Orange lillies at the Dallas Arboretum, Dallas, TX

God is God indeed

I can’t believe today is the last day of September 2013. How did it get here so fast? Yesterday it was August, and the day before that it was April. This year is sailing by faster than I even thought possible. Tomorrow is October, and the month is already scheduled full, practically every day. That means November will be here in the blink of an eye, and December always comes faster than I anticipate too.

I shouldn’t really think about it, because the more I think about it, the more stressed out I get. So much is happening all at once, and I really have no control over any of it.

Orange lillies at the Dallas Arboretum, Dallas, TX

Orange lillies at the Dallas Arboretum, Dallas, TX

Today’s verse is Deuteronomy 7:9.

Understand, therefore, that the Lord your God is indeed God. He is the faithful God who keeps his covenant for a thousand generations and lavishes his unfailing love on those who love him and obey his commands.

I needed to read this today because with my life spinning around me chaotically I needed to remember who my God is. It’s easy to forget, isn’t it? I mean, you’d think we’d remember who He is, but we don’t. Why else do we worry? Why else do we try to take over things that we can’t control? Why else do we ignore His warnings and His words? It’s not that we’re malicious in our disobedience; it’s just that we forget who He is. And it’s time for me to remember.

The God I talked to this morning is the same God who created the universe. It’s easy to say that, but it’s not easy to understand it. I can believe it, but I can’t wrap my mind around that. It’s too big for me. So maybe I should say the God I talked to this morning is the same God who walked with Abraham and guided him to his destiny as the father of a nation. He’s the same God who appeared to Moses as a bush that burned but was never consumed. He’s the same God who changed Gideon from a coward hiding in the shadows to a mighty man of courage. He’s the same God who spoke to Elijah and Elisha and Samuel.

It’s different when you think about Him that way. It’s one thing to recognize Him as creator; it’s something else to understand that He hasn’t changed at all from the person He was. He loved Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and Joseph and all of Israel through all of history in spite of their failures and flaws. He didn’t make allowances for them, but He loved them anyway. And He’s the same today.

If you read higher in this paragraph in Deuteronomy 7, you’ll find that it’s Moses delivering his departing words to the nation of Israel, and he reminds them that God didn’t choose Israel because they were a strong, victorious nation. He chose them because they were nothing. God likes making something amazing out of something insignificant. That’s the way He works. That’s the way He has always worked, demonstrating that He is the only one who can take nothing and make something from it.

That’s who God is. That’s the God I talked to this morning, and I shouldn’t take that for granted. I shouldn’t forget, because if He was faithful then, He’ll be faithful now. He kept His promises then, so He’ll keep His promises now. He never gave up on people who deserved it in the past, and He won’t give up on me today, tomorrow, or later on in my life. That’s not who He is.

So as fast as life flies and as busy as I get and as anxious as I become, God is the same through all of it. I can’t control events in my life, but God knows what He’s doing. He doesn’t stand back with his arms crossed, ignoring me as I walk this path He set me on. No, He’s paying attention. He’s watching, and He’s waiting for the opportunity to help. That’s how He worked in the past, so there’s a good chance that’s how He operates now.

Are you busy? Are you stressed? It’s the time of year for it, and it’s only going to get worse. But you’re not on your own. And you don’t have to tackle life and life’s challenges by yourself. If God set you on this road, He won’t step back and let you fall on your face. Trust Him. If you fall, He’ll catch you. You may not be able to control your life, but as long as you hang with God, you’ll be able to face it with your head held high.

You can’t control your life, but He can. He’s been doing it for generations and generations, and the people who trusted Him in the past were never disappointed.

The rest of the story

I think a lot of Christians pick and choose what they want to read/believe out of the Bible. But if the Bible really is the Word of God, we should believe all of it. And if it isn’t, we should believe none of it. There’s no middle ground with Scripture. If even one part of it isn’t true, the whole thing goes down the drain.

There are so many people I know who read the Bible and only remember the verses they like, skimming over the verses (and the books) they don’t like. I was the same way when I was younger. You would have never caught me reading Habakkuk or any of the other Minor Prophet Books of the Old Testament; and you sure wouldn’t have seen me anywhere near Deuteronomy or Leviticus. They didn’t seem to make any sense.

But one day I guess I just got to thinking that avoiding those books was like picking and choosing what I believed about the Bible. And that’s not right. The Bible is whole and real and full and never lies, and the more you get to know it, the better you will get to know God and who He is and what He wants for your life.

And I will tell you that getting a modern translation (like the New Living Translation or the Message) helped immensely. The laws written in some of these books are peculiar enough to read without having to sort through 400-year-old English.

And while I love getting a daily Bible verse, sometimes I need to get deeper into a chapter or even a Book to understand the meaning of it. It’s never a good idea to pick a verse out of the Bible and think you can understand what it means without understanding its context.

The verse this morning is a good example:

Deuteronomy 7:9

9 Understand, therefore, that the Lord your God is indeed God. He is the faithful God who keeps his covenant for a thousand generations and lavishes his unfailing love on those who love him and obey his commands.

Yes! That’s an awesome verse about God’s faithfulness. And I can tell you right now I need to be reminded of God’s faithfulness. I’m kind of in a valley right now. I’m learning how to deal with the stuff going on in my life and to maintain my positive, joyful outlook on things. But most of the time I still feel like the time we went camping in Colorado and ended up in a valley, and we had to wait until nearly 10:00 am before we could see the sun over the tops of the mountains. I know God is out there and I know He’s working, but I can’t see Him yet. So remembering that God is faithful to me (and to everyone else) and loves me unfailingly is a great thing to remember.

But . . . is that ALL this verse is saying? Why is it there? What spurred the writer (Moses) to write this down? Well, obviously God told him to write it down, but what is the purpose for it?

This is one of those verses that I like to see and understand the context for the verse. Deuteronomy is especially important to make sure you have the right context for anything you take out.

So . . . . this is the whole paragraph:

Deuteronomy 7:7-11

 7 “The Lord did not set his heart on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other nations, for you were the smallest of all nations! 8 Rather, it was simply that the Lord loves you, and he was keeping the oath he had sworn to your ancestors. That is why the Lord rescued you with such a strong hand from your slavery and from the oppressive hand of Pharaoh, king of Egypt. 9 Understand, therefore, that the Lord your God is indeed God. He is the faithful God who keeps his covenant for a thousand generations and lavishes his unfailing love on those who love him and obey his commands. 10 But he does not hesitate to punish and destroy those who reject him. 11 Therefore, you must obey all these commands, decrees, and regulations I am giving you today.

To really understand, you’d need to read the whole chapter (it’s a good read, actually; Deuteronomy is honestly a fun book), but God is warning the people of Israel not to marry the pagan people they are conquering on their journey to the Promised Land. God told them that He was going to deliver seven nations that were bigger and stronger than they were to the people of Israel, and He commanded them to destroy those nations entirely and not to intermarry with them. Because by intermarrying with them, the people who didn’t follow God would turn Israel’s heart away from God. (Sound familiar?)

This paragraph goes into why God is helping them. God didn’t save the people of Israel because they were so much better than everyone else. He saved the people of Israel because of the promise He made to Abraham, the Father of the Jewish Nation. Then, comes our single verse that we read above. However, it’s followed by a word that can mean something really great or something really scary: but.

God loves you, but . . .

Read Deuteronomy 7:9 and you get the idea that God is a God of faithful enduring love and nothing you can do would ever separate you from His love. And that’s true. Nothing will ever separate us from God’s love.

But

The verse next verse reminds us that, even though God loves us, He won’t hesitate “to punish and destroy those who reject Him.”

Why? He’s God. He is Sovereign. He has the right to punish and destroy whatever He wants because He made it all. We’re all blessed that He hasn’t punished and destroyed all of us simply for breathing, after everything that we’ve done to wreck the world He entrusted to us.

That’s something Christians like to forget about God. We want everyone to see that God is Love. And He is. God is synonymous with Love. But (there’s that word again) He is also a God of wrath. He is a God of justice. He is a God of perfection. And anyone who isn’t perfect (or that isn’t covered by the blood of His Perfect Son) can’t have anything to do with Him. And that person can’t say they are without excuse. Romans tells us that even nature itself screams that it was created by God. And those of us living in 21st Century America are inundated with the truth of Scripture; it’s just our pride that keeps us from accepting it.

God is indeed God.

He is faithful. He is loving. He is enduring. He will never give up on you or me. But He is constant and unshakable and He will not be anything less than He is, and that is a quality we all appreciate while it’s positive in our favor. Unshakably faithful. Unshakably loving. But what about Unshakable Perfection? Unshakable Justice? Unshakable Wrath? We don’t much care for that side of Him because when it’s aimed at us, we don’t feel like we deserve it.

See what I mean?

The Bible is an amazing Book, and we should never take it for granted. Don’t just take a verse someone gives you and assume they know what they’re talking about. Don’t just take a single verse out of Scripture and assume you can get everything you need to know from it. Read it. Read the whole chapter. Read the whole Book. It’s your responsibility to work out what you believe and why.

It’s worth it.

No ifs, ands, or buts.