Restore the Joy

“Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.” Psalm 51:12 NIV

There are times we feel stagnant in our spiritual life as if instead of springs of living sweetwater continually refreshing us, we are drinking from cisterns or catch pools. The prophet Jeremiah was constantly trying to bring Israel back to God, chastising them for their idolatrous ways of worshipping false gods. In Jeremiah 2:13 we find these words from God: “For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns that can hold no water.” Even the limestone the Israelites dug out to catch rainwater had to be waterproofed with plaster so that the water didn’t seep away. There is no replenishing spring in a cistern. Many times they would have to drop in large clods of dirt to take the scum that was building up on the top to the bottom. This water was not fit to drink.

Cisterns in the earliest times of the Bible were used to store rainwater. Bible History Online describes them as usually pear shaped, and 15 to 20 feet deep, and the actual opening was only 2 to 3 feet. There was usually a stone cover for reasons of safety and keeping the debris out. Cisterns could be large or small; large enough to store water for the community or small and privately owned. They were like wells of water, which could be hoisted up with ropes and a bucket. It was common in the Midwest in earlier times for families to have cisterns where they could catch rainwater for washing clothes and bathing. Today, because our atmosphere is polluted, so is the rainwater.

In Psalm 51:12, David was seeking mercy and forgiveness for one of his many grievous sins that had taken away the joy and peace God’s promised salvation had given him. He sought restoration. By asking God to create in him a clean heart, he recognized that he was the cause of his spiritual drought. God doesn’t withdraw from us, we withdraw from him by taking a divergent path to do our thing. We no longer drink from his fountain of living water.

When Job was at his lowest point from the losses he had suffered, and I’m sure praying for God to restore the joy, he recognizes how majestic is God:

Job 12:7-10 NIVCreation Showing God’s Nature

“But now ask the beasts, and let them teach you; And the birds of the heavens, and let them tell you. “Or speak to the earth, and let it teach you; And let the fish of the sea declare to you. “Who among all these does not know that the hand of the LORD has done this? In whose hand is the soul of every living thing, and the breath of all mankind.”

As the spirit moved Job in his tormented state to praise the majesty of God, he was also seeking comfort and learning in the natural world around him- the only sure thing he had left. I, too, am becoming more and more aware by observing creation especially the coming of spring, of just how amazing is our living God. His awe-inspiring round of seasons continues as one season fades into the next. The interface is flawless and gradual allowing for his fragile creatures including us to adjust and prepare. The warm sunny days of March plunging back into freezing nights giving way finally to a steady rhythm we can trust for garden seeds to sprout and flourish in April.   Even the tiny buds on the trees gradually open to praise God in all their beauty. David and Job cried out in distress blinded by their human predicament to the Living Fountain’s care all around him “Restore to me the joy of your salvation”.

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As I was taking a walk today, I happened upon a small bird’s nest that was perfectly round and had delicate, tiny twigs throughout. There were no misfits. They were all uniform, woven into a perfect round shape and able to withstand falling out of the tree and still stay intact. Following the advice from Job, I found a few websites online that described what is involved in making a nest. I discovered that each different bird species has its own unique nest-building techniques. The nest has to give shelter and warmth for the featherless baby birds when they hatch and provide safety when the parents are off gathering food. Woven nests in particular trap body heat, providing warmth for the chicks. The weaving of the nest is an incredible feat and requires great skill calculating the required tension so the nest is not too weak and collapses and also a visualization of the final product so as to know where to widen and where to thin – when to begin building the sides up, how thick the base should be and how high the sides should go.

A bird can spend the entire day searching for the right materials for elasticity, compressibility and durability. The nest generally takes days to complete as the bird makes a trip with every single piece. When the nest is complete, she then insulates the nest by lining it with feathers, hair and fine grass.

Some birds like India’s tailor bird have a very complex method. They take two leaves together on a branch; poke approximately six holes around the leaf edges to make the curve and lace through the holes with strands of silk from spider webs, cotton from seeds and fibers of tree bark. The two leaves now one, are then gathered up like a purse and then partially packed with grass. They also make a special compartment within the purse for the female to lay the eggs.

These are creatures we consider devoid of reason and the willpower that it would take to behave with compassion, mercy and even devotion yet they intelligently plan and design for the purpose of protecting and nurturing their offspring. That is their work and praise to their Creator.

“Let everything that has breath praise the Lord”. Psalm 150:6 NIV

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As I looked further I found and incredible account about elephants. Author and legendary conservationist and writer Lawrence Anthony experienced a phenomenal relationship with African elephants earning him the name of Elephant Whisperer. He had been called in to help rescue some violent, rogue elephants, destined to be shot if they left the refuge. The farmers of South Africa were threatening to kill the rogue elephants due to the destruction they had inflicted on their property before they were removed to a succession of game reserves. Attempts had been made to contain them with electric fences but every time they would find a way to escape and return to their homeland. One time two of the bulls had managed to fell a tree taking down the fence and allowing their escape. Anthony was called in to rehabilitate them.

They hated humans. Anthony found himself fighting a desperate battle for their survival and their trust, which he detailed in “The Elephant Whisperer”:

       “It was 4:45 a.m. and I was standing in front of Nana, an enraged wild elephant, pleading with her in desperation. Both our lives depended on it. The only thing separating us was an 8,000-volt electric fence that she was preparing to flatten and make her escape. Nana, the matriarch of her herd, tensed her enormous frame and flared her ears. ’Don’t do it, Nana,’ I said, as calmly as I could. She stood there, motionless but tense. The rest of the herd froze. ’This is your home now,’ I continued. ‘Please don’t do it, girl.’ I felt her eyes boring into me.

       ’They’ll kill you all if you break out. This is your home now. You have no need to run any more.’ Suddenly, the absurdity of the situation struck me. Here I was in pitch darkness, talking to a wild female elephant with a baby, the most dangerous possible combination, as if we were having a friendly chat. But I meant every word. ‘You will all die if you go. Stay here. I will be here with you and it’s a good place.’ She took another step forward. I could see her tense up again, preparing to snap the electric wire and be out, the rest of the herd smashing after her in a flash. I was in their path, and would only have seconds to scramble out of their way and climb the nearest tree. I wondered if I would be fast enough to avoid being trampled. Possibly not. Then something happened between Nana and me, some tiny spark of recognition, flaring for the briefest of moments. Then it was gone. Nana turned and melted into the bush. The rest of the herd followed. I couldn’t explain what had happened between us, but it gave me the first glimmer of hope since the elephants had first thundered into my life.” Taken from “The Elephant Whisperer “written by Anthony.

On March 2, 2012, Anthony passed away. His family relates that a solemn procession of elephants which defies human explanation returned to their home. There were two herds of elephants at Thula Thula game reserve. They hadn’t had any contact with Anthony for a year and a half yet both herds walked for twelve hours back to Anthony’s compound just following his death. One herd arrived a day later from the first. For two days the herds loitered to say good-bye to the man they loved. But how did they know he had died? Gradually they made their way back into the bush. Elephants have long been known to mourn their dead. In India, baby elephants often are raised with a boy who will be their lifelong “mahout.” The pair develop legendary bonds – and it is not uncommon for one to waste away without a will to live after the death of the other. To mourn the dead takes a deep sense of knowing, love and feeling of personal loss.

“Who among all these does not know that the hand of the LORD has done this? In whose hand is the soul of every living thing, and the breath of all mankind.”

Job 12:10 NIV

There is no lack of evidence of God’s love for us if we seek it in the beautiful world he created within which to place us. We see God regularly by just looking beyond ourselves.

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Acts 17:24-28 NIV:

24 “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. 25 And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. 26 From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. 27 God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. 28 ‘For in him we live and move and have our being. As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’”

“Seek him that maketh the seven stars and Orion, and turneth the shadow of death into the morning, and maketh the day dark with night; that calleth for the waters of the sea, and poureth them out upon the face of the earth. The Lord is his name.”

Amos 5:8 KJV

From Psalm 51

 Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions.

Wash away all my iniquity and cleansej me from my sin.

15 Open my lips, Lord, and my mouth will declare your praise.

16 You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.

17 My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart

you, God, will not despise.”

A daily relationship with God is one of praise and gratitude and taking him with us everywhere we go. Sharing God with others means being positive, hopeful with a joyous and willing spirit in spite of the negative circumstances in which we find ourselves at times.

When life becomes not about us but about the welfare of others because we trust that God will keep his promises and take care of us as we care for others then we will feel restored finding joy in each other. Joy is an organic experience; a heart-lifting, pulse-quickening experience! How do we hit the reset button? We look at the life of Christ for more answers.

Jesus was continually caring for others and building them up. He didn’t have a roof over his head or carry around “stuff” yet his basic needs were the same as ours. As far as we know, they were all taken care of.  For our spiritual relationship to be healthy with ongoing replenishment, we must look within ourselves to understand what is blocking it.

Hebrews 12:2 states that Jesus endured the cross “for the joy set before Him.” What joy is that? I believe it is the joy of being able to be eternally in relationship with us, His creation. We will achieve that deeper joy when we decide we’re dissatisfied with where we’re at right now.

It is possible to find direction in the natural world in how God would want us to live to restore the joy. The sociable weaver birds of Africa live in harmonious community. They work together and build a nest home that can accommodate 600 birds. You can check online and see pictures of these amazing nests.

“But now ask the beasts, and let them teach you; And the birds of the heavens, and let them tell you. Or speak to the earth, and let it teach you; And let the fish of the sea declare to you. Who among all these does not know that the hand of the LORD has done this? In whose hand is the soul of every living thing, and the breath of all mankind.” Job 12:7-10 NIV

“For the Lord takes delight in his people; he crowns the humble with salvation. Let the saints rejoice in this honor and sing for joy on their beds. May the praise of God be in their mouths . . .”Ps 149:4-6 NIV

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