Return, Remove, Restore

If you return to the Almighty, you will be restored:
    If you remove wickedness far from your tent… Job 22:23

This week is a busy week for me. I’m getting my message ready for our women’s meeting at church which is returning from a summer break. I’m also preparing for homeschool to restart next week, and if that wasn’t enough, we just got a new kitten the day we returned from vacation! But I’m in a planning, back to school type of mood so my message for the ladies this Friday will tie in with that!

I love that God can use whatever we have going on to speak to us and maybe even help someone else. I’ve been reading a passage in the book of Job for a lot of the summer. It’s found in Job 22 (verses 21-28). My pastor/father in law quotes this passage often and it has become one of my favorites, but I want to zero in on one verse. The 23rd verse gives us a formula for restoration.

Math is one of my favorite subjects. It can be really simple, IF you know the basics. Math was not my son’s favorite subject. When we started homeschooling, he would dread math time. But as we slowed down and focused on the basics of memorizing math facts and seeing the patterns in them, he began to love it! He loved that there are rues to math that apply every time.

As I was ready this passage in Job, I began to think about patterns in the Bible. The children of Israel (yes, them again!) had a pattern they would fall into often. Get complacent in their faith, turn to idols and instant gratification, fall into sin, regret their disobedience and the consequences of it, cry out to God, get forgiven and restored, repeat.

This happened over and over and then over again in the Bible. But God’s response was always the same. His formula always worked and it’s found in Job 22:23. RETURN, REMOVE, RESTORE.

If the people would return their hearts to him and remove wickedness from their lives, he would restore them. This is the same promise he gave Solomon in 2 Chronicles 7:14. If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. God commanded his people to return to him (pray and seek), to remove wickedness from their lives (turn from their wicked ways), and he would restore them (I will hear from heaven and forgive their sin and will heal their land).

In the spirit of back to school, here is our formula: Return + Remove = Restoration

The formula has worked throughout scripture. Look at the prodigal son. He returned to his father, he removed his pride and arrogance, and he was restored to his position as a son. But there are also instances were people tried to only use part of the formula. Many of the kings in the Old Testament were counted as doing right in the eyes of the Lord. They returned to him and encourage the people to do so. But I noticed a phrase that kept reappearing: “But they failed to remove the high places”. The kings would return to God but would to get rid of the places of idol worship that would distract the people of God from serving him fully.

Many of us don’t physically go to the temple of an idol and make sacrifices. But everyday, we make spiritual sacrifices while we worship at the alters of busyness, technology, complacency, greed, discontent, criticism and whatever else I didn’t name that fits you! If we want to see restoration in a certain area of our life, we have to apply the formula. And yes, it always works!

In your finances: RETURN your tithe to the Lord and learn how to be a good manager of what he’s given you. REMOVE unnecessary spending, overspending, debt and a poverty mentality and prioritize saving and investing and RESTORE your ability to experience financial freedom.

In your health: RETURN your body to God as a temple you want to take care of. REMOVE unhealthy eating habits and negative patterns surrounding food. Your health will be RESTORED and you can live a life full of energy and unnecessary heath issues.

In your walk with God: RETURN to God by daily prayer and reading his Word. REMOVE distractions keeping you from spending time with him (turn your phone off, go outside for a walk, put in your noise cancelling headphones!). See your spirit restored and your faith grow.

I could go on forever, but you get the point! God wants his children to prosper and be in good health. He wants us to serve him and others and be a blessing to everyone we encounter. And we do that by living restored, redeemed lives. What are do you need restoration in? Take some time and ask the Holy Spirit to help you discover it. I need to restore my daily time with God. I’ve allowed the busyness of summer activities to distract me from some of the habits and routines I normally have in place. I’ll be asking the Holy Spirit to help me to be consistent in my time with God. Let me know in the comments what the Holy Spirit is guiding you to restore.

He Will Restore

Listen to this blog post on my podcast Seeking God, Loving Others.

I have been stuck in the book of 2 Kings with the Shunammite woman for months now. I suppose “stuck” is not the best choice of words. Stuck has a negative connotation and implies that someone is in a place they’d rather not be. So I’ll say that I’ve been “stationed” in the book of 2 Kings. There is a purpose, a responsibility assumed when someone is stationed, like in the palace guard or in the army. I feel like I can’t move on from this story because God keeps showing me more things the longer I stay there. (That’s a whole different message!)

As I get ready to leave the land of Shunem, I wonder where God will take me next. The final installment of this series ends with the last event recorded from the Shunammite woman’s life. In 2 Kings 8:1-6, the Shunammite finds herself in need of one last miracle from God. 

The Shunimmate woman was instructed by Elisha to go and find somewhere to live because there was going to be a famine lasting seven years. So the woman listened, went with her family and they stayed in the land of the Philistines for seven years.

When the seven years were over she came back to her home and land and found that it had been seized. We don’t know a lot about why her land was taken but theologians think that during times of famine, when many houses and land were abandoned the king would often seize land and use it for whatever he needed. 

Also, in the book the 1 Samuel when Israel first asked for a king, Samuel warned them against it because a king could do whatever he wanted. He could take their children, their animals, and their land so this was also just one of the consequences of having a king rule over Israel instead of allowing God to be their king. 

When the Shunammite returns to find her land has been taken, she decides to go to the king to beg for her house and land to be returned to her.

Have you ever listened to God’s instructions and things got worse? Don’t kick me out of the church yet? I have. And if you’re honest, you probably have experienced this too. But let me assure you, obedience to God is always the best option, no matter the outcome.

God will not ask us to obey in an area where he does not already have a plan. We sometimes think that everything is always linear but regardless of the ups and downs, God is always working things out for our good. We don’t obey God simply to get blessed even though that is a reward for obedience.

1 John 5:3 says,In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands.” We obey God because we love him. When I ask my kids to do something for me, they don’t wait to see what I will do for them first. They just do it. I may not reward them for days or weeks! I may even have to fuss at them later that day, but their obedience is not based on what they expect to receive but on their love and respect for me.

The Shunammite woman could have been upset that her land was taken from her but she had an experience of God always meeting her needs so I have to think she knew he could do it again.

As the woman is making her way to the king, the king is watching TV. Not really. He was having Gehazi, Elisha’s servant, tell him about all the things that Elisha had done. So he was listening to a podcast. Gehazi was telling him about the time that Elisha raised the Shunammite’s son back to life, when in the middle of the story, she walks in the door.

Unbeknownst to Gehazi, he was acting as an intercessor for the Shunammite. He was opening a door for her to receive favor from the king. Doors are being opened that you know nothing about.

The Shunammite didn’t know that she had an intercessor. She had someone that was already preparing the groundwork for her to come in and make her request. And we have someone interceding for us. 

“Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.” (Romans 8:34)

Jesus is always already putting things in motion for us. He’s moving some people out of the way and putting others where they need to be.

I think about the story of Daniel when he was fasting and praying for 21 days. In Daniel 10:12, the angel tells Daniel “Since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to them.”

The answer to your prayers are already on the way. You may not see them, you may not know them, you may not know where they’re coming from. But they are already on the way. God has great things in store for you and he wants to bless you in ways that you haven’t even imagined.

When the Shunammite finished telling her story, the king assigned an official to her case and told him to give her back everything that belonged to her. She didn’t have to beg or plead or cry. All she had to do was show up. 

The things you are begging for God wants to bless you with (and more). Not only did the king return her home and her land to her, he gave her all the income made from the land for the last seven years. She got more than she was planning to beg for! God knows how to bless his children. He knows what we need and how to get it to us.

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us” (Ephesians 3:20)