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The poster accompanying this post illustrates just the first portion of Isaiah 43:2. The second half complements the first and should not be eliminated from it. The entire verse reads:
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze (NIV).
This is a verse for all seasons and for all people. When I was still a child and not yet a Christian, I summed up my entire philosophical musings with the phrase, “All things are equal.” By this I meant that the experiences of a bird are bird-size, yet they fill that bird’s universe. The experiences of a mighty world leader are mighty-world-leader-size, yet they fill that leader’s universe. While small creatures may have what we might call small problems, yet they completely fill that small creature’s entire world. Large people have large problems, yet those problems can do no more than fill that large person’s entire world. In this sense, “All things are equal,” because everyone experiences their own lives to the maximum amount their lives can hold.
The point is that we should not compare our situations with the situations of others in a judgmental fashion. It makes no difference if we are judging ourselves or judging others. God does not do that. He judges each person according to their own size. “For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust” (Palm 103:14, ESV). In other words, God does not judge us according to his own godly size; he judges us according to our own size. And we are creatures made of dust. In a parable Jesus told, a master speaks the same words to two people. One had invested and doubled five talents of money, and the other had invested and doubled two talents. Both received the identical commendation, “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master,” (Matthew 25). The master rewarded each according to their size. Yet for each, the reward was equally full, since no doubt it filled that person’s capacity.
Concerning difficulties, to a tiny ant, a trickle of rain water can present a formidable obstacle. To a long distance solo sailor, her obstacle might be a violent storm at sea. The ant should not think that her prayers and cries for help mean less to God than those of the brave sailor. And the brave sailor should not disdain the pleadings for mercy of the tiny ant. Jesus said, “Let the children come to me.” And in his very next breath, he told the crowd that we should all become like them (Luke 18:16-17).
No problem we will ever face is too big for God to handle, and no problem we will ever face is too small for God to care. God sees each of us for who we are. It does not matter to him if we are the Apostle Paul or if we are the poor widow who placed her last two cents into the synagogue offering. God loves all his children, and he will see us through it all.
Paul tells us in 2Corinthians 3:6, “For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” Of course, he was talking about God’s law written in a believer’s heart. This is the New Covenant Jeremiah spoke of in 31:31. Jesus informed his listeners in John 6:63, “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.” The Bible is certain that a new creation in Christ needs the Holy Spirit. And, Christ also was certain that the words he spoke “are spirit and life.” Christians need both the Spirit of God and the Word of God. Here is the Trinity–God the Father, the Holy Spirit, and God the Son, who is the Word.
Because there are false spirits and because our hearts are not always as discerning as they might be, sometimes Christians tend to hear who they think is the Holy Spirit but is not. Or they hear or interpret the Holy Spirit inaccurately. Even famous Christians sometimes do this. Therefore, God has also given us his Word. His Word is a correction against false spirits. But the Holy Spirit is a correction for the dead letter–words alone that carry no life. So, charismatic saints and lovers of Scripture all! Let us heed Paul’s admonition and do as he suggests, “Let my prayer be from the spirit, and equally from the mind. Let my song be from the spirit, and equally from the mind.” In this is life. God in his wisdom and love gave us both mind and Spirit, both his Spirit and his Word.
The psalmist has just asked God to give him knowledge and good sense. What is knowledge? The same verse answers that question: the teachings of God are knowledge. Further, the psalmist asks for good sense, so that he (or she) can understand the knowledge contained in Scripture and apply it rightly. This word for “good sense” is “taste, judgment” in Hebrew and “training, discipline” in Greek. In other words, Give me your knowledge, God, and teach me to discern it rightly.
Especially in today’s chaotic world, where information is as cheap as dust on a pavement, the child of God needs God’s discernment to sort through what is from him and what is not. Especially prevalent is the temptation to get drawn into politics and to take “sides.” Listen, with God there are no sides. God loves people, not positions. God calls his children from all political persuasions and beliefs.
The child of God can never go wrong by focusing on the basics of the gospel of Jesus Christ. First, know that God is love. He is for us, not against us. Know that all people, including ourselves, are sinners who can never please God without the atoning work of Jesus Christ, the Son of his love, the only human ever who had no sin. Know that Jesus the Son is God–holy, divine, powerful, omnipotent, yet humble as a lamb. Christ died for our sins and was raised again. Because he was raised from the dead–the only person ever to be so permanently raised–we who identify with him will be raised from the dead. How does someone identify with him? By believing his word revealed in Scripture. Then apply that knowledge! Since I am to be resurrected, that should pretty much compensate for all the difficulties I may experience today. Finally, love others–all others–the way Christ loves us. That’s it.
Give me knowledge and good sense, for I have put my faith in your teachings. –Psalm 119:66
Hezekiah’s prayer is recorded in Isaiah 38. That prayer is one of my favorite portions in all of Isaiah. Hezekiah lay dying with a mortal illness. He prayed to God, and here he gives his praise and thanksgiving for God’s answer of healing mercy and forgiveness of all his sins.
Hezekiah reminds me that there are various forms of illness: there are physical illnesses, and there are spiritual. I recently passed through a season of spiritual illness. As the nature of my sin slowly dawned upon me, I turned to the Lord in confession and repentance. I am happy to say he healed me. Not too long afterward, the world pandemic of Coronavirus began. I am so glad to be spiritually recovered during this challenging time. Not only am I better equipped to withstand my own trials, but I am positioned to watch, stand, and pray for others. The Lord is merciful, and he is good. His love is everlasting.