Lessons to Learn and Mysteries to Accept When Life Is Perplexing: Part 2, Deuteronomy 2:1-23

“Lessons to Learn and Mysteries to Accept When Life Is Perplexing: Part 2”

Deuteronomy 2:1-23

October 3, 2021

Faith Presbyterian Church – Morning Service

Pastor Nicoletti

We continue this morning with our fall series in the book of Deuteronomy, with Moses preaching to the second exodus generation of Israel, on the edge of the promised land.

We return today to the same passage we looked at last Sunday, with Moses is recounting their travels, and specifically their relationship to some of the hostile nations they passed by on their way to the promised land.

Last Lord’s Day we considered the lessons this text calls us to learn. This morning we focus on the mysteries this text calls us to accept.

With that in mind, we turn now to our text: Deuteronomy 1:19-43.

Please do listen carefully, for this is God’s word for us this morning.

Moses said:

2:1 “Then we turned and journeyed into the wilderness in the direction of the Red Sea, as the Lord told me. And for many days we traveled around Mount Seir. 2 Then the Lord said to me, 3 ‘You have been traveling around this mountain country long enough. Turn northward 4 and command the people, “You are about to pass through the territory of your brothers, the people of Esau, who live in Seir; and they will be afraid of you. So be very careful. 5 Do not contend with them, for I will not give you any of their land, no, not so much as for the sole of the foot to tread on, because I have given Mount Seir to Esau as a possession. 6 You shall purchase food from them with money, that you may eat, and you shall also buy water from them with money, that you may drink. 7 For the Lord your God has blessed you in all the work of your hands. He knows your going through this great wilderness. These forty years the Lord your God has been with you. You have lacked nothing.”’ 8 So we went on, away from our brothers, the people of Esau, who live in Seir, away from the Arabah road from Elath and Ezion-geber.

“And we turned and went in the direction of the wilderness of Moab. 9 And the Lord said to me, ‘Do not harass Moab or contend with them in battle, for I will not give you any of their land for a possession, because I have given Ar to the people of Lot for a possession.’ 10 (The Emim formerly lived there, a people great and many, and tall as the Anakim. 11 Like the Anakim they are also counted as Rephaim, but the Moabites call them Emim. 12 The Horites also lived in Seir formerly, but the people of Esau dispossessed them and destroyed them from before them and settled in their place, as Israel did to the land of their possession, which the Lord gave to them.) 13 ‘Now rise up and go over the brook Zered.’ So we went over the brook Zered. 14 And the time from our leaving Kadesh-barnea until we crossed the brook Zered was thirty-eight years, until the entire generation, that is, the men of war, had perished from the camp, as the Lord had sworn to them. 15 For indeed the hand of the Lord was against them, to destroy them from the camp, until they had perished.

16 “So as soon as all the men of war had perished and were dead from among the people, 17 the Lord said to me, 18 ‘Today you are to cross the border of Moab at Ar. 19 And when you approach the territory of the people of Ammon, do not harass them or contend with them, for I will not give you any of the land of the people of Ammon as a possession, because I have given it to the sons of Lot for a possession.’ 20 (It is also counted as a land of Rephaim. Rephaim formerly lived there—but the Ammonites call them Zamzummim— 21 a people great and many, and tall as the Anakim; but the Lord destroyed them before the Ammonites, and they dispossessed them and settled in their place, 22 as he did for the people of Esau, who live in Seir, when he destroyed the Horites before them and they dispossessed them and settled in their place even to this day. 23 As for the Avvim, who lived in villages as far as Gaza, the Caphtorim, who came from Caphtor, destroyed them and settled in their place.)

This is the word of the Lord. (Thanks be to God.)

“All people are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord endures forever.” [1 Peter 1:24-25]

Let’s pray …

Lord, you have dealt well with us,

just as you have promised in your word.

Teach us now good judgment and knowledge,

for we believe in your word to us – your commandments and your testimonies.

You are good and you do good,

teach us your ways.

We know that your word to us in the Scriptures is of more value for us

than thousands of pieces of gold and silver.

Help us now to treat it and attend to it as such.

Grant this, we ask, for Jesus’s sake. Amen.

[Based on Psalm 119:65, 66, 68, 72]

Introduction

We need to begin this morning by setting the stage and remembering just how perplexing this text actually is.

If you were here last Sunday, the next couple minutes will be a bit of a refresher. If you were not here, then this will be a summary of what we said last Sunday morning – you can hear the longer version on the website if you’re interested.

Our text this morning holds before us the reality that in this situation God is blessing his unfaithful enemies, while bringing suffering on his own faithful people.

The Edomites, Moabites, and Ammonites, had rejected God and God’s people. When Israel humbly requested passage through Edom, the King of Edom refused, and showed up with an army. [Numbers 20:14-21] Moab tried to actively bring a curse down on Israel by hiring Balaam, and when that did not work, they exploited their own women to try to tempt Israel into both sexual sin and spiritual idolatry. [Numbers 22-24, 31:16]

Later on, after they were in the land, the Moabites and the Ammonites would both attack Israel [Judges 3:12-14], their false gods would be a temptation to Israel [Judges 10:6], and each would at times oppress Israel [Judges 3, Judges 10-11].

The Edomites, the Moabites, and the Ammonites were enemies to Israel, and actively rejected Yahweh, and tried to tempt Israel away from him.

And yet, what do we read in our text?

God says to Israel in verses four and five: “Be very careful. Do not contend with [Edom], for I will not give you any of their land, no, not so much as for the sole of the foot to tread on, because I have given Mount Seir to Esau as a possession.”

In verse nine he says basically the same thing about Moab. And then, in verse nineteen he says the same thing about Ammon.

These nations, who have rejected God and who hate his people, God has blessed them with a land, and he is protecting them from harassment in that land.

This becomes more perplexing when we consider the plight of Israel in the midst of all this.

Israel has disobeyed God – it is true. And they continued to have episodes of rebellion in their wilderness wandering. And yet still, their sin did not match the sin of the Edomites, Moabites, and Ammonites. Still, mixed in with everything else there was obedience. They were God’s people. Despite their many failures they had placed their faith in God and pledged their ultimate allegiance to him.

And yet we read in verse fifteen, regarding the first generation of Israel, that at this time “the hand of Yahweh was against them, to destroy them from the camp, until they had perished.”

God is killing, and bringing suffering on his people in the wilderness, while he blesses and protects those who openly reject him in the lands of Edom, Moab, and Ammon. That is the perplexing situation our text this morning confronts us with.

And it is a situation that God’s people have wrestled with throughout history.

False Conclusions

Now, as we said last week, there are two main categories of false conclusions that can be drawn from situations like this.

One is that God can have no good purposes for allowing such things. God either doesn’t care, or he is cruel, or he isn’t that powerful, or he simply doesn’t exist.

We responded to this false conclusion last week. We noted first that God has a purpose in giving good things to those who have ignored or rejected him. Those good gifts are meant to be testimony to God’s character, and power, and goodness, calling people to repent – to turn from wandering from God and return to him. God is graciously, though urgently, calling them to repentance, before their rejection of him is final and eternal.

Second, we noted that God also can have reasons for bringing suffering on those who claim to follow him. Sometimes he does that because those people are not really following him from the heart, and he is calling them to true faith and repentance. Other times, those who suffer have embraced God from the heart, but God is using suffering lovingly, as fatherly discipline to grow them and mature them. Still other times, God is using suffering in the lives of his people to reveal to them and others that their faith is indeed real and genuine. And still other times, God is using suffering in the lives of his people as a witness, to advance his kingdom.

In each case, whether we receive blessing or suffering, our calling, is to turn to God in faith. So whatever the details, we know what we are to do.

That said … while we know the range of things God might be doing, we don’t know the specifics of what he is doing in each situation. And that is our focus this morning.

There is something of a gap between what we know of God’s purposes, and the situation on the ground. And that reality brings us to the second possible error we can make in perplexing situations like that described in this text.

The second false conclusion that can be drawn from situations like this – is the conclusions that we can see exactly what God is up to in these kinds of situations. We can see the plan, we know his purposes, and we know and understand all the secondary causes he is employing to bring about his purposes.

Understanding Human Causes

Now, let’s break that down a bit. I mentioned that we often wrongly think we can understand God’s purposes, as well as the “secondary causes he is employing to bring about his purposes.” What do I mean by that?

Well, let’s start with the “secondary causes.” Secondary causes are the created means God uses to bring about his purposes. God could do whatever he wants directly, but ordinarily God chooses to use means. They might be spiritual means, physical means, or human means.

Consider the human means in our text. Consider the Edomites, Moabites, and Ammonites.

What do we know about them?

Well, at least two things. One is that they don’t like Israel. In fact, they hate Israel. They have been hostile to Israel, and they will continue to be hostile to Israel – that is clear from we are told in the books of Numbers and Judges.

Second, these enemies of Israel have had some significant national success in the past. They each have taken over the land they now possess in this account. And it sounds like that was quite the achievement. Remember, as we pointed out last week, our text seems to emphasize that these people drove out not just small or ordinary forces, but they drove out the very kind of forces that had so frightened Israel a generation earlier. When the first generation came to the promised land, they saw the people – the Anakim – these people of unusual stature, whom they essentially referred to as giants. And they were terrified, and as a result, they refused to obey God and go into the land.

But then, in verses ten and twenty-one of our passage we are told that the same kind of people who frightened Israel so much had also been in the land given to the Moabites and the Ammonites. But the Moabites and Ammonites had defeated them. And so these nations had had great success.

Hostility towards God’s people, and past success in their endeavors, that is what we see here.

What I want to point out is that when that happens, we have a tendency to draw two conclusions about such people. The first, is that in their hostility they have an intentional over-arching plan. The second is that their past success indicates that they really do have the power and the competence to carry out their will in the future.

The conclusions we have a tendency to draw is that these people have a high level of competence and intentionality.

And those conclusions could lead Israel to other questions: What will the next move of these groups be? Why have they chosen to settle in lands around the land promised to Israel? What is their larger goal, of which opposition to Israel is only a part? What is the secret weapon, or skill, or technique by which they defeated the Anakim, and which they will obviously one day turn on the people of Israel as well?

Such questions naturally come if one assumes that the past success and hostility of Edom, Moab, and Ammon grows out of their high level of competence and intentionality – an assumption that could be quite attractive because it gives us a sense that we understand these groups – we know what’s going on with them.

The main problem is that those assumptions are almost completely wrong.

What do we see in our text instead? In verse four we learn that despite the bluster of Edom described in Numbers 20, the real thing motivating them was fear – not some over-arching plan.

What about Moab? Despite their success against the giants of the land, a reading of Numbers 22 reveals that they too were motivated by fear and dread more than some proactive and intentional plan [Num 22:3]. But even more significant than that, the chapters that follow reveal that the king who leads this people – this people who had conquered the giants of the land – is best characterized by impotence, and a lack of original thought, as he repeatedly tries and repeatedly fails to get a nearby seer to curse Israel on his behalf. Even many years later, in the time of judges, when Moab is oppressing Israel, the king who leads them, Eglon, is no evil mastermind, but a fairly unimpressive fool.

And the Bible indicates no shadow power behind these nations – for what we are told, from a human perspective, these really were the men in charge.

And what we see in them, and in their nations, is a pattern that is typical of human life in general: Most human actions are the result of mixed, confused, and often contradictory motivations, that include both good and evil, and which are carried out with some skill, some incompetence, and some chance.

Now, by “chance”, all I mean is God’s providence from a human perspective, just as Solomon [Ecclesiastes 9:11] and Jesus [Luke 10:31] use the word.

But that’s not the main point – let me say the main point again: What we see in our text is yet another example of the fact that most human actions are the result of mixed, confused, and often contradictory motivations, that include both good and evil, and which are carried out with some skill, some incompetence, and some chance.

And if that’s true … then it means that while there are many things we can know about human actions in this world, we can never fully understand it. Part of it will always remain a mystery to us – whether on the level of individuals, or of society.

Think about it on the individual level.

When people do things that perplex us – especially things that hurt us – our instinct is usually to go to the simple explanation that it was malicious and intentional. Now, to be sure, sometimes it is. But often it’s not. Often, it’s unintentional. Often, it’s the result of mixed and contradictory motivations. Often, it’s an action or pattern that someone stumbles into rather than plans and executes.

When you have actually confronted someone over something they did, or some way they have hurt you, just think how often that has been the case, in stark contrast to the simple, intentional, and malicious story you had come up with in your head.

Again, my point is not that people don’t act in sin – Edom and Moab and Ammon all did. I’m also not saying that we are not responsible for our sin – Edom and Moab and Ammon all were.

What I’m saying is that even in their sinfulness, the motivations and actions of people are often quite complex, and largely beyond our comprehension.

Augustine put it like this – speaking to God, he wrote: “A human being is an immense abyss, but you, Lord, keep count even of his hairs, and not one of them is lost to you; yet even his hairs are easier to number than the affections and movements of his heart.” [Augustine, Book IV, 14, 22 (p. 106)]

We see that reality at the level of the individual. Now, let’s consider it on the level of society.

There are all sorts of ways that we tend to exaggerate the intentionality and competence of others in society, so that we can feel like we better understand them, but the most obvious example shows up in the prevalence of conspiracy theories in our culture right now.

Now, if we’re going to talk about conspiracy theories (and that’s probably something we need to do more often in our current cultural climate), let me be clear on a few things.

To begin, conspiracy theories are everywhere in our culture right now. They span the political and cultural and religious spectrums. There are progressive conspiracy theories, and conservative conspiracy theories, religious conspiracy theories and secular conspiracy theories. And I’m not talking about just one set or one flavor of them, but all of them. And I’m not even talking about whether they’re right or wrong, but why we are attracted to them.

This means a couple things. First, it means that you shouldn’t get inordinately offended with what I say, because I’m not just picking on your conspiracy theories, but all of them – including the ones you don’t like.

But second, it means that I’m not just picking on the conspiracy theories you don’t like, but I’m picking on yours too. So you should be … maybe a bit offended if you are hearing me right. Just not inordinately offended. Everyone thinks that their conspiracy theories are the smart ones and everyone else’s are dumb. I want to talk about a problem with the overall patterns of them. So that’s the first thing.

The second is that this morning I am not focusing on what conspiracy theories doubt, but what they believe. In other words, I’m not saying everyone should just believe whatever official story they are told despite the source or opposing facts. Doubt and skepticism are not our focus this morning – so don’t assume I am advocating naïve trust in whatever the establishment says. My focus instead is not on what conspiracy theories tend to doubt, but on what they tend to believe far too easily. In other words, our point will be that often conspiracy theories, in certain specific ways, are not skeptical enough.

What do I mean by that? Well, I mean something not that different from our text: that, while there are certain things we can see about people’s intentions and their abilities, the fact remains that much of what happens and why people do what they do is a mystery.

As theologian Alastair Roberts puts it: “Conspiracy theories tend to amplify [human] intentionality and [human] agency.”

In other words, our tendency is to come up with a story in which there are clear villains, and clear heroes. Both have carefully thought-out and intentional plans. Both have high levels of competence. The key is to trust the right side. [Roberts]

What’s striking is that the Bible never really presents the story of human society or history this way. Sure, that describes the story of God and the devil – but human life in the Bible is always more complex. Even the clearly wicked continue to bear the image of God, and their intentions always seem to get muddled up, and their competence is always quite limited by their folly. Even in their evil they are inconsistent. Dutch theologian Herman Bavinck observed this when he noted that while sin is “systemic” it is not “systematic.” In other words, while sin does permeate every aspect of human life – it is, in that way, systemic – it is frequently inconsistent, and countered by God’s common grace, and logically inconsistent: it is not systematic. As James Eglinton summarized it, Bavinck came to accept “that life in a fallen creation [is] messier and more surprising” then we often tend to assume. [Eglinton, 231]

In a similar way, the heroes of the Bible are far from consistent, intentional, or all-competent. Even a passing familiarity with the Bible reveals that truth.

And yet, it is these simplistic narratives of human life and society that we are often drawn to. Because they make us feel like we understand what’s going on … when the truth is that we don’t.

Every conspiracy theory aims to poke holes in the explanation of events most people believe. And then they hold out an alternative explanation. But the alternative explanation is often based on very little reliable evidence.

Because the fact is that what usually attracts us to conspiracy theories is not the overwhelming evidence of them. It’s often instead the kind of story it tells – a story that allows us to make sense of human activity in this world. And that is something we desperately want to believe is attainable for us.

But experience should tell us that such understanding is probably not attainable for us. Experience should remind us that while we can know a lot about the actions of individuals and groups, they often surprise and perplex us … and real understanding remains always beyond our reach.

And the Bible emphasizes that point even further.

But most conspiracy theories tell us that a real grasp of human events, which elude so many, is attainable for us. We can see that the events of the world are not so disjointed and confused. We can see how they are all connected. We can identify who is really in charge: people with competence and intentionality that are as simple as the two-dimensional villain in a fairytale.

How are you drawn to such ways of viewing with world? As I said, it could be in a form that is conservative or liberal – religious or secular. It could be a fringe perspective or one that is mainstream and common. The essential feature is that they tell you that you can grasp what’s going on … when the fact is that you can’t.

What they have in common is that they deny what we see here in our text, and throughout the Bible: that most human actions are the result of mixed, confused, and often contradictory motivations, that include both good and evil, and which are carried out with some skill, some incompetence, and some chance. And so, many human actions elude our comprehension.

Yes, there are groups or individuals in the world who don’t like you – that is true. Yes, some of those groups have had success and have attained power in the world. But the Bible warns us that such people are probably not as intentional, competent, and two-dimensional as we often want to assume. We may not understand as much as we wish.

Or, as Solomon puts it: “Again I saw that under the sun the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to the intelligent, nor favor to those with knowledge, but time and chance happen to them all.” [Ecclesiastes 9:11]

The first temptation when we face perplexing situations is to assume that we will be able to fully comprehend them, even on the level of human causality.

Now, someone will respond that in this or that situation in their lives such a perspective really did reveal the truth of what was going on in their lives or in the world. Maybe, maybe not – I don’t know.

That’s not really my point though. My point is to ask why those kinds of explanations are so appealing. Why do they resonate with you?

I suspect it’s because you find them comforting. You find them comforting because they tell you that this world and what happens in it really can be understood. And you’re one of the people who understands it.

There’s a comedian I like who recently posted a video that imagined what it would be like if kids had to sit through a job-orientation day for becoming an adult.

The instructor explains various aspects of the job of adulthood: you get to have a lot less fun, you’re tired a lot more, you have more back pain, you have to deal with a lot more emails, and so on.

But he begins with one of the most important aspect of adulthood. The instructor says: “Ok, first of all, [a] super-important part of being a grown-up: you gotta pretend like you know what’s going on with things, just in general.”

The kid looks at him and says, “But I have no idea what’s going on, ever.”

“Yeah,” the instructor says, “Nobody really does, but you gotta pretend – it’s like this game of make-believe that everybody’s playing.”

“Why?” the child asks.

“Well,” the grown-up says, “if nobody knew what was going on it would be chaos out there.”

“But,” the child says, “I mean somebody does know what’s going on … right?”

“They don’t, no.” the grown-up says. “Even the people that know a lot, they don’t really know anything … about … any of this …”

“Oh.” the kid says, with a distressed look on his face. [Ryan George]

And that is what we especially struggle with, I think. We can know a lot of stuff. God has made us to be able to study and think and grow in wisdom, and understand many aspects of this world.

And yet … when it all comes together, none of us actually know what’s going on most of the time.

The scary thing we are called to do, as one theologian puts it, is to recognize that on a human level, “no one’s really in control of the system.”

But often, that scares us so much that we’d prefer to believe in a powerful, omnicompetent human opponent rather than acknowledge the disorder of the world. [Alastair Roberts]

The righteous suffer and we don’t know why. The evil seem to prosper, and we don’t know why. Incomprehensible challenges appear in our own lives, or in the life of the church, or in the dynamics of the entire globe, and nobody really knows why. We can maybe see a few causal links here or there, but nothing that explains the whole thing. And that terrifies us.

We would rather believe that some group of masterminds secretly run the world, because then at least somebody knows what’s going on and is in control.

We would often rather believe those kinds of scary claims because they tell us that we know what is going on.

But the fact is that we don’t know what’s going on. The fact is that nobody knows what is going on.

Understanding Divine Causes

Well … no human being knows what’s going on. But, of course, God does know what’s going on. God is in control, and he can grasp all that eludes us.

And that is key.

But even as we acknowledge that – even as we turn to that reality – we need to acknowledge that there is a right way relate to that truth, and a wrong way.

The wrong way asserts that God is in control, and so if we are faithful, and spiritual, he will tell us what is going on – he will give us the insight and wisdom to discern what he is up to in the perplexing situations of life.

That is a premise we can often assume, but it is a promise God never actually makes to his people.

Just look at our text this morning. What was God’s purpose in giving Edom a land? What was God’s eternal plan for giving this land to Moab and Ammon? Why did God allow the ongoing hostility from these groups against his people? Why did he settle people like that in the land so close to where he was sending his people? Why was God so set on Israel not provoking Edom and thus tempting them to sin, but he didn’t stop Moab tempting Israel to sin? Why does God keep Israel from fighting Edom and Moab and Ammon, but not Heshbon and Bashan in the passages that follow?

We’re not given real, full answers to any of these questions. We might get an indication here or there telling us some part of God’s intention – but certainly not all of it, or even most of it. We know God’s big-picture purposes in all this – that’s what we talked about last week – but exactly how those things are playing out in the specifics of these perplexing events and circumstances … on those details we are told very little – almost nothing.

And yet, we often assume that if we are spiritual enough, or wise enough, or smart enough, we’ll figure out what God is up to.

J.I. Packer is one of my favorites on this topic. You’ve heard me quote from him before, but he is worth returning to. Packer explains that the mistake many Christians make is to assume that “the gift of wisdom consists in a deepened insight into the providential meaning and purpose of events going on around us, an ability to see why God has done what he has done in a particular case, and what he is going to do next.”

[…]

“Christians,” Packer continues, “[…] may drive themselves almost crazy with this kind of futile inquiry. For it is futile: make no mistake about that. […] So far from the gift of wisdom consisting in the power to do this, the gift actually presupposes our conscious inability to do it.” [Packer, 102-103]

Packer explains: “The real basis of wisdom is a frank acknowledgement that this world’s course is enigmatic, that much of what happens is quite inexplicable to us, and that most occurrences ‘under the sun’ bear no outward sign of a rational, moral God ordering them at all.” [Packer 104-105]

Packer concludes that “The truth is that God in his wisdom, to make and keep us humble and to teach us to walk by faith, has hidden from us almost everything that we should like to know about the providential purposes which he is working out in the churches and in our own lives.” [Packer, 106]

Where do you resist that truth? Where do you resist the mystery of God’s purposes in your life, and the lives of those around you, and in the life of our nation, and in the life of this world?

Such resistance can take many forms. Some are optimistic and always sure they see the good God is bringing just around the corner. Others are more negative and always think they can see the judgment at work. Some focus on their own lives, other the lives of those around them, and still others our whole society.

But the truth remains that God “has hidden from us almost everything that we should like to know about the providential purposes which he is working out” in the Church, in the world, and in our own lives.

The Difference: Knowing Divine Presence

If much of human action and much of what goes on in the world remains a mystery to us … if much of divine providence and much of God’s plan remains hidden from us … then what is our hope when life perplexes us?

What our text this morning reminds us, is that our hope is that God is with us. Our hope is that God is with his people – with all who call on him in faith.

That is what we see in our text. Israel, as God’s people, was not unique because of their special knowledge of the world, or their special strength in worldly matters, but because of who was with them.

As Christopher Wright points out, since God gave land to these other nations as well, it was not, ultimately, the gift of land that made Israel special. What made them special was their covenant relationship with God. [Wright, 36]

And so for us. Our ultimate hope can only be in our covenant relationship with Yahweh – the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Jesus Christ.

In Hebrews 11:18 we read: “By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going.”

How was Abraham able to go out without knowing? Well, he knew who was with him. He knew that God had promised to be with him. He knew that God had a plan and would lead him. It’s true that he only knew that plan in its broadest terms – he didn’t know what was going to happen next, or what lay around the corner. Abraham did not know where he was going, but he knew that the one he was following was faithful and good.

Brothers and sisters, that is the assurance we have. That is the assurance Israel had. It’s not that we know exactly what God is up to. It’s not that we know even what the people around us or in society at large are up to. But rather than comforting ourselves with overly simplistic stories, we have a much greater comfort: the God of the universe is with us. He is close to us. And he loves us.

He sent his only Son, Jesus Christ, to die for us, and so how can we doubt his love?

He raised his Son from the dead, and so how can we doubt his power?

We do not know the details of his plan – whether blessing or suffering lay around the next corner. But we know that God will be with us and care for us, whatever may come.

And so, let us accept the mysteries that God calls us to accept – mysteries about the world, mysteries about God’s plan. And let us place our trust in him, trusting that no matter what happens, he will be with us always, to the very end of the age.

Amen.

This sermon draws on material from:

Augustine, The Confessions. Translated by Maria Boulding. Second Edition. The Works of Saint Augustine: A Translation for the 21st Century. Hyde Park, NY: New City Press, 2012.

Barker, Paul. Introduction and notes to Deuteronomy in The ESV Study Bible. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2008.

Block, Daniel I. The NIV Application Commentary: Deuteronomy. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2012.

Eglinton, James. Bavinck: A Critical Biography. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2020.

Packer, J.I. “God’s Wisdom and Ours” in Knowing God. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Books, 1973.

Wright, Christopher. Deuteronomy. NIBC. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1996.

Materials on conspiracy theories this sermon drew from:

Douthat, Ross. “Jeffrey Epstein and When to Take Conspiracies Seriously.” The New York Times. August 13, 2019. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/13/opinion/jeffrey-epstein-suicide.html

Douthat, Ross. “Why Do So Many Americans Think the Election Was Stolen?” The New York Times. December 5, 2020. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/12/05/opinion/sunday/trump-election-fraud.html

Douthat, Ross. “A Better Way to Think About Conspiracies.” The New York Times. July 20, 2021. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/03/02/opinion/misinformation-conspiracy-theories.html

French, David. “Coronavirus, Conspiracy Theories, and the Ninth Commandment.” The Dispatch. July 19, 2020. https://frenchpress.thedispatch.com/p/coronavirus-conspiracy-theories-and

French, David. “Why Is it So Hard to Reach the Christian Conspiracy Theorist?” The Dispatch. February 21, 2021. https://frenchpress.thedispatch.com/p/why-is-it-so-hard-to-reach-the-christian

Launius, Roger D. “Denying the Apollo Moon Landings” in Apollo’s Legacy: Perspectives on the Moon Landings. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Books, 2019.

Roberts, Alastair, et al. “QAnon and the Church.” Mere Fidelity Podcast. June 16, 2020. https://mereorthodoxy.com/qanon-and-the-church/

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