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Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Leaving and cleaving

I know the passage I chose for today is a message to Israel - to turn from their wandering after other gods and to return to their first love - God himself.  Yet, in the words which unfold, there is some great teaching for everyone of God's kids.  I hope you will give me the liberty to share just a few thoughts from the passage below.

Out of here! Out of here! Leave this place!  Don’t look back. Don’t contaminate yourselves with plunder.  Just leave, but leave clean. Purify yourselves in the process of worship, carrying the holy vessels of GodBut you don’t have to be in a hurry.  You’re not running from anybody!  God is leading you out of here,  and the God of Israel is also your rear guard.  (Isaiah 52:11-12 MSG)

There are times when we plainly hear God telling us to beat a path in the totally opposite direction from the one we have been headed.  In contrast, there are also times when he confirms the path we are on and encourages us to keep traveling that "higher road".  Truth be told, we often need more warnings to turn around!  There is a process taught in the scriptures of leaving and cleaving.  We are to leave - go out of or away from something or someone.  The idea conveyed in leaving is the idea of never returning again.  There is a departure which is permanent.  We are then to cleave - to adhere closely, stick to something, cling to it as though your very life depended on it.  As equally as we were to move away from (in the completely opposite direction) something or someone who has caused us to travel a path which is not well-suited for a child of God, we are to cleave to the one clearly laid out by God.

The problem comes in our leaving.  It is like we treat our leaving as a little "vacation" from the issue.  Our leaving is not without its returning - kind of like when we board a plane to travel for a little while, but then return home.  Why do we return home?  It is a comfortable place for us - a familiar routine, a place of rest and comfort.  Did you ever stop to consider the things you take comfort in?  It may be a physical location, a relationship, or even your favorite chair.  For some, your place of comfort may not seem very comfortable!  To you, it is your routine.  Do you know the definition of routine?  It includes thoughts such as typical everyday activities; unvarying and habitual practices; and unimaginative, rote behaviors or actions.

So, if God asks for us to leave some familiar, rote, habitual, unvarying behavior or action, maybe it is gonna be a little harder than we might imagine.  Why?  Simply because our "routine" is being replaced by the unknown.  This is inherent in the process of leaving and cleaving - we embrace the unknown, leaving behind the known.  God's words to Israel should ring loud and clear in our ears, "Don't look back!"  Not only does God tell them to get up and get moving - away from where they have been - but he tells them the hazard of looking back!  If you are familiar with Lot and his wife, you know when she looked back, she didn't make out too well!  Looking back suggests a continued tie with the past.  The process of leaving and cleaving involves a "cutting" of the tie - much like a baby's umbilical cord is cut at birth.  The baby no longer is free to just lull around in the womb any longer - it has to breathe, find the breast, and somehow learn to explore this bright new world it has entered.

God gives us many dawnings of a bright new world.  The way we choose to embrace each of them makes all the difference in how much the new world will affect us.  If we try to embrace it while still "tethered" to the old, we will probably not get very far down the road because whatever tethers us to the old keeps us from enjoying the new.  God tells Israel to "just leave" and then he adds, "...but leave clean".  Curious, huh?  He tells them to get their hearts in right order as they leave.  Not just to "clean up their act", but to draw near to him in the process of leaving - to purify their hearts in worship.  This might just have something to do with how it is we make a clean break with that which we are leaving and learn to cleave to that which is in our new path.  We sometimes don't take the time to get with God on the matter of what it is we are leaving and we sure don't get with him on the stuff it is we are trying to cleave to.  In the process of leaving him out of the "leaving/cleaving", we simply don't purify our hearts.  That which remains in our hearts, though it be a fragment of what was once there, has the potential to continue to tug on our hearts.

I found it interesting God would tell Israel they did not need to be in a hurry - no one was pursuing them as they went about their "leaving".  I think we suspect just the opposite to be true - we need to be in a hurry to leave and in a hurry to cleave.  I think God might just be asking us to take some time leaving because there is some "sorting out" of junk which makes sense with the move!  This goes along with the process of purifying ourselves - we are ridding ourselves of the stuff which only clutters up our lives and ensuring we are only taking the stuff which adds purpose to our lives as we set out to our new destination.

Last, but definitely not least, God reminds them they are both being led out of their past and into the place of newness AND they have a rear-guard to ensure their past remains in the past.  He has our back, so to speak, as we go through this process of leaving and cleaving.  He knows things from the past will pursue us - so he places himself in the position of keeping distance from them and us!  Now, that should she a little light on how it is we break free from the "routine" in our lives and pursue the unfamiliar, but promising place of all newness!  So, get up, get moving, and make a clean break of it.  Purify yourself in worship as you do.  Then, don't be surprised when you recognize the great help of your protector and guide as you traverse between the known and comfortable into the unknown and a little bit scary.  God is both your guide and your rear-guard.  He has your back!  So, don't look back.  He has that all under control!  Just sayin!