July 8, 2010

To Live is Christ — welcoming His instruction

Even as I read the Old Testament and God’s words to His people Israel, I hear Him talking to me. Their history and mine have so many parallels. Just as they were taken from slavery in Egypt, I have been delivered from slavery to sin. Just as they rebelled and were brought back into bondage for a time, that has happened to me. As they wandered in a wilderness on their way to a better land, I have also wandered. God’s purposes and warnings for them resonate in my ears too.
Every commandment which I command you today you must be careful to observe, that you may live and multiply, and go in and possess the land of which the Lord swore to your fathers. And you shall remember that the Lord your God led you all the way these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you and test you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not. So He humbled you, allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna which you did not know nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord. Your garments did not wear out on you, nor did your foot swell these forty years. You should know in your heart that as a man chastens his son, so the Lord your God chastens you. Therefore you shall keep the commandments of the Lord your God, to walk in His ways and to fear Him. For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs, that flow out of valleys and hills. . . . (Deuteronomy 8:1–7)
I am on a journey. As the old hymn says, this earth is not my home, I am just passing through. In the passing, God is preparing me to live in a better land. Here, He tests to see if I will obey Him. He humbles me and lets me feel needy, then reveals truth that satisfies and proves that His Word is my sustenance.

I’m not always wandering, yet even in those wilderness experiences, He faithfully provides my needs. I’m continually aware of His goodness and His commands. I’m also aware that this life and this world is not all there is. A better land awaits me, a land that I deeply long to see.

Today’s devotional reading focuses on the verses about chastening. Some versions translate this as discipline or correction. My Hebrew dictionary says it can mean to discipline, to chasten, to instruct, to teach, to punish. Another says these two poles of meaning (chastening or instructing) at times merge. God often “chides toward an instructive end” and says that a disciplined person is blessed, though the process is painful. However, for those who rebel against God and do not know Him, His chastisement is negative and can bring great desolation.

Sometimes I ask for chastening, not by deliberate disobedience, but by asking God to show me where I am in error, or what needs correcting in my life. At times I’ve joked that when I pray like that, then I duck! This is one prayer that will get quick answers.

My devotional reading says it is better to be directed by God than corrected by Him, yet correction is unavoidable. Sinful people make mistakes. I might not err deliberately, but I’m not perfect. I don’t need to be a slave to sin, yet sometimes my old nature cracks the whip and instead of running from it, I jump to its bidding. The first indication is often guilt, but sometimes I’m not sure what I did wrong. I’ve lost my joy and am “tipped over” without knowing what I need to correct. This is when I welcome God’s discipline and for good reason . . . 

Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. (Hebrews 12:11)
Despite the friend who teased me with, “What you don’t know won’t convict you,” I want to know. I want to be convicted and corrected, so I ask God to do what He needs to do that I might be more like Jesus.

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