You know those times you’re reading the Bible and get smacked upside the head? More times than I can count I find myself convicted when reading or listening to the Bible.
Lately I’ve been listening to the Daily Audio Bible, a pretty neat podcast that get’s through the Bible in a year, plus is read fresh daily with praises and prayer requests from listeners at the end which gives it a dynamic, community feel.
This week when I put April 6th’s podcast on I hadn’t been much in the mood to listen. I was distracted with the idea of having fun. It was my day off and I was looking forward to catching up on some t.v. shows, wasting time on YouTube, and whatever else came to mind. Plus I was getting sick so didn’t I deserve a little me time? But I decided to get through this tedious routine anyway.
I tapped “play” and started listening to the first passage of the day: Deuteronomy 29:1-30:20.
This is one of many passages in the later section of the Torah in which Moses is reminding the Israelites once again of the stark contrast between following God versus following your own fleshly desires. The people of Israel have been in the dessert for 40 years after disobeying God’s command to take the land across the Jordan. They’ve been in this back and forth dance between obedience and disobedience, trust and distrust, contentment and complaint.
And now Moses is reminding them for the umpteenth time the consequences of their actions. This can be best summarized in the latter part of this passage:
“See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil. 16 If you obey the commandments of the Lord your God that I command you today, by loving the Lord your God, by walking in his ways, and by keeping his commandments and his statutes and his rules, then you shall live and multiply, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to take possession of it. 17 But if your heart turns away, and you will not hear, but are drawn away to worship other gods and serve them, 18 I declare to you today, that you shall surely perish. You shall not live long in the land that you are going over the Jordan to enter and possess. 19 I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, 20 loving the Lord your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days, that you may dwell in the land that the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them.” —Deuteronomy 30:15-20
As I was listening through the beginning of this passage where Moses is reminding them of all the wonders they have seen the LORD do, my mind wandered to things that seemed more interesting than quieting my heart and truly soaking in the scriptures.
Until I hit verses 18 and 19, the passage right after Moses’ mention of the detestable idols of the foreign nations:
“Beware lest there be among you a man or woman or clan or tribe whose heart is turning away today from the Lord our God to go and serve the gods of those nations. Beware lest there be among you a root bearing poisonous and bitter fruit, 19 one who, when he hears the words of this sworn covenant, blesses himself in his heart, saying, ‘I shall be safe, though I walk in the stubbornness of my heart.’ This will lead to the sweeping away of moist and dry alike.” —Deuteronomy 29:18-19
That got to me—especially the part about feeling safe while walking in stubbornness of heart.
Now you might be wondering where I’m going with this since having the desire to watch a t.v. show over reading the Bible isn’t exactly the world’s biggest sin.
But here’s the thing. I know when I’m slipping away from God. I know when my eyes begin to wander. I know when the spark starts to die out.
And the worst part is it usually triggers my tendency to fall into sin and darkness, and self-induced separation from God.
I, like so many, can relate to the Israelites. When things are good, when things are comfortable, I tend to forget God and all that he’s done for me. I focus on myself and my accomplishments, subconsciously congratulating myself for a job well done. And with that self-centered mindset I become selfish, desiring what is unholy, not caring how it hurts God or myself.
It starts with the subtle lack of interest in spending time with God, of prioritizing fun or anything else over him, which turns into a day without aligning myself to him. That day turns into days and soon the tendencies of my human heart start to show themselves, and the desires of my human nature win over whatever the Bible says I shouldn’t think or do. At least until I hit my personal rock bottom and find myself crying out to God once more, “I just wanted a little break from you; I didn’t mean for it to go this far.”
Christians like myself who have been rescued from the dark valleys, only to fall back into sin, and then be redeemed again, understand Moses’ warning oh too well. Or at least we should.
And here I am, in a somewhat comfortable season of my life, about to fall into the same trap for the umpteenth time.
Now I’m not saying entertainment or family or your career (fill in the blank) are necessarily wrong but when they start to take the place of the one who died for you, saved you, and loves you more than humanly possible, it becomes a problem. For me this is what triggers my defenses, what draws me away and now I’m taking the stand to say no more. I’m not perfect and I will mess up from time to time but hopefully I won’t continue to make the same mistakes, but learn from them. I hope you, too, can break free from whatever may keep you distant from him.
Once thing’s for certain: staying in prayer and in the Word keeps us where we need to be and reminds us where we need to be going even when we don’t feel like it.