“Yet I destroyed the Amorite as Israel advanced; his height was like the cedars, and he was as sturdy as the oaks; I destroyed his fruit above and his roots beneath. And I brought you from the land of Egypt and led you forty years in the wilderness in order to possess the land of the Amorite. I raised up some of your sons as prophets and some of your young men as Nazirites. Is this not the case, Israelites? This is the Lord’s declaration.” (CSB – Read the chapter)
Some sins are generational. When I was growing up, my family was within a few days of making our first pilgrimage to Disney World. I remember being upset about something and, standing in our front yard facing the door to the house where my dad stood, I complained that I didn’t have much to be happy about at the moment. He actually didn’t kill me. One of my own boys recently bemoaned how awful his life is. I didn’t kill him either, but reminded him of the many blessings he does enjoy. As a parent, this kind of thing makes you want to scream and pull your hair out. But it also makes you want to throw your hands up and shout, “What?!?!?” That’s a little like what God seems to be feeling here.
God talks about judging Israel for their sins and then lists out some pretty gross injustices that we talked about yesterday. Here, though, He essentially pauses His critiques to say, “Look at everything I’ve done for you. And you’re still doing all of this awful stuff?!?”
Because our minds and hearts are shaped by the New Testament idea of chosen-ness, we tend to think about it in pretty positive terms. Being chosen by God in Christ is the ticket to eternal life. It is the entryway to the blessings of the kingdom of God. It is the way to gain access to all kinds of good things. Then, we hear about Israel being chosen and assume it worked in mostly the same way.
It didn’t. Not entirely.
For Israel, being chosen meant that God was intending to accomplish His plans through them. There would be blessings in abundance if they went willingly, blessings about which He was both specific and clear on multiple occasions. But, if they didn’t, He was still going to accomplish His plan through them, they would simply have a bumpier way there. They would experience life like any other nation. He wouldn’t let them be destroyed entirely like other nations were (and indeed, all of their ancient neighbors are gone while Israel yet persists), but that didn’t mean He would shield them from the full and painful experience of being like everyone else if that’s the path they chose.
Still, He did everything He could to convince them that the path He was inviting them to take was the best one. He removed roadblocks to their progress. He gave them land and prosperity and peace. He gave them direction through spiritual leaders who could lead them faithfully. He made their way as open and easy as possible. And they still didn’t take it.
You can hear a bit of His exasperation in the final line in this little passage. Is this not the case? Haven’t I done all of these things for you? And you still choose rebellion and idolatry and injustice? You can almost see Him following this up with an even more exasperated, “What’s wrong with you?” But of course He knew.
Now, as I’ve said many times before, our relationship with God isn’t the same as theirs was and so we cannot simply take what God said to them and apply it to us. That being said, think for a minute about what God has done in your life. What blessings from Him have you enjoyed? How has He worked incredible good out of bad situations that you couldn’t have even imagined when you were in the middle of them? Where has He removed roadblocks in your life or provided for you when you couldn’t see any other way or kept you from experiencing the full weight of a bad choice or any of a number of other things?
Here’s the challenge point: How have you responded? Have you responded with faithfulness and obedience? Or have you instead chosen a way of rebellion and injustice? Have you given your life to Him more fully in order to experience the wonder of His great plans for you? Or have you chosen your own way in spite of His goodness?
He is patiently wooing you, and His patience is long, but it will not last forever. If you have experienced the good only He can bring, respond like Israel didn’t and commit yourself fully to walking in His way. That is the only way that will lead to life. You’ve just got to be willing to follow.