Monday, November 23, 2015

Slow to Anger

Psalm 86:15
“But you, O LORD, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.” 

Last night our church held a praise service where members were invited to share praise and thanks to God for His faithfulness. Even the children participated. One young child said that he is thankful that God is slow to anger, even when we are not slow to anger. I was very much struck by that. I thought, “Do my children know this? Have I taught them specifically that God is slow to anger, and what an incredible mercy this is? When you think that at any moment what I deserve is to be wiped out because of my sin, yet we are shown such mercy?” 

In Sunday School recently, we have been studying the attributes of God, and yesterday we discussed His faithfulness. Have you truly pondered the awesome truth that God is a covenant-keeping God? Our teacher yesterday took the book of Ruth and taught us about the faithfulness of God. I have to tell you, I was reduced to tears several times yesterday, though I thought I knew the book of Ruth very well and have read it many times, as I pondered in a fresh way how patient and faithful our God is. I was struck by several thoughts as we discussed this book. First of all, and I’ll admit you might want to take this first observation with a grain of salt as I’m not 100% sure it’s an accurate thing to take away, but I was struck by the fact that Naomi suffered due to decisions her husband made for their family. Yet, in her submission, you don’t see her blaming him. Then, when things seemed most dire, she returned home, back to the land of the covenant promises of God, and God rescued her. He was always faithful to her, even when her family left to escape covenant consequences in the land. God gave her Ruth. Then I got to thinking about Ruth. I wonder, what did Ruth see in Naomi and her God that she was converted to trust in and follow God? I wonder, did Naomi teach her about Him? What we do know is that Ruth didn’t only commit to stay with Naomi, but more importantly, she trusted God.

The book of Ruth is a rich picture for us of the Providence of God in the lives of His people, and such a shadow that points us to the grace of God. What reduced me to tears yesterday was when Ruth has this exchange with Boaz, “Then she fell on her face, bowing to the ground, and said to him, ‘Why have I found favor in your eyes that you should take notice of me, since I am a foreigner?”  (Ruth 2:10) I got to thinking that this is the kind of amazed awe and gratitude I have for God when I ponder the gift of salvation and grace He has granted me. Why me? Why, Lord, have you opened my eyes to see the wonder of Your law and to see my wretchedness and to see the amazing gift of grace in Your Son? Why have You seen fit to shower such grace on me to rescue me from so much of the foolishness and bad teaching that abounds in much of evangelicalism and brought me into the Light and shown me the truth and granted me a hunger for Your word? It has to come from You, Lord, I could never have come to this on my own. 

The second thing that humbled me to tears yesterday was reading what Boaz said to Ruth, “The LORD repay you for what you have done, and a full reward be given you by the LORD, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge!” (Ruth 2:12). On reading this, it came crashing in to my understanding in a way I’ve never fully appreciated in just this way before that this is what we do when we trust in Christ. Let me explain what I was thinking through and rejoicing in. Ruth placed herself under the refuge of the covenant keeping, only true God, and she could trust Him. When we are trusting in Jesus, this is exactly what we are doing. We are not striving to earn His favor, we are not having to perform or jump through hoops to get Him to notice us or ‘bless’ us. No. In our poverty and wretchedness, we place ourselves under His protection, trusting in Him alone. We have nothing to offer Him to earn favor. We simply come and surrender and shelter in Him. In this, we are cleansed and counted righteous because He is righteous. He protects us from the wrath we deserve, and He makes us His people, safe in the clothing of His righteousness, no longer aliens and foreigners without hope in the world, but cleansed and adopted and free. What amazing grace! It occurred to me that when we truly trust Him, we are free to obey Him and live as He would have us to live. When we are loved and protected and redeemed like this, why would we want anything else?

So, as I was still pondering all these things, when I heard that child Sunday night express thanks that God is slow to anger, my heart sang, “Yes and amen!”