Okay, not sure how this thought’s going to play out. More noodling than concluding. But need to work through an observation that keeps getting observed over the past few days through my reading plan.
So, what am I chewing on this morning? The God of heaven.
Started showing up on the radar when I began reading through Ezra. Lots of ways to refer to Jehovah, but the God of heaven seemed to be used frequently. What’s more, not really sure that I’d encountered it before Ezra. And then, I start in on Nehemiah this morning, and there it is again — four times in the first two chapters.
Bring up the handy dandy online concordance . . . type in “God of heaven” . . . search. There it is: twice in Genesis 24; once in 2Chronicles, just before Ezra; then eight times in Ezra; four times in Nehemiah, in today’s reading; once in Psalms; four times in Daniel 2; and one more time in Jonah.
So, this name for God, while so intuitive, actually isn’t used that much in the Old Testament (nor in the New Testament, for that matter — only twice in Revelation). And, where it is used, it’s used in a concentrated fashion, and that’s in the storyline covering the period of the captivity. Cyrus uses the Name. Ezra uses the Name. Nehemiah uses the Name. And I wonder how much their use is because Daniel used the Name. Even the one occurrence in Psalm 136 is followed immediately with, “By the waters of Babylon, there we sat down and wept, when we remembered Zion” (Ps. 137:1).
I’m wondering then, why? Why in that context? Why, in the context of exile, is the God of heaven so frequently used? Don’t really know. Going to take more than a few minutes in the morning to dig into that one. But, I’m wondering if there isn’t something about living in a world where you don’t quite fit in that makes you remember that you serve a God who is above the world. That the only way to make sense of the chaos in the land is to focus your mind steadfastly towards the King and kingdom which transcends the land. That when the world around you is seemingly out of control, you’re driven to your knees to cry out to the One who you know is always in control.
As soon as I heard these words I sat down and wept and mourned for days, and I continued fasting and praying before the God of heaven. And I said, “O LORD God of heaven, the great and awesome God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love Him and keep His commandments, let Your ear be attentive and Your eyes open, to hear the prayer of Your servant that I now pray . . .
Then the king said to me, “What are you requesting?” So I prayed to the God of heaven. And I said to the king, . . .
But when Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite servant and Geshem the Arab heard of it, they jeered at us and despised us . . . Then I replied to them, “The God of heaven will make us prosper, and we his servants will arise and build . . .
(Nehemiah 1:4-6; 2:4-5; 2:19-20 ESV)
Daniel turned to the God of heaven when an insomniac king demanded his dream be interpreted or people would die. And Daniel told the king of the God of heaven — the King above all kings, who gives kings of the earth their kingdoms.
When God moved Cyrus’s pagan Persian heart to act in a kingly way to release the captives, He did so by revealing to Cyrus that while he may have been a big deal, there was One who was a bigger deal, the God of heaven. And, when Ezra was moved to take on the first “Jerusalem or Bust” return trek from Babylon to rebuild the temple, that it was all about the God of heaven and His house in Jerusalem, was on everyone’s mind. So, when Nehemiah gets involved, he too looks beyond the circumstance, and above the horizon, to the God of heaven.
Even in Revelation, when the judgments of God start to rain down on the earth, people on earth will be acutely aware that He is Ruler over all, the Sovereign over all the earth, the God of heaven (Rev. 11:13, 16:11).
The God of heaven. Our God. A good thing to keep in mind when things seem kind of out of control.
Peace for the anxious soul. Hope in uncertain times of a certain future.
Our God reigns! Amen?
By His grace. For His glory.