There has been a lot of discussions in my life lately that revolve around a particular topic that is ultimately really about justice vs mercy vs grace and our understanding of our relationship to the Lord.
2 Chronicles 6:15 says “Thou which hast kept with thy servant David my father that which thou hast promised him; and spakest with thy mouth, and hast fulfilled it with thine hand, as it is this day.”
2 Chronicles 7:3 follows with “And when all the children of Israel saw how the fire came down, and the glory of the LORD upon the house, they bowed themselves with their faces to the ground upon the pavement, and worshipped, and praised the LORD, saying, For he is good; for his mercy endureth for ever.”
In chapter 6 Solomon and his workers have completed building the House of the Lord and Solomon is consecrating it. The first verse is his wondrous admission that what the Lord said would happen had, in fact, happened. When he completes his prayer the Lord’s fire descends on the building, so in the second verse the people are praising His glory. But what in the world do these verses have to do with what I started off talking about?
It is such the human tendency to feel put upon. Every one of us, even if only in our deepest heart, believes that we have behaved better than we’ve gotten, that the burdens of life are undeserved and that we are the underdog; outmatched, outgunned, and outcast by those living a better, richer, more powerful life. Conspiracy theories are borne by the need to show that even at our best there is an unseen hand working to hold us down.
For some the belief we are put upon gives excuse to underperform, for others it’s a justification for rage, for others a reason for fear. Never, though, do we question it. We know that we are doing our very best and we can’t understand why we’re being punished for it. We talk about how justice is getting what you deserve, mercy is not getting what you do deserve, and grace is getting what you don’t deserve. But tell the truth: you believe God has given you evil you didn’t deserve. If you’re looking at yourself objectively you would admit you think God has graced you with pain.
That instinct, more than any other, is why so many through history have identified with Job and called it the most educational work in the Bible. But the truth is that it’s a compete lie and most all of us misunderstand the story of Job.
Job is many things, but an underdog story of a man wrongly convicted is not one of them. Nor is it a tale that trusting God through pain brings blessing. It’s also not a story of a man whose faith wrongfully, sinfully faltered. But you are right; you are Job.
Job was a man blessed, but who focused on the negatives: he feared God, he sacrificed for his kids because they might have sinned, he went through ritual to prevent the smiting of the Lord. When his stuff and his family and his health are ripped from him he stoically takes it as a convict accepts added sentences. When he finally explodes he makes it clear: “You did this to me, Lord, and I didn’t deserve it!” It’s clear that he was almost proudly displaying his misery as if to say “do you all see? I told you that the world, and even the Lord Himself, was against me! Woe is me!”
In 2 Chronicles we see Solomon give thanks to God because His prophecy of the Temple being built had come true. Think about that. This wasn’t a big prophecy; it was more of a “well duh.” Solomon’s dad, David, wanted to build the Temple and was told “no; your son will do it.” David gathered resources, workers, and relationships to ensure Solomon could do it. Solomon would have to really try to fail at this task. But still, here he is, kneeling on the platform and thanking God that the prophecy was fulfilled.
The people? They didn’t fall on their faces until He made this big showy miracle of descent. And what do they say? He is good and His mercy endures forever. His mercy. His ability to spare us the punishment we deserve.
The devil is a motivational speaker, and since the moment blood started to pump through your veins he has trained you to lie. He has trained you that Jesus didn’t, couldn’t, save you. That everything in your life is God calling you a wretch, a waste, a disappointment. That you will suffer and die in a random world that God abandoned and every moment will be either painful or anxious in anticipation of the next painful moment. That some slender mercies may escape us from it for a moment is real, but only for the purpose of making you fall harder because it won’t, can’t, last. We cache up phrases like “all good things come to an end.”
Hear me now like never before: Satan. Is. A. Liar. He’s a liar. It’s more than a habit, it’s his essence. He is incapable of truth, or even pieces of truth. No part of what comes from him is untainted. When he whispers to you that you’ve done all you can and God has still forsaken and punished you anyway, all parts are a lie. God has not punished you. He has not forsaken you. And I’m not being mean, but you are not doing your best. You are not an inherently good person. If you were there would be no honesty in it, no God in it. It’s not a condemnation of you, it’s a celebration of you.
Light doesn’t require darkness because you need evil to understand good. Light doesn’t require darkness for you to have something to conquer. Light doesn’t require darkness at all. Darkness exists because it was here first. Genesis says in the beginning darkness covered the deep. Satan was cast out before time was even a thought God dreamed up. So evil was already here, and we were created from a sand castle Satan had already tainted. The evil that happens in your life does seem random and endless. But that is only one view: if you seek every shadow in your home you might say it’s filled with darkness. But even a covered candle sheds rays that drive darkness from a whole room. The shadows you see are not darkness, but dimmer light. God spares us from true darkness by virtue that His Light penetrates every sliver of the universe. Focus on the dim and you will see it everywhere. Focus on the Light and you will find it everywhere.
In every tragedy — every last one — God is. He suffers with us empathetically, but more importantly He readies to hold us and assure us that He is making something beautiful out of it that we just don’t yet understand. Because His Light is in us all, too. When we choose to honor it, to kneel to Him and admit that our eyes seek Satan while our spirits seek Him, He will honor that fealty.
The Kingdom of God is alive and visible today. It is the bonded Light of every person who chooses to see it instead of the world. Live in it and you see Him continually, see His purpose working in every shadow. The Kingdom is a place accessible only to those who choose it, but it is available to ALL who seek it. Seeking it shows Satan that we do not believe the lie, that we are naked before God but unashamed. His shadow is not, and was never, real.
Father, You gave me volumes to speak here, volumes I can speak but even I don’t understand or abide by. Help those who read, myself included, see the vision You gave me of Your Kingdom. Wave to us, Yahweh, that we might shift our eyes from the demon and his stage to You, to Your holy lamb. With every last bit of blessed and living earth that I am I pray for this understanding to the world of mankind. Let it spread like wildfire among us. Show us our place in Your Kingdom, that Your mercy truly is everlasting and Your grace truly wonderful, joyful, and filled with the richness of Your Love. We who are made from shadow deserve shadow, but Your grace made us in Light. Show us all as You have shown me. In the mighty name of Your Word and my brother, Jesus, I pray. I Love You, Yahweh, forever. Amen.