Our Indescribable and Inexplicable God

15 Now as I looked at the living creatures, I saw a wheel on the earth beside the living creatures, one for each of the four of them. 16 As for the appearance of the wheels and their construction: their appearance was like the gleaming of beryl. And the four had the same likeness, their appearance and construction being as it were a wheel within a wheel. 17 When they went, they went in any of their four directions without turning as they went. 18 And their rims were tall and awesome, and the rims of all four were full of eyes all around. 19 And when the living creatures went, the wheels went beside them; and when the living creatures rose from the earth, the wheels rose. 20 Wherever the spirit wanted to go, they went, and the wheels rose along with them, for the spirit of the living creatures was in the wheels. 21 When those went, these went; and when those stood, these stood; and when those rose from the earth, the wheels rose along with them, for the spirit of the living creatures was in the wheels.

22 Over the heads of the living creatures there was the likeness of an expanse, shining like awe-inspiring crystal, spread out above their heads. 23 And under the expanse their wings were stretched out straight, one toward another. And each creature had two wings covering its body. 24 And when they went, I heard the sound of their wings like the sound of many waters, like the sound of the Almighty, a sound of tumult like the sound of an army. When they stood still, they let down their wings. 25 And there came a voice from above the expanse over their heads. When they stood still, they let down their wings.

26 And above the expanse over their heads there was the likeness of a throne, in appearance like sapphire; and seated above the likeness of a throne was a likeness with a human appearance. 27 And upward from what had the appearance of his waist I saw as it were gleaming metal, like the appearance of fire enclosed all around. And downward from what had the appearance of his waist I saw as it were the appearance of fire, and there was brightness around him. 28 Like the appearance of the bow that is in the cloud on the day of rain, so was the appearance of the brightness all around.

Such was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord. And when I saw it, I fell on my face, and I heard the voice of one speaking. – Ezekiel 1:15-28 ESV

For centuries, artists have attempted to recreate the fantastic scene described in Ezekiel’s vision, and their efforts have resulted in a host of ethereal, otherworldly depictions that almost defy the range of man’s imagination. Their depictions border on the surreal and illustrate man’s incapacity to understand or explain the glory of God. But in their defense, each of them based their artwork on the words of Ezekiel. They simply illustrated what Ezekiel attempted to elucidate. But this young priest was at a great disadvantage because he was trying to describe the indescribable and explain the inexplicable. Hampered by a finite human mind and a limited vocabulary, Ezekiel did his best to recreate his vision with words. But his efforts would prove futile because he was attempting to describe “the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord” (Ezekiel 1:28 ESV).

While Ezekiel appears to be describing a series of different individuals and objects, the scene is meant to illustrate the glory of the Lord. This entire chapter should be viewed as a depiction of the majesty and magnificence of Jehovah, the Creator-God who rules and reigns over all. The all-mighty, transcendent God of the universe was providing Ezekiel with a composite picture of His essence that was intended to engender a response of awe and reverential fear. And it worked, because Ezekiel claims, “When I saw it, I fell face down on the ground” (Ezekiel 1:28 NLT).

Ezekiel got the big picture. He correctly viewed the entire scene as a divine depiction of his God. And, as a priest, Ezekiel would have known that it was impossible for any human being to see God and live to tell about it. He would have been well versed in the words that God spoke to Moses in the wilderness of Sinai. The man whom God had chosen to liberate His people from their captivity in Egypt had expressed his desire to see God’s glory. Moses had seen God’s glory displayed in the burning bush and had repeatedly spoken with Him, but he longed for something greater.

Moses said, “Please show me your glory.” – Exodus 33:18 ESV

But God let Moses that his request was not only impossible, but it would also be suicidal. So, He provided Moses with a viable alternative.

…and he said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The Lord.’ And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.” – Ezekiel 33:19-20 ESV

Like Moses, Ezekiel would see God’s glory and live to tell about it. He would see indescribable things and attempt to explain them with words that could never do them justice. The four living creatures, the wheels within wheels, the crystal expanse, and the sapphire thrown were all intended to depict God’s glory. Ezekiel was being given a rare opportunity to see the Almighty but in a way that produced awe and wonder instead of death.

It was the apostle Paul who described Yahweh as “the blessed and only almighty God, the King of all kings and Lord of all lords” (1 Timothy 6:15 NLT). And he went on to explain God’s transcendent, unapproachable nature.

He alone can never die, and he lives in light so brilliant that no human can approach him. No human eye has ever seen him, nor ever will. All honor and power to him forever! – 1 Timothy 6:16 NLT

It is impossible to know exactly what Ezekiel saw but that has not stopped artists from trying to depict it. But no painting, engraving, or illustration will ever be able to capture the glory of God.

Every aspect of Ezekiel’s vision was meant to reinforce the greatness and glory of God. The four different faces of the four living creatures reveal that God is sovereign over all creation. He rules over humanity, the wild beasts, domesticated animals, and the birds of the air – because He made them all. And the wheels within wheels were intended to depict God’s omnipresence; completely unhindered by time or space. According to Ezekiel, the wheels “went in any of their four directions without turning as they went” ( Ezekiel 1:17 ESV). The rims of the wheels were covered with eyes, illustrating the omniscience of God. He knows all because He sees all.

And He accomplishes all this while sitting on His throne above the great expanse. Ezekiel’s focus becomes fixed upon “a figure whose appearance resembled a man” (Ezekiel 1:26 NLT). But He is far from human in nature.

From what appeared to be his waist up, he looked like gleaming amber, flickering like a fire. And from his waist down, he looked like a burning flame, shining with splendor. All around him was a glowing halo, like a rainbow shining in the clouds on a rainy day. – Ezekiel 1:27-28 NLT

This is no ordinary king seated on a man-made throne. It is the King of kings and Lord of lords. Ezekiel is being given a glimpse of God Almighty, but it is a representation and not the real thing.

“It was a deeply-held tenet of Israelite religion from Moses onwards that God could not be visibly expressed, and for that very reason idolatry was out. But given the possibility of a theophany, no form but the human form could conceivably have been used to represent the Deity. It was, however, no mere human that Ezekiel saw: His radiance was surrounded by the glory of a rainbow, and the prophet could show his awe in no other way than by falling on his face in the dust before his God.” – L. E. Cooper Sr., Ezekiel

It is interesting to note that Ezekiel does not attempt to describe God’s face or countenance. All he writes about is the appearance of gleaming metal, fire, and brightness. According to Paul, God “dwells in unapproachable light” (1 Timothy 6:16 ESV). The psalmist states that God “wraps Himself in light as with a garment” (Psalm 104:2 BSB). The prophet Daniel was also given a vision of God and he described it in similar terms.

…the Ancient of Days took his seat; his clothing was white as snow, and the hair of his head like pure wool; his throne was fiery flames; its wheels were burning fire. – Daniel 7:9 ESV

Both Daniel and Ezekiel were given the privilege of seeing God’s glory, and both found it nearly impossible to put it into words. They were struck by the brightness of His very presence. He emanated light so bright that it could only be described as burning fire. It was intense and virtually unapproachable. This imagery reflects the holiness and purity of God. It was the apostle John who wrote, “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5 ESV).

This majestic, all-knowing, holy, omnipresent God of the universe was reminding Ezekiel that He was still on His throne and well aware of the fate of the people of Judah. He had not turned His back on them. His power had not diminished and His love for them had not faded. The all-powerful, ever-loving, always-faithful God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob was about to deliver a message to His chosen people and He had chosen Ezekiel as His messenger. God had gotten Ezekiel’s attention, and now Ezekiel was ready to listen to what his glorious God had to say.

Such was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord. And when I saw it, I fell on my face, and I heard the voice of one speaking. – Ezekiel 1:28 ESV

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

You Can Run, But You Can’t Hide

But the Lord hurled a great wind upon the sea, and there was a mighty tempest on the sea, so that the ship threatened to break up. Then the mariners were afraid, and each cried out to his god. And they hurled the cargo that was in the ship into the sea to lighten it for them. But Jonah had gone down into the inner part of the ship and had lain down and was fast asleep. So the captain came and said to him, “What do you mean, you sleeper? Arise, call out to your god! Perhaps the god will give a thought to us, that we may not perish.”

And they said to one another, “Come, let us cast lots, that we may know on whose account this evil has come upon us.” So they cast lots, and the lot fell on Jonah. Jonah 1:4-7 ESV

God told Jonah to “get up and go” and that is exactly what he did. But in the wrong direction. Rather than head to Nineveh as God had commanded, Jonah decided to “to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord” (Jonah 1:3 ESV). While we have no idea of the exact location of Tarshish, we do know that it was nowhere near Nineveh. In fact, to go there, Jonah headed east to the city of Joppa on the Mediterranean coast, where he hired a boat. Some speculate that Tarshish was another name for the city of Tartesus in southwest Spain. In Jonah’s day, the 2,500-mile journey to this remote location would have been like traveling to the end of the world.

But for Jonah, the trip was well worth the effort and expense. He was determined to get as far away from the land of Israel as he possibly could. Among the people of the ancient world, it was a common belief that the gods were regionalized deities whose domains were restricted to specific geographic locations. We have an example of this mindset recorded in 1 Kings 20. In this account, the Israelite army finds itself encamped in a valley, facing a much larger Syrian force. But God delivers a word to the king of Israel.

“Thus says the Lord, ‘Because the Syrians have said, “The Lord is a god of the hills but he is not a god of the valleys,” therefore I will give all this great multitude into your hand, and you shall know that I am the Lord.’” – 1 Kings 20:28 ESV

Based on his actions, it seems that Jonah believed that Yahweh, the God of Israel, was somehow restricted to that region of the world. After all, the temple where God’s presence was said to dwell was located in Jerusalem.

Three separate times in this opening chapter, the author stresses that Jonah was attempting to flee from the presence of the Lord. In other words, his decision to go to Tarshish was motivated by a desire to get away from God. Having found the task assigned to him by God to be unacceptable, Jonah chose to avoid doing God’s will by escaping His presence. And this raises some serious questions about Jonah’s theology. Did he really think he could run from God? As a good Hebrew and a prophet of God, was he not aware of the concept of God’s omnipresence? Had he never read the words of King David?

Where shall I go from your Spirit?
    Or where shall I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there!
    If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!
If I take the wings of the morning
    and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
even there your hand shall lead me,
    and your right hand shall hold me.
If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
    and the light about me be night,”
even the darkness is not dark to you;
    the night is bright as the day,
    for darkness is as light with you.” – Psalm 139:7-12 ESV

To think that Jonah had a fully formed theology of God would be a mistake. Later in the book, he will display an intimate understanding of God’s nature.

“I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster.” – Jonah 4:2 ESV

But we should not assume that Jonah’s concept of God was fully complete or entirely accurate. Even his understanding of God’s grace and mercy seems a bit skewed. He almost describes these divine traits as weaknesses, that might somehow allow God to relent from pouring out His judgment on the Assyrians. Jonah describes his understanding of God’s grace, mercy, patience, and love as the very reasons why he ran away in the first place. “That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish” (Jonah 4:2 ESV).

Rather than run the risk of having to watch God spare the Ninevites, Jonah simply ran away. But he was about to discover the truth behind David’s words – the hard way.

The author matter-of-factly states that “the Lord hurled a great wind upon the sea, and there was a mighty tempest on the sea” (Jonah 1:4 ESV). It’s almost as if, at the very moment Jonah stepped foot on the boat, his plan began to fall apart. His hope to escape the presence of the Lord was met with a divine reminder that running from God is not only futile but utterly impossible.

The Lord looks down from heaven;
    he sees all the children of man;
from where he sits enthroned he looks out
    on all the inhabitants of the earth,
he who fashions the hearts of them all
    and observes all their deeds. – Psalm 33:12-15 ESV

And the prophet Amos, a contemporary of Jonah, had declared God’s words of judgment against the rebellious people of Israel.

“Even if they dig down to the place of the dead,
    I will reach down and pull them up.
Even if they climb up into the heavens,
    I will bring them down.
Even if they hide at the very top of Mount Carmel,
    I will search them out and capture them.
Even if they hide at the bottom of the ocean,
    I will send the sea serpent after them to bite them.” – Amos 9:2-3 NLT

Little did Jonah know that he was about to experience the words of this prophetic statement in real life. He could run but he couldn’t hide. Jonah had no idea that he had just purchased a ticket to “Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride.”

One of the things that will become readily apparent as we work our way through the book of Jonah is the author’s habit of repeating certain words for emphasis. He states that God “hurled a great wind upon the sea” (Jonah 1:4 ESV). One verse later, he writes that the sailors “hurled the cargo that was in the ship into the sea to lighten it for them” (Jonan 1:5 ESV). And in verse 15, he will bring this part of Jonah’s story to a climax by stating that “they picked up Jonah and hurled him into the sea” (Jonah 1:15 ESV). The Hebrew word for “hurled” is ṭûl and it was often used to describe the act of casting a spear. Like a divine warrior, God uses the elements of nature like a weapon, flinging the wind and the waves at his reluctant and rebellious prophet. And the psalmist describes the Lord’s sovereign authority over the wind and the waves in graphic terms.

Some went off to sea in ships,
    plying the trade routes of the world.
They, too, observed the Lord’s power in action,
    his impressive works on the deepest seas.
He spoke, and the winds rose,
    stirring up the waves.
Their ships were tossed to the heavens
    and plunged again to the depths;
    the sailors cringed in terror.
They reeled and staggered like drunkards
    and were at their wits’ end.
Lord, help!” they cried in their trouble,
    and he saved them from their distress. – Psalm 107:23-28 NLT

That is the scene being played out in the opening chapter of the book of Jonah. God is hurling his divine weapons of judgment against the ship in which his prodigal prophet has sought refuge. And the sailors responsible for Jonah’s safe passage find themselves in a state of abject fear as their vessel begins to break up under the relentless wrath of God Almighty. As a sign of their desperation, they begin to jettison the ship’s valuable cargo, willingly sacrificing any hopes of profit in order to preserve their lives. In 1 Kings 10:22, we are given a description of the potential value of the cargo contained on ships traveling to and from Tarshish.

…the king [Solomon] had a fleet of ships of Tarshish at sea with the fleet of Hiram. Once every three years the fleet of ships of Tarshish used to come bringing gold, silver, ivory, apes, and peacocks. – 1 Kings 10:22 ESV

These seasoned sailors were terrified by the intensity of the storm. So much so that they “each cried out to his god” (Jonah 1:5 ESV). These men were non-Israelites and the fact that they each had their own god would seem to indicate that were from different countries and cultures.  Little did Jonah know that his traveling companions were a mixed bag of pagan idol worshipers. And these men were in fear of losing their lives. But while they were busy calling out to their respective deities and throwing cargo overboard, Jonah was fast asleep in the hold of the ship.

It’s amazing to think that Jonah was able to sleep through the storm and the constant noise associated with the sailors’ frantic efforts to jettison cargo. But the author is very specific in the word he uses to describe Jonah’s slumbering state. The Hebrew word is rāḏam and it conveys the idea of a sleep bordering on unconsciousness. Jonah is in a state of stupefaction. He is out like a light. Perhaps Jonah had imbibed in some liquid refreshment that contributed to his coma-like condition. But regardless of what caused Jonah’s deep sleep, it was soon interrupted by the angry cries of the ship’s captain.

“How can you sleep at a time like this?”Jonah 1:6 NLT

It was all hands on deck. This was no time for anyone to be sleeping while sinking. He demanded that Jonah join the rest of the crew by calling on his particular deity of choice. He was an equal-opportunity idolater who was more than willing to accept the aid of any and all gods. At this point, he had no idea who Jonah was, where he was from, or what religion he practiced. He just knew that, without divine intervention, they were dead men.

“Get up and pray to your god! Maybe he will pay attention to us and spare our lives.” – Jonah 1:6 NLT

It should not go unnoticed that these pagan sailors displayed far more spiritual awareness than the Hebrew prophet, Jonah. While they had been praying, Jonah had been sleeping. He almost seems resigned to the fact that his life is not worth living if he has to do what God has commanded him to do. Jonah shows no signs of remorse or regret. He was not tossing and turning in sleepless anxiety, questioning his actions, or agonizing over his decision to disobey God. He was sleeping like an innocent baby. But these pagan sailors seemed to recognize that this storm had divine retribution written all over it. Someone was guilty of something and the god(s) were angry. So, in the hopes of assuaging the divine wrath, they come up with a plan to discover the identity of the guilty party.

“Come, let us cast lots, that we may know on whose account this evil has come upon us.” – Jonah 1:7 ESV

And, not surprisingly, “the lot fell on Jonah” (Jonah 1:7 ESV). These sailors discovered what the readers of the book already knew. Jonah was the cause of all their troubles. This unknown and unnamed passenger had uncaringly jeopardized the lives of the entire crew. And whatever deity Jonah worshiped was going to kill them all if they didn’t figure out a way to appease its wrath.

Jonah, the Hebrew prophet, showed no concern for the suffering sailors. At no point does this servant of Yahweh display a heart for these pagan idolaters who were desperately calling out to the gods in hopes of experiencing salvation. Jonah was a follower of the one true God, but he had no desire to share what he knew with these desperate and dying men. There is no indication that Jonah ever prayed to Yahweh on their behalf. He was too busy running from the presence of God to take time to call on the power of God. And as the representative of Israel, Jonah displayed their ongoing reticence to be a light to the nations.

 English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Our Know-It-All God

22 He reveals deep and mysterious things
    and knows what lies hidden in darkness,
    though he is surrounded by light.
Daniel 2:22 NLT

13 Nothing in all creation is hidden from God. Everything is naked and exposed before his eyes, and he is the one to whom we are accountable. – Hebrews 4:13 NLT

3for the Lord is a God of knowledge… – 1 Samuel 2:3 ESV

God knows everything. This attribute of God is what the theologians refer to as His omniscience, which simply means “all knowing” (omni = all; science = knowledge). To be omniscient is to have “complete or unlimited knowledge, awareness, or understanding; to perceive all things” (Dictionary.com).

So, as we begin our task of getting to know God, we will begin with the mind-blowing concept that God knows everything. He never requires instruction because He has no gaps in His knowledge. There is nothing He does not know. He has perfect and complete knowledge of the past, the present and, amazingly, the future. God knows what is going to take place long before it happens. Something the theologians refer to as His foreknowledge. But more about that later.

God’s knowledge is so great that He knows the thoughts of every single human being. King David was understandably blown away by this idea. He confessed to God, “you have examined my heart and know everything about me” (Psalm 139:1 NLT). He knew that God knew. There was nothing about his life that was hidden from God’s all-knowing gaze. In fact, David went on to acknowledge the full extent of God’s knowledge of him.

You know what I am going to say even before I say it, Lord. – Psalm 139:4 NLT

But God’s intimate and somewhat invasive knowledge of him was not unsettling to David. It was comforting.

How precious are your thoughts about me, O God.
    They cannot be numbered!
I can’t even count them;
    they outnumber the grains of sand!
And when I wake up,
    you are still with me! – Psalm 139:17-18 NLT

God’s knowledge is all-pervasive, penetrating the thoughts of men and the darkness of night. David went to admit, “I could ask the darkness to hide me and the light around me to become night—but even in darkness I cannot hide from you. To you the night shines as bright as day. Darkness and light are the same to you” (Psalm 139:11-12 NLT).

There is nothing you can hide from God. There is nowhere you can go where His divine gaze cannot find you. And, according to Jesus, God’s knowledge of you is so complete that “the very hairs on your head are all numbered” (Matthew 10:30 NLT). He knows each and every detail about you. From the number of the hairs on your head to the thoughts of your heart. You can’t fool God.

One of the amazing things to consider about God’s omniscience is that He can never be surprised or caught off guard. There is never an occasion when God has to say, “How did that happen?” Because He knew in advance that it was going to happen. This is that aspect of His omniscience known as foreknowledge. In Greek, the term for “foreknowledge” is prognōsis. It comes from the Greek word pro, which means “before” and the Greek word ginōskō, which means “know.” The idea is that God has prior knowledge about all events. He “knows before.”  It expresses the idea of knowing reality before it is real and events before they occur.

Because God is divine, He is not bound by time and space. Past, present, and future are all the same to Him. He exists outside of time, so He is able to look into and perceive the future just as easily as He does the past. That is why we find so much prophetic content in the Bible. God’s foreknowledge allows Him to see and know all that will happen as if it has already taken place. That is why He told the prophet Isaiah, “I will tell you the future before it happens” (Isaiah 42:9 NLT).

God doesn’t predict the future, He pronounces it beforehand. He isn’t forced to respond to events as they happen. No, He has already predetermined His response to any and every circumstance because He knew in advance. Again, God assured the prophet Isaiah of His unparalleled foreknowledge.

“I am the First and the Last;
    there is no other God.
Who is like me?
    Let him step forward and prove to you his power.
Let him do as I have done since ancient times
    when I established a people and explained its future.” – Isaiah 44:6-7 NLT

“For I alone am God!
    I am God, and there is none like me.
Only I can tell you the future
    before it even happens.
Everything I plan will come to pass,
    for I do whatever I wish.” – Isaiah 46:9-10 NLT

But God’s foreknowledge is far more than an ability to see into the future and perceive what is going to happen. If this superpower allows God to see future events in advance, it would make sense that He would prevent some of them from happening. If God could have seen the rise of Nazi Germany, He could have kept it from taking place. But it did. So, we must conclude that God either ordained or allowed the events of WWII to come about for a reason. God’s foreknowledge is a true “knowing” of what will come to pass, based on His free choice. He actually decrees what will come to pass. That means that His foreknowledge is far more than an intellectual awareness of future events. It conveys the idea of His sovereign control over all things. Foreknowledge is equivalent to foreordination in that God ordains, or orders, all that will be.

There is an intimacy to God’s foreknowledge that should bring comfort to His children. Because, according to the New Testament, God’s foreknowledge is always directed at people, not events.

The fact is that “foreknowledge” is never used in Scripture in connection with events or actions; instead, it always has reference to persons. It is persons God is said to “foreknow,” not the actions of those persons. – A. W. Pink, Attributes of God

The apostle Paul puts it this way: “For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters” (Romans 8:29 NLT). And Peter adds: “God the Father knew you and chose you long ago, and his Spirit has made you holy” (1 Peter 1:2 NLT).

Paul went on to remind the believers in Ephesus, “we are united with Christ, we have received an inheritance from God, for he chose us in advance” (Ephesians 1:11 NLT). There is a deliberateness about God’s actions in these passages. He is not responding to things as they happen but is ordaining their occurrence from eternity past. His foreknowledge is tied to His foreordination. He foreknows because He has foreordained. God is not looking through His magic mirror and seeing future events before they take place. He is describing what He already knows because He has already declared it to be so.

There is much about this aspect of God’s nature that makes us uncomfortable. It raises all kinds of issues concerning the sovereignty of God and the free will of men. If misunderstood, it can leave us viewing mankind as helpless marionettes on strings, being manipulated by the divine puppetmaster. But if we relegate the knowledge of God as some kind of passive cognition of future events, He becomes all-knowing, but not all-powerful. He has intelligence but lacks influence. But “God foreknows what will be because He has decreed what shall be” (A. W. Pink, Attributes of God).

As difficult as this doctrine is to understand, it is meant to reveal the power and preeminence of God. He is like no other. He is not some distant, disconnected deity, looking down from the lofty heights of heaven and watching as His creation winds down like some kind of cosmic clock. God is not a spectator, viewing the events of our lives as they transpire and forced to respond in time. He is intellectually informed of every aspect of our lives because He has ordained them. And He is intimately involved in every area of our lives because He has had a plan for us that was in place long before we even existed.

And this knowledge of God’s knowledge of us should leave us echoing the words of David:

You saw me before I was born.
    Every day of my life was recorded in your book.
Every moment was laid out
    before a single day had passed. – Psalm 139:16 NLT

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

The End of the Edomites.

 

Concerning Edom.

Thus says the Lord of hosts:

“Is wisdom no more in Teman?
    Has counsel perished from the prudent?
    Has their wisdom vanished?
Flee, turn back, dwell in the depths,
    O inhabitants of Dedan!
For I will bring the calamity of Esau upon him,
    the time when I punish him.
If grape gatherers came to you,
    would they not leave gleanings?
If thieves came by night,
    would they not destroy only enough for themselves?
But I have stripped Esau bare;
    I have uncovered his hiding places,
    and he is not able to conceal himself.
His children are destroyed, and his brothers,
    and his neighbors; and he is no more.
Leave your fatherless children; I will keep them alive;
    and let your widows trust in me.”

For thus says the Lord: “If those who did not deserve to drink the cup must drink it, will you go unpunished? You shall not go unpunished, but you must drink. For I have sworn by myself, declares the Lord, that Bozrah shall become a horror, a taunt, a waste, and a curse, and all her cities shall be perpetual wastes.” Jeremiah 49:7-13 ESV

Now, God turns His attention to the Edomites, descendants of Esau, the twin brother of Jacob, and the son of Isaac. Just before the boys were to be born, God spoke to Rebekah and told her:

“Two nations are in your womb,
    and two peoples from within you shall be divided;
the one shall be stronger than the other,
    the older shall serve the younger.” – Genesis 25:23 ESV

The two babies, we are told in Genesis, “struggled together within her” and when they were born, Esau came out first, but Jacob was clutching his brother’s heal. This was a premonition of what the relationship between these two boys would be like. The story goes on to describe Jacob’s eventual deception of his brother, in order to get him to give up his birthright. Then Rebekah and Jacob concocted a plan to deceive Isaac into giving to Jacob the blessing reserved for the firstborn. While their plan worked, it resulted in Jacob having to go into exile to escape the wrath of Esau. While the brothers eventually mended their personal grudge, the descendants of Esau would prove to be a constant source of trouble for the people of Israel. In fact, when they eventually made it back to Canaan after their 40 years of wandering in the wilderness after their exodus from Egypt, they were not given a warm welcome by the Edomites.

Moses sent messengers from Kadesh to the king of Edom: “Thus says your brother Israel: You know all the hardship that we have met: how our fathers went down to Egypt, and we lived in Egypt a long time. And the Egyptians dealt harshly with us and our fathers. And when we cried to the Lord, he heard our voice and sent an angel and brought us out of Egypt. And here we are in Kadesh, a city on the edge of your territory. Please let us pass through your land. We will not pass through field or vineyard, or drink water from a well. We will go along the King’s Highway. We will not turn aside to the right hand or to the left until we have passed through your territory.” But Edom said to him, “You shall not pass through, lest I come out with the sword against you.” And the people of Israel said to him, “We will go up by the highway, and if we drink of your water, I and my livestock, then I will pay for it. Let me only pass through on foot, nothing more.” But he said, “You shall not pass through.” And Edom came out against them with a large army and with a strong force. Thus Edom refused to give Israel passage through his territory, so Israel turned away from him. – Numbers 20:14-21 ESV

In the prophesies of Obadiah, we are given further insights into the reasons for God’s coming judgment on the Edomites.

“You have been deceived by your own pride
    because you live in a rock fortress
    and make your home high in the mountains.
‘Who can ever reach us way up here?’
    you ask boastfully.” – Obadiah 1:3 NLT

“Because of the violence you did
    to your close relatives in Israel,
you will be filled with shame
    and destroyed forever.
When they were invaded,
    you stood aloof, refusing to help them.
Foreign invaders carried off their wealth
    and cast lots to divide up Jerusalem,
    but you acted like one of Israel’s enemies.” – Obadiah 1:10-11 NLT

The Edomites were prideful and arrogant, convinced that they were invincible in their mountain fortress. But there would be no place they could hide from the wrath of God. They had made the mistake of turning against the people of God, their very own relatives. When Israel had been attacked, they looked the other way, refusing to come to their aid. And God was going to repay them for their cold-hearted abandonment of Israel. His destruction would be complete. Nothing and no one would be spared. While grape gatherers might leave some gleanings in the field for the poor, God would leave nothing behind for the survivors in Edom. While a thief might be willing to leave a few things untouched, God was going to completely wipe Edom out. There would be nothing left when the judgment of God was complete.

“But I will strip bare the land of Edom,
    and there will be no place left to hide.
Its children, its brothers, and its neighbors
    will all be destroyed,
    and Edom itself will be no more.” – Jeremiah 49:10 NLT

But in the midst of all the devastation, notice the words of the Lord:

“But I will protect the orphans who remain among you.
    Your widows, too, can depend on me for help.” – Jeremiah 49:11 NLT

Even in His wrath, God will show mercy on the helpless, those who have no advocate and who are seen as outcasts within the community. God assures the widows and orphans that they will have Him as their protector and provider. Even in the midst of all the devastation, they will somehow be preserved by the merciful hand of God.

These pronouncements of doom are difficult for us to read and even harder for us to comprehend. They seem to paint God in a very negative light, portraying Him as a hateful, vengeful deity who uses His omnipotence to wreak havoc on mankind. We view His judgments from our limited human perspective and deem them as little more than the actions of some kind of divine playground bully. But there are things we cannot see. There are behind-the-scenes plots to which we are oblivious. And there is a plan that God has devised from before the foundation of the world that He is implementing and of which we are not privy. And while we might find it easy to question God’s motives or wonder about His methodologies, we must always remember that He is God and we are not. His ways are not our ways. His judgments are always right and good. His actions in regards to mankind are always righteous and beyond reproach. And as difficult as it may be for us to comprehend His ways, we have no right to question His integrity or doubt His goodness.

He is the Rock; his deeds are perfect. Everything he does is just and fair. He is a faithful God who does no wrong; how just and upright he is! – Deuteronomy 32:4 NLT

The LORD is righteous in everything he does; he is filled with kindness. – Psalm 145:17 NLT

“Listen to me, you who have understanding. Everyone knows that God doesn’t sin! The Almighty can do no wrong.” – Job 34:10 NLT

One of the problems we face as human beings is our inability to see past the here-and-now. We are not omniscient. We lack the ability to see into the future and view how everything will turn out. So, we are left to deal with what we can see. But looks can always be deceiving. What may appear as unjust and unfair may actually be the righteous and fully just actions of God. We simply can’t see the ultimate outcome. But it always pays to give God the benefit of the doubt. It is wise to trust that He knows best and that His ways are perfect. In time, we will see the method behind His seeming madness. We will one day have the ability to look back and see how the gracious, merciful and loving hand of God was working all things together for our good and His glory.

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Before the Face of God.

When I would heal Israel, the iniquity of Ephraim is revealed, and the evil deeds of Samaria; for they deal falsely; the thief breaks in, and the bandits raid outside. But they do not consider that I remember all their evil. Now their deeds surround them; they are before my face. By their evil they make the king glad, and the princes by their treachery. They are all adulterers; they are like a heated oven whose baker ceases to stir the fire, from the kneading of the dough until it is leavened. On the day of our king, the princes became sick with the heat of wine; he stretched out his hand with mockers. For with hearts like an oven they approach their intrigue; all night their anger smolders; in the morning it blazes like a flaming fire. All of them are hot as an oven, and they devour their rulers. All their kings have fallen, and none of them calls upon me. – Hosea 7:1-7 ESV

As children of God, it is sometimes far too easy to forget that He is there and that He sees all that we do. Because He is invisible to our human eyes, we can find ourselves acting as if He is nowhere in sight and wrongly conclude that He is unaware of our actions. But God is all-knowing and ever-present. He sees all. Nothing escapes His sight. In fact, the author of Hebrews warns us, “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God. Everything is naked and exposed before his eyes, and he is the one to whom we are accountable” (Hebrews 4:13 NLT). The psalmist tells us, “The LORD looks down from heaven and sees the whole human race” (Psalm 33:13 NLT). And in the book of Proverbs we read, “The LORD is watching everywhere, keeping his eye on both the evil and the good” (Provernbs 15:3 NLT). So the idea that somehow God is oblivious to our actions is ludicrous. Nothing is hidden from His eyes. And as followers of Jesus Christ, we should live with that insight in mind.

The idea of living our lives with a constant awareness that God is watching is biblical. When Adam and Eve sinned, God knew immediately. When Cain murdered Abel, God confronted Cain and asked him two questions: “Where is Abel your brother?” and “What have you done?” (Genesis 4:9-10 ESV). God was not asking for an update. He was not in need of a status report regarding what had gone on down on earth. He knew. He was looking for a confession from Cain, but instead He heard lies and denials. Many years later, when Abraham, the father of the Hebrew nation, was 99-years old, God appeared to him and said,  “I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless” (Genesis 17:1 ESV). God was literally saying to Abraham, “live your life before my eyes.” God wanted Abraham to conduct his life with a constant awareness that He was watching. When God called Abraham to “be blameless”, He was not asking for sinless perfection. The Hebrew word translated “blameless” carries the idea of wholeness or completeness. Abraham was to have no hidden areas in his life. There was to be no compartmentalization, no sacred and secular split, where some things belonged to God and others were reserved for Abraham. What God was asking of Abraham was that he live his entire life, every area of his life, with a constant awareness that God was watching, because He was.

So what does all this have to do with Israel and Hosea? Everything. If you notice in verse 2, God says, “their deeds surround them; they are before my face.” The Hebrew word is פָּנִים (paniym) and it is the same word used in Genesis 17:1. God was telling the Israelites that they were committing their sins “in His face.” While they probably thought their actions were invisible to God, He made it clear that every single sin they committed was visible to His all-seeing eyes. Their kings may have approved of their behavior, but God didn’t. He not only saw what they did, but He knew the motivation behind their actions because He knew their hearts. God spoke through the prophet, Jeremiah, saying, “The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is? But I, the Lord, search all hearts and examine secret motives. I give all people their due rewards, according to what their actions deserve” (Jeremiah 17:9-10 NLT). Jesus Himself said, “But the words you speak come from the heart—that’s what defiles you. For from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, all sexual immorality, theft, lying, and slander” (Matthew 15:18-19 NLT).

The Israelites had a heart problem. Their hearts were far from God and it was reflected in their actions. They no longer knew God. They had no fear of God. They acted as if He could not see what they were doing and, even if He did, He would do nothing about it. Sadly, that is how many Christians live their lives today. Rather than understanding that God sees all that they do and even knows the motivation behind what they do, they live as if God is somehow oblivious or disinterested. But God would remind us, “The eyes of the LORD search the whole earth in order to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him” (2 Chronicles 16:9 NLT). He is looking for those who want to live their lives in keeping with His will and with an awareness that He sees all that they do. God doesn’t demand perfection from us, only dependence. He has given us His Holy Spirit to empower us to live the life to which He has called us. Abraham was far from perfect, but he was called the friend of God (2 Chronicles 20:7). David was anything but sinless, and yet he was called a man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:14). God wants us to live our lives in His strength, according to His will and right in front of His face. He is watching. He cares. He rewards those who seek Him. But He also disciplines those who refuse to rely upon Him and live in obedience to Him. The saddest statement in this entire passage is God’s indictment against Israel that said, “none of them calls upon me” (Hosea 7:7 ESV). May that never be said of us as His children.

He’s Got The Whole World In His Hands.

The Lord kills and brings to life; he brings down to Sheol and raises up. The Lord makes poor and makes rich; he brings low and he exalts. He raises up the poor from the dust; he lifts the needy from the ash heap to make them sit with princes and inherit a seat of honor. For the pillars of the earth are the Lord‘s, and on them he has set the world. – 1 Samuel 2:6-8 ESV

1 Samuel 2:1-10

The world can be a very frustrating place to live – especially if you are a Christian. We say we believe in a God who is all-knowing, all-powerful and sovereign over all. We claim that He is creator of the universe and that He has full control over everyone and everything. And yet, when we look around, so much of what we see seems out of control. There is sickness and evil everywhere. Floods, famines, wars and injustice of all kinds are taking place all around us. From our perspective it can feel like the crazies are running the asylum. But Hannah’s prayer reminds us that we must have a much more biblical view of God. It is dangerous to attempt to assess God’s character based solely on what we can see. A glance around our planet can easily leave one with the mistaken impression that God is ether indifferent or incapable of doing anything about the injustices taking place. It would be easy to assume that God either lacked the power or the initiative to remedy the problems of the world. But that is where the Bible comes in. It contains a history of God’s interactions with mankind, from the beginning of the world. It shows us just how God operates behind the scenes accomplishing His divine will. In it we read story after story of God’s relationship with His creation, as He sovereignly orchestrates affairs, sometimes blatantly and, at other times, secretly.

The Bible would have us remember that God is in control. It does not matter what we think, believe, see or feel. “Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand” (Proverbs 19:2 ESV). “The LORD brings the counsel of the nations to nothing; he frustrates the plans of the peoples” (Psalm 33:10 ESV). “The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps” (Proverbs 16:9 ESV). “For the LORD of hosts has purposed, and who will annul it? His hand is stretched out, and who will turn it back?” (Isaiah 14:27 ESV). Even God Himself said, “Only I can tell you the future before it even happens. Everything I plan will come to pass, for I do whatever I wish” (Isaiah 46:10 NLT). The Bible reveals to us the sovereignty of God through the lives of the individuals found on its pages. So much of what we read in the Bible seems unjust and unfair. We read of Joseph being sold into slavery by his brothers. Then we watch as time after time this seemingly unlucky young man finds himself facing setback after setback. He appears to have the worst luck in the world. But the story is less about Joseph than it is about God, who is working behind the scenes, orchestrating every aspect of Joseph’s life in order to accomplish His sovereign will regarding the people of Israel. When we read the story to the end, we realize that God was in control all the time. He had planned every aspect of Joseph’s life in order to put him in place to provide a safe place for His people to live during the coming famine. Even Joseph recognized the hand of God on his life. He was even able to tell his brothers, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today” (Genesis 50:20 ESV).

Hannah had suffered and struggled with her barrenness. There had to have been times when she wondered where God was in all of this. She had to have had moments of doubt when she questioned God’s care for her. But ultimately, she took her concern to God, because she knew He was the only one who could do anything about it. And she learned that God was in control. He has control over everything from the barren womb to who reigns in the throne room. He lifts up and Her brings down. He humbles and He exalts. He gives life and He takes it away. And while this view of God may make us uncomfortable and raise all kinds of ethical and theological questions, it is the key to understanding the world in which we live. There are those who find this view distasteful and unsatisfactory. They say it paints God as some kind of an evil ogre who sits in heaven wreaking havoc on mankind, indiscriminately taking life and allowing injustice to take place. Their conclusion seems to be that if God puts all kings on their thrones, then He must be held responsible for all the tyrants, dictators and corrupt despots who bring pain and suffering on so many. The question is really whether God causes evil, and the answer is no. All that God does is just and right. He is holy and righteous. He can do no wrong. He can commit no evil. But evil exists because sin entered into the world He had made. Man rebelled against God and the result has been a steady increase in sin, to the point where all looks lost and the world seems to be spinning out of control. But we must remember that God is in control. He is behind the scenes working His divine plan in ways we cannot see or comprehend. What we see with our eyes may not make sense to us. It may seem unfair and unjust. But we must always remember that our God is loving, just, merciful, gracious and sovereignly working His plan – for our good and His own glory.

God is in control. We must believe that truth. He is not done yet. He has a plan and He is working that plan to perfection. We must not allow ourselves to be deceived by what we see. The Bible tells us that God has a plan in place and that He is working out that plan. He has an end in sight. He has a future resolution for all pain, suffering, injustice and sin. We must give God time to do what He has planned to do, and trust that He really does have the whole world in His hands.

Our Inescapable God.

If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!  If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me. If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night,” even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you. – Psalm 139:8-12 ESV

Psalm 139

God had David surrounded. Because God is omnipresent, there was no place David could go to escape His presence – even if he wanted to. David used terms that expressed the full extent of his awareness of distance when He referred to God’s pervasive presence. Heaven was about as high as it got in David’s day. He had no real knowledge of the scope of the universe. He knew nothing about what might lie beyond what his eyes could see. When it came to depth, sheol was about as far down as it got for David. This was the Old Testament designation for the abode of the dead. David seems to be saying that from heaven to hell and everywhere in between, God is there. Even if David could jump on a ship and sail across the seas, God would still be there to lead him and protect him. There is no place man can go that God is not there. But David is not espousing some form of pantheism, a doctrine that identifies God with the universe and denies His personal existence. In other words, pantheism simply equates God as present in everything. He is in the trees, water, air, rocks, and within every animal and human being. David believed in a personal, individual God who was spirit and was unlimited by space and time. David saw God as deeply involved in His life, holding him in His hands and guiding him lovingly. He was not some impersonal all-pervasive force.

One of the most comforting concepts David held about God was His existence in his life at all times. David used a real-life example of feeling as if the darkness of life would overwhelm and consume him. “Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night” (Psalm 139:11 ESV). For David, the darkness was a metaphor for misery, destruction, sorrow, and even wickedness. He is expressing the all-too-familiar feeling we all get when we feel as if the dark times of life will overwhelm and crush us under their weight. It is at those times that the light of life appears to be going out. Despair and depression set in. Even the light of life begins to fade. But at those times, David would have us remember that darkness is no problem for God – “even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you.” There is no event in our lives that God does not see. There are no dark, despairing circumstances that lie hidden from His view. He sees all and He knows all. Nothing happen to us that escapes His awareness. He is never surprised by the situations in which we find ourselves. But God is not just aware, He cares – “even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me.”

Paul shared David’s view of God. He wrote, “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39 ESV). There may come times when you wish God was not there to see you in your sin, but He will be. You may experience moments when it feels like God has abandoned you, but He hasn’t. You might even feel like your circumstances are proof that God has fallen out of love you, but He never will. He will never leave you or forsake you. You can’t run or hide from Him, disappear from His sight, drop off His radar, fall from His grace, or lose His love. Our God is inescapable and His love is unavoidable – in the good times and the bad times, in the light and the dark, on the heights and in the valleys, in our moments of delight and despair. Life can be very inconsistent, but our God can always be counted on.

Hear. Forgive. Act.

O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive. O Lord, pay attention and act. Delay not, for your own sake, O my God, because your city and your people are called by your name. – Daniel 9:19 ESV

Daniel 9:4-19

As Daniel wraps up his prayer, he refocuses his attention on the mercy of God. He asks that God would hear his prayer. He asks that God would forgive the transgressions he has just confessed. Finally, he begs God to hear and do something about it. In the Hebrew, the next phrase is in the negative. He actually says, “delay not.” He is asking that God intervene immediately. In other words, he wants to see the power of God unleashed without delay. After all, they had been waiting 70 years. According to the writings of Jeremiah, the time was ripe for God’s promise or restoration to be fulfilled. Daniel wanted to see it happen ASAP.

But what is interesting is the reason Daniel gave for God to hear, forgive and act. He appeals to God based on His own name and reputation. From Daniel’s human perspective, he saw it as a case of God’s character being at stake. People had already been talking about the state of affairs in Israel, and how their God had abandoned them. Daniel had to have heard countless rumors and discussions regarding God’s apparent apathy toward His own people or His inability to do anything about their condition. Even the Israelites had to have given up hope that their God was ever going to do something about their captivity. That is probably why so many of them had turned to the gods of Babylon. But Daniel held on to what he knew about God. He put his hope in the reality of who God claimed to be and what He had already done for the people of Israel. The words of Jeremiah the prophet rang in his ear, providing him with the faith he needed to keep on believing.

There is none like you, O Lord; you are great, and your name is great in might. Who would not fear you, O King of the nations? For this is your due; for among all the wise ones of the nations and in all their kingdoms there is none like you. They are both stupid and foolish; the instruction of idols is but wood! Beaten silver is brought from Tarshish, and gold from Uphaz. They are the work of the craftsman and of the hands of the goldsmith; their clothing is violet and purple; they are all the work of skilled men. But the Lord is the true God; he is the living God and the everlasting King. At his wrath the earth quakes, and the nations cannot endure his indignation. – Jeremiah 10:6-10 ESV

Daniel’s God was incomparable. He was without equal in power and was worthy of all honor. Daniel longed for God to protect His own name, because he knew the people of Judah were incapable of carrying it off. He asked God to do something because he was painfully well aware that the chosen people of God had chosen to do nothing. There was nothing they could do. They were complete incapable of changing their ways. They were stubborn, rebellious and prone to solve their problems their own way. But Daniel knew they had one hope: God. He knew if anything was going to happen, it would have to be up to God. And if God was to do anything, it would be based on His own desire to protect the character and reputation of His name. God would not allow Himself to be perceived as a liar, as weak, as uncaring, without compassionate, powerless, indifferent, always angry, unmerciful, or unloving. God had promised to restore the people of Judah, and He would. God had made a covenant with the people of Judah, and He would keep it. God was all-powerful, and He would show it. God was loving, and He would prove it. God was sovereign, and He would reveal it. God would hear, forgive and act. Not because of the people of Judah, but because He is God.

Proverbs 5e

God Sees.

“For the Lord sees clearly what a man does, examining every path he takes.” – Proverbs 5:21 NLT

Have you ever stopped to think just how silly it is to attempt to try and and hide anything from God? After all, He is all-knowing and is not limited by space and time. He is everywhere at once and does not have to deal with the limitations of past, present and future as we do. He sees everything equally well, regardless of whether it has already happened or has yet to take place. David put it this way in Psalm 139:

1O Lord, you have examined my heart

and know everything about me.

2You know when I sit down or stand up.

You know my thoughts even when I’m far away.

3You see me when I travel

and when I rest at home.

You know everything I do.

4You know what I am going to say

even before I say it, Lord.

5You go before me and follow me.

You place your hand of blessing on my head.

6Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,

too great for me to understand!

He knows it all, including what I am going to say before I even say it. God sees everything I do. He examines every path I take. He literally weighs out our actions, putting them in a scale and determining their value or worth. And He measures them against His own righteous standard, not the flawed and fickle standards of this world. The context for this verse is a serious warning from a father to his son regarding the dangers of sexual immorality and promiscuity. He is trying to get his son to realize the deadly ramifications of being unfaithful to his wife and allowing himself to fall for the temptations of adultery. He gives him all the dire outcomes, but then wraps it up by reminding his son that God sees ALL our actions, and He measures and examines them against His own righteous requirements. We can’t hide what we do from God. We may fool our spouses and our friends, but God sees all and knows all. And He knows exactly what is going on in our hearts even if we choose not to act out our adulterous desires. He knows every time we lust and every time an immoral thought goes through our brain. That realization should sober us and cause us to seriously consider our ways.

The fact that God sees all and knows all should only scare us if we are guilty of doing things of which He might disapprove. The existence of traffic cameras should not strike fear into the hearts of those who are obeying the traffic signs. The presence of a policeman on the side of the road should not make our palms sweat and our hearts race unless we happen to be breaking the speed limit. If we are living in obedience to God’s Word and in reliance upon His Spirit, His all-seeing eye should bring us comfort, not fear. We should rejoice in the fact that God is always looking out for us and never takes His eyes off us. And if He does happen to see us do something contrary to His will, He makes it known to us so that we can confess it and receive His forgiveness. We live under His watchful eyes at all times. There is no time when He is unaware of us or cannot see us. That realization should bring us peace and cause us to consider our ways more seriously. “For the Lord sees clearly what a man does, examining every path he takes.”

Father, thank You for never taking your eyes off of me. What a comfort to know You are always there and you are always fully aware. Never let me forget that I am living under your loving, watchful eye at all times. May that realization influence my behavior and my thoughts. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

Psalms 138-139 – Day 1

Nobody Knows Me Better.

“The Lord will work out his plans for my life — for your faithful love, O Lord, endures forever.” – Psalm 138:8 NLT

There are times when I don’t even know myself. I do and say things that surprise even me. I can never know for sure how I will react to a given situation. I may respond in calmness and patience one day, then explode in anger and impatience the next. I have a limited understanding of what motivates me and why I act the way I do. Sometimes words come out of my mouth that catch me off guard. I can be disappointed in my own response to people and circumstances. There are those moments when I can appear as a stranger – even to myself.

But God knows me. He knows me better than I know myself. David understood this unbelievable characteristic about God. He knew that God was all-knowing, all-powerful, and always present. He knew that God was always there, and that God knew every single detail of his life, including what he was thinking and what he was going to say, even before the words came out of his mouth. David also understood that God had a plan for his life and that God was working that plan each and every day – regardless of what David’s circumstances might have looked like. All of this news about God can be both encouraging and scary. The fact that God knows everything there is to know about us can be a bit intimidating or we can find it comforting. David was prone to the latter. He understood that along with God’s divine attributes of omniscience (He knows everything), omnipotence (He is all-powerful), and omnipresence (He is everywhere at once), God was also all-loving, completely faithful, and a God who keeps all of His promises all of the time. So the fact that God knew all of David’s thoughts didn’t scare him, it comforted him. David was able to say, “O Lord, you have examined my heart and know everything about me” (Psalm 139:1 NLT). That thought caused David to say, “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too great for me to understand” (Psalm 139:6 NLT). David might not have fully comprehended the reality of God’s all-knowing, all-powerful presence in his life, he DID appreciate it. David knew that God had created him – he was a byproduct of God’s imagination and creative capabilities. He was not a mistake or an act of chance. “You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed” (Psalm 139:16 NLT). What an amazing thought.

This understanding of God’s intimate relationship with him caused David to invite God to do something that for many of us sounds a bit risky. It sounds like an invitation that could end up producing some less-than-satisfactory results. But keep in mind, David knew that God loved him and had a plan for his life. He trusted God. There was nothing that God did not know about his life. There was nothing that David thought or did that was hidden from God. So he asked God to “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life” (Psalm 1139:23-24 NLT). David was asking God to reveal to him what only God knew about him. David was asking God to show him things about his life he was incapable of seeing or even knowing. As men, we can’t really know our hearts. He can’t fully understand our motives. We are blinded by pride and self-righteousness, and we can deceive ourselves into thinking we are really better than we are. So David goes to the one source that can see past the facade and look into the inner recesses of our hearts. He asks God, the all-knowing, all-seeing, all-loving God to do an MRI of his life and reveal the results. David knew that God loved him and had a plan for his life. But David also knew that he was a man who was prone to sin. He knew his heart was not to be trusted. He knew that he was incapable of really knowing what was going on in his heart. So he asked God to examine, test, and prove him. He asked God to point out anything and everything that was an offense to Him. Scary? Yes. Risky? Not really. David was simply learning what God already knew. David was tapping into God’s limitless understanding and relying on God’s unfailing love for him.

Father, You love me. And what’s amazing is that You love me even though You know everything there is to know about me. There is nothing I can hide from You. I can’t fool you with my pious activities or acts of religious pretense. I can’t fake faith in front of You. You know me just as I am and yet You love me anyway. Give me the heart of David, that I might ask You to search me, know my heart, test me, know the cause of all my anxious thoughts, and point out everything in my life that offends You. The sooner I see the truth about myself, the sooner I can confess my sins and get back on Your path for my life. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org