The entire Old Testament can be summed up as a recurring cycle of creation, fall, redemption. It starts with the capital-C Creation: the first, tragic fall, and then the redemption promised by God in chapter 3. The cycle is repeated on big levels—the creation of the nation Israel, its refusal to enter the Promised Land, God’s raising up Joshua as a triumphant leader—and on individual levels–Abraham receives the promise of a son, he lacks trust and has Ishmael by Hagar, Isaac is miraculously conceived and born.
When you read large chunks of the OT at a time, you get the feel that God is constantly having to remind His people of His faithfulness. He recounts their history to them time and time again, through songs, through the speeches of prophets, through annual celebrations and feasts, through rituals and sacrifices. Over and over they are reminded that they failed, God disciplined, they cried out, and God redeemed. The message is this: trust Him so the cycle does not repeat.
Things change in the New Testament, as the biggest redemption story of all is told. Through Christ’s work on the cross, those trusting Him are redeemed for all time. No further sacrifice is needed.
Yet, on a smale scale, I still see the OT cycle in my own life. God creates new work in me, yet I become complacent or proud or angry or distant, and God must draw me near again.
Just like the Old Testament Israelites, I need constant reminders of God’s faithfulness so I don’t continue to repeat this cycle. Recently I read Psalm 78, one of those lo-o-o-ng reminder Psalms that reviews Israel’s history from Jacob to David, and it gave me the idea of reviewing my own history with God. I don’t have as much to look back on as the Israelites—or as much as the 70 and 80-something saints I’ve been interviewing lately for Wheaton Academy publications—but at age 42 I’ve had a good 25-plus years of walking with God, and He’s revealed Himself to me again and again.
So here’s the beginning of my own Psalm 78, starting when I was 16:
-When I was 16 I led a kids’ Sunday School class in a downtown federal housing project. One of the older kids from the project—his name was Peanut—was my guide, taking me safely through the project, telling me which sections not to enter as I gathered children each week. I remember praying as I walked, for my own safety and for the wellbeing of the kids who lived there. I knew the presence of God as I walked there.
-I was 17 when I first experienced a time when the Lord gave direct leading. I just knew I was supposed to go to Grace College, 11 hours from home, sight unseen, without knowing a single other person going there.
-Near the end of my junior year in college, Dave and I, engaged at the time, broke up after dating for 2 ½ years. I set my ring aside, spent a lot of time alone (he did, too), and came to a point at which I could truly say, “Lord, I love You first. To marry this guy or stay single—I’m waiting to hear from You.” Though that was a difficult time, it was truly a sweet time—maybe the first time I can remember losing a sense of time and place with the joy of fellowshipping with God.
-My first teaching job at a public middle school in Warsaw, Indiana, the tiny, misfit youth group Dave and I started during those years, the mission trip we took together to Argentina—there are so many ways I remember God leading and directing and teaching me during these years.
-In 1998 we knew we were supposed to go—somewhere. I remember filling out the application for overseas teaching and looking at this question: Are you willing to go anywhere God wants you to go? Well, what do you say to that? I originally wanted to go to a Spanish-speaking country, but God made it very clear we were supposed to go to Okinawa, Japan.
-When I went to the doctor in Okinawa to confirm my first pregnancy, he looked at the ultrasound and counseled Dave and I to expect a miscarriage. Separately we were both given the same verse to hold onto—“You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts you”—and we went back to the next doctor visit sure that, no matter what the outcome of the visit, God would give us peace and comfort. Emily is the result of that pregnancy!
-We returned in 2000 and went through a difficult time of doubting that we were supposed to be back in the States. God reassured me so abundantly of His love during that time that I began to rethink how I viewed God, comparing my thoughts of Him with the way He is revealed throughout Scripture and in the person of Christ, learning to think “rightly” of Him.
I’ll pause here so the blog entry doesn’t run too long—maybe part two will be my next entry. Writing this has been a wonderful reminder to me that God has revealed Himself to me over and over—and these are just the “big” ways; there are too many small things to include in between all the “big.” Maybe you want to write your own Psalm 78—or if you don’t feel that you can, ask God to help you see the ways He is working in your life.
Thanks for reading—hope it was helpful.