Claims and Cares

My portion is this wispy little brush stroke over here on the edge.

Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken. Psalm 55:22 

Before I start, I want to tell you that I have been angry and grumbling a lot lately and not really knowing why. So, I asked God to show me. These verses and the quote by Lewis, I believe, are His answer.  

The Hebrew word translated “cares” here is yehab (יְהָב). This is the only place it is used in the Bible. Surprisingly, it doesn’t mean worries or anxiety, it means “what is given, a lot [as in a portion], a burden.” So, this verse could say, “cast what God has given you, your lot in life, back on Him and He will sustain you.” 

The word translated “sustain” is another amazing word. It is kul (כּוּל) and, at its root, it means “to keep in” to measure, contain. It means (be able to, or can) abide, bear, comprehend, feed, forbear, guide, nourish, be present, make provision, receive, sustain, provide sustenance. 

He sustains us; He provides sustenance. He knows and is able to bear my lot or portion. The problem comes when what He has given is not what I expected or feel entitled to. The Israelites following Moses out of Egypt felt they were being misused by God for this reason.  

The rabble with them began to crave other food, and again the Israelites started wailing and said, “If only we had meat to eat! We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost—also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic. But now we have lost our appetite; we never see anything but this manna!” Numbers 11:4-6 

“This manna” was not what they expected or felt entitled to or felt they were promised. C.S. Lewis put it very well in a fictional conversation between demons training to tempt and derail the faith of humans:

“Men are not angered by mere misfortune but by misfortune conceived as injury. And the sense of injury depends on the feeling that a legitimate claim has been denied. The more claims on life, therefore, that your patient can be induced to make, the more often he will feel injured and, as a result, ill-tempered.” — Screwtape Letters, XXI, C.S. Lewis   

“The more claims on life.” Ooo, ow, ouch! That is really peeling off the hard scab on my heart to clean out the pus of sin. Like me, the grumbling Israelites in the desert felt they were being misused. They felt their claims and entitlement. “Moses, I thought this was supposed to be a better life than in Egypt. I thought this was supposed to be some great salvation! And here we are wandering around in the life-sucking heat with just this manna to eat!”  

My claims are not meat and fish and cucumbers and leeks. My claims are more based on my conception of a perfect life. I hear myself grumbling like them. “I don’t want this lot. This is not what I signed up for. It wasn’t supposed to be this way. If only I had never started out on this hard, hot, rocky desert journey, where all I have to eat is this manna!” 

But, oh, do you hear the hard slap in the Face of God? For who is the manna? 

I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, yet they died. But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which anyone may eat and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” John 6:26, 43-51 

And see, Jesus points here to another thing. God has a BIG plan. It is way bigger than my ability to comprehend, much bigger than my short time here on earth. He is always setting His face toward the Cross. He is always one-track focused on reconciling people to himself. He is always painting a huge canvas, writing this wonderful story, portraying the bread given for the life of the world.

Those people crossing the Red Sea and wandering in the desert, eating the manna provided there, were part of that canvas. And I’m seeing that in God’s amazing grace, my failures and wanderings and returnings are part of it too. My portion is this wispy little brush stroke over here on the edge. You can hardly see it close up. But when you stand back I hope, that in His strength and grace, it contributes my tiny portion to the salvation story picture. 

But it seems that my claims and assumptions blind me to my true portion, to what God is really like and what He is after. Like Adam and Eve I listen to the “what ifs.” Did God really say? What if He just doesn’t want you to have all you deserve? Like the man who was entrusted with the one bag of gold, I assume the worst of God.  

Then the man who had received one bag of gold came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. So I was afraid and went out and hid your gold in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’ Matthew 25:24-25 

Two bad assumptions about God: that God had given a bad lot, that God is “hard” and requiring more than the man was able to bear. That man received what he expected. But what did the master say to the two men who received gladly, and served with, the portion they were given? “Enter into the joy of your master.” 

I think this lot or portion we have been given is only a heavy burden if we resist it or try to carry it ourselves. We were never meant to carry it, but to cast it back on His broad shoulders.  

And I begin to see that if God contains my lot, then my lot is in God – that my lot is God. The manna from heaven. 

Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup; you make my lot secure. The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance. Psalm 16:5-6 

Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. 1 Peter 5:6-7 

Those who cling to their lives will give up true life. But those who let go of their lives for my sake and surrender it all to me will discover true life! (TPT) 

But here is the bread that comes down from heaven … 

Image, detail from painting by Jack Bair

His Right Hand is Free

If God is holding me by my right hand I can’t use it.

Yet I am always with you; 
you hold me by my right hand. 
You guide me with your counsel, 
 and afterward you will take me into glory. 
Whom have I in heaven but you? 
 And earth has nothing I desire besides you. 
My flesh and my heart may fail, 
 but God is the strength of my heart 
 and my portion forever. Psalm 73:23-26 

When I was meditating on these verses I realized that if God is holding me by my right hand I can’t use it. And since I am right-handed anything I tried to do with my left hand would be awkward and malformed.  

The right hand in the Bible is a symbol of strength. Also, “The right side of a man is the side on which God ‘marches’ when assisting him in battle (Isa. 63:12; Ps. 109:31; 110:1, 5) and it is the right hand which God grasps as a symbol of election (Isa. 41:13; 45:1; Ps. 73:23).” i  

Wow, what amazing grace! He has grasped my right hand; He has chosen me! But, if my right hand is in His, I basically can’t do anything in my own strength. I would have to take my hand out of His. That explains my frequent urge to do just that – shake Him off and do it myself. Fearful that things are taking too long, that I’m missing out, afraid He has forgotten me.  

But His word assures us that He will never forget. Yet, I am always with you. He will never leave us or forsake us. And think of this: though His left hand is occupied holding on to me, His right hand is free. And so, “though my flesh and heart may fail” God is my strength and help. He is fighting for me with His mighty right hand. 

Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve my life; you stretch out your hand against the wrath of my enemies, and your right hand delivers me. The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O LORD, endures forever. Psalm 138:7-8 (ESV) 

For I am the LORD your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you. Isaiah 41:13 

Lord, keep my right hand in yours

iJewish Virtual Library “Right and Left” 

Photo, free download from Piqsels

Unchanging

Do you see how one-track God is?

The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Luke 1:35 

The two phrases in this verse – “come on you” and “overshadow you” – tell an amazing story. 

The phrase “come on you” is the Greek word epercomai (ἐπέρχομαι) which means to come upon, come to, arrive, come on. But more than just arriving, what comes upon “comes and leaves its appropriate, inevitable effects that build on the particular coming. (Note the prefix epi, showing the action as the ‘epi-center’ of what happens.)”i 

“Overshadow you” is the word episkiazó (ἐπισκιάζω) which means overshadow, envelop, to cast a shadow on, and leave “a natural (apt) result.” The word is “used in the NT of God’s over-shadowing presence – which always brings His boulē-plan to pass.” God’s boulḗ is “God’s immutable will for physical circumstances.” 

God’s coming causes something to happen! His coming upon and overshadowing of Mary was the epicenter of a history-splitting event, an inevitable effect, the natural result of the Most High God touching His creation and bringing His plan and purpose to pass. And the writer of Hebrews says that this plan and purpose of God is unchanging. 

Because God wanted to make the unchanging nature of his purpose (boulḗ) very clear to the heirs of what was promised, he confirmed it with an oath. Hebrews 6:17 

When God overshadows something or someone His unchangeable, immutable, unalterable purpose is accomplished. This overshadowing, purposeful, building Presence calls to mind Genesis. In the beginning God overshadowed, hovered over, the world to accomplish this purpose. 

Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. Genesis 1:2 

What was God’s original plan and purpose? To have relationship; to have sons and daughters to communicate Himself to and to love. And so, He created the first man and woman, Adam and Eve. They were unfaithful to Him and rejected Him. But His purpose remained unchanged. So just as God hovered over the earth in the beginning and created the first Adam, he hovered over Mary to create the last Adam, Jesus Christ Son of God, who would bring God’s boulē-plan to pass. 

So it is written: “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit. 1 Corinthians 15:45 

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ. Ephesians 1:7-10 

For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. John 6:38-40 (ESV) 

“The Lord was never a passive or unconcerned God; rather, He was always actively intervening, even invading the affairs of men. His incarnation as one of us is the most spectacular example of the Lord’s lovesick and purposeful involvement in the earthly realm.” — Jill Shannon, A Prophetic Calendar 

Do you see how one-track God is? His purpose has always been to love us and to be loved back. And if we cooperate by turning towards Him, with even the feeblest opening of our hearts, He is there. When we crawl under the shadow of His wings, and let God overshadow us; when we hide ourselves in and cling to Him, then we put ourselves at the epicenter of His life-giving and creating and redeeming power. We allow Him to complete His passionate purpose in our lives. And nothing can come between us and God’s passionate, one-track, love and purpose for us. No matter the circumstance. No matter the storm. No matter the attack of the enemy. No matter even our own rebellious, struggling, wavering hearts – for even a faintly burning wick he will not snuff out (Isaiah 42: 3). God will fulfill His purpose for us. 

Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me, for in you my soul takes refuge; in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge, till the storms of destruction pass by. I cry out to God Most High, to God who fulfills his purpose for me. Psalm 57:1-2 (ESV) 

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. Philippians 1:6 (ESV) 

So now I live with the confidence that there is nothing in the universe with the power to separate us from God’s love. I’m convinced that his love will triumph over death, life’s troubles, fallen angels, or dark rulers in the heavens. There is nothing in our present or future circumstances that can weaken his love. There is no power above us or beneath us—no power that could ever be found in the universe that can distance us from God’s passionate love, which is lavished upon us through our Lord Jesus, the Anointed One! Romans 8:38-39 (The Passion Translation) 

iAll definitions from HELPS Word-studies, Discovery Bible (2021), and Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible. 

Image copyright by Derek Bair

%d bloggers like this: