Back in the day when Christ was born, there were several announcements to herald his birth. One such announcement started outside of his home, in the home of Mary's relative Elizabeth. Elizabeth and Zechariah had been waiting for a child for a long time. They receive this visitation from an angel when it is Zechariah's time to be tending to the altar in the Temple. The angel announces the "fore-runner" of Jesus - John the Baptist. To this aging couple would come a child - one who would point the way to the Christ child. He would be a Nazarite, live in the desert, and announce the coming of the Messiah. Imagine the pleasure to have waited so long for a child, almost past your childbearing years, and then receive a grand message such as this. What an honor to be the parents of the one who would prepare a way for the earthly ministry of Jesus! Angels came to Mary to announce the birth of Christ. Angels set Joseph's heart at ease that Mary hadn't "snuck around" on Joseph while they were engaged, getting herself "knocked-up" by some other man. Angels announce his arrival and angels continued to "care for" him in the early days of his birth - watching over this Christ child and announcing to prepared hearts his arrival had finally come. In essence the angels did more than announce - they also gave a warning of what was about to come. Not every message heard was the easiest to take. Some were instructional, others were warnings to avoid a certain path or direction. Most of what God provides in life is one or the other - instruction to guide us or warnings to keep us safe.
By your teachings, Lord, I am warned; by obeying them, I am greatly rewarded. None of us know our faults. Forgive me when I sin without knowing it. Don’t let me do wrong on purpose, Lord, or let sin have control over my life. Then I will be innocent, and not guilty of some terrible fault. (Psalm 19:11-13 CEV)
I think this is what David might have been saying when he penned these words for us. It is by God's teachings (his written word) that we are warned. By our obedience to these warnings, we find great and lasting reward. Just as was the case with each of the angelic visitations surrounding Christ's birth and early life, the one receiving the message had two choices - dismiss it as superstitious mumbo-jumbo, or embrace it as God-given direction for their lives. The Word of God is not superstitious mumbo-jumbo, my friends. It contains warnings for our safety, direction for our navigation of life's challenges, and encouragement for life's disappointments. In keeping the instruction, we enjoy great reward. In turning often to the instruction contained within the pages of scripture, we are opening ourselves to find great treasures and continued "course-corrections" as necessary.
Look at what David is saying:
- It is by God's teachings we are warned. A warning is a notice given to tell of some impending danger or possible harm. Without a notice of this nature, we'd head into things with the absence of awareness and be caught up before we have a moment to even process what has happened to us. I think this is one of the most valuable parts of how scripture helps us in life - giving us an awareness of our actions so we aren't just walking around "unaware" of issues which might come our way. God's plan has always been to give "early warning" to those who have ears to hear and a heart to listen. What set Mary, Elizabeth, the shepherds, or even the Magi apart from others may have been this willingness to listen to what they received in a message from God. All God wants of his kids is their attentive consideration of the warnings he gives.
- By obeying them we are greatly rewarded. I guess this is where the rubber meets the road for most of us. We hear a whole lot, and it even tickles our fancies when we hear it, but making the words we hear become the actions we take is a different matter. Mary had to believe God when he told her she'd conceive, not in the ordinary manner of man laying with woman, but supernaturally through the Spirit of God. Joseph had to believe God had been the one touching Mary's life in this manner, not some man in the neighborhood. Elizabeth had to accept the truth she wasn't past the age of childbearing, even though outward signs signaled otherwise. In obedience, we are greatly rewarded. What does God provide through his scripture to us today? When we ponder it fully, is our response one of disbelief, rejecting it? Or is our response one of trust, stepping fully into what he directs, no matter how unrealistic it seems? Obedience makes the difference!
- None of us knows our faults. Maybe this is where scripture really takes on a specific purpose in our lives. We don't know our own faults - why? It is simply because we have blinders to what we do, but plainly see clearly (and can point out with pinpoint accuracy) what another does or doesn't do. We see the actions of others long before we see those in ourselves. Maybe this is why scripture contains so many "stories" of the lives of others - to help us see where it is we have the same "faults" in life! In so doing, we take what we see "in another" and begin to examine ourselves. In essence, we use the life failure of another to show us where the same tendencies exist within us - simply because we don't see these faults in us naturally. We need the supernatural to unveil our eyes!
- We can do wrong on purpose; sin can gain control if we let it. There is some truth to the fact that we "fall" into sin without even knowing it - those are the faults we are unaware of. Then there are times when we just plunge deep into sin's mire with full knowledge and what should have been adequate warning to avoid it! Why? Sin pushes to gain control - righteousness pulls to regain control. It is a battle of sorts - one pushing us further into our own mired circumstances while the other is pulling us upward and out of the pit we have been digging for ourselves. When we are willing to turn to the warnings in scripture, taking them seriously, we find the pull of sin is less each time we obey the warnings!
We may not receive the angelic visitations of old - but we have been given some basic instruction which is just as practical, insightful, and helpful. All we need to do is turn to the instruction we have been given - not as a mythical book of phrases, but as a "playbook" of sorts which is designed to give us the best offensive and defensive stance as we walk through this life. Just sayin!