Beginning Again

As a new teenager, thoughts of driving a car often spurred my imagination. I couldn’t wait to slide behind the wheel and go wherever I wanted – all by myself. At night, when I laid my body down, I would close my eyes, picture my two hands on the wheel, and almost feel the wind blowing through my hair stirring the scent of freedom. As I slept, I dreamed of liberation.

Then finally, after the song had been sung, the candles blown out, and the cake cut, I made my first solo drive to my friend’s house. I arrived feeling like a superstar. I strutted to her door in the crisp November air dangling my keys with a smile so big it’s a wonder all of my teeth didn’t fall out. This was the beginning of a whole new life! 

But then … the phone rang. 

I knew in an instant it was my mother calling to make sure I’d made it safely. She’d told me to call as soon as I got there, but in all my excitement I forgot. Thankfully, she understood and gave me a second chance. 

*****

In Genesis, we learn that when mankind became too horrendously sinful, God decided to begin again. He is a God a new beginnings! Noah and his family were chosen as the starter family for the new world. (Genesis 6-9) 

Four centuries later, God told Abraham that the time would come when his descendants would be afflicted for 400 years, but they would come out of their slavery with great possessions. (Genesis 15:13-14) This new beginning came about through mighty demonstrations of God’s power through Moses.

Surely, before Moses led the Hebrews out of Egypt, they dreamed of freedom. As they laid their weary bodies down at night, maybe they closed their eyes and imagined what life would be like without a taskmaster constantly pushing them to work harder. Maybe the the scent of Pharaoh’s fine food wafted through the night breezes, filling them with hope. 

Eventually, after the Hebrews scampered across the dry ground of the Red Sea, they realized, like many teenagers do, that with great freedom comes great responsibility. Their new job was to listen to Moses and follow him to the Promised Land.  However, they soon began to strut and dangle their new freedom in Moses’ face. They grumbled and complained about the new roads, new rules, and the fine food God had prepared for them. 

But, then … the phone rang.

It was God on the other end, reminding them of all they had been through together and the many miracles that had brought them so far. All their strutting around had caused them to forget to simply believe Him. As a result, they needed some time to think about things, so God gave them 40 years of timeout in the Wilderness to remember.

The Law of Moses offered them their second chance to believe. The Law was not a checklist to get them right with God. (The rabbis who added to the Law turned it into that.) Instead, God established the Law to build the Hebrews’ faith, to prove His great love for them, and to bless their obedience. The Law showed them what they weren’t getting right, demonstrating their need for a Savior who could and would make them righteous.

Do you remember what God said when He gave the Ten Commandments? “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.” (Exodus 20:2 ESV) With a strong hand and out of His great love, God rescued the Hebrews. He didn’t want them to forget that kind of faithful love or His mighty power, so all of His Commandments hung on love – love for God and love for people. Praise brought them into God’s presence and the sacrifices bolstered their worship. Health and dietary laws kept them strong and healthy. They had the opportunity to become more and more thankful as they remembered His provision, protection, and forgiveness. With such reminders, obedience was meant to flow naturally from a fountain of love. It was never about a checklist.

As we look at our own lives, it’s easy to forget how often God has given us a second chance. I know that He has been supremely patient with me. I deserve no good thing from His hand, but He loves me too much to leave me empty. Like any good parent, He gives me what I need, not always what I want. To be sure, I have been allowed to wander in the desert more than once, but His righteous right hand always provides for me, protects me, and holds me close. 

Trying to be good enough to get into heaven will lead us to the wilderness every time. Doing the “right” things just so we’ll be considered a good person doesn’t work either. Yes, obedience absolutely matters, but not if it’s done for any other reason than love. Paul said it best, “The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself in love.” (Galatians 5:6

For now, let’s all do a little prayerful soul searching. I can’t wait ’til next week!

Lord, forgive us when we grumble and forget to remember your faithfulness. Teach us to see that Your ways are perfect and meant for our good. Help us to not only believe IN You, but to BELIEVE You. May we be as excited as a teenager with a new set of keys when we find the freedom You provide. We need You in the driver’s seat!  

“Your hands have made and fashioned me;
give me understanding that I may learn your commandments.
Those who fear you shall see me and rejoice,
because I have hoped in your word.
I know, O Lord, that your rules are righteous,
and that in faithfulness you have afflicted me.
Let your steadfast love comfort me
according to your promise to your servant.
Let your mercy come to me, that I may live;
for your law is my delight.
Let the insolent be put to shame,
because they have wronged me withfalsehood;
as for me, I will meditate on your precepts.
Let those who fear you turn to me,
that they may know your testimonies.”
May my heart be blameless in your statutes,
that I may not be put to shame!

(Psalm 119:73-80 ESV)

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