Last summer, I spent about a hundred hours editing and perfecting my book for publication. One afternoon, I was in the library of a missionary training center and there was only one other person in the room. She asked me what I was working on and I asked her the same question. We enjoyed listening to each other’s answers.
At one point, she asked me why I had wanted to write this book. “Originally, it was just a short paper on the subject of hearing God’s voice. It ran about 80 pages and I was very satisfied with it when I finished. But the more I thought about it, something didn’t fit. So one afternoon, I went for a walk and asked God for His input on the book. He suggested to me that what I had written could fit into a larger context. I began to see how Hearing God was really only one skill involved with walking in the Holy Spirit. So I decided to broaden the book to deal with that subject instead.”
“You say God ‘suggested’ it. You mean God commanded you to change it?” she asked.
“No God didn’t command it. God rarely commands me to do things. Well, of course, there are the Ten Commandments, and there are times when I am led by the Spirit to go places and do things that were not my idea. But a great deal of the time God simply suggests things as part of our walking, interacting friendship.”
This is a concept God has taught me throughout the Old Testament. In this series on coming to appreciate the value of the first part of the Bible, I wanted to share a theme that runs throughout. God desires to act in partnership with us. In fact, a lot of what God does really happens in partnership with people.
I am not a Calvinist or a neo-Calvinist. That means I don’t think everything that happens is under God’s control. I believe that some things are absolutely the result of the sovereign actions of God. But I have also seen incredible evidence in the Bible and Church History of how God acts in conjunction with the partnership he forms with people. Let me give four very quick vignettes from the Old Testament as a teaser for your own searches.
The Man of Wisdom: In 2 Chronicles chapter 1, God appears to Solomon at the beginning of his reign as King of Israel and has a question for him. He asks Solomon what Solomon wants from God. Instead of wealth and power, he asks God for heavenly wisdom to rule the nation. Even God is impressed with this answer and tells Solomon he will be the wisest King of all time. In addition, God chooses to give him wealth and authority also. This is so much more than Solomon bargained for. I mention this scenario because it is indicative to me of how God works in our life. If we will seek God first and invite God to be an interactive part of our ventures, God will give us what we need and often will give us what we have not asked for as well. In this partnership, God more than holds up His end of the bargain.
The Gardeners: In the fullest account of creation in Genesis, God places Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. The Hebrew word for “garden” means a “walled-off garden” and the word “Eden” means “delights”. In that walled-off garden, God gave Adam authority to arrange it any way he liked. He could call the animals found there by any name he liked. Naming something in ancient cultures meant someone had authority over the ones he named. God had given Adam and Eve authority over this limited territory. As far as we can tell, God did not interfere in their activities until they sinned. God was a good partner. He gave them freedom, but still set the boundaries upon their actions.
That Foreign Woman: When Israel’s Secret Service squad went into Jericho, they were welcomed by a brothel owner to stay secretly with her. They were scouting the city to see its weaknesses. This woman, Rahab, not only fed and housed them, she helped them escape when word got out they were there. As they were leaving, she asked them to promise her life would be spared by God and by Israel. Acting on behalf of the nation and God, they promised her that she and her family would be saved if she put a scarlet banner outside her window. Notice that God allowed them to speak on his behalf without checking in. They were there on his assignment and they acted to honor God and her. What astounds me even more is that Matthew’s list of people who were Jesus’ ancestors, Rahab is one of them! God decided to partner with this brothel owner for his glory.
Fish Food: Jonah was swallowed by a gigantic fish and was digested for three days. After this, he was much more compliant to God’s wishes. God had commanded him to preach repentance to Nineveh and Jonah didn’t want the assignment. God forced him to be in the location, but he could not make him speak. Jonah had to do that. And when Jonah preached, the people responded. Afterward, Jonah sat down on a hill outside of Nineveh to see if God would change his mind about destroying that wicked city. In those days on the hill, God showed Jonah that he had the right to care about a city even though there was wickedness there. But the most remarkable aspect of all of this is that God even had this conversation with Jonah. Not only did God care about Nineveh, he also cared about Jonah. He didn’t want his partner to be lost in his resentment and anger. He interacted with Jonah in order to bring him around to the truth. The Spirit of God is the God of Truth. When we know the Truth, it sets us free. In our partnerships with God, he never leaves us to fend for ourselves. Even when we want God to leave us alone, He pursues us. This isn’t only for the purpose of getting God’s chores done. He also wants us to have a changed heart. This is what happens all through the Old Testament. God changes those who come into partnership with Him.
Why not spend a few weeks reading the stories of the Old Testament and notice the difference between those who partner with God and those who don’t.