Always At Work

“You have heard; look at all this.
And you, will you not declare it?
I proclaim to you new things from this time,
Even hidden things which you have not known.
“They are created now and not long ago;
And before today you have not heard them,
So that you will not say, ‘Behold, I knew them.’
“You have not heard, you have not known.
Even from long ago your ear has not been open,
Because I knew that you would deal very treacherously;
And you have been called a rebel from birth.
“For the sake of My name I delay My wrath,
And for My praise I restrain it for you,
In order not to cut you off.
“Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver;
I have tested you in the furnace of affliction.

“For My own sake, for My own sake, I will act;
For how can My name be profaned?
And My glory I will not give to another. (Isaiah 48:6-11)

God hasn’t gone anywhere. God didn’t just work in the distant past. He didn’t just intervene for other people somewhere else, wherever we aren’t. God reassured his people that he was just as actively involved with them now as he had ever been.

The ancient people of Israel often looked back to the glorious stories of their ancestors and compared them unfavorably with their current, often uncomfortable circumstances. They wondered why God couldn’t act today like he used to. But such an attitude is actually a sort of “grass is greener on the other side of the fence” sort of problem: a failure of perception and perspective.

The stories in the Bible are truncated summaries that show the highlights of God, but sometimes fail to show the day to day grind. Readers don’t get to witness Joseph in jail every day, getting up, eating, working, hour after endless hour for eighteen long years before he finally got out. The real work of God in life is punctuated, unexpected, and often only visible in hindsight. In the living of life, God’s interventions, God’s miracles, God’s hand, tend to remain hidden in the shadows and soft thumps of the ordinary.

God works slowly and gradually most of the time. Even the suffering is not like what silver goes through: flaming heat that in moments separates the dross from the precious metal. Instead, it is through the “furnace of affliction” which takes days and months and years and is often times no more than ordinary days strung together like pearls on a string, with the annoyances and trials of ordinary existence. And he does it for his own purposes, and for his own glory. His treatment of his people is not dependent upon them, but upon himself.

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About R.P. Nettelhorst

I'm married with three daughters. I live in southern California and I'm the interim pastor at Quartz Hill Community Church. I have written several books. I spent a couple of summers while I was in college working on a kibbutz in Israel. In 2004, I was a volunteer with the Ansari X-Prize at the winning launches of SpaceShipOne. Member of Society of Biblical Literature, American Academy of Religion, and The Authors Guild
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