February 28, 2015

God keeps me, yet I must cooperate

Leviticus 26–27
John 10:22–42
Song of Solomon 8:10–14

When I was in Bible school, the professor of a synthesis class had us study the “blessings and curses” passages in the Old Testament books of Law. He showed how the words of the prophets written later invariable came from those passages. It was fascinating and gave me a greater appreciation for the unity of the Bible, even with many different human authors. A major section of blessings and curses is in Leviticus 26 . . .

“If you walk in my statutes and observe my commandments and do them, then I will give you your rains in their season, and the land shall yield its increase, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit. Your threshing shall last to the time of the grape harvest, and the grape harvest shall last to the time for sowing. And you shall eat your bread to the full and dwell in your land securely. I will give peace in the land, and you shall lie down, and none shall make you afraid. And I will remove harmful beasts from the land, and the sword shall not go through your land. You shall chase your enemies, and they shall fall before you by the sword. Five of you shall chase a hundred, and a hundred of you shall chase ten thousand, and your enemies shall fall before you by the sword. I will turn to you and make you fruitful and multiply you and will confirm my covenant with you.” (Leviticus 26:3–9)

“But if you will not listen to me and will not do all these commandments, if you spurn my statutes, and if your soul abhors my rules, so that you will not do all my commandments, but break my covenant, then I will do this to you: I will visit you with panic, with wasting disease and fever that consume the eyes and make the heart ache. And you shall sow your seed in vain, for your enemies shall eat it. I will set my face against you, and you shall be struck down before your enemies. Those who hate you shall rule over you, and you shall flee when none pursues you. And if in spite of this you will not listen to me, then I will discipline you again sevenfold for your sins, and I will break the pride of your power, and I will make your heavens like iron and your earth like bronze. And your strength shall be spent in vain, for your land shall not yield its increase, and the trees of the land shall not yield their fruit . . . . They shall stumble over one another, as if to escape a sword, though none pursues. And you shall have no power to stand before your enemies. And you shall perish among the nations, and the land of your enemies shall eat you up.” (Leviticus 26:14–20, 37–38)

God wants obedience and blesses His people when it happens, but disobedience brings trouble. While we could say that doing the wrong things brings those consequences on ourselves, the sovereignty of God does figure into the equation. He is the Lord.

The most amazing part of these passages, both here and in the prophets, is that invariable they end in with a promise of grace. Even though the people did not obey and wound up in captivity or worse, God still promised to pull them out of the messes they were in and remember the covenant that He made with them.

“Yet for all that, when they are in the land of their enemies, I will not spurn them, neither will I abhor them so as to destroy them utterly and break my covenant with them, for I am the Lord their God. But I will for their sake remember the covenant with their forefathers, whom I brought out of the land of Egypt in the sight of the nations, that I might be their God: I am the Lord.” (Leviticus 26: 44–45)

As a child of God under the new covenant, I am so very aware that God still blesses obedience. He also makes life terribly uncomfortable when I disobey. I know I could blame my conscience or say that my foolish choices produced those results, but that is only partly true. He is my God and He is Lord of all. He knows how to deal with His bratty daughter.

Right now, I am thankful for the blessings. The more determined I am to cooperate with Him, the more determined He seems to take care of me, even in ways that I never expect. One of the best blessing from obedience is greater intimacy with Jesus Christ. It is as He said . . .

“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” (John 10:27–30)

Christ is the Savior. I am not. Yet He blesses cooperation as He works to save me from sin and keep me in His care. He produces fruit in my life and gives me greater assurance that I am secure. His unity with the Father becomes more precious as I experience greater unity with Him.

This verse from Solomon’s Old Testament love poem reminds me that God purchased me for Himself, yet gives me stewardship also: “Solomon had a vineyard at Baal-hamon; he let out the vineyard to keepers; each one was to bring for its fruit a thousand pieces of silver.” (Song of Solomon 8:11)

That is, the Lord makes my life is fruitful for Him, yet bring the fruit to Him. I don’t fully understand how He works in me and I work out what He puts in, but it is a blessed relationship, even more blessed when I cooperate rather than do my own thing. 


Anonymous said...

Dear Elsie. I always think I should comment because I airways read that you like to hear from your readers. There was no quick comments button though so I'll have to say hello properly. I sit here tonight with a difficult decision wanting Good to give me an answer. ... But silence. I would share more but aren't too keen having mywriting up for all to read. ... so will just enjoy the blessing of your talented writing. Thank you

Elsie Montgomery said...

Dear Anonymous,
Silence is difficult when we feel pressured to move ahead. You can "be still and know" that He is God, that He is in charge, and that He knows your heart. Sometimes learning to wait is more important than having answers. I'm praying that your faith holds while you listen for His voice.