Of all the Scripture in the Bible, Hebrews 10 has caused the most fear in my heart. Fear that I will fall out of love with God, relapse into perdition, and lose my way in a world of hurt. It’s been a while since I’ve felt this kind of fear. But lately, I’ve caught myself (though not in time to stop my tongue, sadly) speaking increasingly negative comments about politicians, neighbors, family members…even to the point of tossing a curse word or two into my annoyed monologue. Fear of saying the wrong thing in front of those around me is eclipsed by my conscience which hears the displeasure of my Lord. So I’ve started looking for the expected punishments. Knowing that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, I am really made uncomfortable by Leviticus 26:24 a, “If despite these [punishments] you will not be chastised toward Me, and you behave casually with Me, then I, too, will behave toward you with casualness…” I read a commentary that explains this passage by saying that if we persist in thinking that all the “carefully calibrated punishments” by God were coincidental; thereby invalidating God’s message, then He withdraws His Presence and makes it harder for us to see His Divine truth. Therefore, it is easier to continue falling away.
Hebrews 10:29 speaks clearly on this same principal, though with an even greater penalty than exile or plagues. “Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace?” Of course, I’m not speaking about a curse word slipping out. I’m thinking that the intent of my heart to follow the will of God is slipping away at these times. Whether because of treating the Word of God casually, forsaking the assembling with sisters and brothers in Christ, or casting away my confidence of hope to the saving of my soul, I see the danger in drawing back from God’s truth. Should God withdraw His Presence, how will I be able to see His Divine truth; and will I be able to trace His hand as He continuously writes His will on my heart?
Psalm 112:6-8, speaking of the righteous man, says, “Surely he will never be shaken; The righteous will be in everlasting remembrance. He will not be afraid of evil tidings; His heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord. His heart is established, he will not be afraid…” Lord Jesus, You are the righteous Man who made even my sins, though red as scarlet become white as snow. Meditating on Your truth slows the rapid, chaotic beating of my heart. I can stop holding my breath and breathe deeply. Breathing in Your Spirit of truth and trusting the complete perfection of Your sacrifice expels my fear of having Your Presence withdraw from me. Lord, let Your Presence drive out my mindless mimicry of the media, acceptance of unholy Hollywood drama, and my desire to sit in the company of the scornful. I know better than this. Help me breathe deeper still until my breath matches the pace of God’s timeless hand writing His will for my eternity.
God knows that I live in a material world, and it has never been his intention that I might be possessed by my possessions. His commands in Leviticus 24-25 work this out. Time, work, social position are gifts from God and are designed to be surrendered to Him. What is true for Israel is true for me. Repeatedly, God tells his people to fear and revere him. Who they are corporately and individually, everything within their possession is to be considered in the light of their relationship with Him, for “I am the Lord your God.” Leviticus 25:17, 38, 55. Nothing is meant to be held onto permanently except for my relationship with God himself
God is the mother bird, swooping to the nest to drop the plump worm into the mouth of the baby bird who is all hunger and convinced that this is her last meal:
“I am the Lord your God. Open your mouth wide and I will fill it.” Psalm 81:1
How I identify with that forlorn and needy creature! But sometimes I take my eyes off of God and become convinced of my ability to survive without him. I join ranks with ancient Israel who “walk in their own devices.” And God cries out:
“Oh that my people would listen to Me, that Israel would walk in My ways! Those who hate the Lord would pretend obedience to Him, and their time of punishment would be forever. But I would feed you with the finest of the wheat and with honey from the rock I would satisfy you.” Psalm 81:12-16
God is not content to leave me in my willful wandering from him. The wonder of it is that Christ has made a way for me to return to the God’s warm embrace:
“For Christ did not enter a holy place made with hands, a mere copy of the true one, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us.” Hebrews 9:24.
So to home I return, not as a slave to my own sad idols, but as the very child of God who fills my every desire and hunger.
A friend stopped by yesterday for a mug of hot tea. My house was chilly because I had been out all morning and didn’t get any fires started. Outside–rain all day. We chatted fast because she was pressed for time.
In the past, she had come by for a summer swim, but this was a first for her to sit inside my house and look around. She asked about where we used to live, and we talked about the differences: field life versus woods life. We talked about God and His orchestration of events that bring us where we are.
“That [moving season] was a dark time in my life,” I said to her. “But it was the closest I had been to the Lord.”
“33 It was I who rescued you from the land of Egypt, that I might be your God. I am the Lord.” Leviticus 22:33, NLT.
She and I looked out the living room window at the trees around my house. We talked about the seasons, each one beautiful in itself. The trees are stunning to me, even in winter.
I thought about life seasons and change. I thought about faith walks and a future unknown. I thought about His Word all the days through all the years–how it has fed me and strengthened me, comforted me and spoken to me about Him, about love, about truth.
10 But this is the new covenant I will make
with the people of Israel on that day, says the Lord:
I will put my laws in their minds,
and I will write them on their hearts.
I will be their God,
and they will be my people. Hebrews 8:10, NLT. (referring to Jeremiah 31)
Lord, thank you. Thank you for hard days, for great days, for rainy winter days. Thank you for a window full of wonder–of the things you’ve done, and the things you will do. Thank you for showing me through your word how I can and that I can praise you every step of the way.
“God spoke to Moses: “Speak to the congregation of Israel. Tell them, Be holy because I, God, your God, am holy…Don’t take up with no-god idols. Don’t make gods of cast metal. I am God, your God…
Don’t, Don’t, Don’t…I am God, your God. I brought you out of Egypt. Keep all my decrees and all my laws. Yes, do them. I am God. Set yourselves apart for a holy life. Live a holy life, because I am God, your God. Do what I tell you; live the way I tell you. I am the God who makes you holy.” Leviticus 19&20 MSG
I’ve been listening to Chris Tomlin’s “Jesus Loves Me.” I let the lyrics wash over me as I am reminded of how much Jesus Loves Me. When I pray with my kids at night I will say to help them to remember how much Jesus loves them. Because I am hoping that they will grasp the love of Christ. That it doesn’t matter how much they mess up because I still love them and more importantly Jesus loves them. I am hoping that this sets them apart in this world that is trying to find love and acceptance in so many other places. I hope love is what sets me apart too. That the fruits of the spirit are so evident in my life that His glory shines through.
How am I living a life that is set apart for Him?
“So now we have a high priest who perfectly fits our needs: completely holy, uncompromised by sin, with authority extending as high as God’s presence in heaven itself. Unlike the other high priests, he doesn’t have to offer sacrifices for his own sins every day before he can get around to us and our sins. He’s done it, once and for all: offered up himself as the sacrifice. The law appoints as high priests men who are never able to get the job done right. But this intervening command of God, which came later, appoints the Son, who is absolutely, eternally perfect.” Hebrews 7:26-28 MSG
Dear Jesus, Thank you for loving me enough to die on the cross for my sins. I pray that I would be able to show that love to others. Help me to love like Jesus loves. I desire to live my life surrendered to do Your work. In Your Name I pray. Amen.
From the archives. Originally posted February 24,2015.
“Oh Lord, I have come to you for protection; don’t let me be disgraced. Save me, for you do what is right. Turn your ear to listen to me; rescue me quickly. Be rock of protection, a fortress where I will be safe. You are my rock and my fortress. For the honor of your name, lead me out of this danger. Pull me from the trap my enemies set for me, for I find protection in you alone. I entrust my spirit into your hand. Rescue me, Lord, for you are a faithful God.” Psalm 31:1-5 NLT
This past week I found myself feeling fearful as I walked into a situation that I wasn’t expecting. It was out of my comfort zone and something I didn’t feel prepared for. I felt exposed and vulnerable.
Sometimes in the midst of the unknown I forget His promises and the devil pokes at my insecurities.
David reminds me that God’s promises lead to safety….
“But I am trusting you, O Lord, saying, “You are my God!” My future is in your hands…Let your favor shine on your servant. In your unfailing love, rescue me.” Psalm 31:14-16 NLT
Paul reminds me to have hope…
“God also bound himself with an oath, so that those who received the promise could be perfectly sure that he would never change his mind. So God has given both his promise and his oath. These two things are unchangeable because it is impossible for God to lie. Therefore, we who have fled to him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us. This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. It leads us through the curtain into God’s inner sanctuary. Jesus has already gone in there for us.” Hebrews 6:17-20 NLT
Maybe God wants me to live in the tension of the uncomfortable, because this is when my weakness most often turns to trust. It’s when I take the focus off myself and put it on Him that I can love others better.
“Our great desire is that you will keep on loving others as long as life lasts, in order to make certain that what you hope for will come true. Then you will not become spiritually dull and indifferent. Instead, you will follow the example of those who are going to inherit God’s promises because of their faith and endurance.” Hebrews 6: 12-13 NLT
Dear Father, Help me to trust you more. Help me to remember that my safety rests in You and not in a person or a place. Thank you for Your unfailing love towards me. Amen.