If I should climb up to heaven, thou art there; if I sink down to the world beneath, thou art present still. ( Psalms 138:8, KNOX )
A puzzle here in David’s words and in the oral rendition of the story of Job – God is everywhere! We imagine God is incapable of being in the presence of evil, but that is obviously not so. Yes, He turns from His Son at the Cross when all the sins of the world attach themselves to Jesus; but God is found even if we climb to the heavens or descend to the realms of death and hell. That the Lord comes into the presence of the Enemy, Satan is evident in the beginning moments of the story of Job.
6 One day, when the heavenly powers stood waiting upon the Lord’s presence, and among them, man’s Enemy, 7 the Lord asked him, where he had been? Roaming about the earth, said he, to and fro about the earth.8 Why then, the Lord said, thou hast seen a servant of mine called Job. Here is a true man, an honest man, none like him on earth; ever he fears his God, and keeps far from wrong-doing. 9 Job fears his God, the Enemy answered, and loses nothing by it. 10 Sheltered his life by thy protection, sheltered his home, his property; thy blessing on all he undertakes; worldly goods that still go on increasing; he loses nothing. 11 One little touch of thy hand, assailing all that wealth of his! Then see how he will turn and blaspheme thee. 12 Be it so, the Lord answered; with all his possessions do what thou wilt, so thou leave himself unharmed. And with that, the Enemy left the Lord’s presence, and withdrew. ( Job 1: 6-12, KNOX )
God’s ability and willingness to be in the presence of the Enemy is nearly as difficult to understand and accept as His ability and willingness to suffer and die. God is engaged with death and evil. To think He is not is to misunderstand Him. God does not create death and evil; but He allows both. In so many ways, He uses both. Why?
Do not seek revenge, or bear a grudge for wrong done to thee by thy fellow-citizens; thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself; thy Lord is his.
God is clearly not interested in our grudges or in our desires for revenge against those who wrong us. Instead, God longs for us to love one another in the same way we love ourselves. He wants us to recognize that our fellow-citizens belong to Him, too. They are His just as we are. God is like the parent who says, “Don’t spank my kid for me, please. I’m perfectly capable of disciplining my own child –” except in our case, we are also a child of the same parent.
If you live in a glass house, you ought not to throw stones at your neighbor even if his house is also made of glass.
23 God am I, the Lord says, only when I stand near, and not when I am far away? 24 Where, he would know, will you hide so close that he is not watching you, he, the Lord, that fills heaven and earth? 25 No word, he says, but reaches my ears when one of these prophets gives false guidance in my name; I had a dream, he will tell you, I had a dream!
The world of the internet with its social media opens my eyes and mental ears to this refrain “I had a dream!” rather more often than when I walk down the street. Often the refrain is “God gave me a dream, and in this dream He said…”
Is this prophecy? I peruse some of these “dreams” occasionally ( not very often ) and always wonder how someone is able to say “this came from God.”
Look at the Holy Scripture. Think how many years and how many men ( mostly men ) read and prayed over it to decide if it belonged in the Canon, if it is actually God’s infallible Word. Then think about that person on Facebook or Twitter whose dream is supposedly from God.
“we find our true home in heaven. It is to heaven that we look expectantly for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ to save us; 21 he will form this humbled body of ours anew, moulding it into the image of his glorified body, so effective is his power to make all things obey him.”
God is perfectly capable to make all things obey Him. Because this is true, He is ultimately sovereign, for that which He determines to allow to happen is in His perfect will. He withholds or exercises His power as He desires to meet His own ends in His own ways. That we do not understand this is because our view of God is limited by our own limited capacity. How can we fully comprehend the all-powerful and the perfect when we are neither powerful nor perfect?
We look to heaven for Jesus Christ to return “to save us.” With His immeasurable power, He plans to call our decayed bones together and refashion our bodies to match His own glorified body. He has that level of power! And it won’t matter in the long run whether you are buried at sea, in the ground, or turned to ash in the fires of the crematorium. You will have a body fashioned by the Lord; and your home will be heaven.
Jesus warns “few there are that find it.” The ‘it’ He mentions is “life.” Apparently, according to Jesus, the many find death easily; without trying. Why is that? Perhaps because death is our natural state; we are, indeed, in a state of perpetual dying. Jesus says,
Make your way in by the narrow gate. It is a broad gate and a wide road that leads on to perdition, and those who go in that way are many indeed; but how small is the gate, how narrow the road that leads on to life, and how few there are that find it!
Jesus says the way “that leads on to life” is difficult to find. The gate is small; the road is narrow. He implies this way is hidden. What makes the way to life so hard to locate? What makes the gate small? Why is the road narrow?
Perdition – hell, the underworld, death, punishment – is a broad and straight path. “And those who go in that way are many indeed,” says Jesus. The way to hell is an easy road to find because we start out on it, right from birth. We walk along with others, vaguely or painfully aware of its ultimate destination – our deaths. Some of us know that death is eternal; others do not. The gate to the other path is not obvious, according to Jesus. Rather, that path is small, narrow, hidden.
Who opens the eyes?
I think Paul tells us quite clearly that God the Holy Spirit enables the few to find the way to life. Why those few? An impossible question with an improbable answer – God selects. He is under no obligation to show mercy, but He does.
Such a hard Word. Paul responds with:
14 What does this mean? That God acts unjustly? That is not to be thought of.15 I will shew pity, he tells Moses, on those whom I pity; I will shew mercy where I am merciful;16 the effect comes, then, from God’s mercy, not from man’s will, or man’s alacrity. 17 Pharao, too, is told in scripture, This is the very reason why I have made thee what thou art, so as to give proof, in thee, of my power, and to let my name be known all over the earth.18 Thus he shews mercy where it is his will, and where it is his will he hardens men’s hearts.19 Hereupon thou wilt ask, If that is so, how can he find fault with us, since there is no resisting his will? 20 Nay, but who art thou, friend, to bandy words with God? Is the pot to ask the potter, Why hast thou fashioned me thus? 21 Is not the potter free to do what he will with the clay, using the same lump to make two objects, one for noble and one for ignoble use? 22 It may be that God has borne, long and patiently, with those who are the objects of his vengeance, fit only for destruction, meaning to give proof of that vengeance, and display his power at last;23 meaning also to display, in those who are the objects of his mercy, how rich is the glory he bestows, that glory for which he has destined them.
24 We are the objects of his mercy; we, whom he has called, Jews and Gentiles alike. [Romans 9: 14-24, KNOX]
“The Lord, the ruler of all, is my stronghold; he will bring me safely on my way, safe as the hind whose feet echo already on the hills. (For the chief singer, to the harp’s music.)”
The picture here is of a hind – a female red deer – safely on a hillside, her feet sending echoes into the valley below. She is perfectly safe where she is. She is in her element, her stronghold; she has been safely brought to where she belongs. She will stay.