Day 14

Just Relax and Let God Be God

Wisdom Psalm 9:7-12
New Testament Matthew 11:16-30
Old Testament Genesis 29:1-30:43

Introduction

Joyce Meyer tweeted, ‘Just relax and let God be God.’ It is a great comfort to know that a loving God is ultimately in control of everything that happens.

Bishop Sandy Millar often says in the face of some tragedy or when things have gone badly wrong: ‘The Lord reigns.’

Many times throughout the Bible, God is referred to as the Sovereign Lord. Both Joyce Meyer and Sandy Millar are expressing, in different ways, absolute confidence in the sovereignty of God.

If God is sovereign and ultimately in control, does that mean that you are absolved of responsibility for your actions? Does it mean that you do not have ‘free will’? The Bible teaches both – the ultimate sovereignty of God at the same time as human responsibility and free will.

Wisdom

Psalm 9:7-12

    7 The Lord reigns forever;
        he has established his throne for judgment.
    8 He rules the world in righteousness
        and judges the peoples with equity.
    9 The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed,
        a stronghold in times of trouble.
    10 Those who know your name trust in you,
        for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you.

    11 Sing the praises of the Lord, enthroned in Zion;
        proclaim among the nations what he has done.
    12 For he who avenges blood remembers;
        he does not ignore the cries of the afflicted.

Commentary

Confidently trust in the sovereign Lord

God is in ultimate control of the universe: ‘the Lord reigns’ (v.7). God ‘will judge the world in righteousness (rightness and equity); He will minister justice to the peoples in uprightness’ (v.8, AMP). This knowledge is an enormous comfort. We may never know in this life why God allows some horrendous things to happen.

Trust in the sovereignty of God and keep on believing that he will never forsake you: ‘And they who know Your name will lean on and confidently put their trust in You, for You, Lord, have not forsaken those who seek You’ (v.10, AMP).

In the meantime, keep doing these three things:

  1. Praising

    ‘Sing the praises of the Lord’ (v.11a).

  2. Proclaiming

    Proclaim among the nations what he has done’ (v.11b).

  3. Praying

    ‘The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble’ (v.9); ‘He does not ignore the cry of the afflicted’ (v.12b).

Prayer

Lord, thank you that you do not ignore my cries and that I can confidently trust in you. Thank you that I can relax and let you be God.

New Testament

Matthew 11:16-30

16 “To what can I compare this generation? They are like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling out to others:

    17 “‘We played the pipe for you,
        and you did not dance;
    we sang a dirge,
        and you did not mourn.’

18 For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ 19 The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ But wisdom is proved right by her deeds.”

Woe on Unrepentant Towns

20 Then Jesus began to denounce the towns in which most of his miracles had been performed, because they did not repent. 21 “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. 22 But I tell you, it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you. 23 And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted to the heavens? No, you will go down to Hades. For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Sodom, it would have remained to this day. 24 But I tell you that it will be more bearable for Sodom on the day of judgment than for you.”

The Father Revealed in the Son

25 At that time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. 26 Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do.

27 “All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Commentary

Accept the invitation to walk with Jesus

The teaching of Jesus is fascinating. In the first section of today’s passage he seems to be saying, ‘You can’t win.’ On the one hand, John the Baptist was an ascetic and was accused of being demon-possessed. On the other hand, Jesus went to parties with all kinds of people and made friends with those who were regarded as unsavoury characters. He was accused of being ‘a glutton and a drunkard’ and ‘a friend of tax collectors and sinners’ (v.18).

Whatever you do may be misinterpreted. Yet Jesus adds, ‘But wisdom is proved right by her actions’ (v.19). I take this to mean that all we can do is the right thing and not worry about what anybody else thinks. ‘Opinion polls don’t count for much, do they? The proof of the pudding is in the eating’ (v.19, MSG).

Jesus then denounces the cities that he has visited and performed miracles in, where people have neither repented nor believed. He suggests that their sin is worse than the sin of Sodom (v.24). The sin of unbelief is perhaps the most serious of all.

Jesus goes on to teach in such a way that it is clear that he believed in both predestination (that God has already determined everything that will happen) and free will. He teaches both alongside one another. It is a paradox. The two seemingly contradictory things are both true at the same time.

It is not 50% ‘predestination’ and 50% ‘free will’. Jesus says we are 100% predestined and we have 100% free will. This may seem impossible, but God is able to transcend and yet not distort human freedom. We ultimately see this in the incarnation: Jesus is 100% God and 100% human; he is fully God and fully human.

  • Predestination

    ‘All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him’ (v.27).

    Why God chooses to reveal himself to some and not to others is a mystery. It is certainly not based on wisdom and learning. Sometimes the great intellectuals simply cannot see it: ‘you have hidden these things from the wise and learned’ (v.25). And yet sometimes people of little or no education, or those who are very young (‘little children’, v.25), seem to have a very profound understanding of Jesus. ‘You’ve concealed your way from sophisticates and know-it-alls, but spelled them out clearly to ordinary people’ (v.25, MSG).

  • Free will

    Jesus says, ‘Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest’ (v.28). The invitation to come to Jesus is for everyone. No one is excluded. We are all invited. We all have a choice whether to accept the invitation of Jesus or to refuse it.

I find it difficult to get my mind around this paradox. However, I have found the following illustration helpful. Imagine a room with an arched doorway. The outside of the arch is inscribed with the words, ‘Come to me, all you…’ (v.28). Everyone is invited into the room. When you get into the room, on the inside of the same arch is written, ‘No one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him’ (v.27b).

In other words, free will is a doctrine for everyone. No one can say, ‘I am not going to become a Christian because I have not been chosen.’ The invitation is to all. On the other hand, predestination is a doctrine of assurance for those who are Christians. Once you have accepted the invitation and entered, you can know that God has chosen you and therefore he will not let you go.

I love the fact that in a stressful world, where so many are ‘weary and burdened’, Jesus promises you rest. He offers to take your burdens and replace them with his own.

The yoke (something that Jesus would have made in the carpenter's shop) was a wooden frame joining two animals (usually oxen) at the neck, enabling them to pull a plough or wagon together. The function of the yoke is to make burdens easier to carry. I love this image of walking in step with Jesus, sharing our burdens, making the trials to be endured and the battles to be faced ‘easy’ and ‘light’ by comparison.

Jesus is not a slave driver. When you pursue his agenda for your life you carry a burden but it is ‘not harsh, hard, sharp, or pressing, but comfortable, gracious, and pleasant’ (v.30, AMP). When you do what Jesus asks you to do, he gives you the strength and wisdom to do it and you carry his burden with him. There will, of course, be many challenges and difficulties, but there will also be a lightness and ease.

Jesus says to you: ‘Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me – watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly’ (vv.28–29, MSG). Just relax and let God be God.

Prayer

Lord, thank you that you promise me rest for my soul. I come to you today. I give to you my burdens…

Old Testament

Genesis 29:1-30:43

Jacob Arrives in Paddan Aram

29Then Jacob continued on his journey and came to the land of the eastern peoples. 2 There he saw a well in the open country, with three flocks of sheep lying near it because the flocks were watered from that well. The stone over the mouth of the well was large. 3 When all the flocks were gathered there, the shepherds would roll the stone away from the well’s mouth and water the sheep. Then they would return the stone to its place over the mouth of the well.

4 Jacob asked the shepherds, “My brothers, where are you from?”

“We’re from Harran, ” they replied.

5 He said to them, “Do you know Laban, Nahor’s grandson?”

“Yes, we know him,” they answered.

6 Then Jacob asked them, “Is he well?”

“Yes, he is,” they said, “and here comes his daughter Rachel with the sheep. ”

7 “Look,” he said, “the sun is still high; it is not time for the flocks to be gathered. Water the sheep and take them back to pasture.”

8 “We can’t,” they replied, “until all the flocks are gathered and the stone has been rolled away from the mouth of the well. Then we will water the sheep.”

9 While he was still talking with them, Rachel came with her father’s sheep, for she was a shepherd. 10 When Jacob saw Rachel daughter of his uncle Laban, and Laban’s sheep, he went over and rolled the stone away from the mouth of the well and watered his uncle’s sheep. 11 Then Jacob kissed Rachel and began to weep aloud. 12 He had told Rachel that he was a relative of her father and a son of Rebekah. So she ran and told her father.

13 As soon as Laban heard the news about Jacob, his sister’s son, he hurried to meet him. He embraced him and kissed him and brought him to his home, and there Jacob told him all these things. 14 Then Laban said to him, “You are my own flesh and blood.”

Jacob Marries Leah and Rachel

After Jacob had stayed with him for a whole month, 15 Laban said to him, “Just because you are a relative of mine, should you work for me for nothing? Tell me what your wages should be.”

16 Now Laban had two daughters; the name of the older was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel. 17 Leah had weak eyes, but Rachel had a lovely figure and was beautiful. 18 Jacob was in love with Rachel and said, “I’ll work for you seven years in return for your younger daughter Rachel.”

19 Laban said, “It’s better that I give her to you than to some other man. Stay here with me.” 20 So Jacob served seven years to get Rachel, but they seemed like only a few days to him because of his love for her.

21 Then Jacob said to Laban, “Give me my wife. My time is completed, and I want to make love to her. ”

22 So Laban brought together all the people of the place and gave a feast. 23 But when evening came, he took his daughter Leah and brought her to Jacob, and Jacob made love to her. 24 And Laban gave his servant Zilpah to his daughter as her attendant.

25 When morning came, there was Leah! So Jacob said to Laban, “What is this you have done to me? I served you for Rachel, didn’t I? Why have you deceived me? ”

26 Laban replied, “It is not our custom here to give the younger daughter in marriage before the older one. 27 Finish this daughter’s bridal week; then we will give you the younger one also, in return for another seven years of work. ”

28 And Jacob did so. He finished the week with Leah, and then Laban gave him his daughter Rachel to be his wife. 29 Laban gave his servant Bilhah to his daughter Rachel as her attendant. 30 Jacob made love to Rachel also, and his love for Rachel was greater than his love for Leah. And he worked for Laban another seven years.

Jacob’s Children

31 When the Lord saw that Leah was not loved, he enabled her to conceive, but Rachel remained childless. 32 Leah became pregnant and gave birth to a son. She named him Reuben, for she said, “It is because the Lord has seen my misery. Surely my husband will love me now.”

33 She conceived again, and when she gave birth to a son she said, “Because the Lord heard that I am not loved, he gave me this one too.” So she named him Simeon.

34 Again she conceived, and when she gave birth to a son she said, “Now at last my husband will become attached to me, because I have borne him three sons.” So he was named Levi.

35 She conceived again, and when she gave birth to a son she said, “This time I will praise the Lord.” So she named him Judah. Then she stopped having children.

30When Rachel saw that she was not bearing Jacob any children, she became jealous of her sister. So she said to Jacob, “Give me children, or I’ll die!”

2 Jacob became angry with her and said, “Am I in the place of God, who has kept you from having children?”

3 Then she said, “Here is Bilhah, my servant. Sleep with her so that she can bear children for me and I too can build a family through her.”

4 So she gave him her servant Bilhah as a wife. Jacob slept with her, 5 and she became pregnant and bore him a son. 6 Then Rachel said, “God has vindicated me; he has listened to my plea and given me a son.” Because of this she named him Dan.

7 Rachel’s servant Bilhah conceived again and bore Jacob a second son. 8 Then Rachel said, “I have had a great struggle with my sister, and I have won.” So she named him Naphtali.

9 When Leah saw that she had stopped having children, she took her servant Zilpah and gave her to Jacob as a wife. 10 Leah’s servant Zilpah bore Jacob a son. 11 Then Leah said, “What good fortune!” So she named him Gad.

12 Leah’s servant Zilpah bore Jacob a second son. 13 Then Leah said, “How happy I am! The women will call me happy.” So she named him Asher.

14 During wheat harvest, Reuben went out into the fields and found some mandrake plants, which he brought to his mother Leah. Rachel said to Leah, “Please give me some of your son’s mandrakes.”

15 But she said to her, “Wasn’t it enough that you took away my husband? Will you take my son’s mandrakes too?”

“Very well,” Rachel said, “he can sleep with you tonight in return for your son’s mandrakes.”

16 So when Jacob came in from the fields that evening, Leah went out to meet him. “You must sleep with me,” she said. “I have hired you with my son’s mandrakes.” So he slept with her that night.

17 God listened to Leah, and she became pregnant and bore Jacob a fifth son. 18 Then Leah said, “God has rewarded me for giving my servant to my husband.” So she named him Issachar.

19 Leah conceived again and bore Jacob a sixth son. 20 Then Leah said, “God has presented me with a precious gift. This time my husband will treat me with honor, because I have borne him six sons.” So she named him Zebulun.

21 Some time later she gave birth to a daughter and named her Dinah.

22 Then God remembered Rachel; he listened to her and enabled her to conceive. 23 She became pregnant and gave birth to a son and said, “God has taken away my disgrace.” 24 She named him Joseph, and said, “May the Lord add to me another son.”

Jacob’s Flocks Increase

25 After Rachel gave birth to Joseph, Jacob said to Laban, “Send me on my way so I can go back to my own homeland. 26 Give me my wives and children, for whom I have served you, and I will be on my way. You know how much work I’ve done for you.”

27 But Laban said to him, “If I have found favor in your eyes, please stay. I have learned by divination that the Lord has blessed me because of you.” 28 He added, “Name your wages, and I will pay them.”

29 Jacob said to him, “You know how I have worked for you and how your livestock has fared under my care. 30 The little you had before I came has increased greatly, and the Lord has blessed you wherever I have been. But now, when may I do something for my own household? ”

31 “What shall I give you?” he asked.

“Don’t give me anything,” Jacob replied. “But if you will do this one thing for me, I will go on tending your flocks and watching over them: 32 Let me go through all your flocks today and remove from them every speckled or spotted sheep, every dark-colored lamb and every spotted or speckled goat. They will be my wages. 33 And my honesty will testify for me in the future, whenever you check on the wages you have paid me. Any goat in my possession that is not speckled or spotted, or any lamb that is not dark-colored, will be considered stolen. ”

34 “Agreed,” said Laban. “Let it be as you have said.” 35 That same day he removed all the male goats that were streaked or spotted, and all the speckled or spotted female goats (all that had white on them) and all the dark-colored lambs, and he placed them in the care of his sons. 36 Then he put a three-day journey between himself and Jacob, while Jacob continued to tend the rest of Laban’s flocks.

37 Jacob, however, took fresh-cut branches from poplar, almond and plane trees and made white stripes on them by peeling the bark and exposing the white inner wood of the branches. 38 Then he placed the peeled branches in all the watering troughs, so that they would be directly in front of the flocks when they came to drink. When the flocks were in heat and came to drink, 39 they mated in front of the branches. And they bore young that were streaked or speckled or spotted. 40 Jacob set apart the young of the flock by themselves, but made the rest face the streaked and dark-colored animals that belonged to Laban. Thus he made separate flocks for himself and did not put them with Laban’s animals. 41 Whenever the stronger females were in heat, Jacob would place the branches in the troughs in front of the animals so they would mate near the branches, 42 but if the animals were weak, he would not place them there. So the weak animals went to Laban and the strong ones to Jacob. 43 In this way the man grew exceedingly prosperous and came to own large flocks, and female and male servants, and camels and donkeys.

Commentary

Watch God work his purposes out

God works his purposes out in spite of our weakness, vulnerability and sin. Jacob was a deceiver. What we sow, we reap. He sowed deception and he reaped deception from Laban (29:25b). He then continued the cycle of deception (30:37–43). This is an extraordinary story of deception, unfaithfulness and disloyalty.

Yet somehow, in all of this, God worked his purposes out for the individuals involved, for Israel, for the birth of his Son Jesus and for the future of the people of God.

A lot of human sin and disappointment was involved in the birth of Jacob’s children (29:31 – 30:21). Yet, through it all, God was working out his purposes for the twelve tribes of Israel. Rachel’s prayer was finally answered with the birth of Joseph (30:22).

As God was in control of their lives, you can trust that he is ultimately in control of yours as well and that ‘in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose’ (Romans 8:28). So, just relax and let God be God.

Prayer

Lord, thank you that you use even weak, vulnerable and sinful people like me. Thank you that, although you love me as I am, you love me too much to leave me as I am.

Help me to take responsibility for my life and at the same time confidently trust in your sovereignty.

Pippa adds

Genesis 29–30

I am enjoying reading these chapters in Genesis. The story is much better than watching the latest Netflix drama. What will they do next?

It’s interesting that Sarah, Rebekah and Rachel all had difficulty having children (this is not a new problem). When the children eventually arrived, they were very important to God’s plan for the people of Israel. Was God waiting for the right time or was he preparing the parents in some way?

Most of Jacob’s children seem to have been born as a result of sibling rivalry and jealousy. Yet God didn’t give up on them and still managed to work out his purposes for each of their lives.

Verse of the Day

Matthew 11:28

‘Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.’
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References

The One Year® is a registered trademark of Tyndale House Publishers. Used by permission.

@Joyce Meyer, ‘Just Relax and Let God Be God’, https://twitter.com/joycemeyer/status/286320915329994752 [Last accessed December 2015]

Joyce Meyer, Everyday Life Bible, (Faithwords, 20183) p.1507

Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version Anglicised, Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 Biblica, formerly International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica. UK trademark number 1448790.

Scripture quotations marked (AMP) taken from the Amplified® Bible, Copyright © 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. (www.Lockman.org)

Scripture marked (MSG) taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.

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