Did God Really Say . . .?

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“Did God really say . . .” (Gen. 3:1)

Why do I have so much trouble driving the speed limit? The speed limit is 70 MPH – so I go 75 or 80. It’s 55 on my way to work, so I set my cruise for 62. Oh, don’t you judge me – you’re doing it too. Some of you are flying past me like we’re on a NASCAR racetrack. What makes us want to try the boundaries?

I recently wrote a paper on Genesis 3:1-7, the account of the fall of humanity. You know the story, perfectly innocent couple in a perfect garden home enjoying wondrous fruits – until a sneaky, lying snake approaches the woman. “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden?” The woman responded, albeit not entirely truthful and he comes back with, “You will not surely die . . .” (Gen. 3:4). There is an interesting play in the serpent’s words in verses 1 and 4. The word “really” (‘ap) is an adverb that essentially asks the question: “Is it even so that God hath said?”[1] Combined with the serpent’s rejection of the consequences of eating the fruit, it appears that in verse 1 the serpent was not asking Eve, “Did God truly speak these words?” but rather, “Do you think God meant what he said?” That’s why I push the speed limit – I don’t think they are serious about it. One can almost see the serpent wave his hand with a “Pshaw – You will not surely die!” The serpent was casting doubt in Eve’s mind about God’s truthfulness. Does He really mean it? Will He do what He claimed He would do?

That is one of the enemy’s favorite tools – causing us to doubt God’s integrity – whether it is questioning God’s willingness to punish sin or His willingness to save us, protect us, provide for us, and deliver us. And it has infiltrated the church. “No, God won’t punish this wicked desire of yours, He is all love, love, love!” Paul said we must become wise about the devil’s schemes. Beloved, In case you ever wondered – you can absolutely, 100 % trust what God says – about punishment and blessings. The devil is a liar.

[1]. “Lexicon :: Strong’s H637 – ‘aph,” Blue Letter Bible, Accessed September 19, 2020, https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=H637&t=NIV

Grace

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Friends, I am not the good girl you think you know. Yesterday I broke the law and had to face the consequences of my actions. I was running behind driving over the speed limit. I topped a hill and there he was. The blue lights came on and I pulled to the side of the road. There was no use in denying it – I was guilty. I told the officer I was running late to a wedding. He took my driver’s license and walked back to his patrol car. A few minutes later he came back and said, “You have a clean driving history, so I’m going to reward your good behavior and let you go with a warning.” I thanked him profusely and then he said, “Please slow down ma’am. The roads are wet, and I want you to arrive safely and enjoy your friend’s wedding.” I thanked him again and carefully pulled away. It all ended well – he gave me leniency because he found no fault in me and I made it to the wedding just before the bride walked down the aisle.

Friends, I am a sinner and I sometimes let my sin-nature drive me into sinful behaviors. But God doesn’t see me that way. He looks at me through eyes of grace because of the work of His Son on the cross. Paul said, “It is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:9). My record of wrongdoing is long and ugly and there’s no getting off for good behavior. I am a sinner – but a sinner saved by grace.

God has issued an invitation to the wedding of the universe. He wants you to come and enjoy the eternal celebration, but you can’t get there on your own clean record because you’re a sinner too. You have the same sin-nature and the same tendency to sinful behaviors that I do. But there is grace. There is a cross. There is a Savior. His name is Jesus – the Son of God. He died to take away your sins and make you right before His Father. Your place at the wedding is waiting Beloved, and the path is paved with grace.

Pay Attention!

I was on my way to work this morning, just rolling with the traffic around me, and letting my mind wander a bit.  You know — going over the projects for the day, thinking about my child who needs some encouragement, what to make for supper, reminding myself to pay the utility bill, etc.  Suddenly, brakes lit up ahead of me as we spy the patrol car parked off the roadway. I notice that the whole pack of cars had been speeding, and I was right in there with them.  Thankfully the officer was after bigger fish than me, but I realized something in that moment.  I had been letting the rest of the cars set the speed for me – and in going along with the pack, I had broken the law.

The “road” of our life, like the physical highway can lull us into something of a daze.  It becomes so easy to go along with the crowd. But there is much danger when we do.  The crowd will almost always lead us away from God.

The Old Testament Prophet Jeremiah gives us some very wise advice.

“Set up road signs; put up guideposts.  Take note of the highway, the road you take.” (Jeremiah 31:21)  In short: Pay attention!  Notice everything around you, and everything in you, and the way you are going.   Far too often, the way we take is just where we drifted to.

Do you see the directive in this verse? The Hebrew for “set up” is to stand oneself before, to station, establish, to attend.   There is nothing casual here; this is a strong decisive word.  It is a deliberate and purposeful action.  The word “guideposts” is amazing as well-the root word means “column of smoke.”  Now if you know much about the Bible at all, you will remember that the Israelites were lead by God through the wilderness with a “pillar of cloud by day, and a pillar of fire by night” (Exodus 13:21) God is still leading His people, He is still making Himself visible to us if only we will pay attention.

We are also directed to “take note of the highway, the road you take.”  The heart of this section is – well– the heart.  By looking at the terminology, Jeremiah is instructing us to set our hearts to follow the Lord along the right “road” – the road or highway being the conduct of our life.  This is an intentional decision to guard our hearts and minds and stay alert to both the leading of the Lord and any attempt by Satan and the world to draw us off course.  We will never follow God by accident. We will never stumble into a daily discipline of prayer and reading the Bible.  We will never just fall into obedience. We must determine to do so.

What is the benefit of all this determination and attentiveness?  “A highway will be there; it will be called the Way of Holiness; it will be for those who walk in that Way.” (Isaiah 35:8) Isaiah proclaims a “Way of Holiness” that will take us into God’s presence and light.  A highway that He has prepared for those who “walk in the Way.”

 The road we travel today will either lead us closer to God or farther away.  It’s your choice.  Will you pay attention to the direction you are traveling?

Almighty God, teach me to pay attention and to follow you with all my heart. Amen