Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Present Tense Hopefulness

Sometimes I find, living in the "now and the not yet", that my faulty heart tends to default to thinking that the LORD of the "now" is passive, distant, waiting.

I know that one day He will come, and act decisively, swallowing up death and sin and darkness; all that has been sown in dishonour, weakness, death will be raised- in glory, in power, in immortality. And this gives me huge hope.

But the problem with this is that it means I tend to see God as being aloof, or quiet, or, for the time being, passive.

This is a gross underestimation of the Sustainer of the Universe!

Re-reading some of the psalms recently, I was reminded of these amazing words of Jesus:

"My Father is always at work, and I too am working."
John 5:17 

The psalmists look to the future with great hope and joy, but their hope in God is also in the present tense. It's a joyful reminder to me of the truth about the LORD; he is not distant, but attentive. He is not passive, but active.

As I read the psalms I am moved by the intent tenderness of God. Rather than painting a picture of a far off, hardened impersonal deity, the psalms testify to a kind, merciful, star-making yet profoundly personal covenant LORD, who takes attentive, affectionate care of his people.

In the psalms, the LORD is active.

He delivers, he shelters, he shields with faithfulness. He commands angels concerning those who take refuge in him, he protects, he hears prayers; he answers! He accompanies those in trouble, he rescues, honours, satisfies and upholds. The LORD shows his salvation, he forms, he leads, he hems in, he upholds. The LORD is a Shepherd among his people; his people are the sheep of his pasture. He restores, he comforts, he prepares, he anoints. He surrounds and heals and redeems and crowns with steadfast love and mercy.

Yes, many of these things will be finally and decisively fulfilled with the return of Christ.

But the LORD is at work now. He is doing these things now. He is actively at work for good in all things now.

The LORD is working righteousness for the oppressed; he's making known his ways. He's showing compassion, executing justice, setting prisoners free. He's opening blind eyes, he's lifting up the bowed down, he's binding up broken hearts, he's watching over the sojourners, he's upholding the widows and the fatherless. He's exalting the humble, and he's bringing the way of the wicked to ruin.

It is so profoundly comforting to me to remember that the LORD is not passive. Of course, sometimes it feels like He is. But when I feel like this I need to say to myself: Look! Look at the psalms! Look at the wealth of his activity! Look how good it is! Look at the promise of Romans 8:28!

Yes, I am called to take refuge in Him, but He is not a passive shelter- I take refuge, and he provides shelter. I hold fast to him, and He holds fast to me.

Yes, I long for the return of Jesus. I long for his reign of righteousness and goodness and power. And as I long I wait, thankful for the Lord's patience.

But, note to self-  the Lord's patience does not mean passivity; in countless and God glorifying ways, it means salvation.

"The Lord's patience means salvation." 
2 Peter 3:9 

"My Father is always at work." 
John 5:17
"What is man that you care for him, the son of man that you are mindful of him?"
Psalm 8:4 

The psalms I referred to above include: Psalm 8, Psalm 23, Psalm 91, Psalm 100, Psalm 103, Psalm 139, Psalm 146...

"The word of God is living and active." Hebrews 4:12 

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