June 27, 2021
Pastor Gunnar Ledermann
4 Who has gone up to heaven and come down?
Whose hands have gathered up the wind?
Who has wrapped up the waters in a cloak?
Who has established all the ends of the earth?
What is his name, and what is the name of his son?
Surely you know!
5 “Every word of God is flawless;
he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.
There is a scene from a popular television show in which the character known for being stubborn is clearly sick and not getting better despite his own efforts. Finally, he agrees to go to the doctor. While sitting on the hospital bed, the character tells the doctor, “I need you to tell me everything you are going to do before you do it so I can approve of it or not.” The scene is comical because the stubborn character is not equipped to diagnose or treat his symptoms, while the doctor is trained and experienced to diagnose and treat him. It is also a familiar scene because it is in all our sinful human nature to doubt and question others even those wiser and greater than ourselves.
Toward the end of the book of Proverbs, there is a series of questions that helps us better understand our questioning, doubting sinful nature. In Proverbs 30, we find this list of questions, 4 “Who has gone up to heaven and come down? Whose hands have gathered up the wind? Who has wrapped up the waters in a cloak? Who has established all the ends of the earth?” There is a clear answer to these four questions, “Us.” We as humanity have gone into the heavens. We have satellites orbiting the earth, we have telescopes that can see lightyears away, we have space shuttles that carry people into space and back down to earth, we have a space station, we have been to the moon, we have vehicles on mars, etc. We have gathered up the wind using massive wind turbines, we can better predict tornadoes and hurricanes and we even store the wind in tanks to burn to cook burgers on a Sunday afternoon. We have gathered the waters behind massive dams and cut canals in continents to link oceans to ship things more economically across the planet. We have established the ends of the earth with satellite maps, GPS, deep diving remote controlled robots, etc. We answer with confidence, “Us,” to these four questions, but there is a fifth question that makes us doubt that we have answered the first four correctly. The fifth question is, “What is his name, and what is the name of his son?” And then, these words follow, “Surely you know!” The answer to all these questions is not you and me and all the rest of humanity. The answer to all of these is God and his Son, Jesus.
A long time ago, a man named Job had a list of reasons to question God. He lost his wealth, family, and his health. He was miserable and questioning why so much had been taken from him. And, when the temptation to question God reared its ugly head, God spoke to Job in Job 38, 2 “Who is this that obscures my plans with words without knowledge? 3 Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me. 4 ‘Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?’” God went on with more questions to Job, all of which proved the point that Job was a man and God is God. God has limitless power and wisdom; He is the one who created from nothing all things, who designed the universe in all its magnitude and very fine details. No human being nor all of humanity together can overpower, outsmart, or love more than God.
Yet, despite God’s power, you question him. Throughout each day, whether consciously or subconsciously you say to God, “Let’s compare notes God. Hmm, I see what you are doing, but that stuff you are going to make me go through that is unpleasant, let’s not do that, even if it will be for my good in the long run and the good of others, and bring me closer to you, I don’t like it. Stop making me go through this fight, struggle, pain, embarrassment, loneliness, loss, etc.” Despite God’s power and his love for you, you question him, which leads to a word you are all too familiar with, anxiety.
Anxiety is rampant in our society. It exists situationally and long term. It is clinically diagnosed, and there are both physical and psychological treatments for it. Now, a disclaimer, if you are taking something for anxiety or have been diagnosed keep doing what your doctor tells you to do and give thanks to God for the advancements in medicine of mind and body. However, there is also a spiritual element to anxiety of all levels, and God is able and wants to help you. Spiritually, you must understand that anxiety robs you of fear of God to fear other things more than Him. The overall theme of the book of Proverbs is often summed up with the following verses from Proverbs 1, 7 “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.” And, Proverbs 9, 10 “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” Fear of God recognizes we are his creatures, and he is our Creator; he makes the rules and enforces them. We also know God is the Creator who loves us and wants a relationship with us. So, when we give into the temptation to question God, we recognize, admit, and confess that we have sinned against him and deserve punishment now and in hell for our doubt and pride. And we remain confident in God’s response to our sin, doubt, and pride. In 2 Corinthians 5, we hear the good news, 21 “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” All your claims to have life figured out, to claim you know what you need, to doubt God, to be more afraid of something God made, rather than fear the all-powerful Creator, these and all your sins were laid on Jesus and put to death at the cross. Through Jesus, you are free from sin, you are righteous and good in God’s eyes, you have forgiveness and an eternal home waiting for you in heaven prepared by God himself.
God wants to help you combat questioning him and your anxiety. Again, spiritually anxiety makes you more afraid of something than you are of God. Anxiety makes you believe something has more power to harm you than God has power to protect you. So, God wants to help you combat your questioning, doubting, fearful and anxious sinful nature by using his Word. Right after the five questions in the opening verses of Proverbs 30 which clearly point to God’s power, we hear these words, 5 “Every word of God is flawless.” The word translated flawless comes from a word often used to describe refining precious metals, where the other materials are burned off to leave pure silver, gold, etc. God’s point is that his Word only contains what is precious and good. This means whatever you are anxious about needs to be compared to God’s Word, so that you can see whatever you are anxious about is not more powerful than God. Comparing what you are anxious about to God’s Word gives you relief and perspective, not just because it is logical or has feel good words in it or that the act of pausing to read will lower your heart rate and physically make you feel calm, but the Word of God gives you relief because the Holy Spirit, God himself, works through his Word directly in your heart to give you peace. And that peace of God will affect your mind, emotions and physical body in a positive way, and help with your anxiety. And again, eternally as your sins are forgiven and God has guaranteed you a place in heaven.
When you are in God’s Word, he protects you. The rest of the verse that comes after the five questions in Proverbs 30 reads, 5 … “he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.” God protects you when you are connected to him. There was an example in our gospel reading this morning from Mark 4, where Jesus’ disciples had him with them in an anxious life or death moment, and they questioned Jesus’ power and love for them. The disciples and Jesus were in a boat when a terrible storm blew in and threatened to sink them. And we read, 38 Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, ‘Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?’ 39 He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, ‘Quiet! Be still!’ Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. 40 He said to his disciples, ‘Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?’ 41 They were terrified and asked each other, ‘Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!’” The disciples could have woken Jesus up to ask him to calm the storm confident he would do it, but they were too afraid of their situation. Then, Jesus showed his incredible power and he saved them. Afterward, they were afraid of Jesus because they realized he was the most powerful force on the water, not the wind or the waves.
After the stubborn character from the popular television show was examined by the doctor, the doctor told him that he had strep throat and he would give him a prescription for penicillin. Then, the stubborn character walked out of the hospital room and the doctor said, “Wish all patients were like that, really annoying when they ask questions.” Again, the scene is comical because the stubborn character does the opposite of what we might expect and takes the doctor’s advice without question. By nature, you question God, especially when your life circumstances are overwhelming. You have put God on trial for allowing things to happen in your life that do not fit your plan. You have made yourself equal to or greater than God, but you and I are not God. The answer to your anxiety, the answer to overwhelming circumstances in your life, the answer to questioning God because you doubt his power and love for you, the answer to your sins, rests in the answer to the five questions in Proverbs 30, 4 “Who has gone up to heaven and come down? Whose hands have gathered up the wind? Who has wrapped up the waters in a cloak? Who has established all the ends of the earth? What is his name, and what is the name of his son? Surely you know!” God’s limitless power protects you even when the world overwhelms you through his Son, Jesus, “a shield to those who take refuge in him.” Amen.