Perhaps you recall a day when your supervisor listed several impressive qualities in you. Then came that word, “but”. You braced yourself, for whatever came next would surely undo everything that had been said. That’s the nature of that dreadful word “but”. It has an uncanny way of reversing everything that came before.
I see an example of that in the city of Babel account in Genesis 11:1-9. Ancient Babel was on the rise. Urbanization and innovative technology had taken this city to impressive new heights, literally. The invention of clay bricks meant that the sky was the limit. Now the people could construct a towering worship centre reaching heaven itself. Here’s where their pagan deities would come down to grant favour and success. Utopia was around the corner, and the gods were on their side! These city dwellers planned to make a big name for themselves.
Then came the game changer: But the Lord … .
“But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower that the men were building.” (Genesis 11:5 NIV)
An unexpected deity came down to have a look. This deity was the Lord of the universe, and He disapproved. They had rejected Him, and they would ultimately self-destruct. So, instead of granting divine favour, He dispensed a judgment which unraveled their entire project. People could no longer understand each other. They couldn’t get along. Undoubtedly, they became competitive and exploitative. Planning committees plummeted into disagreements and chaos. (We can perhaps relate.) These folk experienced exactly what they had tried to avoid: dispersion and vulnerability. God had interfered … mercifully.
“In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.” (Proverbs 16:9 NIV)
I find this assuring. My God, still Lord of the universe, still intervenes in human affairs to squelch pride — from mighty empires to personal ambitions.
“That is why Scripture says, ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’” (James 4:6 NIV)
God’s grace and favour! That’s what I long for — every day. Perhaps, that’s why I admire the Psalms. Even when the psalmists felt vulnerable and oppressed by the forces of evil, they knew that they could always cry out to God. They experienced His favour deep within their being:
“A righteous man may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all.” (Psalm 34:19 NIV)
Of course, the most astounding “but the Lord” intervention was the Christ Child’s arrival. The God of the universe came down — not through a mighty tower, but through a humble birth. He stooped very low to reverse the curse of sin, to bring hope and salvation, to liberate us from the grips of guilt and self-effort, and to free us for His love.
Recently, I myself experienced a “but the Lord” intervention through the message, Meeting the Real Jesus by Tim Keller. That changed my besetting focus from my own efforts to simply God’s extravagant favour through grace.
Let us all look forward to the best “but the Lord” experience yet: His new eternal city, the Holy City, where we will fully enjoy His lavish favour:
“And provide for those who grieve in Zion — to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.” (Isaiah 61:3a NIV)
Prayer: Lord, intervene in our thoughts so that we stop saying, “Look what the world has come to!” and instead declare, “Look what has come to the world!” Worthy is the Lamb! King of kings! Halleluiah! Amen.
Copyright © 2022, by Diane Eaton <email@example.com>, first published on the PresbyCan Daily Devotional presbycan.ca
Paisley, Ontario, Canada
Used with the permission of PresbyCan and author.