At His Disposal
Trumpet Sounds - November 4, 2002

"I am at your disposal" is a common English idiom that means, "for whatever you need me, I am available." When taken literally, it extends further than the idiomatic meaning. To be literally at someone's "disposal" would mean that we would even be willing to entirely expend ourselves for that person.

In a certain sense, this is what we are to God, no matter what our relationship with him. For we were all created for his glory, pleasure, and ultimate disposition. To say that we were created to be entirely "at his disposal" does not discount his love and concern for us. The Bible indicates that even those who are ultimately "objects of his wrath" because of their obstinate refusal to submit to his rule are treated with great leniency and patience by him during their lives on earth.

The Scriptures tell us that there are two overall manners by which our lives bring glory to God. The first is by repenting and embracing the covenant of forgiveness he freely offers, thus exhibiting to all the universe the wonders of his grace. The second is to bring him glory by showcasing his awesome holiness in the judgment he exacts.

"The LORD Almighty will be exalted by his justice, and the holy God will show himself holy by his righteousness." (Isaiah 5:16 NIV)

The decision we make regarding our Redeemer during our short sojourn on earth will inevitably bring him glory, one way or the other. Each of us plays a role, whether as friend or foe, in the unfolding drama of history, God's sovereign plan. Along the way, we are all indeed "at his disposal" in means and for reasons beyond our comprehension.

During our brief life span, which David described as "but a breath", we have no guarantees that the circumstances of our lives will turn out the way we had planned. Usually, they do not. It is during those times when they do not that human arrogance often manifests itself, the arrogance that insists on the right of self-determination.

During times of inexplicable disappointment or tragedy, the inevitable question of "Why, God?" presents itself. Yet behind that question is often the unstated angry declaration of "You have no right to do this, God." But of course, He does.

How many parents have grieved the untimely loss of their beautiful young child for reasons inscrutable? How many have witnessed turns in their lives that are maddeningly incomprehensible? Some years ago, a friend of mine had a four year old daughter who was killed when she ran out of the front of the church onto a nearby highway after a Sunday morning church service. Little consolation or explanation can be given to those who grieve after such seemingly random events. But, like it or not, every event serves God's purposes.

One book of the Bible that gives us some insight into the inexplicable is the book of Job. But the primary message of Job is not, as some suppose, about human suffering. It is about the right of God to whatever He wants, whenever He wants, with anyone He wants. Job was the perfect subject because he had lived a blameless life up to the time when he was afflicted. And we know that God's ultimate compassion on Job was great. What is most significant, however, is God's respond to Job's queries.

When Job asked God the "why" question, the answer he received was not one he had anticipated. Some would say it was no answer at all. "Where were you when I laid the earth's foundation? Tell me, if you understand. Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it?" (Job 38:4-5 NIV) The Lord embarks upon a magnificent, extended retelling of the wonders of his creation. What kind of answer is that?

It is an answer that places the comparison between us and him back in the proper perspective. For Job, it was the starting point of his "higher education." For all who ask "why" in an arrogant manner, it is the only answer they will receive. God does not have to explain Himself to anyone, nor does He owe anyone a thing.

In the story of Job, little notice is taken of the sons and daughters who perished. Were their lives less valuable or important than Job's? Certainly they were greatly loved, but they seem like little more than a footnote to the story. Yet they, for the short time they lived on earth, served God's purposes, both their lives and their deaths. They were "at his disposal", even if just to make a point at his discretion. Their lives were expended to bring God glory. Was He wrong to do this? No, He does whatever He wants. And in retrospect, we do see and understand the vital role they played in the point God was making. Can they or we complain that He had no right to use them like this? No.

For the believer who has been united with God in an eternal love relationship, who asks the "why" question in humility, there is an additional, more satisfying answer. "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." (Romans 8:28 NIV) That answer may not satisfy the specifics of the "why" question for us, but it should reassure us that his motives are indeed good, and the outcomes will be good as well.

So for the child of God, being "at his disposal" is an absolute guarantee that whatever happens, happens for our ultimate good from a loving Father who is absolutely trustworthy. For others, being "at his disposal" means that that person will play a role, perhaps unsolicited and undesirable to him or her, in God's ultimate plan to bring glory to Himself.

The most prominent example of this is the Pharaoh who opposed Moses' mission to save Israel from bondage. "For the Scripture says to Pharaoh: "I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth."" (Romans 9:17 NIV) God had a plan all along, a plan to demonstrate to Israel both his might and his concern for them. The armies who were drowned in the Red Sea served that purpose, and were "at his disposal".

Was it unfair for God to use Pharaoh and his armies in this way? Of course not. Paul supplies us with a direct answer to this question. "But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? "Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, 'Why did you make me like this?'" Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use?" (Romans 9:20-21 NIV) Yes, the Potter has the right.

It is not only individuals, but groups of peoples that the Potter has the right to do with as He pleases. In a summary of the campaign led by Joshua for Israel to gain possession of the land promised, the writer informs us, "For it was the LORD himself who hardened their hearts to wage war against Israel, so that he might destroy them totally, exterminating them without mercy, as the LORD had commanded Moses." (Joshua 11:20 NIV) The Canaanites were at God's disposal, because they were standing in the way of Israel obtaining the land God swore He would give to Abraham.

This obliteration of the prior occupants of the land gives rise to intellectual problems for skeptics. How could a loving, merciful God act like this towards people He had created? But those people were no innocents. In the case of the Canaanites, who were perpetuating a vile, foul, corrupt culture characterized by cruel and degenerative religiously-motivated behavior, it was their own actions that brought God's hand against them. In a sense, He was being merciful by terminating the destructive behavior that was being ingrained into every succeeding generation.

Israel was given a warning what would happen if they behaved in the same way as the previous occupants of the land. God said, "But you must keep my decrees and my laws. The native-born and the aliens living among you must not do any of these detestable things, for all these things were done by the people who lived in the land before you, and the land became defiled. And if you defile the land, it will vomit you out as it vomited out the nations that were before you." (Leviticus 18:26-28 NIV)

So it was not only because of God's covenant with Abraham that the Canaanites were "vomited out" to make room for Israel, but also because of the detestable lifestyle of the Canaanites themselves. We see that although the Canaanites were at God's disposal, He was not capricious in his disposition of them. They had fully earned the fate which they suffered. Their sin had reached its full measure, as God had indicated to Abraham some 400 years earlier that it would.

The Canaanites were used as instruments by God to bring glory to Himself, by demonstrating his character in the deliverance He enacted. In similar fashion, throughout the history of Israel as recorded in the Bible, there were antagonists who were raised up by God to oppress them. Whether it was the Egyptians, or Canaanites, or the Amalekites, Philistines, Moabites, or others, they were used at times to break Israel out of complacency and indifference to their God. When Israel called on God for relief, He delivered them from the antagonist, again and again demonstrating his love and power. Those antagonists were at God's disposal.

Now, fast-forward to the present. Once again, Israel exists as a nation. Once again, God is demonstrating his love and power. Once again, God intends to fully execute his covenant and give Israel complete possession of the land. Once again, the land is occupied by a corrupt, violent people who are going to be vomited out because of their own conduct. Once again, the perverse religious practices of those people will lead to their own demise, including the sacrifice of their own children for the sake of their "god".

A certain prophecy in the book of Isaiah describes both the regathering of Israel back to the land, as well what happens to other peoples who will be "at his disposal". "Since you are precious and honored in my sight, and because I love you, I will give men in exchange for you, and people in exchange for your life. Do not be afraid, for I am with you; I will bring your children from the east and gather you from the west. I will say to the north, 'Give them up!' and to the south, 'Do not hold them back.' Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the ends of the earth." (Isaiah 43:4-6 NIV)

What does this prophecy mean? In the context of the modern return from exile, there are "peoples" mentioned whose lives God gives in exchange for Israel. The New Living Translation makes it clearer for us: "I traded their lives for yours because you are precious to me".

Yes, even today, there are groups of people who stand in hateful opposition to Israel who are at God's disposal. The destruction he inflicts on them is not unprovoked. Those peoples who declare hatred for Israel in the name of Allah will lose the battle as God once again takes a firm stand in support of Israel, to accomplish all that he has declared. He again reassures Israel that he performs this "because I love you."

Is God unfair to do this? No, the Potter has the right. Just as the Canaanites made themselves candidates for God's hand to strike by their abhorrent behavior, so also has the Islamic Middle East today. Scarcely in the history of the world have we seen a more white-hot intensity of hatred as the hatred Arab Muslims have ignited for many, many years against Israel. The vehement fury pitch of their unrelenting animosity will be matched by that of the God of Israel when he acts.

In consideration of the special case of modern-day Israel, we indeed believe that God is about to act on their behalf. He has his designs to bring renown to his name through his continuing campaign of tender compassion towards his chosen people, by coming against those with designs to wipe out Israel as a nation. The Arab Muslims are necessarily playing the role of the antagonists who harden their hearts against God, as Pharaoh once did. The outcome will be the same.

Just as in the Bible, the enemies who hate Israel have been allowed for a time to oppress them. But when God once again responds to Israel's cry for relief, those enemies will be at God's disposal, for his glory.