Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Grateful Reliance

My kids aren't particularly grateful. It's not something I'm proud about. They want more stuff all the time and then complain about what they do have.
In fact they complain about both, what they do and don't have. Why are they like this? Other than the obvious answer that it's their sinful nature, I'm not really sure, but it's been something I've been asking God about. How do I teach it and address it? And while you're answering that question God, maybe you could help me out on it too, for it seems that the sins that are particularly strong in my own children are quite often the ones I struggle with too. Funny that. The bible does say that the sinful nature is inherited, so maybe I need to widen my concept of inherited to include genetic tendencies to sin?? Hmmm. Not sure. I'll keep praying about that one.

Anyway, where was I? Grateful. Yes. So I asked God to teach me about this topic and I have to admit I learned a whole heap of new stuff. Firstly I was led to the book of Hosea and prostitution. In the book of Hosea, God asks a man called Hosea to prophesy to Israel and point out their sin, for the people were not addressing it. God initially calls their sin harlotry and adultery but then He elaborates further and all becomes clear. In a nut shell, their sin was one of unfaithfulness. Israel was being unfaithful in the area of provision. She attributed her ”lovers” (v5) with providing for her food, water, wool, linen, oil and drink (read the essentials), not God. This is all explained in chapter 2 if you wish to read it but the key verse about this I think is verse 8 “She has not acknowledged that I was the one who gave her the grain, the new wine and oil, who lavished on her the silver and gold – which they used for Baal”. That was her adultery, her unfaithfulness, her disgrace. She forgot God (v13). Jehovah Jireh is the provider – no one else and as such He has to be acknowledged or there are consequences to follow.

The discipline for a lack of acknowledgment of God's provision? Removal of what had been provided. Removal of the things she had made her “lovers”. Her food, clothing, drink, feasting, produce, festivals were all going to be removed for this sin, so that she would learn that it was God who provided these things and He alone. These “lovers” had become gods to her. What He had provided for her had become unclean because of how she treated it. The clean (food, water, shelter etc) had become unclean because she was not grateful to God for His provision of them. She thanked herself for her luck or talent or business savvy so to speak, instead of thanking the one who blessed her with these skills. Deut 8:17,18 supports this when it says it is the Lord who gives you the ability to produce wealth and so confirms his covenant with you. Don't thank your own power and strength of your hands, that is, your own ability. Proverbs 22:2 says “Rich and poor have this in common: the Lord is the maker of them all”.

So God strips everything away, so Israel can see that they themselves had nothing to do with their provision. It was God who provided the circumstances for them to be provided for. By stripping it all away, life is taken back to just them and God. 100% reliance on Him. This desert season, as it is called, is now called a caress from God, for through it Israel learns that God loves them and they need no other lover. Do I have other lovers? Anytime I put my security in something other than God, I am unfaithful to Him and commit adultery. These are harsh words. I needed time to process and ask God to shine his light in my life here.

If I want to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul and all your mind and all your strength”, then I will embrace this stripping away, this caress, this desert time. For when things are taken back to the bare basics, it changes the heart permanently. That's what we want isn't it. A permanent change. No longer will I long for the lover, only for God. He takes away our choice. There is only Him.

The same thing is discussed in Isaiah 30, but this time the allegory is not one of prostitution but of rebellious, obstinate children or teenagers. In Isaiah 30, the children do their own thing (v1), form alliances that are not holy or godly, ask everyone else, except God for help, are deceitful, rebellious and unwilling to listen to instruction (v9). Isaiah accuses God's people of only wanting to hear pleasant things from their preachers, denying the truth. “Stop confronting us with the Holy One of Israel!” v11. Of course I've never done any of that! (sarcasm intended). In Isaiah 31, God gets more detailed about their dependence on their own stuff for security, strength and provisions. Their sin? They “do not look to the Holy One of Israel or seek help from the Lord” (v1). Yet if they did cry out for help Isaiah 30:19 says “how gracious He will be when you cry for help. As soon as he hears He will answer”.

Hosea switches to this same allegory in chapter 11 to illustrate ingratitude. The story here is of God providing everything for a child but the child abandoning the parent's wisdom and love to become a rebellious teenager. Not respecting and honoring the parent for all they have done. I ponder this. I am to teach my children to honor and respect me as their parent. To show gratitude for all that we provide for them. Yet I am learning that God desires the same thing of Himself. I am to honor, respect and be grateful for all that he has done. And I perceive something. One is a mirror of the other. Rebellious children lack respect, honor and gratitude for their parents. Rebellious man lacks respect, honor and gratitude for the creator God who provides for him. Hosea 13:4,5 “You shall acknowledge no God but me, no savior except me”. Why? Because it leads us to be wise in our own eyes and clever in our own sight. Proverbs 3:5,6 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him and he will make your path straight”. Once again the “acknowledge Him”! Acknowledge means to know by observing, reflecting and experiencing. All are required of me towards God.

So how to train my children in gratitude, respect and honor? Do I remove things until they demonstrate gratitude, disciplining in love like God does? Isaiah 26:10 says “though grace is shown to the wicked, they do not learn righteousness”. They do not learn or become conscious of sin through grace, but through the law (Rom 3:20). Pray and discipline in love. Addressing the sin in my life and in theirs.

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