Monday, June 9, 2014

Conforming to the Will of God

Deuteronomy 6:4  Hear, O Israel: The LORD is our God, the LORD alone. 5  You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. 6  Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. 7  Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise. 8  Bind them as a sign on your hand, fix them as an emblem on your forehead, 9  and write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. 10  When the LORD your God has brought you into the land that he swore to your ancestors, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give you--a land with fine, large cities that you did not build, 11  houses filled with all sorts of goods that you did not fill, hewn cisterns that you did not hew, vineyards and olive groves that you did not plant--and when you have eaten your fill, 12  take care that you do not forget the LORD, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. 13  The LORD your God you shall fear; him you shall serve, and by his name alone you shall swear. 14  Do not follow other gods, any of the gods of the peoples who are all around you, 15  because the LORD your God, who is present with you, is a jealous God. The anger of the LORD your God would be kindled against you and he would destroy you from the face of the earth. 16  Do not put the LORD your God to the test, as you tested him at Massah. 17  You must diligently keep the commandments of the LORD your God, and his decrees, and his statutes that he has commanded you. 18  Do what is right and good in the sight of the LORD, so that it may go well with you, and so that you may go in and occupy the good land that the LORD swore to your ancestors to give you, 19  thrusting out all your enemies from before you, as the LORD has promised. 20  When your children ask you in time to come, "What is the meaning of the decrees and the statutes and the ordinances that the LORD our God has commanded you?" 21  then you shall say to your children, "We were Pharaoh's slaves in Egypt, but the LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand. 22  The LORD displayed before our eyes great and awesome signs and wonders against Egypt, against Pharaoh and all his household. 23  He brought us out from there in order to bring us in, to give us the land that he promised on oath to our ancestors. 24  Then the LORD commanded us to observe all these statutes, to fear the LORD our God, for our lasting good, so as to keep us alive, as is now the case. 25  If we diligently observe this entire commandment before the LORD our God, as he has commanded us, we will be in the right."

This is a very difficult passage to work with. The first impression suggests that God assists a favoured nation to drive people off their land, out of their houses and away from their food. They are to “go in and occupy the good land that the LORD swore to your ancestors to give you, thrusting out all your enemies from before you, as the LORD has promised.”

A God who assists a nation in colonizing the land is a theme that has been used by many nations to justify occupying the land of their neighbours. This is evidenced in the colonizing aspirations of the British Empire, Nazi Germany, and the Apartheid Government of South Africa. All argued that they ruled their occupied land as a God-given trust. But a loving and just God does not crush the weak, or exclude the aliens – quite the contrary: Zephaniah brings a word from the Lord: “I will save the lame and gather the outcast, and I will change their shame into praise and renown in all the earth.” [1]   

I would therefore not want to justify the invasion of land by the children of Israel as God’s special favour. I would rather suggest that they – like many other nations – justified their land invasion by attributing it to God. And in this we learn our lesson for today – a tough lesson in the way we serve God: let us not equate our own greedy, selfish desires with the will of God. We need to work much harder at discovering what is the “good and acceptable and perfect” will of God.[2] This is when we bend our will to the will of God – rather than wanting to claim that God conforms to our will.
Take my will, and make it Thine; it shall be no longer mine.
Take my heart, it is Thine own; it shall be Thy royal throne.
Take my love, my Lord, I pour at Thy feet its treasure store.
Take myself, and I will be ever, only, all for Thee.
Words: Fran­ces R. Ha­ver­gal, Feb­ru­a­ry 1874.

Trinity Sunday
30 The Triune God
The Scripture passage for the day is drawn from Rueben Job and Norman Shawchuck, A Guide to Prayer for Ministers and other Servants, (Nashville, The Upper Room 1983), 190.
This reflection is from my own devotional exercises for the day.

[1] Zephaniah 3: 19
[2] Romans 12:2

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