By Tony Tench
Struggle! Oh, how the people of Israel struggled!
The books of 1 and 2 Kings in the Hebrew Scripture are all about the struggles the Israelites had to face largely because the kings who led them struggled to be obedient to God and chart a godly course for the nation. So, yes, struggle was their way of life BUT not because God’s power had left them hanging!
In fact, the day came when the Syrians came up with this great strategy for defeating Israel. They convinced themselves that the Israelites had an advantage in the highlands because the LORD is a god of the hills. They figured to themselves, “Let’s get them out in the open and we will beat them.”
But God had another thing in mind. The text reads:
A man of God came near and said to the king of Israel, “Thus says the Lord, ‘Because the Syrians have said, “The Lord is a god of the hills, but he is not a god of the valleys…you shall know that I am the Lord.’”1 Kings 20:28
God proved to everyone in those days that he was actually, “God of it all” …the hills, the valleys, all of it. Which is an essential lesson that needs to permeate the way we approach our lives as well.
The “hills” represent the places of advantage, above the dangers of life, when we are at our strongest and most self-sufficient. Prepared! Ready! Positioned for success. Where it’s easy to find places to hide and take a break. There, if we are mindful of his presence, God will definitely be at work.
But, too, the “valleys” represent the times when we are exposed, face-to-face with all that makes us afraid. Where there is no place to hide when the fight comes our way. We can’t catch a break in the action because we’re in the middle of it. Guess what, even there, God will definitely be at work. In fact, as he says to the king of Israel, it is there, in those valleys of struggle, where we will come to know the truth, “I am the LORD.”
While we thank God for the times we journey in the hills, maybe today, we are having to tread the valley paths. If that is where you are today, then please remember to surrender your heart to the Father’s presence, for there, he will find his way to show you that he is “God of it All!”
Today, on All-Saints Day*, the stories of Christ Followers who have gone before us continue to resound as examples of this reality and call our thoughts to dwell upon that which prevails in the struggles! So many fellow Christians of old lived in the “valley” but knew Jesus there as “God of if All!” For example, these testimonies recount faith in the valley:
“How they are thrown to the wild beasts to make them deny the Lord! How unconquerable they are! Do you not see that the more of them that are executed, the more do the others grow in number? That is clearly not the work of men. That is the power of God. That is the proof of his presence.”Letter to Diognetus 7, circa AD 150
“The martyrdom of holy Polycarp was on the second day of the month of Xanticus, on the seventh day before the Kalends of March, on the great Sabbath, at the eighth hour. He was arrested by Herod, in the high-priesthood of Philip of Tralles, in the proconsulate of Statius Quadratus, in the everlasting reign of Jesus Christ.”Circa AD 166
So, yes, if you feel life as “struggle” today and it all seems to be more than you can manage, then go ahead and admit that it is definitely more than you can manage. But, the Lord, He is “God of it all” and he has revealed himself in Jesus who reigns in the hills and the valleys. And thus, we sing on with the church triumphant:
Thou wast their Rock, their Fortress, and their Might; Thou, Lord, their Captain in the well-fought fight; Thou in the darkness drear their one true light. Alleluia! Alleluia!“For All the Saints,” William Walsham How, 1864
*All-Saints Day is November 1