By sis Sophia Tay
In our recent Bible classes at Eastside Church of Christ, we have been learning about the books of the Old Testament and their application to us. I noticed that many of the events we learn concern what we have colloquially heard as "God said it, I believe it". This phrase may have been coined by a song of the same name, released in 1996 by a musical group called the Heritage Singers. Of course, doctrinally, what we should believe about God’s word is not only limited to what God Himself is recorded to have said but spans the entire inspired Word recorded in the form of the Bible. Following "God said it, I believe it" as a principle is very crucial when we consider our human limitations and, by contrast, God’s control over the world. Let us look at the following events.
It is easiest to say "God said it, I believe it" when you can trust what you see. In Exodus 17:8–15, the Israelites, under Moses’ leadership, met the Amalekites for the first time in Canaan. The Amalekites attacked them and, to aid the Israelites’ battle, Moses stood at the top of the hill holding the "staff of God", which God had given him to "perform miraculous signs with it" (Exodus 4:17). As Moses and the Israelites could clearly see, they had victory only for as long as the staff was held up — "as long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning." Although Moses’ hands grew tired, the staff still had to be held up, and so Aaron and Hur held his hands up. Eventually, the Israelites won the battle.
But what if you must trust in what God has said without seeing it happen? It may even mean trusting God’s word against your instincts of what you expect will happen. As the ark of God was being transported, the oxen drawing the cart on which the ark was set stumbled on the uneven ground. A man named Uzzah, likely expecting that the ark was going to fall off and break, reflexively grabbed hold of it. If your phone slips off the table, you can already guess what will happen next. Despite Uzzah’s good intentions, this was a terrible mistake. Touching the "holy things" within was forbidden, and the punishment was death (Numbers 4:15). For this reason, poles were made on the exterior of the chest holding the ark for the Levites to carry it (Exodus 25:14). Uzzah was struck dead, but he would have avoided death if he had remembered God’s command and trusted that God would preserve the condition of the ark without his involvement.
Trusting God against your instincts is even more difficult when something personal is at stake. "Should I do this when it does not seem to benefit me?" This was most likely the thought of the Israelite spies sent to scout Canaan in Numbers 13:30–33. They were unwilling to conquer Canaan, fearing having to fight the "giants" they saw and fearing death if they lost. In Daniel 1, Daniel, one of the captives from Babylon’s conquest of Judah, was to be fed "royal food and wine" for his welfare and preparation to enter the Babylonian king’s service. But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself in this way (the implication being that the "royal food and wine" were unclean according to the Mosaic Law). Furthermore, he asked to eat only vegetables and water. Was it better to eat only vegetables and water, not the meat "from the king’s table", when there was demanding work to be done in learning "the language and literature of the Babylonians" as the king had ordered? The chief official feared that the king would execute him if Daniel’s condition were poorer than the other men preparing to enter the king’s service, and that probably meant that Daniel’s life was also at risk. However, Daniel "resolved," and sure enough, God brought him through this difficult period.
When things seem impossible from our own experiences, we may get frustrated with following God. The Christians living in Paul’s time also faced a similar, although worse, situation to the people in the Old Testament. While commanded to preach and "make disciples of all nations, baptising [...] and teaching them to observe everything [Jesus] has commanded" (Matthew 28:20), this put them at risk of a painful death. Historically, the Christian teaching of monotheism and Jesus as Lord offended pagans as well as Roman society, which revered the emperor as a deity. For preaching, Christians could be arrested and forced to fight predators in the Roman arena for the public’s viewing; Paul himself was "delivered from the lion’s mouth" (2 Timothy 4:17). It was humiliating, cruel, and deadly. It is easier not to go against the grain when adverse consequences seem certain to happen. However, the Bible shows that God was in control even of those who were in a crisis, expecting the worst, and God blessed them in other ways. The first century Christians we read about indeed went against the grain and "went everywhere preaching the word" (Acts 8:4). Their trust in God was greater than their fear.
The Bible has shown that where God has spoken, and " that settles it, I believe it". For us, even the worst that may happen with living God’s way of life – like lack of support from our communities, being subject to embarrassment, harsher scrutiny, and even persecution – is minor compared to God’s continued promise of blessing today and eternal life tomorrow.