This week’s treatment of the International Sunday School Lesson (for November 7) is written by Jason Jones, an elementary school principal in Clinton County, Ohio.
God is Awesome (Psalm 66:1-12)
By Jason Jones
It was a simple family outing on a lazy, late-summer Saturday. A cool breeze kept the smell of fresh kettle-popped popcorn permeating through the fairgrounds. My 4-year-old boy was having the time of his life riding a real train, jumping on giant inflatables, and playing alongside other like-minded toddlers. My baby girl observed from her stroller and laughed at every silly dance move her brother performed for her. The best part of the day for me was watching my wife expertly attend to every need of both of our precious children. A bottle for the baby. Snacks for the boy. No request or cry went unanswered. Life couldn’t possibly get any better, and I found myself thanking my awesome God for the undeserved blessings in my life.
And then a short item, quickly and thoughtlessly nestled between the weather report and the evening’s sports recap on the nightly news, brought me up short. A 2-year-old boy had been battered beyond recognition by a caregiver. As if a dislocated shoulder and fractured skull weren’t abuse enough, the defenseless boy also was scalded by boiling water. How could the same God who gave me such a beautiful and perfect family allow such evil to exist? Did he even care? Was he even out there?
From awesome to absent. That is quite a status change for the Lord.
Thankfully, we know better. It is often difficult, even for the faithfully strong among us, to sift through the awfulness that people can create and find the awesomeness of God.
Psalm 66 helps us with perspective.
In the first 12 verses, the author reminds us of the easy things. God is awesome and powerful. All the earth sings praises to his name. God’s enemies fear him. He reigns forever.
But then there are the historical reminders from Israel’s past. According to the psalmist, the Lord led the Israelites to be enslaved. The Lord brought to them the experience of hard labor. The Israelites were tested and tried and refined like silver in the fire. But this same God ultimately led them to a place of abundance.
This God who gave his chosen Israel a fresh start is still the God of second chances. And we are also reminded in another passage that we simply cannot impart the logic of man onto the actions of God. Romans 8:28 says that in all things God works for the good of those who love him. In all things—even child abuse, drug and alcohol-ravaged homes, house fires, divorces, and job loss—he works for the good.
It is ironic that renowned God-hater and German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche borrowed from the refined silver imagery of Psalm 66 when he said, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” Whether Nietzsche was quoting Scripture or not, it is profoundly sad to think there is absolutely nothing at the end of the road of misery and heartache. Sure, a life of hard knocks would help toughen the spirit. But with no reward in sight, the fight could very well fracture the soul.
I used to enjoy reading the popular books that taught you what to do if you ever faced rare but terrifying life-threatening situations. I recall learning that if I were ever stranded at sea, one of the best things I could do to keep my spirits high would be to envision and think of land—sort of a self-imposed, deep-sea mirage.
Our prize is no mirage. Our God promises us the land of abundance that he once promised to Israel. But our promised land is Heaven. Even thinking about my perfect Saturday several weeks ago doesn’t compare to the wonders I will see when I reach my Father’s heavenly home.
In Exodus 16, we read that some of the Israelites began to cave under the pressures and hardships of their escape from Egypt. In verse 3, some cried, “If only we had died by the Lord’s hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death.” They were willing to return to their oppressors in Egypt rather than trust that the Lord would deliver on his promise.
Worth the Bumps
There is simply nothing this life can throw at us that is worth giving up on God. Our past can never be so horrible that we fall outside of the grace of God. His timing and his reasoning might test us, but we ultimately will emerge as beautiful and pure as the refined silver that Psalm 66 mentions.
Our God is awesome, and his promise at the end of the road is worth the bumps along the way.
*All Scripture references are from the New International Version, unless otherwise indicated.
|HOME DAILY BIBLE READINGS|
|Nov. 1: Judges 10:10-16|
|Nov. 2: 1 Samuel 7:3-13|
|Nov. 3: 1 Samuel 17:31-37|
|Nov. 4: Psalm 40:1-5|
|Nov. 5: Psalm 66:13-20|
|Nov. 6: Psalm 22:19-28|
|Nov. 7: Psalm 66:1-12|
ABOUT THE LESSON WRITER: Jason Jones is a graduate of Cincinnati (Ohio) Christian University. He and his wife, Sara, have two children, Jackson and Chloe. Jason serves as an elementary school principal in New Vienna, Ohio.