Given for the Saints at Medicalodge, Neosho, MO, on 1/4/04
"God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?" (Num. 23:19, NIV).
A woman who has become very near and dear to us wrote with a question she had about the conviction which Lenny and I share with many others that ALL things happen according to God's will. Specifically, she asked about Isa. 54:15, "If anyone does attack you, it will not be my doing; whoever attacks you will surrender to you." Her concern was about those who may attack, seemingly without God's permission, which the verse could be interpreted to mean. I wrote her that we need not fear any evil which may come against us, because He will always bring victory out of it for us, no matter what it is or who sent it. I included the example of Satan's most dastardly deed (killing the Son of Glory), which ended up bringing salvation to the whole world (I John 2:2). Her response to that is our topic today, and my thanks go to her for again providing the springboard as well as the title for this writing.
She commented, "This habit of 'focusing on a pixel' has hampered me from seeing the bigger more glorious picture formed by not only that one pixel but by all those that surround it. Even a wonderful work of art doesn't look so wonderful when the focus is a single brush stroke (especially if the stroke has no color variation or movement). In writing this I see where the Father is working in me to change my perspective to that of an eagle...able to pan across the vast plains, zoom in on the target, then zoom out again all without becoming entangled when acquiring the target." End Quote.
For those of you who are not computer savvy, especially in regard to computer graphics, the dictionary defines pixel as "the smallest element of an image that can be individually processed in a video display system." I have used computer graphics for years in my writings as well as in real estate fliers or promotionals. I cannot draw at all, or to put it another way, when I once drew what I thought was a cat for my granddaughter, she told me it was a cute bunny. However, when I got my first paint program for my MAC computer, I realized that if you enlarge a graphic enough, you see that the picture is composed of tiny dots (pixels) on the screen, which by themselves could not be seen without your bifocals, but when all are put together, they make a recognizable picture. I learned how to "fiddle" with the pixels to get what I want to convey in some sort of meaningful way. I have fun with it and a picture really is worth a thousand words. The Bible contains thousands of word pictures, symbols of who God is and His relationship to us.
What our friend was saying about not focusing on a pixel is the spiritual truth that we're going to explore together today. After having thoroughly enjoyed Jack Miles book, Christ, a Crisis in the Life of God, I ordered the one he wrote previous to that, which won a Pulitzer Prize for Literature, entitled God, a Biography. I don't know whenever I have enjoyed a book as much as I have this one. He writes not from a theological or historical standpoint, but from a literary perspective in which he treats God as the protagonist or hero of the bible. From that premise, he makes observations and comments about God in much the same way you might write about Hamlet being the protagonist of Shakespeare's play by the same name. He sets about to discover God's character, mission, and purpose, as revealed in the bible. It's a fascinating idea, skillfully put into words.
He asks these questions about the hero of his book (God), to one who may have just read it. "How did he affect you? Did he frighten you? Did you love him? What was he after? Did he change much during the time you knew him? What most impressed you about him?" Viewing God as a prime character in a novel, or a star in a movie is quite an original way to look at Him, and it sparked the hunger of my heart which is with me every day and that is to know our Heavenly Father better, deeper, closer, and more intimately.
Once God had revealed to me that He's all there is, the Alpha and Omega of everything, that hunger kept growing, and in it, the intense desire to know His ways, His purposes in our lives, and why He deals with us in the sometimes strange ways He does. The bible is a book about men and women trying to get on with their lives, struggling and failing, rejoicing and weeping, dancing and mourning. Without question, each of the Patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob encountered the living God in a way best designed to open their eyes to see Him.
Abraham was married to a barren woman in a land where children were everything. He had great wealth, menservants, maidservants, camels, asses, goats, silver and gold, but he had no heir to his wealth. God promised him a son from his own loins. Centuries, later, the Apostle Paul wrote that Abraham believed God and his faith was counted to him for righteousness (Rom. 4:3). As the story unfolds, however, we see that Abraham was as human, as doubtful and as dependent upon the works of his own hands as any of us have been and some still are upon occasion.
Isaac, about whom such ado was made by God and Abraham and Sarah always has seemed to me little more than a sperm donor, the father of twin sons, Esau and Jacob, but nevertheless, God repeated to him the same promised He had given to his father: "And the LORD appeared to him the same night and said, "I am the God of Abraham your father; fear not, for I am with you and will bless you and multiply your descendants for my servant Abraham's sake"" (Genesis 26:24, RSV).
Jacob was a grown man, fleeing for his life, having stolen the birthright from his twin brother Esau, when God appeared to him in a dream. Ever the conniver and always looking for a good deal, Jacob bargains with God and tells Him he'll believe in Him IF He protects him on his journey to the tribal homeland of Paddanaram, IF He provides bread to eat and clothing to wear, and IF He brings him back safely to his father's house in Canaan (Gen. 28:20-22).
God did everything he asked, gracing him with not only food and clothing, but two wives, two concubines, flocks and herds, and great wealth. The part of the story that caught my eye takes place after Jacob's favorite son Joseph was kidnapped by his brothers and sold into Egypt. There, Joseph found favor with Pharaoh, and what his brothers did in malice toward him God turned into the blessing that saved Jacob's entire family from the seven year famine which swept the region.
When Jacob's other sons, who had by now been reconciled to their brother in Egypt came home to tell him that the son he thought was dead was alive and in a position to save their lives, Jacob was afraid to go there lest it be a trick. When their supplies were running out, he reluctantly agreed to go. Then, "God called to Israel in a vision by night: 'Jacob! Jacob!' He answered, 'Here.' And He said, 'I am God, the god of your father. Fear not to go down to Egypt, for I will make you there into a great nation. I myself will go down with you to Egypt, and I Myself will also bring you back: and Joseph's hand shall close your eyes'" (Gen. 46:2-4).
This brought up several personal experiences I have had with God's promises, which I'll get to in a moment. But first, the Lord did make a great nation of Israel, one so great, in fact, that their very numbers threatened the Egyptians to the point that they enslaved them with forced labor as a way to keep control of Jacob's progeny (Ex. 1:7-14). And yes, Joseph's hand did close his father's eyes after he had blessed all his children, but the only way Jacob got back to Canaan was in a pine box! He died in Egypt and Joseph took his embalmed body to be buried in the Cave of Machpelah along side Abraham and Sarah and Jacob's wife Leah (Gen. 49:29-33; 50:1-13). I tend to think that when he left for Egypt, he hoped to ride home in a wooden ox-drawn cart, rather than in a funeral cortege.
Miles's book is not for the faint hearted nor the Fundamentalist. He questions God's veracity at times, to make his literary points. If you look at this promise to Jacob, you might think that God wasn't exactly telling the total truth. It wasn't the first time events didn't play out exactly like He said. This fact causes some to doubt the inspiration of the bible, and others to fiercely deny that there can be a problem at all. If we take the extreme of either view, we fall short of getting the underlying message the bible contains, one which cannot be ascertained by the natural mind, but only by the Spirit. God is not a man that He should lie.
When I read God's promise to Jacob, I was lying on the couch, sick with a virus that had laid low both Lenny and me. It was a rude surprise to find myself sick because God has said to me in December, 2000, "I am your flu shot," and from that day until getting this virus, I had not had so much as a cold, sore throat, or anything close. Being here in southwest Missouri, the sinus and allergy capitol of America, I found it miraculous and a very welcome surprise not to be sick as I was so often as a child living here. As always, I hung onto God's coattails to get the answers I sought.
The other event in my life which came up for me as I was contemplating the difference between the Lord's word and our lives, was the Lord's assurance in December 2001, that we should go ahead and borrow the old motor home and take our trip to California. He said, "Don't be afraid to go. I'll take care of you."
What happened was that it broke down twice going there, and twice coming home! We spent Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, 2001, at a Flying "J" truck stop in Blythe, CA, just a couple hours away from our destination, because the part we needed to fix the motor home couldn't be purchased until the day after Christmas. Both of us walk by the Lord's voice, and this was a shock for us, so much so in fact, that months after the event, when I was fussing to the Lord about something else, He asked, "Will you ever forgive me for the motorhome?" It struck me funny, because I didn't think I was holding a grudge, but I repented anyway.
The reason I bring it up is because if Jacob had been one to hold a grudge, he might have been peeved at God that he returned to Canaan in a pine box instead of on his own two feet. Had his sons been sons of God, rather than servants, they certainly may have been angry at the One who sent them there with promise of safe passage and return. Perhaps they were, but rather than express it to God, they took their wrath out on poor Moses, who providentially showed up in the nick of time to accomplish God's purposes, centuries after the promise was made to the Patriarch whose name was changed to Israel (Gen. 32:28).
Humans have difficulty understanding God's promises because He speaks from eternity and we hear in time. In fact, Jacob DID get back to Canaan safely, or at least his bones did, and his children did as well, eventually. I did NOT have flu, only a cold (saved by a technicality) and we WERE taken care of in our trip to California, though it took us a VERY long time to pay the repair bills we racked up.
God knows the end from the beginning, Isaiah said, and this means He knows WHY He sends what came to us and HOW He is going to use it to grow us in Spirit, and WHEN He will be through with that task, hopefully this side of Jordan. Lenny suffers from non-remitting, debilitating pain, 24/7. He told me again this week that he hears everyday, "The son learned obedience by the things he suffered." My comment? "Repent, already, and get on with it."
God's ways are NOT our ways. Higher than the heavens are His thoughts from our thoughts. When, as our friend wrote, we focus on a pixel, we miss the big picture. This is the basis of my request that the Father catch me up to the throne where I may get a view of our life from the top, the way He sees it.
We're just finishing the season when Christendom remembers that the angels sang, "Peace on earth, good will toward men," the night Christ was born. Speaking of promises that appear not to have been kept, this is a big one, for the world is as far from peace as it has ever been, with more ways to blow itself to kingdom come than the shepherds or the wise men had any notion of. Jack Miles says this is the first century Jews' main gripe against God, in fact, that all the promises He spoke to Israel by the prophets have not been kept, YET.
It reminds me of something Harry Robert Fox said to me over thirty years ago now, when I was whining about why God hadn't answered my prayers for this or that. He said, "Honey child, just because He doesn't do it by Tuesday midnight, does not mean He won't do it." That has stuck with me over all these years when I despair about how slow His processing seems to be in my life or in the lives of those I love and pray for. He is out to conform us into the image of His first born Son, and were that to happen instantly, I believe it would cause too much damage to the flesh. Our spirit can take it, but our flesh could not. God's promises are always kept, but not always in our life time, as in the case of Jacob.
When the time came for their purification, Joseph and Mary brought Jesus to the temple in Jerusalem, according to the law (Lev. 12:2-6; Luke 2:25-27). A devout and righteous man named Simeon had been shown by the Spirit that he would not die until he had seen the Lord's Christ. Led by the Spirit, he came to the temple, took the child into his arms and said, "Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel" (Luke 2:29-32, NIV).
God's promises are to all men, and the One "who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth" (I Tim. 2:4), and who is "not willing that any should perish but all come to repentance" (II Pet. 3:9), kept His promise in Christ, who died for not just our sins, but "the sins of the whole world" (I John 2:2). That some may not see it in their lifetime may cloud the issue, but does not diminish the Spiritual truth. Though the Gentiles have not all yet received the light of revelation, and most of the Jews have not received glory in Christ, nevertheless, ALL of God's promises are and will be, "Yes and amen" in Christ (II Cor. 1:20).
Father, open our eyes that we may see You, shining in all Your radiant glory, from the Alpha to the Omega of our lives and beyond. Shine through us brightly throughout our days, that the world may see Christ in us. Amen. Jan Antonsson
Jan and Lenny Antonsson
17178 Highway 59, Neosho, MO 64850 (Snail Mail)
The Glory Road
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This page was uploaded to the web on 1/1/04,
by Jan Antonsson, Webmeister,
and last edited on 10/16/08.
HAPPY NEW YEAR!