God’s persistent training

Our amazing God is faithful where I am unfaithful.

Having grown up in a culture concerned about right and wrong, it is easy to become caught up with a list of dos and don’ts. In Psalm 78 Israel’s failure is put differently. Rather than speaking of breaking laws, the psalmist speaks of disloyalty and unfaithfulness; terms important to relationship. Reading the Psalm in this light I see a pattern: Israel failed to grasp the greatness of God and were unwilling to entrust themselves completely to His care. They broke faith with Him creating their own solutions and even their own gods. It also speaks of our Lord’s persistence in pursuing Israel to draw them back to Himself.

When I put my life against this bar I do not come out well. For instance there have been times when words have come to mind that could challenge someone’s headlong drive towards folly that was later regretted. To my shame I have kept them to myself. It is a bit like “the men of Ephraim, though armed with bows, turned back on the day of battle.” (v9). Seen through the relational covenant lens, I betrayed God when I failed to deliver and give this child of His an opportunity to hear another perspective.

I look at my failures and wonder how God could trust me again. What I actually see Him doing though is training me in less challenging situations. Seeing these lessons gives hope that He can teach and change me.

 

Cannot rest?

Do I find it hard to rest because I have hardened my heart? We live in a generation that cannot rest but always looks for the next adventure or the next entertainment. Our culture is restless and we as Christians are influenced by it. Psalm 95 speaking of the people of Israel during the Exodus ends, ‘So I declared on oath in my anger, “They shall never enter my rest.”’ The Lord sometimes denies access to rest. This begs the question of our culture.

Why did God make this declaration? Backing up, God was angry because their hearts went astray and they had not known His ways. This is a characteristic of restlessness. When our hearts are captivated by surrounding distractions we have no space to focus on God and come to know His ways.

Going further back the Lord talks of a time in the desert when the people, lacking water, turned on Moses. Understandable maybe, but God’s verdict was that having experienced Him it was time to apply what they had seen and trust Him.  Instead, the people hardened their hearts. This was a crucial moment that ultimately led to restless wandering in the desert. So, have I hardened my heart? I don’t know but it is worth asking God to show me if I have!

The people of Israel were excluded from rest for a period: forty years. Maybe our gracious Father will draw us back into His rest? Maybe this is something to pray for the Church?

Putting off God

My sin was to neglect God. Yes I prayed, but on my terms not God’s.  Only when I sacrificed my drive to succeed could I honour Him and prepare a way to walk with Him. It was a minor crisis and I was deep into fixing it. I knew the Lord was knocking on my door to spend time together, but wanting progress I put Him off. He did not ignore my rudeness. Instead of the smooth progress I had the audacity to ask for, came frustration after frustration.

Eventually I came to my senses and broke away to spend time with my Father. This was the message – Psalm 50

“The mighty One God the Lord speaks and summons the earth … Our God comes and will not be silent” Well, I was summoned!  “Gather to me my consecrated ones who made a covenant with me …”

In a covenant with God I lose the right to push God aside. I am consecrated – set apart for Him.

“Hear, O my people and I will speak, O Israel and I will testify against you: I am God your God.”

God is God, So how can I put Him off while I work through my crisis? This is OUR crisis; we are together in covenant relationship and going together requires time together.

V22 “Consider this, you who forget God, … He who sacrifices thank offerings honours me, and prepares the way so that I may show him the salvation of God.”

When my heart was right he could bring me the progress, but by then He was more important than the crisis.