The Gracious Builder

“Water Works,” © 2017 Lynn Abbott Studios. Used with Permission

© 2017 Lynn Abbott

My husband and I enthusiastically tackle DIY projects.  And over the years, we have saved a lot of money doing home projects ourselves instead of hiring someone else to complete those improvements.

We make a good team.

But periodically, our projects don’t work out the way we envision.  Such has been the case with the garden located in the side yard,  behind our driveway.

Oh, it is truly a beautiful space.  No arguments ’bout that.  However, its location can sometimes present unique challenges.

You see, our home sits below street level.  Thus, a tremendous amount of run off rushes down our driveway and into the garden during the inevitable east coast, summer thunderstorms.

Swampy puddles tend to form.  For this reason, my husband and I decided to tackle a DIY engineering project.  Our goal?  We aimed to redirect the water run-off with a drainage system.

After much digging and placing of drainage pipes, we eagerly awaited the next storm… anticipating a test run of our drainage fix.

Yup.  You guessed it.  Epic fail.

The water rushed down the hill and around our garden shed.  Although we certainly redirected the drainage, we did not achieve our objective.  Unfortunately, our DIY attempt simply replaced our old concerns with new puddles and boggy spaces closer to the house.

Uh, huh. Some projects require expertise that your typical DIY-er does not possess.  We were no exception.

Beyond doubt, we were in over our heads with that project.  Oh, sure… We worked hard.

However, our abilities fell short.  That’s right.  Despite our American spirit of ingenuity and independence, we discovered that experts can often accomplish tasks with less expense and pain than we can.

Indeed, we dedicated a lot of effort and money to that task, and yet, ultimately, we called an expert to solve the problem.

I guess we learned the hard way:  our engineering is only successful if we follow time-tested principles and wisdom.

We were in over our heads with that drainage project.

I suspect such stories are not uncommon among people. Our fiercely independent natures want to give a task our best shot.  We plunge into a project and consult the owner’s manual only if absolutely necessary…

What a lot of grief we could avoid if we were only to ask for help in the first place!

I guess that’s why I love the Old Testament so much; the saints of old struggled in much the same way I do.  The details of their daily lives differ from mine.  They didn’t have automobiles, microwaves, computers or other modern conveniences.

But human nature is much the same.   It’s pretty predictable, in fact.

As I continued my study of the book of Deuteronomy this week, I read God’s commands for Israel’s life in the Promised Land.  God gave detailed principles for daily personal life, worship and government to His people.

But what caught my attention was His commands to the people regarding their demand for God’s second best.  You see, God intended to directly lead His people and promised to speak to His people through a prophet like Moses,(Deuteronomy 18:14-20).

Yet, our omniscient Savior also knew that the day would come when His people would demand a human king.  God foreknew that His beloved people would long to be like the nations around them.

My husband and I learned the hard way.  Our work is only successful if we follow time-tested principles and wisdom.

They would wish to “DIY” their government.  Understanding humanity’s sinful and rebellious nature, God made provision.  Indeed, God often gives commands that recognize our propensity to stray from His leadership.

And in grace, our Creator does not demand our love or obedience.  Instead, He invites us to enjoy the blessings of a close walk with our Him.

In fact, Abba has made provision for our restored relationship with Him through Christ’s work on the cross. Yet, God grants each of us freedom of choice even if that means we follow paths that bring us harm.

Fortunately, for the child of God, boundaries are outlined.  And once we place our faith in Christ, God builds a hedge of protection around us.  In this way, He safeguards us, preventing us from straying so far that we cannot return to the fold.

In addition, our heavenly Father gives us principles that will yield success if we only heed them, (Joshua 1:8).

As I think of my own failed DIY life-projects, I recall Psalm 127:1, “Unless the LORD builds the house, They labor in vain who build it; Unless the LORD guards the city, The watchman keeps awake for nothing.”

Yes, as we build our lives, it is vital to read the Manufacturer’s directions; to listen to the Master Builder, our Creator-God.

With this in mind, I read Deuteronomy 17.  Here, God acknowledges that Israel would demand “Plan B”.  Although this plan did not represent God’s best–His will for His people– God allowed Israel to pursue its own way within limits.

God gives the nation a blueprint for kingship. Moses records God’s parameters for an Israeli king: he must be an Israelite.  In addition, the king was not to multiply horses, his wives or hoard silver and gold. Obviously, to do so would be to place trust in one’s own wisdom and effort rather than in Yahweh.

As the prophet Zechariah reminded Zerubbabel, our confidence should not lie in our own strength–a power that ultimately falls short:  “‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the LORD of hosts,” (Zechariah 4:6).

If Israel demanded a king, that leader was to humbly follow God’s Word for all of his life, (Deuteronomy 17:18-20).  If these principles defined the king’s reign,  his kingdom would last.

Yes, as we build our lives, it is vital to read the Manufacturer’s directions; to listen to the Master Builder, our Creator-God.

In other words, if Israel sought to “DIY,” certain principles must be followed in order to ensure success.

God’s people were not to approach their government or choose their leader in a willy-nilly sort of way.  Yup, if you are going to tackle life, it is crucial to follow the directions of our Divine Creator.

Unless the LORD builds the house…

Without our Creator’s expert guidance, you and I will likely find ourselves in a boggy mess.

Unfortunately, Israel’s kings often failed to follow God’s directions.  And this proved true from the very outset.

Israel’s first king, Saul, was a populist choice.  Tall, handsome and seemingly humble, Saul’s selection made human sense.

Yet, Saul did not base his reign on the counsel of God.  Again and again, we read that he impatiently followed his own wisdom rather than waiting on God.  He repeatedly disobeyed God’s commands.

Samuel, God’s prophet, had to remind Saul that “to obey is better than sacrifice,” (1 Samuel 15:22).

But Saul’s life demonstrated a pattern of wilful disobedience and more closely aligned with the modern proverb, “Better to ask forgiveness than to ask permission.”

And God replies, “Not so.”    He places parameters to insure our success.

Saul, however, chose to ignore God’s principles.  I can almost hear Saul singing with Sinatra, “I did it my way…”

Thus, when Saul’s reign closed, his son did not rise to the throne.

And the house of Saul crumbled.    The once popular leader spent his reign mired in mud.

Indeed, all of Saul’s desperate attempts to solidify his kingly lineage and legacy fell apart.  His history speaks of his desperation.

We remember Saul’s vindictive pursuit of David; Saul’s unreasonable and illogical military commands, and his trust in counsel offered by sorcery.  Israel’s first king certainly did not embody the characteristics given by God in Deuteronomy 17.

It isn’t surprising, then, that Saul’s house did not stand…

“And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and burst against that house; and it fell, and great was its fall,” (Matthew 7:27).

Instead, God chose a man who honored God’s Word.   And David stepped to the throne.

I recall Psalm 127:1, “Unless the LORD builds the house, They labor in vain who build it.”

In David, God found a man who most nearly represented the qualities delineated in Deuteronomy 17:14-20.  The Shepherd boy had served Yahweh with all his heart.  And as king, David continued to love and serve God.  In fact, David’s deep faith in Yahweh continues to inspire us through the book of Psalms.

Of course, David was far from perfect. His disobedience certainly smeared his initially idyllic record.

Yet, God in His infinite wisdom and grace still blesses those whose hearts are fully for Him.  When Davide sinned, unlike his predecessor, David truly repented.  David offered no hollow excuses by way of apology.

Rather, with a genuinely humble spirit, David acknowledged his rebellious failure, returned to God, and wholeheartedly followed God’s direction once more.

God, in His love and grace, encourages us to correct our course, and when we do, we find success despite our prior missteps.

Overall, David’s life revolved around his deep faith in Yahweh. Throughout the Psalms, we read David’s prayers of dependency on God.  And although, David collected gold and silver, he did not place his trust in them, but set that wealth aside for the building of God’s house.

Thus, following God with his whole heart, David found ultimate significance and success. God promised that David’s house would not fail.  And God always keeps His promises.

In fact, we know that Christ–God Incarnate–was born of the house of David.  That’s right.  Christ will reign for all eternity. David’s house stands.

Without our Creator’s expert guidance, you and I will likely find ourselves in a boggy mess.

But what about David’s immediate heir?  Did Solomon build on rock or sand?

Unfortunately, Solomon’s initial potential did not translate well over the long haul.  Even though Solomon possessed great wisdom, he failed to apply it to his own life.  He actually had over a thousand wives and mistresses; He collected women the way some collect Starbucks Coffee mugs, (1 Kings 11:1-6).

Scripture tells us that Solomon’s wives turned his heart toward idolatry.  God, in fact, had warned Israel against marrying foreign wives.

Yet, Solomon followed the worldly practices of the nations around him rather than the godly principles that Moses had recorded long before Israel demanded a king.

In addition, Solomon placed his trust in worldly goods.  Solomon gathered great wealth for himself.  And he accumulated military horses.  He counted on chariots and horses purchased from Egypt, the nation that had once enslaved Israel, (1 Kings 10:28-29).

Solomon built on the wrong foundation. He leaned on his own understanding rather than placing his trust in his omnipotent and omniscient Creator.  And Solomon experienced ongoing political opposition throughout his reign.

Conflict came from both within and without the Solomon’s kingdom.  And his efforts toward peace went awry.  The kingdom ultimately splintered.

Just as God had warned, the king who did not follow God’s blueprint in Deuteronomy would not find long-term success.

Undoubtedly,  “Unless the LORD builds the house, They labor in vain who build it…”

Where my DIY fails, God’s Grace wins every time.

Grace, however, redeems the heartbreak of Israel’s history.  God is faithful even though His people may wander.

God spoke to Solomon, “Because you have done this and you have not kept My covenant and My statures, which I have commanded you, I will surely tear the kingdom from you and will give it to your servant…However, I will not tear away all the kingdom, but I will give one tribe to your son for the sake of My servant David and for the sake of Jerusalem which I have chosen,” (1 Kings 11: 11, 13).

Where my DIY fails, God’s Grace wins every time.  God waits for you and me.  At times, we all go astray, (Isaiah 53: 6).

It’s true. God permits our rebellious choices even though He longs to give us so much better.

Yet,  through Christ, we may humbly return and walk with our God (1 John 1:9).  Once more, Abba guides and directs our lives–the engineering of our water works–and crowns us with success, (Psalm 103:1-5).

Christ, our Rock, promised that a house built on His words will stand (Matthew 7:24).  Grace partners with us and directs us as we build.  The Master Builder offers us His perfect blueprint–His plan for ultimate success.

I can stubbornly cling to my uninformed DIY, or I can humbly turn to my Creator.  My choice will directly determine the outcome of my efforts.

And quite honestly, I would rather learn from the Master than stumble through my life the hard way.  Experience has taught me that following my own path frequently lands me in a muddy mess.

Thus, I will follow Joshua’s example and boldly claim, “…as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD,” (Joshua 24:15b).

“‘Therefore, every one who hears these words of Mine, and acts upon them, may be compared to a wise man, who built his house upon the rock,'” ~Matthew 7:24

“Those who love Thy law have great peace, And nothing causes them to stumble,” ~Psalm 119:165

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