Luke 4, Isaiah 64
In times like this, it’s difficult to focus on anything besides the uncertainty of everything. The rain falls on the just and the unjust alike, yet this does not bring comfort when the sharpened corkscrew of life twists from within and wrings you, bringing pain and anguish and despair. The arm of the Lord feels very short; the random nature of existence appears relentless and merciless.
Humans have a propensity to desire foresight. They want to know what’s coming in order to plan ahead somehow. Prepare for the worst, hope for the best. Nuke shelters. Emergency kits. Stock investments.
Remember how several businesses started running out of gas masks after 9/11?
We worry about stuff all the time because we don’t have control. And that’s true. We don’t.
But we equate lack of personal control to a diminished omniscience and omnipotence of God, as if our situations are the result of God being too weak or forgetting about us.
We like to think that the intervention of God, namely the Holy Spirit, means good things will happen to us, all the time. “All things work together for good,” etc.
But does God not just allow, but mete out suffering, temptation, and even loss?
Right before the cool battle between Jesus and the devil in the desert rests a nugget that many people overlook. We think that the devil looked for Jesus in a weak state, and resorted to cheap tactics in order to get Jesus to blow it, and Jesus retaliated with clever quoting of Scripture. This Showdown in the Sand has been covered countless times by sharp Bible teachers over the ages.
How did this start, though?
Luke 4:1 opens the story with a profound yet overlooked piece of information, stated TWICE in the same sentence: “Then Jesus, being filled with the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness.” Did God really have a Person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, lead the Son into temptation. Isn’t that the opposite of the “Lord’s Prayer”?
The beginning of Job opens in a similar fashion, with a righteous man being the centerpiece of a “contest” between God and Satan. Satan wants to torment the guy, and God says go ahead, as long as you don’t kill him! Job, being the awesome righteous guy he is, gets pummeled with tragedy, but still gives God his attention. Job does get a happy ending for his faithfulness.
Nothing happens beyond God’s perception and allowance. And the point of the Holy Spirit is not a feel-good sensation. He makes us aware of our insufficiency in order to see the necessity of our dependence upon Him.
A couple of years ago, I lost a very good friend, not much unlike a recent tragedy. It hurt a lot. It still does some days. Yet it ultimately inspired me (along with countless others) to resolve to love better and more often than I had been. God has been glorified in the situation.
As humans on this earth, it is not our job to control our environment. We must become dependent upon what He is doing instead.
Some other random stuff:
Isaiah 64:4 — If anything looks like the “hand of God” (and I’m not talking about the Diego Maradona goal), the God the Bible talks about is it. No other god is responsible. This is an incredibly arrogant statement, but that’s too bad. Jesus proclaimed to be the Son of God and proved it. I have a hard time believing there is another god besides Yahweh, the God who is.
Isaiah 64:6 — We cannot break even. Humans are inherently flawed people — it is only by the Lord’s righteousness that we are saved, not our own. This is old school AND post-Jesus truth. Jesus merely made a way through grace rather than human effort. If you’re trying to earn righteousness by your work and get into heaven by being a “good person”, get over it. There’s only one way to get there. Matthew 7:13-14 says wide is the gate to destruction, but narrow is the gate to life. What sucks is, many people won’t make it (yes, the majority!) because they’re too stubborn to admit the fact that a) there’s one God, and His Son is Jesus, and that b) He’s the only means to get to heaven.