With or Just Watching?

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Truly he did not know if the gods were with him, though he was sure they were watching, which was not quite the same thing.

— Sigurd Haraldarson, in Giles Kristian’s God of Vengeance, 242.

I’ve mentioned before how reading Viking historical fiction highlights for me the superiority of Yahweh, the true and Triune God, over any other pretender deity.

Having started Kristian’s prequel series The Rise of Sigurd, the same is still true. The Norsemen are constantly trying to earn the gods’ attention, and if they succeed, there is no guarantee that Odin Allfather will look favorably with his one eye.

In the hall of Jarl Guthorm, Sigurd boasts that the gods are with him, and thus Guthorm should support his mission of vengeance. But the boast is largely empty, because “he did not know if the gods were with him.” He only had confidence that they were watching, but it was cold comfort.

Compare that empty hopelessness with the declarations of Yahweh Himself:

This is what the LORD says:

Heaven is My throne,
and earth is My footstool.
What house could you possibly build for Me?
And what place could be My home?
My hand made all these things,
and so they came into being.

This is the LORD’s declaration.

I will look favorably on this kind of person:
one who is humble, submissive in spirit,
and trembles at My word (Isaiah 66:1-2 HCSB).

The promise of Zechariah 4 is that God does not miss even the smallest act of trust in Him:

These seven eyes of the LORD, which scan throughout the earth, will rejoice when they see the plumb line in Zerubbabel’s hand (Zechariah 4:10 HCSB).

The foundation of confidence is that

The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous,
and His ears are open to their cry for help (Psalm 34:15 HCSB).

Sigurd knew the gods were there, watching. He did not know if they were with him. He did not know if they were for him.

Yahweh is there, and He is watching, too. We don’t have to do anything to catch His attention. But He’s more than just watching:

Be strong and courageous; don’t be terrified or afraid of them. For it is the LORD your God who goes with you; He will not leave you or forsake you (Deuteronomy 31:6 HCSB).

Therefore, the Lord Himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive, have a son, and name him Immanuel (Isaiah 7:14 HCSB).

See, the virgin will become pregnant
and give birth to a son,
and they will name Him Immanuel,
which is translated ‘God is with us’ (Matthew 1:23 HCSB).

‘And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age’ (Matthew 28:20 HCSB).

Remember that He is greater and more powerful than any other, but He is kind and compassionate and Immanuel—God is with us.

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