Friday, July 24, 2015

Thinking Twice Before Promising God Anything.

Our Rash Promises to God
Exodus 24:3: Then Moses came and recounted to the people all the words of the Lord and all the ordinances; and all the people answered with one voice, and said, “All the words which the Lord has spoken we will do!”
After God tells Moses what He wants Him to do next, Moses goes down the mountain and tells the Israelites all that God has said from Exodus 20:1 to 24:2. Then verse 3 tells us that ‘all the people’ answered with ‘one voice’ saying, “We will do all that God said.”
God had given them all His instructions, His laws, and His ordinances.  What we have here in verse 3 of this chapter is the people accepting the conditions for the promises. (Collectively and as one which is interesting in itself – did anyone have a differing opinion?)  In short, here we have a “Covenant between God and His People” that really needed as much thought put into accepting it as God had put into offering it.  Later in the chapter, we will see the preparations for a ratification of the Covenant celebration. Let us for the moment stick to this verse and the utterance of the people.
Commentator David Guzik suggests, “Israel here is perhaps guilty of tremendous over-confidence. The way they seemed to easily say to God, "we will keep Your law" seems to lack appreciation for how complete and searching God's law is.” But Guzik also goes on to explain why they may have been so.  He writes, “However, a nation that had been terrified by God's awesome presence at Sinai was in no state of mind to do anything but agree with God.”  I am not so sure. I believe had the “awesomeness” of God been met with humility by the Israelites, they may well have said, “God we want to obey your words and keep your Covenant but we need your help to do so.”
Matthew Henry adds some interesting insights. Henry points out Moses did not snow the Israelites but rather explained all that God had said in detail and then “fairly put it to them whether they were willing to submit to these laws or no.”  And he continues, “The people unanimously consented to the terms proposed, without reservation or exception.”
Back in Exodus 19:1-8 they had already consented to be under God’s government (to be His people and He would be their God), but now they needed to agree to His laws.  Henry says, “Many consent to the law, and yet do not live up to it; they have nothing to except against it, and yet will not persuade themselves to be ruled by it.” Yet in so doing, they had signed on the dotted line – if they observed His requirements, He would fulfill His promises. They just had to obey.
Chuck Smith on the other hand, is much harder on the Israelites. He says “The Children of Israel lied to God when they said that they would do all that God commanded them to do.”  I would challenge him on this.  When does a failure to comply become a lie? For example, if a man said to his beloved, “I love you with all my heart and always will”, did he lie at the point when he said that, or does that turn into a lie at the point when he leaves her for someone else? I think the latter but we’ll leave Smith alone for the moment as he was trying to make a point. And that being, that we too have often had our words become lies when we have not kept our promises to God.
He goes on to point out that God knew that we would be lying when we promise to keep His laws or make other promises we have broken. Sometimes we say we will “do” something and don’t.  Sometimes we promise “not to do” something again and do. We have a natural bent and history in behaving that way. So why do we make promises to God?
Unfortunately, it is often to make a deal with God. Smith would agree with us that the problem is not a lack of sincerity.  We mean it when we promise something to God and that is proven by the fact that we are often so very disappointed with ourselves when we “blow it again”. But Smith says there’s a bright side to this whole thing:
“God is never disappointed when you break your promise. He knew all the time that you could not keep it. You see, making a vow is to put trust in our flesh, and Paul said, I know that in me, that is, in my flesh, there dwells no good thing.”

He suggests one possible answer to our failures to keep our promises to God is simply not to make them. Instead, we need to ask God to help us do what is right and to help us overcome the flesh. But we cannot do nothing. It is not okay to simply fail and leave things at that and just go on merrily being, or calling ourselves, Christians. If that were the case, Christianity would be no different than other religions. So, another provision was made for us.  Smith continues:
“Jesus not only taught the right way to live, He fully practiced what he preached. He made provisions for forgiveness for failure. He then promised to come and indwell your life to give you the power to live the way God wants us to live. He said, ‘You will receive power after the Holy Spirit comes upon you and you shall be witnesses of me. In that day you shall know that I am in my Father, and you are in Me, and I am in you.’”

Finally, Smith writes, “God has not changed His laws to accommodate our weakness. But He has taken residence within us to empower us to keep His ideal. Paul explains this in Romans 8.”
If we do nothing else about failures from here on in, may we think twice before we rush to promise God anything? But better still, may we realize that when we do fail, God does not want us to remain in the “failure” category in anything that we do. He has provided a way for us.

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