In these two chapters God was declaring his intent to bring judgment on the pagan nations around Judah and Israel. But even while He brought judgment on those nations which had no covenant relationship with Him, He always responded in mercy to anyone who put his or her faith in Him. We see a great example of this in our New Testament reading in Hebrews where we are told that Rehab, a harlot, was saved because she put her faith and trust in the One True God (Heb. 11.31).
The fear of the Lord
Verse 1, “Blessed is everyone who fears the Lord, who walks in His ways.”
This is a reverential fear of the Lord, an acknowledgment that He is God. He is the Potter; we are the clay. It’s an understanding that His way is good and that He has the right and the authority to command His creations to live as He sees fit. Continue reading →
Before I lose anyone with the title, we all have a theology. Theology is simply the study of God and His relationship to the world. The question is, “From where do you get your theology—from your circumstances or from God’s Word?”
And when it comes to suffering and hardship, our theology and its source make all the difference.
What if God called you to make the sacrifice that Ezekiel had to make—losing his wife and not even being allowed to grieve? Could you trust God to give you the strength to do it? Or would you fall into self-pity or a “why me” attitude? And how would you view God for even asking such a thing?
How would you respond if the child your raised to love God becomes a prodigal, throwing aside everything your believe? Would you still trust God?
What if the doctor handed you a bad report? Or your child didn’t get better? Would you still believe that God is good?
What if you or your spouse lost a job or your savings or your retirement plan? Would you still be able to trust Him to meet your needs?
I know for some of you these questions aren’t hypothetical, they are reality. The truth is suffering is a part of life in this fallen world. Someone has said that we’re either in the midst of trial, coming out of one, or getting ready to go into one.
They may vary in degree and some may be easier to handle than others, but we all suffer.
When God asks you to trust Him in the difficult things: when He doesn’t seem to be answering your prayers, when your child isn’t getting better, when the finances still seem impossible, when the doctor hands you a bad report … where will you go? Where will you find hope? What will you believe about God?
Could you say with the psalmist, “I know, O LORD, that Your judgments are right, and that in faithfulness You have afflicted me” (Ps. 119.75)?
When your toddler jumps into your arms in the swimming pool for the first time, he doesn’t trust his ability to swim, he trusts you because he knows you. When your doctor says she needs to do surgery, you’ll either trust her diagnosis, or you’ll get another opinion.
A toddler learns to trust his parents because of his experience with them. You may come to trust your doctor because of her care and knowledge in other situations or because someone you trust recommends her. But somehow we must have knowledge of a person if we’re to trust in them.
We trust God first by faith. We make that choice to believe His Word and to respond to His wooing. But we walk it out by coming to know Him through His Word.
What can we know about God that will steady us in trials and suffering?
We can know His character by coming to understand His various attributes.
God is love (1 Jn. 4.8). It’s not that He merely does loving things, He is love. Love seeks the good of the person loved. His love is perfect and unselfish. He loves us so much that He was willing to suffer and die in our place (Jn. 3.16). Even in hardship God is working for our good (Rom. 8.28; Gen. 50.20).
Joseph told the brothers who had sinned against him in such horrible ways:
“But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive” (Gen. 50.20).
Charles Ryrie says, “Love consists of affection and also of correction. Babies are cuddled and corrected, and both are true expressions of parental love.”
Even when God disciplines His children, it’s because of His love:
“For thosewhom the Lord loves He disciplines, And He scourges every son whom He receives” (Heb. 12.6).
God is good (Ps. 73.1). Like love, good isn’t something He does, it is His very essence.
He is, also, merciful and faithful. His is patient and forgiving, righteous and just. He is omniscient (all-knowing), omnipresent (always with us), omnipotent (all-powerful) and He never changes. And that’s just the beginning of His attributes.
4 But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus. (Eph. 2.4-6)
We can never fully know God, but He has revealed much through His creation, through His acts, and, especially, through His Word. Coming to know Him will allow us to trust Him even in suffering.
“The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law” (Deut. 29.29).
There are numerous resources which can help us come to know Him, to know His attributes, and to better understand how God works in and through suffering. A friend told me her life and perspective changed when she read Trusting God by Jerry Bridges as a young widow. I’ve seen numerous people helped by reading It’s Not Fair! by Wayne Mack. Both talk about the attributes of God and help us know Him better. And A.W. Pink’s classic The Attributes of God is a little gem.
You can also use Bible Gateway or another concordance to look up the attributes of God and study them out for yourself.