You’ve certainly played the game with youngsters where behind your back you wrap your hand around a small toy, coin, or item of interest then show both fists and exclaim, “Guess which hand!” You are teaching the child an early lesson on probability and statistics. They begin to understand if it’s been in one hand for so many times, then eventually it must switch to the other hand. They notice patterns. Although they couldn’t write out a formula, they are developing a formula to help them predict potential outcomes. Job’s miserable comforters are playing a little game where they attempt to predict God’s hand. Through their experiential knowledge, they have the statistical formulas worked out as to how God works. If you are blessed then you are righteous, but if you are cursed then you are wicked. Job denies their theory, but he demands God give him an explanation which, we will eventually see, he is unable to comprehend.
We cannot cram the infinite God into a formulaic system. There are too many probabilities in the universe. There are too many factors to consider. Job said it best when he declared, “Lo, their good is not in their hand” (Job 21:16). The wicked really do not have any control over their future. They cannot hack the system. Your life lays vulnerable in the hands of the Almighty God. This would be terrifying if God were like us. We would fear oppression and mistreatment with such power. However, God’s nature is not tainted with our self-centered misgivings. To know God is to know your greatest solace. In Psalm 123, we are given the portrait of a servant watching the hand of his master. We are to have our eyes fixed on the hand of God. His hand directs our path, dispenses His mercy, and disciplines our failures.
We are told of three moments in Scriptures where God’s hand wrote. In Exodus, the hand of God inscribed the directives we know as the ten commandments upon stone. These were the guardrails of righteousness for the people of God. In John 8, a woman was thrown at Jesus’ feet who had failed to follow the commandments. She had been taken in adultery. Jesus stooped down and wrote with his finger on the ground. We are not told what he wrote, but we do see him dispense mercy to the woman, “Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more” (John 8:11). The third time we see the hand of God is in the book of Daniel. Those who disregarded the directives and despised the dispensation of mercy found themselves receiving an omen of severe discipline for Babylon’s failure. The book of Hebrews echoes the terror, “The Lord shall judge his people. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:30-31).
Blessings come from God’s hand but trials also come. Watch God’s hand in your direction, provision, and even the loving discipline of a loving Father. Take the guessing out of your life and rest in His inexhaustible goodness.
I am constantly amazed whenever I read through the Psalms of the many tragedies, storms, disappointments, and fears David endured throughout his life. Yet, he rightly turns to the Lord for comfort and direction. We all will have our share of storms in this life.
I had occasion to make some trips through Pine Creek Valley this week. I would never turn down the opportunity to visit some of God’s beautiful Creation in our own backyard. As a matter of fact, my wife and I have seen God’s glory in many different states. From the majesty of the Tetons to the awe of the Grand Canyon, but we always say that Little Pine Lake tops them all.
As I drove though the valley, I was in a different than usual mindset. The previous eve we had received some devastating news from our close friends. Their daughter had died. One cannot imagine how another feels in this situation. As a parent, this is the tragedy of tragedies. I was in another world and felt ill. Knowing that my friends had to endure this, sickened me. During my drive, I was praying to the Father and asking the usual questions.
It was not long before I regained my spiritual focus. I realized that God does not mind us asking Him anything (I certainly would not question His authority or right; “But now, O LORD, thou art our father; we are the clay, and thou our potter; and we all are the work of thy hand” Is. 64:8). David always inquired of the Lord and He longs for us to talk with Him. He reminded me of His glory that surrounded me. I looked at the beauty of the valley, the majesty of the hills, the blueness of the sky and the deep green of the stream. God created this for us! Everything around us are tokens of God’s love. I remembered that He is in control and that someday the believer in Jesus Christ will have all of the answers to all of their questions.
As I search through the reading for today (Ps. 30, 31 and 32) I see verses such as; “weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning” (Ps. 30:5), “Thou hast turned for me my mourning into dancing: thou hast put off my sackcloth, and girded me with gladness” (vs.11), “the LORD preserveth the faithful” (Ps.31:23) and, “Thou art my hiding place” (Ps.32). There are many more promises in the Bible for those who are grieving and it is only through reading God’s Word and trusting Him that we can imagine coping with the tragedies we face in life.
I am comforted knowing our friends are firm believers in Jesus and they believe His Word. Sure, it will be hard, but as Christians we realize there is no other hope. On Christ the Solid Rock I stand. All other ground is sinking sand.
In 1 Samuel 2:2, you will find one of the clearest definitions of the word “holy.” Hannah is singing her song of praise because the Lord has heard her plea, and she says, “There is none holy as the Lord: For there is none beside thee.” The word “holy” is a religious term and it is often understood to reflect an upright behavior, however, this is only one sliver of the meaning. How does Hannah define “holy”? “There is none beside thee.” The Lord is unique, distinct, set apart.
This is crucial for us to understand because we are called to be “partakers of his holiness” (Hebrews 12:10). Peter quotes the Old Testament when he says, “But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation” (1 Peter 1:15). “Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord? Or who shall stand in his holy place? He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart” (Psalm 25:3-4).
Is our pursuit of holiness about behavior? Sometimes people search for a list of acceptable behavior, but such discussions usually degenerate quickly into self-imposed definitions of righteousness. Hophni and Phineas failed to pursue holiness because they were scoundrels. Did Eli fail to pursue holiness? After all, he was the high priest. He was daily administrating the responsibilities of the Tabernacle. He was noticeably anxious about the Ark of the Covenant going to the battlefront. When the messenger mentioned the ark of God, Eli “fell from off the seat backward…and his neck brake, and he died: for he was an old man, and heavy” (1 Samuel 4:18). All the externals would indicate Eli pursued holiness. This would be true if holiness was only about behavior.
The man of God who challenged Eli with the word of the Lord said Eli honored his sons above God “to make yourselves fat with the chiefest of all the offerings of Israel my people” (1 Samuel 2:30). Why are we told Eli was heavy when he died? It’s the indelible mark on his life. He did not participate in his sons’ acts of immorality, but he failed to honor God supremely. Therefore, he glutted his life on things contaminated by unholiness.
Christ taught his followers to avoid anything contaminated by unholiness when he spoke hyperbolically about cutting off your hand and foot or plucking out your eye (Mark 9:43-48). The pursuit of holiness is more than behavior. What you honor reveals whether you pursue holiness. There are parents who will honor their children above God. There are young people who honor their sports, entertainment, and attitude above God. There are many who honor their jobs above God. Are you glutted on the pleasantries of the common and profane things of this world? Protect your honor.
For me, it was only six months, but the struggle as I waited between ministries was arduous. To say I felt forgotten would be an understatement! I can’t imagine how Joseph felt day after day, waiting and hoping the butler would remember him. Joseph had given the butler great news. He would be restored to his position in the service to Pharaoh. Joseph’s simple request after he delivered the good news, “Think on me when it shall be well with thee, and shew kindness, I pray thee, unto me, and make mention of me unto Pharaoh, and bring me out of this house” (Genesis 40:14).
Then he waited. He probably heard all about the reinstatement of the butler and the baker’s capital punishment. Any day now he would hear a messenger call for him. The keys would jingle and the jailer would call out, “Joseph, there’s someone here to see you!” He probably replayed the moment over and over in his mind, but then he was only dreaming. Over six hundred nights of dreaming turned into a nightmare of being forgotten.
God’s timeline, however, is always punctual. Imagine how different it would be if Joseph had been released one day too early! He probably would have run as far away from the Egyptian nightmare as he possibly could. While the butler had forgotten Joseph, God had never forgotten him. God will never forget you.
In one of the treasured Psalms David says, “How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, O God! How great is the sum of them! If I should count them, they are more in number than the sand: When I awake, I am still with thee” (Psalm 139:17-18). Jeremiah, hundreds of years later, reassures the people who would feel forgotten in exile, “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end” (Jeremiah 29:11). The feeling of being forgotten is almost like a bad dream. You want to pinch your arm, slap your face, so you wake up! When you do awake, you realize, “I am still with thee.”
A man was about to slip into eternity. He was discarded as a criminal—useless to anyone, he had nothing worthy of memory. His name would dot the register of thieves who got what they deserved. He feared to be forgotten and called out, “Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom” (Luke 23:42). From the cross next to his, Jesus Christ reassured him, “Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43). The mind of the Son of God would surely transport this repentant criminal to the glories of heaven! Even in death, he would not be forgotten. When He was on the cross, you were on his mind. You will forever be on the mind of God. Never feel forgotten. His thoughts for you “are more than can be numbered” (Psalm 40:5).
I’m sure we can all remember the childhood learning game in which the youngster is encouraged to find “which one is not like the others”. Maybe it was a row of even numbers with one odd number. Or maybe it was a line of stripes with one polka dot print. In our reading this morning, I can’t help but think that one sin doesn’t seem to quite fit in with the others mentioned in the same list.
In 1 Corinthian 5:11, we see a list of a type of professing Christians that we should not keep company with. In chapter 6 we see this same list again as a description of the type of people that will not inherit eternal life. This list includes the types of people that I think any of us would understand belong in these categories: idolators, adulterers, revilers, drunkards, homosexuals, and extortioners. However, there is one type of sinner that is mentioned in these two lists that jumps out to me as almost not belonging with the rest of this rather rough group- one sin that doesn’t quite seem as bad as the others. What sin am I referring to? Covetousness.
Yes, if a professing Christian is a covetous person, he or she is to be avoided, just as we should a drunkard, adulterer, etc. And if someone’s life is one of habitual covetousness, Paul warns that this type of individual will not inherit eternal life, no different than the homosexual or idolator. How often do we think of covetousness as being that serious? I would contend that we often gloss over covetousness as a minor sin, a sin of the heart that’s just not that big of a deal.
How would we define this serious sin of covetousness? Websters defines it as:”inordinately desirous; excessively eager to obtain and possess; directed to money or goods”. I don’t think it is a stretch to say that our culture is one inundated with covetousness. TV commercials are often geared to tap into this natural tendency we have for more, bigger, and newer. How many millions of Americans are in huge amounts of debt because the pull of covetousness is more than they can control. If the Jones’ next to us have that toy, then we need to have it too! And even if we may have enough self-control to not run out and actually buy these things, how often do we find ourselves daydreaming about such things, thinking if we could just get that one item how much more fulfilling our lives would be? Brothers and sisters, let’s keep ourselves on guard against this serious sin and be content with such things as we have!