I was among the exiles by the Kebar River, the heavens were opened and I saw visions of God. . . . There the hand of the Lord was upon [me]. (Ezekiel 1: 1, 3)
There is nothing that makes the Scriptures more precious to us than a time of “captivity.” The old psalms of God’s Word have sung for us with compassion by our stream at Babel and have resounded with new joy as we have seen the Lord deliver us from captivity and “restore our fortunes, . . . like streams in the Negev” (Ps. 126: 4).
A person who has experienced great difficulties will not be easily parted from his Bible. Another book may appear to others to be identical, but to him it is not the same. Over the old and tear-stained pages of his Bible, he has written a journal of his experiences in words that are only visible to his eyes. Through those pages, he has time and again come to the pillars of the house of God and “to Elim, where there were . . . palm trees” (Ex. 15: 27). And each of those pillars and trees have become a remembrance for him of some critical time in his life.
In order to receive any benefit from our captivity, we must accept the situation and be determined to make the best of it. Worrying over what we have lost or what has been taken from us will not make things better but will only prevent us from improving what remains. We will only serve to make the rope around us tighter if we rebel against it.
In the same way, an excitable horse that will not calmly submit to its bridle only strangles itself. And a high-spirited animal that is restless in its yoke only bruises its own shoulders. Everyone will also understand the analogy that Laurence Sterne, a minister and author of the eighteenth century, penned regarding a starling and a canary. He told of the difference between a restless starling that broke its wings struggling against the bars of its cage and continually cried, “I can’t get out! I can’t get out!” and a submissive canary that sat on its perch and sang songs that surpassed even the beauty of those of a lark that soared freely to the very gates of heaven.
No calamity will ever bring only evil to us, if we will immediately take it in fervent prayer to God. Even as we take shelter beneath a tree during a downpour of rain, we may unexpectedly find fruit on its branches. And when we flee to God, taking refuge beneath the shadow of His wing, we will always find more in Him than we have ever before seen or known.
Consequently, it is through our trials and afflictions that God gives us fresh revelations of Himself. Like Jacob, we must cross “the ford of the Jabbok” (Gen. 32: 22) if we are ever to arrive at Peniel, where he wrestled with the Lord, was blessed by Him, and could say, “I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared” (Gen. 32: 30).
Submission to God’s divine will is the softest pillow on which to rest.
It filled the room, and it filled my life,
With a glory of source unseen;
It made me calm in the midst of strife,
And in winter my heart was green.
And the birds of promise sang on the tree
When the storm was breaking on land and sea.
Cowman, L. B. E.; Reimann, Jim (2008-09-09). Streams in the Desert: 366 Daily Devotional Readings (pp. 416-417). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.