Friday, March 12, 2010

Pushing God Too Far

I've been enjoying some light, kinda fun bedtime reading that's also challenging and encouraging. It's the book, The Deliverer, by Linda Rios Brook.

The book claims (all right, pretends) to be the diary of a demon who's been assigned to observe Moses in the wilderness and report back to Satan, so Satan can find out something about what God might be up to with the Israelites.

The demon has just watched the terrible anger of God spill out over the Israelite camp, killing thousands of people, and now he's watching Moses deal with the aftermath of their great sin of worshipping the golden calf.

Moses has roundly scolded everyone over the incident, and they're trying to work out how to bury their dead, but now Aaron and Hur have come to Moses anxious that he do something. They are afraid the low morale of the people is leaving them vulnerable to attack by their enemies. They plead with Moses to plead with God for his forgiveness and deliverance in this situation.

The story continues as follows:
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Moses told Joshua to follow him at a distance as he trudged up the mountain in search of God. He wasn't hard to find. The mountain still manifested the glory of God as the fire and smoke billowed upward. Moses went to the last place he had been when God talked to him, sat down on a rock, and waited. It wasn't long before God revealed Himself and spoke to Moses.

"They are a rebellious people."

"Don't I know it?" Moses stood up and paced back and forth with his hands on his hips. "This is terrible. They have sinned an enormous sin! There's no excuse for it. It was the mixed people (Egyptians who came along into the Wilderness) who made the god of gold for them, but Your people are responsible for their willingness to worship it."

"Aaron is also responsible."

"Yes, I know, and believe me, he feels horrible about it. He's admitted his fault and has asked for forgiveness."


God did not respond. Moses waited a few minutes and then tried to move the conversation along.

"And now, if You will only forgive their sin."

"I will not," God interrupted.

Moses dropped to his knees with desperation written all over his face as he tried to persuade God to forgive.

"If you cannot forgive them, then erase me as well out of the Book of Life You've written."

"I'll only erase from My book those who sin against Me."

"If you don't forgive them, then I have failed You. My sin is greater than theirs, for I have been with You."

God remained silent. Moses closed his eyes and rocked back and forth on his knees, determined to wait for God to speak. After five minutes, he couldn't stand it. He opened one eye and whispered.

"Are You thinking it over?"

"All right. For now, lead the people to where I told you. My angel is going ahead of you. On the day, though, when I settle accounts, their sins will certainly be part of the settlement."

Moses nodded eagerly as if in total agreement.

"Now go. Get on your way from here, you and the people you brought up from the land of Egypt. Head for the land that I promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. I will send an angel ahead of you to the land flowing with milk and honey, and I'll drive out the Canaanites and the rest of your enemies before you. But I Myself will not go with you. They are such a stubborn, hardheaded people; I might destroy them on the journey."

(the demon speaks here) I was mesmerized. God spoke to Moses the way neighbors talk to each other over the backyard fence.

But Moses wouldn't quit. He kept right on pleading with God, just exactly as I'd told Satan he would.

"Lord, first You tell me, 'Lead this people,' and now You've changed Your mind and aren't going with us? You don't even let me know whom You're going to send with me. An angel? It's not the same. And it's not what we agreed to. You tell me, 'I know you well, and you are special to Me.' If I'm so special to You, let me in on Your plans. Don't send me where You won't go. How can I know You're still pleased with me if You make me go on without You? Don't forget; this is Your people, Your responsibility. I never wanted this job in the first place."

"Whoa there, Moses," I almost said out loud. "Take a good look at who you're talking to."

Moses didn’t' seem to be worried about pushing God too far. He paused for a moment and then kept right on going.

"If Your presence doesn't take the lead here, and if You won't go with us, let's call this trip off right now. How else will it be known that You're with me in this, with me and Your people"

He paused again, waiting for God to respond. When He didn't Moses just kept pushing. I wondered how far this might go before God had enough.

"Well, what's Your answer? Are You traveling with us or not? How else will we know that we're special among all other people on earth?"

I began to get nervous when God didn't say anything. I was afraid He might have left. From the beads of sweat on his upper lip, I knew Moses feared the same thing. After another unnerving minute, God finally spoke.

"All right. Just as you say; this also I will do, for I know you well, and you are special to Me. I know you by name, and I will go with you."

Moses clasped his hands together and waved them at God.

"Thank You, O Lord, for You are great and mighty and faithful to Your word."

Doesn't that beat all? God agreed to forgive the grievous sin of the people because Moses interceded for them. Isn't that just what I told Satan would happen? I was right; I didn't think it was fair, but I was right.
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Intriguing. I wonder, is it possible to push God too far?

Is it possible for us to NOT push Him far enough?

Good questions. I'm going to ruminate and post more on this topic. Meanwhile, comments, anyone?

Thursday, March 11, 2010

A Podium for God

I know I've blogged about this topic before, but it keeps coming up in my life. A recurring theme, it seems.

Today, my daughter and I were talking about how we hear from God. In our post-modern age, even in terms of our faith, we lean more and more toward listening to God in a mystical sense. We tune our ears to what the Bible calls God's still, small voice, rather than simply paying attention to what He says directly to our eyes in Scripture.

That may be okay. What God wants to say to us is certainly not limited to the written Word. It is still true that the written Word is the only reliable Word of God. Still, small voices can come from other sources, and what we hear from them must be tested against the Truth of Scripture. But, having said that, God does speak to us from inside our minds and hearts.

So why don't I hear from Him that way more often?

One reason may be that my life is so full of intruding distractions that He can't get a word in edgewise. I need to prepare a place for Him in my mind. I need to provide Him with a podium, and give Him an attentive audience.

In practical terms, what does that mean? It means I need to spend time apart from the distractions. I need to turn off the TV. Sit down with my Bible instead of watching a video. Abstain, for a period of time, from computer games. Or put away my list of things to do for a while.

I'm not good at this. Distractions fill my life. I go from one to another of them. I feel uncomfortable without them. I have to be doing all the time. Absorbed in something, even if it's the most meaningless occupation.

So if God wanted to speak to me, how would He have to go about it?

He might have to send me an e-mail. Or write something on my wall in Facebook. I check both of those communication channels obsessively.

He's certainly capable of doing that, but I suspect it's not His preferred modus operendi. He prefers the still, small voice, I'm sure. To hear it, I must be still. The other noises in my life must become small. This is still a growing edge for me.

Lord, help me to continually obey the command in your Word to be still, and know that You are God.