In the beginning of Leviticus 26, God encouraged the people of Israel to obey Him by expressing the great rewards they would receive from their obedience. And then He said this:
Leviticus 26:13 (ESV)
I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, that you should not be their slaves. And I have broken the bars of your yoke and made you walk erect.
He then shifted gears, and spent far more words warning of the consequences – the pain – they would experience if they disobeyed. The pain of acting in pride. The pain of acting in their own strength, in their own understanding, and in their own power.
The pain of forgetting God.
I think that’s why the transition between the promises of blessing to the promises of pain was a reminder of what God had done for the people to deliver them from bondage.
The single biggest factor in our obedience is remembering what God has done for us. If I could just remember how God has delivered me before, I’d have no trouble believing Him for this time. If I could remember how God answered my prayers before, I’d have no trouble asking Him for what I need now. If I remembered God’s faithfulness in the last trial, I’d find it easier to be faithful to Him in the current one.
But I forget. My fear takes over. Insecurity, pride, frustration, and the temptation to take matters into my own hands causes me to act like more like the Israelites than I’d like to admit. And it lasts longer than I’d like to admit, too. Because, while God offers so many promises and incentives for obedience, I find that I tend to respond far more to painful consequences than positive incentives.
I don’t think I’m alone in that. In fact, I think that’s why God spent more time talking about the painful consequences than the pleasurable ones. Because we tend to change only when the pain of staying the way we are becomes greater than the pain of change. That’s why pain is God’s biggest tool in our lives. He gets us out of the mess by pain. And then, when we repent, as He promises in last section of the chapter, He can restore us and lavish on us the blessings of obedience that He’d promised in the first place.
If only I didn’t have to learn the hard way.
If only I could be faithful in seeking Him
before I find myself stressed out and overwhelmed.
If only I could decide to be kind
before my mouth gets me into trouble.
If only I could give forgiveness
before bitterness affects my other relationships.
If only I could learn to eat right
before I outgrow all my clothes.
Sometimes I do. Sometimes I don’t. What’s the key? Remembering God.
Father, forgive me for trusting in myself and what makes sense to me instead of obeying your directions for my life. Help me to remember what You’ve done for me, how You’ve proven Yourself to me, and how You’ve proven your ways are better than mine. I want to be faithful to you just as you’ve been faithful to me. I want to be motivated by Your promises, not the by the pain of ignoring you. Help me to live in Your presence and in the light of Your love. In Jesus’ name, amen.