His Fragrance Surrounds Us

Now thanks be to God who always leads us (5)

Gentle Reader,

Do you realize how good the Lord is?

I’m not sure we think about that often enough. He’s just plain good. He has no dark side. He doesn’t need therapy. He’s not messed up. He’s never stepped wrong or made a bad decision.

And this good God, this holy Lord, responds to us.

I’ve been reading the Book of Ezra. Unfortunately I don’t have time today to get into all the richness I’ve discovered, but six chapters in I marvel at how tender God is toward His people. The people of Judah (at this point their religion begins to be referred to as Judah-ism, or Judaism, and the people as Jews) return to Jerusalem after 70 years in exile and captivity. The city is in ruins. The Temple is a wreck. Despite the passage of time, no rebuilding or restoration efforts have taken place. Men with names like Sheshbazzar, Zerubbabel and Jeshua lead their people across the long miles into the mess.

God’s activity is everywhere. He moves Cyrus to set them free (in fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah 44:28). He grants them favor with their neighbors, who shower them with precious materials like gold, silver and livestock. The sacred items of the Temple, stolen by Nebuchadnezzar, are returned to them. They have all that they need to begin the process of rebuilding.

Almost immediately, they face opposition. They are harassed, tempted into bad alliances and falsely accused. Officials in the Persian government send letters to several monarchs, pointing out the past rebellion of the Jews. Why should they be allowed to restore their city?

Discouragement. Defeat. Exhaustion.

Onto the scene step Haggai and Zechariah, prophets of God. They spoke His truth to the weary remnant. They were “with them, helping them” (Ezra 5:2). The Lord knew what He had called His people to do and what it would take. He knew what hardship they would face.

He did not leave them to do a single thing on their own.

Because He is good.

He always leads us to victory. We may not choose to follow, but that’s His direction. That’s His path.

If we have a mind to, if we ask Him to grant us the perspective, we can see Him even in the toughest of times. We can hear His voice. We can even smell Him as the fragrance of His presence lingers. There is no opposition that can stand against Him. There is no plan of His that can be thwarted. He will see His plan through to completion. He will accomplish His purposes.

How humbling it is to realize that He does this for and through us! He doesn’t walk the triumphal parade route alone. He leads us on it. He equips our hands to do the work. He opens our mouths to speak His world. He uses us as atomizers, dispensing holy perfume throughout the world.

We are too quick to dismiss and avoid dwelling on the immense and even insane goodness of God toward us. That the infinite and majestic Lord would see our tears and send us comfort; that He would soothe our frustration; that He would remove roadblocks in His perfect timing because He wants to be good to us is too much for me to contemplate without tears of thankfulness and praise rolling down my cheeks.

He knew how these people had rebelled in the past and how they would rebel in the future. He knew all their faults and failures. He knew how overwhelmed they were, how big the project was. He knew they would face opposition and that the resentment of their neighbors would be palpable. Out of the richness of His goodness and grace, He covered them. He provided for all their needs.

So too with us. With you. With me. He knows each one of us so well. Better than we know ourselves. He knows how we rebelled and sinned yesterday and He knows how we’ll do it tomorrow. But He never lets up. He never abandons us.

Because He is good.

My journey to faith. (15)

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