"The Calling of St. Matthew" by Hendrick Terbrugghen, 1621
The Word for today:
I do not presume to know what, specifically, God is up to right at this very moment. And let me give you an insider's tip: If anybody tells you that they know, for certain, that God's hand is behind this or that event, you politely turn and run far and fast, as if your soul depended upon it. Always recall this scripture:
Your way was in the sea,
Your path in the great waters,
And Your footsteps were not known. (Psalms 77:19)
The problem with knowing what God is up to at any given time is that so much of what he does is counter-intuitive. Look no further than the cross of Jesus Christ, God's master plan. No man would devise such a plan. Just the plan of the cross, just the idea itself (aside from its effectiveness) shouts out "Deity was here," because it runs counter to every thought and instinct of man. Truly, the cross of Jesus Christ definitively demonstrates that...
"My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the LORD.
"As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts." (Isaiah 55:8-9)
However, just because we cannot definitively identify the specific actions of God, we can make some generalities, based on his Word:
1. He's up to good. Some people are up to no good, but...
We know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28)
2. He is turning bad into good:
As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. (Genesis 50:20)
***One reality that God has to deal with is our obedience, or lack of it. If God wants to heal our broken land (or a broken relationship, or a broken heart) and he says, "Walk this way toward healing," then we will find healing there. But if we do not walk in the direction he points out, we will not.
Or a person might ask God to guide his life. So God says, "Follow me." If that person follows, he is led. But if that person does not follow, he is not.
In Psalm 81, God implores the people to follow his ways:
"If my people would but listen to me, if Israel would follow my ways,
how quickly would I subdue their enemies and turn my hand against their foes! (Psalms 81:13-14)
But the people would not follow:
"But my people would not listen to me; Israel would not submit to me." (Psalms 81:11)
So he gave them over to the consequences of their self-directed "solutions"--
So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts, to follow their own devices. (Psalms 81:12)
Having read this morning's Buffalo News, I can state with authority that our country has decided not to go God's way.
But on a personal level, you don't have to follow them. You can still follow God.
During Jesus' days on earth, he walked up to a man called Matthew and said, "Follow me." And Matthew left his shady tax-collecting business to follow God. (Matthew 9:9)
About two thousand years later, I happened to be reading the book of Matthew when the Spirit of God made Jesus real and living to me. Thanks, Matthew.
My plea is that you forget living life in the collective and begin to listen with your own ears, to hear with your own heart. Forget your country, your church, your culture, your century, your family if need be. Matthew had all of those things, too.
God does not call us through political institutions, nor through denominations, nor through families. God calls us directly, heart to heart, just like he called Matthew.
So be like Matthew. Someday, somebody like me will thank you for becoming a part of God's plan.
You might be the last person that your friends and family would ever suspect God to call. But remember that the cross of Jesus Christ is the very last idea that we would ever devise to save us.