Joshua 8; Psalm 139; Jeremiah 2; Matthew 16
A letter from a missionary requests prayer that the virus threat would soon be over so she can get back to work. People talk about a return to ‘normal’ meaning they want their lives to be what they were before this pandemic. This way of thinking reminds me of a noted Christian educator who said, “Christians deeply resist change — forgetting that is our destiny.”
Jeremiah spoke to a people who had abandoned God. They didn’t want change either. He said of their problems, “Have you not brought this upon yourself by forsaking the Lord your God, when he led you in the way?” (Jeremiah 2:17) This prophet went on:
“As a thief is shamed when caught, so the house of Israel shall be shamed: they, their kings, their officials, their priests, and their prophets, who say to a tree, ‘You are my father,’ and to a stone, ‘You gave me birth.’ For they have turned their back to me, and not their face. But in the time of their trouble they say, ‘Arise and save us!’ But where are your gods that you made for yourself? Let them arise, if they can save you, in your time of trouble; for as many as your cities are your gods, O Judah. (Jeremiah 2:26–28)
This morning’s newspaper had pictures of people crowding beaches, going to parties, saying ‘no way’ to social distancing and to being careful . . . as the statistics are rising and thousands are getting this virus and dying. While we don’t like loss of control and our government telling us what to do, the Bible is clear: yield to God (totally) and obey the governing authorities even if they are doing a lousy job of it (in our opinion) for God has put them in place and to resist our leaders is to resist God. (See Romans 13). We want our way and resist change.
God doesn’t work the way we think He should. His priority is not my comfort. While He cares for me and wants to bless me, His priorities are revealed in Jesus Christ. This passage says much about the error of worshiping the good life, even of putting my priority on ‘normal’ and life itself:
From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? (Matthew 16:21–26)
The things of man? Peter figured that of all people Jesus should not die. He was clueless about the plan of God to use the death of His only Son to change the world. Am I clueless about the purpose of Covid-19 in the plan of God? I hope not.
Come after Him and deny myself? Deny what? That could mean watching TV, eating too much dessert, loafing in the sun, all sorts of good life things, but Jesus says self-denial means my whole life. It means losing all desire and effort to gain the world — which Scripture defines as the “desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and the pride of life.” (see 1 John 2:15-17). I’m asked to pray that things return to ‘normal’ but I don’t think so, not if normal means going back to the opposite of the will of God and enjoying what keeps me from putting Him first.
APPLY: Give up any idea that I or the rest of the world needs what we call normal when it includes that so-called freedom to do whatever we want. Romans 12:1-2 tells me to present my body as a living sacrifice to God, holy and acceptable to Him for this is worship. I’m not to be conformed to this world/age but transformed. My thinking is to be like His thinking so I can discern His will and realize its perfection, that it is good. Woe to me should I ask Him to make life like it used to be when my destiny, and the destiny of the whole world, is change . . . change that glorifies God.