August 11, 2019

If God’s people are joyful so are the trees!

In my mother’s day, she considered anyone who was ‘nice’ must be a Christian. If people were respectful or generally lived by biblical standards, they passed her test.  

Today, ‘nice’ is not usually the criteria. Being ‘nice’ isn’t the exclusive property of any group and everyone knows ‘nice’ people who cheat on their taxes or their spouse, tell lies, or worse. Some of the people who take loaded guns into public places to kill at random have been described as “he seemed so nice” by the shocked folks who knew them.

This morning in my ‘read through the Bible in a year’ these verses in one of the minor prophets caught my attention:

Hear the word of the Lord, O children of Israel, for the Lord has a controversy with the inhabitants of the land. There is no faithfulness or steadfast love, and no knowledge of God in the land; there is swearing, lying, murder, stealing, and committing adultery; they break all bounds, and bloodshed follows bloodshed. Therefore the land mourns, and all who dwell in it languish, and also the beasts of the field and the birds of the heavens, and even the fish of the sea are taken away. (Hosea 4:1–3)

God connects things that most of us do not connect. He describes the godlessness of people who were supposed to be ‘nice’ and how that played itself out in harmful behavior including bloodshed. Then He connects that reality with what is happening in their environment. The land is grieving. All living creatures are affected by their sin. He is not talking about human abuse of the land like pollution, but says the land was in mourning because these people rejected their Creator.

Is it possible that today’s spirit of godlessness has affected our environment in the same way? Many also neglect environmental responsibility, but is the world in bondage simply because so many have said NO to God?

I remember a NT passage that says the whole earth groans waiting for God’s people to appear, to come out of hiding, to be what we are supposed to be:

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. (Romans 8:18–21)

Mulling over these thoughts, I turned to today’s devotional reading. The following passage leaped out and yelled at me. I compared it to the one from Hosea that tells what happened because people were not paying attention to God and His Word, and the one in Romans that says something similar.

This passage gives a glimpse of the opposite by describing what happens when we are giving God’s Word our full attention. If it governs every part of our lives a radically different change happens:

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Colossians 3:16–17)

The verses that follow it continue describing change. Relationships become harmonious in marriage, family, work — and show that being a Christian is more than being ‘nice.’ It involves radical changes that one day even the environment will celebrate:

For you shall go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall break forth into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. (Isaiah 55:12)

Jesus, I am dismayed when taking in the news of the day, hearing of the sins that also dismayed Hosea and You. Humanity has not changed. We have this deadly inclination to go our own way. Some try to be ‘nice’ about it, but You know that ‘nice’ never produces the same thing as what the Holy Spirit can do in a heart that is fully yielded to You, fully given to reading and obeying Your Word. Forgive us for our horrid neglect and for turning our backs. Forgive us for letting the whole earth grieve because we stop listening to You and doing what You say.

Today’s thankful list . . .
You connected these verses and showed me the power of Your Word to change lives and the world we live in.
That I feel sorrow about our disobedience and that obeying You matters to me.
Hearing a wonderful sermon on the way to be wise.
Spending the afternoon with former neighbors.
Finding a quilt shop that still has a fabric that sold out so fast I nearly missed it.
The peace in our location and the peace in our hearts.

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