Thursday, January 24, 2013

God of Love in the OT (Also, Ebenezer Part 2)

So I sat down with my tea and my Bible, and read through the book of Deuteronomy. Why? Because its a snow day. Also because I'm using "The Bible Eater" reading plan, and it is the read-in-one-sitting book assigned to this quarter. If you had asked me yesterday what was in the book of Deuteronomy, I would have paused and guessed "laws and practices for the Hebrews?" and would have been mostly right. What I wouldn't have guessed is that I would have been inspired, saddened, tickled, and moved at different sections of the book. It was a great read, and I recommend it to anyone who has an afternoon (or whole day, in my case). So what does a book of law hold that would have kept me so riveted all afternoon? Let me share...

A common misconception in the outskirts of the Church is that God is Justice in the Old Testament and Love in the New Testament. In a superficial sense, I see where this comes from... God gives laws at the beginning, and punishment at the end of the OT. Juxtapose that with the Savior (Jesus) at the beginning and a wedding feast at the end of the NT, and its clear where we prefer to live. But let's see how this jives with what I read today... I found some of the most poetic and heart-melting language in Deuteronomy, stuff that is WAY mushier than I've heard in the NT. Please, beloved, hear your God's heart.

"For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth."

"The LORD set his love on you and chose you"

"Know therefore that the LORD your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations,"

"And the Lord has declared today that you are a people for his treasured possession, as he has promised you, and that you are to keep all his commandments"

"and you shall sacrifice peace offerings and shall eat there, and you shall rejoice before the Lord your God."

“He found him in a desert land,
    and in the howling waste of the wilderness;
he encircled him, he cared for him,
    he kept him as the apple of his eye.
 Like an eagle that stirs up its nest,
    that flutters over its young,
spreading out its wings, catching them,
    bearing them on its pinions,
 the Lord alone guided him."

Do you hear Him, treasured possession? Know that the God above is a God of love, and has been from the beginning. 
(Deut. 4:39, 6:10-12, 7:6, 7:9, 26:18, 27:7, 32:10-12)

Now, about Ebenezer... 
So, in Burkina this summer, I was looking through a hymnal that belonged to a fellow missionary, and found the hymn "Come Thou Fount". The second verse had an asterisk by the name "Ebenezer" and it referenced 1 Samuel 7:10-12. The basic concept is that we can stand on faith that the God who has helped us thus far will continue to help us. Ebenezer means "Rock of Help" and it has stuck with me. I set up my own Ebenezer, in my front yard, which you can see here

So, my trip to Burkina was less of a destination than a starting point. I felt somewhat like God was winding me up, like a toy car, preparing to set me off in a new direction. I probably spent that trip more in introspection and prayer than in outward ministry. God was changing my heart, and I was in the perfect place to be molded. So, I set up my Ebenezer as a statement to God and to myself that as I had trusted Him to bring me thus far, I was hoping by His good pleasure, that He would bring me "home" again. To my eternal home. (also, at certain moments, to my earthly home in Virginia haha). 

I recently had the privileged of assisting in my friend's labor and witness the birth of her child. She and I, and our care group, prayed just about a year ago, that the Lord would heal her body and enable her to have children. We prayed constantly and rejoiced greatly when she conceived  She worried, though, even from pre-conception, about health. Her health (the reasons we were praying in the first place), and then after she conceived, her baby's health. She worried about early pregnancy miscarriage, and late pregnancy illnesses. She worried about preterm labor, and labor complications. She began worrying about Baby's health the morning after she was born, I heard it in her voice and in her words. And about a week after she was born, I got the age old text "Please pray for me, I'm worrying about her health again." I was inspired by the Ebenezer concept, and shared it with her. I encouraged her that I was, indeed praying, for both her and Baby. I also encouraged her to get a notebook, and to start writing in it every time she worried and yet trusted God, and He pulled them through. I told her this was going to be her cross to bear, and she needed to brace herself for the long haul. If she wrote down God's faithfulness, then in moments of fear, she can look back and see God's work. She can say "Here I raise my Ebenezer" and trust God in the situation she is facing then. 

In my 1 Samuel class, we were reading chapter 7 last week and it was so exciting for me! A fresh reminder of this, for myself. Then I realized, I probably should keep a book like I recommended for my friend. So I started one. It is my Ebenezer book. God is my "Rock of Help". 

Then today, reading Deuteronomy, I found this verse. 

“He is your praise, He is your God, who performed for you those great and awesome wonders you saw with your own eyes.” Deut 10:21

I am reminded of the countless times someone recounts the story of the Israelites back to them, from "Brought you out of Egypt..." on to the current time. That is essentially the same concept. I'm encouraged by this verse. He is my praise, He is my God.