The Law is Good but We Are Not

sinaiReDiscovered Word 9

(Exodus 19-40, Leviticus)

Even though they could not obey it, the Law was good. God’s commands, God’s character, and God’s presence are always good. The problem was not the Law, but the people.

Moses ascended Sinai amidst the smoke and fire of God’s presence, and he remained there for 40 days. The people could see the smoke and the fire, but they were rightly afraid to draw too close.

During those days, God told Moses who He was and what He wanted from His people.

God is holy. 

God is powerful. 

God is present. 

God is good. 

It was clear to Israel that they could not approach God too closely. Yet it was also clear that He was present. He was with them. He cared about the details of their lives.

We look back to the Law and are tempted to see oppression and unreasonable regulations. They looked at the Law through the lens of God’s grace.

As they sought to follow God’s commands, they remembered that He was always there. He cared about the details: the clothes they wore (Dt 22:11), the food they ate (Lev 11), the way the treated their neighbors (Lev 19:18), and the way they worshiped Him (Lev 11:44-45).

At the heart of the Law was the simple concept that we were made to love God and others. No area of life was excluded. Everything they did reflected their hearts and revealed what they loved. The Law made that clear to the nation of Israel.

The Law spoke about the God who made them and wanted to know them. No other nation had the privilege of seeing God’s presence among them, of hearing His voice, of understanding how to worship Him.

No, the problem wasn’t the Law. The problem was the people. People like you and me, who are incapable of obedience. Even while Moses was on the mountain, even when they could see God’s glory emanating from the smoke and the fire, they chose to make an idol of gold.

We’re tempted to believe that if we only saw God, we would worship Him wholeheartedly. If only He showed up in power, if only we could see fire and smoke and miracles and hear His voice, we would always believe. The history of God’s own people tells us otherwise. The problem is not that we can’t see Him; it’s that we don’t trust Him.

We fail to believe what was at the very heart of God’s Law, which is that He loves us and wants to know us. We don’t believe that His way is best, so we set up our idols. It’s the same problem Israel had. We are incapable of obedience.

The problem with the Law was that it revealed God’s character but provided no power for them to obey. The history of Israel would make that painfully clear.

One day, though, God Himself would arrive in our midst, as a man, determined to bridge the gap. His death and resurrection would pave the way for our rebellion to be destroyed and for His Spirit to move in. The day would come when God would empower His people to obey.

Meanwhile, the people learned the painful lesson that God was good, but they were sinful. In His holiness God showed them how far they were from what He wanted of them. In His mercy He still moved closer to them. In His grace He forgave, and anticipated the day when He would send salvation.

We now live in the day of salvation and praise the God who showed us who He is and paved the way for us to know Him.

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The God Who Never Sleeps

Moses kills an EgyptianReDiscovered Word 7

(Exodus 1-14)

Never mistake God’s silence for indifference. He is patient, but He never sleeps. 

For 400 years, Jacob’s children felt the whip on their backs. They lived under a cloud of fear and oppression, slaves in a land far away from the home God promised. Generations came and went, all of them desperate for liberation. They cried to God in the middle of their suffering and heard nothing at all. The silence of God felt deafening, but He was never asleep.

Pharaoh forgot about Joseph, but God never did. The One who never sleeps or slumbers was waiting patiently. Not wanting any to perish, He gave the Amorites of Canaan 400 years to repent. When the time had come, He stretched out His mighty arm to crush the king of Egypt and set His people free. God is patient, but He’s never late.

We look at our world and we look at our lives and wonder if God sees the suffering of His children or hears the cries of His people who live under the ever-present shadow of death. We wonder when He will judge those who manufacture evil and perpetrate it without shame.

We cry to the heavens, and we wonder why God stays silent. But know this: God’s silence is not indifference, and the Day of the Lord will arrive right on time. God is patient, but He’s never late.

He waits for even the worst sinner to receive grace, but meanwhile He hears every cry for freedom. His eyes see the dark corners of our world and take note of every injustice. Rulers and kings may deny Him, and wicked men may mistake His patience for approval. But the day of judgment and liberation will come swiftly and surely.

Just as he did for Jacob’s children, God will move to set the slaves free and crush the proud in heart. The resurrected Redeemer will one day part the sky, just as He once parted the sea. Those who fall on His grace will be saved, delivered to the land He promised us, a land no evil can touch.

Meanwhile, we wait and pray and cry for deliverance. Our hope rests in the God who delivered His people from Egypt and delivered His Son from death. He is patient, and He is sometimes silent, but He is never asleep.

Wait for His coming.

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God’s Grace Falls Like Manna

This morning I was struck by Joshua 5:12:

“And the manna ceased the day after they ate the produce of the land. And there was no longer manna for the people of Israel, but they ate of the fruit of the land of Canaan that year.”

Consider this: For forty years, God’s people roamed the wilderness, unable to enter the Promised Land. Their sojourn was a result of God’s judgment on a nation that refused to trust Him. When they were promised a land flowing with milk and honey, they recoiled in fear, believing that the giants of Canaan were stronger than the power of God. Consequently, God made the people wander in the wilderness for 40 years, until everybody older than 20 died in the desert (Numbers 14).

And yet, in the midst of discipline and death, God kept providing manna for the people to eat. Think about that for a moment. Despite their sin and rebellion, and despite God’s judgment, He kept demonstrating His grace. He fed them. Day in and day out, he made sure the people stayed alive by raining His manna from heaven, a visible sign that He had not abandoned His people. He still loved them and provided for them.

I don’t know about you, but I need that reminder sometimes. I’m a sinful person, one of God’s people, but still tempted on a daily basis to succumb to the sort of rebellion that marked the Israelites in the wilderness. It troubles me, and from time to time I wonder if God is angry with me. I read Romans 8 and I believe that nothing can separate me from God’s love, yet I still struggle daily to accept that truth.

God kept giving them manna. He keeps providing for me. He keeps bringing me back to His Word. He keeps allowing me to serve Him. His grace does not cease and His love never fails. Like manna from heaven, it rains on me each day, even though I am far from deserving.

It’s raining on you, as well. Every moment that you are here, God is sustaining you with His grace, reminding you that He loves you. He is gently but firmly directing you to trust Him, even during those times of discipline and pain. So look up today. Say a prayer of gratitude for the loyal love of a God whose mercies are new every morning.

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I Want to Grow Up Now

I’ve been thinking about the topic of spiritual maturity a great deal lately. It seems to keep coming up in conversations, often with students and young adults who are frustrated by repeating the same patterns of sin over and over again. I know too well the discouragement of thinking that I should be further along than I am, that I’ll never amount to anything of significance because I still struggle with some very basic maturity issues.

But here’s the truth: maturity is measured in years, not in days or weeks or months. Sometimes that’s a tough pill to swallow. It bothers us that we still struggle with the same old sins, the ones we struggled with a year ago or ten years ago. Sure, there’s been some progress, but we want to be complete, fully mature. And we want it right now.

Whenever I feel that way, I take comfort in knowing that I’m not alone:

Abraham repeatedly made the mistake of lying about his wife’s identity because he didn’t trust God to protect him. Yet he was eventually willing to trust God with his only son.

Moses needed 40 years in the wilderness before he was ready for something great. He continued to struggle with impatience and a quick temper throughout his life, but he was the greatest leader Israel ever knew.

David needed several years of running from King Saul before he was prepared to ascend the throne. Even then, his reign wasn’t a perfect one and his character was often questionable. Yet God continued to forgive him and to use him in great ways.

Peter was a fascinating mixture of rock-solid faith and reckless personal ambition. But his impact for Christ was unparalleled in the early days of the Church.

I’m not saying we should sit back and complacently accept our sin. Quite the contrary. What I am saying is that maturity and eternal impact don’t come easily. And they don’t always come quickly. We live in a culture that idolizes youthfulness and expects us to make our mark on the world before we’re 25.

But that’s not realistic, or even biblical. Maturity is measured in years…and years…and years. If you feel discouraged by your lack of progress or by your lack of impact, remember that your story isn’t finished yet. In fact, when you consider the scope of eternity, it’s hardly begun yet.

The solution to your immaturity isn’t to throw up your hands in despair. Instead, the solution is to keep chasing the goal of knowing Christ, of conforming to His image, until the day you see Him face to face (Philippians 3:7-11). And along the way, who knows how He might use your life?

Do you ever feel frustrated by your lack of spiritual growth? How do you deal with that frustration?

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