God Never Sleeps
Behold, He who keeps Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.
Many people outside the church look at us and criticize us for being “plastic” or “phony.” They say we give glib answers to difficult questions, or worse, we don’t even ask the questions in the first place! The writers of the Bible though, were never criticized for this problem because they were so painfully honest.in fact, people who study ancient literature say the Bible is unique because, unlike other ancient texts, it’s heroes all have clay feet. Time after time in the Bible, we find people who wonder if God really cares. They express anger, despair, fear, and confusion, and God is delighted for them to approach Him with raw emotions abs exposed hearts. Time after time, God rewards honesty with fresh insights and renewed confidence in Him.
In this psalm, the writer, who is on his way to Jerusalem, is afraid because he’s going through hills full of thieves. “Who’s going to help me!” he cries(Psalm 121:1). “I wonder,” he seems to ask, “if God is aware of the danger I’m in. Is He paying attention, or is He asleep?”
Once again, God rewards honesty with hope. The process of wrestling with his doubts strengthens the psalmist’s faith. Whether it took a long time or it happened quickly, we don’t know, but God let him know that He is fully aware and fully present,even in the most threatening situations.
Each of us goes through times when it seems that God has taken a nap and forgotten about us. In those moments, our honesty is a door to closer communication with God, and eventually, more hope, understanding, and confidence in Him.
It’s nice to know that you don’t have to sit up at night and worry, because God is going to be up all night, anyhow.
The future is as bright as the promises of God.
Paul tells us that it is in our weakness that we are made strong through the power of God, that when we are weak He is strong. Utter dependence upon God and trusting in His grace and power gives us the liberty to be honest in admitting our doubts, fears, and failures. Religion has no such liberties for it demands at least the appearance of faith and success. With religion success is measured in comparison to others, the words we speak(only positive), and the confidence we project. We keep it together, at least publicly, we force a smile to hide our brokenness, we exhibit an air of spiritual superiority to cover our sins, all in an effort to project what we think is expected of us. But because we pretend things are well, we aren’t able to seek help or find solace so we go on pretending while we continue to be crushed.
We may think we are fooling those around us but we’re not. They see our words and our attitudes and actions in conflict. What they wish to see and need to see is an honest, open Christian who deals with doubt at times but somehow finds faith to go on. They need to see a Christian doing their best to live a holy life but sometimes falling short of the mark and when they do, there’s no pretending but confession, repentance and asking forgiveness of both God and those who were harmed in the failure.
The beauty of the truth of the Bible is that it contains the stories of ordinary people just like us who overcame. They overcame their inner struggles, their environment, and the power of the sin nature. It wasn’t that they did that once for all but as we read their stories, we see them having to come again and again to God to find His help.
Consider, for example, Adam and Eve, though placed in paradise fell into the trap of sin with no way out. Their fear of God and death caused them to hide themselves, but God came seeking them. Their failure, once they admitted the truth, was redeemed through the sovereign action of God and pointed every human to the way of redemption through Christ. Consider Abraham who heard God and left home on the journey under God’s direction. Twice he lied about his relationship with Sarah to save his skin but God rescued Sarah and kept her pure. Even after God giving him the promise of an heir, he doubted but when he confessed that doubt to God provided the sign of the voice from the smoking lamp. Becoming impatient with waiting, Abraham moved to bring the promise to pass with the wrong means, but God still kept His promise.
Again and again we read the stories of ordinary people with ordinary, imperfect living who doubted, feared, sinned, and failed and what makes their stories and the Bible valuable and validated is that each life gives hope to us in our struggles and weaknesses. We, too, are writing stories for those around us to read. We can choose to write an unbelievable fairytale in which the character is always successful or we can write an honest story of trial and triumph, of success and failure, of doubt and faith, of despair and hope.
The accusations of those who call us hypocrites, fakes, and plastic loose their power when we become real and honest. We don’t have to pretend we know all the answers or that we have to give an answer to every question. We don’t have to pretend that we have it together all the time. We just live an honest life filled with praise, thanksgiving, repentance and confession and we live it openly without shame. Sometimes it’s just as important to let others see us recover from failure as it is to let them see us succeed.
The psalmist processes through the feelings of fear and wondering if God notices or cares and comes to the conclusion that God neither slumbers nor sleeps but keeps a watchful eye on His children.
Jesus tells us that God is so involved that He notices when a little sparrow falls to the ground and the untended lilies of the field are dressed more splendidly than Solomon. He turns to us as tells us that if God is interested in insignificant sparrows and wild lilies how much more can we count on Him being interested and involved with us. Even the darkest night nor the deepest pit can hide us from the eyes of God. Even in the depth of despair and failure, we can find hope and help for God has promised to never leave nor forsake us. Our story is not one of our success but of the faithfulness and goodness of God. Because our hope rests in God, we can give the honest version of our story and those who hear it and see us will respond with gratitude for the hope it gives them.
Dr. John Thompson