I am a creature of habit. I do things at a certain time. I put things is certain places. A crooked picture on the wall bothers me. Obviously I like order, certainty, things that can be counted on. But we live in a disordered, and uncertain world. The Psalmist faced this disorder over and over. They often cried out for help in the midst of things that were going awry. But they came back time and again to what they knew was solid. “I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation.”(Psalm13:5) We try as best we can to make our solid places and safe havens in our world, but there is truly only one place, one person that is solid and unchanging. “In you, LORD, I have taken refuge; let me never be put to shame. In your righteousness, rescue me and deliver me; turn your ear to me and save me. Be my rock of refuge, to which I can always go;…”(Psalm71:1-3) Our ultimate hope is in God alone. He will not fail us.
We hear so much these days about gun violence. 30+ people killed in random shootings just a couple of weeks ago. There are renewed calls for gun control. These tragedies have been in places of employment, in shopping malls, and even in churches. They are horrible, and leave many individual devastations in their wake. One article pointed out, however, that statistically each of us has a very low probability of being involved in such an incident. I’m not sure how comforting that is, but the article did say that we can’t live our lives in fear. We have responsibilities, and normal patterns of life with work, shopping, entertainment, and so forth. We can’t and shouldn’t curtail these activities out of fear. Above all we believe in our God who is a part of us at all times, our God who cares about every soul of the victims and even of the shooters. He has allowed sinful mankind to make choices, and at times those choices are used in very wrong ways. Yet He is not absent. He is present to calm our fears, to comfort the bereaved, and He alone is the One with power to touch hearts and overcome hate. Some aspects of gun control are important, but our main concern, and the focus of our prayers, is for God to change sinful hearts, including our own. And above all that He would shorten the days until Christ’s return.(Mark 13:20) He alone will bring the peace we all want.
What does it mean to trust, especially to trust God? We say it all the time, but we usually have a back up plan in case God doesn’t come through the way we think He should. This is especially true in our affluent world. We solve many of our problems with money. We really don’t know what it means to have to pray for our next meal, as some Christian workers have had to do. Or pray for safety from hostile peoples. Truly trusting God is to be out on a limb with no way back. If God doesn’t help, we are lost. It is not a question that we have to be in poverty or danger to learn to trust God. Rather, we need to see Him as our single source of provision, strength, and hope in all situations of life. God is trustworthy. He has proven it time and again.
We like to think that we are capable of doing what needs to be done, and for the most part we are. We have talents and abilities. We work by something of a routine. We solve many problems as they come along in our days. However, as smoothly as things go along for a while, something always seems to crop up reminding us that we are not always in control. Be it a computer glitch, a sudden illness that puts one in the hospital, or even an unexpected death, things happen that we can’t change. The Lord, in His grace, uses these times to remind us to look beyond ourselves, check our priorities, set aside our pride, or a variety of other lessons aimed at focusing our attention upon Him for strength, wisdom, and guidance. No, we do not have the ultimate control of our lives. There is One far greater than we who does. And His nature is pure love and grace. Let’s depend upon Him.
On Thursday evening shortly before Jesus’ arrest and trial He was trying to comfort His disciple’s fears. He had said to them, “You know the way to the place where I am going.”(John 14:4) Then Thomas asked a question that summaries what all of us feel at times. “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” We believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. We are committed to Him. But we also live in a world that doesn’t make a lot of sense, and we all face situations where we don’t know the way. “Lord, where are you going with this? How can we know the right way?” Then Jesus answered,”I am the way and the truth and the life…” We would like to have a specific plan – do this, this, and this and all will work out well. That isn’t the answer Jesus gives. He simply says keep your eyes on me, hold my hand, follow me. We don’t know where many of our trials in life will end. Just like the disciples on that Thursday evening had no real ideal of all that they would face. Yet they walked forward keeping their eyes, and the deepest hope of their hearts fixed on Jesus. It was He who brought them through to the resurrection on Easter Sunday Morning. With eyes fixed on Jesus we move forward one step at a time.
“This is the day which the LORD has made; Let us rejoice and be glad in it.”(Psalm 118:24) I don’t know what you have planned for today, or whether you circumstances are good or bad. Even so this verse sets the tone for our days. Whether good or bad we are assured that the Lord is not far off. He is a part of our days with wisdom, guidance, strength, and help. This Psalm is also part of the messianic psalms. Just two verses before this one is the verse Jesus applied to Himself when talking to the Jewish leaders. “The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief corner stone.” Jesus is our Chief Corner Stone in all times and in all situations. He is the Rock on which we stand and in whom we have hope. You may want to take time to read all of Psalm 118. It is certainly a good one for each day.
We live in a very fearful world. We face illness, disease, natural disasters, financial stresses, environmental concerns, the evils that men do to one another, and more.The news media brings us a constant flow of bad reports. We feel relatively safe within our homes and communities, but keep a caution eye out for trouble. The biblical world was equally uncertain for the course of a human life. Yet it was to that world, and ours, that Scripture speaks. God spoke through Isaiah, “Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”(41:10) Jesus, Almighty God incarnate, came among us to share this fearful life, and to break the power of death for all time. He taught us of God’s Kingdom, a realm beyond fear, a realm that we share even now through faith in Him. We will still face many fearful things throughout our years, but in Jesus Christ we know that those things are not the final word. In Him we have strength to endure. Paul encourages us saying, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”(Philippians 4:6-7)
There is an account in Genesis 28 of the patriarch Jacob traveling toward his ancestral home in Haran. He spends a night out in open country and has a dream in which God blesses him. Upon awakening he is amazed, declares the place to be the House of God, and makes a vow. He says, “If God will be with me and will watch over me on this journey I am taking and will give me food to eat and clothes to wear so that I return safely to my father’s house, then the LORD will be my God.”(Vss.20-21) It really is a terrible vow. He is telling God that you must do this, this, and this for me if you want me to follow you. But I wonder if that is not also the thinking behind the modern day question of how could a good God allow such and such a tragedy to happen? We expect God to bless us. We put parameters around what we think is a blessing. But we are dealing with a sovereign God, a God who see life far beyond our meager view. We are also dealing with a God, our God, who has both declared and demonstrated His love for us in Jesus Christ. He is working for the good of His creation, and for our good, far beyond our capacity to understand. “In quietness and trust is our strength.”(Isaiah 30:15)
The Tabernacle was the worship center that the people of Israel carried along with them on their journey out of Egypt on their way to the Promised Land. God gave Moses the extremely detailed plan for the Tabernacle when he was on Mt. Sinai. The detail was so great that it takes about 16 chapter of the Old Testament to fully describe it. Reading it seems tedious, and rather useless for us, but it really is not. Even as Jesus told many parables pointing to truths that were far deeper, so the things that God establishes are intended to teach and ultimately to bring us nearer to Himself. The Apostle Paul wrote, “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made,…”(Romans 1:20) This challenges us to observe, to think, and to pray. From marriage and family, to the natural world around us, to a look into the cosmos, it is all touched by God’s hand and speaks of things that help to understand Him more fully. Oh the wideness of God’s grace and the depth of His love!
“I love you, O LORD, my strength. The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge. He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I call to the LORD, who is worthy of praise, and I am saved from my enemies.”(Psalm 18:1-3) David gives us a wonderful prayer of trust in this Psalm. He is clear in saying that life is a struggle. There are many battles and enemies to the point where he feels overwhelmed, but the Lord is always there, bringing him through to life. This is our trust in all times, and all conditions. Life in our fallen world is not easy. There are many things that try to separate us from our trust in the Lord. Circumstances don’t turn out as we would like, or even as we can understand. Yet, God is there. He is our rock, our fortress, and our deliverer. He is worthy of our praise in all times, and our praise turn the eyes of our heart to Him.