Today’s Scriptures: From the Book of Common Prayer
Psalm 24, 29, 8, 84
How do we respond to the challenge of following God?
Every day at work I dread working through my email inbox and traditional mail box. In both I find more offers that are going to change my life in ways I did not know needed changing. I only have to subscribe to the magazine or follow some community on the Internet. Today we read about various experiences faced by people in determining to follow God.
The Psalms begin with reminding us of our unique relationship with God. The joys and benefits of following him are shared by the blessings that come though upholding the law (in Old Testament times) and maintaining our right relationship with him.
As Joshua addressed the Israelites as he prepared to die, he recounts the history of the Israelites with God and poses the question about whether they are going to consider those gods of the lands they had left, passed through, or conquered. In his presentation of the arrangement, he definitively demonstrates how he will respond to the options available. Given the abstract and defeated nature of the gods created by mankind versus the concrete and victorious nature of God, there was really little choice to make. The people making the choice had observed Gods actions among them or were no more than a single generation from those actions, so the tales remained very much alive among the Israelites.
Paul faced a different challenge in the Acts passage. The skeptics he encountered had neither experienced the ministry of Jesus nor observed the response of people in Israel. He presented both historical evidence and reason to them, yet many of them remained skeptical. Finally, in quoting one of the Isaiahs, he played a bit of the culture card by saying that people (Gentiles) would be accepting of the evidence that was presented. That a people whom God was supposed to hate could receive blessing that left them (Jews) out was simply unacceptable. They rethought the position and Paul had a fixed base for teaching for two years.
Jesus, once again faced the Pharisees regarding the admonition of working on the Sabbath. Once again, Jesus has to correct the Pharisees on their understanding of Scripture. The heart of the law as given by God has been lost on the Pharisees and they only see the definitive legalistic version of the law. Jesus has to remind them that the Sabbath (law) was given to benefit mankind, not to enslave mankind. Jesus assured that God’s love and care for people triumphed over the restriction of law. Verse 27 gives everyone a reminder to remember God’s love exceeds our understanding; we lean toward literal: God does not.
So much competes for our time and affection these days. Choosing to follow God takes a dedication, but it comes with rewards. When we are faced with the choice, remembering that God’s love overcomes any legalism we might be presented. Faced with that kind of love, the choice becomes easy.
Let us pause to reflect on the full meaning of a decision to follow God as he calls us into his service.