Letter excerpt on The Hand of the Lord
I have noticed the hand of the Lord on your life. "Ha," you say, "things are going terribly." Exactly. Let me explain.
Jer 17:5-8 (NIV) This is what the Lord says: "Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who depends on flesh for his strength, and whose heart turns away from the Lord. He will be like a bush in the wastelands; he will not see prosperity when it comes. He will dwell in the parched places of the desert, in a salt land where no one lives. But blessed in the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought, and never fails to bear fruit."It seems to me that there are three major categories of situations we can be in with our relationship with God:
- Fatherless (an orphan),
- God's hand (of rebuke) upon us, or
- God's favor, or blessing upon us.Ps 1:3-4,6 (NIV) He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers. Not so the wicked! They are like chaff that the wind blows away... For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.As to being an orphan, some people seem to live their lives in such a state that God appears to show little interest in them. They are like leaves blown randomly before the wind. They are tossed about by the winds of cosmic fortune. They can sin all they like and never feel the rod of correction. Good things happen to them, and it serves no purpose beyond the animal level. The same is true with bad things. They are unimportant spiritually, even if they may be quite glamorous, charming, attractive, even seemingly powerful in the natural. Regardless of how they are regarded in this world, spiritually, they are orphans--of little interest to the spiritual powers.
Ever know anyone like that? Ever been in that state?
On the other hand, for those who call God their Father, "all things work together for the good" (Rom 8:28). The wind strikes us like it would a tree, limbering up our branches, stripping off the dead leaves and making room for new life. We are "rooted" in the hope that we are being treated as sons.
I have often lamented that I was never able to get away with what everyone else could. But now this fills me with joy, to know that life for me has not been random.
But having God's hand on you, while it may prove that we are "different" by not being orphans, it is not exactly fun either. It is humiliating, painful, frustrating, and irritating.Job 13:20-23 (NIV) "Only grant me these two things, O God, and then I will not hide from you: Withdraw your hand far from me, and stop frightening me with your terrors. Then summon me and I will answer, or let me speak, and you reply. How many wrongs and sins have I committed? Show me my offense and my sin."Sound like anyone you know? It is not as if God has been vague, or that we have to be real brilliant to figure out what is going on.
Ps 39:7-10 (NIV) "But now, Lord, what do I look for? My hope is in you. Save me from all my transgressions; do not make me the scorn of fools. I was silent; I would not open my mouth, for you are the one who has done this. Remove your scourge from me; I am overcome by the blow of your hand."
Deut 28:1-29 (NIV) If you fully obey the Lord your God and carefully follow all his commands... All these blessings will come upon you and accompany you if you obey the Lord your God... However, if you do not obey the Lord your God and do not carefully follow all his commands and decrees... all these curses will come upon you and overtake you: The Lord will send on you curses, confusion and rebuke in everything you put your hand to... because of the evil you have done in forsaking him. At midday you will grope about like a blind man in the dark. You will be unsuccessful in everything you do; day after day you will be oppressed and robbed, with no one to rescue you.
God is not going to let you get away. You are not an orphan any longer, you have a loving Father who has taken it upon himself to train you in the way of the family. Orphan living, habits, and thinking must go. God's hand is upon you. Like it or not.
But on to experience. I felt the hand of God for the first time in 1982. It was a time when I was a "believer", but did not feel very comfortable discussing my faith with others. Nor did I feel part of "the church", even though I attended and was a "member"--I was observing rather than participating. I had come to some logical conclusions about the truth of the gospel, and sort of felt forced to believe in God's Messiah or abandon my claim to being logical and rational. But I was not sure I liked being a Christian much.
In fact, while I believed in God the best I could at the time, I had never experienced Him. I had had ecstatic religious experiences before, what many call the "joy of the Lord", but this is not the same as experiencing God the Father. Let me tell you how it played out.
It happened in a hotel room in Phoenix. The details are not important, except to say that God had, it seemed to me, supernaturally moved in my life by intervening in a rather obvious way, the result of which was my public humiliation and loss of credibility. Now that I have reflected on God's dealing with man in the way of miracles, it seems to me that many of the miracles of scripture are "negative"--miracles of rebuke. But at the time I was unaware of this, and rather miffed that God had obviously intervened, and it was not to my immediate benefit. Who was God, and why was he interfering with my life?
Quite frankly, I was extremely angry with God. I was sure that this was only the beginning of a trend of "miracles" which would ruin everything I put my hand to. I could not get away from the idea that none of the bad things that had happened would have occurred if I were not a Christian, if I had not in secret called Jesus my Lord. The old way, the way for everyone else, wasn't working any more.
I remember pacing the room, thinking of how I just wanted to live my own life and not have to put up with this. I must admit that I came very close to denying the faith and demanding that God "leave me alone" so that I could live like everyone else. The idea of being an orphan again was appealing in that moment, and I was tired of having God's hand on my life.
I came very close to cursing God...
But instead, suddenly, the Holy Spirit's presence flooded into me and the room. The situation turned upside-down in an instant. Anger melted into joy, and it occurred to me that I was being treated differently! It was my first heart-to-heart encounter with God.Deut 11:26-28 (NIV) See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse--the blessing if you obey the commands of the Lord your God... the curse if you disobey the commands of the Lord your God and turn from the way...I was being treated like I was destined for better things, for better methods, for better sensibilities. I was not on my own any more. I had a Master, a Teacher, a Father, who loved me enough that he would not let me continue in the way of losers. I had been ignoring, rationalizing, or delaying observing the "house rules" of the family that I had asked to be adopted into.Heb 12:5-11 (NIV) And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons: "My son, do not make light of the Lord's discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son." Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons... God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.As to God's favor and blessing, a position we would both rather be in, I can only tell you that the Lord has given me the following insight. See if you "get it" as well...
1 Jn 2:29-3:3 (Phi) You all know that God is really good. You may be just as sure that the man who leads a really good life is a true child of God. Consider the incredible love that the Father has shown us in allowing us to be called "children of God"--and that is not just what we are called, but what we ARE. This explains why the world will no more recognize us than it recognized Christ... Here, and now, my dear friends, we ARE God's children. We don't know what we shall become in the future. We only know that when he appears we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is! Everyone who has at heart a hope like this keeps himself pure, as Christ is pure.Rom 8:16 (NIV) The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children.So you can see why I am glad to see that God is treating you like a son. The rod is no fun, but we know deep down it is needed (Luke 12:47-48), and we have the sure hope of better things to come. Real things, solid, eternal things, which thieves can't steal or rust corrupt. A relationship with God so full of joy that the best of human relationships here and now is just a mere shadow or fleeting ghost.
Prov 22:15 (NIV) Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline will drive it far from him.
Ps 23:4b (NIV) Your rod and your staff, they comfort me...Heb 13:22 (NIV) Brothers, I urge you to bear with my word of exhortation, for I have written you only a short letter.
Rom 15:15 (NIV) I have written you quite boldly on some points, as if to remind you of them again, because of the grace God gave me.
Prov 29:15 (NIV) The rod of correction imparts wisdom, but a child left to himself disgraces his mother.