Baby Steps


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“Many shall be purified, and made white, and tried; but the wicked shall do wickedly: and none of the wicked shall understand; but the wise shall understand.” Daniel 12:10

Would it make you feel better to know that really bad times were coming, I mean, instead of them just sneaking up on you? Or is a bad time a bad time whether you expect it or not? Because here is Daniel, in his vision, being told that this difficult stuff is going to happen for what I take as a long time. And nobody is going to know how long, until they start going through it. And then those who belong to God will get it, and understand. But I don’t think it will make the time any shorter.

Here’s another interesting thing, all this hard stuff will scatter the power of the holy people. It’s happened before in the Jewish diaspora when persecution forced the believing Jews into other lands. And even though it was a bad thing to be persecuted, it wound up being good for the spread of the Gospel into the world. If I look around today, I see that going on in other countries. I also see terrible things molding men and women of God into beacons of light shining throughout the world. In some places, many die, and few survive. Why? I do know that those few who are surviving and living to tell about it, tell and walk with the beauty of God. Their lives will never be the same. They have lost everything of value to man’s standards. But they have gained You, Lord.

Through these terrible events and persecutions in life, “many shall be purified.” What does that mean, really? And how? It’s this Hebrew word barar. It’s about clarifying, examining, brightening, selecting, chasing, cleaning, polishing, and purging. David, in 2 Samuel 22:27 thought about this when he said, “With the pure You will show Yourself pure, and with the fraudulent You will show Yourself unsavory.” Now two different words for pure are used here. The first pure, the people who are seen and made pure and choose purity, they are the kind of pure like gold made pure and refined through the smelting process. Over and over again in the Old Testament we find that same Hebrew word tahor used of pure gold that is appointed for use for God. But God, You Yourself will show Yourself pure to those who are made pure. What does that mean?

This time the Hebrew word used is barar. That one I shared in our original verse that brought us here. Remember that word is all about clarifying, examining, selecting, being chosen, being clean, being polished and purged. It’s also about being complete and perfected. Its equivalent in the Greek would be eklektos or the elect. You could replace any of those and they would make sense. But what does it mean? How does this impact who You are and who I am?

Now there is more to language study here than I am capable of so let’s listen to someone who knows more than me. “There is also another twist to this mystery and that is that this word pure is a Niphal participle when used in reference to us and is in a Hithpail imperfect form when used in reference to God. So this is really rendered: ‘With those who are making themselves pure (or complete, elected, chosen), God will make himself pure (or complete, elected, chosen). This kind of brings us back to the old question, can we make ourselves pure, completed, elected or chosen? Does God have to make Himself pure, completed, elected or chosen?” ( ) Actually, I don’t know if I have ever thought about this before. But think about it.

The Jewish sages thought about this and it was baffling. “How did God who is infinite manage to communicate with human beings who are finite? When the infinite meets the finite, one of them must, by logical necessity, become the other. Either we become infinite or God becomes finite.” Now this was the thinking of a Jewish rabbi. How many people really understood how and why God had to come down to earth as a human? I doubt that rabbi really understood at the time. But think about the immensity of the truth and its impact here.

We don’t have the capacity to become God. But God came to earth as Jesus. He experienced the flesh for us, something the spirit cannot experience. He knew hunger and pain. Jesus was willing to meet us where we were, on our level, for His glory and our good. Bara, as purity or perfection, is God meeting us where we are. It’s us working on our purity and Him making Himself known at that level.

The leper was impure but he sought to be pure and the only way he knew how was to depend on and cry out to Jesus. Jesus met him where he was, in the middle of his impurity, and cleansed him. The prodigal was lost but his heart turned and he returned to the father, still full of shame and in tatters, but the Father ran out to meet him. He didn’t just stay waiting for him to enter his door. He ran to him. Nebuchadnezzar was full of pride and arrogance, but there were even times when Nebuchadnezzar stretched out his hand and heart to God, and pagan king that he was, God met him where he was. Purity isn’t about a static nature of being. It’s about a state of becoming, continual becoming, where we choose to take steps in walking in God’s purity and God meets us there in our baby steps and magnifies Himself in us.

Have you ever cried out, “This is too much for me, Lord!” Well, of course it is on our own. So take the baby step. Take the next step. Step by step we are grown into His perfection and purity. It won’t ever happen all at once. It’s a learning process and God loves to walk with us as we learn. It’s ok to be a learner. After all, that’s what a disciple is, someone learning under a teacher. Did you think Peter was perfect? Ever? He was continually being perfected, continually learning. We all are, until the day we die, and then in eternity, I think it will continue in a more glorious way.

So here we are, created to try and accomplish purity one decision at a time. It happens experience by experience, situation by situation, and only we can apply the right context to it. Do I see it as a blessing, a learning experience, or a judgment from God? My outlook and step will determine where God finds me. When my children stray, or my car breaks down, or I lose my job, or there is death or disaster or persecution, do I make myself pure by bringing You into it, God? Do I just stand there and feel sorry for myself, or complain, or calculate the bills, or walk away from everything, or give up? Or do I ask how I can walk closer to You and take a step closer to meeting You? Could I choose to learn trust? Could I choose to learn patience? Could I choose to understand Your sovereignty? Could I just let You love on me? Could I learn dependence on You? My choices and the way I walk in purity determines where You meet me and when. I can walk away like the prodigal or Nebuchadnezzar, but then I won’t meet You again until I choose to walk back to where You are waiting to run to meet me.

I should expect to be put in situations that will give me the opportunity to choose Your purity in my life. I should also expect these things to be hard for me. We won’t all go through physical pain, but my emotional or spiritual trials are just as significant. God, You know where we need to be refined. Will I surrender to that refining? It’s only when I surrender that You can meet me there. That’s when You make me white, laban in Hebrew. But I have to realize that this kind of cleansing of me takes purging and purging isn’t easy. And I have to understand and accept the purging. I have to step into the wash vat, and let myself be cleansed. Life does that. Even before the first sin, that first choice between the tree of life and the tree of good and evil, was an opportunity for Adam and Eve to choose purity, to choose to remain white, to pass the test. Only now, life is filled with many more opportunities to succeed in purity or to fail. But the truth is, we don’t have to fail, and neither did Adam and Eve.

We are tried daily, moment by moment. This is the Hebrew word tsaraph. It’s when things are fused, refined, tested. We get to learn moment by moment that we are not God. We get to learn moment by moment to depend on the One who is, who created us to thrive in Him. Yes, it’s hard. Sometimes it’s so hard we don’t know how to go on. But there, in that moment is the opportunity for purity and whitening and passing the test. We realize, “I can’t do this but I can step forward trusting in You, the One who is able, and I can know, beyond the shadow of any doubt, that You will meet me, here, where I am waiting for You, and You will be everything I need to get through this moment, and the next, and the next…”

Which takes me to verse 12 in Daniel. “Blessed is he that waits, and comes to the thousand three hundred and five and thirty days.” “Blessed is he that waits.” What does it mean to wait here? It’s this Hebrew word chakah. It means to adhere, like piercing. Let’s see it in another context. “Therefore the Lord longs to be gracious to you, and therefore He waits on high to have compassion on you. For the Lord is a God of justice; how blessed are all those who long for Him.” (Isaiah 30:18) This word translated here as longing is that same word chakah. It’s about a “state of expectant presence.” There is a yearning for fulfillment. It’s like a child waiting for Christmas. Imagine God yearning to be gracious to us. That helps me to see the prodigal reunion more strongly. This Father was waiting every moment like Christmas morning was coming! He was waiting and expecting.

So here is how God is waiting for us and wholeheartedly wanting to bless us, to shower us with all that is Himself. So what’s stopping You, God? If You want it that much, then what’s getting in the way? Is it because You can’t? Absolutely not! Nothing can thwart Your plans. You are sovereign. Then what? Who receives the blessing? Those who long as much for You as You long for us. “Blessed are all they that wait (long) for Him.” Your longing is completed in our longing. You fill the empty who make room for You. You long for us to long for You because then You meet us there and we find You.

It’s not about feelings, either. I mean, yes, they are involved, but it’s more than feelings. Chaka is God’s adherence to who He is and to us. Think of that piercing part of the root. He is so adhered to returning us to Him and to His glory and our well-being in Him, that He pierced Himself through because of His longing for us! Do I have that kind of longing for You, Lord? You demonstrated Your “willingness to do whatever is required to bring redemption and rescue to us, including sacrificial death.” (Skip Moen) Does our longing, our chakah convert into that kind of behavior for You? Does my human behavior demonstrate willingness to do whatever it takes to honor and glorify You? When our longings match Yours, You pour Yourself out on us.

Am I willing to be pierced for You? Do I long for You as much as You long for me? Am I afraid of being hurt or receiving pain? Am I too ready to forget that You are my strength and my shield and my sword? Have I forgotten that I’m a leper but I don’t have to stay there? Have I forgotten that You called the little children unto You and didn’t hinder them? Am I a child who comes with the excitement of seeing Christmas at its best or do I hang back and lose out or walk away?

The steps aren’t easy. They hurt. They change me. They push and shove and rip and mold me into something I wasn’t when I started. But I didn’t start out as pure gold. And I’m not there yet. But every step, every trial, every trouble, every moment, and every response is an opportunity to cling more tightly to You, to long for Your ways, to step into the fire so I can meet You and You can meet where I’m at. Would I be willing to step into the fire and die like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego? Why not? Because either way, I would meet with You. Keep working in me, Lord, through every situation and trial, to increase my longing for You and Your ways. May my steps continually bring me closer and closer to You. Thank You for meeting us where we are. There is no God like You!


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