Wednesday, April 21, 2010
You may only see the brush strokes, but God sees the big picture.
Have you ever read through the Old Testament and marveled at how often the Israelites doubted God? I mean, you would think they'd realize, after all they had been through, how great their Father in Heaven is. If they did happen to actually pause and praise God, it seemed short-lived. Soon they were back to grumbling and mumbling, back to thinking about how they would fix the situation. How quickly they forgot the wonderful things God had done for His children- leading them out of Egypt, performing miracles (parting the Red Sea, providing manna, and much more!), defeating their enemies, and bringing them to the promise land.
Our women's study has been on the attitudes of the Israelites during this time. (We've been using Lord, Change My Attitude Before It's Too Late videos and workbooks by James MacDonald.... and he is a wonderful, bold preacher! I hear the book version is just as great.) Since we started this study, I've noticed how the attitude and actions of the Israelites is mentioned many times throughout the bible. It was a big deal.
In fact, in my personal study in 1 Samuel 8, Samuel comes before the LORD and pours out his heart. The elders of Israel have told him they want a king to judge them. They want what the other nations have (v.5).
God tells him, "They have not rejected you; they have rejected Me as their king. They are doing the same thing to you that they have done to Me since the day I lead them out of Egypt until this day- abandoning Me and worshiping other gods."
He tells Samuel to warn them about the rights of the king who will rule over them.
"Hey Israel," he begins, "This king you so desire with have the right to take your sons for his personal use as servants, in war, to plow or reap the harvest, to make the things he desires. He can take your daughters to be his personal help (cooks, bakers, etc). He can take the best of whatever you have (your fields, vineyards, orchards) and give them to his servants. He can take a tenth of your grain and your vineyards and give them to his officials and servants. He can take your servants and your livestock and use them for his own work. He can take whatever he wants and YOU yourselves could become his servants."
And then he tells them, "When that day comes, you will cry out because of the king you've chosen for yourselves, but the LORD won't answer you on that day." He's pretty much told them what could happen, what is likely to happen (the chances of having a series of wonderful, kind hearted kings in a row is highly unlikely!) and he's warned them that when all of this comes about, the LORD will allow them to suffer because He warned them and they refused to listen.
And, what did they do with this warning? Like little children, they stomped their feet and crossed their arms and harumphed, "NO! We must have a king over us! Then we'll be like all the other nations!"
Why didn't the Israelites just trust God? If they worried about how Samuel's sons, who were judges, might handle the situation once Samuel passed, they should have just prayed about it and trusted God to deliver the best answer. But no- they had their own plans and they were adamant about them.
I know, when I was a kid, I would read over these verses about the Israelites and marvel at their stupidity. Man, couldn't they see? Didn't they remember? Had they really forgotten all the awesome things God had done for them?
But now that I'm older and wiser.. (HA!)... I mean, NOW, that I've gone through a slew of my own experiences where I've acted in similar ways, I realize how prone we all are to this behavior.
We rant, we rave, we complain and grumble. We make our own plans and don't even allow God to throw His own two cents in. We take off running without heeding the clear warning signs. We're just as bad as the Israelites. Actually, we may be worse. We may have chalked God's deliverance and miracles up to "good luck" or "coincidence", failing to give him any glory at all. So, when we look back, we may not see the wonderful things God has done for us. We may even take the glory ourselves.
With all that our family has had on our plate lately, it's been trying to just "let go and let God". And, maybe the only reason I've been able to do the "let go" part is because there is absolutely nothing I can do in these situations. I can't make the mass in our daughter's brain disappear. I can't complete our baby's heart before she's born. It's out of my control.
But, I can worry. I can worry and fret and think of all the things that can go wrong. It won't help anything (in fact, it will probably make it a lot worse), but it's easy to do- it passes the time. But God calls me to just trust Him- not worry, not complain, not doubt... but trust.
As our pastor in Louisiana often says, "Even if all God ever did was give us salvation- nothing more and nothing less- He would still be great." Even if God never brought healing. Even if God never answered our prayers. Even if God never gave us peace or joy when we needed it. If all He did was send His son to die on the cross for our sins so that we may be forgiven and have a place prepared for us in heaven... that would be enough.
But God does SO much more, and He has so many promises available to us. Yet we often think that if He doesn't give us the answer we desire, or He doesn't heal our loved ones, or He doesn't give us what we want that He has somehow failed us. God is great, even when the answer is No, even when He allows suffering, even when we don't get our way.
And this is something I have to remember- even if my daughter's brain mass would have been a cancerous tumor, God would STILL have been worthy of my praise.
Psalm 118 reminds us to give thanks to the Lord, "for He is good! His faithful love endures forever!" Isn't that nice to know? God's faithful love doesn't stop at any point. He loves us, even when we disobey or reject Him. We can certainly see that in God's relationship with Israel. Yes, there were times when He gave them tough love. Because of their attitudes, they wandered in the desert for a very long time- and a generation of them never saw the promise land because of their doubt and grumbling- but He didn't give up on them. He continued to led them, to shower them with blessings, and give them victories- often when they didn't seem to deserve it.
God does this for us as well. He may allow us to go through difficult times- maybe to teach us something, maybe to teach others something, or maybe because we have refused to listen and obey. He may deliver us from certain illnesses, enemies, or circumstances.... probably not because we are prayer warriors or worthy of it, but because He loves us and sees the bigger picture.
And maybe that's what it comes down to. God DOES see the bigger picture. Israel couldn't. So many times they couldn't see beyond their own eyelashes. I bet Moses was so spiritually and mentally exhausted after dealing with these people. How often did he have to remind them of the bigger picture, the great goal, the land that was promised to them?
We may not even know where we are headed, like Israel did. We may not know the goal. But we can trust that God does and He'll lead us there if we will just stop trying to take over the steering wheel!
Often, like toddlers, we demand our way "or the highway, LORD!" We cross our arms, stomp our feet, and harumph.
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