of evil. He does triumph over death. I will cling to God with all that I have. I will put my trust in his goodness.’

David, in the Psalms, speaks of ‘desperate times’ (Psalm 60:3). There are times in life when everything seems to go wrong. Maybe even now you are facing a desperate situation – perhaps with your health, a bereavement, the breakdown of a relationship, work problems, family difficulties, financial trouble or a combination of these. Even in desperate times, you can find the three great virtues of faith, hope and love.

Wisdom

Psalm 60:1-4

1 You have rejected us, God, and burst upon us;
 you have been angry – now restore us!
2 You have shaken the land and torn it open;
 mend its fractures, for it is quaking.
3 You have shown your people desperate times;
 you have given us wine that makes us stagger.
4 But for those who fear you, you have raised a banner
 to be unfurled against the bow.

Commentary

Hope despite apparent defeat

Sometimes it appears God’s people are being defeated. While there is a great revival in many parts of the world, such as Asia; in Western Europe, for example, church attendance has been in decline. Churches get closed. Christian faith is marginalised.

There are desperate moments in the history of the people of God. This psalm is a national lament after a conquest by their enemies. The people of God felt rejected. David says, ‘You have shown your people desperate times’ (v.3a).

He uses the image of an earthquake to describe the desperation and uncertainty they faced: ‘You have shaken the land and torn it open; mend its fractures, for it is quaking’ (v.2). The same image is used today to describe turmoil in all spheres of life. The war in Ukraine, the instability of the economy, corporate institutions, marriage, community and politics are all often portrayed as shaking and fractured.

Yet, there is hope. David writes, ‘But for those who fear you, you have raised a banner to be unfurled against the bow’ (v.4). The Lord has designated a place where his people may find refuge under his protection and be confident in the Lord – even in desperate times.

Prayer

Thank you, Lord, that even in desperate times, I can take refuge under your protection.

New Testament

John 7:45–52, 8:3-11

7
45 Finally the temple guards went back to the chief priests and the Pharisees, who asked them, ‘Why didn’t you bring him in?’
46 ‘No one ever spoke the way this man does,’ the guards replied.
47 ‘You mean he has deceived you also?’ the Pharisees retorted. 48 ‘Have any of the rulers or of the Pharisees believed in him? 49 No! But this mob that knows nothing of the law – there is a curse on them.’
50 Nicodemus, who had gone to Jesus earlier and who was one of their own number, asked, 51 ‘Does our law condemn a man without first hearing him to find out what he has been doing?’
52 They replied, ‘Are you from Galilee, too? Look into it, and you will find that a prophet does not come out of Galilee.’

8
3 The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group 4 and said to Jesus, ‘Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. 5 In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?’ 6 They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.
But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. 7 When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, ‘Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.’ 8 Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.
9 At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. 10 Jesus straightened up and asked her, ‘Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?
11 ‘No one, sir,’ she said.
‘Then neither do I condemn you,’ Jesus declared. ‘Go now and leave your life of sin.’

Commentary

Love rather than condemnation

Is sex outside marriage acceptable? Or is it sinful? If it is, what should our attitude be to those who are guilty of sexual sin?

The debate about sexual ethics continues to fill our media today. And the teaching of Jesus is as relevant now as it was 2,000 years ago.

The words of Jesus were the greatest words ever spoken, the kind of words you would expect God to speak. The temple guards declared, ‘No one ever spoke the way this man does’ (7:46). (It is so sad that some religious leaders failed to recognise him and regarded those who did believe in him as ‘this mob’, v.49.)

This woman, caught in the act of adultery, must have felt absolutely desperate. Despair can come from defeat. It can also come from moral failure. She must have been experiencing both – filled with guilt, shame and fear of death.

The condemners tried to ‘trap’ Jesus with a question (8:6). Jesus gives one of the most brilliant, memorable and often quoted replies in the history of the world: ‘Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her’ (v.7).

Jesus did not condone her adultery, nor did he regard it as the unforgivable sin. He demonstrated how easy it is to condemn others while being guilty of the same sins in our own hearts (vv.7–9). This can be applied to many areas of our lives. Before we criticise others, it is worth asking ourselves whether we are ‘without sin’ in that area that we are about to criticise in another.

When we judge, accuse and condemn others, we project on to them what we refuse to see in ourselves.

As is often said, ‘People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.’ In the context of the debate about sexual ethics, as we look at our own hearts there is often a lot of glass around.

In the account of the woman caught in adultery, each of the condemners is convicted by Jesus’ words until eventually ‘only Jesus was left’ (vv.7–9). Jesus asks her, ‘Has no one condemned you?’ (v.10). When she replies, ‘No one, sir’, he says, ‘Then neither do I condemn you… Go now and leave your life of sin’ (v.11).

Guilt is a horrible emotion. Condemnation is a terrible state to be in. How amazing it must have been to hear the words of Jesus: ‘Then neither do I condemn you’ (v.11). Since he was without sin, Jesus was the one person there in a position to ‘throw stones’, but he did not.

There is an extraordinary balance and almost unique combination in the words of Jesus – full of wisdom and grace, mercy and compassion. Jesus could not be clearer that adultery is sin. Yet he does not condemn her in any way. This is the message of the New Testament. There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1). As a result of Jesus’ death for us on the cross, you and I can be totally forgiven, however far we may have fallen.

Yet, this is not a reason to go on sinning. Jesus does not condone her sin. He says to her, ‘Leave your life of sin’ (v.11). Jesus does not condemn us. But he does say to us, as he said to her, ‘Leave your life of sin.’

Jesus’ words, as always, are motivated by love and compassion. Follow his example.

It is easy to fall into one of two opposite extremes. Either we condemn people or we condone sin. Love does not condemn nor does it condone sin, because sin leads to people getting hurt. If we love, like Jesus, we will neither condone sin nor condemn people, but lovingly challenge people (starting with ourselves) to leave sin behind.

The Greek word for ‘to forgive’ also means ‘to liberate’. Jesus came to liberate you by the power of his Holy Spirit. You are liberated to love as God loves you. Forgiveness is at the heart of every relationship. It is the essence of love.

Prayer

Lord, thank you that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Thank you that you died to make it possible for me to be cleansed, forgiven and to go free. Help me to love people as you did.

Old Testament

Judges 16:28a

28 Then Samson prayed to the LORD, ‘Sovereign LORD, remember me. Please, God, strengthen me just once more...’

Commentary

Faith in the midst of chaos

These were desperate times. There is a refrain that runs through the book of Judges: ‘In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as they saw fit’ (17:6). This was a time of chaos.

In these desperate times God raised up judges like Samson. He led Israel for twenty years (16:31). He was one of the heroes of faith (Hebrews 11:32).

Anointed by the Holy Spirit, God used him powerfully. However, he also had a weakness that led to immorality (sleeping with a prostitute, Judges 16:1–3) and deception (vv.4–10). Eventually, he pushed God to the limit through his persistent disobedience and ‘the Lord… left him’ (v.20).

Samson received extraordinary strength from God. But it was directly related to his obedience. God had told him not to cut his hair. So long as he obeyed God he would have supernatural strength.

However great a person of God may be, it is vital to remember that strength comes from God alone. Jesus said, ‘Without me you can do nothing’ (John 15:5, NKJV). Never rely on past victories but rather on God who gave them.

After persistent temptation, Samson gave in and told Delilah the secret of his strength – although it must have been obvious to him by then that she would take advantage of him. She cut his hair and his strength was gone.

Not only was the society chaotic, but also Samson reached a point of utter desperation in his own life. He was in captivity, he was blind and his captors were about to make a spectacle of him (Judges 16:21–25).

In the midst of his despair, Samson prayed to the Lord: ‘O Sovereign Lord, remember me. O God, please strengthen me just once more’ (v.28). And God heard his prayer of faith. Even after all his failures, God still answered Samson’s cry. No matter what the situation, and no matter what you have done, it is never too late to turn back to God.

Prayer

Lord, thank you that I can find refuge in your presence, and that you always hear my desperate cries for help. Lord, help!

Pippa adds

Judges 16:1–17:13

Samson was an extraordinary leader. He was like the Incredible Hulk with a bad taste in women.

He fell in love with Delilah. She was a heartless woman. She was willing to betray the man who loved her. Why did he tell her his secret after she had already betrayed him three times? He must have known she could not be trusted. He was so strong physically, but weak when it came to women. He is not the only great leader to fall because of a woman.

Verse of the Day

John 8:7

'Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone…’ Jesus

Thought for the Day

No matter what the situation, and no matter what you have done, it is never too late to turn back to God.

Action for the Day

Pray Samson’s prayer today: ‘Please, God, strengthen me just once more.’
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References

The One Year® is a registered trademark of Tyndale House Publishers. Used by permission.

Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version Anglicised, Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 Biblica, formerly International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica. UK trademark number 1448790.

Scripture quotations marked (NKJV) taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Bible in One Year

  • HOST'S INTRO
  • INTRODUCTION
  • WISDOM BIBLE
  • WISDOM COMMENTARY
  • NEW TESTAMENT BIBLE
  • NEW TESTAMENT COMMENTARY
  • OLD TESTAMENT BIBLE
  • OLD TESTAMENT COMMENTARY
  • PIPPA ADDS
  • HOST'S OUTRO

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