Many of the prophesies of the Old Testament had to be very harsh because of the disobedience of the people. God sent prophet after prophet seeking to turn the hearts of the people back to Him. What is striking to read is how often they will end with words like, “In that day the mountains will drip new wine, and the hills will flow with milk; all the ravines of Judah will run with water. A fountain will flow out of the LORD’s house and will water the valley of acacias. “(Joel 3:18) God take no pleasure in judgment on anyone, but He cannot ignore the sin that is so destructive of people He created. However, God gives the assurance that, in spite of their sin, He will complete the purpose he ordained. People will have to be confronted with God’s judgments, and some may choose to reject His grace, but His hand is always reaching out in love, and He will bring all things to their right conclusion.
“If only we had …..” What an expression of a missed opportunity, whether that of taking advantage of something good presented to us, or our not listening to wisdom that would have kept us from trouble. God said this to His people through the Prophet Isaiah. “I am the LORD your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go. If only you had paid attention to my commands, your peace would have been like a river, your righteousness like the waves of the sea. Your descendants would have been like the sand, your children like its numberless grains; their name would never be cut off nor destroyed from before me.” (48:17-19) Our God is a God of love, forgiveness, and a depth of grace beyond our understanding, but He is also our Maker who knows what is best for our lives. Oh, that we would pay more attention to His Word, and seek Him for every path of life. Then there wouldn’t be so many times we would have to say, “If only we had ….”
When we look at our lives we sometimes fret that we didn’t know something earlier, or started on some course of action sooner in life. It may be true that things would be different today, but the marvel of God’s grace is that nothing is wasted. God has a wonderful way of using our past for the good we can do in the present. He can even turn some of our sins to His glory. It is not the desired path that He would have us take, but it in no way puts Him out of the picture. His love is too great for that. We may, and often do, have to struggle with things because they were not done earlier in life, or deal with the consequences of past sins, but God is still there. He never abandons us, and He has the ability to take all of the junk that we give Him and make something beautiful out of it. What a marvelous God we serve. Enter this day knowing that He is with you, and seeking to use your life to His glory.
We’ve often said that God doesn’t give us more than we can handle, but He really does give us more than we can handle. If all of our trials and temptations were only at the level we could handle, we wouldn’t need to depend upon Him. But our trials, and struggling with our temptations, force us in one of two directions. We can do, as Job’s wife counseled him, “Curse God and die.” (Job 2:9) Or as Job said, “Though He slay me, yet will I hope in Him.”(13:15) Life is difficult. We have many needs, pains, and pressures, some very tragic. We don’t have all the answers, many we will never have this side of eternity. But the question always is, “In whom do we trust?” Only in our own reason, ability, and strength, or in the One who loves us with an everlasting love, who truly is working in all things for our best good, and to turn our hearts more to Himself? We soon find that our strength is limited, but His never is. And His grace is sufficient. (II Corinthians 12:9)
Many people have trouble reading the Old Testament because of the picture of God they seem to see there. A God of wrath, judgment, and many wars. In spite of this appearance, He is a God of love, whose grace is shown in many ways. The Old Testament shows our God who is continually working to overcome the sin that we have brought into the world, and prepare the way for His redemption in Jesus Christ. He is working with the Jews to make a people who know Him, who live a different life from that of the world, and who are able to spread His truth to the rest of the world. This is our calling, as well. We are to know Him in Jesus Christ, live different lives from the world, and share His truth with all others. He is not a god of wrath, but of pure love. That is the love we know in our hearts, and seek to show with our lives.
Jesus was about to heal a boy who was demon possessed. He said to the boy’s father, “All things are possible to him who believes.” To which the father responded, “I do believe, help my unbelief.” (Mark 9:23-24) The boy needed healing, but so did the father, and so do we. We believe in prayer. We pray for one another, and we share many prayer requests. But we always face that lingering doubt and fear. When we pray do we expect to see results, or are we never quite sure? Lord, help my unbelief. In Luke 18 Jesus teaches us to be persistent in prayer. It is not that God needs to hear our prayer over and over, but He is also using our prayers to work on our own hearts, to open us more to Himself. Yes, we have doubts, but “all things are possible to him who believes,” and Jesus even helps us to believe.
Last evening we watched a concert by the Vienna Philharmonic on PBS. It was a piano concerto by Liszt. A very lengthy and complicated piece. Yet the pianist had it completely memorized. I marveled again at the mind that God has given man. This is only one man using his gift in this one area of music. There are equally brilliant minds using gifts in many other areas of endeavor. If this is what God has given, how infinitely greater is the mind that gave them! Further, we share in the beauty of the composer’s gift to write, each of the musicians gifts to play and direct, and all of the gifts working together to bring harmony and beauty to all those who listen. An accident? Merely the culmination of human ability? Not at all, but gifts of a gracious God, and a very small glimpse into the beauty He intends for us in His Kingdom. Even a Vienna concert should bring us to worship our gracious Lord, and a longing for our true home.
Amos, one of the twelve minor prophets at the end of the Old Testament, was a reluctant messenger, called to speak God’s word to His people. Unlike the major prophets, Isaiah, and Jeremiah, Amos describes himself as a shepherd, and a tender of sycamore trees. He was an ordinary, blue collar guy that God chose to use. Further, he was a southern boy who was sent up north to prophesy against the sins of Israel. That is like a lone Virginian preaching in the streets of Washington during our Civil War. You can imagine that there were many protests in the heart of this young man. But there are times when God calls us to difficult tasks, for which we feel ill equipped, and way out of our comfort zone. You can pray that He ask someone else, but you are there, and the task has been given you. With any call, God never leaves us alone, but gives the strength sufficient for the task. Amos was obedient, and we can be as well.
I sit at my keyboard each morning, pray a bit, look at the Scriptures, and type what the Lord brings to mind. As you have discovered, there are often a number of mistakes that crop up – like yesterday’s “a long memories”, or last weeks “Goof” Morning. I read over the paragraph several times, but obviously am not a good proof reader, and at 7 in the morning, I don’t pass them on to anyone else first. The problem with these mistakes is that they are always caught too late, and then I have to feel the shame of having made them. This is just like sin. We move forward without thinking, we do something stubbornly or impulsively, something we later regret. Sin, like mistakes in writing, crop up suddenly, and are only discovered with shame afterward. Nor can they be retracted once committed. But, glory be to God for His grace, that those sins were nailed to Calvary’s cross, and are washed clean when we turn in repentance. Have a bit of grace with my typing, and I shall continue to hit these keys.