The book of Psalms is undoubtedly the most dearly loved, the most widely read, and the most frequently quoted book in the Bible, for both Jews and Christians identify with the psalmist, whose changing moods match their own. No matter what your mood is at a particular time, you can find a psalm to match your mood: glad or sad, angry or anxious, troubled or thankful, fearful or hopeful, counting your blessings or complaining to God. It is significant that one-third of the psalms are “psalms of complaint” (laments). The Bible is a very honest book, for the writers do not hesitate to be open and honest about their feelings. They unwrap their emotions, and this is especially true of the psalmist when he tells us that he is so troubled that he is speechless and sleepless (Psalm 77). However, there is always the note of hope as he recalls “the wonders of old,” the “deeds of the Lord,” and meditates on the mighty acts of God, especially the Exodus, but also renewed and find his hope restored when he recalls the wondrous ways and works of God in his own life.
So many of the psalms are prayers, prayers that other believers can make their own when they are so troubled that they do not know how to pray. Praying the psalms can be a very rewarding spiritual discipline. The psalm cited above is one good example of such a psalm, a prayer for deliverance in a time of great personal trouble and distress, where the psalmist’s mental anguish is so intense that he wonders what has happened to God: “It is my grief that the right hand of the Most High has changed” (77:10 – the “right hand” of God in the Old Testament is always the hand of God’s power). He has remembered how God intervened in his life so many times in the past, “the years long ago” – he meditates and searches his heart, recalling God’s favor when he was a younger believer (vs. 70). There were obviously many things that had happened in years gone by that he was unable to explain apart from God’s goodness to him, blessing him, delivering him, lovingly and faithfully working His purpose out in his life.
So many times in the reading of the psalms we find the psalmist doing the same thing, over and over again, remembering and meditating: “I remember the days of old; I meditate on all thy doings” (Psalm 143:5). In my favorite psalm, Psalm 139, he is meditating on God’s omniscience (the fact that God is all knowing), his belief that God had known him from the beginning – God even knew him before he was born, when he was still in his mother’s womb, when he was still being formed, when his body was hidden from view (vs. 13). God knew what he was going to say before he said it, because God even knew all of his thoughts: “You discern my thoughts…even before a word is on my tongue, O Lord, you know it completely” (vs. 2-4). I submit THAT IS A SCARY THOUGHT, because the biggest problem most of us have as believers is with our thought life, since our thoughts often put us under the burden of guilt and shame (i.e. if we have the desire to be holy as God is holy, if we want to have a clean mind and a pure heart). However, the psalmist does not tell us that this knowledge was a burden for him. In fact, he says “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is so high that I cannot attain it” (vs. 6). For me, there is a sense in which it is very comforting to know that God “…knows all about me…when I sit down and when I rise up…and is acquainted with all my ways”, for I am very encouraged by the fact that God knows me so well. However, I must confess that it is also disturbing to realize that nothing about me is hidden from God, that He “searches me and knows me…searches out my path,” and knows me so completely (vs. 1-4). I believe it is okay to be disturbed (i.e. about the right things); the problem is we are so often disturbed about the wrong things, and not disturbed enough about the right things!
Most of all, and through it all, I do believe that God not only knows all about me, but is actually involved in all of my life, all of my going outs and my coming ins, and always has been working in all the circumstances of my life – intervening whenever necessary, guiding me and keeping me on the right paths, delivering me from evil (as we pray every time we offer the Lord’s Prayer), and making Himself known by the way He makes things happen that simply cannot be explained apart from His omniscience, omnipresence, and omnipotence (God is all ,knowing, present everywhere, and all powerful). The psalmist knew this full well (139:1-4, 7-9, and 11-12), and so do I! This knowledge is also “…too wonderful for me…it is so high that I cannot attain it” (vs. 6). I am equally convinced, O Lord my God, that “In your book were written all the days that were formed for me, when none of them yet existed” (vs. 16), and I find myself praying so often just as the psalmist prayed: “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts. See if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (vs. 23-24).
All this brings me to the theme that I have chosen for a new series of posts, COINCIDENCES OR GOD-INCIDENTS? Nothing in our lives takes God by surprise, but we are often surprised by the way God is able to work in such amazing and wondrous ways. Why should we be so surprised when we know what a great God we have, far greater than our minds can ever conceive, an unlimited God who can do “whatever he pleases, in the heavens and on the earth” (Psalm 135;6). Therefore, GOD CAN DO WHATEVER HE PLEASES IN YOUR LIFE AND MINE! Both the Old and New Testaments proclaim that God is sovereign, and not only has a plan for the whole of His creation, but has a plan for your life and mine. Jesus taught us that our Father in heaven is watching over us and “knows what we need before we ask him” (Matthew 6:8). He told us that we should not be anxious about our life, and He used the birds of the air to illustrate the fact that His eye is always upon us: “Your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” (vs.26).
This is the faith we sing, “His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.” The one true and living God God is not only transcendent but immanent; not only above us and beyond us, but also with us and among us, a “down-to-earth” God who was incarnated in the historical Jesus, in whom “all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell” (Colossians 1:19, 2:9), that we might be able to know Him, to worship Him, to love Him, to have fellowship with Him, to trust Him, and to enjoy Him forever – the God who knows our struggles and sorrows, our problems and pain, our troubles and temptations, who is able to identify with us at all times and in all our circumstances – the God who loves us and cares about us, listens to our prayers, and is working His purpose out in our lives day by day, moment by moment, and is able to work in all things for good in the lives of those who are seeking to know His will and to do it (Romans 8:28).
Therefore, we can be sure of this: the happenings that many may see as accidental or coincidental events, believers should not look upon as “coincidences” but as GOD-INCIDENTS. For the next several weeks, I will be sharing some personal experiences that transcend the natural realm, that can only be explained in supernatural terms. In the Bible “mystery” is the word that is so often used when referring to the inexplicable, the incomprehensible, the wondrous ways and amazing works of God. God’s ways are indeed mysterious, but should not be surprising to believers, for God has always specialized in surprises.