Tribulations? You got this! (Or at least God does)

I am trying to make it through the Old Testament.  I have read Genesis many times, but usually get bored after Noah.  This time I have made it to Deuteronomy, which is a first for me.  It has been a lot of Moses since Genesis and I find myself waiting for Moses to die.  I am getting tired of the people whining, God and Moses getting mad, the people turning back and then, within a chapter, the people are doubting or failing once again.  I did not realize how much of the Bible is taken up with Moses.

It is very easy for me to judge these early Israelites.  Don’t they realize how much God has done for them?  He brought them out of slavery in Egypt.  What more do they want?  But then again, I don’t know how positive or trusting I would be wandering in the desert.  It’s not always easy to see the good that God is leading us to.  And although I am becoming bored with the repetitive nature of the people’s shortcomings.  It is comforting to know that no matter how many times they fail, the Lord God is still there.  Today Moses reminds them, that they can always turn back:

But from there you will seek the Lord your God, and you will find him, if you search after him with all your heart and with all your soul. When you are in tribulation, and all these things come upon you in the latter days, you will return to the Lord your God and obey his voice, for the Lord your God is a merciful God; he will not fail you or destroy you or forget the covenant with your fathers which he swore to them.

Deuteronomy 4:29-31

This is a wonderfully repetitive message in the Bible.  And one I should turn to every day.  There is no promise that there won’t be tribulation.  Indeed, Moses tells them “when you are in tribulation” not “if”.  There will be tribulation.  We all face it.  Sometimes we go from one tribulation to the next.  The Israelites went from slavery to the desert and, yet I am reading it thinking “suck it up.”  “Don’t you know that God is bringing you to the Promised Land?”   It is so easy to judge thousands of years later when we know the outcome.  And thousands of years from now, people will look back at us and think the same thing.  God is leading us to the Promised Land.  There will be tribulations along the way.  We will be challenged, physically, mentally, spiritually.  We will fall along the way.  We will fail to trust and be led astray.  But God will not fail us.  When we search with our whole heart and whole soul (in other words, when we really want to find Him), we will find Him.  When we turn to Him, no many how many times we have failed before, when we turn back and obey Him, He will show us mercy.

My God, My God,

I know you will never forsake me.  I know the tribulations bring us closer.  But sometimes I need the reminder.  Thank you for being merciful.  Thank you for loving us through our darkest times.  My heart and my soul seek you.  I feel your love and your strength.  May my struggle through every tribulation and my rejoicing at every mountain top honor you.

 

Promises, Promises

Lent is the time, that I make promises to God.  I promise to give up meat on Fridays.  I promise not to eat candy until the Easter Bunny brings me an Easter basket full.  I promise to do good.  And most years, all of my good intentions on Ash Wednesday fall apart long before Good Friday rolls around.

Today, I opened up the Bible as I waited in the drive thru line at Chik-fil-A.  (Thankfully it is not Friday, so I wasn’t breaching a Lenten promise.)  Here is where I landed in the Bible:

Moses said to the heads of the Israelite tribes, “This is what the LORD has commanded: When a man makes a vow to the LORD or binds himself under oath to a pledge, he shall not violate his word, but must fulfill exactly the promise he has uttered.”

Numbers 30:2-3.

What struck me today, was not incredible guilt for all the times I have not kept my promises to God, but rather the joy of knowing all of the times He has kept his promises to  me, to us.   And I was struck by the thought, who am I to make promises to God?  Promises that I often do not have the ability to keep.  Promises that are often made in the form of a bribe:  God if you will just do this, I will never do that again.

Promises are often meaningless (as any politician knows).  It is almost as though our normal words are so void of truth, that we have to say we promise to give any effect to our words.  (Even more effective is to lock pinkies or cross our heart when we make these valuable promises.)  Our society seems to “thrive” on promises and the breaking of those promises.  How many times do you click on internet boxes promising that you have read the terms and conditions of whatever new app, device, or website you are wanting to use.  We all know you haven’t actually opened and read the lengthy terms and conditions (that would take several minutes just to scroll though, let alone read).

So why do we promise? I would love to promise not to make any more promises — but that would be just as meaningless.

Father,

Thank you for being so faithful and true to us.  Thank you for keeping your promises.  I know you don’t need or want verbal “promises.”    Grant me a clean heart and steadfast spirit, that I may speak through my actions and true heart rather than settling for words or empty promises.

Amen.