*This post is written by Dave Zuleger.
I’d encourage you to stop and read Psalm 139 and take in the vastness of the sovereign knowledge of the God of the universe. Verses 1-6 affirm that the LORD knows what we do, where we are, what we think, and what we will say before it even happens. Verses 7-12 assert the lesson illustrated in the book of Jonah – we cannot outrun or hide from the presence of the Almighty God. Verses 13-16 show that this God even knit us together in our mother’s womb – he formed and fashioned us and not only knew but planned all our days.
At the end of this wonderful knowledge, the Psalmist has three reactions that all seem appropriate: rejoicing (vv.17-18), rejecting (vv.19-22), and repenting (vv. 23-24).
The Psalmist rejoices in the vastness of the thoughts of the LORD. If you were to stand on a beach or in a desert and look at all the sand, the thoughts of the LORD are more. The sheer weight of that statement causes the Psalmist to rejoice because when the LORD thinks something it comes to pass. He is not only the knower of facts but the one whose knowledge creates the world and every human in it and the one whose knowledge plans the days of every person that has ever walked the face of the earth.
The Psalmist rejects all who oppose this great God. He sees the holiness and might of the LORD and says that he rejects their wicked ways and their opposition to the unstoppable God.
The Psalmist sees himself in light of this great God and humbles himself as he realizes all of the wickedness left inside of himself and begins the process of repentance. Not only does he oppose the wicked outside of himself, but he opposes the wickedness from within. He invites the probing of the LORD to shine the light on sin and help him to more closely follow the King of the Universe.
And the question for us is will we follow in the footsteps of the Psalmist? Can we rejoice in the sovereign providence and planning of God when he takes someone we love? Can we rejoice in the sovereign providence of God when afflicted with chronic pain or disease? Can we rejoice in the sovereign providence of God when he does things in ways that we would not expect or desire?
I’ve wrestled with these things over the past year with painful personal providences in my family and the blood-bought family of the church I pastor. How can we trust him and rejoice in his knowledge even then?
He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? (Romans 8:32)
For those in Christ, who have come to trust in Jesus Christ alone for the forgiveness of their sins, the love of God on our behalf is seen objectively at the cross of Christ. At the cross, the Father sent his Son to suffer on our behalf. Our Lord is a merciful high priest (Heb. 2:17) and acquainted with grief (Is. 53:3).
At the cross, we see that we are sharing in the sufferings of Christ (2 Cor. 1:5) and that he promises to be with us – pursuing us with goodness and mercy (Psalm 23:6) all the days of our life. He who did not spare his own Son will not suddenly forget about us and leave us to ourselves.
But, instead, when we look at the objective love of God for us in the suffering of his Son unto death on a cross, we know that even what the enemy means for evil the sovereign God who has planned every one of our days means for our good.
This does not make the hard sufferings of life easier, but it does mean that they are purposeful and for our present and ultimate good:
For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. (2 Cor. 4:17-18)
The God who knows every thought and has planned every day – even the hard ones – is also the God who has entered into the brokenness of our world and died a criminals death on the cross to die the death we deserved to die so that we could live forever. He is for us. He loves us. He will never leave us or forsake us. He has proven that love at the cross.
So we wait and sometimes we groan (Romans 8:18-25). Sometimes we don’t have any answers that satisfy us (Psalm 88). God can handle our anxiety, our confusion, and even our frustration.
But, today as you wrestle with the providence of God in suffering, set your mind on the cross and your eyes on Jesus and remember that the love of God has been proven in sending his Son to suffer on your behalf and is working for your present and ultimate good in this. So that, even when it is hard, we can say, “How precious to me are your thoughts, O God.”