Read Psalm 135.
I did not come by my green thumb naturally. I acquired it the old-fashioned way—through trial and error, sweat and blood. And even though our annual garden produces all the tomatoes, zucchini, cucumbers, onions, beans, and squash we need, I’m still learning.
To be honest, any success I have in the agricultural arts is due to my bride. Laurin does all the research. She knows when to plant, what nutrients to provide the soil, and how to defend our veggies from bugs and disease. I’m mainly a foot soldier in the fight.
We don’t need to garden. In Middle Tennessee, we have plenty of local farms that provide fresh fruits and vegetables in season. If we wanted to, we could abandon the hassle of planting and watering and invasive species removal. (You’ve got to be vigilant about tomato worms!) But we go through the long ritual each year in our small backyard because we want our three boys to know that the food they eat comes from God, not a store.
We want them to wait expectantly for that day when the tiny sprouts first push through the dirt and, weeks later, to know the joy of eating a cherry tomato straight off the vine. We want them to feel the soil, the water, and the heat of the sun, and to understand the connection between God’s provision and the veggies on their plate. Every plant in the garden is a small miracle—a dead seed buried, raised to new life.
It’s important to rehearse the miracles and to remember who God really is. A garden is one, small way to do it, but God has also given us Scripture. It is a record of God’s work in this world. It’s not a complete record, mind you. We experience God’s touch in our lives down to this day. The Bible, however, invites us into the story God is telling. To understand our place, we must recognize the nature of the tale. Psalm 135 helps us do just that.
In the psalm, there are two storylines. The first is God’s choice and preservation of Israel. The psalmist writes, “For the LORD has chosen Jacob to be his own, Israel to be his treasured possession” (v. 4). The second is Yahweh’s superiority to other gods: “I know that the LORD is great, that our Lord is greater than all gods” (v. 5). These might seem like separate issues, but to the faithful Israelites hearing these words, they would have been inextricably connected, not unlike my pole beans that knot and tangle themselves in and through and around their cages. God’s love for Israel is only cause for joy if He is truly more powerful than the gods of the nations that surround His people.
The psalmist first looks around. “The LORD does whatever pleases him, in the heavens and on the earth, in the seas and all their depths” (v. 6). He is not competing with other gods for control of the weather and the elements, areas of concern for ancient people dependent on crops for their livelihood.
Then the psalmist looks back, to remember that God rescued His people from slavery, and in the process, defeated the gods of Egypt. This included Pharaoh, who was believed to be the son of Ra (vv. 8–9). He then brought His people into the promised land, and as the ragtag Israelite army marched, God brought them victory over tribes and nations under the influence of dark spiritual forces (vv. 10–12).
All at once, this psalm seems otherworldly for those of us sitting comfortably in some corner of the developed world in the twenty-first century. We don’t often think in terms of national or territorial gods, but the story of God’s people in the Old Testament is our story too. Not only that, the New Testament doubles down on their view of the world: “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12).
This is the story in which we find ourselves, and everything in it—absolutely everything—is spiritual. While we get caught up in the day-to-day hassles and humdrum of life, there is a battle waging all around us.
Most people wouldn’t look at a cucumber and see a weapon of war, but as we use it to teach our boys about the goodness of God, that’s exactly what it is. We’re training up soldiers for God’s army. We’re declaring, as a family, whose side we’re on. These small, everyday moments are more important than we can imagine.
In Christ, we have been chosen from out of this world (Ephesians 1:4; 1 Peter 2:9). We have become God’s possession. And just as surely as He rescued the Israelites from Egypt and brought them into the promised land, He has rescued us from sin and death, and will bring us through this age to a home where violence and oppression cease, where goodness and mercy overflow the banks of the river of life. In the meantime, we fight not with our hands, but with our minds and hearts. We are to praise the Lord in everything we do (Psalm 135:1, 21). Our decisions matter; our allegiances matter. No one is neutral, and there is nowhere we can go to avoid the fight. But there is One in whose arms we can rest. There is One who has secured the victory.