This is a test

Therefore the LORD was very angry with Israel and said, “Because this nation has violated the covenant I ordained for their ancestors and has not listened to me, I will no longer drive out before them any of the nations Joshua left when he died. I will use them to test Israel and see whether they will keep the way of the LORD and walk in it as their ancestors did.”

Judges 2:20 -22

These are the nations the LORD left to test all those Israelites who had not experienced any of the wars in Canaan (he did this only to teach warfare to the descendants of the Israelites who had not had previous battle experience).

Judges 3:1-2

I wasn’t going to write about this because it seems I have written a lot about spiritual battles lately, but when it came up two days in a row while reading through the Bible, I knew I was supposed to write something.

What are the things that God is leaving in our lives to drive us to trust Him and keep His way?

Why do we need to be battle-tested?

What new thing does God want us prepared for?

I tell myself that I prefer the verses about God leading us beside still waters and making us lie down in green pastures. But when I look back on my life, I do enjoy the sense of victory over a challenge that came my way. So, I guess I am thankful for both – the peace and the battles.

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It’s Your Fault

While reading through Deuteronomy this morning I ran across these verses:

23 At that time I pleaded with the LORD: … 25 Let me go over and see the good land beyond the Jordan—that fine hill country and Lebanon.” 26 But because of you the LORD was angry with me and would not listen to me. “That is enough,” the LORD said. “Do not speak to me anymore about this matter.”

Deuteronomy 3: 23, 25-26

I had to stop and read verse 26 again. Did Moses just switch from writing a narrative to directly interacting with his audience? Who is the “you” he is referring to in that verse? I read the first section of that chapter again, and could find no direct clues. I had my hunches, but I thought it best to look further. So I kept reading.

This is what I ran into:

The LORD was angry with me because of you, and he solemnly swore that I would not cross the Jordan and enter the good land the LORD your God is giving you as your inheritance.

Deuteronomy 4:21

During this section, Moses was talking directly to the Israelites so he was most definitely meaning, “you fellow Israelites,” when he used the pronoun, “you.”

He DID mean, “you fellow Israelites,” back in chapter 3. I was shocked. I couldn’t believe that Moses, of all people, would blame others for what God clearly told him was his fault. I have always struggled a bit with how harsh God’s punishment seemed to be for Moses when he struck the rock instead of speaking to it (see the story in Numbers 20). But only God knows the heart, so He must have seen something that He realized required discipline.

As I am writing this I am realizing that Moses’ patent refusal to accept responsibility for his own actions, that were in direct conflict with what God had explicitly told him, show why God didn’t allow him to lead the Israelites farther into Canaan. Conquering Canaan was going to require all sorts of crazy, strange, unique and downright ridiculous-seeming strategies that would need to be followed without editing or questioning. Moses liked to question.

Moses had done an amazing job getting the Israelites this far. But he was getting tired.

It is heartening to me that God chose to use someone as human as Moses, who, even at the end, wasn’t perfect.

This passage is also getting me thinking – what in my life is out of reach because of actions that I have not taken responsibility for?

Speaking from the experience of being a person with autism, and having relatives with autism, I can say with some confidence, that blaming others for things we should take responsibility for is a common struggle for us. Neurotypical people can struggle in this area, too. But it seems especially prevalent among those of us with autism.

Here’s to owning our mistakes and making it a better day, with God’s help, of course!

Even heroes need comfort

lonely hero

Genesis 24:67

Isaac married Rebekah. So she became his wife, and he loved her; and Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death.This verse struck me.

Here this 40 year old bachelor nomad meets and marries this beautiful girl in the same afternoon. There is no record of Isaac’s verbal reaction to the the story of how God miraculously guided his father’s servant to the girl, that God encouraged her relatives to let her go, and that God gave her excitement to go to a place she has never been to marry a man she has never met.

I suppose the fact that he did listen and then immediately married Rebekah means that the story of her arrival meant something to him. And it does say that Isaac not only married Rebekah, but that he truly loved her.

But I must admit that I didn’t like the very end of the verse: and Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death. Being at the end like that left me feeling like he used his marriage just as a way of finding comfort.

The Bible says that Isaac’s mom, Sarah, lived until she was 127 years old, which would mean that Isaac was about 37 when she died.

Being his mom’s only child probably meant that she totally doted on him. And he was relatively young when she died. Losing her would have been a big deal. So I can see why he needed comfort. But still. She’s your wife! How about loving her for her?

In the next chapters of Genesis there is no mention of thoughts of his mom, only love for his wife and how he wants God to bless her. So while his relationship with Rebekah did help assuage the grief caused by the loss of his mother, he was thrilled to be married to Rebekah, herself, as a person, not just as a comfort.

This shows that the Bible heroes of old loved and lost and needed help getting over those loses just like us today.  I thank God that I have a husband who I love just for himself. But I also thank God that my husband can be a comfort to me in the face of other little losses that I face throughout the day.

No one can replace God, but it is nice that He gives us other humans to help us along the way.

Kernels of Truth

apricot kernel.jpgWhile reading in Genesis today, several things struck me.

Abram and his nephew Lot have decided to part ways because the land cannot support them staying together because of their wealth in livestock and their large households.

These are the verses that caught my eye:

Genesis 13:10

“Lot looked around and saw that the whole plain of the Jordan toward Zoar was well watered, like the garden of the LORD, like the land of Egypt. (This was before the LORD destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.)”

Genesis 13:13

“Now the people of Sodom were wicked and were sinning greatly against the LORD.”

Many people have a hard time with Christianity because they can’t trust a God who would punish people who supposedly don’t know him. But here God says that the people were sinning greatly against him. Because God accuses them about sinning against him, to me, that seems to say that somehow they are aware of what he wants them to do and are specifically choosing against it.

In these passages, it is only about 500 years since the Flood took place, and the original survivors of the flood were God-fearing people. Lot is clearly well-versed on God, as he compares the plains of Jordan to the Garden of Eden. Of course, he is Abram’s nephew, and Abram is a serious follower of God, so Lot would have been taught all about God by Abram. But the fact that thoughts of God’s stories flowed so naturally from Lot when doing something as non-spiritual as selfishly choosing the best piece of land for himself seems to say that the stories of God were a big part of everyday life at that time.

This all reminded me that all people on earth are descended from people who loved God and were committed to serving him and telling future generations about him. So, while there truly are people now who know nothing of the name of Jesus, most have at least kernels of God’s truth in their cultural stories, kernels that God uses to help them see the truth, kernels that God may ask us to use when talking to them about Jesus.

I need to read up on those kernels for the people that God has asked me to share Him with.

Also, it is comforting to be reminded that God isn’t unfair.

Christians are just good people, right?

Christianity is just a way to make people good, right? So as long as you are a religion, and you are being good, it doesn’t matter which religion you are.

That’s what a dear friend of mine had to say the other day. What do you think?

My first thought was that it does matter which religion you are, and Christianity is much more than making someone good. But I decided that rather than spout the first thing that came to mind, I would mull over what God’s answer to that would be – what He has said through the Bible.

Jesus refutes the idea of any religion getting you to heaven pretty adamantly in John 14:6

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father (i.e. gets into heaven) except through me.

But this whole idea that Christianity is just to make people good got me thinking.

Jesus says that only God is good, in Matthew 19:17. Well, there is no way I am going to be able to be that, then!

But here is some hope from Paul’s letter to the Galatians (3:27):

And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on Christ, like putting on new clothes.

I actually ran into numerous places in the Bible where we are encouraged to put on the righteousness of God through Jesus. Have a look for yourselves. I was surprised at the number of times this concept comes up.

So, it seems, on our own, we definitely cannot be good. But with the Holy Spirit in us, given to us when we decide to become a Christian, we can be all sorts of Godly things like loving, peaceful, patient, kind, joyful, gentle, self-controlled, and good.

Notice that to be good, we must be in a relationship, first with Jesus, who then gives us the  Holy Spirit, so that we can finally confidently come before God.

So I guess being good is an important outgrowth of being a Christian, but a relationship with God is “where it’s at.”

The benefits of being good, are many, though sometimes being good can cause suffering. And I am thankful for God’s mercy when I fail at it yet again. So while being good is, well, good, it is not my favorite part of Christianity.

My favorite part of Christianity is that there is a purpose to my life, even on the days when life feels mundane.

What is your favorite part?