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Believe and be established!

Faced with a confederation of hostile forces from Moab, Ammon and Syria, the God-fearing and reform-minded king, Jehoshaphat, urged the inhabitants of Judah not to fear or be dismayed but to put their trust in the Lord. As the enemy hordes loomed large on the horizon, Jehoshaphat cried, “Believe in the Lord your God, and you shall be established; believe His prophets, and you shall prosper” (2 Chron 20.20).

This text is a beautiful example of the richness and complexity of the Hebrew language. The Hebrew word aman appears three times in this one verse, translated as ‘believe’ and ‘established’. The basic root idea is firmness or certainty. In the causative sense, it means to be certain about or assured of something. In the passive sense, it denotes one who is established, or confirmed, or faithful.

In effect, the Scripture is saying, “Be established in the Lord and you will be established in life.” Or, as the nuance of the language would suggest, “Be fully convinced, be totally certain, be completely assured of God’s mercy and faithfulness, and you will see his delivering power in your life.” Similarly, the New Testament writer to the Hebrews describes faith as being an inward sense of certainty, a firm conviction: “Now faith is a confident assurance of that for which we hope, a conviction of the reality of things we do not see” (Heb 11.1 Weymouth).

In Isaiah 7.9 we see an example of the relationship between ‘belief’ and being ‘established’. King Ahaz is told that unless he believes, he will not be established; that is, without faith he will not have stability in his life. The apostle James echoes this theme declaring that a man who doubts is like a wave of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. “He,” James says, “is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways” (James 1.6-8).

Believing in the Lord produces both stability and durability. Psalm 125.1 declares, “Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion, which cannot be moved, but abides forever.” To the Jews, Mount Zion was a symbol of eternal security. As one of the ‘Songs of Ascent’ chanted by pilgrims on their way up to Jerusalem to keep the yearly feasts, Psalm 125 is particularly instructive in the progression of faith. Charles Spurgeon comments:

“Faith has praised Jehovah for past deliverances, and here she rises to a confident joy in the present and future safety of believers. She asserts that they shall for ever be securer who trust themselves with the Lord. We can imagine the pilgrims chanting this song when perambulating the city walls.” (The Treasury of David, Vol. III)

Believing is a choice

Believing is not something that happens to you apart from your conscious involvement. As the story of Jehoshaphat demonstrates, believing is a choice that you have to make, often in times of severe stress and intense conflict. King David, himself no stranger to danger and intrigue, said, “I would have lost heart, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living” (Psalm 27.13). Interestingly, he uses the same word, aman (believe), denoting absolute certainty and complete assurance. He then admonishes readers to “wait in faith on the Lord” and to “be of good courage”.

Once again the language suggests a conscious decision on the part of David to believe in the goodness and faithfulness of the Lord in spite of overwhelmingly difficult circumstances. “Though an army may encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war may rise against me, in this I will be confident” (Psalm 27.3). In other words, “I have made up my mind, come what may, I will trust in the Lord!”

When your back is against the wall, your only option is to believe. As the Lord said to me on one occasion when I was indulging in a bout of self-pity, “You either walk by faith, or you don’t walk at all!”

Elizabeth of the Trinity

Élisabeth Catez (1880-1906), was a French Discalced Carmelite professed religious, and a well-known mystic and spiritual writer. She was beatified by Pope John Paul II on 25 November, 1984, and canonized by Pope Francis on 16 October, 2016. From her earliest years, Elizabeth had a deep sense of God’s presence in her life. A letter written from the Carmel of Dijon in 1901 epitomised her holy devotion: “I can’t find words to express my happiness. Here there is no longer anything but God. He is all; He suffices and we live by Him alone.”

On 21 November, 1904, Elizabeth penned her most famous prayer, O my God, Trinity whom I adore. I pray this prayer regularly, because it encapsulates the very essence of this article: unshakable faith in an immutable God.

O my God, Trinity whom I adore, help me forget myself entirely so as to establish myself in you, unmoveable and peaceful as if my soul were already in eternity. May nothing be able to trouble my peace or make me leave you, O my unchanging God, but may each minute bring me more deeply into your mystery! Grant my soul peace. Make it your heaven, your beloved dwelling and the place of your rest. May I never abandon you there, but may I be there, whole and entire, completely vigilant in my faith, entirely adoring, and wholly given over to your creative action.

If there is one sentence that touches the core of my being, it is this: “Help me forget myself entirely in order to establish myself in you, unmoveable and peaceful as if my soul were already in eternity!” That surely is the goal of the Christian life: to be absorbed in God and established in him, and as a result, unmoveable and peaceful in the midst of a strife-torn world. To live on earth as if one was already in heaven!

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