As God’s family, we have a desire to know God. We want, or want to want, God. But sometimes we choose to disagree with Him (sin). Then what? How does this change the way God thinks about us? Relates to us?
This question leads us into a colorful place. A place where what we do matters… and yet a place where God irrationally loves us not because of anything we've done or haven't done. Our response and God’s grace.
In Exodus, we read the story of Israel traveling through a desert. Israel was a community of people whom God gave special insight into to of what He’s like so that they’d live as a model (and invitation) for other nations to the good life, life with YHWH.
They’d been oppressed by the nation of Egypt for some 430 years, but because of recent God moments (Exodus 7-11), they weren’t only released from slavery, but actually encouraged to leave by their captors (12v31-33).
Starting in chapter 13, the story follows this people on a 40 year long journey of circling through a desert on their way to receive the gift God was giving them – land, a home. Some think this promised land was a reclaiming of the original garden we see in Genesis 1-3. Either way, the big idea was God leading them, like a caring shepherd leads her sheep, into what He’d promised them through Abram.
So that’s the basic context, but if you’ve read the story, you know Israel wasn’t always faithful to God and God’s way of life that He’d given them to obey. Plainly put, they… like us, wanted, or wanted to want, God. But sometimes they chose to disagree with God (sin). So what happened? How did this change the way God thought about them? Related to them?
Well, for starters, their disobedience caused issues for them. What they did mattered. It altered their living situation and relationships. There is a cause and effect to the way we choose to live. A cause and effect to our agreeing or disagreeing with God’s way.
This is the point many make. That you “better obey God.” And, I think they’re right. But you can be right for the wrong reason. Ever been right about something, but said it with the wrong tone? I have (ask my wife).
So to stay there, “obey because it’s right”, will lead you down a fairly selfish, arrogant, and prideful path on your journey of spiritual formation as a disciple of Jesus.
I’d like to show you Jeremiah 2v2-3. It’s the bigger picture. It’s the stepping out of Israel’s perception of reality based on how they may have felt and the trying on of the glasses God is wearing. The way God saw His people.
“This is what the LORD says:
“‘I remember the devotion of your youth,
how as a bride you loved me
and followed me through the wilderness,
through a land not sown.
Israel was holy to the Lord,
the first fruits of his harvest;
all who devoured her were held guilty,
and disaster overtook them,’”
declares the Lord.”
Did you see it? Did you feel the heart of God for these people? He sees them very differently than the way they acted in certain moments (based on their story in Exodus). They had failed God by worshiping idols. They had questioned if God had a plan or if He was powerful enough to help them. They fought against the leaders God had spoken to. They were a messy people… but even still, they wanted, or wanted to want, God. And more importantly, God loved them because He loved them because He loved them. And for that, God’s version of the story sounded a bit different.
In this, among other things, we see the kindness of God. And here’s where we step into a colorful place. A place where what we do matters… and yet a place where God irrationally loves us not because of anything we've done or haven't done. Our response and God’s grace. Romans 2v4 says:
“Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?” (NIV)
This is how to avoid a fairly selfish, arrogant, and prideful path on your journey of spiritual formation as you learn to be a disciple of Jesus. To recognize God’s kindness and to live God’s way because of it. Because of Love.
We see this in the relationships we have with people around us. We can act nice for a while, but unless we love them (for some deep reason), we cannot continue to live this way toward them.
We see this in nature. A tree does not move because it wants to or because it should. A tree moves because it allows the wind to be the wind and move it.
Today, may we give our attention to God’s kindness. May we be fueled by God’s love for us and those around us. And may His kindness move us, like wind does to a tree, to live the way of Jesus.