Knowing the Great King changes our lives
When the Holy Spirit moves in us and our eyes are opened, we see God. And when this happens, we can’t help but see ourselves differently. We become aware of sin, our wretchedness and therefore our need of a Saviour. Then, if we accept the invitation to become a child of God, our hearts are touched and our life-long journey of knowing our Heavenly Father better, following the footsteps of Christ and humbly submitting to the HS’s transformation begins.
Christianity 101, right?
But what I would like us to consider today is…
How we perceive God effects how we live our lives
Isn’t this the same thing?
Let me explain. Do we, in our heart of hearts see God a celestial police officer, watching and waiting for us to make a mistake? We may laugh, but deep down, when things “go wrong”, do we consider that maybe God is punishing us? It’s a common perception, look at your insurance policy for “act of God”. It doesn’t refer to winning the lottery, it’s a clause for an unforeseen catastrophe. But is this such a wrong perspective, God is a judge after all.
Maybe you stand with those who see God as the gentle grand parent who just wants you to be happy, and safe, and indulged? Again, we may laugh. But when we face ongoing hardships, unexplained or unhealed illness, devastating trauma, or read of Christians undergoing severe persecution, what is our response? “Why me?”, “Make it go away”, “Do something to fix this”. And why shouldn’t we ask these things? God is love: he is our heavenly Father, so why would he want us to suffer?
How we perceive God affects our relationship with God.
For my first three books I did a Biblical study of Spiritual Warfare to scaffold the stories. But for my current book, I have a character who is like Job. So, after digging through Job, I found myself in Psalms.
I confess I haf never really “got” the Psalms: I knew there was gold in them, but I struggled to relate. Therefore, I decided to take them apart, verse by verse, phrase by phrase, and at times, word by word, to get to the heart of them. And, what on earth David—and the others—were on about. Not only am I finding gold for my books, I am starting a series all the other amazing things I’m learning.
The first thing I discovered was there are a several main themes running through, not only psalms, but the whole OT. Which makes sense since the psalms are simply the heart felt songs of God’s people. Obviously I knew there were themes, but I am learning more about what the Israelites actually thought—which is far more than the fraction that I thought they thought.
1. The Great King, enthroned in Heaven
Throughout the whole OT, including Psalms, “supreme kingship” is the most frequent image used to describe Yahweh. It was the lens through which God’s people saw themselves, and the whole of creation, from the beginning of time into eternity. Their Great King was the supreme ruler of all… everything. And as the Great King, he provided justice and order throughout his whole kingdom… everywhere. Everything, everywhere, all the time, is His.
2. The Lord is One
Deuteronomy 6:4 4 “Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one [the only God]!
Not only was God seen as the Great King, but he was also acknowledged as the One God. In the ANE people groups and nations all worshipped multiple entities. It was one of the main things separating the Israelites from everyone else: monotheism. They acknowledged the existence of angels and demonic beings—the forms that others worshipped as gods—but they believed there was only One Creator God.
The Psalms are declarations of relationship between the Israelites and Yahweh. His very name means Covenant God. “From this they assumed his covenant obligations of provision, protection, and preservation. Their songs of praise, confessions of sin, protests of innocence, complaints about suffering, pleas for deliverance, assurances of being heard, petitions before battle, and thanksgivings afterwards were all expressions of their unique relationship to the one true God.” OT Survey L. Hubbard et al pp445
However, just because this was what the Israelites knew of God, didn’t mean everyone responded the same way.
Let’s look at the first two kings of Israel. Both David and Saul went to the same school where they were taught about:
- Their forefathers: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and the covenant promises
- Moses, the plagues and the Exodus and the gift of the law
- Joshua’s miraculous crossing the Jordan into the PL and the equally miraculous defeat of Jericho
- the Judges and Prophets and their people’s continued cycle of disobedience, the consequences for their disobedience, God’s gracious salvation, their people’s disobedience… and repeat.
But the two had very different responses to life’s challenges.
David vs Saul
We read in 1 Sam 13 when Saul was confronted by his enemy, he hid and quaked in fear. Later, in 1 Sam 17, he’s doing the same thing, and even let a kid go out and face the giant opposing him. We all know David was that kid and when he heard news of the same enemy, he picked up a hand full of stones and went out to tackle the guy head on.
The psalms are full of David’s anguished cries to God during the times he was drowning in turmoil. But we have this recorded in Scripture because that is how David responded to the chaos and darkness: he poured his heart out to his Heavenly father, Great King in song. But in ch 18, we read when Saul was hurting, confused, and angry, he didn’t turn to God, he raged and plotted how he could personally conquer his own demons. Which did not go well for him.
We also read in 1 Sam Ch13 when Saul wasn’t sure what to do, he asked God, and waited. But when he didn’t get an answer, he took matters into his own hands. Conversely, when David wanted to know what to do, he asked God, and waited. When he didn’t hear, or get relief from his torment, he went on his experience and understanding of God’s heart. Which came from a lifetime of relationship eg Ch 24.
Again, in 1 Sam 13 when Samuel accused Saul of sinning, Saul lied and then blamed others. But we see in 2 Sam 12, 24 when David was guilty of sin, he confessed, took his punishment, then got up and got on with living in restored right relationship with God.
Neither man was perfect, both made mistakes. But their actions revealed how they truly perceived God and consequently the kind of relationship they had with him. Yet, I think it’s too easy to look back and make judgement calls on people we read of in history. Can we really classify David as the good guy and Saul as the failure so easily?
What if we look at our lives through the same lens. Because essentially, it’s irrelevant what time we are living in, the culture we’re born into, where we are in our journey… we are all the same. We too are adopted children who believe that Our God is the Great King, the One, the Covenant God, the Holy and only Creator God. So, if we apply this lens to our lives, how do we measure up?
If someone was reading our life story, what would they see? How would they interpret our perception of, and relationship with God when they saw how we respond to…
- The enemy’s relentless, targeted spiritual or physical attack
- Our family suffering from severe illness, having marriage difficulties, or strife with our children
- Facing job losses and financial desperation
- Stuffing up and doing the wrong thing, hurting others, and sinning against God
- Drowning in unyielding darkness: whether that’s…
- the dark night of the soul
- being ostracised, stigmatised or excluded for what and whom we believe
- struggling with anxiety, depression, addictions
- what does the world think when they witness us having strong disagreements with others in the Christian community or within our church family?
How we live our lives reveals how we perceive God
Because people are interpreting our life story: everyday, everywhere, in all things. By our actions, words, and thoughts we declare who our God is. Or, who we perceive our God to be. Do we reveal him to be a police officer? an indulgent grandparent? or worse still, an ineffectual concept or an insurance policy at best?
Or, in those times we lean in deep to the One who can and does strengthen, sustain and save us, do we demonstrate serenity amid raging, apparent chaos. Do our actions, born from our genuine trust, reveal genuine relationship with The Great King: the Holy One, Covenant maker, Relationship Keeper, Life giver, Life Sustainer, Righteous Ruler, the only Creator God who has dominion over all of Heaven and earth, from the beginning of time to the end of eternity… even in those times we can’t see it… or feel it… do we live it?
We either believe it and therefore declare it, or we don’t.
Knowing God changes our life for ever. But how we perceive God changes how we live our life. How we live our lives reveals what kind of relationship we have with God. Not only when we are in public, but all the time. Because it is by our actions we declare, to the world and to Him, what we truly believe.