When God Visits His People

In our nation and in our world, we are in a time of crisis and a moment of great need. What we need in this moment is a vaccine. We need a cure. We need healings. We need miracles in the lives of those who are sick. But what we need more than anything else is for God to visit His people! I will tell you why. We need the experts, the doctors, the scientists, the politicians, the church, and a watching world to see something only God can do.

I want to take you to a passage of Scripture in the New Testament. It tells us of one of the miracles of Jesus. Today we are listening to government leaders and this expert and that expert and their different opinions on our present crisis. The passage of Scripture we will look at also concerns a crisis. It is the crisis in the life of one woman. The story is found in only one place in our Bible. Why is that significant? Well, sometimes Matthew, Mark, Luke and John will tell us the same story. You can find it in four different gospels. But this story you find only in the gospel of Luke.

Why are Luke’s stories different? Well, for one, Luke was not a Jew. He was a Gentile. That would say to us that Luke was, for a time, an unbeliever. He became a Christian, likely through his association with Paul. Luke, after having heard Paul preach the gospel, became interested in the stories of Jesus. Luke was not present when any of the stories in his gospel happened. Luke researched these stories. In the beginning of His gospel, he writes:  Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile an account of the things accomplished among us,  just as they were handed down to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word, it seemed fitting for me as well, having investigated everything carefully from the beginning, to write it out for you in consecutive order, most excellent Theophilus; so that you may know the exact truth about the things you have been taught. Luke 1:1-4

Remember, this is a story only Luke tells. As he tells it, he tells it from the perspective of eyewitnesses. Luke was interested in the exact truth. Why? Because Luke was an expert. He was a doctor. We have heard a word used a lot in recent days. It is the word anecdotal. It means hearsay, circumstantial, unreliable, sketchy. Doctors and other experts don’t like evidence like that. That is why Luke made it is business to search out the exact truth.

He didn’t make these stories up. He researched them, sought out the eye-witnesses, and then he laid out the facts. Let’s take a moment to consider the facts about what Jesus can do in a crisis. I am especially interested in how the eye-witnesses interpreted what happened. I also want to ponder the message of the miracle that came through loud and clear to all present.

Soon afterwards, He went to a city called Nain: and His disciples were going along with Him, accompanied by a large crowd. Now as He approached the gate of the city, a dead man was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow; and a sizeable crowd from the city was with her. When the Lord saw her, He felt compassion for her, and said to her, “Do not weep.” And He came up and touched the coffin; and the bearers came to a halt. And He said, “Young man, I say to you, arise!” The dead man sat up and began to speak. And Jesus gave him back to his mother. Fear gripped them all, and they began glorifying God, saying, “A great prophet has arisen among us!” and, “God has visited His people!” This report concerning Him went out all over Judea and in all the surrounding district. Luke 7:11-17

When an expert does research and presents a report, he or she not only gives you the facts, but draws a conclusion. Look at the conclusion Luke presents based on his research. In that incident at Nain, something amazing took place. God visited His people! Is that conclusion significant? Not only will you find this story nowhere else in the Bible. You will find this specific expression nowhere else in the Bible. “God has visited His people.” 

I remind you of the circumstances. It was a time of crisis. It was a moment of great need.  In our nation and in our world, we are in a time of crisis and a moment of great need. What we need in this moment is a vaccine. We need a cure. We need healings. We need miracles in the lives of those who are sick. But what we need more than anything else is for God to visit His people! I will tell you why. We need the experts, the doctors, the scientists, the politicians, the church, and a watching world to see something only God can do.

That is what happened that day there at Nain. I want to walk you back through these verses and show you some things that spark my interest. First, the story begins with the words Soon afterwards.

Why so soon?

As you know, Jesus was never in a hurry. Why did He leave when He did? Jesus was in Capernaum. It was a twenty-five-mile walk to Nain. That’s quite a journey. What prompted Him to leave so soon? Did He know what was going on in that widow’s home? Did He know about the illness in the life of her boy? You will notice that no one called Him. There was no messenger that approached Him. It was at His own initiative that He began this journey. He obviously knew where He was going and why. That leads me to draw an assumption about how God works:

When God Visits His People, It Will Be at His Own Initiative

It will be because of what He sees and what He knows and it will be according to His timing. There is no indication that when He left Capernaum there was a crisis or that someone sent for Jesus. He left at His own initiative. He was on His way to visit Nain. He left, knowing what He would find when He arrived, and knowing what He would do when He got there. In fact, it is possible that Jesus began His journey in advance of the existence of this need in Nain.

How long does it take to walk twenty-five miles? A person walks about 3 miles an hour. Walking with a crowd of people it might take longer. But it was long day’s journey.

What I am proposing is that this mom in this story may not have had a need when the day began. In those days, they buried people the same day they died. How did her boy die? Was it an accident? Was it an illness? Was it something she didn’t expect to face as the day began? Was it something Jesus knew she would face before He left Capernaum? Was Jesus travelling because He knew her boy would die?

When God visits His people, He does so at His own initiative. He does so because He knows something we don’t. We all began this year with no idea that we would be in the middle of this crisis. Do you suppose God knew? Do you suppose God knows what the need is in your life and knew of it before you knew it yourself? The Bible tells us that God knows what we need before we ask. He knew what this mother would need before she knew she had a need about which to pray. So, with a sense of urgency, He left Capernaum headed for Nain. When God visits His people, it will be at His own initiative, and it will be because of what He sees and knows.

When God Visits His People, He Will Invite Others to be Involved in His Activity

We discover in this story that His disciples were going along with Him. Why did Jesus take the disciples with Him or others for that matter? It was because there was something He wanted them to experience. There was something He wanted them to see and to witness so that they could experience something only God could do. There was an encounter with God waiting for them in Nain. 

What prompted you to read this post? Could it be that there is an encounter with God waiting for you, just as there was for His disciples as they made the long walk to Nain? Just as God visited all those people in that cemetery that day, perhaps today is the day God intends to visit you.

When God Visits His People, It Is His Intention to Impact Many

A large crowd accompanied them. Imagine a large crowd taking a twenty-five-mile walk just to follow Jesus. I have discovered that Jesus never touches a life for the sake of that life alone. The ripple effect of that touch goes out in every direction around that person’s life. The effect of God’s work in that person’s life becomes widely known, and many more lives are touched and changed as a result.

You will notice that there are two multitudes here. There was the large crowd that came with Jesus. Perhaps they had seen what Jesus could do, or perhaps they had heard anecdotal evidence, and they needed to see with their own eyes. They needed their own experience with God. First, there were those who had no crisis. They were just curious. Then there was the other crowd. The crowd from Nain was making their way out of the city with this mother. They were all shocked and shaken, their lives having been shattered by the crisis of death. Two entirely different groups of people were about to have an encounter with God.

As you are engaged in reading this post, God knows your need—needs you have at the moment—and needs you don’t even know will arise. But your greatest need is for a visit from God. That is the way they all described it after the fact. God has visited His people. I pray that God would visit you even as you read.

When God Visits His People, His Timing Will Be Perfect

A visitation from God will always coincide with a deep need in the lives of His people and a purpose known only to the heart of God. Where were God’s people when God met Moses at the burning bush? They were in deep need. Desperation and hopelessness filled their hearts. God knew that need. He knew their hearts. His purpose in speaking to Moses corresponded with that need in the lives of His people. Story after story in Scripture makes us aware of God’s advance awareness of needs that exist in the life of His people and of His perfect timing in meeting them in their need.

Ponder the need of this woman. She was a widow with an only son. That is who she was at the beginning of the day. At the end of the day, she was a hopeless widow who lost her only son. And where was the God who promised to be the defender of widows? He was on His way!

I don’t know what your need is as you listen today, or how your need compares with hers. But I know this. I know that God knows.  I know that God cares. I know that God wants to visit you in your need just as He visited that woman in her need. 

Now consider the perfect timing of our Lord’s arrival. He made the twenty-five-mile journey with twelve disciples and a large crowd of people. I believe He made that journey just in behalf of this widow. He knew her need. He knew where she would be at the end of this long, painful day. 

Ponder the moment. Two crowds meet at the city gate. One just leaving the city carrying the body of a widow’s only son. The other crowd had walked all day. What are the chances of them meeting at the city gate? Historians tell us that it is just a ten-minute walk from the city gate to the cemetery just outside of Nain. Ten-minutes later and Jesus would have missed her at the city gate. If she left ten-minute earlier, she would have missed Him. But this was a Divine Appointment. This was God, in His perfect timing, showing up to meet the need in the life of a woman.

That is not my opinion. That was the conclusion drawn by those who were there. That is also the conclusion drawn by Luke as He examined and researched the story. This was God visiting His people. It was perfect timing! Perhaps there is something God wants to do in your life that He has waited until this exact moment to do. He knew you would be reading. He knew your need. This is a Divine Appointment.

When God visits His people, it will be at His own initiative. When God visits His people, He will involve His people to be a part of His activity. When God visits His people, His intention is to impact many. When God visits His people, His timing will be perfect.

What a moment that must have been. First, the Bible says, “When the Lord saw her, he felt compassion for her, and said to her, “Do not weep.” v. 13

Do you suppose He sees you? Knowing your circumstances, does He feel compassion for you? Can He dry your tears? Can He restore your hope? Those are things that only God can do. But on that day, God visited His people. Is God visiting you right now? Is He speaking? Is this your Divine Appointment in the midst of this crisis?

When God Visits His People, He Does So to Restore Something That is Lost

What was it in this woman’s life? It was her boy. It was her hope. It was her future. I also believe that it was her faith. Sometimes, a crisis devastates our faith. We blame God. We decide God doesn’t know or care. But look at this story. In perfect timing, Jesus steps into the middle of her circumstances. Listen as Luke tells it: And He came up and touched the coffin; and the bearers came to a halt. And He said, “Young man, I say to you, arise!” The dead man (the corpse) sat up and began to speak. And Jesus gave Him back to His mother. V. 14-15

What a moment. It would have been better to her to lose her own life than to lose her boy. But Jesus stepped into the middle of her circumstances and gave her back not only her boy, but her hope and her faith in God. What about you? Are you in a period of crisis in your life? Has this present crisis shaken you? Has it shaken your faith? Where is God in your circumstances?

The great need of the hour in this crisis is no different than the great need of the hour in that crisis. We need God to visit His people. We need God to step into the middle of our circumstances and display His glory to His shaken people and to a watching world. But like then, that is something only God can do. The church can’t manufacture God in the midst of this crisis. It is up to God to do reveal Himself. It will happen at His initiative and in His perfect timing.

Only Jesus can speak to a corpse and it rise to life. Only Jesus can speak to your circumstances and make sense out of them. Only Jesus can speak to your hopelessness and restore your hope. Only Jesus can speak to your dead faith and ignite revival.

Listen to the expert, Dr. Luke, as he gives us the exact truth about the rest of this story: 1The dead man sat up and began to speak. And Jesus gave him back to his mother. 16 Fear gripped them all, and they began glorifying God, saying, “A great prophet has arisen among us!” and, “God has visited His people!” v. 15-16

When God Visits His People, He Does So to Display His Glory to a Watching World

Fear gripped them all! Two multitudes were shaken by that encounter. That often happens in the stories of Jesus’ miracles. When Jesus calmed the storm on the Sea of Galilee, the disciples were terrified. “They said, “Who then is this that even the wind and the sea obey Him?” When Jesus healed the man with the legion of demons, the people ended up more afraid of Jesus than they were of the demon possessed man. What accounts for this? Why in this story did fear grip them all? 

It was a Holy Dread. When God visits His people, His people along with a watching world are overcome with a sense of His presence and a Holy Dread comes over them. It was not just the miracle. It was the Holy Dread that prompted them to conclude that God had visited His people. That is the need of the hour. We need God to visit His people. But not just to bring an end to some crisis. We need Him to manifest His presence in such a way that His church and a watching world have no choice but to conclude that it was God.

We need a sense of Holy Dread that accompanies the manifestation of God’s presence. We need God to step into our circumstances, into our church services, into our homes, into the mess of our government, and we need Him to manifest His presence there is such a way that we are more shaken by an encounter with Him than the crisis that has shaken our world. We need God to visit His people!

Photo by Matthew DeVries from Pexels

The Way Back to God

Perhaps the most evil couple in the Bible was a husband and wife named Ahab and Jezebel. They worshiped idols rather than the One True God. They hated God’s people as well as God’s prophets. As King and Queen, they sought to turn the nation away from God. The judgment of God came upon their lives in graphic fashion. Nevertheless, their legacy continued in the lives of their children and grandchildren. Wherever their descendants went, they were a contagious and contaminating influence. One example is their daughter, Athaliah. She married Jehroam, the king of Judah. Jehoram’s father was the godly king Jehoshaphat. However, Scripture records his departure from the ways of God due to the influence of his wife, Athaliah.

Her evil influence infected the king and the nation. It was likely due to her influence that Jehoram killed all his own brothers once the throne was secure in his hands. Jehoram and Athaliah reigned only eight years as king and queen. Then Jehoram died a horrible death due to the judgment of God that fell upon him. The Bible records that he departed with no one’s regret. 2 Chronicles 21:20

After his death, Athaliah continued to spread the contagion of evil. Her youngest son, Ahaziah became king in his father’s place, only because all her older sons were killed at the hands of an enemy. The Bible summarized Ahaziah’s life in this way, He also walked in the ways of the house of Ahab, for his mother was his counselor to do wickedly.  2 Chronicles 22:3

Later, Athaliah would lose some of her grandsons as a result of the continued outpouring of God’s judgment against her evil influence. Even her youngest son, Ahaziah, fell victim to God’s wrath. Nevertheless, her heart never skipped a beat in her devotion to evil.

Why was Athaliah so devoted to evil? Why was it that she had such animosity toward the Lord? Certainly, it was in part due to the influence of her wicked mother and father, Ahab and Jezebel. But perhaps it was also reflected in the name they gave her, the name Athaliah. It means, afflicted of the Lord.They raised her with a hatred for God built into her own name. Now, because of her great wickedness, her whole family was afflicted by God’s judgment.

Even then, Athaliah didn’t change. In 2 Chronicles 22:10 we read, Now when Athaliah the mother of Ahaziah saw that her son was dead, she rose and destroyed all the royal offspring of the house of Judah. She killed the remainder of her own grandchildren so that she could be the sole ruler of the land. For six more years, her wicked influence held sway over the land of Judah and over the lives of God’s people.

However, in the providence of God, there was one little grandson spared from Athaliah’s wrath. His name was Joash. He was hidden from Athaliah, and carried to the safety of the house of God. There he grew up under the protection, nurture, and influence of a priest whose name was Jehoiada.

From this point forward, there are three characters who will be our concern. First, there is Athaliah, whose name means afflicted of the Lord. She represents the influence of evil that often infects the life of God’s people. Is there an Athaliah in your life?  Is there some evil influence that spreads like a contagion in your life? That influence will seek to remove every connection to God you have in your life, seeking to be sole ruler. 

The second character that will concern us is this priest, Jehoiada. It is important for you to be aware of the meaning of his name. His name means “The Lord Knows.” So, let me say up front, if there is an Athaliah in your life, the Lord knows.

Third, there is the little boy Joash. Joash represents the rightful king who must be placed on the throne. His name means: The Lord has bestowed.

Every day that Athaliah ruled the nation, all she had to do was to look at the temple of God and think about the priest who stood there as the leader of God’s people. Every time she did, she would remember that Jehoiada meant—the Lord Knows.  The Lord knew every evil plan in her heart.  He knew how she and her parents had devastated His people and allowed His house to fall into disrepair.  But the Lord also knew that the tables were about to turn, and this woman, Jezebel’s daughter, whose name meant, afflicted of the Lord—would soon be deposed and destroyed by the sword of the Lord.

Jehoida was a man who remained faithful to the Lord during one of the most wicked periods in the nation’s history.  The first thing that this faithful priest did to lead these people back to God was to call the people and the king to a covenant of commitment.

Then Jehoiada made a covenant between himself and all the people and the king, that they would be the LORD’s people.  2 Chronicles 23:16

Remember, these were a people whose lives had been governed by Athaliah, that contagious influence of evil. Their own lives had been infected by that influence. Some of them, like the people of Elijah’s day, became unfaithful to the Lord. Now came time to make a new covenant and a new commitment.

This was a turning point in their history.  It was a day of decision.  The challenge of Jehoiada, for both king and people, was that they commit themselves to be a people of the LORD alone.  

Only then can we truly call ourselves His people. Is it time to renew that covenant in your church? Is it time to renew it in your life? We have a tendency to try to steer our lives in the direction of our own choosing. When that happens, we usually wind up in the ruts of the past because we always choose the path of least resistance. Not so with Jehoiada. In his mind and in his heart, the LORD was the only one qualified to lead His people. He was priest, Joash was king, but the LORD would be their leader.

There was a second step that Jehoiada took that set the people of God on a course to Revival.  And all the people went to the house of Baal and tore it down, and they broke in pieces his altars and his images, and killed Mattan the priest of Baal before the altars.  2 Chronicles 23:17

Can you imagine the contradiction that must have existed in that community? On one side of town was the house of Baal.  On the other side of town was the house of the LORD.  Without a doubt, there were people who were involved in both.  Jezebel took the holy things from the house of the LORD and began using them to facilitate worship in the house of Baal. Athaliah, like her mother, was a worshipper of the false god Baal. There were those among God’s own people who followed her lead.

Jehoiada sought to lead God’s people to a new commitment.  Remember, his name means “the Lord knows.”And the Lord did know!  He knew who spent more time in the temple of an idol than they spent in the temple of the Lord.  

For them to be the Lord’s people that temple of idols had to fall. Its presence needed to be removed from that community, and its hold over their lives needed to be broken.

But what about your life?  Is it your sincere desire to belong to the Lord?  Is it your sincere desire to be a person after His heart? Do you claim Jesus as Lord of your life, while at the same time holding idols in your hearts, having made your heart a temple of worship for idolatry?

There was a time when God confronted the people of Ezekiel’s day with the two-sided nature of their commitment.  Outwardly they gave all the appearance of being committed to the Lord. But God gave Ezekiel insight into the secret lives of God’s people.  And this is what God said:“Son of man, these men have set up their idols in their hearts and have put right before their faces the stumbling block of their iniquity. Should I be consulted by them at all?…. Therefore say to the house of Israel, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD, “Repent and turn away from your idols and turn your faces away from all your abominations.”’ Ezekiel 14:3; 6

Do you have a split-personality spiritually?  The time has come to choose which you will follow and who you will serve?  Idols have no business in the sanctuary of the Lord.  Your heart is that sanctuary. You see, the Lord knows!

Not only did Jehoiada lead them in casting down their idols:He led them in a return to true worship.

Moreover, Jehoiada placed the offices of the house of the Lord under the authority of the Levitcal priests, whom David had assigned over the house of the Lord, to offer the burnt offerings of the Lord, as it is written in the law of Moses—with rejoicing and singing according to the order of David.  2 Chronicles 23:18

When worship becomes routine, it faces the danger of becoming a ritual.  The people who are more apt to succumb to that danger than others, are those who are the most involved.  When worship becomes routine and ritual, the heart no longer has a part in what happens.  When you separate the heart from worship, that is the beginning of a great compromise.  

The first thing you compromise is the quality of your own commitment.  Whereas there might have been a time when you couldn’t teach or preach or sing or pray with the presence of sin in your life it comes to the point where it no longer stings your heart to do so.    

The second thing you compromise is the character of the worship itself.  It is trivialized by your attitude and your actions.  Those most likely to be guilty, are those who are most involved.  That is exactly what had happened in the time of Jehoiada.

Jehoiada recognized that in his own life and in the lives of others.  So he made it a point to bring the service of God’s house back to the order God intended.  Jehoiada brought heart back to worship so that it would be more than empty ritual.  Jesus said, But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. John 4:23

Do you worship in spirit and in truth? Did you know that the Lord seeks that kind of worship from His people? Does your singing and your service and your praying spring from the passion of a heart that stands on tiptoe reaching for God, or is it ritual?

The reforms led by Jehoiada sought to address more than just form and function.  Because of his leadership there was a renewed emphasis on holiness.

He stationed the gatekeepers of the house of the Lord, so that no one would enter who was in any way unclean.  2 Chronicles 23:19

Are you in any way unclean? The absence of holiness excluded the people of the Old Testament from worship.  In the Old Testament, the idea of clean and unclean was more ceremonial and outward in nature.  In the New Testament, it is not related to what you touch or what you eat but who you are.  It is related to outward acts but also to the thoughts and intents of the heart.  

Because we no longer understand holiness of the heart, we no longer value holiness of the life.  My heart is to be the sanctuary of God.  I am not to allow anything into my heart that is in any way unclean.  Are you guarding the gates of your heart and mind?  

God’s people drifted far away, but there was still a way back to God.  Where are you in your relationship with the Lord? I remind you of the man who led this effort—the man Jehoiada.  His name means the Lord Knows. Does the Lord know where you are? Is there a way back for you?  In the book of Jeremiah, this is what God said to His people:Thus says the LORD, “Stand by the ways and see and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is, and walk in it; and you will find rest for your souls.  Jeremiah 6:16

What if we followed the path by which Jehoiada led people back to God? What if you and I made a new covenant of commitment with the Lord?  What if we removed the idols that stand in the sanctuary of the our hearts?  What if we returned to a worship that sprang from the heart rather than from routine and ritual?  And what if we once again began to walk the path of holiness?  

One other thing they did that was key to what needed to happen. They placed the Rightful King on His Royal Throne.

Over a six-year period, Jehoiada quietly, but very deliberately, raised the little boy rescued from that family.  Rescued as a little one-year old boy, he was now seven.  He was not old enough to lead a nation, but he was young enough to listen and learn from Godly counsel.  The day came when they took this little seven-year-old boy, put the crown on his head, and set him on the throne of the kingdom. The same day he was crowned, Athaliah tore out in a fitful rage to take the life of this little grandson who was her only rival to the throne. 

There will always be an Athaliah who seeks to hold sway over the people of God.  An Athaliah is anything or anyone that influences away from God—who seeks to introduce us to idols that rise up to take the place of God in our hearts and lives. Some of you have an Athaliah in your life—something that for years has determined where you stand with God.  The time has come to deal with that Athaliah once and for all—to put that influence in its place so that your life is ruled by God and God alone.  

For this brief period of their history, these people had a king on the throne—but God was once again their sovereign. As a result, all the people of the land rejoiced, and the city was quiet.  For they had put Athaliah to death with the sword.    2 Chronicles 16:21

Is the King on the throne of your life? Isn’t time you placed Him there, allowing Him to have control of your life? These are the essential steps God’s people must take if we are to make our way back to God. We must make them individually and we must make the corporately. Whatever the situation is in your life, whatever it is that reigns on the throne of your heart, I remind you… the Lord knows. 

Photo by Nathan Dumlao