May 4, 2014

How do I know what God is really like?

The Lord is my shepherd . . .  (Psalm 23:1)

Today’s devotional reading ends with this thought. “The image of God that you carry deep in your heart is the one you will relate to in a moment of crisis.”

David called the Lord His Shepherd. This man was a shepherd himself. He protected his flock from predators like lions and bears, going against them with his bare hands. For him, God was like that. Other psalmists picked up the same image, perhaps because of their background and used the image of a shepherd to describe God.

Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, you who lead Joseph like a flock. You who are enthroned upon the cherubim, shine forth. Before Ephraim and Benjamin and Manasseh, stir up your might and come to save us! Restore us, O God; let your face shine, that we may be saved! (Psalm 80:1–3)

When the Israelites were slaves in Egypt, their experiences dictated their view of God. Instead of seeing Him as a Savior, they thought He was a harsh taskmaster like their owners. Even after He delivered them from Pharaoh’s army, the first time they ran into trouble, their false view of God came out . . .

They said to Moses, “Is it because there are no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? What have you done to us in bringing us out of Egypt? Is not this what we said to you in Egypt: ‘Leave us alone that we may serve the Egyptians’? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness.” And Moses said to the people, “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again. The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.” (Exodus 14:11–14)

The same principle is illustrated in Jesus’ parable of the talents. A master gave funds to each of his servants, expecting them to invest it and make a profit. Two did, but the third one failed . . .

He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’ But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. (Matthew 25:24–29)

His failure was based on his view of the master. He knew he was a hard man and reacted accordingly, rather than do what he was told.

For me, this is an ah-ha moment. I’ve had a view of God that runs deep. It comes from certain life experiences, all negative and all painful. It is not a biblical view, but a lie about the nature of God and His care for me. While the stories are long, the description is short; I’ve been deeply afraid that God will abandon me as have others who promised they wouldn’t but did. Instead of believing what the Bible says about Him, I can see how my deepest view of God comes from life, but that view is from the pit of hell, fed by many instances of being forsaken when I most needed those who turned their backs.

Of all my memories, those are the clearest in my mind. Instead of seeing God according to His promises, I’ve let that fear become deeply buried, even though I’ve memorized verses like Matthew 28:20, “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” and Hebrews 13:5, “Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’”

When the psalmists felt abandoned, they countered this by running to God and praising His nearness. I’ve not always responded that way, and in my fears, let the image of Him turning His back go too far into my mind and heart.

Feeling as if God is not there comes out in moments of crisis. I can see that this is a lie from Satan who wants me to rely on me (which is emptiness also) instead of leaning on the Lord who is my Shepherd and who will never walk away.

No comments: