Restore us, O God of hosts;

let your face shine, that we may be saved!

Psalm 80: 7

 

It seems that in our world resources rule the day. The company with the most to expend often gets the biggest profits, and the political candidate with the deepest pockets wins the vote. On a personal scale, there is wisdom in saving, for those stored up funds may carry us through the hard times that do come to most people. We study diligently and work hard to grow our skills so that we can command higher pay in order to have more. This is a cycle that has captivated humanity since our early days. Today we live in a world that is more sophisticated than ever before and is filled with the fruit of our creative labors; yet, it is still not a safe place to dwell or a righteous environment to rest confidently within.

 

None of our tangible worldly assets are sufficient. There is no army that is strong enough to provide security, no amount of money can bring about lasting peace, and all of our governments fail to promote God’s view of righteousness and justice. Yet, in and through all of this world’s chaos and grief, God stands strong and unflinching. He possesses all of the resources that any of us will need to withstand the pressures and the forces of the day. The Lord is the ruler of a vast army that has already conquered the forces of evil that are the cause and the power behind this world’s suffering, misery, and loss. This same great and mighty God is also the One who loves my soul with all of His being.

 

This conqueror God is the victor over the sin that attempts to destroy each of us at our most vital and significant level that is our souls. The Lord has set me free from slavery to this world and to its forces. His strength holds my head up, and His truth sets my feet onto the unshakable path of righteous love and deeply enjoyed peace. The light that drives out the darkness of this world’s day is the glory of God that shines with the brilliance of a thousand suns. As I seek the face of God in all that I do and every place that I journey, He fills my heart and my mind with the warmth and the radiance of His saving presence.

 

“Do I have any pleasure in the death of the wicked,” declares the Lord God, “rather than that he should turn from his ways and live?”

Ezekiel 18: 23

 

A lot of people think that God simply does not like them. They believe that He is angry with their life choices, with their attitudes, or simply with them. They stay as far away from God and from anything that is related to Him as is possible. This is understandable for people who don’t know God. It is easy and often natural to have an unclear and a distorted view of the Lord’s character and intent toward people when He is only known about and not known in an intimate way.

 

Sadly, God’s own don’t always help the cause of understanding, either. We lash out in angry words and actions against people who can’t be held to a standard of righteous behavior since they don’t hold the key to righteousness. We approach a discussion about life and lifestyle in a manner that points to the bad behaviors of others and heaps guilt upon their heads. This is not how God does the same things. Behaving as if we are angry with people does not show them the face of God; instead, it pushes them away from Him.

 

The Lord is very concerned with the way that we live, and He sets very clear standards for people’s behavior. Still, He knows that living up to His standards is impossible for people who don’t know Him. God cares about the relationship that people have with Him. He wants all people to know Him personally. The Lord directs His children to show others the truth about Him and His character and to help them understand the reality of the love that God has for everyone. The answer to the evil that is rampant in our world is not anger, and it is not separation leading to isolation. Rather, it is found in loving those who don’t know Christ; it is found in connecting with them and in understanding their needs. God’s response to lost people is demonstrated by his attitude of sadness at their lack of hope, and He commands us to share this concern and to act upon it by sharing the love of Christ with others. The evil of this world needs to be confronted with the soul saving truth of God’s grace and restoration.

 

 

Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy.

John 16: 20

 

Sorrow seems to come with the territory in this life. Our ability to feel it is a part of the way that God designed us; so, it must be something that God, Himself, feels. We form attachments and develop relationships. Yet, we live in a world that is filled with death. There is no getting out of this place alive, and none of us has any more time to dwell with the people that we love than is our allotted span. Separation, brokenness, loss, and death will come our way, and, as Jesus is pointing out, the strong emotions that follow are an important part of a natural process for us to experience.

 

The impending loss that Jesus is discussing will seen to come about suddenly, and it will shock those who are close to Him greatly. Despite Christ’s warnings, His followers were not ready for Him to be taken from them. It appeared as if all that was evil in the world had gained a victory over that which was righteous and good. As Jesus was led away to face the inquisition of the world with its humiliation and sentence of death, His close friends were sent into a swirling chaos of confusion and doubt. It seemed that their connection to the true light of the face of God had been smothered by the darkness of evil. Now the world was set off into a riot of celebration, and the contrast between its rejoicing and the sorrow of Jesus’ disciples was absolute.

 

However, all of this is within God’s plan, and even the hard emotions that were felt served an important purpose. Satan claims many victories in this world. He contemplates the lives that he controls and the death that sin brings about as cause for celebration. Yet, evil has no victory and its forces have no real power. The very act of taking Jesus from the human fellowship of His followers launched the final death blow that God struck to Satan’s head. People no longer need to live in a world that enjoys its short-lived and shallow celebrations, for, in Christ, we dwell in the joy of eternity. We certainly should feel the sorrow that sin and its death cause; yet, this life and our natural condition are not all that we have. Christ wipes away the tears, and He brings us close to His side. The love and the grace of Jesus go with us through this life, and Christ’s victory provides all of the hope that we need to sustain us along the journey.

You shall be careful therefore to do as the Lord your God has commanded you. You shall not turn aside to the right hand or to the left.

Deuteronomy 5: 32

There is an old popular usage expression “wandering eyes”. It almost never has anything to do with a person’s ability to direct the eyes by use of muscle control. It has everything to do with the orientation of the heart and the exercise of control over the mind. Although this expression mostly refers to men and to times when our interest in women heads off into the realm of sin, it can actually be applied to both men and women and it can relate to many situations and circumstances. Likewise, I am certain that Moses was not talking about political orientation in the text; yet, this concept applies completely to the way that we engage in our political systems and processes.

We humans are a wandering-eyed lot. We have a very hard time staying satisfied with where we are, with the path we are traveling along, and with the life that we are living. That isn’t all bad. In fact, I think that God has designed into us a certain amount of a restless spirit. It is this desire for something more that often prompts us to seek Christ. It is also a desire to bring Christ into more of our world that causes people to abandon comfort and safety in order to answer God’s call to service. So there must be righteous wandering as well as the sinful form of the same.

I think that the context of Moses’ words is helpful. He was in the midst of a great journey. He was leading people in their answer to God’s calling for them. He was living out his own righteous mission. The spiritual risk that they encountered along the way came in many forms, but, whatever that form, it always involved turning away from the face of God and His proclaimed truth in order to pursue the world’s glittering image of security or pleasure. Here are a few facts the journey that is this life. We all travel the road that lies before us. In Christ, He is the one who opens the map for our journey. God has established the truth of His holiness; so, He commands us to keep our eyes fixed upon and our hearts oriented toward Him. Christ’s glorious presence will lead His people through the land that is before us so that we can live well and prosper as we dwell in the center of God’s will.