emilynisch

“do not forget”

In Uncategorized on March 31, 2009 at 1:35 am

Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them slip from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them. (Deut 4:9)

God’s been teaching me about the relationship between forgetting and trusting. I’ve been thinking about how quickly the Isrealites (wandering in the dessert) forgot the nature of the God they saw powerfully at work when he brought them out of Egypt. They saw a greater number of spectacular miracles (and more of God’s rescuing and jealous love) than a many of the groups of people we read about in the bible. In fact, God even describes that particular set of miracles as designed to let the whole world know that he is God. (Ref. from Exodus – need to find). The Israelites forgot this, and doubted that they would be able to conquer groups of people that God sent them to conquer – thus temporarily forfeiting the land God had promised. I’ve always been amazed that the Israelites could forget so easily. They had see proof of God’s power, but they turned away instead of believing him.

I’ve learned that this is a choice each of us make day to day – do we believe God when he says something to us? In fact, I’ve learned that forgetting what God’s done is really easy. As we go through life and encounter the “wisdom” of the world, things begin to seem unconquerable and much larger than us and our ability. It’s a good thing God only asks us to take a little step of faith – he provides the rest. David’s stone was small, his slingshot was small, David was small. A mustard seed is small also. But David remembered who God is. Alone with the sheep, he didn’t hear the fears of the Israelite army as they faced the Philistines. He was innocent, or as some might say, naive.

Jesus told his disciples, ” I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” (Mat 17:20) I didn’t understand this verse until recently. I had tried to understand it, and come up with a few partial understandings that didn’t seem to match my experience of living as a Christian or my experience of God’s character. A verse in another Gospel finally helped me: Then Jesus asked, “What is the kingdom of God like? What shall I compare it to? It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his garden. It grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air perched in its branches.”(Lk 13:18-19). I pictured a farmer planting a tiny seed. He plants and waits for it to grow. In Luke, Jesus is talking about the kingdom of God – so the focus is slightly different than the personal focus in Matthew, but the imagery is the same. A tiny seed is planted, and the seed grows into a tall tree-like plant, with spreading branches that even birds can perch on. From a tiny seed grows a large tree. Looking at the seed, it wouldn’t be easy to guess that such a large plant could grow from it. The seed and the plant look totally unlike. And that is the nature of the work of God.

When David shot his stone, no one watching would have seen death to a giant in it. That’s because the power of that death wasn’t in the stone, it was in David’s faith. David’s mustard seed was his the shooting of his stone. With risky innocence, he planted a tiny seed and watched as God grew something large and powerful enough to kill the giant.

Here are some verses I’ve come across recently that show the same principle:

1. Now a man of the house of Levi married a Levite woman, and she became pregnant and gave birth to a son. When she saw that he was a fine child, she hid him for three months. But when she could hide him no longer, she got a papyrus basket for him and coated it with tar and pitch. Then she placed the child in it and put it among the reeds along the bank of the Nile. His sister stood at a distance to see what would happen to him. (Ex 2:1-4)

  • The seed is Moses’ mother putting him in a basket and letting him float down the river. She doesn’t know what will happen to him, but she chooses life for him – whatever God may choose afterward.

2. The king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, whose names were Shiphrah and Puah, “When you help the Hebrew women in childbirth and observe them on the delivery stool, if it is a boy, kill him; but if it is a girl, let her live.” The midwives, however, feared God and did not do what the king of Egypt had told them to do; they let the boys live…. So God was kind to the midwives and the people increased and became even more numerous. And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families of their own.” (Ex 1:15-17; 20-21)

  • The seed is the midwives not killing male babies. The plant God grows is an even greater increase in the Israelite people and particular blessing to the midwives in giving them families.

3. “Then King Nebuchadnezzar leaped to his feet in amazement and asked his advisers, “Weren’t there three men that we tied up and threw into the fire?” They replied, “Certainly, O king.”He said, “Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.” (Dan 3:24-25) And then “They saw that the fire had not harmed their bodies, nor was a hair of their heads singed; their robes were not scorched, and there was no smell of fire on them.” (Dan 3:27).

  • King Nebuchadnezzar explains what the seed is: Then Nebuchadnezzar said, “Praise be to the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who has sent his angel and rescued his servants! They trusted in him and defied the king’s command and were willing to give up their lives rather than serve or worship any god except their own God.” (3:28) It is their lives. And the plant: “Therefore I decree that the people of any nation or language who say anything against the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego be cut into pieces and their houses be turned into piles of rubble, for no other god can save in this way.” (3:29) It is God’s glory into all nations ruled by this powerful king.

But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way. Now God had caused the official to show favor and sympathy to Daniel, but the official told Daniel, “I am afraid of my lord the king, who has assigned your food and drink. Why should he see you looking worse than the other young men your age? The king would then have my head because of you. Daniel then said to the guard whom the chief official had appointed over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, “Please test your servants for ten days: Give us nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then compare our appearance with that of the young men who eat the royal food, and treat your servants in accordance with what you see.” So he agreed to this and tested them for ten days. At the end of the ten days they looked healthier and better nourished than any of the young men who ate the royal food. So the guard took away their choice food and the wine they were to drink and gave them vegetables instead.

  • The seed is Daniel’s choice to eat not to defile himself with the royal food and wine. The plant is that he and the other men who made the same decision were healthier than the other men, and their glorifying God through it. (I imagine they were also greatly encouraged personally while living in a foreign land as slaves).

There are many more examples. These are just some that show people following what they know of God’s character, and discovering the way he chooses to bless them. It’s important that they chose to follow God not knowing what the outcome would be ahead of time. As 1 Corinthians says, “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.” (3:6-7). We plant a seed, and it is mysterious how God grows it, but he does. Each example a knowledge of and trust in God’s character, not in the outcome or the method he will use. 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