Saturday, March 14, 2009

Postponed Grace

In the previous post I wrote about--believe it or not--how God is gracious to hold us to the consequences of our sin. But just because God is gracious and our sins are wiped away in Christ doesn't mean all can be had from God's hand so easily. When Israel refused to enter the Promised Land and God judged them, Moses interceded for them. He pleaded God's grace (Numbers 14:17-19). But many others presumed upon it (14:39-45). They thought that with a glib acknowledgement of their sin, all would be okay. They thought all was immediately amended and that God's favor could be had for nothing. Instead of showing a true, mature faith by humbly accepting the severity of their sin and the necessity of repenting from it, they chose instead to try to conquer their enemies in Canaan. Consequently they were duly routed.

It's not to say that the "promised land" isn't for forgiven, redeemed sinners. It is. But it's precisely that; it's a land that can only be enjoyed by redeemed sinners, those who are freed from sin. Those who still love sin much will love God's gifts least (Numbers 16:13-14). Perhaps God is looking for a certain kind of person to enjoy his gifts, someone who will really be grateful and accept them with gladness, someone who will cherish the things God chooses to give. "Not as the world gives do I give to you," says our Lord (John 14:27). He doesn't give us the same type of crap we can buy off the shelf for pennies but which fails to satisfy--the same junk we crave out of sinful desires. ("Oh, the leeks and onions and garlic we had in Egypt!" Israel moaned.) God gives "good and perfect" blessings (James 1:17), and perhaps for many people he chooses to wait until they will see them as good things. And isn't it all the sweeter to receive a gift if you've had to wait for it?
Do I err in thinking this? For now it's only a thought, a rumination. Am I confusing Law and Gospel? I don't think so. God's gifts are always gracious--free, undeserved favors upon sinners. But he is free also to give or withhold in the way he so pleases.


Anonymous said...

How do you know if you are "waiting" for one of God's gifts, or if He never intends to give it to you? God doesn't have to give you what you ask for...

Olivia said...

No, fortunately, what God gives us is most often much better than what we asked for! And the beauty of waiting (though it never does seem to feel beautiful at the time) is that God uses the process to transform and teach us. Waiting is profitable to us, even if we never get 'what we asked for'.

Ted M. Gossard said...

Well spoken.

God's priorities are different than ours. But we need to more and more grow into understanding and living by faith according to God's will given to us from Scripture, in Jesus.

I think as we really begin to learn to seek first God's kingdom and righteousness, we learn to delight in God's gifts, even the smallest things, because we delight more and more in the Giver.

That being said, this is a good reminder to me. And Moses, as seasoned and humble as he was before the Lord and the people, nevertheless failed, and didn't enter the Promised Land during his life, but was there much later, on the Mount of Transfiguration with Jesus. So that's a warning for us not only to guard our hearts, but our actions/words as well.

Good words to reflect on. Thanks.