We hear this question a lot after shocking tragedies. We ask this question even as Christians. We forget the answer when fear overcomes our faith, but God has spoken this to my heart over and over again the past few nights.
He is here – with us – among us – crying with us – fighting for us! He is with us when we lie. When we want to scream in despair. He is with us when we write our check to the church that isn’t 10%, when we gossip about others, when we choose someone else over our spouse. God is with us when we yell at our children, when we use His name in vain, when we lead others into sin and when our hate and rage overcome our senses. He is with us when we rejoice over a successful business deal, when we praise His name in church and serve others in our community! God is ALWAYS with us, but just has He will not make us choose Him or love Him ~ He will not make us do the right thing. He will not make us choose trust and faith over worry and doubt. He has given us the gift of choice and thankfully the gift of grace for when we make the wrong choices.
God is with us in our joy and happiness AND He is with us in our sin and our mess! Even when we have made the worst choices possible. Even when despair seems to be taking over and sadness so deep a pit there seems no way out. Even when we have strayed from His ways and His laws ~ He is with us! This passage from Deuteronomy (called Moses Song) has been my heart’s cry and comfort these past few days. It’s a little long, but I pray you will read it and it resonates with you as it has me. It’s essentially Moses last words. His last effort to encourage, convict and spur his people on towards God before they enter the promised land they have waited for so long. For after He finishes it, he will walk up the mountain (where he knows he will die), view the promise land (where he will not go, but his people will) and then die.
Deuteronomy 31:24-32:47 (MSG Translation, Biblegateway.com)
27-29 “I know what rebels you are, how stubborn and willful you can be. Even today, while I’m still alive and present with you, you’re rebellious against God. How much worse when I’ve died! So gather the leaders of the tribes and the officials here. I have something I need to say directly to them with Heaven and Earth as witnesses. I know that after I die you’re going to make a mess of things, abandoning the way I commanded, inviting all kinds of evil consequences in the days ahead. You’re determined to do evil in defiance of God—I know you are—deliberately provoking his anger by what you do.”
30 So with everyone in Israel gathered and listening, Moses taught them the words of this song, from start to finish.
32 1-5 Listen, Heavens, I have something to tell you.
Attention, Earth, I’ve got a mouth full of words.
My teaching, let it fall like a gentle rain,
my words arrive like morning dew,
Like a sprinkling rain on new grass,
like spring showers on the garden.
For it’s God’s Name I’m preaching—
respond to the greatness of our God!
The Rock: His works are perfect,
and the way he works is fair and just;
A God you can depend upon, no exceptions,
a straight-arrow God.
His messed-up, mixed-up children, his non-children,
throw mud at him but none of it sticks.
6-7 Don’t you realize it is God you are treating like this?
This is crazy; don’t you have any sense of reverence?
Isn’t this your father who created you,
who made you and gave you a place on Earth?
Read up on what happened before you were born;
dig into the past, understand your roots.
Ask your parents what it was like before you were born;
ask the old-ones, they’ll tell you a thing or two.
8-9 When the High God gave the nations their stake,
gave them their place on Earth,
He put each of the peoples within boundaries
under the care of divine guardians.
But God himself took charge of his people,
took Jacob on as his personal concern.
10-14 He found him out in the wilderness,
in an empty, windswept wasteland.
He threw his arms around him, lavished attention on him,
guarding him as the apple of his eye.
He was like an eagle hovering over its nest,
overshadowing its young,
Then spreading its wings, lifting them into the air,
teaching them to fly.
God alone led him;
there was not a foreign god in sight.
God lifted him onto the hilltops,
so he could feast on the crops in the fields.
He fed him honey from the rock,
oil from granite crags,
Curds of cattle and the milk of sheep,
the choice cuts of lambs and goats,
Fine Bashan rams, high-quality wheat,
and the blood of grapes: you drank good wine!
15-18 Jeshurun put on weight and bucked;
you got fat, became obese, a tub of lard.
He abandoned the God who made him,
he mocked the Rock of his salvation.
They made him jealous with their foreign newfangled gods,
and with obscenities they vexed him no end.
They sacrificed to no-god demons,
gods they knew nothing about,
The latest in gods, fresh from the market,
gods your ancestors would never call “gods.”
You walked out on the Rock who gave you your life,
forgot the birth-God who brought you into the world.
19-25 God saw it and turned on his heel,
angered and hurt by his sons and daughters.
He said, “From now on I’m looking the other way.
Wait and see what happens to them.
Oh, they’re a turned-around, upside-down generation!
Who knows what they’ll do from one moment to the next?
They’ve goaded me with their no-gods,
infuriated me with their hot-air gods;
I’m going to goad them with a no-people,
with a hollow nation incense them.
My anger started a fire,
a wildfire burning deep down in Sheol,
Then shooting up and devouring the Earth and its crops,
setting all the mountains, from bottom to top, on fire.
I’ll pile catastrophes on them,
I’ll shoot my arrows at them:
Starvation, blistering heat, killing disease;
I’ll send snarling wild animals to attack from the forest
and venomous creatures to strike from the dust.
Killing in the streets,
terror in the houses,
Young men and virgins alike struck down,
and yes, breast-feeding babies and gray-haired old men.”
26-27 I could have said, “I’ll hack them to pieces,
wipe out all trace of them from the Earth,”
Except that I feared the enemy would grab the chance
to take credit for all of it,
Crowing, “Look what we did!
God had nothing to do with this.”
28-33 They are a nation of ninnies,
they don’t know enough to come in out of the rain.
If they had any sense at all, they’d know this;
they would see what’s coming down the road.
How could one soldier chase a thousand enemies off,
or two men run off two thousand,
Unless their Rock had sold them,
unless God had given them away?
For their rock is nothing compared to our Rock;
even our enemies say that.
They’re a vine that comes right out of Sodom,
who they are is rooted in Gomorrah;
Their grapes are poison grapes,
their grape-clusters bitter.
Their wine is rattlesnake venom,
mixed with lethal cobra poison.
34-35 Don’t you realize that I have my shelves
well stocked, locked behind iron doors?
I’m in charge of vengeance and payback,
just waiting for them to slip up;
And the day of their doom is just around the corner,
sudden and swift and sure.
36-38 Yes, God will judge his people,
but oh how compassionately he’ll do it.
When he sees their weakened plight
and there is no one left, slave or free,
He’ll say, “So where are their gods,
the rock in which they sought refuge,
The gods who feasted on the fat of their sacrifices
and drank the wine of their drink-offerings?
Let them show their stuff and help you,
let them give you a hand!
39-42 “Do you see it now? Do you see that I’m the one?
Do you see that there’s no other god beside me?
I bring death and I give life, I wound and I heal—
there is no getting away from or around me!
I raise my hand in solemn oath;
I say, ‘I’m always around. By that very life I promise:
When I sharpen my lightning sword
and execute judgment,
I take vengeance on my enemies
and pay back those who hate me.
I’ll make my arrows drunk with blood,
my sword will gorge itself on flesh,
Feasting on slain and captive alike,
the proud and vain enemy corpses.’”
43 Celebrate, nations, join the praise of his people.
He avenges the deaths of his servants,
Pays back his enemies with vengeance,
and cleanses his land for his people.
44-47 Moses came and recited all the words of this song in the hearing of the people, he and Joshua son of Nun. When Moses had finished saying all these words to all Israel, he said, “Take to heart all these words to which I give witness today and urgently command your children to put them into practice, every single word of this Revelation. Yes. This is no small matter for you; it’s your life. In keeping this word you’ll have a good and long life in this land that you’re crossing the Jordan to possess.”