by: DALE NESSMITH
“God came from Teman, and the Holy One from mount Paran. Selah! His glory covered the heavens, and the earth was full of His praise.” Habakkuk 3:3
We never know where God will show up! Even though the creator and sustainer of the universe is omnipresent, omnipotent, and omniscient, there are times when He is with us, works around us, works for us and works within us and we don’t realize it at the time. Sometimes God shows up in the most unlikely places too! Jesus had dinner with sinners and worked with two of His disciples on the road to Emmaus without them rec- ognizing Him. The Lord appeared to Abraham while he lived in an idola- trous and pagan land and told him to pack his bags and go somewhere that He would show him. The Lord Jesus also made a grand and graceful appearance to Saul of Tarsus at the very time he had ulterior motives. While He should have sent Saul to hell, He instead sent him on a mission to preach the gospel.
Most of us have experienced the felt presence of God in the most unlikely places, like when we’re about to commit a sin or when we’re thinking like a sinner, or when we need guidance or peace of mind. Just when we’re about to go over the edge or come unglued, we read or remember a verse of scripture, or a friend sends prayer via text or email. Of course, God shows up in likely places also. We find Jesus when we gather for public worship in Spirit and Truth. The Holy Spirit warms and warns us as we bow in humble fervent prayer to Almighty God. A bright and colorful rainbow appears in the sky after a dark, cloudy thunder storm and our faith that our God is a promise keeper is reinforced.
But it’s the presence and performance of God in the unexpected and unlikely places that promotes His glory most as well as empowers our pursuit of Him and happiness, which by the way are really the same thing. God is so wonderful that He is mysterious! He gives us eternal life that we might know Him, but that doesn’t mean we can figure Him out.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55: 8,9
Even the most mature Christian or committed theologian must admit that God cannot be put in a box, a pulpit, or a piano. Great is the mystery of God and of godliness! Now for sure I am not a mature Christian nor am I a committed theologian. I am a sinner saved by grace. I know the depth and gravity and grossness and also the grief that my sins created. Yet, God’s Holy Spirit has convicted and convinced me that I am one of His. (Can I get a testimony here?) So, by experience and surely by grace, the Lord Jesus showed up in a most unlikely place—the soul of Randy Waters. I know this is the case for every born again believer, but no one will likely sense the Lord’s presence unless He is taken personally.
Chapter three of Habakkuk is a prayer. Prayer is a means of God’s grace which poises us for encounters with miracles. God is still in the miracle making business you know. And since a miracle begins where our strength ends, we ought to expect the unexpected goodness of God to show just when we need it most. Habakkuk begins his prayer by noting the ap- pearance of God, referencing that Jehovah came from unlikely places. Temon means from the south and included the land of Esau’s heritage. Paran was a mountainous area in the wilderness, but it was also the place David fled to for refuge. Remember Jesus came from Nazareth which was considered obscure.
“And Nathaniel said unto him, Can there any good thing come out of Naza- reth? Philip saith unto him, Come and see.” John 1:46
Then the prophet Habakkuk mentions in his prayer God’s glory. Notice he does this before he brings his desires to the throne of grace. Actually, when God shows up so does His glory. God’s glory is described here as a covering. God’s creation and His creatures are covered with His glory. Like a soft blanket warms and comforts us on a chilly night, so does God’s glory comfort and warm a believer’s heart and soul. The King of Glory really does have it all covered and we would be more virtuous by living under His blanket of blessings even when we don’t know what He is doing or wonder where He is.
God’s footprints are everywhere, but sometimes He walks on His tip toes. It’s the silent and unseen presence of God that often covers our doubts and discouragements.
“...but the Lord was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake: And after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice.”
I Kings 19:11b, 12
Haven’t you noticed that on a clear blue sky day, suddenly there appears a cloud covering in the sky? Did you hear those clouds? Or when is the last time you walked in your yard in the morning and found your shoes wet with dew? Did the dew make any noise when it fell? See then how good things can happen without us doing anything really. God can cover us without our performance or our opinions. God’s glory is bright and shining but may not say a word. And when His grace enables us to be still and know Him, the first thing we notice is that he truly has us and everything covered.
A good illustration of God’s covering glory is cover crops. Row crop farmers often use cover crops to improve the productivity of the soil that will enhance the yields of the target crop. For example, a farmer’s objective may be to grow cotton in field A, but he plants rye or other small grains in Field A in December. The cover crop is normally not harvested for grain, but rather is planted to benefit the cotton, which is the main crop. Cover crops build soil health by aiding in nutrient retention, erosion control and wind reduction. Also, cover crops stabilize soil temperature, increase infiltration capacity and protect the soil from being compacted by heavy rainfalls. Weeds can’t grow very well through a cover crop canopy either. The browning and golden fields we see in the area this time of year are the results of herbicides being applied to cover crops in preparation for the soon to be planting of cotton or peanuts.
Every Christian is sort of like a field “A” in that God has a plan and purpose for his or her life. That purpose is to bring glory to God by bearing spiritual fruit in the farmland of the faithful on earth. And to ensure our prudent productivity, God often plants a cover crop in our field to enhance the harvest come pickin’ time. Every farmer has a farm plan which includes crop rotations and specifically what crops are going to be planted in which fields. Farmers do not just get up in the morning and decide to plant peanuts over yonder! Rather, the peanuts have been planned for months and are earmarked for the exact spot for the seed to be sown. Likewise, every child of God’s heart is a field, or garden which the Lord has prepared and has specific plans for.
“A garden inclosed is my sister, my spouse; a spring shut up, a fountain sealed.” Song of Solomon 4:12
When we understand that the Lord Jesus Christ is the Master Gardener, we get a glimpse of how fruitful a Christian really is. Of course, God must give the increase. But don’t miss His act of amazing grace agronomy just because He plants a cover crop in our field. Even though His main crops are love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance (Galatians 5:22, 23), the Lord may cover us with trials, tears and crosses so that we’ll bear and bounty of the things He really likes. We must not complain or quibble when we want peace and faith and instead we get trouble and take aways. After all, it’s God’s field. He can plant what He wants and He knows what he is doing; He has it covered!
One of God’s most used cover crops is thankfulness. God never commands us to do anything that He doesn’t by His Holy Spirit enable us to do. So, since he tells us to be thankful for all things, He will surely plant seeds of thanks in our hearts and lives. Even in practical living we know nothing really means much to us if we are not grateful for what we have. Contentment is a tough crop to grow and the yields are often pitiful given the productivity of the soil in which it grows. Yet, if we are blessed to have a cover crop of thanksgiving, we are sure to have a lot of bales of contentment.
“Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for He hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” Hebrews 13:5
When our lives don’t seem to be bearing much spiritual fruit is the very time for us to rejoice in the fact that God will never leave or forsake us. And whether we are able to do anything, or go anywhere or give any- thing or not doesn’t really matter so long as God is with us. The Lord doesn’t love us because of our performances, He loves us because His Son died on the cross in our place. God’s word is eternal and always produces something even if it’s a cover crop. We ought to be thankful that we can be thankful. We are thankful because we are forgiven sinners. Rejoice today if your heart is full of gratitude. But know and expect much more to come, for it’s only the cover crop for what God is going to do in your life.
“Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.” Psalm 32:1
Just as the farmer’s cover crops help keep down the weed population in his field, a heart filled with thanks will keep many sins from taking root in our hearts.
Tears are also effective cover crops which God uses to soften our hearts so that we can love Him and others more. Obviously tears are the result of pain be it physical or emotional. But tears are a prerequisite for something much better — joy!
“They that sow in tears shall reap in joy.” Psalm 126:5
It’s okay to let God and others know how we feel. When we smother our sin, it rages within our hearts and just like a field’s topsoil may get crusty and hard, so does our hearts. Confession is good for the soul because it brings repentance and we get a cover crop of repentance because the goodness of God plants it in our hearts.
Jesus shed tears just before He raised Lazarus from the dead. God knows how many tears we shed too! His word says that all our tears are kept by Him in a bottle. (Psalm 56:8) I don’t think my tear bottle is very full. It seems like I’m too hard and mean to cry. When by His grace the tears flow, it’s always good for me and I feel much better. It’s easy to keep our selfishness and pride all bottled up inside but when we do, there’s not much room for tears. The Lord doesn’t intend to drown us in tears though, He only covers our eyes with them so that we’ll get a prism effect which will enable us to see Jesus and heaven more clearly.
Probably the most commonly used cover crop that God sends to His people is trials. Cover crop roots in an Ag field act as little subsoilers which make for healthier and deeper root development by the target crop. Trials in a Christian life strengthen and deepen faith. When God plants a cover
crop of trials in your field, do not say, “I didn’t need this!” because you needed it else God would not have planted it. Actually, trials should make us smile because it shows God loves us and has plans for our lives. If you notice a farmer’s field that is growing a cover crop, you can be sure that farmer cares about that field and has a plan to make it a productive place. Don’t be discouraged when life problems and struggles cover you up. Remember crop production is a seasonal science. There is a timing to it all, even trials.
“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.” Ecclesiastes 3:1
We grow more and mature more spiritually through adversity than we do when things are all smooth and straight. And since the number one and greatest commandment the Master Gardener gives us is to love Him with all our hearts, souls, mind and strength, He might just sow a cover crop of trials in our lives so that we will be sure to keep it. It seems like we get to know God better and are closer to Him in adversity than we are in prosperity.
“Before I was afflicted I went astray: but now have I kept thy word.”Psalm 119:67
Always remember God loves and cares for you. Sometimes things may seem to be upside down and hurt and disappointment turns you inside out. You are a work in progress, a field of divine dreams. God intends for you to bear much fruit in His kingdom and His cover crops should encourage you that it will be even as He said. If He sends trouble to make you patient or grief to show you the value of love, let Him have His way. He knows what He’s doing. He has it all covered.