Light to Live By

"The unfolding of your words gives light ..." (Psalm 119:130a)

Month: April 2014

Sacrifice vs. Obedience

obey.sacrifice

And Samuel said, “Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams.” (1 Samuel 15:22)

Samuel told Saul to defeat the Amalekites, destroying all life (v.3). Saul led his troops in an overwhelming victory, but he spared their king and “the best of the sheep and of the oxen and of the fattened calves and the lambs, and all that was good …” (v.9a). God informed Samuel that Saul had not obeyed and that He had thus rejected him from being king over Israel (v.10). When confronted by Samuel, Saul said, “the people spared the best of the sheep and oxen to sacrifice to the Lord your God.” (v.15).

God wants our explicit and exact obedience to His Word, not our self-manufactured notions of sacrifice. Oswald Chambers astutely observed that “The counterfeit of obedience is a state of mind in which you work up occasions to sacrifice yourself.”

We end up deluded by our own rationalizations, offering to God sacrifices of “worship” and “service” that He neither asked for nor desires, while withholding the obedience that is distasteful to us. It is possible to live one’s Christian life amid delusions and rationalizations dressed up like sacrifice and worship, which are in fact an avoidance of the very thing Jesus commands of us. We often embrace a sacrifice whose price we are glad to pay to cover for obedience whose price we are unwilling to pay.

Questions for reflection and prayer:

  • What might such “sacrifices” include?
  • What might we be trying to hide by making these “sacrifices”?
  • What motivates such “sacrifice”?
  • Why do you think such “sacrifices” are so convincing?
  • Apart from a “Samuel” pointing out the delusion of such “sacrifices” in our own lives, how might we become aware of our self-deception?

The Drive to Become a Sanctified Driver

roadrage

Jesus’ words has strong words to say about the connection between anger and murder (Matthew 5:21-26). As I was preaching on this portion of Scripture recently it struck me how many of my illustrations related to driving. Venturing onto the roadways definitely tests our sanctification! I confess that my competitive side too often rears its ugly head when I’m on the road. Being cut off, disrespected, disregarded, ignored, and put in danger are a driver’s frequent experience. And lets be honest, we are not always the victims. Sometimes we are the perpetrators, even if at times unwittingly.

I end up praying a lot while I drive—and a not insignificant percentage of that is split between: 1) confession of sinful attitudes on my part, and 2) request for God’s blessing on a driver I naturally think otherwise about.

So it got me to thinking, how can we I better see sanctification integrated into my behind-the-wheel life? As I contemplated this I considered how driving is the primary mode of transportation in our day, but walking was about the only means of transportation in Jesus’ day. And I recalled how often the New Testament uses walking as a metaphor for the unfolding of one’s life. The apostles often used this imagery to picture our Christian faith. So it got me to thinking, What if we substituted “drive” for “walk” in some of the NT’s instructions?

I realize the exchange is not perfect, but a glance below will reveal that it does shed some helpful light upon our roadway routine!

  • “We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might [drive] in newness of life.” (Romans 6:4)
  • God gave His Holy Spirit “… in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who [drive] not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” (Romans 8:4)
  • “Let us [drive] properly as in the daytime … not in quarreling and jealousy.” (Romans 13:13)
  • “… for we [drive] by faith, not by sight.” (2 Corinthians 5:7). (Hmmm … I’m going to have think on that one a bit more!)
  • “But I say, [drive] by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” (Galatians 5:16)
  • “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should [drive] in them.” (Ephesians 2:10)
  • “I … urge you to [drive] in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called.” (Ephesians 4:1)
  • “[Drive] in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” (Ephesians 5:2)
  • “… at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. [Drive] as children of light.” (Ephesians 5:8)
  • “Look carefully then how you [drive], not as unwise but as wise.” (Ephesians 5:15)
  • “Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who [drive] according to the example you have in us.” (Philippians 3:17)
  • “For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, [drive] as enemies of the cross of Christ.” (Philippians 3:18)
  • “If we say we have fellowship with him while we [drive] in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we [drive] in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” (1 John 1:6-7)
  • “But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and [drives] in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.” (1 John 2:11)

No, the exchange of drive for walk isn’t flawless, but it is convicting. And it gives me something to pray about (with my eyes wide open!) when I’m behind the wheel.

I’m Right Behind You!

following.hard

This morning I was reading in Joshua and came again upon the account of aged Caleb asking for his inheritance. I noted the three-fold repetition of this phrase:

  • “I wholly followed the LORD my God …” (Joshua 14:8b)
  • “… you have wholly followed the LORD my God …” (v.9b)
  • “… he wholly followed the LORD, the God of Israel. (v.14b).

This is a three-fold witness: first there is the testimony of Caleb himself (v.8b), then the testimony of Moses (v.9b), and finally the testimony of the writer of Joshua (v.14b). Let everything be confirmed by two or three witnesses (Numb. 35:30; Deut. 17:6; 19:15)!

The expression “wholly followed” renders a two word combination in the Hebrew: the verb “to fill” and the preposition “behind/after.” Literally the phrase is “filled behind Yahweh.” The verb is in the Piel form, indicating intensive action: “utterly filled” (or, as per ESV, “wholly” filled). And the personal pronoun (“I”) is emphatic—as in contrast to “my brothers who went up with me [and] made the heart of the people melt” (v.8a).

וְאָנֹכִ֣י מִלֵּ֔אתִי אַחֲרֵ֖י יְהוָ֥ה“I, even I, utterly filled behind Yahweh my God”

Caleb himself filled up behind the Lord as soon as it was clear where the Lord was headed and what He was doing.

Whatever the will of God required, whatever the need of the hour was, whatever the advance of God’s mission necessitated—Caleb filled in immediately behind the Lord with his faith-filled availability and obedience. The space immediately behind God (if one can even speak in such terms!) as He moved forward in His plan was immediately filled up with Caleb—willing, ready, eager, obedient, willing to risk anything to be first in line after the Lord.

Caleb is the picture of an eagerly, energetically, enthusiastically obedient servant of God. His life was marked by an urgency in all matters of obedience.

He was this way when he went with Joshua and ten other spies on a recognizance mission into the Promised Land a generation before (Numb. 13-14). He was this way forty-five years later as he followed after Joshua’s leadership in taking the Promised Land (Josh. 14:10-11).

Caleb anticipated David’s prayer at a later time: “My soul followeth hard after thee.” (Psa 63:8a, KJV)

I’m reminded that sometimes a Caleb—with all his eagerness, energy, and enthusiasm—is forced to endure a desert of someone else’s making. What were those four decades in the wilderness like for Caleb? Torture, no doubt!

Imagine Caleb as he watched all the adults of his generation (except Joshua and himself) fall one by one over the years. Imagine those latter years as the remaining souls of that generation thinned and grew few in number. What conversations did Caleb have with them or they with him? How did he pray for them? What strange cocktail of emotions surged through him as he attended their funerals? When the last one passed and the final “amen” was intoned at his funeral and the potato salad was finally gone at the meal after the services—did Caleb jump up and yell, “OK already! Let’s go! Let’s get on with it! Let’s go take the Promised Land!”?

I have to ask myself: Have I been a Caleb? Am I a Caleb today? Or have I been a willing, but reticent follower of God? Have I been hesitant, doubting, reserved, lethargic, slothful, even lazy with regard to the mission and will of God?

Lord God, please forgive me for too often being hesitant, reserved, doubting and lethargic in following you and obeying your voice. I ask you to enable me to eagerly, faithfully, energetically fill full whatever your will requires. Give me the energy, desire and faith to so follow you. In Jesus’ Name, amen!

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