Blessings around the bend

I am overwhelmed by the goodness and power of our Almighty God.

This morning during our ladies Bible study at church we were discussing the sovereignty of God.

One interesting illustration given was about a stoplight which controls traffic in a construction zone. This light is provided to stop people from a head-on collision with oncoming traffic hidden by the bend in the road. Sometimes a person is tempted to ignore this light, assuming that no one is coming and becoming impatient waiting for the light to turn. As a sovereign God who knows the future, He asks us to wait on Him rather than barreling forward because of His great love for us.

The point was then made that God is good to not reveal the future to us for if we knew about the tragedy that lies just around the bend we would spend our lives fretting rather than living each day in itself.

While I do wholeheartedly agree with this sentiment, I can’t help but think once again about our human propensity to dwell on the negative, on the coming trial, rather than the coming joy. Several years ago, God revealed to me that when I spend my time fretting about today and about what the future might hold, that I’m missing out on the HOPE that comes from looking forward to the joy that might lie hidden just around the bend. I don’t want to know the future because I wouldn’t want to know that my son was going to die tomorrow, but also I would miss out on the HOPE that comes from waiting expectantly for the JOY that God might have waiting for me tomorrow.

Paul writes in his letter to the Romans, “Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.” (Romans 8:24-25) Remember, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1) If we could see what was just around the bend, whether tomorrow or a hundred years from now, then we would have no need for HOPE, no need for FAITH. God grows our faith, our trust in Him, by having us wait upon Him.

This makes me think about Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Over the years I’ve heard all kinds of people quote this to mean that God is going to give us lives filled with chocolate and roses! This always upsets me because this passage was written to a people who are living in exile in Babylon. In the verses that follow, God proceeds to warn the Israelites of the many trials they will go through! And yet He promises to RESTORE them. He promises that when they return to Him, when they seek Him, that He will be found by them and return them to their promised land. This is like the “blessings around the bend.” Joy was indeed going to come in the morning, even though they were in the midst of years of trials. God KNEW the plans that He had for them. His plans indeed were for their good. His plans indeed were to give them a future and a HOPE!

So, the next time when you and I are in the midst of despair, when things look bleak and hopeless, remember that God holds the future and that He is worthy of our trust. May we be joyful in hope, patient in affliction and faithful in prayer. (Romans 12:12)

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” Romans 15:13

“The Lord is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts, and I am helped; my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to him.” Psalm 28:7

“Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act.” Psalm 37:5

“I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope; my soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning. O Israel, hope in the Lord! For with the Lord there is steadfast love, and with him is plentiful redemption.” Psalm 130:5-7

God wants our attention

In August, I began reading through the Bible in a year. I take turns reading in the Old Testament and the New Testament. At this moment, I am in 1 Kings in the Old and something struck me – not for the first time, but it struck me for the first time in a concise, simple way.

God WANTS to be known. He WANTS our attention. There are all sorts of ways that He hides and all sorts of secrets that He keeps from us, but He WANTS us to FIND HIM!

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.” (Revelation 3:20 ESV)

At the same time, He but knocks. He does not break down the door.

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.” (Matthew 7:7-8 ESV)

While He is knocking, it is OUR responsibility to open the door – Then, He will come in.

Yet, this idea that God wants to be found, is something that I’ve thought about for quite some time. The new idea is this: God gets our attention in two different ways. He will get our attention through the great blessings that He gives to us, His great majesty, all of the good things of God OR He will get our attention through great trial and pain.

Have you ever thought of it so concisely and simply?

Here’s what prompted me to think about this idea. 1 Kings 18 contains the account of when King Ahab (King over Israel) summons the 450 prophets of Baal who contest against the prophet Elijah in calling down fire upon an offering. The prophets of Baal are unable to get their god’s attention.

“Then Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, “Choose for yourselves one bull and prepare it first, for you are many, and call upon the name of your god, but put no fire to it.” And they took the bull that was given them, and they prepared it and called upon the name of Baal from morning until noon, saying, “O Baal, answer us!” But there was no voice, and no one answered. And they limped around the altar that they had made. And at noon Elijah mocked them, saying, “Cry aloud, for he is a god. Either he is musing, or he is relieving himself, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened.” And they cried aloud and cut themselves after their custom with swords and lances, until the blood gushed out upon them. And as midday passed, they raved on until the time of the offering of the oblation, but there was no voice. No one answered; no one paid attention.” (1 Kings 18:25-29 ESV)

That was the response of the false god, Baal. He did not answer nor pay attention.

Now it’s Elijah’s turn. He fixes up the altar of God which was in ruins, prepares the bull for sacrifice, and then proceeds to saturate the wood and bull by pouring twelve large jars of water over them.

“And at the time of the offering of the oblation, Elijah the prophet came near and said, “O LORD, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that you are God in Israel, and that I am your servant, and that I have done all these things at your word. Answer me, O LORD, answer me, that this people may know that you, O LORD, are God, and that you have turned their hearts back.” Then the fire of the LORD fell and consumed the burnt offering and the wood and the stones and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench. And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces and said, “The LORD, he is God; the LORD, he is God.” (1 Kings 18:36-39 ESV)

Now, if you were King Ahab, wouldn’t this be enough, for you to believe in the LORD GOD, rather than Baal? God’s power and might is so great.

Yet, God is so merciful, that next He speaks directly to Ahab himself, sending a prophet to speak on His behalf. Ben-Hadad (the king of Syria) is preparing to attack Israel after King Ahab has refused his demands. The prophet declares to King Ahab, “Thus says the LORD, Have you seen all this great multitude? Behold, I will give it into your hand this day, and you shall know that I am the LORD.” (1 Kings 20:13 ESV)

Do you see it? God is going to save Ahab and His people Israel, that Ahab would KNOW that He is the LORD. Sure enough, in 1 Kings 20:21, we see that Ahab overpowered the Syrians. This course of events is repeated again in the spring, as the Syrians once again attack the Israelites, yet this time on the plains as they thought the the God of Israel was a “god of the hills.” And, once again, the prophet tells Ahab, “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)

Sadly, though King Ahab and Israel are saved again, the king has not turned to God as a result of God’s power and mercy. Instead, he chooses to spare King Ben-Hadad’s life and God once again sends a prophet to King Ahab, but this time with bad news. “Thus says the LORD, ‘Because you have let go out of your hand the man whom I had devoted to destruction, therefore your life shall be for his life, and your people for his people.’” And the king of Israel went to his house vexed and sullen and came to Samaria. (1 Kings 20:42-43 ESV)