Alright, I know I said I was done with my study on the Father, but I guess I was wrong. I've just got a wee bit more to post, which was only revealed over the past couple of days.
When I said, My foot slippeth; thy mercy, O LORD, held me up. (Psalms 94:18)
Oh, the love that is shown here. Can you not just hear the desperation in the psalmist's voice as he cries out, "My foot slippeth!" Can you not hear the edge in his voice as he begins to fear that he will fall? So he cries out and the Lord holds him up. It reminds me of times when I was frightened as a child and I would cry out for my mom, she would come and help steady me and walk me through the end of whatever I was doing. But unlike God my mom wasn't always there, and she couldn't always be depended upon in my time of need. This, of course, is understandable and to be expected, after all my mom is only human. In the same way I will not always be able to help my kids, I will not always be next to them to hold their hand as they walk through their trials. This is just a fact of life. But, and here is the key, God can. He can, and is, there for us all the time. Sometimes we seem to forget that, we seem to lose sight of the fact that God loves us with a perfect love. Now, that doesn't mean that God isn't going to allow anything bad to ever happen to us, and we must not construe that all appearances of "bad" in our life are an indication that His love for us has wavered. It has not.
And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose...Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?...For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:28,35,38-39, emphasis mine)
Sometimes God will guide us into a situation to allow our faith to be tested, just as He did with the Israelites in Exodus. He took them on the longest route possible and had them camp in the middle of a desert by the foot of the mountain. He was trying to teach them about His nature, about His ability to provide in the most destitute situations. He was trying to teach them He will always provide what we need for the days we are called to live. He was trying to teach them to have faith. That is why they couldn't go out and just hunt for food, that is why water flowed from rocks, that is why manna fell from the sky in the morning and quails came in the evening. They couldn't just go out to McDonald's and pick up a BigMac, they had to trust Him. And did He ever let them go without? No. They may have wanted steak rather than bread, but they always had food. He provided for them faithfully as any good father would, and more so because He is God.
Sometimes He will seemingly let us fall, and we wonder to ourselves "Why? Why did you let me get hurt? Why is your blessing not with me? Why Father?" Truth be told we are a stubborn lot. Every one of us. We want to do things on our own, in our own strength because that's how many of us were raised, it is in our nature to be self reliant. But God cries out to us, "No, beloved child, no. Come to ME to have your needs met. Come to Me, I have a plan for you and it exceeds anything you could ever dream of because I have tailored it specifically to fit you. The life I have for you will bring you to Me, the struggles you face will help you to realize you must rely upon Me. And as you walk My plan, not yours, for your life you will see My provision, and My glory. Come child." But we just don't like to listen, do we? We say, "No thanks, Pop, I'm going to go out and do it my way, I want your blessing but only if you will bless the desires of my flesh." And like any good father, God puts things in our way to try and slow us down so that we will realize we are sinning and repent of it. But sometimes the only way for us to learn is to fall.
How often have I told my son not to climb? How often has he disobeyed, refusing to heed my warnings? How often has he kept on his self destructive path even after many discussions, even after discipline for his disobedience? Sometimes when we are so set on continuing in our sin God says, "Very well," knowing perfectly that we are about to get hurt. He isn't going to force us to obey if we are so set on sinning against Him. And so we go out as the son does in Luke 15, we revel in our flesh but eventually something happens. I've found this to be quite true, those who are truly God's, something always happens. And we end up broken hearted, poor (physically or spiritually), and we realize how foolish we've been. We head back home weeping in repentance, secretly afraid that we've lost our Father's love; what do we find as we approach home? We find the Father rushing toward us, embracing us as we tell Him of our foolishness and asking for forgiveness. We find Him willing to forget the sin we have done against Him as He clothes us in the righteousness of Christ, and we find a banquet, a feast, an abundance in His home. And as long as we are willing to stay in His home and do His will, His provision and blessing shall always be with us.
I have often wondered why the Bible talks about being under the wing of God, and for some reason it never really hit home until a few days ago. I asked Him in prayer to help me understand, and boy did He ever. Why do chicks hide under their mother's wing? Why do children cower and cling to their parents legs in frightening situations? It is because there is security there. The little chick knows that so long as he stays beneath the wing he is safe. The mother protects him from predators that would consume him and she protects him from the unforeseen weather changes. Under that wing the chick is safe, should he venture out it is likely that an enemy would try to kill him. Should he venture out it is possible that he could be killed because he can't find shelter from the rain. And so he stays close to his mom. But beyond that what does this image say about God? Yes, He will defend and protect us. Yes, He will shelter us. Yes, He will provide for us. But is that it? I don't think that is all there is to this image.
When we understand that we are safe beneath His wing, when we understand that it is standing in the shadow of Him, in the shadow of that cross His Son bore, that we find our salvation and redemption. When we truly grasp that it is only when we are in line with His will that we can see Him move in powerful ways. When we realize He has provided that sacrifice for us that we might be restored to Him, all out of love for us, how can we not want to abide there? We have everything we could ever need beneath His wing. But we must stay there, beneath Him.
The baby chick knows he must stay as close to mom as possible, to be anywhere else is nothing but danger, and so he does. He learns to move as the mother moves, if she turns left he must turn left, if she stops he must stop. It is beneath the wing of his mother that he learns to move. He will learn to discern danger from beneath her wing, He will learn what paths to take and what ones to avoid, but he must be willing to abide by her.
That's what the cloud and the pillar of fire were about in Exodus, I truly believe this. God was showing the Israelites to trust Him, to follow His lead even when it didn't seem to make sense. They rested when He rested, they moved when He moved. It was in following that could that they saw provision, protection, and the glory of God. It is when we willingly accept whatever God has in store for us that we can see His glory really shine. It is when we delight ourselves in seeing His glory that He is most glorified, as Piper says. And all He asks of us is to trust Him. He will walk us through our trials, He has gone before us to make a way, and so we must trust, we must not listen to the voices that surround us telling us how foolish we look, we must stand beneath His wing!
He is a faithful Father, a patient Father, and He will provide. But we must, "Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth. The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge." (Psalms 46:10-11, emphasis mine)