In 1989, missionary and Christian author, Elisabeth Elliot published a book titled On Asking God Why. I was drawn to it immediately, because my inclination is to ask Him this very question. I do not know about you, but I rarely receive the answer to my why questions. However, I now find myself in a season where I want to ask that question again. All the catastrophic events that are happening around the world lead me to that place of asking "Why?" There is the fire in Maui, the floods in Southern California and Norway, the migrant crisis around the world, those people who take advantage of children and young adults by placing them in slavery, the killing of millions of babies through abortion, the terrorist organizations that torture and kill those who do not agree with them, the Christian communities that are being destroyed around the world, and more.
We can find innumerable plights in our world that draw us to chip away at our Christian foundation and belief that God is good. Shakings are a part of life. But as Christians, we must use them to embed our anchors even more deeply into the truth of God's love for us. Christ alone is our Rock and the One who sacrificed everything for us.
In Scripture, Job was the first one to ask the why question. And who could blame him? He was a wealthy man of integrity who offered burnt offerings to God every morning. God pointed this out to Satan and asks him to notice how Job was blameless and feared Him. Here is Satan's reply: "Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has?" "...But now, stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face." (Job 1:10,11) A plethora of losses began to plague Job, and eventually Satan afflicted his body with painful sores. His friends came to sit with him, and it is said of them that "...they could hardly recognize him..." (Job 2:12) In his suffering, Job began to ask why questions of God: "Why did I not perish at birth and die as I came from the womb?" (Job 3:11) "Why is light given to those in misery, and life to the bitter of soul?" (Job 3:20) "Why is life given to a man whose way is hidden, whom God has hedged in?" (Job 3:23) The Psalmist also asked the question why. Here is one: "Why does your anger smolder against the sheep of your pasture?" (Psalm 74:1)
Elisabeth Elliot helps give us some insight into asking the why question: "There would be no sense in asking why if you did not believe in anything. The word itself presupposes purpose. Purpose presupposes a purposeful intelligence. Somebody has to have been responsible. It is because we believe in God that we address questions to Him. We believe that He is just and that He is love, but that belief is put to severe strain as we wrestle with our pain and perplexities, with our position in His ordered universe." (Page 12)
Psalm 22, a psalm of David, prophetically asks a question that would be repeated by Jesus while He was on The Cross. "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (Verse 1) Both Matthew 27:46 and Mark 15:34 quote Jesus as calling out to His Father: "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" Of course, Jesus knew about the agony of His death before He came to earth. So why did He ask the question? God used the death of His Son to redeem us so that we could spend eternity in heaven with Him. Jesus was bridging the gap between His sinless Father and sinful people. Perhaps He was quoting Psalm 22 because those witnessing the crucifixion would have been familiar with it.
Elisabeth writes, "Christ's radical diminishments—His birth as a helpless baby and His death as a common criminal—accomplished our salvation..." (Page 19) When we have no explanation for what is happening around us, we look to God. Elisabeth says, "It's got something to do with that great principle of loss being the route to gain, or diminishments being the only way we can finally be enlarged, that is conformed to the image of Christ." (Page 20) What is the bottom line for a Christian? We must be able to live with the mystery of God and trust in Him who is omniscient, omnipresent, and omnipotent. He is transforming us into the image of His Son, and it is our responsibility to cooperate with Him even if we do not have the answers to our why questions. As we trust in the Lord, it is precious to Him.
"A Haven in Time"—that is what the month of Elul is called. We entered into this sixth month on the Hebrew calendar on Thursday evening. Why is Elul called a haven? It is because our God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, appointed this time as one where His mercy and forgiveness are extended to us in a personal way. If we look back at the history of the children of Israel, we see that the prior two months (Tammuz and Av) are known for the sins committed against the Lord. Because of their sins of lust and unbelief, the Israelites built the golden calf and refused to enter the Promised Land. Elul is meant as a time for repentance and redemption.
Today, God reaches out to us even in the midst of our sin. His overwhelming desire for intimacy with us overrides any anger over our disobedience. During Elul, He extends the opportunity for us to prepare for the high holy days of the next month through repentance now. The Lord extends mercy in a very personal way by making Himself more accessible to us. The Jewish people say of Elul: "The King is in the field." God's desire for intimacy with us is so great that He leaves His heavenly dwelling to come to earth and make Himself accessible in the field of our lives. We have an entire month when the Lord is here to remind us of His loving kindness and love.
For me, it is particularly significant that God picked the month of Elul to send the angel Gabriel to tell Mary about God's plan to use her to birth His son. "In the sixth month, God send the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin's name was Mary...the angel said to her, 'Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus.'" (Luke 1:26-27, 30-31) "...So, the Holy One to be born will be called the Son of God." (Luke 1:35) During the month of Elul, God took His first step to put into motion His plan for His Son to come to earth to live in a tent of flesh for 33 years. John 1:14 describes what happened: "The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us." The Passion Translation gives us a good visual of John 1:14. "And so the Living Expression became a man and lived among us! And we gazed upon the splendor of His glory, the glory of the One and Only who came from the Father overflowing with tender mercy and truth."
God's desire has always been to dwell with us. Look back to Exodus 25. In this part of Scripture, the Lord instructs Moses to build Him a tabernacle. Verse 2 says, "...You are to receive the offering for Me from everyone whose heart prompts them to give." The purpose for the tabernacle is described in Verse 8. "Then have them make a sanctuary for Me, and I will dwell among them."
It is hard to imagine such a loving God. The Lord made the ultimate sacrifice for us so that we could live with Him for eternity. "This is love: He loved us long before we loved Him. It was His love, not ours. He proved it by sending His Son to be the pleasing sacrificial offering to take away our sins." (1 John 4:10 - TPT)
During Elul, God gives us an invitation to experience deeper measures of HIs love. It is so fitting that the name Elul is a Hebrew acronym, "Ani L'dodi V'dodi Li" which means "I am my beloved’s, and my beloved is mine." (Song of Solomon 6:3) Should we not respond positively to God's loving invitation for intimacy? Let us be sure that our hearts are clean, open, and prepared to experience Him in this haven in time.
A recent visit to a salmon hatchery in Alaska gave me a new-found respect for the way these fish were designed. There are several varieties of salmon (King or Chinook, Sockeye, Coho, and Pink), each unique in their appearance. However, all of them have the same characteristic of being able to orient themselves toward their original home when it is time for them to spawn. God has built into them their own global positioning system. Scientists believe that salmon navigate through the earth's magnetic field similar to the way a compass operates. It takes a salmon about one year to imprint by learning the smells and chemical nature of their surroundings during the first year of their lives.
As young fish, salmon migrate to the ocean where they gain the majority of their body mass. In their feeding grounds they consume foods that are high in carotenoids, which is the pigment that is stored in their flesh and gives them the pink-orange color. After spending two to five years in the ocean, their homing instinct becomes strong, and they begin their journey back to the place where they were born. It is believed that in addition to using the earth's magnetic field, salmon are conscious of the day length, the sun's position, water salinity, and temperature gradients. They travel from June through August in order to spawn between August and November. Salmon return to the stream where they were born because they know it is a good place to spawn. They have the ability to swim against the current, and it is reported that they can jump as high as twelve feet. Their homing instinct is so strong that if they get off track, they die.
If God designed salmon with such a homing instinct, can you imagine how He designed us as His children? Each of us has a God-given destiny that is meant to draw us into intimacy with Him. Acts 17:26-28 confirms the Lord's intentions for us. "From one man He made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and He marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek Him and perhaps reach out for Him and find Him, though He is not far from any one of us. For in Him we live and move and have our being. As some of your own poets have said, 'We are His offspring.'"
Coming to know the Lord personally is like finding our way home. The salmon come home to spawn so that the life of their species continues, and then they die. We come home to have everlasting life with the Lord and to join all creation in worshiping Him. "For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life." (John 3:16) The prophet Jeremiah describes the "GPS system" that is a part of God's people: "In those days, at that time...the people of Israel and the people of Judah together will go in tears to seek the Lord their God. They will ask the way to Zion and turn their faces toward it. They will come and bind themselves to the Lord in an everlasting covenant that will not be forgotten." (Jeremiah 50:4-5)
Romans 1:19-20 describes the way God designed us. "In reality, the truth of God is known instinctively, for God has embedded this knowledge inside every human heart. Opposition to truth cannot be excused on the basis of ignorance, because from the creation of the world the invisible qualities of God's nature have been made visible, such as His eternal power and transcendence. He has made His wonderful attributes easily perceived for seeing the visible makes you understand the invisible. So, then, this leaves everyone without excuses." (TPT)
May I encourage you to use your internal "GPS System" to increase your intimacy with the Lord? All of us have an amazing blessing to be able to have a personal relationship with The Creator and Sustainer of all life. The Lord wants to spend eternity with us and calls us to stay on track as we make our way on His path of life.
Did you ever read a book that you could not forget? Such is the case for me with a fiction story that had a plausible plot. The hero of the book worked for the federal government on their main computers in Washington D.C. He gave one of the computers the task of bringing peace to the earth. It determined that the only way to accomplish this task would be for it to take over the world. It began to hypnotize many key people so that they would obey its commands. Country by country succumbed to its power. After multiple struggles, the story's hero was able to overcome the computer.
The remembrance of this story came to my mind as I read Jonathan Cahn's word called "The Rise of the Machine Master" in his August devotional. He reminds us that America has been in the process of paganization for the last 60 years and that one of the main characteristics of this culture is the worship of idols. He defines idol worship as worshipping our own creations. The prophet Isaiah describes what this looked like in his day: "Their land is full of idols; they bow down to the work of their hands, to what their fingers have made." (Isiah 2:8)
The apostle Paul used the Greek word "techne" when he spoke to the people in Athens, Greece, about their idols. (Acts 17:16-34) This is the word from which we derive the word "technology." Is it not technology that we serve today? We are being "mastered" through our I phones, computers, and I pads. I notice how many of our teenagers lack social skills. Could it be because they have been taken over by technology? Jonathan Cahn suggests that when we serve idols (technology) we become like what we serve, and they become more human. Psalm 115 warns of this: "But their idols are silver and gold, made by human hands...Those who make them will be like them, and so will all who trust in them." (Verses 4 and 8)
A recent subject of frequent discussion is that of artificial intelligence. Here we have computers taking over the function of thinking or being able to simulate human intelligence to perform tasks or solve problems. Because computers can analyze large amounts of data in a short period of time, they can make decisions like the human brain, but in shorter periods of time. Scientists have warned that artificial intelligence is a dangerous technology. The question is being asked: "Could this lead to the destruction of humanity?" God forbid!
We must become aware of the idols that we serve so that we can break the bondage that they place us in. Christ came to the earth to bring us freedom and set us free from these bondages. Remember, whatever consumes our thinking will become more powerful in our lives. Let's be sure to use our time wisely and take the advice of Paul when he says, "Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy, meditate on these things...and the God of peace will be with you." (Philippians 4:8-9 - NKJV)
Joan E. Mathias