Wednesday, July 22, 2020

God Amid the Chaos

- Maricka Herrer

I admit—I sighed that morning when I opened my Bible reading plan. 


Not exactly the most encouraging read, particularly in April 2020. Reading of the baffling, and at times sickening, sin-caused suffering is painful, perhaps all the more so when it strikingly resembles sin’s destruction in our own world.  True, the unique position of Israel as God’s chosen nation prevents us from drawing strict parallels between their story and current states of affairs. Yet, the general sentiment of the two was similar—chaos.

Thankfully, the Holy Spirit kept me reading that morning, using two truths faithful Bible college professors did their best to engrain in our student minds. The first was the forceful, elongated emphasis one teacher would place on “all Scripture” every time he quoted 2 Tim. 3:16, to remind us that all of God’s Word, including Judges, is useful to us. The second, from another instructor, was a simple Bible study question: If nothing else, always ask yourself when reading the Bible—what does this teach me about God?

God in the Big Story 

I had been thankful many times for the correction to perspective that question brought, and this time it was no different. Asking what Judges teaches me about God did not diminish the appalling realization of the downward spiral of corruption that sin brings, or of the woeful deceitfulness of the human heart. Yet, perhaps because current world events and personal experiences made the turmoil of Judges more palpable, answering that question from the ancient narrative lifted the eyes of my heart, amid chaos, beyond chaos, to see Him, gloriously radiant in antithesis to the darkness:

Just and holy. True to His nature, not letting Israel’s sin go unpunished, just as He had warned them before they entered Canaan.

Faithful and good. Still, not forsaking a stubborn, blatantly disobedient people, who had so shamelessly broken their covenant with Him, and using the dreadful consequences of their unfaithfulness to call them back to Himself, the only source of true life.

Compassionate. Saving Israel when, time and again they pled for deliverance, after the consequences of their sin had brought them to ruin, and the things in which they had so foolishly placed their trust in days of abundance, proved to be worthless. 

Sovereign. Showcasing His omnipotence by using the most unlikely (and even at times most unsavory) people and confounding methods, to destroy some of the most powerful nations of that time and deliver His people.

God in the Back Stories - “In The Days The Judges Ruled...”

Yahweh did not show Himself as this kind of God only in His dealings with His people as a whole, during this turbulent time of their history. The two books immediately following Judges, Ruth and 1 Samuel, give us a glimpse into the lives of a few ordinary people alive during that period. And what their stories reveal is that Yahweh is the same God to “the least of these” as to the great and many.

Sometime during the last century of the 300 years the judges ruled Israel, a helpless widow returned from years of famine-forced exile in Moab. She had no husband, no children, no hope—just a widowed daughter-in-law from a nation that God had cursed. Yet, in His care, Yahweh stepped into Naomi’s life, through the simple faithfulness of Ruth. And in so doing, He tenderly displayed His own faithfulness and utter goodness to a woman who, in her despair, had begun to believe the lie that He was out to bring her bitterness.

Decades later, a heartbroken, childless woman, wept at the entry of God’s House in Shiloh, her painful reality a curse by society’s standards, ridiculed by her competition, and misunderstood by her husband. Yet, God heard Hannah’s voiceless, tear-soaked prayer, and showed His compassion on the sorrows of the despised.

But He did not leave it there. Unbeknownst to them, their existence, along with that of Israel, was being woven into the eternal redemption plan He was orchestrating for His people, and ultimately, for the whole world. 

Little did Hannah know that her Samuel, the blessing from God that took away her reproach, would become the last and greatest of the judges, who would lead Israel back to their God. Naomi, Ruth and Boaz had no inkling that Obed, the child who had already brought them such hope and joy, would become the grandfather of David, God’s chosen king, nor that they all would be part of the genealogy of the Messiah, the Son of God Himself, the Redeemer of the world.

God in Our Story

That God, Israel’s Yahweh, is our God today. What a soul-calming realization it was that April morning, and as world events and unexpected circumstances revealed the fragility of our supposed certainties, the familiar truths of God’s unchanging character proved once again to be the life-anchor.

Whether in the sweeping histories of nations or the intimate spaces of our individual lives, He is sovereign, His reign unthreatened by whatever chaos may be raging. Despite what circumstances may seem to indicate, or what lies Satan may be whispering to our hearts, our God will always be faithful to His promises, and always, completely, infinitely good. He is still holy and just, and will ultimately set aright all that is unjust in the world. He is still compassionate, saving those who come to Him in repentance, seeing and caring for those suffering, whether they be whole nations under oppression or the unseen, unspoken pain of a single heart.

And in it all, our lives are not lost in a meaningless cycle of life and death, ebb and flow, fortune and disaster. Instead, in a way only the all-wise God can now see, our stories are part of an eternal plan, the design of which, if we could see it now as we see those of Naomi, Ruth and Hannah, would leave us breathless.

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