Monday, July 13, 2015

God's Special Formula for Blessing Works

The Richness of God’s Promises
Exodus 23:25-26: “But you shall serve the Lord your God, and He shall bless your bread and your water; and I will remove sickness from your midst. There shall be no one miscarrying or barren in your land; I will fulfill the number of your days.”
God basically told the Israelites that He would protect them from their enemies and they would be part of the battle by their “utterly overthrowing” them and breaking their “sacred pillars”. And in the process or rather while doing so, they were also to serve the Lord.
What was God saying to them? What is He saying to us, in essence, in these verses? It appears like a complex formula for success – but it can really be boiled down to three simple things: dependence on God; doing our part; and serving Him. If we’re struggling in life, it’s not always because we have sinned or made bad decisions. It’s not always about Him teaching us more things and making us stronger, although that happens in the process almost always.  It just may be that we really, I mean really, have not come face-to-face with what it means to fully depend on Him, fully obey Him through our actions, and fully serve Him.
Full dependence on Him sometimes requires more patience than we have; sometimes more faith and trust; and sometimes it means giving up what we are pursuing because He does not considerate it to be good for us, at least at this time. Are we ready to do that?
Fully obeying by doing our part may sometimes mean taking actions that cost something – our job, our friends, our assets, our comfort, our reputation, you name it.  I am in the process of reading that classic book by A. B. Bruce, written in 1877, entitled The Training of the Twelve.  In it, he writes, “They (the disciples) were animated by a devotion to Jesus and to the divine kingdom which made them capable of any sacrifice.” (brackets and emphasis mine)  I often wonder how many of us living in the western world possess that drive today.
And fully serving Him would require a conscious effort to begin each day having dedicated each moment, each conversation, each action, to Him, ensuring that it is pleasing to Him and a help to those He has brought into our lives – our spouse, parents, children, friends, associates, and even strangers.
I don’t know about you, but I have a long way to go to be able to fully ‘expect’ the kind of blessings God promised the Israelites in this passage. For in it, He talks about things that really would make any life much more desired.
God says He will bless our bread. He will see to it that we do not die of starvation. And we will have enough water and not die from thirst or poisoned water.  Matthew Henry points out that God did not promise a “feast of fat things and wines on the lees”.  But our simple bread and water will be “more refreshing and nourishing” with His blessing than such a fatty feast without. The availability of food was important to the Israelites for their survival and this has not changed for us.
While we need food to stay alive and healthy, we also need health to be able to eat and to enjoy our food.  God promised the Israelites would have that as well. In fact, He would “remove sickness” from them.  Imagine no sickness to continue and no new sickness to come. No diseases in the land that would kill off many or desolate the land. It is interesting that this same promise is made to us in the book of Revelation where the Apostle John is describing heaven where there will be no sickness or death. That which God promised His children in the wilderness, we ourselves, may not see until we get to heaven.
But wait, it does not end there. God promises the Israelites that He will increase their wealth, assumedly through the multiplication of their cattle (Henry says the animals would not “cast their young”.) And the number of Israelites shall also grow as “no one will have a miscarriage or be barren” in the land. People shall live to their full life expectancy. We know, by that phrase, that this is not just about “heaven” as people do not die in heaven – it was for the Israelites, for them, right there and then, if they claimed it and obeyed God. The question we would ask is whether or not any of it applies to us today, and if so, how?
Simple observation of our own lives, those of our relatives and friends, and the world around us, would tell us that this part of the promise was strictly for the Israelites at that time and only a symbolic glimpse, of what is in store for us in eternity.  Clearly man’s sin and his own greed for authority and control of his life, have made such a promise of God’s to be difficult to fulfill as we often do not keep our side of the bargain – we do not fully depend on Him, we do not obey Him totally, and we do not serve Him thoroughly.
But it need not be like that. (I do not mean to imply by my next statement that I am anywhere near where I should be in any of these regards [I stated that above], but simply to share that I am inching my way closer.) What I have discovered is that as I draw closer to God, as I rely more on Him, as I obey Him more, and as I serve Him more willingly, my life is indeed better. No, neither I nor my family members and friends stop having challenges in life, our material wealth is not multiplied, and I know there is no guarantee any of us will live to our full life expectancy; some have not. But yet life is less stressful and more enjoyable, and I am more content than before.
So can this precise promise that applied to the Israelites apply to us? Certainly, its key principle and lesson can, and I believe you will find that it does.

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