13 July 2007

The Security of God's Will

by Phil Johnson

n Monday we looked in on Elijah beside Cherith as the brook slowly went dry. It is a tribute to Elijah's faith that he stayed and waited for the Lord's instructions until that stream was completely dried up. The stream turned to a trickle, and the trickle turned to little puddles, and the puddles turned to mud. Finally, "the brook dried up" (1 Kings 17:7). Verse 8 says, "then the word of the LORD came unto him."

Most of us would have begun to make alternative plans of our own about the time the stream showed signs of drying up. Obedience to the Lord might be our "Plan A," but the minute "Plan A" starts to get difficult, we start thinking about "Plan B." Not Elijah. I mentioned on Monday that Elijah obeyed the Lord one step at a time, even when all he could see was danger ahead, and he did not know what God would call him to do next. He was walking completely by faith, and he did not take one presumptuous step on his own.

When the Word of the Lord did finally come to him (v. 8), these were the instructions: "Arise, get thee to Zarephath, which belongeth to Zidon, and dwell there." Zarephath was a town on the coast near Sidon, which was the home town of Jezebel herself. And in order to get there, Elijah's route would take him directly through the valley of Jezreel—where Jezebel and Ahab's palace was. He was walking right into the lion's den.

The carnal mind might observe Elijah's circumstances and conclude that the will of God is not a very secure place to be. What Elijah knew is that the will of God is the only secure place. He saw that by faith.

God had appointed a widow to care for Elijah in Zarephath, and therefore He would see him safely through the valley of Jezreel on his way there. Although that journey would take Elijah through the valley of death, he would fear no evil, because God was with him. In fact what looked like the valley of death was actually a corridor of safety for Elijah, because God was the one directing his steps.

That lesson is incredibly hard for most of us to learn. Second Corinthians 5:7: "we walk by faith, not by sight." Our natural tendency is to seek our security in things we can see. So walking by faith never feels very secure. We're tempted to abandon the walk of faith and seek our security in tangible things. But the truth is that real security is found only in the grace of God. And those who walk by faith are the only ones who have any kind of true security.

Contrast Ahab with Elijah in these circumstances. Ahab felt secure in his palace. He had servants to bring him food and water, even in the worst of the drought. He had bounty-hunters scouring the land for Elijah, whom he was determined to destroy. In earthly terms, it looked like Ahab was the secure one and Elijah was the one in serious jeopardy.

But the truth is that God's grace and favor rested on Elijah, and therefore there was nothing Ahab could ultimately do against him. In the words of Isaiah 54:17, "No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper; and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, and their righteousness is of me, saith the LORD."

Meanwhile, God was determined to destroy Ahab, and therefore nothing could ultimately save him. God's patience is measureless, but His justice is ultimately sure, and Ahab, who loved wickedness and set himself against the Lord, would finally reap what he sowed.

Nothing in the world could shield him against that inevitability. Whatever security he enjoyed because of his wealth and political power was only a false security, because "Except the LORD build the house, they labour in vain that build it: except the LORD keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain" (Psalm 127:1).

No earthly fortress can ever provide a security equal to the security of divine grace.

Phil's signature


jen said...

Great post. I became pretty much deathly ill a few years ago, and I learned a great deal about trusting in His divine grace and His provision. My situation looked very bleak for a time, and we didn't know how well I'd pull through, but He carried me through it. Of course, I didn't get it all figured out, but I did learn a few things.

BTW, LOVE THE SNOWSHOE MEEZER! My cat looked just like that when he was a kitten. (Psst, Frank, it's not naked. It's wearing a sandal.)

brentjthomas said...

That looks just like the feral kitten we've recently taken in (Chappy). We found him in our shed on Easter Sunday. I was not a cat guy for the first 40 years of my life. Seriously. Not a cat guy at all. My wife wanted one, begged for one (there were tears), and I relented, snarlingly. But now I find that they melt my heart, utterly. Beautiful, unique creations of God. I suppose this correlates vaguely with your sermon, in that I previously thought I was presumptuously content, secure, ignoring or disdaining a part of God's creation, with which I now find myself madly in love.
This new feral kitten curls up on my chest, while I'm reading Tacitus, and purrs, and nuzzles my goatee, and never ceases from displaying his affection, almost to the point that reading becomes difficult.

brentjthomas said...

Your sermon is valuable to me right now, and needed, by the way. Thanks It is a challenge, struggling with feelings of insecurity. I need to rely on God more, our only security, and to walk by faith. This issue has been a very serious problem for me, of late.
My cat story, which I hope was not too trivial, revealed how one can have a willfully and woefully incomplete picture, until driven, compelled, to see more.

Daniel said...

I appreciate (am edified by) these pastoral posts the best. I had never thought about the physical location of the widows house, and what the journey to it entailed - excellent insight Phil - thank you.

On a here's a typo to fix kinda note, "he words of Isaiah 54:17" ... should be "the words of" ?

donsands said...

Thanks for the good teaching. You brought out the realness of walking in faith.
It is so difficult. Especially when yu are insecure, and this is where true security is.
I pray that I could walk in trusting the Lord as Elijah did, so that I might know this security, and please the Lord.
Thanks again.

DJP said...

I love it when someone takes a passage familiar to me, and brings out insights I'd never seen. Thanks, Phil; very encouraging, very meaningful.

It seems as if, in Biblical narratives, God almost delights in letting things go to the eleventh hour, and then well past it, before He acts. It isn't enough that Sarah be barren, and Abraham 60 — or 70, or 80, or even 90. He has to be "as good as dead," before God moves to fulfill His word. The Israelites have to be at the shore of the sea, with nowhere to run. Gideon has to have 'way fewer men. Jesus has to be dead not an hour, not a day, but three days.

He's clearly very serious about this whole faith-thing.

steve said...

Thanks for the encouragement, Phil. I remember John saying from the pulpit that God's will is the safest place to be no matter what our circumstances. We can never be reminded of that too much.

And I appreciate DJP's comment about God letting things go to the eleventh hour and beyond. Good observation.

And that cat looks like one very content critter.

Carla Rolfe said...

"Our natural tendency is to seek our security in things we can see. So walking by faith never feels very secure."

Oh how true that is. It's interesting though how God will allow (ordain, however one looks at it) specific trials and difficulties in our lives to show us just how much we need to walk by faith, and not by sight.

While it may go against our natural inclination to do this, I have learned (and am learning) that for me, it's so much more of a comfort to simply rest in His providence & mercy than to do anything else.

Great post today Phil, and once again very timely. Oh, and the kitty in the shoe? WAY too cute.

FX Turk said...

There's something lewd about that cat and that shoe ...

JackW said...

Phil ... nice post.

Frank ... don't pussyfoot.

LeeC said...

I've taken to calling this "The Gideon Principle" Elijah might work better even.

The whole "You want me to do what...with WHAT God??" As he whittles 33000 Israelites down to a mere 300.

Where on the other hand God is saying that He simply wants us to, well "Trust and Obey" and see that He is indeed God, He is in total control, and He, is, Good.

2 The LORD said to Gideon, "The people who are with you are too many for Me to give Midian into their hands, for Israel would become boastful, saying, 'My own power has delivered me.'
Judges 7

We are weak, we need to realize it. And at times God is gracious enough to yank whatever pillars we are relying on for security besides Him out from under us so that we may see that we are truly secure when following His will.

DJP said...

Wouldn't you like to have seen Gideon's face when Yahweh said, "Nahh... still too many."

LeeC said...

DJP said...
Wouldn't you like to have seen Gideon's face when Yahweh said, "Nahh... still too many."

Oh, yeah.

the thing I love about Gideon is he starts out as a weak person even by the worlds standards, God sdays "You are what I say you are, not what you or anyone else thinks you are!"

And then give him a toothbrush to scrub the deck of the U.S.S. Nimitz in ten minutes

"I can't do that!"
Yells Gideon.

"No, that right, but 'I' can, and thats the point."
Says the Lord.

I wish I could grasp how weak I am on my own, it would be a lot les painful...oh the irony. ;)

Unknown said...

"The whole Christian life is a movement away from self dependence toward Christ dependence" - Piper

Stefan Ewing said...

Phil, thank you, thank you, thank you for this post. It is exactly what I needed to read today.

Dan, what you wrote is so true: "It seems as if, in Biblical narratives, God almost delights in letting things go to the eleventh hour, and then well past it, before He acts." Not just Biblical narratives, but contemporary life as well. It seems that we will never start really trying to trust God until things look so utterly hopeless than only God can turn it all around.

This is the first cat image that doesn't look slightly creepy. You guys are getting soft.

Jackw, there has got to be some kind of Brilliant Pun Award for your quip.

one busy mom said...

great post. Great comments. Very timely. Sadly, it seems slightly past the eleventh hour for our family. Hopefully, someday I'll be able to say God turned a handful of impossible situations arround too.

Solameanie said...

Is it possible that the cat passed out BECAUSE of the sandal?

Excuse me.

Ken Silva said...

If I might offer encouragement in something I taught my local church. We tend to look at things with God backward. Such is the case with trials and "tests."

We will hear people say, "God is testing me to see if I'll be faithful." It's actually the reverse. The Lord alreadys knows you'll come through the situation by depending upon Him.

So how great is this! God gives us the chance to see how much of Him is really in us as He brings us through each thing that is imnpossible by mere human standards. :-)

Matt said...

I'll share Daniel's sentiments here. It is important to give a defense of the gospel (i.e. - challenge modernism and postmodernism, etc.) and also to positively teach through biblical exposition. What I like about this site is that I can get both here. Phil, thanks for being the exegete you are - great work.