I’ve noticed that God’s ideas about so many things are sure a lot different from mine! Ours is a very short-sighted strict moral-law sort of approach to life in which you get rewarded for good behaviour and punished for bad behaviour. Be good, and you’re sure to be rewarded; be bad and you’re sure to be punished. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if it was that easy! Or would it?
Recently, I’ve been thinking about Jonah, about the prosperity of the wicked (Psalm 73), and a list, in Hebrews 11, of all those who died without receiving what was promised while still believing. Jonah doesn’t want to go to Nineveh because he doesn’t think the Lord should be merciful to Israel’s nemisis! But God is incredibly merciful to Jonah when being disobedient to Him. God makes it clear to Jonah that He’s in control and shows mercy to whom He wishes and when He wishes. He is able to provide a shade-giving plant one day, and to kill it the next! And as for the wicked who seem to be prospering so beautifully by contrast to the righteous, our problem is that we are short-sighted; we don’t see the end of the story — except through the eyes of faith. It was only when Asaph spent time in God’s presence that he was able to see the difference between the final outcomes for the wicked and the righteous.
We make a big mistake when we measure outcomes too quickly, too literally, too near-sightedly! Our problem is that we form conclusions without adequate perspective. We lack wisdom because we don’t look at the larger picture; we don’t take the time to think about things from God’s point of view. We want justice, and we want it now! But that’s living by what we see instead of living by faith — of believing what is promised even though it is not “seen.”
For the last couple of years I’ve had to live with a major sense of incongruity between what is supposed to happen but doesn’t. I’ve had to learn to take the long view — that faithfulness isn’t always rewarded immediately and that injustice and evil isn’t punished right away. I’ve had to believe God even when He doesn’t seem to act according to what I know about moral law. I’ve had to chose to believe that He is there and that He knows exactly what He is doing, even when it all seems rather ridiculous and confusing to me. I’ve had to learn to humble myself before the all wise King of Kings and rest in the knowledge that He is absolutely perfect in His righteousness.
A couple of verses in 1 Peter have been encouraging to me — “So if you are suffering according to God’s will, keep on doing what is right, and trust yourself to the God who made you, for he will never fail you” (4:19), and “In his kindness God called you to his eternal glory by means of Jesus Christ.Â After you have suffered a little while, he will restore, support, and strengthen you, and he will place you on a firm foun dation”(5:10).
In this view, it is wonderful to see many small beautiful expressions of God’s mercy and grace, as we look for them. Just as God showed Himself to Jonah, to Asaph, and to those who died in faith without seeing the promises, God is able to show His children today that He is there still as perfectly committed to the principles of justice and mercy as He always has been. Praise the Lord!