Sunday, February 22, 2009

Scant Information

May the LORD do what seems good to him. ~ Joab

And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this . . . Then I [Esther] will go to the king, though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish. ~ Esther

Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace . . . but if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods . . . ~ Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego

Why you don't even know what will happen tomorrow . . . you ought to say, "If it is the Lord's will, we will live and so this or that . . ." Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn't do it sins. ~ James

Look closely. Joab, Esther, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abegnego, made difficult decisions. Decisions to do what seemed to be the right thing with scant information. They weren't sure how things were going to work out, but they did know they must act.

Joab believed it was time to go to war with the Amonites. His forces were outnumbered and surrounded. A mercenary army of thousands had him boxed in -- both front and flank. All he could do was make a decision -- fight or flight. Success or failure, winning or losing, would be determined by what God deemed best. He acted with incomplete knowledge. He took a risk.

Esther made a decision to go into the king's presence unannounced on behalf of her people. It was a desperate measure. Breaking royal law was a capital offence. But Esther threw caution to the wind. She did the right thing as best she could determine. A close ally suggested that maybe God had positioned for just such a time as she and her people faced -- no one was absolutely sure -- but it was possible. She made the decision that seemed to be the best and left her fate in God's hands.

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego assessed their situation and made what they believed was the right and best decision before God. They were not sure how their noble and courageous testimony would shake out. Would God deliver them or not? It didn't matter -- they were making the best decision with the understanding they had.

James tells us that we are not to presume on God, because we don't know what a day may bring about. Who knows, the sentence we are speaking, or the plans we are making, may be our last. But such an admonition from James is not given to keep us from making decisions because we do not have complete knowledge. We can take risks for the advancement of the kingdom.

It seems that James keeps things in balance. Sometimes, we just have to do what is right simply because it is right. Prevailing circumstances may mean we have scant information to go on, but we just decide to do the right thing. To do anything less is sin, says James. Guaranteed success is not the determining factor.

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