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Day 162

God Even Uses Your Mistakes

Wisdom Psalm 72:1,4–5,15b
New Testament Acts 7:20–25,30,33–37,38b
Old Testament 2 Samuel 17:5–7,14

Introduction

Handley Moule, when he was Bishop of Durham, had the task of visiting the relatives of 170 miners who had been killed in a mining accident. While he was wondering what to say to them, he picked up a little bookmark his mother had given him. As he held it up, on the reverse side of the handwoven bookmark there was a tangled web. There was no rhyme, no reason, no pattern, nothing. But on the other side it said, ‘God is love’.

The world sometimes seems to us like a tangled web. Often we cannot work out what is going on or why we are suffering in the way we are. But the claim of Jesus and the Scriptures is that behind it all is the love of God. Even though things may seem very difficult for us to understand now, God is working out his loving purposes in the world.

God can weave a pattern from the threads of our lives – including the suffering, heartaches and even our mistakes and make something beautiful. The apostle Paul tells us 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). Reflect today on the fact that, even though your situation may be challenging, God is weaving his purpose for your life.

Job said, ‘You gave me life and showed me kindness, and in your providence watched over my spirit’ (Job 10:12). Everything that happens in this world is within the sphere of God’s working. ‘Providence’ means God’s foresight: the way he anticipates and prepares for the future. ‘Providence’ is the way God guides and steers human history – he is present and active in the world – sustaining it and ruling it.

It is also the way he guides and steers your life personally and individually. God has a specific, unique destiny for you. Sometimes this thought worries people: that they might somehow mess things up and miss out on God’s purpose. But that isn’t the case. Even your mistakes he uses for good. In all the circumstances of your life and the events going on around you, you can trust in the providence of God.

Wisdom

Psalm 72:1,4–5,15b

1 Endow the king with your justice, O God,
    the royal son with your righteousness.
4 May he defend the afflicted among the people
    and save the children of the needy;
    may he crush the oppressor.
5 May he endure as long as the sun,
    as long as the moon, through all generations.
15 … May people ever pray for him
    and bless him all day long.

Commentary

Providence and prayer

Your prayers make a difference. Not only do they affect your own life but they can also affect the course of history.

How providence and prayer work together is a mystery. In some extraordinary way, your prayers affect the outcome of events. God is sovereign and works out his purposes through history. Yet he involves you in this process.

This psalm is David’s prayer for his son and successor, King Solomon. It was a strong reminder of his high calling. Yet it goes beyond what is humanly attainable. For example, ‘He will endure as long as the sun, as long as the moon, through all generations’ (v.5). His reign is eternal and universal (v.8). Ultimately, it was only fulfilled in the Messiah, God’s Son, Jesus Christ.

This psalm is a prayer for blessing on the king and through him that all the people will be blessed with ‘prosperity’ (v.3). The good leader will be concerned about poverty and justice: ‘Please stand up for the poor, help the children of the needy, come down hard on the cruel tyrants’ (v.4, MSG). It is also a prayer that in his foreign policy ‘all nations will be blessed through him’ (v.17).

David says, ‘May people ever pray for him and bless him all day long’ (v.15b). It is clear that God’s blessing on the leader will come as people pray for him. How this works we do not know. However, it shows that praying really does make a difference. In his providence, God takes your prayers and uses them to bring blessing.

Prayer

Lord, thank you that prayer makes a difference. I pray for our leaders whom you have set over us. Give them grace and wisdom. Enrich their lives that they may be a source of strength and inspiration, and promote your honour and glory.

New Testament

Acts 7:20–25,30,33–37,38b

20 ‘At that time Moses was born, and he was no ordinary child. For three months he was cared for by his family. 21 When he was placed outside, Pharaoh’s daughter took him and brought him up as her own son. 22 Moses was educated in all the wisdom of the Egyptians and was powerful in speech and action. 23 ‘When Moses was forty years old, he decided to visit his own people, the Israelites. 24 He saw one of them being ill-treated by an Egyptian, so he went to his defence and avenged him by killing the Egyptian. 25 Moses thought that his own people would realise that God was using him to rescue them, but they did not.

30 ‘After forty years had passed, an angel appeared to Moses in the flames of a burning bush in the desert near Mount Sinai. 33 ‘Then the Lord said to him, “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground. 34 I have indeed seen the oppression of my people in Egypt. I have heard their groaning and have come down to set them free. Now come, I will send you back to Egypt.” 35 ‘This is the same Moses they had rejected with the words, “Who made you ruler and judge?” He was sent to be their ruler and deliverer by God himself, through the angel who appeared to him in the bush. 36 He led them out of Egypt and performed wonders and signs in Egypt, at the Red Sea and for forty years in the wilderness.

37 ‘This is the Moses who told the Israelites, “God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your own people.” 38 … and he received living words to pass on to us.’

Commentary

Providence and prophecy

We see in this passage the extraordinary way in which God planned and prepared for the coming of Jesus. God in his providence foresees the future, and so in a mysterious way anticipates, prepares for it and guides it. Therefore, you can trust God’s providence in all the events and circumstances of your life.

Stephen’s speech rehearses the ways in which God had guided and watched over Israel’s history, and through it prepared for Jesus’ coming. In this section, he focuses particularly on Moses.

Moses had said that God would raise up a prophet like him (Deuteronomy 18:15). Peter has already applied this to Jesus (Acts 3:22–23). Now Stephen does the same. He says, ‘This is that Moses who told the Israelites, “God will send you a prophet like me from your own people”’ (7:37).

Moses was a ‘type’ of Christ. He foreshadowed and prepared the way. There are at least fifteen similarities between Moses and Jesus:

1. Like Jesus, Moses was ‘no ordinary child’ (v.20). The circumstances surrounding the births of both Moses and Jesus were appropriately extraordinary.

2. Like Jesus (Matthew 2:16–17), Moses was born at a time when newborn babies were being killed off (Acts 7:19–21).

3. Like Jesus (Luke 2:40), Moses was noted for his wisdom (Acts 7:22).

4. Like Jesus (John 7:46), Moses was ‘powerful in speech and action’ (Acts 7:22).

5. Like Jesus, Moses had a season of preparation. We know little about the first thirty years of either of their lives. Both spent this time being trained for the task ahead (vv.22–23).

6. Like Jesus (John 2:16), Moses showed righteous anger at sin (Acts 7:24). However, unlike Jesus, Moses committed a crime. But God, in his providence, even used this mistake.

7. Like Jesus (John 1:11), Moses was sent by God to rescue his people, but was not recognised as such at the time. ‘Moses thought that his own people would realise that God was using him to rescue them, but they did not’ (Acts 7:25).

8. Like Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:19), Moses aimed at reconciliation: Moses ‘tried to reconcile them’ (Acts 7:26).

9. Like Jesus (John 5:22), Moses is described as ruler and judge. It was said to Moses, ‘Who made you ruler and judge over us?’ (Acts 7:27).

10. Like Jesus (Luke 3:22), Moses heard the Lord’s voice (Acts 7:31).

11. Like Jesus (John 1:14; 2:21), Moses recognised that the holy place was not in a specific religious location, but where God is present. For Moses this was at the burning bush for God said, ‘The place where you are standing is holy ground’ (Acts 7:33).

12. Like Jesus (John 8:36), Moses set the people free from oppression (Acts 7:34).

13. Like Jesus (4:11), Moses was misunderstood and rejected by his own people: ‘Moses whom they had rejected... they rejected him’ (7:35,39).

14. Like Jesus (2 Corinthians 1:10), Moses succeeded in delivering his own people. Moses ‘led them out of Egypt’ (Acts 7:36).

15. Like Jesus (2:36), Moses’ rejection brought God’s judgment, but led to eventual victory (7:42). As the apostle Peter put it on the day of Pentecost, ‘God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ’ (2:36).

Prayer

Lord, thank you for the astonishing way in which you work your purposes out through history and through your prophets like Moses. Today, I trust in your providence over all the events and circumstances in my life.

Old Testament

2 Samuel 17:5–7,14

5 But Absalom said, ‘Summon also Hushai the Arkite, so that we can hear what he has to say as well.’ 6 When Hushai came to him, Absalom said, ‘Ahithophel has given this advice. Should we do what he says? If not, give us your opinion.’ 7 Hushai replied to Absalom, ‘The advice Ahithophel has given is not good this time. 14 Absalom and all the men of Israel said, ‘The advice of Hushai the Arkite is better than that of Ahithophel.’ For the LORD had determined to frustrate the good advice of Ahithophel in order to bring disaster on Absalom.

Commentary

Providence and protection

You can trust God with your future, your family, your church and your nation. The whole universe is in his hands and he is working his purposes out.

God is at work through all the human events that are described here.

The advice Ahithophel gave ‘was like that of one who enquires of God’ (16:23). If we are to give advice of any value, we have to be people who enquire of the Lord, in advance, what God is doing and what his will is.

If Absalom had followed Ahithophel’s advice, it would have been disastrous for David. Instead, Absalom chose to ignore Ahithophel’s wise advice and follow the bad advice of Hushai.

We see how God’s providential care and protection was around David: ‘For the Lord had determined to frustrate the good advice of Ahithophel’ (17:14). This was an answer to the spirit of David’s prayer.

Here we see that God is the hidden hand and ruler of history. David and all the other people involved in the drama had enormous power and freedom to act. But they were not free to act as though the Lord was not there.

Prayer

Thank you, Lord, that you are in charge of human history. You reign and rule over this universe. Thank you that in all things, including our mistakes, you work for the good of those who love you and who have been called according to your purpose (Romans 8:28).

Pippa adds

2 Samuel 16:15–18:18

What was Absalom’s problem? He had everything. He was handsome, wealthy and powerful. How could he have got to a position of wanting to kill his father? He was angry at David’s handling of the Amnon situation. He was proud, envious and jealous. Because of Absalom’s actions 20,000 men died (18:7). One person’s anger can cause so much damage. Our attitudes affect the lives of the people around us. We can sow hate or we can sow love.

Verse of the Day

Acts 7:33–34, MSG

‘Kneel and pray… get yourself ready; I’m sending you’

Thought for the Day

Your prayers make a difference.
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References

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 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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