Yes, it’s true. We really can rely completely on and hope fully in God’s grace without becoming Calvinists. Calvinists don’t own the grace of God, and we non-Calvinists don’t have to fear it either. The first point we need to examine is how to rely on God’s sovereignty and magnify God’s glory without becoming a Calvinist.
Last week we learned that to the Psalmists, God was not just the creator in general, but God is my creator. This week we look at what I believe is one of the most shocking points of learning to pray like the psalmists. they prayed to God not simply because they saw Him as their creator. They prayed to Him because they saw Him as the source.
God is the source of all good things. God is the source of life (Psalm 36:9). He is the source of blessing (Psalm 24:5). He is the source of truth (Psalm 43:3). I’m really comfortable with this. After all, James 1:17 says, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.”
But the psalmists didn’t stop with good things. They went on to view God as the source of the bad things that happened to them as well. He was the source of illness (Psalm 102:3-11), enemies (Psalm 13:2), financial ruin (Psalm 62:9-10), struggles (Psalm 88:3-7). Sometimes they saw God as the source because they viewed the bad things as retribution (Psalm 6:1-3). Sometimes they saw God as the source because if He had acted on their behalf it wouldn’t have happened, but He didn’t (Psalm 31:1-2).
Hermann Gunkel saw this is as on of the profoundest differences between the Hebrew psalms and the psalms of the culture’s surrounding the ancient Hebrews.
A profound manner of thought stands alongside this immediate and apparently primitive manner of thought. It seeks connection between YHWH and the illness, which is very different from Babylonian prayer where illness and distress are generally traced back to evil demons and magicians. Even at this point one can see how Israelite religions sought to trace everything that happens in the world back to YHWH, and to understand everything in relationship to YHWH (Introduction to Psalms, Mercer University Press, Macon, GA, 1998, p 136).
I hate to admit it, but I’m much more like the Babylonian’s on this. I am quick to see God as the source of the good, but want to add in all kinds of buffers between God and the bad. I am happy to attribute bad things to Satan or to time and chance. Why? Because I am afraid if we treat God as the source of the bad things that happen to us, people will start getting mad at God and start turning their backs on Him.
However, I can’t help but notice for the psalmists, seeing God as the source of these negative occurrences didn’t weaken their faith. Rather it strengthened it. These psalms, even when they blame God for bad things (see Psalm 88), are amazing attestations of faith. They believed God was there. They believed God was listening. They believed God should act. They didn’t turn from God when they saw Him as the source, rather, they cried out all the more.
I certainly don’t think this means God micromanages the world. I don’t think this means God is the direct cause of everything in the world. I don’t think this denies the free will of the men, women, and sinners involved in so many bad things that happen. I know that when the enemies attack I can attribute it to their free will. I know I can attribute it to Satan trying to tempt me. At the same time, when the psalmist started tracing the bad things back to their ultimate source, they couldn’t help but see God as the sovereign ruler of the universe. If God had acted, as they expected Him too, they wouldn’t suffer the bad thing. Therefore, He was the ultimate source. Even if it made them mad at God, they still just took it to Him.
I’m beginning to wonder if I haven’t made a mistake in the past. In order to protect God from the anger of His children, I’ve told those who’ve suffered illness, financial struggles, family turmoil, and even the loss of loved ones not to blame God. I’ve told them to turn their ire at the devil. With some, they did and they moved on. Others, however, couldn’t just stuff their feelings of anger toward God. Rather, they simply grew in bitterness and learned that I wasn’t a safe one to talk to about these things. Perhaps if I had simply taken them to some psalms and said, “I get it. You blame God. You’re mad at Him. I understand that. Look at this psalmist. He was right where you are. You know what he did? He prayed to God about it. Why don’t you read his psalm and pray with him?” God doesn’t need me to run interference for Him. Rather, He wants me to send His children to Him when they are upset at Him.
The long and short of it for me is this. One reason the psalmists prayed so amazingly is because they saw God as the source. Therefore, whether times were good or bad, they knew where to turn. Whether they needed to offer praise or lament, they knew who they needed to direct it to. They had no question about it. If things were good, God be praised. If things were bad, God be petitioned. Where else was there to go? God is the ultimate source of it all.
Tell me what you think.