Though He Slay Me
Listening to the live weather reports of the Oklahoma City area tornadoes, I began to cry. People were going to die, were dying as I listened. It mattered little that this was taking place hundreds of miles away. I am part of humanity. “My flesh trembles for fear of thee, and I am afraid of thy judgments” (Ps. 119:120). I prayed for God’s people in the path of his power. I prayed for mercy. I, my city, my neighbors are not less worthy of God’s judgments than these who have suffered. When men in one place suffer, God is warning all to repent. Each must get on his face before the Lord, confess his sins, and plead his mercy in Jesus Christ. If we believe God’s word – “I form the light and create darkness: I make peace and create evil (calamity, misery): I the Lord do all these things” (Isa. 45:7) – then we must affirm that he sent these storms. Another prophet said: “Shall there be evil in a city, and the Lord hath not done it” (Amos 3:6). Ignore the preachers of luck, global warming, and “God would never do this.” Let pretend atheists bow to their “nature.” Let fanatics attribute these events to the devil. God’s word says otherwise. If he has not done it, there is no explanation. There is also no hope. Cry an ocean. Fill the universe with curses. Write government checks until there is no more ink. Affirm the nothingness of a world hurtling through space without governor or rudder. But if this is true, tornadoes and beach vacations are equally meaningless. There is no good, no evil. Tears and laughs are all the same. Unless we tremble before the word of the living, triune God, we are left in this black hole of despair and confusion. We are also left facing more judgment. We cannot prevail against him. But these storms killed children. What if it were my children? Job lost his children in a tornado-like wind. What did he confess? “The Lord gave: the Lord has taken away: blessed be the name of the Lord” (1:21). The Lord gave these children; they belong to him. He can do with these children, with our children, whatever it pleases him to do in his wise and holy purposes. He does not view children as men do: a bundle of sweet innocence, wistful reminders of our lost childhood. He sees them as sinners, bound either to Adam or to Christ. His judgments often include children (Ps. 21:10). To demand their immunity from suffering and judgment is to make an idol of children and to reject God’s word. Our nation does, spending billions upon billions indoctrinating them into the very unbelief that is both a sign of God’s judgment and a cause of further judgment. Even in the church, we have turned God’s word and worship upside down to accommodate the perceived needs and desires of children. We have become children in the process. Job’s confession is deeply challenging to our self-consumed age. When we begin serving God, we may think that if we do some good things for him, he will do good things for us. We do not verbalize it in this way, but we live as if we are untouchable. Since we are his, surely these evils will not come upon us. I fear I have been a mercenary servant of God for much of my life, expecting the wages of prosperity, peace, and no tragedies for the trifling, worthless service I offer to him. Our Lord said: “When ye shall have done all those things which are commanded of you, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do’” (Luke 17:10). But I have not done all my duty; not even close. I am less than an unprofitable servant. I deserve nothing from God except calamity. Few have been as consecrated to God as was Job (Ezek. 14:14,20), as holy and upright. Yet, when God killed his children and took away all that he had, Job did not question God’s right to do by him as he pleased. Everything I have belongs to the Lord: wife, health, possessions, children. These things do not belong to me. I have no right to expect God to treat me as I think he should. It is better to be afflicted horribly yet to have him for my God than to possess all heart could wish without him. David expressed the desire of all godly men when he said: “Let us now fall into the hand of the Lord; for his mercies are great” (2 Sam. 24:14). And yet, Job continued to serve the Lord, to trust him. Yes, he struggled with doubt and entered into unwise debate with God. Yet, faith held chief sway over his heart, for in the midst of his struggles, he proclaimed: “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him” (Job 13:15). Here is the bedrock of biblical religion. We do not serve God for what we hope to get out of him. It is better to be killed by him than to live on my own terms. How can we say this? We cannot. The Spirit of holiness and truth must teach us this lesson. Our Savior learned it by his obedience, all the way to the cross. He learned it for us, for he did not need to learn it for himself. Though he crucify me, yet will I trust in him. This was his confession in the midst of his agonies on the cross (Ps. 22:8-10). He will make it our confession, for he has given us his Spirit and new, abundant life. Faith seeking God as its life bares its back to God’s chastening blows. He chastens all his (Heb. 12:6). None is exempt. If we are loved by God, he will chasten us. It may be for sins long ago committed. His love is infinitely wise, and he knows that we sometime learn better under his rod after some time has passed. He does not crush us in the midst of sorrow for sin and repentance. He allows the season of grief and guilt to pass. Then, as a wise Father, he begins to correct our faults – not to punish but to humble, not to destroy but to quicken and subdue us to himself. Are we willing to bow to him? A wise son does not arch his back against God’s chastening. He prays for grace to yield to God’s hand. If we are wise, we shall certainly feel that we have sinned against him and need chastening. He never chastens us as we deserve, even in Job’s case. And since chastening is from him, we should embrace it through the tears and pain. If we are crying over our sins, not our circumstances, he will bring his sweet comforts to us. He is the best comfort. But let us bring this yet closer to home. Though he give me this spouse, I will trust in him – or this job, these children, this body with its weaknesses and diseases, this unexpected death, these great expenses, this government, this automobile. God does not promise to make our lives idyllic; he does promise to be with us, our Rock and Fortress. It is through these very difficulties that we learn what it means for him to be our Rock – no other foundation, hope, encouragement, peace, or wisdom but him. He is our Rock when we are subdued to a teachable frame of mind, pray more than worry, and hunger for his word as our heavenly manna. This is the reason Paul boasted in his weaknesses. Only then did the power of God rest upon him, for only then was he led to seek God as his only strength and trust his promises. We experience less of God’s power and grace than we might because we do not seek him as the only strength of our life. I think of my little boy crying for his food. He cannot prepare it himself. He does not know from where it comes – except that his mother feeds him. We must become like little children: crying to our Father and trusting him to feed, guide, sustain, and protect us. He will be known as our faithful Father. He brings us into hard straits so that we will learn this. It is dangerous for us not to learn it, for then we trust ourselves, or the world, or the promises of men. This is to build upon sinking sand. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad when the living God brings you into his school of affliction. It is evidence of his love for you, that he is drawing near to you and desires for you to draw near to him. We cry in our troubles, to be sure, and sometimes feel so perplexed that we know not which way to turn. God knows. Trust him. If he slays me, I will trust him. I have no other life, no other good, no other true and eternal joy than to have him for my God and Savior. Trusting him, we receive from him incredible freedom from worry, peace in the present, and hope for the future. If he loves me, if he walks with me, it is enough. I do not need to understand what he is doing or why. If he sends tornadoes, it is enough for me to know that he has sent them. If I am suddenly put upon my death bed, the Lord has done it. He has not forgotten to be merciful. He is leading me to the fountain of mercy. He is also correcting my definition of what mercy is – not everything going my way, a nice and tidy life, rules for everything so that I can maintain control, the perfect children. Mercy is God’s pledge to be with us no matter what happens. It is his sworn love and covenanted presence. Mercy is so secured to us through the blood of Jesus Christ that everything he sends to us is a gift of love.