I like history. Historical fiction is my favorite genre to read. I thoroughly enjoy movies with historical contexts. History museums, especially living history museums, fascinate me. It thrills me to live in a community that was settled before the American Revolution and to see buildings and graveyards enduring from that era. In the Bible, I see how the history of God’s relationship with His people brings depth and breadth to the story of God’s love for mankind.
I was an above average student in my history classes in high school. I was a math major in college, but for an elective I took a second history class. I was determined to get an ‘A’ from one of my favorite professors. I did not succeed. Memorizing the dates and treaties was not what mattered to me; it was the story I was most interested in–how the pieces fit together from one era to another; how people in all of their weakness and brokenness occasionally rose above mediocrity to propel human civilization to the next level of achievement.
As a student of God’s word, it intrigues me how the history of man’s relationship with God is so often repeated from one generation to the next. We keep making the same mistakes, keep following the same false gods even though they change shape and name, keep expecting God to meet us on our terms rather than our meeting Him on His terms, keep trying to rewrite the covenant God Himself authored. We think we walk with Him, only to find out He is on a different path going in a different direction.
To me, the most compelling biographies from the Bible are of the people who wanted God’s favor. Abel, whose animal sacrifice was pleasing to God, wanted God’s favor and forgiveness and was murdered for it by his own brother. Abram listened to a God he had never seen and followed Him to a strange land, away from the family he had always known. Abram believed this same God when He told Abram at age ninety-nine he would be the father of many nations, even though he and Sarai, who was ninety years old, were childless. Noah, Joseph, Moses, David, Nehemiah, Jeremiah, John, Peter, Stephen, and Paul and a few others were all imperfect human flesh who pursued God’s favor to the very end of their days on earth. They persevered in faith in the face of great discouragement and persecution, seeking to please the God they served, to secure His favor.
“I sought Your favor with all my heart…” Psalm 119:58a
What makes one of us determined to seek God’s favor in the face of great obstacles and distractions and another of us struggle mightily with the desire to care if God notices us? I know I have come much too close to not caring. My life’s circumstances, my losses, my heartaches, my loneliness, my weariness too easily pull me in the direction of indifference to God. I think back to Israel and their history of waffling between the true God and the false, man-conjured pagan gods. Did they not care what God thought of them or were they so dissatisfied with the quality of their relationship with Him that they went looking for something more to their liking? God called Israel a harlot (Hosea 9:1), betrayers of His covenant with them. They stopped seeking His favor.
I do not want to stop seeking God’s favor, or succumb to the ache my circumstances bring, or drown in my own pity. When I fail to remember what He provides for me, when I refuse to consider from what He has protected me, I am most vulnerable to losing my desire for His favor. Whether my circumstances are good or bad, if I fail to keep the memory of His past favor toward me in my daily consciousness, I lose my appreciation of who He is and what He does.
“When my heart was embittered And I was pierced within, Then I was senseless and ignorant; I was like a beast before You; You have taken hold of my right hand. With Your counsel You will guide me, and afterward receive me to glory. Whom have I in heaven but You? And besides You, I desire nothing on earth. My flesh and my heart may fail, But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. For, behold, those who are far from You will perish; You have destroyed all those who are unfaithful to You. But as for me, the nearness of God is my good; I have made the Lord God my refuge, That I may tell of all Your works.” Psalm 73:21-28
Who He is: the Creator of the universe; the author of my salvation; the eternal standard for justice and mercy; the embodiment of perfect love and perfect grace; without equal in any of His abilities; Redeemer of man; Friend, Counselor, Comforter and so much more.
What He does: He cares about me; He desires my love and devotion; He asks me to choose Him; He uses me, with my permission, to accomplish His will; He provides for my needs and my comforts; He helps me in my weakness; He disciplines me for my good, not His pleasure; He wants to be with me for eternity.
What other God can claim these attributes? Not the pagan gods Israel prostituted itself to, not the Greek or Roman gods born of the fertile imaginations of spoiled human flesh, not the gods we make of wealth and power and influence and physical ability and attractiveness and self. No other god ever known to man is as loving, benevolent, generous, caring, compassionate and doggedly persistent in His pursuit of us as the God who made us, the one true God.
“Sing praise to the Lord, you His godly ones, And give thanks to His holy name. For His anger is but for a moment, His favor is for a lifetime; Weeping may last for the night, but a shout of joy comes in the morning.” Psalm 30:4, 5
“His favor is for a lifetime…” Praise God!
All Bible quotes are from Zondervan’s Classic Reference Bible, New American Standard Bible–Updated Edition copyright 1999 by Zondervan
NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE, copyright 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by the Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.