2015 – Beeds Lake State Park – Hampton, IA
1 Samuel 15: Then God spoke to Samuel: “I’m sorry I ever made Saul king. He’s turned his back on me. He refuses to do what I tell him.”
God has given Saul explicit orders. He’s to attack Amalek and utterly destroy all life. Saul leads his army into the battle and follows God’s command. Well, not quite. Agag, king of Amalek, is captured rather than killed. Also, some of the choice animals are brought back alive. Now, I’m troubled by all this killing and I’ve written about it before so I’m going to move on to another important feature of this passage. God says he’s “sorry” he made Saul king in the first place. Some say that this is just God speaking in human terms, that he isn’t “sorry” in the sense that he regrets having made Saul king. The reason that they believe this is because taking this statement at face value doesn’t fit their theology. They see time as somehow pre-existent and that God can see into the future. “God knows everything,” they say, “so he has to know the future.” I think that such logic contains a fatal error: that the future already exists as something to be known. If time is a “thing” then, no doubt, God knows all about it. But if time is simply a measure of the flow of events, and if human beings really have free will, then God don’t know the future. Before you drag me out to be stoned, let me add two things. First, God knows what he’s going to do. Throughout the Bible he says, “If you do this, I will do that — if you do that I will do this.” God knows, because he’s going to act, not because he’s looked into the future and seen what he’s going to do but, instead, because he’s God Almighty and if says he’s going to do something that thing is absolutely certain to happen. Second, God could know the exact future if he wanted to. I am not saying that he somehow “limits his vision.” Rather, that if God wanted to force events to flow in a specific way he has the power to do so. However, doing that in the lives of individuals would violate the free will he granted human beings. If you’re still with me, let me conclude by adding that God had every reason to believe Saul would be a terrific leader of Israel and to be disappointed when he isn’t. In fact, that’s what God believed would (or at least “could”) happen. Saul’s failure disappointed the Almighty but it didn’t ruin his plan. The Lord goes about replacing Saul with another king, giving Israel a second chance.
Take Away: The Lord may not pre-ordain what I’m going to do, but he can handle whatever I do.
Isaiah 41: Who did this? … I did. God. I’m first on the scene. I’m also the last to leave.
At the conclusion of the movie “The Langoliers” the adventurers travel “back to the future” and find themselves just a few minutes ahead of the present. They stand along the wall, out of the way, and wait for time to catch up to them. When the “present” arrives, they’re already in place, waiting for it. Now, I’m not ready to build a “Langoliers theology” and I’m not ready (or qualified) to come up with some “God in time” observation. However, Isaiah’s statement about God’s presence brings that scene to mind. I arrive at some moment in my life and suddenly find myself dealing with something for which I’m totally unprepared. In spite of that, Isaiah reminds me that there’s one who is there before me, not surprised at all and ready to help me work my way through this unexpected circumstance. No matter what happens I need to remember that God got there first and can handle things just fine.
Take Away: It doesn’t take much for me to be in over my head so I’d best trust in the Lord in such situations.
Watching the wind
Ecclesiastes 11: Don’t sit there watching the wind, Do your own work.
The wise man of Ecclesiastes says that when the clouds are so full of water that they can’t hold it anymore that it rains. When the wind is strong enough to blow down a tree, well, down it comes. In other words, things happen when they’re ready to happen. Sitting around waiting on them is a waste of time; time that could be spent doing something worthwhile. We spend a lot of time dreaming about things happening that will only happen when the time is right. Meanwhile, there’s living to do. The farmer might hope for rain, but he isn’t to sit out in the field watching the sky, instead he gets on with the work he can do right now. There’s nothing wrong with looking forward to some future blessing and even taking a quick look to the horizon to see if it’s in sight yet. However, our lives aren’t to come to a stop while we wait. The issue isn’t “what’s God going to do?” Rather it’s, “what’s God doing right now and how can I work with him in doing it?” Staring at the clouds is a waste of time; we need to “get on with…life.”
Take Away: Don’t live your life waiting for something to happen – instead, connect with what’s happening right now.
Ecclesiastes 6: We work to feed our appetites; meanwhile our souls go hungry.
I read somewhere that the average American works 46 hours a week, with a significant number of people working over 50 hours a week. I probably don’t have to convince anyone that life is getting more, and not less, complicated. We Americans even work hard at playing. School sports are demanding enough but many children are involved in leagues beyond school. It’s a rare thing for most families to just be “doing nothing.” And what does this all get us? Frankly, I don’t have the feeling that people are happier and more satisfied in their lives. To me, this lifestyle has a lot in common with running on a treadmill: lots of activity that isn’t really taking us anywhere. Could it be that all of our busy-ness is an attempt to fill emptiness in our souls? There has to be more to life than work and weekends. There has to be a greater purpose than buying a bigger house or seeing that our kids get sports scholarships to good schools. Jesus said it this way: “What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?” (Mark 8:36) This passage reminds us to check our priorities with this in mind.
Take Away: All the activities in the world won’t do for us what a genuine relationship with the Lord will do.