God does not always give us everything we want. Even though we might desperately want something, God did not have to comply with our limited perspective. I kind of got that type of feeling from Paul in 2 Corinthians 2.
2Co 2:12 Furthermore, when I came to Troas to preach Christ’s gospel, and a door was opened unto me of the Lord,
2Co 2:13 I had no rest in my spirit, because I found not Titus my brother: but taking my leave of them, I went from thence into Macedonia.
2Co 2:14 Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savour of his knowledge by us in every place.
Paul went to a particular city because he saw an opportunity. God gave him some type of opening, and he went there because it was clear that that was where God was leading him. However, when he got there he was disappointed that he did not find his friend Titus. Paul certainly wanted to see Titus, and I am sure that they could have worked together to do powerful things in the city.
However, God did not have that lined up for some reason. The opportunity was still there, and interestingly Paul does not really mention how much success came about because of that opportunity. What I am trying to point out however is that even though Paul sincerely wanted to find Titus, God did not have to do what Paul wanted.
How often then do we demand things of God and try to force Him into our plans? It doesn’t work. God is infinite, and God has a perfect plan for everything in the universe. You and I might make plans, and I personally probably make far too many plans. However, if God has a different plan, ours need to go in the back seat by default. God’s plan takes priority.
Romans 6 makes me think about the position that God ought to occupy in our lives.
Rom 6:17 But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you.
Rom 6:18 Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness.
A servant does the bidding of his or her master. Once we have been freed from our bondage in sin, we serve God. The chief end of humanity is to glorify God. If we are going to glorify God, then it seems to make sense that we would serve Him. Part of worshiping God is obedience.
This doesn’t sit well with a lot of us however. We like to be the captain of our own ship. We like to call the shots. It seems to be the case that we were rescued from the chains of sin. That is an excellent thing. However, I don’t know how we always feel about then becoming servants of God. We prefer to have God be our servant. We want God to do what we want Him to do exactly when we want it done.
However, should we feel that way?
I don’t think so.
God, as He is revealed through the Bible, is perfect. He is wise, just, honest, powerful and loving. In fact, He is the perfection of all of those characteristics. You and I might be somewhat honest. However, God is the top of the scale. We might be wise to some degree, but God is the most wise being in the universe.
If this is true, then does it makes sense that we should call the shots? Does it make sense that limited humans ought to be the ones making the decisions? It seems to me that it is much more beneficial to have the more capable master in charge, and in this situation, I don’t think there is very much doubt
Acts 26 points out the plans of God and how they often times work together in ways that we would have no way of planning. After Paul presented his case to Agrippa, he did such a good job that they were ready to drop the charges against him.
Act 26:30 And when he had thus spoken, the king rose up, and the governor, and Bernice, and they that sat with them:
Act 26:31 And when they were gone aside, they talked between themselves, saying, This man doeth nothing worthy of death or of bonds.
Act 26:32 Then said Agrippa unto Festus, This man might have been set at liberty, if he had not appealed unto Caesar.
Interestingly, other than the Jewish people who were trying to get Paul in trouble, nobody really found him guilty, but he kept going from trial to trial. As we see here, he might have been able to go free, but because he had filed an appeal, he was going to another trial. However, Paul continued to persevere. He did not rant and rave against the system. He did not complain about injustice. He continued to go to Rome. He continued to do what he knew was going to happen anyway. He had been told by God that he was going to Rome. He knew that that was the plan.
We often times wonder what God might be doing. Certainly, I know I have plans, and there are some talents I think God has given me to use in certain ways. However, I might be wrong. God might have a different plan for my talents. Like Paul, I know that I need to be, and by extension, I know that all of us need to be, willing to follow that plan. That certainly involves flexibility, and it involves trust. We need to trust that God knows what is ultimately best for us. That is hard. However, Paul can be a good example for us.
Acts 23 is very interesting because we get to see the simultaneous use of the natural and the supernatural in advancing the plan of God. First, after testifying before the Jewish leaders, Paul actually had a supernatural experience with Jesus Christ.
Act 23:11 And the night following the Lord stood by him, and said, Be of good cheer, Paul: for as thou hast testified of me in Jerusalem, so must thou bear witness also at Rome.
After that, there was a Jewish plot to kill Paul by a band of 40 men who had sworn to not eat or drink until they had assassinated their target.
Act 23:15 Now therefore ye with the council signify to the chief captain that he bring him down unto you to morrow, as though ye would enquire something more perfectly concerning him: and we, or ever he come near, are ready to kill him.
Act 23:16 And when Paul’s sister’s son heard of their lying in wait, he went and entered into the castle, and told Paul.
In the first case, we see the supernatural providing encouragement for Paul. The text does not say if he was having doubts or any type of questions at this point, but even if he was not, I am sure he appreciated the supernatural encouragement.
In the second case, God used natural situations helped Paul remain safe. His nephew happened to hear what was going on and told Paul who told the centurions. Without that information, perhaps Paul would have been assassinated at that point.
The important part here is the plan of God was moving forward. God knew Paul needed to go to Rome. Therefore, he provided Paul with the encouragement to continue doing what he was doing. He simultaneously made sure that Paul was not killed before concluding that mission. God knew what was coming, and it was no surprise. However, it is a great privilege to be approximately to be 2000 years into the future and to have the ability to look back at how God was operating.
In Acts 21, Paul knew what he was getting into.
Act 21:11 And when he was come unto us, he took Paul’s girdle, and bound his own hands and feet, and said, Thus saith the Holy Ghost, So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man that owneth this girdle, and shall deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.
Act 21:12 And when we heard these things, both we, and they of that place, besought him not to go up to Jerusalem.
Act 21:13 Then Paul answered, What mean ye to weep and to break mine heart? for I am ready not to be bound only, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.
Act 21:14 And when he would not be persuaded, we ceased, saying, The will of the Lord be done.
Paul knew that he was going to be arrested. He trusted the testimony of Agabus who brought him this prophecy. However, obviously that did not stop him even though his friends were even encouraging him to avoid that situation.
This would be a perfect situation where I think most of us would try to improve on the plan that God had. God intended for Paul to go to Jerusalem, so Paul knew that he needed to go. That is admirable. On the other hand, I think it would be very easy to justify avoiding Jerusalem at all costs. Paul could have said that his missionary work was so important, and he would not be able to do it if he was in jail, so it would seem to make sense to maybe improve on the plan that God had for him.
We need to try to avoid doing that though. We might think that we can do a better job planning out the future, but as the company pray that the end of this passage, we need to look for the will of God to be done.
I am enjoying reading the gospel of John particularly this time because the relationship between Jesus and His disciples seems to be coming out more strongly to me. Here in John 4, the disciples are concerned that Jesus was not eating, and rather than answer obviously, He created a teachable moment.
Joh 4:31 In the mean while his disciples prayed him, saying, Master, eat.
Joh 4:32 But he said unto them, I have meat to eat that ye know not of.
Joh 4:33 Therefore said the disciples one to another, Hath any man brought him ought to eat?
Joh 4:34 Jesus saith unto them, My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work.
Jesus was obviously human. He needed to eat. However, He was making a more important point here. Jesus had just interacted with a Samaritan woman, and she went back into the city and told everyone to come and see Jesus. Jesus had a choice. He could sit down and have dinner, or He could preach to these people who had come to listen to Him.
Therefore, Jesus pointed out that there was something more important in His life than physical sustenance. He needed to consume actual food like we do. However, when it was time to preach the gospel, it had to be done. His sustenance was based upon doing what God the father had in His perfect will.
I then think about this for all of us. Just like Jesus, we do need to physically eat, but that is not what ought to drive our lives. There are things more important than the here and now. Jesus had an opportunity right here to preach to a large crowd of people, and for all I know, maybe He was incredibly hungry at the time. However, there was a much bigger reason for Him to be on earth. Jesus knew that was what He had to be doing.
In Luke 2, we of course get the ever popular birth narrative of Jesus Christ, and as important as that is, so much has been said about it that I want to turn our attention to Jesus at the temple and the character of Simeon.
Luk 2:25 And, behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon; and the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel: and the Holy Ghost was upon him.
Luk 2:26 And it was revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.
Simeon was a man who clearly was given a supernatural promise. We don’t know much more about it than that, but we know that he was told that he was not going to die until he saw the Christ.
I have to wonder what this moment was finally like for him. After all, his life was now complete. For most of us, we are grateful we have life, and we don’t know how long that life will continue for. Simeon had a definitive benchmark. He knew that he was on earth for a purpose. He was going to see the Savior of the world. He certainly might have had other purposes as well along the way, but he definitively knew that this promise was going to come true.
It makes me think about purpose and all of the variety of things that we can live for. We can try to become famous. We can try to make a lot of money. We can try to have a lot of friends. However, shouldn’t our ultimate purpose also be living our lives in such a way that the conclusion is simply a gateway to an eternity with our Lord and Savior?
In Mark 13, Jesus begins to speak about the future. Interestingly, in each of the synoptic Gospels, Jesus mentions the point that the temple is going to be destroyed.
Mar 13:1 And as he went out of the temple, one of his disciples saith unto him, Master, see what manner of stones and what buildings are here!
Mar 13:2 And Jesus answering said unto him, Seest thou these great buildings? there shall not be left one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down.
I wonder at this point how many people took Jesus seriously. After all, the nation of Israel was part of the Roman Empire. The Romans were pretty good at protecting their own territories, so barring some type of natural disaster, I would’ve felt pretty safe about the temple standing.
However, after the Jewish rebellion and the siege of Jerusalem in 70 A.D., the temple was torn down by the Romans. All that we have left is the Wailing Wall, and that was not even part of the temple. It was part of the wall that went around the temple. The temple was literally destroyed.
After Jesus said this, His disciples pulled Him aside and asked Him what He was talking about. When would all of these things happen?
I think that this is telling for all of us. We think about the institutions that are in the world today. We think about things that will always be there. We simply assume that they will always be there, but we don’t always know the time that God has planned. I would have assumed that the temple was not going anywhere. With the Roman Empire as a protector, no one would have expected that the same would have torn it down the temple approximately 35 years later. However, Jesus knew it was coming. That has to tell you something about His prophetic abilities.
I’ve been interested about the question as to why God would use Babylon to fulfill such a large part of His plan in Ezekiel 30 and really the entire book.
Eze 30:22 Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I am against Pharaoh king of Egypt, and will break his arms, the strong, and that which was broken; and I will cause the sword to fall out of his hand.
Eze 30:23 And I will scatter the Egyptians among the nations, and will disperse them through the countries.
Eze 30:24 And I will strengthen the arms of the king of Babylon, and put my sword in his hand: but I will break Pharaoh’s arms, and he shall groan before him with the groanings of a deadly wounded man.
Eze 30:25 But I will strengthen the arms of the king of Babylon, and the arms of Pharaoh shall fall down; and they shall know that I am the LORD, when I shall put my sword into the hand of the king of Babylon, and he shall stretch it out upon the land of Egypt.
Eze 30:26 And I will scatter the Egyptians among the nations, and disperse them among the countries; and they shall know that I am the LORD.
I point this out because the Babylonians were clearly not the people of God. They were polytheistic idolaters. They had a rather developed society, but it is interesting that God would use something like that country to fulfill His purpose in the world.
However, I then think about why God uses any of us to fulfill His purposes. We are all fallen people, so I don’t know why God uses us. I also don’t know why God occasionally uses difficult times to advance His purposes. I imagine that most of us have come through a difficult time where our faith was strengthened.
My point is that there are a lot of things that God chooses to use that I might not choose. I might not think that Babylon was a good choice, but it is important to remember as well that the thoughts of God are not the thoughts of humans. We cannot constrain what God can do by our own sense of what God should do. God has a purpose for choosing Babylon because He is first of all a purposeful being. He is the source of purpose.
It is interesting to see how God orchestrates history. Nebuchadnezzar was not a nice man whatsoever, but as we see in Ezekiel 29 and as we have seen through this entire book, that did not mean that God could not use Babylon to accomplish certain tasks on earth.
In this chapter, he is going to take over Egypt.
Eze 29:19 Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I will give the land of Egypt unto Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon; and he shall take her multitude, and take her spoil, and take her prey; and it shall be the wages for his army.
Eze 29:20 I have given him the land of Egypt for his labour wherewith he served against it, because they wrought for me, saith the Lord GOD.
Eze 29:21 In that day will I cause the horn of the house of Israel to bud forth, and I will give thee the opening of the mouth in the midst of them; and they shall know that I am the LORD.
Egypt was being punished because of offending God, but it was interesting that God was using someone imperfect to punish someone who was also imperfect.
I think that we can think about this in a more positive direction. First of all, God does have a plan. He is in charge of the universe, and He is orchestrating everything that is happening.
Second, God is the type of God who is able to use imperfect people to do great things. Every person documented in the Bible outside of Jesus Christ was imperfect. Moses had faults, David stumbled and there are countless other examples. I am not saying this to provide some kind of free license to sin, but I am bringing it up because it is true. God does use imperfect people to accomplish His will, and this ought to be some comfort to us on some level.
To bring this all together, God is the master organizer. We can even see this in our own lives. When you look back at certain situations, it is amazing how everything worked out in just the way it needed to. God is good.