1 Interacting with God.
We have been thinking about what God is like. We can know about God from the creation – whether we look at the macro-creation or the nano-creation we see God and we can tell something of what he is like. But God is a God of relationship – we bear the stamp of this feature of God’s personality too- we are creatures of relationship. We seem to have become more aware of this during the lock down – we need relationships with people: it’s in our DNA – and it seems that the bible demonstrates that the most important relationship we can have, the most fulfilling is that with our creator.
Sometimes relationships can become damaged. We do not want to talk to people because we have fallen out. We tend to say that it ‘takes two to tango’ whilst that may often be true, it’s often not! In our case, our relationship with the God of creation has been damaged by our disobedience – we have turned away from God’s ways. God makes moral demands on us – there is a right and wrong.
Interestingly, atheists have declared that there is no morality, or if there is it is merely a construct of our minds, a construct that has no inherent truth and that can change with the wind and the times. Richard Dawkins states with his usual certainty (from ‘River out of Eden’): the universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference. So are we clear about that! No good, no evil – just pitiless indifference. But then he criticizes God for not being good enough for him!: The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully (The God delusion). So, which is it – is there good and bad in this world or is there not?
It turns out that there really is good and bad in this world and we must acknowledge that there is a God who has created this world and that he is a moral God – how can we interact with him if we are morally corrupt?
You may say that the wrong place to look for an answer to this is in the writings of King David – the boy who took on Goliath, the man who was so perfect and so great! The sad truth for David was that he was just about as bad as they come. Think Harvey Weinstein or Jeffrey Epstein. David got another man’s wife pregnant and then tried to engineer events to cover up what he did, when those cover-ups failed, he created the circumstances that brought about the death of the woman’s husband: David was both an adulterer and a murderer! This is the man who wrote Psalm 25 and it has something to say to us!
2 How to interact with God
Psalm 25 is written in an acrostic form with each verse beginning with the sequenced letters that comprise the Hebrew alphabet. There are 22 letters in the Hebrew alphabet, but one is missed in the acrostic format of Psalm 25: this omission creates a middle verse – verse 11 – it seems that this is the key verse and key idea in the Psalm, it says: ‘For the sake of your name Lord, forgive my iniquity, though it is great.’ David seeks forgiveness for what he has done. Interestingly the verse that does not start with a Hebrew letter in sequence is verse 18, it says: Look on my affliction and my distress and take away all my sins: same theme! Sin separates and breaks relationships and it brings misery. David suffered severe consequences as a result of his sinfulness, that was an inevitability of his actions, the murdered man could not be brought back! David’s pain and the consequences of his sin would not be fully resolved in his lifetime, but his relationship with God could be restored, God could forgive him and cleanse him.
For us, we may not have done anything as extreme as David but we need God’s cleansing and forgiveness too -this is the only route to a life of ultimate peace, and it is the only route to a restored relationship with the creator God.
3 What now?
Having a restored relationship is one thing, but to continue in that relationship is another. In AJ Cronin’s stories of Dr Finlay, the tale is told of two sisters that lived together but who after a falling out over a lost cat, hadn’t spoken for 15 years. In the story one of the sisters falls ill and this precipitates a reconciliation, sorrys are said and the sisters make up. However, within a few days they fall out again over an argument as to who spoke first in the breaking of their 15-year silence! It’s one thing to have a reconciliation, but it is another for that reconciliation to continue! It’s important to emphasise that once we have placed our trust in God that he does not let us down but we can let him down. – Just as David did.
David likens this to a journey – God does not leave us alone he provides help. There are two aspects to this: what God does and what we must do.
David declares that since the Lord is good and upright that he helps us find the right path – the path that involves walking with him. On God’s side he instructs, guides and teaches about his path. We all tend to use sat navs these days, but following a sat nav can be a dangerous activity – I heard of one family who missed their holiday because they set their Sat Nav to Stanstead, but didn’t realise that they had headed to the Stansted in Kent rather than the Stansted in Essex!
It’s best to know the map! On God’s side he instructs and guides – but what about on our side?
Verse 15: My eyes are ever on the Lord. David realized that if he was going to learn to walk in God’s way that he would have to learn to fix his attention on the Lord. This seems straight forward but it is very easy to start to focus on other things – often not bad things, but nonetheless things that cause us to fall of the path that God sets before us.