Jesus said, "And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent." (John 17:3). It is of utmost importance to know the only true God. God enables us to know Him by revealing Himself in nature and in the Scriptures. "The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament [expanse] shows His handiwork." (Psalm 19:1). "For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened." (Romans 1:20-21)..
God also reveals Himself in His word. He does this first by revealing Himself through Jesus. Philip said to Him, "Lord, show us the Father, and it is sufficient for us." Jesus said to him, "Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, 'Show us the Father'?" (John 14:8-9). When we understand Jesus we begin to understand the Father.
He also reveals Himself in the word by using simple things wherein He compares Himself in certain ways to various things with which we are all familiar. He compares Himself to a shepherd, a host, a father, a mother, a friend, one who loves greatly and such like.
This is what we would like to study. Who God really is, and what He compares Himself to.
This means that God will provide for us in the same way that a shepherd provides for his sheep. "The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name's sake. Yea, 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." (Psalms 23:1-4).
"I shall not want." There will be no lack for what God's people really need. We will not lack for anything that is really good for us. The faithful shepherd leads his sheep to lie down in green pastures. All the comforts of life which men have, they have from God's gracious hand (cf James 1:17). Christian people are deeply thankful for even a very little. Evil men are not even grateful to God for abundance. "A little that a righteous man has Is better than the riches of many wicked." (Psalms 37:16). "Better is a little with the fear of Yahweh, Than great treasure with trouble." (Proverbs 15:16). We must be truly grateful for all blessings of life - even those that many think are small and insignificant. God enables His faithful saints to "lie down" amid the various affairs of life in peace and contentment. Philippians 4:6-7 says, "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus." God gives us the means of peace and contentment in the middle of the many things we face today that cause care and anxiety. Maybe one of the reasons we are so anxious and concerned over things in this life is because we do not pray as we ought. But God promises when we pray that we will receive that great peace which surpasses all understanding, and this will guard our hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
God leads His people beside still waters. He provides us not only with food and shelter but also with the spiritual strength to meet tribulation with peace and contentment. "Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you." (I Peter 5:6-7).
God leads us by His word in the paths of righteousness. Even when one has sinned, God stands ready to forgive (when we truly repent) and will "restore our souls".
The Psalmist goes on to say that even though he may walk through "the valley of the shadow of death," he will not fear evil. Why? Because God is with Him. This tells us that there are no situations in the life of a righteous and faithful child of God in which he cannot depend on God to be there with all the help he needs. God, as shepherd, will both guide and protect His sheep, even in the most spiritually dangerous situations. We must not expect miracles, but we should in deep and abiding faith, expect God to bless us in His great providence.
HIMSELF UNDER THE FIGURE OF
Psalms 23:5-6 - You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me All the days of my life." God gives His people His special providence. Many would look at this banquet as meager, but those who understand the providence of God know that it is otherwise. Those who have obeyed the gospel and have been to that table know how wonderful it is that God will prepare this table for His faithful people "in the presence of" their enemies. This tells us that God's help for His people is never either too little or too late!
Isaiah wrote; "Can a woman forget her nursing child, and not have compassion on the son of her womb? Surely they may forget, yet I will not forget you." (Isaiah 49:15). At times, even a Christian may forget the love and care that God has for him (sometimes feeling that God has forgotten us). But God asks, "can a woman forget her nursing child?" How do women feel about that baby they have given birth to? Surely, at least most of them love that baby more than their own lives. But God says, there are exceptions. There are women who do forget that nursing child. But God will never forget His people, rather each one is ever before His eyes, Each one of us - with our problems and triumphs - are ever before God. As unlikely as it could be that a woman would forget that baby that nurses at her breast, some do, but such is not possible with God. He will never forget His people. God's providence ever works for the good of His people.
We can see the same basic teaching in Matthew 7:7-11. "Keep asking, and it will be given to you; keep seeking, and you will find; keep knocking, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who keeps asking keeps receiving, and he who keeps seeking keeps finding, and to him who keeps knocking it will be opened. Or what man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a snake? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven keep giving good things to those who keep asking Him!" First, Jesus says that men should keep asking, seeking and knocking. He then asks which of them (as a human father) if his son should ask for bread, would give him a stone to eat? Or, He says, if your son asks for a fish, will you give him a snake (that which might harm him or even kill him?) Jesus then reaches His conclusion about God. If human fathers (who are evil) will give good things to those who ask them, how much more will our heavenly father (who is infinitely good) give good things to them that keep asking Him? God will never turn a deaf ear to the appropriate pleas of His people! We must ask for the right things. James wrote in James 4:3, "You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures." We must ask in faith. James 1:6 says, "But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind." If we ask, and we ask according to His will we will receive. If we seek what God wishes for us to seek, then we will find. If we knock on the doors that God wishes us to knock on, then those doors will be open.
GOD DESIRES AND DEMANDS THAT WE TRUST HIM
"Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths" (Proverbs 3:5-6). This passage involves three basic points: We must trust in the Lord, in all our ways we must acknowledge Him, and as a result of trusting in Him and acknowledging Him, He shall direct our paths. To live a life of trusting God is to live a life of taking God at His word, obeying His word with all our heart. Abraham is an example: "He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform." (Romans 4:20-21). Do you have this kind of trust in the Lord? Do you have enough trust in Him to be fully persuaded that what He has promised He is able also to perform? What does this passage really teach about God? It teaches that we must trust Him without reservation and that we must not depend upon our own understanding while we live here on earth. This means that we must only depend upon God's word to lead us. Too many of us try to reason things out by our own understanding when we face great difficulties, and fail to just take God as His word. It teaches that we must obey Him - be submissive to Him in all things. Not merely those things which we happen to like, but in all our ways acknowledge Him. As a result God will direct our paths. This is God's special care - His special providence. In obeying God's will - trusting Him - we are doing what is best for ourselves. God has never required anything from us but what was best for us. Everyone who trusts in Yahweh - who is directed by Yahweh -- is greatly blessed because it brings us under the saving power of the blood of Jesus. Galatians 3:26-27 says, "For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were immersed into Christ have put on Christ."
We must understand that being a child of God and trusting in Him is so important, that even if a Christian is severely persecuted (imprisoned) or is even murdered because of His faithfulness to Christ, that he will go to be with God eternally. His example will be such as to spur others on to greater faithfulness and sacrifice for Christ. We see this in the case of men like Stephen and Paul.
Let us understand that God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance (2 Pet. 3:9). God's ideal will is that no one perish. Even when men sin and have put themselves in the situation of deserving the "wages of sin" which is death - eternal separation from God, God still does not want that one to perish. He proved this in sending His only begotten Son to die on the cross - to shed His blood for the remission of our sins which could be forgiven in no other way. "And according to the law almost all things are purified with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no remission." (Hebrews 9:22). "...though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him," (Hebrews 5:8-9). "But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him." (Romans 5:8-9). God's ultimate will is to bless all of the righteous (all of those who obeyed Him). "Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth; those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation." (John 5:28-29). No one can defeat the ultimate will of God. Man can act so as to violate the ideal will of God concerning His not being willing that any perish. Men can defeat this will by not obeying the Gospel or becoming unfaithful after once obeying. But the ultimate will of God to save the faithful and punish the wicked will not be defeated by men.
My friend, will you place your trust in God today and obey Him?