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Saturday, January 26, 2013

Submission and Stiff Necks

"The Christian life is very's just submission."

Simple, yes.
Easy?  Absolutely not.

But God is so merciful!

The other day I was reading in Psalm 106.  This section of Psalms praises God for the historical covenant keeping acts to Israel.  For example, the Exodus and the ousting of the Canaanites to make way for the Hebrews to live in the Promised Land are recorded in poetic summary.  I love how the Psalmist does this.  He tells the story and adds commentary to help the reader see what was going on below the surface.
One passage in particular struck me as a stunning example of the mercy of God.
Begin with the picture of the Israelites standing on the shore of the Red Sea watching the waters cover the Egyptians.  Think of all the people have gone through.  Centuries of oppression and slavery and crying out to God culminate at last with the coming of Moses and the awesome works of God.  Now, they see God's ultimate victory, exactly what they prayed for came to pass before their very eyes.  The army of Pharaoh is deluged at the bottom of the sea.
vs11-12: "The waters covered their enemies; There was not one of them left.  Then they believed His words; They sang His praise."  
And rightly so!  They sang His praise because they had reason to!  He had proven Himself to be the only God!  The God of gods more powerful than the false idols of the Egyptians.  Did they believe Him for long?  Did they sing His praises until they danced across the Jordan into the Promised Land?
Verses 13-15 reveal their incredible capacity for faithlessness and God's incredible mercy when the freedom high wore off.
"They soon forgot His works; They did not wait for His counsel, But lusted exceedingly in the wilderness, And tested god in the desert.  And He gave them their request, But sent leanness into their soul."  \

What a merciful God!  He is not the cosmic Santa Clause.  When He gave them what they asked for, He took away what they truly wanted.  That act of protection, "sending leanness into their soul," leads them back to God.  "Israel, you can't find what you're looking for anywhere else.  What your looking for can only be found in your God.  But you have to 'wait for His counsel'." It is mercy that He gives and mercy that He takes away.  Mercy that He allowed them to have what they thought they wanted so that they would eventually come to know what they truly needed.  

The rest of the Psalm details their rebellion against Moses, the creation of the golden calf, the complaints against God, the numerous idol worshiping scenarios that occurred in the wilderness, their disbelief at the springs of water, their disobedience in battle... And how does the Psalm end?  How does God deal with this unsubmissive people who do nothing but turn away from His goodness?
"Nevertheless He regarded their affliction."  The pain that they had brought upon themselves, God saw it and had mercy on them because of it.  "When He heard their cry; And for their sake He remembered His covenant, and relented according to the multitude of His mercies.  He also made them to be pitied by all those who carried them away captive."

He is the God who keeps His covenant.  No matter what.  Paul says in Romans 5, "Where sin abounded, grace abounded much more..."  As Israel was, so am I.  Sin abounds in my heart, and as a believer this fact discourages me constantly.  Until I remember His mercy.  He is the God who "forgives all your iniquity." (ps103).

Lord, teach me to submit to this catastrophic grace.  

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