Have you ever watched a dog follow his nose?
While he follows the scent, nostrils flaring, the occasional snort to clear his senses, his tail is like a flag on a flimsy pole. Every so often, you encounter a hound who chases his tail and goes in circles. But when a canine is on the trail, his nose is down and his tail waves about in exhilaration.
There is the concept of the tail wagging the dog. In fact, there was a movie with a similar title a few years back. The metaphor is meant to describe those who approach life backward. It’s meant to illustrate irrational behavior, and it works because we’ve seen dogs who follow their nose and we’ve seen dogs who chase their tails.
Let a dog outside—even the sight hounds—and their nose starts working. It’s what you expect. Watching a dog work is a pleasure, even though you only know in general terms what they are going to do. But knowing they are going to use their nose is predictable because it’s what dogs do.
Not to be disparaging in the least, but there are aspects of God that are predictable. There are some ways in which you know generally what He is going to do, and there are many ways in which God can’t be categorized. In fact, Isaiah noted God’s saying, “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts” (ref. 55:9).
It’s hardly a news flash to say that you can’t figure out what God is going to do most of the time. After all, He’s God and you aren’t. But this isn’t to say there aren’t aspects of God that are predictable. In another place, scripture describes God as unchanging (Mic. 7:18). In another, it says He is the same day in and day out (Heb. 13:8).
In those aspects of His character and behavior where God is unchanging, He is so for good reason: He wants to be predictable, methodical, consistent, dependable, categorical—perhaps even boring.
In Romans 1:16, Paul writes, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.”
“…to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” We can argue God’s choice and valuation, but in another article and place. For now, scripture says God chose the Jews as His people. Who knows why?
What matters is that we have a case study to examine what it looks like to be God’s people. The most complete historical document in the world—the Bible—happens to contain a robust record of Jewish history. From Abraham to present no people occupies more historical space and study than the Jews.
The good news is that we have a lot of historical evidence to consider. The bad news is that the Jews have proven a difficult people throughout history—difficult to study, difficult to understand, difficult given the tragedies that have plagued them, and difficult because they have been challenging to work with.
Candidly, if I was God I would have gotten fed up with the Jews a long time ago. I would have been hard-pressed to come up with a deserving replacement in that we are all recalcitrant, but nevertheless, I think I would have gotten a new people.
That’s not the way God works though, and that is precisely the point that I wish to make. God remains faithful and takes care of what’s His. And he does so regardless!
Even though the Jews arranged and superintended the killing of His Son, Jesus, rejected the prophets, behaved like hammerheads in the wilderness, chased after other gods, consistently forgot the lessons of their lives, routinely scoffed at God’s promises—essentially questioning His integrity and veracity—and demonstrated a profound propensity to live independently of God, still God remains faithful to them. It is quite a tale.
If God was to come to me for counsel about His love life, I would tell Him to find another love. In fact, I would tell Him that the fact that He continues to chase after a people who so consistently spurn His advances indicates a flaw in Him that needs therapeutic intervention. Never mind the object of His affections.
Of course, before we rush to throw God’s people—the Jews—under the bus, we need to remember that the message of salvation is that we are now chosen, called, and set apart to God as His people. And as people who reverence the truthfulness of scripture, we must recall that Isaiah stated, “All of us like sheep have gone astray” (53:6a). To note Israel’s unfaithfulness and not our own is like the pot calling the kettle black.
God has called us His and made us members of His family. As His people, He states irrevocably that we are joint heirs in His estate, lineage, and heritage. This means that He has committed Himself to us just as he committed Himself to the Jews. In the same way we can trace His faithfulness throughout Israel’s history, we can expect nothing less of His lovingkindness to us.
It makes no sense.
The Bible has a word—a profound concept—for the irrationality of God: It is mercy.
God is faithful. Given an inkling from our thoughts thus far of what His faithfulness requires of Him, that He is constantly faithful is a remarkable statement. But the fact of the matter is, God will not, cannot, depart from or compromise in the slightest His longsuffering mercy and faithfulness. Bottom line: God takes care of what is His.
I received the opportunity to speak in a church not long ago. It proved a unique experience. The ministry I provided was received exceptionally well. Over the last several months it has become obvious that significant spiritual transformation is occurring. One thing though: While I was at the church, the pastor did not respond well to my work. I suppose he accepted the truths and principles that I presented, but boy did he reject me! Before my conference concluded, the pastor confronted me with a trunk load of unjust criticism, some slanderous feedback, and other ridicule of a general nature. Not fun! As is often the catch phrase in such situations, the pastor reassured me his feedback was all in the name of Christian love.
I tried to be a gracious recipient. I tried to probe for further insight. I also tried to discuss the pastor’s concerns, but it was evident he was not open to a reasonable or rational exchange. So, I loaded up my soul with the pastor’s input and returned to Fort Worth, believing it best to let the hurtful things he said be buried in Fort Worth rather than left open and oozing within his church.
My immediate concerns rested in two areas: 1) What about the people I spoke to? Will they be able to wade through this mess the pastor made and hold on to their faith and the message they received? 2) What about my reputation? This church has been led to believe that I am not who they thought.
Neither of those concerns had answers—and I had no options. I was left to trust God to do as he deemed best and go on the only way I knew, looking to Him, trying to be gracious, setting my mind on things above, etc. But wow! Knowing unfair things were said and done against me was tough.
As time passed, pieces began to fall together. I received a few letters and phone calls. It became evident that those who knew of the problem seized the inequity of what transpired and became stronger. More time passed. I asked a few discrete questions. The majority of folks didn’t seem to even put two and two together. It was like the whole situation was hidden from them (which has to be a miracle).
The only one with a problem was the pastor, the one who started all the discord in the first place. The people came out fine. I came out fine. The results of the ministry were intact. It was an amazing journey over the course of several months.
Here’s the point again: God takes care of what’s His!
But just because God takes care of His own does not mean it is always cool in the kitchen of life. It’s not. You know that. Life is a raucous rant against the domain of darkness. Sometimes you run fast and high. Sometimes you slog through a slew. But God was faithful. It took a while for me to see it, but God cares—all the time He cares—and He can no more be uncaring than He can stop loving.
I escaped from that church and returned to Fort Worth smelling like smoke. A few things, in fact, didn’t just smell like smoke. A few things got burned up. But, that’s the nature of things down here, isn’t it?
I didn’t recall it in the heat of the moment, but one of my favorite passages is Isaiah 43:1-5, “But now, thus says the Lord, / he who created you, O Jacob, / he who formed you, O Israel: / ‘Fear not, for I have redeemed you; / I have called you by name, you are mine. / When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; / and through the rivers, they will not overwhelm you; / when you walk through the fire you will not be burned, / and the flame shall not consume you. / For I am the Lord your God, / the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.’”
Wow! What a passage. What a pledge. Isaiah goes on to state that God will take others in exchange in order to maintain His pledge of faithfulness to those who are His. Why? “Because you are precious in my eyes, / and honored, and I love you.” The section concludes with a simple, but powerful, “Fear not, for I am with you.”
There’s the promise: the relentless, determined, predictable character of God. “I am with you.” You are mine. I’m going to take care of you. I am with you.
I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that we are going to go through the rivers, floods and fires. I’ve said it before: Just because God is with you doesn’t mean He is going to deliver you out of these things. He may opt to care for you through these things. But!
But God takes care of what’s His! All the time. It’s who He is and He can no more be unfaithful to you than He can accommodate sin. It’s just not in Him to fail His folks.
I left my seminar at the church pretty confused. I had far more questions than I had answers. The pastor’s behavior left me vulnerable to all sorts of enemy angles of attack, and believe me when I say he exploited every opportunity to assail me.
It’s odd to say it, but the honest truth is: I had nothing else I could do but trust God (as if that is a last option). I toughed it out for almost a year to the day. All of a sudden, God began putting the missing pieces of the puzzle together. The dynamics of what actually happened are not important to our discussion now. Only this, that who God is every day did not change. He was exactly the same prior to the conference as He was during the conference and a year after the conference. He is faithful. It’s who He is.
The fire may get hot, the rivers may run deep, the flood might threaten to overwhelm you. But the truth of the matter is: God takes care of what’s His.