JUNE 2020 — THE RESPONSE OF FAITH
Let me introduce you to Heman. Not He-Man, the Master of the Universe (a cartoon). I mean Heman the Ezrahite. You can meet Heman in Psalms 88. Heman was a righteous and faithful man. He was one of the wisest men in Israel [1 Kings 4]. But life for Heman was hard. He grieves in Psalm 88 that “my soul is full of troubles and my life draws near to Sheol [the grave].” He was cut off from his friends: “you have caused my companions to shun me; you have made me a horror to them.” The Psalm does not end on a happy note. There is no deliverance. This is Heman’s life as the wise, righteous, faithful follower of God. Heman grieves and even complains to God about his afflictions. And he praises God at the same time.
Heman does not fit the common narrative about God we’ve heard during the past three months. The narrative is that having faith in God means that bad things will not happen to you. I have heard multiple versions. I’ve read about pastors who promised their congregation that if they had the faith to gather during the pandemic, God would protect them from harm. I have heard brothers and sisters in Christ say that precautions are not necessary, because God will keep them from getting sick. I am sure promises were made on God’s behalf the other way… take the precautions, God will make sure you don’t lose your business or job.
These promises were all well-meaning, but based on a simple, easily made mistake about faith: they confused earth with heaven. God will protect us from all disease, loss, and death – in heaven. He makes no such promises for life on earth. He promises something very different for life on earth: life with Him, becoming more like Jesus. A life of knowing Him better and seeing Him at work even as we experience loss, get sick, and “draw near to Sheol.” When you hear “trust God and He will protect you from getting sick” or “have faith and He will protect your income,” it’s appropriate to ask when and where God made such a promise. He didn’t. He promised to never leave us or forsake us. That is not a guarantee of heaven now. It is a guarantee that He is with us, supporting us, and transforming us in the pain and disappointments of a fallen world.
The response of faith to a fallen world is not trusting in promises God never made. It is trusting God’s character even if our health and businesses fail. It is declaring, along with Heman, “O Lord, God of my salvation, I cry out day and night before you.” [Psalm 88:1] The response of faith means obeying the clear commands of Scripture and then trusting His character no matter what happens to us. It is trusting in God’s character when nothing seems clear and we don’t know what God is up to. It is trusting that He will bring us to the promises of heaven through the pains of earth.