Thursday, February 3, 2011

Even In The Valley

By John G

Does God inhabit the valleys as well as the high places in our lives?

God inhibits strange places.  He shows His presence when many would expect Him to be absent.  Does our lofty God avoid the low?  The Syrians thought so.  Not only did they believe that the Israelites were unbeatable in the hills and vulnerable in the valleys.  But in the same breath they slurred Gods by saying, “The Lord is a god of the mountains, but He is not a god of the valleys (I Kings 20:28) NASB

That view of God is amazingly close to our times.  Like the Syrians some restrict God to the hills, to the unusual and to the remote and deny Him sovereignty in hot plains, in dull surroundings and in vacant places. Like Elijah, we need to say God’s honor is defamed by that restriction.  And like Elijah we should believe God will intervene to restore the recognition of His ruler ship.  The Lord said through Elijah, “Therefore I will give all this great multitude into your hand, and you shall know that I am the Lord” (v.28).

The Syrians held gods to be localized operators.  IN their eyes each god oversaw a specific region.  They held the view that individual gods had fixed locations that they controlled.  The outcomes of a military conflict, the success of a harvest, even the health of a district were directly tied to the god who resided there.  The Syrians saw jahweb as god of the hills, and their go as god of the plains.

Some Jews halfway believed that themselves.  After all, Israel had lost famously in the valleys and they seemed unbeatable in the hills.  Hadn’t key events in Israel’s history taken place in mountains?  The Law was given to Moses on Mount Sinai.  On Mount Carmel Elijah put the Baalite prophets to shame.

People still believe spiritual victories come easier in the mountains.  The original Americans, the Indians apparently believed this.  This Crow Indians (Absorokes) had a worship center.  “The Medicine Wheel,”  located in the Big Horn Mountains of Wyoming Historians say it was a pilgrimage point , a place for worshiping the Great Spirit (Wyoming Frontier State,  Velma Lindord.  The Old West Publishing CO, Denver . CO 1947, PP 44,19

Does going high help one get high? In many minds, God is not in the plains but only in the heights.

But the Old Testament consistently maintains that God inhabits, at once.  All parts of the  world.  It teaches that God is present everywhere (see I Kings 8:27); Ps 139:7-10)  for the apostles of the New Testament, God Works in those of menial circumstances and low standing (see I Cor. 1:27, 28).  In unpleasant surroundings , in hard times, in days of sadness, in moments of guilt, God reigns.  Even  when we are dismantled, underneath are the everlasting arms of our Heavenly Father.  We are like the Syrians if we think God is only in the beatific vision and not in the struggles of the valleys.

The Syrians felt themselves at a disadvantage to encage the Israelites in the mountains.  Their  military guideline was:  “Evade confrontations with the Jews in the mountains.  Attack them on the plains.”  This was their standing strategy, not only because they felt Jahweb was impotent on the plain, but also because any clash on the valley floor would allow them to use their swift chariots.  Valleys were ideal for wheeled vehicles, but Israel had none.

I admit we may find it easier to believe God’s mighty hand is exercised in mountain torrents and in majestic peaks that take our breath away.  Admittedly, it is harder to trace  His footprints in the dry creek best or to see His presence in the desolation of the arid plains.  But God reaches into every valley.  We should not run from trouble but face our troubles, knowing that the Lord is with us in the conflicts.

Life has  its low spots, its dry periods, its vulnerable times.  We seem to have a preponderance of  “downs”  and shortage of “ups”  But we are no better than the ancient Syrians if we believe that God is found only in the climatic highs and is absent in the dreadful lows.  We unwisely restrict God to the high points of life and fail to recognize that He is in our dips, our draws and ditches.  

God is God of the gullies.  He is with us over the long haul.  He is with us in the tedium of routines that stretch out like long ruts.  Don’t localize God’s activity to the spectacular He is with us when He gives and when He takes away.  He is with is when we feel at a tactical and technical disadvantage to cope with the stress of a new job and the pressure of a difficult marriage.  The Lord is nearer than breathing, closer than hands of feet.  Out Saviour is in the slumps to enable us to rise above them.

Christians often may appear to crumble even though they have the Lord in their lives.  They show signs of panic.  They display their weakness with depression and more tears.  Yet while the visual confidence seems to be lacking, they eventually feel the stability of Christ, the solid Rock.  In crossing the cold river death, like Christian of pilgrim’s  Progress,   they feel the ground beneath them and it is good.

Even in the low point of human loss, God is ready to step in to provide uncommon stamina and supernatural peace.  Paul found it true in his straits.  As he entered his ordeal, God told him.  “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness”  (II Cor. 12: 9)

Admittedly, we look rather foolish when the infinite resources of the Lord are available and we fail to return to Him.  We are like the farmer of Titus ville, Pennsylvania, who hastily sold his farm in 1859.  For years he had eked out an existence in farming his spread.  His cousin from Canada coaxed him to read up on oil and head north to make a fortune.  So he sold his farm for $ 833 which even than was cheap. Dewin Drake bought it and drilled in that seemingly unproductive land and struck oil, beginning the first successful commercial oil well in the United States.

We  sell out too soon when we are.  We give up too easily in our discouraging circumstances.  God is as much in grueling tasks as in prestigious posts.  He is as much in the unacceptable near as He is in the distant far.  God can work through our modest talents just as much as He can effect His will through glittering personalities.  He delights to be glorified through the broken and the seemingly worthless in order to astonish the unbelieving and the egotistical.  The Lord is God in the valleys as well as God of the hills.

The ancient Syrians wrongly thought God was absent and powerless in the plains.  But God was as strong below as above, for no place is closed to Him, no person is unusable by Him.  He is in the flatlands and in the familiar.  He is with us when we are exhilarated and when we are exasperated.  He loves to use the young, and He equally delights to use the old.  Whether we are amateurs in the faith or seasonal professionals.  God’s greatest delight is to provide a witness among those and thorough those whom others despise and denigrate.

Have we given up on the plain?  God hasn’t!  I was reminded afresh of Elijah’s refusal to concede God was not in the valley by another real-life victory that came out of the Vietnam War.  Col. Howard Rutledge, who had been a prisoner of war in North Vietnam for seven years (most of those to solitary confinement), tells of how he felt forsaken and forgotten in the prison they called “Alcatraz.”   A Christian prisoner tapped out words in Morse code through the wall of his cell to Rutledge.  Though in poor Health himself, Ron Storz laboriously tapped out a message that clearly approximated what Elijah told Ahab to his face:  “Seek God here.  This is where you’ll find him.”  It is when we miss a human presence that the Lord’s presence sustains us. It is in the lulls and lows of life where God shows Himself glorious.  He is not only for the gaps, He is in the gaps….

An elevated position can be as lonely as a valley floor.  Jesus found this true when He was suspended above the ground on the cross.  Calvary was a hill physically, but psychologically, the hill was a valley.  Yet in the ordeal of death, when His strength was dried up like a potsherd, God showed His greatest power.  At the point of utmost rejection by men, He experienced God’s greatest acceptance.  When hate was strongest, the Father’s love was most real.

God is God both of the hills and of the valleys! CL


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