Sing for joy to God our strength; shout aloud to the God of Jacob! Begin the music, strike the tambourine, play the melodious harp and lyre. Sound the ram’s horn at the New Moon, and when the moon is full, on the day of our Feast; this is a decree for Israel, an ordinance of the God of Jacob.
He established it as a statute for Joseph when he went out against Egypt, where we heard a language we did not understand. He says, “I removed the burden from their shoulders; their hands were set free from the basket. In your distress you called and I rescued you, I answered you out of a thundercloud; I tested you at the waters of Meribah.
“Hear, O my people, and I will warn you— if you would but listen to me, O Israel! You shall have no foreign god among you; you shall not bow down to an alien god. I am the LORD your God, who brought you up out of Egypt. Open wide your mouth and I will fill it.
“But my people would not listen to me; Israel would not submit to me. So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts to follow their own devices. “If my people would but listen to me, if Israel would follow my ways, how quickly would I subdue their enemies and turn my hand against their foes! Those who hate the LORD would cringe before him, and their punishment would last forever. But you would be fed with the finest of wheat; with honey from the rock I would satisfy you.”
The more we’re beset by negative circumstances, the harder we look for ways to prove to ourselves that we’re still in control of our lives. For example when it seems like just about everything’s conspiring to defeat us and we can’t find any escape from the oppression we feel, we may become obsessed with ordering spouses, children, even family pets around in a desperate attempt to find something, anything that will obey our commands. Resistance is the typical response to this, which only makes matters worse. Even our dog knows we’re not in charge.
That’s usually when the Lord says something like, “Submit to Me and I’ll make all this go away.” Great! Just what we needed, one more part of our life we can’t control. But He only wants us to see that the more we try to control things, the less control we’ll really have. So in desperation we yield our life to His control again, and things suddenly start working better. People respond more favorably and events start going our way again. The oppression disappears and a feeling of freedom returns. Paul called this the peace of God that transcends all understanding (Phil. 4:7).
What we’re experiencing is the fulfillment of His promise to work everything together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. (Rom. 8:28) It’s a clear and specific promise but it bears a closer look. The Greek word translated love in the passage is agapeo. It means to be totally given over to the object of one’s affection. And the last phrase is just as important. It’s His purpose, not ours. So what is His purpose, and can we totally give ourselves over to it?
“I have come that they might have life, and have it abundantly,” He said. (John 10:10) And in the Sermon on the Mount He promised that if we’d make seeking His Kingdom our top priority, He’d take care of everything else in our lives. (Matt. 6:25-33) So part of His purpose is to provide us an abundant life here on earth. Is there more?
And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. (Ephes. 2:6-7) His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord (Ephes. 3:10-11).
That’s the rest of it. Through ages yet to come we’re to stand as living examples of the full measure of God’s grace. It goes well beyond the unmerited favor of forgiveness, and includes not just an abundant life here but an eternity of unimagined blessings in multiple ages yet to be revealed. No other group in all of creation has been or will be so honored. When they want to learn just how loving and generous God can be, they’ll look at us.
Simply stated, His purpose is to bless our socks off now and forever more. What He asks in return is that we willingly yield control of our lives to Him so He can do it. Sound like a fair exchange?