It is one thing to "know" something - quite another to "do" it. I know how to eat well - to choose the right thing to eat continually is a struggle! We know rewards of eating right always outweigh the short-lived enjoyment of the wrong choices! So, why do we act surprised when we get on the scale and see a few extra pounds? We made the choices - now we see the consequences. The truth is both the knowledge and the action must connect in order to get the results we desire. This is one of the hardest lessons to learn, is it not?
Keep and live out the entire commandment that I'm commanding you today so that you'll live and prosper and enter and own the land that God promised to your ancestors. Remember every road that God led you on for those forty years in the wilderness, pushing you to your limits, testing you so that he would know what you were made of, whether you would keep his commandments or not. He put you through hard times. He made you go hungry. Then he fed you with manna, something neither you nor your parents knew anything about, so you would learn that men and women don't live by bread only; we live by every word that comes from God's mouth. Your clothes didn't wear out and your feet didn't blister those forty years. You learned deep in your heart that God disciplines you in the same ways a father disciplines his child. (Deuteronomy 8:1-5 The Message)
Israel finds themselves on the verge of greatness as a nation. God has delivered them from one of the biggest struggles of their lives - their servitude to Egypt as nothing more than menial laborers in their fields and homes. They "came out" to be "brought in". They were delivered to be free, not to enter into another form of slavery. So many times, we get "delivered" from one object of "trial" only to be faced with another. We thought we'd arrived, but realize it was only one leg of the journey!
Experiencing God in every dimension of our lives is definitely a journey which takes a lifetime. It is not a one-time deal, or an on again - off again experience. In fact, if we look at the examples recorded for us in scripture, we see every diverging path of one of God's faithful leading to an obstacle of some sorts - until they come face-to-face with the reality the path was the wrong choice to make.
As God instructs Israel, the lessons were repeated over-and-over again. Sometimes I get exasperated when I have to explain things more than once or twice - how about you? Yet, God is infinitely more patient than me! In the explaining we always find evidence of his grace. In the re-explaining, we experience the evidence of his grace. Amazing, right?
Here are some points from our passage today:
1. Keep and live out the commandments - not some, but all. It is not up to us to pick out which will "suit us", or to "tailor" them to our circumstances. If God says, "Don't", then it means don't. If he says, "Go", then we'd better be up and about it. Look at the instruction again - KEEP and LIVE OUT. Sometimes I think we believe "keeping" to be a one time deal - God thinks it is a lifetime project!
2. Remember every road you've been on? The instruction is to "remember every road God leads us on" - not necessarily every road we have chosen to follow by our own doing. I think we get this muddled up in our minds - thinking the negative roads were God's doing. In fact, they were probably a result of our own choice. God instructs us to remember the ones he designed for us - those are the ones where we were tested and proven faithful. When we mix the two up, we have a tendency to get confused by the shame and guilt the wrong roads produced.
3. Hard times are followed by refreshing. No amount of bad compares to the good God gives at the end of the journey. Today's trials are just tomorrow's blessings in disguise. As long as the road is the one God places us on, we are in good hands. If we diverge on our own path, even the obstacle he places in the path of our own choice is a sign of his grace and intense love for us. The obstacle is a call to turn around!
4. God's disciplines are good. He never disciplines haphazardly. God's disciplines are never directed at us in anger. There is always hope in his discipline. There is a fresh infilling of grace. If we find ourselves disciplined - we also find ourselves intensely loved!
Don't lose sight of the most important thing - even the obstacle in your path today is a sign of God's intense love! How we deal with the obstacle determines the path we will follow next. We can either experience the next obstacle, or turn again into the path he designs for us. The choice is up to us. The weight of one path is light - the other, not so easy to bear up under. Which path are you walking today?