The Richest of Blessings

Posted: July 6, 2020 in Uncategorized

Even now – this is the Lord’s declaration – turn to me with all your heart, with fasting, weeping, and mourning.  Tear your hearts, not just your clothes, and return to the Lord your God.  For he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, abounding in faithful love, and he relents from sending disaster.  Who knows? He may turn and relent and leave a blessing behind him, so you can offer a grain offering and a drink offering to the Lord your God. (Joel 2:12-14)

It is much easier to make a show of something instead of actually doing it because your heart is in it.  This was the case for Israel and the same can be said of today.  It is so easy to do something so people can see it and, in the effort, convince yourself that what you are doing is all that that you need to do.  It is easy to fool yourself, but it is impossible to fool God.

In Israel’s case, they were doing what Moses told them to do by providing the required grain and drink offerings, but it was all a show.  They would go the temple and do what the law required, but go home and make offerings to their idols.  So, God removed their ability to make a mockery of their worship of Him and dried up the vineyards and their ability to produce grain (Joel 1).  Through the prophet Amos, God told His people: “I hate, I despise your feasts!  I can’t stand the stench of your solemn assemblies.” If He could not have their hearts, He would not tolerate their fake worship.

“Tear your hearts, not just your clothes.”  In Jeremiah, the Lord tells the people to “remove the foreskin of their hearts” (Jer. 4:4) – to lay their hearts bare before Him.   God was telling them to quit hiding behind your circumcision of the flesh.  Circumcision, which was to be a sign of their unique connection with God through the covenant He made with Abraham, was a reminder to them who they were; God did not need to be reminded.  Despite being circumcised, they had forgotten who they were.  Instead of devoting themselves to the Lord, they repeated the sin of the golden calf and made gods for themselves.  In Amos 5:26, the Lord tells his people: “But you have taken up Sakkuth your king, and Kaiwan your star god, images you have made for yourselves” (Amos 5:26).

It is easy to make a show of things and it is also easy to look at those Israelites from antiquity and ask how they could forget so easily?  It is easy to look at the sins of others and far less easy to look at the sins of the person staring back in the mirror. Spiritually, the mirror is not a piece of reflective glass, but Scripture which seems to know how to reveal areas which I had begun to fool myself that I was something that I was not.  Other times, the mirror comes from the most unlikely of places: a lost world that is searching for something that it cannot find apart from Christ.

There’s another verse in Amos which strikes me the core: “Those who turn justice into wormwood also throw righteousness to the ground” (Amos 5:7).  Wormwood has a bitter tase and, for many, justice is a bitter pill to swallow.  When the truth of Scripture contradicts my worldview, it is easy to “throw righteousness on the ground” by twisting verses to where they agree with me.  By so doing, I am fooling myself into thinking that I still have a biblical worldview.  I am also repeating the sins of Israel by making a god for myself when the One I follow does not agree with me.

 Watching the news today, with the recent riots and protests, seems to me to find a vivid connection with this passage.  At times society seems to be like a blind man rushing forward with no perceptional awareness and no probing cane to guide them; rushing forward because they know something is wrong and they feel the need to do something … anything.  The problem is that society has no ability to correct itself because the root of the problem is not the problem itself but the collective spiritual blindness of society.  The root of the problem is not “out there” …. It is in the mirror, but we tend to go around with flashlights that we shine on the sins of others with no ability or desire to look at the sin within us.

That is why we need each other.  As we are removing the specks from our neighbor’s eye, we need our brothers and sisters in Christ to tell us there is a oak tree growing out of our own eye; a tree which began as a seed and grew with the water of false truths that we hold dear and the fertilizer of our fleshly inclinations.   We need our friends to tell us about the tree and pray that the Lord will have His Spirit to give us a heart to take a chainsaw to the tree and cut it down and burn it up in the fire of repentance.

This is hard to do.  We gather for ourselves friends who agree with us and will give us a pat on the back when we are saying and doing things that are far from the Lord.  As Christians, we can take a verse out of context and place it on the anvil and hammer it with the Satan’s lie from the beginning: “Did God really say …?”  We want people and a God who agree with us. 

There I go again…hiding behind the false-security of “we” and “us”, when I really mean “I” and “me.”  May the Lord give me a heart for authentic worship that pleases Him which, in truth, is the richest of blessings.