Knowing God through His Faithful Provision

Posted on October 15, 2012

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(Adapted from a lesson at a recent dorm-wide worship night at Grace College)
I want to propose that each of us examine God’s faithfulness in our lives. At whatever point we currently find ourselves, I want each of us to take a look back at each of the checkpoints that God has already brought us through. By doing this, we can better understand where we are now and where God is taking us as we look forward. As we reminisce over what God has faithfully done in our lives, we can better trust him with our futures. If we hold to what God has already shown us in the past, He will be able to use what we have already learned to lead us into more checkpoints. But, if we fail to commit ourselves to what God has already revealed about himself, we will walk in circular paths, passing through the same checkpoints and never making any real progress.

The concept I’m suggesting in this post is taught by God throughout Scripture. A good example of this is found in Joshua chapters one through four. If we look at a quick synopsis of the first three chapters of Joshua, we see that, after Moses’ death, God passes the reins over to Joshua and commands him to ready the people of Israel to cross the Jordan to go into the land that God had promised to them all along. Joshua becomes the bearer of the promise and the one that will be used to bring it to fulfillment. In verse 9, we receive God’s famous words to Joshua, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” This is a very important statement; we cannot miss what God is saying here. He’s telling Joshua that He is faithful and that He will see Joshua and Israel through as he has promised, even before Joshua takes on the present task. This is true for us as well, God wants us to trust in His promises and what He has already revealed to us, as we take each successive step.

Throughout the rest of chapter one and through chapter three, Joshua relates God’s promises again to the Israelites and prepares them to cross the Jordan. In these chapters, Joshua calls to the Israelites’ memory what God was doing through Moses, all the works that God had done through Moses, and what the promise was (to receive the land promised to Abraham).

In Joshua 3, we see the actual crossing take place. Beforehand, God reminds Joshua, ‘“Today I will begin to exalt you in the eyes of all Israel, so they may know that I am with you as I was with Moses” (verse 7). Throughout this whole ordeal, God urges Joshua to remember His faithfulness to him. Finally, at the end of chapter 3, we see the actual crossing of the river, which is done in similar fashion as Moses did over the Red Sea. All of Israel passed over the Jordan on dry ground, exactly as God had promised to Joshua. God is faithful to His promises. We must hold on to whatever God presents before us, whatever he reveals to us, and whatever he has promised us because He wants to demonstrate Himself mightily through our lives. But, we have trust in God’s faithfulness.

Now, to move on to the real point I’m trying to make through all of this. In Joshua 4, after the crossing was all said and done, God presents a set of directives before Joshua. He tells Joshua to set up a memorial for the event that just took place. In verse 24, Joshua relates God’s words to the people:

He said to the Israelites, “In the future when your descendants ask their fathers, ‘What do these stones mean?’ tell them, ‘Israel crossed the Jordan on dry ground.’ For the Lord your God dried up the Jordan before you until you had crossed over. The Lord your God did to the Jordan just what he had done to the Red Sea when he dried it up before us until we had crossed over. He did this so that all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the Lord is powerful and so that you might always fear the Lord your God.”

Verse 24 give the meaning behind the stones: the stones symbolize that the Lord is powerful. After the Israelite’s experience at the Jordan, they came to know God the powerful and almighty one. The stones were a visible marker and reminder of God’s mighty act in providing for His people. And, when it was all said and done, the Israelites came to know God in a new, refreshing way when they crossed the Jordan. Though the Israelites were bound to forget what God had done, God faithfully revealed himself to them in different ways time and time again throughout their history.

Similar markers were placed at other times throughout the Old Testament as God revealed Himself in different ways. I’ll go through just a few examples of these: In Genesis 1:7, Abram built an altar to the Lord to commemorate God’s appearance and promise. In Genesis 26:25, Isaac built an altar after God showed him that he didn’t have to be afraid and that the Lord would bless Isaac. In Genesis 28:16-22, Jacob set up a pillar and called the place Bethel (“House of God”). Here Jacob came to know God as the present one that faithfully watched over Him. He also came to know God as his provider. Jacob said of this pillar,“If God will be with me and will watch over me on this journey I am taking and will give me food to eat and clothes to wear so that I return safely to my father’s house, then the Lord will be my God and his stone that I have set up as a pillar will be God’s house.” In Genesis 35:7, Jacob made another marker where God revealed Himself as the one who answers, the one who is holy above other gods, and the protector. In Exodus 17:15, Moses built an altar and called it “The Lord is my Banner” because he came to know God as one who fights and protects in battle. In Judges 6:24, Gideon built an altar and called it the Lord is Peace. And, finally, Samuel built Ebenezer (“Stone of Help”) after the Lord helped them through battle.

All of these markers are specific times when God revealed himself to mankind in specific times of need. God is faithful to show Himself to us and to work in our circumstances. In reflection of the above material, I would like to make three points for our own application:

  • We, as recipients and students of the Bible, have God’s word in scripture. We have an advantage over many Old and New Testament saints because we can come to know how God has acted through history and trust him at his word. We have a collection of revelations in scripture about who God is and can come to know him through scripture, outside of our own personal experiences. And, as we read through Scripture, we can see the faithfulness of God to His people throughout all of redemptive history, beginning with protoevangelium in Genesis 3:15.
  • But, we also do have our own experiences. We can also look back at these experiences and see how God has worked and revealed himself through personal circumstances, just like Joshua was able to personally experience and know God as the Almighty One. We, too, have Jordan River moments in our lives, in which God has helped us in our need and revealed himself to us. Collectively, these experiences and revelations about God are a testament of God’s faithfulness to us.
  • A note of advice: We must always make sure that our experiences and scripture align with each other. If a “revelation” from God in our circumstances contradicts the word of God, then we have not found truth. As we see our circumstances in the light of God’s word, we are drawn closer to truth and a deeper relationship with God, as we come to know Him better. The alignment of God’s Word and our circumstances gives us confidence to trust God with current or future decisions or trials. (See Luke 21:33, Hebrews 1:1-2, and 2 Peter 1:21)

Let me show you some other examples of how God reveals himself throughout Scripture:

  • Hebrews 11:8 – God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.
  • Galatians 5:22 – Faithfulness is a fruit of the spirit and a characteristic of who God is.
  • 1Thess. 5:23 – 23 May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.
  • 2 Thess. 3:3 – 3 But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen and protect you from the evil one
  • 2 Timothy 2:13 – If we are faithless, he will remain faithful, for he cannot disown himself.

We could go on and on about references to God’s faithfulness. He has revealed certain aspects to us about him in scripture and we can trust that he will act in those ways in our lives. We can also look back at our own experiences (markers) and recognize specific ways that God has been faithful to us. Those experiences, in light of what God’s word says about our experiences, help us to know God in a way we have never known him before. And, our experiences combined with scripture help guide us as we make decisions in the future. Just as God called Joshua to set up a marker of remembrance of His provision at the Jordan, we too must remember God’s faithfulness towards us, so that we can better worship Him and walk with Him into the future.

Sorry for this massive post… but anyone have any thoughts? I’d like to hear them…
And, I’ll try to post my own examples of personal markers in my own life sometime in the near future… But, I encourage you to think back through your own makers and examine how God has revealed himself to you in past circumstances.
And, most of this can be credited to Henry Blackaby’s “Experiencing God”

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