There are times we may feel frustrated or confused by what God is doing. Many times that’s because we are holding God to the way we would do things, instead of becoming students of Gods ways. But throughout Scripture, we see wisdom portrayed as seeking after God's ways, and admitting that His ways are higher and better and different than ours.
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Okay, so as we all sought the Lord, for words for this year. Back in at the end of December of last year, one of the things that the Lord spoke to me about was learning his ways. And he continues to teach me about that. And so I really felt led to explore that a little bit this morning, and to speak a little bit about what he's been showing me. And it's really amazing to me how all of the things that you all have already shared this morning, are part of what he's shown me and like I said, that just builds my faith, that's just confirmation for me. Here's why I feel like this is important is that I'm encountering more and more people, Christians who are frustrated by life, they're afraid. They're frustrated or confused by life in God by what God is doing. They are trying to pick up the weapons of the world's warfare, to deal with things. And, and I think that a lot of that is because they keep holding God to the way they would do things, instead of becoming students of God's ways. But throughout Scripture, we see wisdom portrayed in the life of Moses in the Psalms all throughout the scriptures, as a seeking after God's ways, and admitting that His ways are higher and better and different than mine, that I can't hold him to my ways I have to learn his, if I'm going to walk this life of faith. Consider Moses prayer in Exodus 33, where he pleads with God, if you are pleased with me. Teach me your ways. So that I may know you and continue to find favor with you. He knows that there is there is a way in God that's different than what he would come up with. And he wants to walk in a way that's pleasing to God, that will continue to find favor with God. Psalm 25 has so much to say to us about it. And I just want to point out a few verses in Psalm 25. Starting at verse four. The Psalmist prays, show me your ways, Lord, teach me your paths, guide me in your truth, and teach me for you are God, my Savior? And my hope is in you all day long? Why do we have to pray that? Because he doesn't think like we do. Because if I'm not seeking God's ways, and coming in humility, asking him to show me what His ways are, there's a good chance that I'm going to miss it. Down in verse nine, it says, He guides the humble in what is right, and teaches them his way. There's a condition there isn't there. If we don't come to God in humility, then we will miss the teaching of the Lord, we will miss being instructed in what God says is right. Why is humility, so important? Because humility is teachable, and humility admits, I don't understand this. This isn't the way I would do it. But God, I choose to come and ask you to teach me. Verse 10, says, All the ways of the Lord are loving and faithful toward those who keep the demands of his covenant. Now, that's a beautiful verse. But we have to look at the whole scope of Scripture, and be able to overlay that verse over everything that Israel walked through all the ways, even the ways that don't make sense to us. Our law Hang in that word loving is has said, it's the we're going to talk a little bit more about that later. It is the loving kindness, the covenant faithfulness, the the the beyond human understanding, love, all the ways of God are that and a meth, they are His truth, they are his foundational reality toward those who keep the demands of his covenant, that there is a covenant blessing in which there is this overlay of his faithful love, no matter what it looks like, from from our aunt like perspective. Those are the things that we have to hold intention as we learn the ways of God. And then in Psalm 8611, the Psalmist says, Teach me your way, Lord, that I may rely on your faithfulness. Isn't that such a clear cause and effect, I want to be able to rely on your faithfulness. And things look pretty dicey down here sometimes. So Teach me your ways, that I may rely on your faithfulness. And then I love it. Depending on your translation, it says, Give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. Don't our hearts get divided sometimes when we don't understand what's happening, when we have an undivided heart that is completely united with the faithfulness of God, and willing to take into consideration his ways. Then we can be aligned under that covenant, faithful love of God, and say, no matter what is happening around me, this I know, this doesn't change this will when when I talked about learning God's ways, at the New Year, I talked about Joshua learning to pray with chutzpah, because he'd been at Moses side for all those years. And he'd learned the ways of God, the amazing miracle working ways of God. And that's a cool story. And it's a really important thing for us to consider. It's part of what it means that we need to learn the ways of God so that we know how to pray in agreement with who he is and what he wants to do. But that's not the direction that I feel the Lord leading us to for today. Instead, I think he wants us to consider times when God's ways leave us potentially disappointed in him. Just like Beth was talking about earlier, more than ever, in this hour. In order not to be dismayed. We have to be students of the ways of God. The world tends to respond with ignorance, and arrogance. When things look like as rod said earlier, things are spinning out of control, because the Lord is allowing what the Lord is allowing, and the world stands and accuses God, well, if God is, if God is, if he's good, then why is he allowing, fill in the blank? Christians even do that? If God is good? If God is all powerful, then why is he allowing fill in the blank? Well, we can blame God, or we can accuse him or we can hold what we know about God, come humble, and say, I don't know. But this I know about God. So God, Teach me your ways. Some of the world wants, and even some of the Church wants to say, If God were good, then he would stop human trafficking, then he would stop the war in Ukraine, then he would stop, you know, the liberals, whatever it might be, if God were good, then he would fill in the blank. So we can either agree that the world is spinning out of control, and God is losing. That's probably not a good option. Or we can agree that God is not good. And he's not doing what we would expect a good God to do. So there's clearly something wrong with God. That doesn't seem like a good option. Or we can say, well, I don't know. But I know God is good. And apparently he's not doing what we think he should be doing. So God teach us your ways. Do you see the importance of that? Well, I don't know. You're right. That's hard for me to understand. So God, teach us your ways. You are all loving, you are all powerful. You are all good. And yet human trafficking is a thing. So God teach us your ways. What do you want us to know about that? Is there something that we're supposed to be doing about that that we're missing? Is there something that is playing out? As the kingdom of darkness spins itself out? We we don't know God, how do we position ourselves to cooperate with what you We're doing. So in order to be positioned to cooperate with what God is doing, and not to be offended, or to be dismayed when His ways are different than ours. I believe that we need to be praying this year with the psalmist. Teach me your ways, Lord, so that I might continue to find favor with you. So that I might rely on your faithfulness, so that I might continue to hope in you. And so I might continue to walk in your covenant blessings. And then, of course, any study of God's ways has to begin with a study of him, his character, who he is, when His ways are hard for us to understand, we have to go back to what we know, a solid foundation and who he is. There's a reason why so much in Scripture paints a picture for us, of who God is that he's faithful, he's merciful. He's covenant keeping. He's just, he's slow to anger. He's tender. He's wise, he's compassionate. But he's also zealous. He's also the commander of the army of the Lord. He's also a consuming fire. He's also the God of vengeance. We need to know who he is because we don't always know what part of you know what aspect of God's nature is forefront at any given moment. And we can get confused by that. So we need to study the scope of this magnificent being in all of his nature and aspects who is our God. He gives us to help us with that word pictures like he's Abba. Papa, daddy, tender. He's bridegroom, passionate pursuing. He's the Lamb of God, meek, gentle sacrifice. He's also the lion of the tribe of Judah. He's the victorious warrior. And he is a potter who is very much Lord of that clay. People get offended with God. I think sometimes because we have cartoonish notions of who he is. We pick the parts of him we're most comfortable with the parts of him we like the parts of him, we feel like we can control and we form them into a caricature of who God is. That pleases us kind of a little pocket God that we can carry around with us and pull out and rub like a rubber lucky rabbit's foot when we need him to do what we expect him to do. But then we we set ourselves up for disappointment, don't we, when he doesn't act in the way that our pocket God would act. So in order to be a student of his ways, we have to undertake a study of this magnificent, complex, glorious, beyond description, God who created all that is and invites us into eternal relationship with Himself. And one of the things that we find as we do that is that all of God's manifold characteristics are held together by one glue. His has said that loving kindness of God, no matter what else he is being, no matter what other aspect of his character is being presented to us, it is never separate from his head. When he is the god of vengeance, his vengeance comes from her said, when he is the sacrificial lamb, its has said sometimes his has said is easier for us to see than it is at other times. But that glue of her said, is the one the solid foundation, the rock that we can count on. Everything God is and everything he does, flows from that faithful covenant keeping love. Michael card has written a really wonderful book, a whole book about that one word, called inexpressible. He calls his said the untranslatable defining the inexpressible, the untranslatable, because there are hundreds of different ways that scholars have translated, the Hebrew word has said, because it's so much bigger than any word or even long string of words in English could possibly use to capture it. It's the inexpressible being doing. It's the untranslatable defining the unexpressed Double the list of all of the things that are included in this loving kindness of God is, is hundreds of words long. And all of them are simply tiny little planks of attempt to describe the nature in the character of this God, who is good beyond our wildest imagining. So in order to understand his ways, we got to start there. Nothing else that we're going to learn about his ways, means is taken out of context, all of the other things we learn about his ways, could give us misconceptions about who he is that rock, that solid foundation has got to be in place. And then we can start using it as a filter through which we begin to understand the way that he interacts with us the way that he works through humankind. Amazing. So my first point is in order to study his ways, first, we have to know God's character. We have to, I want to look just briefly at a few examples in Scripture, all of these are worthy of much greater study than we'll be able to give them today. So each one of them is just an invitation for you to dig in and study on your own. But these are some of the ones that God was, is helping me to learn more about his ways through. So Lucy talked this morning about the Passover. I want you to imagine you being Joe Israelite. When Moses shows up from the desert, on a mission from God, you're just trying to stay alive. Life is hard. You've been crying out to God for deliverance. You don't think he's home? Doesn't seem like he's listening. Moses shows up, and he's gonna go head to head with the head of, you know, the world's superpower at that time. He does that. And things immediately get worse for you. Life just got worse. Now you've got to up your quota, and you got to do it without straw. As you're making your bricks. You're Joe Israel, and you're trying to figure out the ways of God. Okay. Could God have arranged for an immediate supernatural deliverance? The moment Moses arrived? Yes, he could. He absolutely could have you could have struck the Egyptians dead. He could have put them all to sleep and said, everybody tiptoe out relieving. There are so many different ways we could come up with that God could have arranged that, that would have been a lot easier for Joe Israel, who is just trying to keep his family together. Which is why sometimes, when we look at God's ways, they can seem a bit cumbersome to us. But that's why it's important for us to zoom out a little bit. When we zoom out from that story of the Passover, it's, it appears that God was up to several things at once. Now, I don't know this is just, you know, it's speculation and observation on my part. Yes, he did deliver his people out of slavery. But at the same time that he was doing that, let's just consider a couple of other things that he got done. He humbled Pharaoh, who thought that he could stand against the living God. He also humbled the demon God principalities and powers that governed that region. scholars point out that each of the 10 plagues was a direct confrontation with one of Egypt's gods in which they were soundly defeated. There was a reckoning going on in the heavenly realms, and God was using Israel to bring it about. I wish we could zoom out enough to like, see that heavenly warfare that was going on, as those little demon Gods of Egypt were like, you know, as because they worshipped the gnats, they worshipped the you know, the river, they worship all these things. And so in each one of these, if we could see the, the warfare that was going on in the heavenly realms, as God was like, You are under my feet, you are under my feet, you you're under my feet, you you're under my feet. Every single one of those gods was Gods, you know, in quotation marks, little g was humbled. By the way at the same time, God was also ensuring that Egypt would be unable to pursue Israel. Israel had 40 years of relative security in the wilderness, because Egypt had been incapacitated and could not pursue her. But again, you're Jo Israel, you're just trying to stay alive, unless you're able to trust The covenant keeping has said of God. And unless you're willing to study his ways, trust what he who he is, and say, I don't understand. So God, how do I cooperate with what you're doing right now? It could be really difficult to walk in faith to rely on God's faithfulness. Even Moses struggles a little bit in Exodus five, we see Moses kind of having it out with God, where he's like, Why, Lord, have you brought trouble on this people? Is this why you sent me? Ever since I went to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has brought trouble on this people, and you have not rescued your people at all. I love that I love that Moses had that little conversation with God. God responds by by reminding Moses who he is. He bookends his statement in Exodus six, at the beginning of Exodus six with I am the Lord. I am the Lord. He starts it that way. And he ends it that way like Moses, have you forgotten who I am? Have you forgotten who you're talking to. And then he says, God responds that by reminding Moses, not just who he is, but that this is a new era of knowing him. He's he indicates to Moses, I remember the promises that I made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. But I never told them the covenant name that I've given to you. You are now in a new era of knowing me. This is a new place that you are, and you are going to learn who I am as this covenant God. I am the Lord. Like he looks back, he looks forward and he looks right at Moses, and says, I am Yahweh I am that that covenant name that I gave to you, it is impossible for me to lie. This can't not happen, because of my nature because of who I am. And because of the covenant that I am ushering you into, I am the Lord. Okay, well, in light of the fact that you're the Lord, that this is going to happen, it's going to play out the way you say it is. All right. Teach me your ways. Teach me to walk in your ways. So we see this, as we zoom out, even beyond humbling Pharaoh, even beyond the cause cosmic battle with Egypt's gods, to the purpose, God is working out to redeem all of humankind to himself, because he also says to Moses, I'm going to bring them out, and I will be their God. And I'm going to dwell among them, he is forming a covenant family of families, that he is ultimately going to bring forth His son from. So God is multitasking on a massive scale here, and he has it all in hand. This is God's way of saying the I am the Lord is God's way of saying, I have spoken, I can swear by none higher than myself. I cannot lie. This is a done deal. So point two for me in learning God's ways is learning that God is working on multiple levels at once. And the one that I can see as Joe Israel is the one that it's hardest to see from here. All of those other levels that God is working on at any given time. So God, I trust who you are, but Teach me your ways. Let's just briefly consider a couple of other accounts. You all know the story of napalm in the leper in Second Kings, chapter five. So just briefly, naman is the commander of the Aramean army. So he's not Jewish, he's not from Israel. He's from a neighboring country. And that was often an enemy of sometimes an ally, sometimes an enemy of Israel. This is interesting scripture records that the Lord had worked through this says this specifically, the Lord had worked through him to give a rum victory. This is just an aside, but that fascinates me. Like, what that tells me is that the Lord was working through this Gentile commander to preserve a certain balance of power in that region. He let an a Gentile nation be led to victory by a Gentile commander that didn't have anything specifically to do with Israel, but it was preserving a balance of power. That was God's intent for that region for that time. That would just kind of an interesting thing to consider as we consider God's ways, isn't it? Oh, you work through people who don't even know you, who have no interest in you. You are at work preserving certain things. Because you're setting up things on a worldwide scale. That's good to know. That's not what I want to talk about. That's good to note. Here's what I want to focus on today, Nam and the great commander. He has leprosy. And namens wife has an is Jewish slave girl, who says, Oh, I know a guy. I know a guy I know a guy in Samaria, and he has the power of God. And if only my master could get to him, then I'm sure he'd be healed. And so naming gets permission from his king and a letter of recommendation. And he comes with fanfare. He's got silver, he's got gold, he's got clothing, he comes to Samaria, with his chariots and his horses, as befitting a man of his stature. Amen. So he's coming to Elijah with pomp and circumstance, most likely expecting to be received as the great man he is. And Elijah doesn't even come outside. He didn't invite Him in. He sends a messenger out to him, and says, go wash in the Jordan seven times, and you'll be healed. And namun is furious. And he's disappointed. He had an expectation of how he was going to be received, and how God was going to move. And because he had that expectation, he almost missed his moment. The rivers of Damascus were far superior to the often muddy little Jordan, and he's not having it. Verse 12, says he went off in a rage. He is not happy in this moment, he is not impressed with God. But don't you know that Elijah, the man of God is hearing from God and conspiring with God at that moment, because God was up to something greater and deeper and more important than simply healing naman of a skin disease. Fortunately, naman has some servants with their wits about them. And they say, if he told you to do some great thing, you would have done it. So how much more than since he asked you to do this one simple thing that Jordan's right there? Would you not just go and do what he said? Why not? Because that's humiliating. That's why. But name and humbles himself. And he does what Elijah has asked to them, and he's healed. So, looking at God's ways, here again, this is just observation and speculation, but it seems to me that God was after a more significant healing than just leprosy. God knew that namens much more significant disease maybe was the sin of pride. And he used this opportunity to bring healing to something that's much more deadly than leprosy will ever be. Might he also have been suddenly dealing with the pride of the nation of around? Maybe. Interestingly enough, God also uses this incident to draw name and to himself name and asks if he can bring as much soil from Israel as his donkey can carry. Because he no longer is ever going to worship false gods again, he wants to stand on Israel's soil and worship only the true God of Israel. He's a man of great influence in his nation. I wonder what kind of influence he's going to have on his troops. As he says, There is no god but the God of Israel and refuses to worship any other god I wonder what influence he might have in this pagan nation as he walks this out? I don't know. But here's my third point is that with God the way up is often down because he's after the heart just another interesting note from that story about God's ways naman offers Alicia all the goodies he's brought. And Elijah turns them all down, says no, I'm not going to receive a thing from you. Why not? Who we don't really know. Except that after a hazai Alicia servant sneaks off and takes some of the goodies. Rather deceptively. Alicia knows and confronts him with. Is this the time to take money or accept clothes? Maybe there is a time to but apparently this wasn't it. Now, this is why this is interesting to me. There is a time to plunder the Gentiles. How do I I know because God commanded His people to do that when they left Egypt, plunder them, ask them for stuff, take everything they'll give you there is a time to receive from the Gentiles. And yet, you also remember the story in Genesis 14, when Abram went and defeated those kings, and then the king of Sodom was going to give him all the goodies that they got all the loot. And Abram said, No, I'm not going to take one thongs strap from you, I will not receive anything from you. Last, though, lest you ever say that you made Abram rich. In other words, what Abraham had was going to be attributed to God alone. It was never going to be attributed to people. And Abraham knew that, that he was not to receive anything so that people around him could say, oh, yeah, I know how you got rich. No, it was only because of the grace of God on his life. So there is a time to receive it, there was a time to not receive and get hazed I missed the time to not receive, he went and he received and as a result, he was stricken with leprosy, he and his household for the rest of his generations. So how important is it to be a student of the Lord's ways. God is not a formula, his character is always the same. But his ways change depending on the circumstances. That's really important for us to notice. God is not a formula. His ways are not a formula. He is not a science, you cannot put in a plus b and get C every single time when it comes to the ways of God. That's why it's so important for us to be leaning in and asking God the question, show me your ways for right now. Think about this, Joseph, stored up grain at God's command. Right? It kept his whole family and all of Egypt alive for the seven years. But the rich man in Jesus parable in Luke 12, was condemned for doing the same thing. He had extra, he built bigger barns so he could store it up. God called him a fool. Do you see that there's no formula here. Being a student of God's ways, involves leaning in to listen, and asking questions like, Lord, what time is it? Is it time to store up extra? Or is it time to keep only what we need? And give generously of the rest? Is it time to move out? Or is it time to hunker down and wait for the plagues to pass? Is it time to charge toward the promised land? Or is it time to flourish in Goshen for a while. All of these are accounts of God's activity, and they were written for our instruction. So that we may be students of his ways. And the one thing that we can find out from those things is, this is not a formula, God's ways change, depending on the need. And so we have to be an intimate communication with him. So my fourth point is that God's character doesn't change. But his ways do. And so we have to know what time it is. And we won't know that unless we ask. Let's not assume that we know. So there are others that that I'm not going to go into in great detail. But think about what it would have felt like to be Joe Israelite in the time of Jeremiah. Oh, what is God doing? So counterintuitive, because it seems like rise up trust in the promises of God and fight fight fight would make a lot of sense. And that's what a lot of Israel's rulers were saying at that time. But Jeremiah knew the truth. And he said, The God is going to preserve a remnant. But the only way that that's going to happen is if you allow yourself to be taken into captivity, and led into Babylon, and stay there for seven years, and some of you will die there, but God's purposes will prevail. What would it have felt like? How easy would it have been to be confused, to be offended, to lose your faith in a time like that, where God's ways are so hard to figure out? So my fifth point is that, first of all, the most important thing is to know the word of the Lord. To know the word of the Lord, it was those who knew the word of the Lord, who knew how to position themselves. Think about Daniel, he knew the word of the Lord. And because of that, he knew how to position himself in faith. 70 years, God you said, Let's pray. Right? So we have to know the word of the Lord but my fifth point comes from that too. And that's a little bit harder one but I think it's one that's pretty important for us to grapple with in our day, which is that God will do what it takes to preserve a pure remnant he can use to fulfill His covenant. What was he doing as he stripped Israel from the land. He was purifying his people. He was purifying his people of idolatry and pride. He was stripping his people of disobedience. The remnant that came back was a contrite bunch. Read, read Ezra, and you'll see the contrition and the the rending of garments and the OH GOD, we've sinned, that allowed them to then carry on the next little portion of God's story. So important that we realize that God will preserve a pure remnant. And we can either be part of it or not, depending on how we position ourselves. And then, of course, the ultimate biblical example of the life and death of Jesus. Death already talked about the carrying of the cross. The religious leaders expected God to act in a certain way. And because of their lack of humility, and they're not understanding God's ways and what he was doing, they missed it. The people of Israel expected God to send a certain kind of deliver, and most of them missed it. Well, today we celebrate Palm Sunday, the day Jesus welcomed the day Jerusalem welcomed Jesus as a hero. They thought they knew that Sunday, what God was doing. And less than a week later, that hero would be dying on a cross. And nobody, not the religious leaders, not the disciples, and not even Satan, saw what God was up to. Israel wanted the healing of a deliverance from earthly oppressors. But God's purposes were so much greater. He would heal them of being separated from him by sin, he would create a new covenant people who would host his spirit, he would defeat the principalities and powers as we zoom out, and he would not provide Israel with the human deliver, that they wanted. He was going to bring life through death, victory through unspeakable loss, the way up was down. The way to glorification was through humiliation. There could not be a more important way of God for us to notice. So my last point is that as the people of Christ's covenant, Christ's covenant, Christ's covenant, we are invited to walk the way of the cross. We are called to a cruciform life. The way up is always down. When John the Baptist, who had been so full of faith in Jesus earlier, had his doubts. While sitting in Harrods prison, he sent his disciples to ask Jesus, Are you the one who is to come? Or should we expect someone else? Jesus wasn't doing what John expected him to do? And John was like, Are we okay here? Is this what I thought it was? Or are we waiting for someone else to come? Jesus doesn't give John the whole answer. He could have zoomed way out and said, John, this is going to be so cool, wait, just watch and wait and see what I'm going to do. He doesn't give him that. He just points to the ways he is fulfilling the role of the Messiah, the blind seat on the deaf or hearing. It's happening John, and he finished his with And blessed is he who is not offended me. The one who in other translations it says, who doesn't stumble, or fall away? Because of me? Who trusts the character of God and walks through that completely unnerving process of learning the ways of God? Oh, this is not at all what I thought it was going to be. This is not what I expected. Oh, God, Teach me your ways. So in other words, rest on the has said, the faithful love and covenant keeping nature of God and trust that he is working out more than you understand. Hold firmly to the things You know about God? And when our question is, Okay, God, I trust you. I do. I trust your unfailing love. I abide in Your covenant faithfulness to me and to your people now. What time is it? What do I we need to understand in order to cooperate with what you're doing right now? When we'll come to him that way, then I think we're positioned to understand his ways in a way that we can rely on His faithfulness and walk as those people of God who truly show forth his light and do his exploits. Amen.