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Believe in the Goodness of God
June 6, 2003
Dear Friend of Mary Craig Ministries,
Youíre going through something. It doesnít matter what. Trials and tests come in all shapes and sizes, all colors and kinds. They are tailor-made just for you. God the Holy Spirit, through Peter, James, and Paul, writes about believers rejoicing in the midst of grieving, of faith holding up under testing by fire, of a joy inexpressible and full of glory. (1 Peter 1; James 1; 2 Timothy 1; Philippians 3) But how do we come to such faith as believers? And what do we need to believe about God Himself to convince us?
God heard the cries of the children of Israel and sent Moses to lead the people out of Egypt to the Promised Land. Israel saw the great power which the LORD had used against the Egyptians. They sang and exalted the Lord, but then they went out into the wilderness of Shur. Three days later they had found no water. Then they came to Marah, but they couldnít drink the waters for they were bitter.
The people grumbled against Moses. Whatís this? A dirty trick? Letís see. We canít really blame God, but weíre really angry. Blaming Moses, the servant of God, will do. But is this the proper perspective during the present difficulty? The people had received prophetic truth, but did they possess a living hope and faith?
God tested them at Marah, proving their faith. (Exodus 15.25) He exposed the bitterness that afflicted their souls. The people lashed out against real and imaginary enemies, blaming whomever and whatever for sin in their lives. They judged God for bringing them into a wilderness, thinking perhaps they could do better, be more just. They murmured and complained about their circumstances and just couldnít seem to forgive God for His "injustices" and maltreatment. They werenít quite at that place of resting in the knowledge that God knows what Heís doing and has a good intent.
It wouldnít be the only time bitterness would seek to take root in the hearts of the people. Bitterness grows from the seed of anger against God, often directed at His servants, planted in the soil of pride. Pride asks, "What did I do to deserve this from the hand of God? Is God truly righteous? Does the God of all the earth do right?" Pride places us above the throne of God and in the place of judge over the One who is Lawgiver, King, and Judge. With pride, we become our own idol. We sit as a god and a king and as one who would judge God, thinking we would do better if in the God-position, seeking to dethrone or better yet, kill the Creator and take His place.
The children of Israel expected milk and honey in the Promised Land. They felt deceived, in a way. They didnít expect giants in the land. They backed down in the face of resistance. So God led them back into the wilderness for forty years to humble them, test them, in order to know what was in their hearts, whether they would keep Godís commandments or not. He humbled them and let them be hungry and fed them with manna that He might make them understand that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the LORD. Their clothing did not wear out and their foot did not swell. God was disciplining them as sons so that they would keep His commandments and walk in His ways, fearing Him. For God was indeed bringing them into a good land, a place that would satisfy and cause them to bless the Lord. (Deuteronomy 8.1-10)
Why does God root out heart idolatry, pride, bitterness, even rebellion through hard experiences? Ezekiel 14 gives us a clue.
Therefore speak unto them, and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord God; Every man of the house of Israel that sets up his idols in his heart, and puts the stumbling block of his iniquity before his face, and comes to the prophet; I The Lord will answer him that comes according to the multitude of his idols; That I may take the house of Israel in their own heart, because they are all estranged from me through their idolsÖ(Ezekiel 14.4, 5)
God puts the stumbling block of our iniquities before our faces because the idols in our hearts keep us estranged from Him. Theyíre in the way! They block the blessings of God!
After awhile we can no longer hide bitterness behind righteous indignation against the sins of others. Jacob wronged Esau. Esau was deceived and grew bitter against God. He took it out on his parents by marrying Canaanite wives, "which were a grief of mind unto Isaac and Rebekah." (Genesis 26.35) He took it out on Jacob. He may have recognized Godís sovereignty in his circumstance, but his bitterness posed a stumbling block to keep him from submitting to the will of God and seeking his own calling or a different calling rather than look back at what was lost to him.
The secret is to see the hand of God in whatever comes your way. It might be dung. It might be a wilderness wandering. It might be getting thrown into a pit and hauled off into slavery in Egypt. Whatever it is, and Scripture gives us many examples of Godís dealings, we are to see our circumstances as Godís purifying agent for our own good so we can overcome the idols in our own hearts. We all have imperfection, and we "try" and "test" each other with them.
Another secret is to see the heart of God in order to understand why God would do thus and so or allow some awful (in our own eyes) thing to happen to us. Satan received permission to cause Job grief, but God gave that permission and allowed it all to happen. (Job 1.12; 3.20; 13.20; 23.2; 7.11) God used the whole deal to bring Jobís pride to the surface so He could deal with it. (Job 41ís Leviathan) Job had to come to that place in his spiritual life where he could trust in Godís good purposes, where he could trust the goodness of God.
Psalm 27, a psalm of David, expresses fearless trust in God. David knows that the Covenant Lord is his light and salvation. Regardless of evildoers, adversaries, enemies, or war, the Covenant Lord is his defense. David seeks the tabernacle of the Lord, the secret place of His tent, a place where he is lifted up above his enemies and where he offers sacrifices with shouts of joy. He seeks the face of God and desires to be taught the ways of the Lord. And then he says:
I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. (Psalm 27.13)
This is the kind of faith that overcomes, believing that we will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. Godís heart is good, with no evil in it. God is infinite, eternal, and unchangeable in His goodness. His goodness prompts Him to deal bountifully and kindly with His creation. He transcends creation and yet condescends toward creation.
God caused His goodness to pass in front of Moses as He proclaimed His name in his presence, saying, "I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion." (Exodus 33.19) We are to give thanks to the Lord for His goodness, for His enduring love in spite of our sin and rebellion. (Psalm 106.44-46) We are to celebrate Godís abundant goodness and joyfully sing of His righteousness, His graciousness and compassion, the fact that He is slow to anger and rich in love. (Psalm 145)
We are to know that God is good to all, the just and the unjust, in some ways, and good to some in all ways. He relieves human misery and distress as a loving, good, and kind parent. His grace moves Him to extend forgiveness to those who donít deserve it, and He takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but would rather that they turn from their evil ways. (See Ezekiel 33.22; Micah 7.18; Matthew 5.45, 48; Mark 10.18; Acts 14.17; 1 John 4.8.)
God is working for the good in the hearts and lives of believers. In His goodness, He doesnít let us go on in sin, transgression, iniquity, lawlessness, etc. He wants to remove the stumbling blocks to our blessings. He wants to bring the slime and muck from the bottom of our rivers to the surface so He can flush it out and cleanse us. He makes bitter waters sweet.
How does He do that? When the children of Israel cried out to the Lord, the Lord showed Moses a tree. Moses threw the tree into the waters, and the waters became sweet. Then God gave them this promise: "If you will give earnest heed to the voice of the LORD your God, and do what is right in His sight, and give ear to His commandments, and keep all His statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you which I have put on the Egyptians; for I, the LORD, am your healer." (Exodus 15.26, 27)
After the tree healed the bitter waters and turned them sweet, God revealed Himself as the Healer, their Healer. Bitterness defiles, but if we cast the Tree, the cross of Christ, into our innermost being, into the wellsprings of life, we will be healed. We are not to take the poison of wormwood or gall into our systems or any other drug or tree. Jesus is the Healer. We are to take our wounds, our bloodied water, our hurts and grief and pain to Him, joining our wounds to His wounds, engrafting ourselves into Him so that His life can flow into us and heal us.
I encourage you today to believe in the goodness of God, to see Godís hand and heart, to forgive God, yourself, and others, to terminate your hostility toward God and His servants, and to seek the Healer who died on the Tree that He might give you eternal life, removing the bitterness that separates you from a holy God. Will you do that? And will you ask God to fill your heart with that inexpressible joy and rejoicing in Him who has saved you and who keeps you by His mighty power? I pray to that end in your behalf.
Living by grace in the Tabernacle of God,
Wait for the LORD.
Be strong, and let your heart take courage.
Yes, wait for the LORD. (Psalm 27.14)
Copyright © 2003 Mary Craig Ministries, Inc.
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