What Old Faithful Taught Me About God’s Faithfulness
It was high time.
I got my first view of the other-worldly grandeur of Yellowstone National Park last week. As I sat among the throng who crunched popcorn, positioned tripods, and collectively spoke at least six different languages while they waited for Old Faithful to blow—at 6:38 p.m., give or take 15 minutes—three truths about faithfulness burst upon me.
I’ll share those in a jiff.
But first, what is faithfulness? More to the point, what is God’s faithfulness?
Samuel Saldivar says God’s faithfulness means he is “unchanging in his nature, true to his Word, has promised salvation to his people, and will keep his promises forever.”
It follows that God is worthy of our trust “no matter how unlikely his promises seem.”
Because God always keeps his word.
If you only have a minute, here are my three takeaways from Old Faithful.
- God is faithful.
- To see God’s faithfulness I must look for it.
- Seeing God’s faithfulness makes me want to be faithful.
Old Faithful Delivers
It’s not the tallest or loudest, or even the most breathtaking or beautiful. Steamboat Geyser is bigger, Artists’ Paint Pots are brighter, and the Anemone Geyser is busier.
But Old Faithful is by far the most popular destination at Yellowstone National Park.
Because, as much as we love surprise and adventure, we rely on faithfulness. Over three million visitors last year relied on Old Faithful’s faithfulness.
We need predictability. I walked into the ranger’s station, checked the “Next Eruption” sign, and made our plans accordingly. We want to know what to expect, and when.
I liked knowing that when the sign said Old Faithful would erupt at 6:38 p.m., give or take 15 minutes, we would see Old Faithful erupt at 6:38 p.m., give or take 15 minutes.
And we did—at 6:34 p.m. to be precise.
I think that “faithfulness” is exactly why the world fills a barren corner of Wyoming to standing room only, day after day after day.
The crowds come because Old Faithful delivers.
Takeaway #1: God is Faithful
I already know this, and I expect you do too.
But seeing Old Faithful burst on schedule reminded me of the penultimate standard of faithfulness.
God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it? (Numbers 23:19)
Faithfulness is who God is. It is how he says his name. When Moses asked the Lord to reveal himself this is how he did:
The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.” (Exodus 34:6)
Faithfulness springs up from the ground, and righteousness looks down from the sky. (Psalm 85:11)
I love how Derek Kidner explains this verse. It is as if the faithful God, who is always righteous, elicits faithfulness in his children on earth.
Steadfast love and faithfulness meet they are partners. There’s a suggestion that the partner qualities face each other from heaven and earth; respectively, as God‘s grace and earth‘s response through grace. Heaven and earth reach out towards each other in perfect partnership, no longer at cross purposes.Derek Kidner, on Psalm 85:12
Faithfulness springs up when righteousness looks down, and when we see it.
Takeaway #2: We Will Miss God’s Faithfulness If We Don’t Look
I almost missed it.
Most of you know I love to walk and I don’t love to “waste” time. So, with forty minutes till showtime, my son and I took a hike around Geyser Hill. That’s where we saw Plume Geyser and Anemone Geyser, the Lion Group and Heart Spring. I had just turned onto the 2.1 mile, rise of 160 feet, Observation Point Loop—yes, I am notorious for my national park loop savvy—when my 16 year-old stopped me.
“Hey Mom, I don’t think we should. We might not get back in time.”
He was wise, and we turned back. Had we gone into the woods, we would have missed Old Faithful blow. But not because the beauty wasn’t there, but because we’d have been walking in the woods.
But if we had wandered away and missed the geyser’s eruption, but then decided to return, Old Faithful would not have refused to erupt for us. Every 90 minutes, its faithfulness is on display.
If we are faithless, he always remains faithful. He cannot deny his own nature. (2 Timothy 2:13)
God’s faithfulness is always on display. But if I’m not looking for it, I will miss it. It’ll be lost on me.
Takeaway #3: When We See God’s Faithfulness, We Want to be Faithful
We become what we behold. Faithfulness is both a fruit and a pursuit, as are all parts of the fruit of God’s Spirit.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness… (Galatians 5:22)
Faithfulness is unnatural. Being true to our word is hard. Keeping our word when it hurts is supernatural.
When Psalm 15 describes the kind of person who dwells “on God’s holy hill,” one of the marks of that person is that “he swears to his own hurt and does not change.” In other words, he keeps his word.
Even when it’s costly or inconvenient, our word should be gold and our yes should mean yes.
It was a bitter pill when I delivered it to my twelve-year-old son who desperately wanted out when a better offer came along. FOMO—the fear of missing out—is real.
Only by faith that our faithfulness pleases our faithful Lord can we keep our word.
A Faithful Friend Who Can Find?
Many a man proclaims his own loving-kindness and goodness, but a faithful man who can find?(Proverbs 20:6)
I ran the germ form of this post past a friend as we walked this morning, and I couldn’t help but cringe near the end.
Because I was eight minutes late to walk with that same friend: I said 8:00 and I arrived at 8:08.
But you know what Mary said?
She said, “Friends are never late.”
I made her wait. But I’ll receive her kind words still.
Because, “whatever offense has been caused, the great overarching reality of divine love and fidelity remains unchanged.” Alec Motyer wrote that in his commentary on Psalm 108. In that, I hear a ring of 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins.”
And I give thanks to my Lord and my God, my best Friend, who is forever faithful.
I will give thanks to you, O Lord, among the peoples;
I will sing praises to you among the nations.
For your steadfast love is great above the heavens;
your faithfulness reaches to the clouds.
Be exalted, O God, above the heavens!
Let your glory be over all the earth!