Wednesday, August 4, 2010
Practical Advice from...the Old Testament?
Really, Kristen? From the Old Testament? I thought the OT was just full of stories and prophesies...
You'd be amazed at how consistent the Old Testament teaching is with the New Testament. Too often we discard the OT as the "passed away covenant" because Christ has come, and we pour our attention onto the New Testament, because that's where the teaching for the church is found.
Well, here's what I found today. Take a look at it and let me know what you think:
When the children of Israel demanded that they have a king like the rest of the world, though God was their King, He gave them a physical, human one - Saul. Initially some in Israel were happy with this choice, but others were skeptical, until Saul, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, led the Israelites against the Ammonites, freeing the men of Jabesh-gilead from their threatening presence. With that victory, Saul was hailed their king and Israel was happy again. (I Samuel 11) They were no longer without a king (still ignoring their King) and now life would be exactly what they had hoped for it to be.
At this point, Samuel exhorted the children of Israel to be careful with their newfound joy. He explained that God had always been their Protector and Provider, and now that they had a king, they should be careful not to forget that their request was out of the evil of their hearts and not out of love for God. (I Samuel 12) The people suddenly had second thoughts and asked Samuel to pray for them, so that God would not kill them in their sin. Here was Samuel's instructions:
"If you will fear the Lord and serve Him, and listen to His voice and not rebel against the command of the Lord, then both you and also the king who reigns over you will follow the Lord your God. If you will not listen to the voice of the Lord, but rebel against the command of the Lord, then the hand of the Lord will be against you, as it was your fathers...Do not fear. You have committed all this evil, yet do not turn aside form following the Lord, but serve the Lord with all your heart. You must not turn aside, for then you would go after futile things which can not profit or deliver, because they are futile...Only fear the Lord and serve Him in truth with all your heart; for consider what great things He has done for you. But if you still do wickedly, both you and your king shall be swept away." (I Samuel 12:14,15,20,21,24,25)
Basically, though they were sinful, they were told to fear the Lord and obey His commands, and God would be with them. If they rebelled, God would severely deal with them and their king.
God is not threatening to "un-choose" them. He is simply explaining, like any good parent, that obedience will bring blessing and disobedience will bring discipline. With or without a king, the instruction is the same.
Israel was standing at a crossroad and had a choice.
Samuel was telling them to choose obedience.
Same with us today. This passage is very much alive and well because the consequences of obedience and disobedience still remain. God knows that we are sinful but it is never too late to choose obedience. I love how Samuel says, "Fear the Lord," and then "Do not fear." He's saying, don't fear the consequences of your sin at this point - fear the Lord instead. Follow Him. Choose obedience. It's never too late to repent and follow.
That is a great message for today. Too often we fear that it is just too late for us - we're in too deep. We've made too many bad choices and we'll never get out of this hole. God's counsel is true - stop what you are doing, turn around and head in the other direction. Choose to follow God and see what He will do in return.
As I was reading this passage this morning, it struck me that the counsel of the New Testament that I use in biblical counseling is not a new concept - it's there in the OT as well. God never changes - He's the same yesterday, today and forever.
So when you're standing at a crossroad and you're not sure what to do, the answer is really very simple.