Image credit: Ian Greig

How can we trust God?

King Solomon said: “Praise be to the Lord, who has given rest to His people Israel just as He promised. Not one word has failed of all the good promises He gave through His servant Moses.”
1 Kings 8:56 NIV

Solomon is reflecting on the three or four hundred past years of Israel making its way into Canaan. It was sparsely populated at the time but surrounded by other nations who felt threatened by Israel and made difficulties for them. The “rest” — freedom from threat — needed to be won under God’s direction, bit by bit. These were the promises fulfilled that Solomon is thinking about.

It took persistence, and a sense of believing God and being in partnership with Him, to get to the situation of peace and security which Solomon is describing. This is in the context of completing the work on the temple. It was his father David who, through campaign after campaign, always relying on God, secured Jerusalem and its Zion hilltop location for the building of the temple.

God had kept His promises, and His people had, mostly, learned to rely on God’s promises and contend for them. However, some during that time had not relied on God for their security, and everyone learned from the consequences of that.

It’s worth giving some study to this. It’s not just ancient history. The early church was learning to follow God’s leading. But this time it was not mediated to them by a godly Moses or Joshua or David. Everyone in the church was born again into Jesus’ lordship, and was responsible for their own following of the leading of the Holy Spirit. The interesting thing is, they were pushed off course by the same temptation to act independently, as those Jews in their tribes had all those hundreds of years before.

We get a picture of this from reading Hebrews 3:7-4:11, which includes full quotation of the end of Psalm 95:7-11.

The strategy of Satan doesn’t vary. If he can tempt us into acting independently from God, he can trick us into sin, and that gives him the legal right to harass us.

The key for us is not striving to achieve some religious form of obedience, but listening to God and taking direction from what He says.
This is the key:

If only you would listen to his voice today! The LORD says, "Don't harden your hearts...
Psalm 95:7-8

Listening to God requires three things, none of which is difficult in itself.

  1. We need to believe that He is, and can be found and that He speaks and guides us, always lovingly, sometimes firmly, if we listen.
  2. We need to practice listening. What is His word for us today? Can we verify what we think we are hearing, by what He has already said?
  3. We need to have an attitude of wanting to go where He is leading, of being in willing partnership with Him, but with Him as the lead partner having the last word.

God is famous for keeping His promises, and part of that is the promise of rest, so we don’t have to live in perpetual anxiety. The condition -- our choice entirely -- is to let go of our desire to be self-determining and independent, but to exercise our freedom by being willing to go with what He tells us.

In other words, His way works. So if we follow His way, we will find rest and peace in it. If it gets difficult, we can look to see if we have diverged from His way and put it right. The Bible calls this repentance and for Christians this is a regular conscience-check we are happy to make, because we know it brings such benefit when we get back on track.

It all becomes much easier with Jesus. This is no trite saying, but a fundamental difference. Here's another verse that came up on the same day:

Jesus said: “Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”
Matthew 11:28 NIV

"The Lord has given rise" ... "I will give you rest". The first part of the message is coming across clearly. The Lord desires to give us rest!

The second part is about choosing His way rather than ours. Jesus' words in the verse above continue:

"Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me... and you will find rest."
Matt. 11:29 NIV

When you go into a new situation like joining a new company there is a learning process, sometimes called 'onboarding' or the older term, 'induction'. There's a presentation on the company values, safety and safeguarding and a read through of the essential information from fire drill to how to access the intranet. Even an experienced hospital doctor deployed to a different hospital has to learn that hospital's particular protocols, because they vary. So learning the right approach is good. Taking an independent stance is heading for trouble.

We need to read up on God's promises. And be aware that there is a 'Jesus way' of living. Choose this, rather than independence, and His help is assured. To take on ourselves a different 'yoke' of our own choice keeps our independence, at the price of saying 'no' to Jesus, and that is saying 'no' to His promises.

God keeps His promises — for those who love Him by accepting them.

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