The Lord reigns, let the earth rejoice !
The Lord reigns, let the peoples tremble !
I enjoy reading through the 90s and 100s in the psalms, and I’ve often been struck by the seeming paradox of these two statements, so close to each other in the book. The Lord reigns ! The earth rejoices … and trembles!
As we’ve been studying the book of Daniel on Sunday mornings, we’ve certainly been challenged by the concept that the Lord reigns, … or “Heaven Rules,” as we’ve been putting it. We rejoice and we tremble before such a thought.
If we accept the fact that God rules, sometimes we wrestle, then, with the “whys” of life – why did this thing, or that thing, happen ? Why did God permit it ? As I read through Daniel 6 last week and considered how much Daniel had already been through in his lifetime and now – as an elderly statesman who had done his best to faithfully serve unwise, ungodly kings – he was being subjected to execution, the “why” question certainly arose in my mind. How could Daniel go through one more trial ? Could he – would he – trust God in this ? And, of course, we know he did trust God (6:23 – “He trusted in his God.”).
Sometimes it’s helpful simply to know that God has a reason why … even if we may not know what it is. It helps to know that life isn’t just a random series of events but that God truly does rule and superintends, in rational and wise ways, what is going on. I stumbled across a little verse in my own Bible reading today – a statement made in the midst of God’s promises of blessing to the Israelites as they entered the Promised Land, and His command to drive out all the unbelieving nations who were currently inhabiting the land : “The Lord your God will clear away these nations before you little by little ; you will not be able to put an end to them quickly, for the wild beasts would grow too numerous for you” (Deuteronomy 7:22).
Wow — the conquest of the land would be a slow process (We don’t like slowness, do we ?), and God had a good reason for it – He didn’t want the land quickly depopulated and the Israelites subjected to other kinds of dangers. The conquest and settling of the land would require time. God had an answer to the “why” question and, in this instance, He explained ahead of time His “why”.
There are also a couple of “why not’s” in that same Deuteronomy passage. God explains that He chose the people of Israel as His special instrument of light to the world …
- not because of their size : “The Lord did not set His love on you because you were more in number than any of the peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples” (Deut 7:7) ;
- and not because of their goodness : “Know, then, it is not because of your righteousness that the Lord your God is giving you this good land to possess, for you are a stubborn people” (Deut 9:6).
(Well, if ever I understand a little better my own trials and tests in life, and the seemingly unusual ways God has wanted to use me, now I do : God sometimes picks the weakest and the most stubborn of people through which to reveal His power and His love to the world. I certainly fit into those two categories. Maybe you feel similarly about yourself.)
Instead, the choice of the Israelites (the answer to “why”) was that God did it …
- … out of love (Deut 7:8),
- … and because He was keeping promises He had made hundreds of years before to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Deut 7:8 ; 9:5).
Although we don’t have the specific answers to all of our “why” questions, isn’t it helpful to know that God’s actions toward us are based on love and faithfulness to His own word. In other words, He will always do what He has said He will do (we can count on it), and He will always act in your life and mine out of a motive of love. My responsibility, as His follower, is to exercise faith (Daniel’s kind of trust), believing that God’s love and faithfulness are two answers to my “Why ?”.
His ultimate goal is not our happiness but our holiness. His program for us is Chrislikeness – being like Jesus Christ. That’s a very fine, intricate process. But what a wonderful world we would live in if everyone were “like Christ.” What a wonderful world it would be if everyone in the Church were “like Christ.”
Will you help me by trusting God with me ? Heaven rules … sometimes slowly, sometimes mysteriously, … but never randomly. Our job is to trust and thank Him.
Someone in my Sticky Group used an expression in prayer Tuesday night that drew my attention. Toward the end of the prayer, this phrase was used : “We’ll be careful to give You thanks for the rain we received today.” I hadn’t heard that expression in a long time, but it’s a good one : “We’ll be careful to give you the thanks ….” We have much for which to be thankful (even God’s slow work), and we should be careful to take note and express our gratitude.
I’m afraid to say we’re leaving the “fun” part of the book of Daniel (if you consider fiery furnaces and lions dens “fun”). Chapters 7-12, which we will consider beginning this Sunday morning, take us into prophecies and visions Daniel received from God during the latter stages of his life, as the Babylonian / Medo-Persian captivity was coming to an end for Daniel’s people. Don’t be scared by this seemingly complicated section of the book ! The theme is the same : Heaven rules ! A kingdom, ruled by Messiah, is coming. In fact, Daniel 7-12 lays out the remainder of world history, from Daniel’s day, through ours, to the establishment of the Lord’s kingdom on the earth. Exciting times, and we may currently be right on the verge of some of the things Daniel referred to in his prophecies ! Here’s a brief outline we will try to follow in the coming Sundays :
- Chapter 7 :
- the big picture of the end times
- introduction of Messiah, and of another person who is an anti-Messiah (anti-Christ)
- Chapter 8 :
- the rise of someone in world history who would be a clear picture of the antichrist
- Chapter 9 :
- specifics about the end, and the timing of antichrist’s rule
- a chronology of events, from Daniel to Messiah’s reign
- Chapters 10-12 :
- Daniel’s final vision
- the man of lawlessness (antichrist)
- the Tribulation, final resurrections of the dead, and the beginning of the predicted Kingdom of our Lord.
If you want to get some perspective on the crazy events going on in our world right now, be sure to be presenton Sunday mornings over the next several weeks. Find out where we’re all headed on this wild ride ! God’s perfect world government of peace and righteousness is coming !
Things Going on at Emmanuel
Thanks to those who participated in the congregational meeting last Sunday. We have selected a gifted Nominating Committee made up of Genelle Grieshaber, Amy Houston, Paul Houston, Larry Shoemaker, and Sherry Traub. John Gloe will be working with that team on behalf of the Elder Board. I’m sure you will be hearing from the Nominating Committee soon as they seek input on nominations for next year’s church officers.
We are nearing a sort of halfway point through our fall season at Emmanuel, and there are a lot of encouraging things going on – youth & children’s ministry, women’s Bible study, Sticky Groups, creative plans for Advent / Christmas. Would you consider making Friday, November 1, a Day of Prayer with me and Pastor Jeff at the church ? We will have the church open for prayer from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
Don’t forget our Discovering Spiritual Maturity 201 class for adults in November. Our Elder Board is hoping we can have maximum attendance and participation from you if you consider Emmanuel to be your church home. Our 101, 201, 301, and 401 classes this year are not meant to be just another option among many, but are meant to draw us together in a common understanding of purpose, ministry, and future vision at Emmanuel. Your presence is important ! Don’t be left behind ! There will be childcare and children’s activities for ages 3-11. For those over age 11, you may be part of the adult class with us, … or how about one or more of you courageous young people organizing and leading a time of worship, sharing, and prayer just for you and your peers on one or more of those Sundays ?
Part 3 of our October adult class will take place this Sunday morning at 9:00. We are having great discussion and study of the concepts of church unity, what causes church dis-unity, and how we are to deal with conflictual situations among Christians. We had a great group last Sunday ; I hope you can join us this Sunday. (No childcare during October, sorry.)
See you Sunday !