Have you ever just had something on your heart and mind for a while, and the thoughts just keep going? Well, that’s what this blog is today, and I’ll get back to my Proverbs 31 study after this. But I just wanted to share.
For months I’ve been reading through the historical books of the Bible, from Exodus through 2 Chronicles, (definitely not always an easy read), and I just finished up Malachi because it was written after the Jews’ initial return from exile (Between Ezra and Nehemiah). So in all this reading, it has blown my mind how incomplete all of the things the Jews had, did, were blessed with, etc. All of those things were completely incomplete.
What do I mean? Okay, so if you read through Deuteronomy, you will see an overview of all the laws and statues that the Lord had for the Jews to live by. Furthermore, you will see a long pronouncement of blessings if they obey (from having children, to herds and livestock multiplying, to harvests, to the defeat of their enemies, etc.) and an equally long pronouncement of curses if they are disobedient to the law of God. Reading through everything, you would naturally say that if you were promised all of the blessings that the Lord had promised just for being obedient, surely you would do what you were supposed to! But that was never the case.
The children of Israel eventually wanted to be like other nations and have a human king, so God gave them what they wanted. There were good kings (i.e. David, Hezekiah, and Josiah), but there were extremely wicked kings. Even when God personally spoke to individuals, promising them blessings if they were obedient, they somehow never trusted and never obeyed. Take a look at Jeroboam (1 Kings 12). God promised to establish his throne because the children of Israel were going to split into two nations. So Jeroboam became king over Israel, yet, because he didn’t want the people to become loyal to the house of David, he built golden calves and places of worship for them, convincing them that they should serve the gods he created and not make the long journey back to Jerusalem. It was pure craziness, but it worked. Jeroboam managed to lead basically 10 tribes into idolatry perpetually just because he wouldn’t obey the Lord and place his trust Him.
If you read through the history, you will find that all of the tangible things that God gave them were randomly incomplete. They were incomplete in the sense that it didn’t give them internal peace or joy. It didn’t aid in their faithfulness to God. It didn’t cause them to remain humble before God. The fact is, if the people were faithful to God, it was during the reign of a particularly good king who personally honored and reverenced God. But as soon as that king, or that prophet, or that high priest was dead, people became unfaithful again.
You would also think that by retelling their history, hearing the story of how God brought them up out of Egypt would spark genuine repentance and cause them to turn wholeheartedly to God, and it did for a short while. But they always returned to their sin. You would also think that by them having to deal with the judgment of God through being invaded and taken captive by other nations would have an effect on them, yet it only did for a very short while. Even after being exiled to Babylon, the book of Malachi gives God’s response to their arrogance and insolence to Him. The people had the audacity to tell God that He truly did not love them (Malachi 1:2), to tell God that He is unjust in that those who do evil are good in His sight (Malachi 2:17), and they even complained that it was pointless to serve and obey God because you don’t tangibly gain anything from it (Malachi 3:13-15).
It’s amazing to read about their unfaithfulness and their arrogance and pride towards the Lord. I mean, they just came out of exile! How do you do that? How is that your response? Honestly, it made absolutely no sense to me, until I began to compare the old and new covenants of God. I truly do not have the time here to thoroughly take you through the book of Galatians and Hebrews to compare the old and new covenants, but I greatly encourage you to read and meditate on them. Yet, I do want to put this here:
“For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near. Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, since the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have any consciousness of sins?” –Hebrews 10:1-2
The fact is that all of the Law, all that God gave the children of Israel at the beginning, was incomplete. It was not complete because it could not fully satisfy the needs of their hearts and souls. They obeyed and were blessed, but all of those blessings did not spur them on into further perpetual obedience and faithfulness. They disobeyed and were judged and chastised, but all of those judgments did not spur them on into further perpetual obedience and faithfulness. All in all, they needed something to permanently change within themselves. God was and is perfect. So, they were the problem, and they needed something to change their very nature and heart so that they wouldn’t go astray from God anymore.
People, they needed Christ! They needed the Son of God. They needed the Savior, the Redeemer. They needed the Lamb, the Lion of Judah, the Great High Priest. They needed Jesus Christ. All that they had before…houses, cities, lands, livestock, children, wealth, riches, long life, and on and on…all of these things were incomplete. All of these things could not satisfy the need of their souls. All of these things could not purify their hearts or minds. In fact, all of those things proved that you could have anything you could ask for in life, but if you lack Christ, you have nothing of worth at all.
And that is what has been on my heart most of all: You can have anything your heart desires in this life, but it is all worthless compared to having the life of Christ. I know many Christians claim to believe that, but my gosh, so few actually live that.
We pine away after things. We want newer cars, better homes (or at least apartments), better jobs, more money, more time off to really “enjoy” life, etc. We want and want and want and want…things, just things. We try to pull up Scriptures to support or desire to have earthly wealth. I mean, why do so many Christians hold onto the prosperity gospel so hard? We believe that God’s blessings are seen in the tangible things of this life. If we get that job we’ve been wanting, God has blessed us. If we get that new home we wanted, God is blessing us. If we get a promotion at work, truly God is “enlarging our territory”. We want to “name it and claim it.” We want to “take back what the devil has stolen from us.” We want to “declare” it’s ours in Jesus’ name! We just want all of these things.
I am realizing more and more each day the deceitfulness of this mindset in the Christian walk. It breaks my heart to see that we have exchanged the eternal blessings of our Lord and Savior for the ease and comfort of earthly possessions. We have placed more value on the things that we have here on earth than on the life of Christ that has been freely offered to us, though it took His very life to offer it. We are no longer blessed (or “made happy”) when we experience His new mercies every day. We are no longer happy when He offers us His abundant grace to walk through the trials of this life. We are no longer blessed when we experience His peace that surpasses are own understanding when we suffer for His sake. We are no longer happy when we daily live in His deep and abiding love for us. Surely, our happiness is not found in these places. Truly, these whimsical heavenly things are not the “real” blessings God has promised us, are they? I mean, grace, peace and love are great, but shouldn’t we have “great expectations” for the “real” blessings like homes, wealth, jobs, etc?
It really tears up my heart to see how wildly we have been deceived as Christians, to see how we have arrogantly told God that His Son was not enough. How dare we act like our Christ is insufficient or even incomplete! Truly, if we recount the stories of old, it was all of the tangible things that were found to be incomplete. It was all of the wealth, land, homes, and money that were not enough. Yet, we’re running around here “naming and claiming” like we need anything else more than the very life of Christ. It’s shameful, just as shameful as the arrogance of the Jews of old. We have scripture divided into 66 books, yet we live on catch-phrases. We throw out a relationship with God for His benefits alone. We act like gold-diggers, trifling, worthless, shameful people who want to extort the tangible riches of God and debase “the Way, the Truth, and the Life”.
You know, I’m repenting before God because I’ve long lived this way. But now, I consider that the life of Christ is worth all the inconvenience of never having much in this world. If having things does not cause me to be more faithful to God, I don’t want them. I just want Christ, more of Him. And I am praying for the church, for His body, to be cleansed of this iniquity. I’m praying that Christians repent and hold fast again to Christ alone, realizing that everything outside of Him is incomplete and absolutely insufficient.
“For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” –Romans 15:4-6