My Tears in His Bottle

You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book. Psalm 56:8 (NLT) 

Recently, I discovered a wonderful project, a “visual investigation of tears” and resulting book, The Topography of Tears,1 by Rose-Lynn Fisher. The featured image is one of her photographs of tears titled Compassion.2 I would encourage you to view the website and scroll down to see the beautiful artwork of tears “photographed through an optical standard light microscope – a vintage Zeiss from the late 1960’s or 70’s, mounted with a digital microscopy camera.” She describes the project on her website: 

“I photographed a range of emotional tears, mainly my own whenever I cried, along with tears from others young and old. I saved my tears onto glass slides, either allowing them to evaporate, or be compressed between glass slide and a thinner glass slip cover.  The results of each approach were equally interesting to me. The air-dried tears revealed their organic structure, so similar to natural structures at every scale in nature. The images produced by compressed tears often evoked a sense of place, like aerial views of emotional terrain.”   

I was fascinated with the project and the beauty of the tears viewed under a microscope, but especially with her finding that every tear was unique.  

“Every tear that I looked at under the microscope had its own visual qualities, its own sort of ‘signature’ whether it was from the same emotion or different emotions. Tears of grief and tears of joy could not be generalized or categorized by their visual pattern. For example, tears of grief could look very different from each other, even when they were shed in the same moment.  Also, like a landscape, different areas of a tear examined under a microscope could look different from one region to another … the topography of tears revealed to me a momentary landscape, transient as the fingerprint of someone in a dream.” 

A unique fingerprint, a “signature,” on each tear. Isn’t that amazing? I believe our tears are beautiful to God. Everything about us is precious to God, even our pain and sorrow and tears. He remembers each tear, and the source of each tear; and he holds them close to his heart.  

“The idea behind the keeping of “tears in a bottle” is remembrance. David is expressing a deep trust in God—God will remember his sorrow and tears and will not forget about him.” — Got Questions 

This is what the psalmist has discovered. God sees. God knows. God remembers. We can rest in confidence that he has us in his arms, and he is writing for us a beautiful story. 

In the above verse from Psalm 56, the word translated “keep track” means “to count, recount [as in tell someone about something; give an account of an event or experience], relate.” God saves every tear. None are lost or for nothing. God tells our story, what Rose-Lynn Fisher calls “the poetry of life,” through our tears. God records that story for eternity in his book. And, think about it, what if the book is illustrated with beautiful photographs of each of our tears? 

What if God is also saving those tears for another precious purpose? What if the artwork of our tears will adorn our heavenly dwelling someday? Each one with its own “signature” like a snowflake, as Rose-Lynn Fisher has discovered. What if we will be able to remember each individual tear, and remember how God came through for us, and saved us and sustained us, suffered along with us, comforted us, and gave us grace to help in time of need (Hebrews 4:16)? 

I have heard your prayer; I have seen your tears. 2 Kings 20:5 (ESV) 

Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning. Psalm 30:5 (ESV)

1Wonderfully, Rose-Lynn Fisher’s photographs of tears were also used to create beautiful wearable lace 

2Photograph, Compassion, copyright 2015 by Rose-Lynn Fisher, used by permission from the artist/author. 

Be Still and Know

In all the horrible roaring and fearful surging, hateful, mocking, fighting, destroying world – we will not fear …

I don’t usually put such a long scripture reference in my blogs, but I have been so blessed lately with this Psalm. There is a message of peace and rest in it for all of us in this chaotic time.

Psalm 46 

God is our refuge and strength, 
    an ever-present help in trouble. 

Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way 
    and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, 
3 though its waters roar and foam 

    and the mountains quake with their surging. 

4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, 
    the holy place where the Most High dwells. 

God is within her, she will not fall; 
    God will help her at break of day. 

Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall; 
    he lifts his voice, the earth melts. 

The Lord Almighty is with us; 
    the God of Jacob is our fortress. 

Come and see what the Lord has done, 
    the desolations he has brought on the earth. 

He makes wars cease 
    to the ends of the earth. 

He breaks the bow and shatters the spear; 
    he burns the shields with fire. 

10 He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; 
    I will be exalted among the nations, 
    I will be exalted in the earth.” 

11 The Lord Almighty is with us; 
    the God of Jacob is our fortress. 

I am struck by the vivid contrast between the roaring and foaming and quaking and surging, the fighting and wars of the world – and the calm, peaceful, but mighty, unstoppable river and the quiet, healing streams of God. The former has been my life from as far back as I can remember. I am realizing lately that I always have just wanted each roaring, surging, quaking, fighting day to be over, looking so forward to the end. Even after I was out of the abusive environment of my growing up years, I took it with me in my head. I know it has been so hard for God to break through to me when I have been just plowing forward, rarely stopping to appreciate anything, just trying to survive another 24 hours. 

But look – at the start of this psalm and at the end – he is ever-present, vehemently present (v. 1), the Lord Almighty is with us (v. 11). He was always there and will always be there. God was always present for me growing up, and I knew it deep down and felt his Presence sometimes. Once in a while when dropped off for choir practice I would sneak out and sit alone in the huge, dark sanctuary and He was there. But most of the time, in my survival mode it was so hard to “be still and know” anything. 

My husband is just the opposite. This past weekend we camped by one of those quiet, healing streams and it was obvious. When we go for a walk, my husband can hardly go a hundred feet without stopping or sitting down and soaking in all the beauty, pointing out colors and light and birdsong and water-music on the rocks. I am just antsy and wanting to keep going (and get it over with). I have to fight to be still. 

Be still (sink, relax, cease, let go) and know (know, learn to know, perceive, consider, recognize, admit, acknowledge, confess) that He is God. Sit in the Presence, stand or walk, live and move and have your being in His Presence. Sink down, relax, let go and abide in His Presence.  

Ah, all this has to do with trust I am seeing. In all the horrible roaring and fearful surging, hateful, mocking, fighting, destroying world – we will not fear … God is within her, she will not fall. He makes the war cease within me, breaks the bow and shatters the spear of my enemy. I can trust the One who is here, present with me, always, from beginning to the end. I can sit down every little while on the path and sink into His arms, relax, cease striving, let go of every fear – and know the One who loves me. I can reach out my hand and take His right there beside me. He has been walking there all along. 


Photo of creek by Sheila Bair

Transparent Camouflage

I hear you 

calling my name again 

from somewhere 

safely far ahead 

How could I have been  

listening for you  

(my heart knows your voice) 

stalking you all this time 

way back  

behind in the bushes somewhere? 

Like tracking you 

following your scent 

(my heart breathes your scent) 

but never really 

getting near 


to capture 

How could I say  

all this time 

I trust you 

and not? 

How could these bold words   

come bravely  

out of my mouth 

point confidently 

from the ends of my fingers   

when I’m hiding from you

in transparent camouflage? 

I hear you now 

calling to me 

(with an amused smile) 

“I see you 

hiding there 

I see your feet sticking out 

Come here  

take my hand 

I don’t bite 

Walk with Me” 

Photo, owenshadow, by andrechinn

Extreme Trust

God is completely trustable.

This year God has been speaking to me about trust. So, when I saw a blog about a new book called Extreme Trust by Don Peppers and Martha Rogers, it caught my eye. My first thought was that it is about radical trust in God. However, the book explores the difference in business between being trustworthy and trustable. Even so, the definition given of extreme trust spoke to me. 

“Being “trustworthy” is certainly better than being untrustworthy, but soon even “trustworthiness” won’t be sufficient. Instead companies will have to be trustable. 

..trustability is a higher standard still.  Rather than working to maintain honest prices and reasonable service, in the near future companies will have to go out of their way to protect each customer’s interest proactively, taking extra steps when necessary to ensure that a customer doesn’t make a mistake, or overlook some benefit or service, or fail to do or not do something that would have been better for the customer.” — Don Peppers and Martha Rogers, quoted by Maz Iqbal  

After I read this, I thought, wow, isn’t that a perfect description of our Father God? One who goes out of [his] way to protect each [one’s] interest proactively. Trustable. 

In Psalm 21:3, David praises God, For you meet him [David] with rich blessings; you set a crown of fine gold upon his head. The word translated “meet” means “Precede; hence, to anticipate, hasten, meet (usually for help).”1 David Wilkerson had this to say about God anticipating David’s need, preceding him, hastening to help: 

“This verse provides us with an incredible picture of our Lord’s love for us. Evidently, he is so anxious to bless us, so ready to fulfill his lovingkindness in our lives, that he can’t even wait for us to tell him our needs. He jumps in and performs acts of mercy, grace and love toward us; and that is a supreme pleasure to him. That is just what David was saying in Psalm 21. ‘Lord, you pour out blessings and lovingkindness on me before I can even ask. You offer more than I could even conceive of asking.’” — David Wilkerson, Victory Before the Battlefield 

It shall come to pass, that before they call, I will answer; and while they are still speaking, I will hear. Isaiah 65:24, NKJV 

All through the Bible story there are examples of God’s trustability – God going ahead, preceding us, anticipating our need. His proactive interest in our welfare. 

Before he [Abraham’s servant] had finished praying, Rebekah came out with her jar on her shoulder. Genesis 24:15 

And the LORD went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead them along the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night. Exodus 13:21 

You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed. How precious are your thoughts about me, O God. They cannot be numbered! I can’t even count them; they outnumber the grains of sand! And when I wake up, you are still with me! Psalm 139:16-18 (NLT) 

“Do not let your heart be troubled (afraid, cowardly). Believe [confidently] in God and trust in Him, [have faith, hold on to it, rely on it, keep going and] believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many dwelling places. If it were not so, I would have told you, because I am going there to prepare a place for you.” John 14:1-4 (Amplified) 

Yes, God precedes us, goes before us, is proactive on our behalf. Yet, there was one part of the Peppers and Rogers definition of trustability that gave me pause: taking extra steps when necessary to ensure that a customer doesn’t make a mistake.

My first reaction to that was, well that’s not going to happen. We all make mistakes. I make mistakes all the time. For a long time, I felt all I ever did was a mistake. That my whole life was a big mistake. But then God reminded me. He has already proactively gone out of his way and preceded us there too, for what is his promise? 

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified. What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? Romans 8:28-31 

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8 

Actually, the only real mistake I can make is NOT trusting him completely. For he is completely trustable. 

Trust (noun) 

as in assured 

: reliance on the character, ability, strength, or truth of someone or something  

: one in which confidence is placed  

: dependence on something future or contingent : hope  

Trust (verb) 

: to rely on the truthfulness or accuracy of : believe  

: to place confidence in : rely on  

: to hope or expect confidently  

: to commit or place in one’s care or keeping : entrust   

: to place confidence : depend  

: to be confident : hope  

Trustable (adjective) 

as in reliable 

: worthy of one’s trust 

Trustability (noun) 

as in reliability 

: worthiness as the recipient of another’s trust or confidence 

— Merriam Webster

1Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance 

Image in the Public Domain

You Are Good

Can I trust that God knows what is good for me?

And the LORD God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; 
but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.” Genesis 2:16-17 

Why did God say you will certainly die? What’s so bad about knowing what is good and what is evil? Isn’t that a good thing? Looking at the word in Hebrew translated “good” I noticed something, though. The first seven times this word is used in the Bible, it is God deciding and proclaiming that something is “good.”  

The created light was good. (Genesis 1:4) 

The separation of the dry land and the seas was good. (Genesis 1:10) 

The bringing forth of grass and herbs and trees that produce fruit was good (Genesis 1:12) 

The creation of the sun and moon and stars was good (Genesis 1:18) 

The creation of the birds and sea creatures was good (Genesis 1:21) 

The creation of livestock and land animals was good (Genesis 1:25) 

All that God had made was good, indeed, very good (Genesis 1:31) 

The eighth time the word is used, it describes God’s evaluation of the trees of the garden he had made: 

The LORD God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Genesis 2:9  

(God also decided that something was NOT good: The LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” Genesis 2:18

God made the tree in the middle of the garden pleasing to the eye and good for food. But the serpent introduced into the minds of Adam and Eve doubt. Doubt about God’s goodness, wisdom, and integrity. 

“You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Genesis 3:4-5 

So, when Eve looked at the tree, she concluded that the fruit of the tree was “good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom.” Did you see that? Eve added something to God’s evaluation of the tree: desirable for gaining wisdom. After Adam and Eve ate of the fruit and their eyes were opened, they suddenly decided that running around naked was not good. That being clothed was good. Doubt in God’s goodness led them to take over their own care and welfare. To act as if they knew better than God. Though, from their hiding place, I think they knew they had taken a wrong path, pride prevented them from turning back. What would have happened if they had fallen on their faces and repented right then? They did not, only making excuses and shifting the blame. But God in his mercy sacrificed animals to make coverings for their nakedness. Just as Jesus died for us, a sacrifice for sin, when we were yet sinners, and He covers us. 

Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:7-8 

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. Ephesians 2:4-5 

For in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. Galatians 3:26 (ESV) 

After all that he has done for me, can I trust that God knows what is good for me? Can I trust God in my hard times? Or do I entertain the doubts? Can I trust God to decide what is “good” or “evil” in my life? This has to be a faith thing, because more often than not it is only looking back that we can see his loving hand at work in our lives. It took Joseph 22 years in exile, after his brothers sold him into slavery, to be able to say: 

You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. Genesis 50:20 

David and Paul also were able, after years of trial and suffering, to proclaim: 

It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees. Psalm 119:71 

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28 

“To trust the Lord with all our heart is to no longer rely on our own understanding, will, abilities, and resources.  It is to submit all our living to our God no matter how scary or confusing that may be.  To completely let go so that we can let God be God over us and all our living.” — Timothy Denney, One Pursuit 

Lord, help me not to entertain, even for a moment, doubts about your goodness. Help me to trust that you are always working for my good and the good of my loved ones no matter how bad things appear. Help me to be able to say some day with David, “It was good.” 

I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Psalm 27:13 

You are good, and what you do is good … Psalm 119:68 

“I believe; help my unbelief!” Mark 9:24 

Image, free photo from

The Winter is Past

Something has happened there in the dark winter season.  

My beloved spoke and said to me, 

“Arise, my darling, 

my beautiful one, come with me. 

See! The winter is past; 

the rains are over and gone. 

Flowers appear on the earth; 

the season of singing has come, 

the cooing of doves 

is heard in our land. 

The fig tree forms its early fruit; 

the blossoming vines spread their fragrance. 

Arise, come, my darling; 

my beautiful one, come with me.” 

Song of Songs 2:10-13 

I have been reading Brennan Manning’s book, The Furious Longing of God. In it, he translates verses 10-11 above this way: 

‘Come now, My love. My lovely one, come. For you, the winter has passed, the snows are over and gone, the flowers appear in the land, the season of joyful songs has come.’ 

For you – for me – the winter is passed. I felt the Lord calling me out of a long season of darkness. “Arise, my darling, my beautiful one, come with me.” 

The Hebrew word translated “winter” in this verse is sethav (סְתָו). It is only used this one time in the Bible. It means winter as the dark season. It comes from a root word meaning “to hide.” 1 

Like a long season of God hiding his face and plunging me into darkness. For it is by the light of his face that we see. 

There are many who say, “Who will show us some good? Lift up the light of your face upon us, O LORD!” Psalm 4:6 (ESV) 

Restore us, O God; make your face shine on us, that we may be saved. Psalm 80:3 

But sometimes – for our good I guess, though it doesn’t feel good – we have to go through times of darkness, what David called “the valley of the shadow of death.” When it seems that God is not there. When we can’t see his light or hear his voice.  

Today I noticed something about Psalm 23. David starts off referring to the Lord in the third person – “the Lord is my shepherd … he makes me lie down in green pastures” – but after David has walked through the valley of darkness, he speaks directly to God in the first person – “for you are with me You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies … you anoint my head with oil.” Something has happened there in the dark winter season.  

Brennan Manning called this time “a passage into pure trust.” 

“The scandal of God’s silence in the most heartbreaking hours of our journey is perceived in retrospect as veiled, tender Presence and a passage into pure trust that is not at the mercy of the response it receives.” — Brennan Manning, Ruthless Trust 

Yes, something happens there in the dead darkness of winter. A decision is made. A decision to trust him no matter what. And I tell you, deciding to trust God has been the hardest thing I have ever done. Especially, trusting him with my children and grandchildren. Yet! 

Though He slay me, yet will I trust (wait, stay, hope in) Him. Job 13:15 (NKJV)  

If you are in a season of darkness like me, this is our time to make that decision to trust him. And he will call us out into the light. A new day. A new season. The “season of singing.”  

Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life. Psalm 143:8 

Let the morning, the end of winter and the dark season, the end of Your seeming hiddenness Lord, the end of your silence, bring me word of your unfailing, your continuing-even-when-hidden, love. 

Show me the way I should go .. 

Arise, come, my darling; my beautiful one, come with me. 

1Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance and Brown-Driver-Briggs 

Photo of figs by Shlomi Kakon   

Seizing Hope

We are urged to hold fast to two things – our confidence and our hope.

So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. Hebrews 10:35 

Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus. Mark 10:50 

The above verses are the only places in the Bible where this word translated “throw away” or “throwing … aside” is used. It means to throw off, cast away, throw overboard. But these two verses are so completely different – one talking about a negative thing, throwing away your confidence in God, and the other such a picture of faith as the blind man throws aside his cloak to go to Jesus for healing – I knew there had to be a message for me in there somewhere. 

Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. Hebrews 4:16 

The blind man threw off his beggar’s cloak and boldly, confidently approached Jesus. He could have sat there in self-pity, blaming God for his situation, viewing Jesus cynically as just another dead-end pipe dream delusion of the duped masses. He had a good reason to be bitter. 

“The ancient nations regarded blindness as the lowest degradation that could be inflicted upon man … The blind, together with cripples and lepers, were outcasts of society and kept quarantined outside the town limits; they became paupers and a menace to passers-by.” — Jewish Encyclopedia1 

So, what gave this degraded outcast the boldness to cry out from the dust at the side of the road and approach the Rabbi for healing? He had probably heard of the other healings. It was probably all the buzz in the outcast community. There was that something about Jesus that invited, that drew the rejected, the pariahs. And I think the reports of miraculous healings had conceived in this blind man a very foreign thing – hope. Hope had started to grow, and hope, paired with desperation, gave him boldness. 

The other verse, Hebrews 10:35, talks about throwing away your confidence. The word translated “confidence” in these two verses is parrésia and means “freedom of speech.” It means “free and fearless confidence, cheerful courage, boldness, assurance … the undoubting confidence of Christians relative to their fellowship with God.”2 Ellicott’s Commentary3 notes that “[t]o ‘cast away boldness’ is the opposite of ‘holding fast the boldness of the hope’” talked about in Hebrews 3:6. 

But Christ is faithful as the Son over God’s house. And we are his house, if indeed we hold firmly to our confidence and the hope in which we glory. Hebrews 3:6 

We are urged to hold fast to two things – our confidence and our hope. Confidence, not in our outcast selves, but in what Jesus has done on the cross, and the hope that we have because what Jesus endured on the cross has brought us home and made us part of God’s family. No longer outcasts. If we hold down our hope, hold it fast, take possession, retain, seize on it, restrain it from wandering off. Let’s seize the hope and not let it go, but, like the blind man, let’s throw off our beggar’s cloaks of sin and lies received and bitterness and bad attitudes and pride. Let’s exercise our “freedom of speech” because the way into God’s presence has been opened up for us by Jesus. And let us come boldly, confidently before the throne so that we may receive mercy and grace in our time of need. 

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:1-2 

“What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him. The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.” Mark 10:51 

1Jewish Encyclopedia, Blind, the, in Law and Literature, by Richard Gottheil, Judah David Eisenstein 

2Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, and Thayer’s Greek Lexicon 

3Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers 

Image, Blind Beggar 1949 Kenya, by Sydney Oats  

Creaking and Spinning

Help me not to be afraid of the dance of joy. 

The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you [spin around under the influence of violent emotion] with loud singing [creaking, singing, shout of joy, cry of gladness, joy, proclamation, rejoicing, triumph]. Zephaniah 3:17 

When I babysit my granddaughter, one of her all-time favorite things to do is to dance around in my arms singing at the top of our lungs. I have done this since she was an infant, dancing and singing to her. Lately, she has joined in with my creaky singing, a little off-key, but exuberantly and loudly. She especially loves to spin around when we are dancing. Her dad says she is an adrenaline junky. There are certain places in certain songs where we absolutely MUST spin around, and certain lyrics that MUST be sung/shouted with absolute joy. Especially, at least for me, joy in our relationship, gramma and granddaughter, and our love for each other. 

When I read the recent blog by Beholding Ministries, The God Who Sings, I saw how our singing and dancing around is a perfect picture of Zephaniah 3:17. And for the first time I was able to realize God’s joy over me described in this verse. His spinning me around I hope will someday soon produce, not out-of-control fear of being dropped, but belly-laughs-birthed-from-complete-trust-and-joy surrender into his strong hands. Because it does feel like I am spinning around these days. I cannot seem to focus on the horizon and I am tempted to panic. But I will remember that he is the mighty one who will save – who is saving no matter what things look like – who rejoices over me, his child, (singing loudly and NOT creaking, I’m sure!) with gladness, joy and triumph.  

Lord help me not to be afraid of the dance of joy. 

Photo by Reilly Images, LLC

Is the Lord Among Us Or Not?

When bad things happen to us. When we find ourselves in the life-sucking desert with no water – is the Lord among us or not?

Then the LORD said to Moses, “I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day. In this way I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions. Exodus 16:4 

And he called the place Massah and Meribah because the Israelites quarreled and because they tested the LORD saying, “Is the LORD among us or not?” Exodus 17:7 

Reading the two verses above together was mind-blowing to me. The Hebrew word translated “test” in each of these verses is the same word. It is nasah (נָסָה) which means to test, assay, prove, tempt, try.  

It seems like there is a lot of testing going on in Exodus, God testing his people and his people testing God. I remembered Jesus, who being tested in the desert by the devil, quoted another verse which uses the word nasah, Deuteronomy 6:16.  

Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’ Matthew 4:5-7  

And, I suddenly had the thought: if God tested the Israelites to see if they would follow his instructions, when we test God are we seeing if he will follow our instructions? Am I trying to hold God hostage to my agenda? 

Do not put the LORD your God to the test as you did at Massah. Deuteronomy 6:16 

And he called the place Massah and Meribah because the Israelites quarreled and because they tested the LORD saying, “Is the LORD among us or not?” Exodus 17:7 

One of the definitions of nasah is to “assay.” According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary online, to assay something is “to determine its purity,” and “to judge the worth of.” Think about those meanings when applied to the Holy God. 

When bad things happen to us. When we find ourselves in the life-sucking desert with no water – is the Lord among us or not? Is he the Holy God who cannot lie? Is his promise good? Is he worthy of my trust? 

When the devil “tested” Jesus in the desert he challenged Him to believe God’s promise.  

Then the devil took Him to the holy city and set Him on the pinnacle of the temple. “If You are the Son of God,” he said, “throw Yourself down. For it is written: ‘He will command His angels concerning You, and they will lift You up in their hands, so that You will not strike Your foot against a stone.’”  

The devil must have thought he had Jesus now. If Jesus jumped, he would be playing the devil’s game, giving him power and indirectly, worship. And most likely Jesus would go splat, since jumping off the temple was not the will of God for Jesus. If Jesus didn’t jump, he would be admitting a lack of trust in God’s promise, right? See, the devil was trying to get Jesus, and the Father God, to follow his instructions. But instead of playing the game, Jesus held firm to the instructions he had been given by the Father. 

Jesus replied, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” Matthew 4:5-7 

Jesus didn’t have to prove or assay his Father. Jesus had complete confidence in God’s promises and in his will. Jesus didn’t have an agenda. He didn’t have to prove his Lordship or his value or power. He didn’t come to be a big success or to be prosperous. He actually came to be nothing, a humble servant, following and completely fulfilling the instructions given to him by a God whom he knew to be good and loving and faithful all the time, even in the desert times of testing. And even so he wants me to follow after him. His instruction for me is to trust that He is with me here in the dry, deadly places, the impossible, bleak, and heart-gutting places. The places where I see no hope or way out. The times when everything I hoped for is gone, my agenda is shredded and I am reduced to nothing.  

Do you ever wonder what would have happened at Massah and Meribah if the Israelites had trusted God and waited for his salvation instead of despairing and turning against him? What would God have done? What amazing things could he have done? But instead, God let what happened happen for us! Speaking of the Israelites in the desert Paul wrote: 

Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come.  1 Corinthians 10:11 

Do not harden your hearts as you did at Meribah, as you did that day at Massah in the wilderness, where your ancestors tested me; they tried me, though they had seen what I did. Psalm 95:8-9 

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. Psalm 23:4 (ESV) 

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will (His instructions) for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 

Photo free download from Pexels, Great sand dunes in desert at sundown, by Chris Clark 

How Long

Hope, it seems, is hardwired into our souls.

How long, LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me? Psalm 13:1-2 

If you have ever gone through a very long, dark night of trial and bewildering hard times, you may have felt forgotten; you may have cried out with David, “How long?” Actually, the Psalms record multiple times this question was asked of God. Other people in the Bible too, like Jeremiah (4:21) and Habakkuk.  

How long, LORD, must I call for help, but you do not listen? Or cry out to you, “Violence!” but you do not save? Habakkuk 1:2 

Even Our Lord himself expressed this sentiment, though I don’t blame him. I am sure that dealing with someone like me for even three and half years would seem like an excruciating eternity.  

“You unbelieving generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you?” Mark 9:19 

But sometimes our hard times do stretch out for very long times, even into decades, and we cry out with David, My soul is in deep anguish. How long, LORD, how long? (Psalm 6: 3). Yet, even then, there is a hope we can’t seem to shake. 

“There are times when in our despair we cry, ‘God hath forgotten me.’ yet somehow the conviction rises, ‘No, I am not forgotten forever.’ The soul is in that condition which Luther knew so well. — hope itself despairs, and despair nevertheless begins to hope. In our dejection we think there is no hope, yet we feel in our souls that God cannot forget, and so we begin to question Him, ‘How long shall it seem as though Thou forgettest us forever?’” — McConnell, Moody, and Fitt (emphasis mine)1 

Why have you forgotten me? Why must I go about mourning, oppressed by the enemy? Psalm 42:9 

“Hope itself despairs and despair nevertheless begins to hope.” Hope, it seems, is hardwired into our souls. Zechariah called us “prisoners of hope.” Hope, no matter how hard we try to get rid of it, is tenacious. It pops back up, poking through the hardened covering of our hearts or, at least, humming relentlessly beneath it. Sometimes hope feels like an invasive species that though it is poisoned, chopped down, and yanked up, just keeps coming back. Its roots run deep and are pervasive. Hope deferred makes the heart sick (Proverbs 13:12), yet hope does not shame us.  

And hope does not put us to shame (disgrace, shame down, shame of one repulsed, shame of hope deceived) because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. Romans 5:5-6 

I think it depends on what and who you are hoping for and in. Because, real hope, the hope that is hardwired into us, is hope in God. Hope that He is always doing something, even when we can’t see it. That is where hope and faith in what we do not see are intertwined. After Habakkuk complains to God in the above verse that God is not listening, not helping, not saving, how does God answer? 

The LORD replied, “Look around at the nations; look and be amazed! For I am doing something in your own day, something you wouldn’t believe even if someone told you about it. Habakkuk 1:5 (NLT) 

… Jesus said to them, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working.” John 5:17 

So, in the end, the pain of “how long” can be endured through His grace and love if I remember that God has not forgotten me and will not put me to shame. He will not repulse me or deceive me. His promises are faithful and true. He is doing something amazing right now that I cannot see, but will see someday. 

I would have despaired had I not believed that I would see the goodness of the LORD In the land of the living. Psalm 27:13 (Amplified Bible) 

My bones suffer mortal agony as my foes taunt me, saying to me all day long, “Where is your God?” Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God. Psalm 42:10-11 

Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! Isaiah 49:15 

Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Luke 12:6-7 

Return to your fortress, you prisoners of hope; even now I announce that I will restore twice as much to you. Zechariah 9:12 

1Alexander McConnell, William Revell Moody, Arthur Percy Fitt, Record of Christian Work, Volume 39, 1920 

Image in the Public Domain, Dead Sparrow by Marc Franz, 1905 

%d bloggers like this: