Hand it over

When you forgive, you aren’t saying that what happened was okay. You aren’t saying that who did it to you was justified. However you are saying that it isn’t your place to exact judgment or revenge.

To continue to hold a grudge over something doesn’t punish the criminal, but yourself. You hold yourself hostage. It is better to give the situation over to God – the true judge – and let justice happen when and how it is best.

When you hand things that are too heavy over to God, you are not only lightening your load, you are also handing them over to the One who is the most able to handle them. Leave it with the expert – God. You don’t need to carry it anymore.

 

The apostle Paul wrote in Romans 12:19

19 Friends, do not avenge yourselves; instead, leave room for His wrath. For it is written: Vengeance belongs to Me; I will repay, says the Lord.

He is referring to the verses in Deuteronomy 32:35, where God says:

“Vengeance belongs to Me; I will repay. In time their foot will slip, for their day of disaster is near, and their doom is coming quickly.”
Also, consider these words from Psalm 27:1-3

1 The Lord is my light and my salvation—

whom should I fear?

The Lord is the stronghold of my life—

of whom should I be afraid?

2 When evildoers came against me to devour my flesh,

my foes and my enemies stumbled and fell.

3 Though an army deploys against me,

my heart is not afraid;

though a war breaks out against me,

still I am confident.

However, consider also the words of Jesus in Luke 23:34, when he was on the cross, being tormented and attacked –

Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, because they do not know what they are doing.”

He didn’t call on God to avenge.  He called on God to forgive. Now we often aren’t that spiritually evolved, especially when we are in the middle of the situation.  However, we aren’t alone in our struggles.  We have Jesus to help us.

 

 

(All Bible translations are HCSB.)

Who is our master?

The prophet Hosea speaks to us right now, warning us about our love of money.

Hosea 8:4
They made kings, but not through me.
They set up princes, but without my knowledge.
With their silver and gold they made idols
for their own destruction. (RSV)

This could be read as literally making idols – of melting down the silver and gold to reshape them into sculptures to worship. But I think it is deeper than that, and more immediate. What if it is about worshiping silver and gold themselves, about thinking that money will keep us safe?

When we think that our pension plan, our savings, our get-rich-quick schemes will save us, we are putting our faith in money and not in God. We are saying that we are in charge by all of our money-gaining efforts. But we forget that the bank can default on its loans, an economic depression could happen, embezzlement – anything.

Our house could be leveled by a tornado and we’d lose all the money we’d sewn into the mattress. It would go flying away with all the other debris of our lives. Our treasure would turn into trash in an instant.

Jesus knew about this verse. He often quoted from Hosea. He referred to his own resurrection with this previous verse –

Hosea 6:2

2 After two days he will revive us;
on the third day he will raise us up,
that we may live before him. (RSV)

He referred to this next verse often to try to teach people what really matters isn’t following the rules but following God.

Hosea 6:6
For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice,
the knowledge of God, rather than burnt offerings. (RSV)

So what does Jesus say about the worship of silver and gold as idols? Jesus is all about not worrying. Of course, don’t worry about money. Don’t worry about your future. But further – don’t worry about anything. Worry can make you sick.

Matthew 6:25-34
25 “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you shall eat or what you shall drink, nor about your body, what you shall put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And which of you by being anxious can add one cubit to his span of life?28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin; 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O men of little faith?31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek all these things; and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well. 34 “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Let the day’s own trouble be sufficient for the day. (RSV)

This doesn’t mean that we should think that the future is going to be perfect. It doesn’t mean that all followers of God will have wonderful houses and perfect health. What it means is that we don’t need to worry about it – whatever happens is whatever needs to happen. It is when we struggle against God that we get hurt.

The apostle Paul tells us in Romans 8:28
28 We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose. (RSV)

Hear that? God works for good.

So what do we do? How do we know how to act? Jesus was asked that very question by a lawyer – someone who was all about following rules. This is in Matthew 22:36-40

36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets.” (RSV)

Part of loving God is trusting that God has it all under control. Part of loving your neighbor is serving. Part of both is not worrying about it. I don’t mean don’t worry in the sense of don’t do anything about it, or forget about it. But don’t stress over it. God is in charge. Let God rule your life instead of you trying to.

Do God’s thing – not your own.

Several people in the Bible chose to do things their way rather than do things God’s way. In these situations, they either didn’t listen or they didn’t trust that God would do things in God’s time – not theirs. They took matters into their own hands, and caused problems.

King Saul, the first king of Israel, didn’t do exactly what the Lord told him through the priest Samuel. He defeated the enemy who was attacking Israel, but spared their king and some livestock. He was told to wipe them out, to leave nothing standing.

1 Samuel 15:1-3 Revised Standard Version (RSV)

And Samuel said to Saul, “The LORD sent me to anoint you king over his people Israel; now therefore hearken to the words of the LORD. 2 Thus says the LORD of hosts, ‘I will punish what Am′alek did to Israel in opposing them on the way, when they came up out of Egypt. 3 Now go and smite Am′alek, and utterly destroy all that they have; do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass.’”

The battle took place.

1 Samuel 15:7-9
7 And Saul defeated the Amal′ekites, from Hav′ilah as far as Shur, which is east of Egypt. 8 And he took Agag the king of the Amal′ekites alive, and utterly destroyed all the people with the edge of the sword. 9 But Saul and the people spared Agag, and the best of the sheep and of the oxen and of the fatlings, and the lambs, and all that was good, and would not utterly destroy them; all that was despised and worthless they utterly destroyed.

Saul didn’t “utterly destroy” all that they had. He kept the best of the livestock alive, along with the king. Because of this, Saul is rejected as the king of Israel. He was not obedient to the Lord.

1 Samuel 15:10-11
10 The word of the LORD came to Samuel: 11 “I repent that I have made Saul king; for he has turned back from following me, and has not performed my commandments.” And Samuel was angry; and he cried to the LORD all night.

When Samuel challenged Saul about his disobedience, Saul acted like he had done nothing wrong. Saul said he kept all the good stuff so he could offer it as a sacrifice. Samuel says that isn’t what he was supposed to do. Saul had made a decision he shouldn’t have.

1 Samuel 15:22-23
22 And Samuel said,
“Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices,
as in obeying the voice of the LORD?
Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice,
and to hearken than the fat of rams.
23 For rebellion is as the sin of divination,
and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry.
Because you have rejected the word of the LORD,
he has also rejected you from being king.”

Saul tries to get out of it, asking Samuel to pardon him. It isn’t for Samuel to pardon him. The Lord has already made the decision. To be really honest, Saul is the one who made the decision to not do what he was commanded to do. He isn’t being punished out of the blue – he made a bad choice. He is facing the consequences of his action.

The words of Samuel are echoed later by the prophet Hosea.
Hosea 6:6
For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice,
the knowledge of God, rather than burnt offerings.

Abraham is also someone who took matters into his own hands.

Genesis 15:1-6
After these things the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision, “Fear not, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.” 2 But Abram said, “O Lord GOD, what wilt thou give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Elie′zer of Damascus?” 3 And Abram said, “Behold, thou hast given me no offspring; and a slave born in my house will be my heir.” 4 And behold, the word of the LORD came to him, “This man shall not be your heir; your own son shall be your heir.” 5 And he brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your descendants be.” 6 And he believed the LORD; and he reckoned it to him as righteousness.

So Abraham and Sarah (at this point named Abram and Sarai) couldn’t figure out how they were going to have children, so they decided instead of waiting on God to make it happen, they’d make it happen on their own.

Genesis 16:1-6
Now Sar′ai, Abram’s wife, bore him no children. She had an Egyptian maid whose name was Hagar; 2 and Sar′ai said to Abram, “Behold now, the LORD has prevented me from bearing children; go in to my maid; it may be that I shall obtain children by her.” And Abram hearkened to the voice of Sar′ai. 3 So, after Abram had dwelt ten years in the land of Canaan, Sar′ai, Abram’s wife, took Hagar the Egyptian, her maid, and gave her to Abram her husband as a wife. 4 And he went in to Hagar, and she conceived; and when she saw that she had conceived, she looked with contempt on her mistress. 5 And Sar′ai said to Abram, “May the wrong done to me be on you! I gave my maid to your embrace, and when she saw that she had conceived, she looked on me with contempt. May the LORD judge between you and me!” 6 But Abram said to Sar′ai, “Behold, your maid is in your power; do to her as you please.” Then Sar′ai dealt harshly with her, and she fled from her.

While Hagar was away from Sarai, an angel of the Lord prophesied to her.

Genesis 16:7-16
7 The angel of the LORD found her by a spring of water in the wilderness, the spring on the way to Shur. 8 And he said, “Hagar, maid of Sar′ai, where have you come from and where are you going?” She said, “I am fleeing from my mistress Sar′ai.” 9 The angel of the LORDsaid to her, “Return to your mistress, and submit to her.” 10 The angel of the LORD also said to her, “I will so greatly multiply your descendants that they cannot be numbered for multitude.” 11 And the angel of the LORD said to her, “Behold, you are with child, and shall bear a son; you shall call his name Ish′mael; because the LORD has given heed to your affliction. 12 He shall be a wild ass of a man, his hand against every man and every man’s hand against him; and he shall dwell over against all his kinsmen.”

Ishmael is the progenitor of the Arabic people.

Note Abraham’s age. He’s 86. It is thirteen years later when the story picks up again. He’d been told that God would make him the father of a nation, and still nothing has happened. Then God talks to him again.

Genesis 17:1-9
When Abram was ninety-nine years old the LORD appeared to Abram, and said to him, “I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless. 2 And I will make my covenant between me and you, and will multiply you exceedingly.” 3 Then Abram fell on his face; and God said to him, 4 “Behold, my covenant is with you, and you shall be the father of a multitude of nations. 5 No longer shall your name be Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations. 6 I will make you exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come forth from you.7 And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your descendants after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your descendants after you. 8 And I will give to you, and to your descendants after you, the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.”

God then asks him to circumcise himself and all of the males in his household as a sign of the covenant between God and Abraham. After that, the Lord again promises that Abraham will have a son, but this time there is a time mentioned.

Genesis 18:10a
10 The LORD said, “I will surely return to you in the spring, and Sarah your wife shall have a son.”

Isaac was born when Abraham was 100 years old – 14 years after the Lord told him that he would be the father of a nation.

While everything worked out for Abraham and Sarah, things didn’t go so well for Hagar and Ishmael. They were sent off to die in the wilderness. God heard their distress and rescued them. This is also the source of the conflict between the Arabs and the Jews. Both want their birthright, and they are unable to share it.

Then there is Moses. God told him to speak to the rock to get water out of it. Instead, he struck it with his staff.

Numbers 20:1-13
And the people of Israel, the whole congregation, came into the wilderness of Zin in the first month, and the people stayed in Kadesh; and Miriam died there, and was buried there. 2 Now there was no water for the congregation; and they assembled themselves together against Moses and against Aaron. 3 And the people contended with Moses, and said, “Would that we had died when our brethren died before the LORD! 4 Why have you brought the assembly of the LORD into this wilderness, that we should die here, both we and our cattle? 5 And why have you made us come up out of Egypt, to bring us to this evil place? It is no place for grain, or figs, or vines, or pomegranates; and there is no water to drink.” 6 Then Moses and Aaron went from the presence of the assembly to the door of the tent of meeting, and fell on their faces. And the glory of the LORD appeared to them,7 and the LORD said to Moses, 8 “Take the rod, and assemble the congregation, you and Aaron your brother, and tell the rock before their eyes to yield its water; so you shall bring water out of the rock for them; so you shall give drink to the congregation and their cattle.” 9 And Moses took the rod from before the LORD, as he commanded him. 10 And Moses and Aaron gathered the assembly together before the rock, and he said to them, “Hear now, you rebels; shall we bring forth water for you out of this rock?” 11 And Moses lifted up his hand and struck the rock with his rod twice; and water came forth abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their cattle. 12 And the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not believe in me, to sanctify me in the eyes of the people of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land which I have given them.” 13 These are the waters of Mer′ibah, where the people of Israel contended with the LORD, and he showed himself holy among them.

On an earlier occasion when they needed water, he had been told to strike the rock, so perhaps he was confused. Perhaps he wasn’t intentionally disobeying God.

Exodus 17:1-7
All the congregation of the people of Israel moved on from the wilderness of Sin by stages, according to the commandment of the LORD, and camped at Reph′idim; but there was no water for the people to drink. 2 Therefore the people found fault with Moses, and said, “Give us water to drink.” And Moses said to them, “Why do you find fault with me? Why do you put the LORD to the proof?” 3 But the people thirsted there for water, and the people murmured against Moses, and said, “Why did you bring us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our cattle with thirst?” 4 So Moses cried to the LORD, “What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me.” 5 And the LORD said to Moses, “Pass on before the people, taking with you some of the elders of Israel; and take in your hand the rod with which you struck the Nile, and go. 6 Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock at Horeb; and you shall strike the rock, and water shall come out of it, that the people may drink.” And Moses did so, in the sight of the elders of Israel. 7 And he called the name of the place Massah and Mer′ibah, because of the faultfinding of the children of Israel, and because they put the LORD to the proof by saying, “Is the LORD among us or not?”

Because he disobeyed, even unintentionally, he was not allowed to enter into the Promised Land. He died in the desert.

So, we are to obey the Lord’s instructions precisely, and we are to trust that if the Lord says something is going to happen, it will. It isn’t for us to force it or to take matters into our own hands. It is for us to let God work through us and with us, not in spite of us.

Dread

I’ve had a sense of dread for the past few days. Sometimes I know things before they happen. Or rather, sometimes I know that something is going to happen, but not exactly what. It is God’s way of saying “be on guard”. But sometimes it is just a physical thing, because I’ve gotten out of synch.

I’ve not been following my routine, certainly. I’ve not been exercising like I normally do and I’ve been eating more junk food and less vegetables. I know better, but it happens. When things are going well, it is easy to forget that all the stuff I do to get well is what got me there.

So maybe that was it. Or not. It is hard to figure out these feelings sometimes. Sometimes I feel like a big radio receiver, but I don’t know what channel I’m listening to.

As I’ve mentioned previously, things have gotten worse with my parents-in-law. She fell and got a concussion and broke her leg. She was put in the hospital, and then rehab. My father-in-law has early stages of dementia as well as Parkinson’s. He thinks he can take care of himself, and usually he can.

We all thought everything was fine for now. The kids, and by that I mean those of us in our 40s, are aware that things will get worse soon, but we didn’t think it would be this soon. The parents are playing chicken with the idea of the nursing home.

But now, my father-in-law has gone missing.

Yesterday he went to visit his wife in the rehab center and got lost. He wound up about an hour away from his home. He didn’t think to have a map with him, and his GPS needs updating apparantly. He drove around for three hours before he called for help.

We thought that was it. We knew that it was going to get worse, but not this soon.

Today he tried to visit her again, and we don’t know where he is. My husband has notified the police.

He’s very calm about it, which is unlike him. I’m grateful.

And now I know where the sense of dread was coming from.

I’ve been praying about this feeling for the past few days, while also getting back into my diet and exercise routine. I’ve come to a sense of calm about it – to accept that whatever happens is God’s will. To be thankful, even, because I need to remember that God is always in charge.

It isn’t easy.

Normally, when something difficult is going on in my life, I have had at least some small role to play. Even though I’m trusting that God is in charge, I’ve still got my little part that God wants me to do. I know it isn’t everything, or even anywhere near the majority of the work. But it is something, and that something makes me feel better.

I can’t do anything now. Well, I can pray. And trust. And breathe through it. I can’t control any of this. I have to keep reminding myself that whatever happens is whatever is supposed to happen.

UPDATE. He showed back up at home – seven hours after he left. He claims he got confused, and he had bad directions. He’s safe, for now.