|Volume 23 Number 2 February 2021
The Hope Set Before Us
If you ever seriously considered the Book of Deuteronomy, you were sure to see the wonder, the mercy and longsuffering providence of Almighty God as He worked with rebellious Israel. God set before Israel a magnificent land that flowed with milk and honey, and He told them in so many words, “Go get it!” (Exodus 3:8; Leviticus 20:24; Deuteronomy 26:9). An objective look at Israel from the time of their leaving Egyptian bondage to the time of their preparing to enter Canaan reveals a startling situation. Their history was always the same! There would be a period of halfhearted obedience in which they would prosper, and then there would come a period of rebellion and outright apostasy. In this span of time, they questioned every communication from God. Even in times of disobedience, God lovingly entreated them to return to obedience. “The Lord your God, who goes before you, He will fight for you, according to all He did for you in Egypt before your eyes” (Deuteronomy 1:30 NKJV). “You must not fear them, for the Lord your God Himself fights for you” (Deuteronomy 3:22).
In our day and time, we know that God has not chosen for Himself a national people, whom He blesses exclusively. Note the following scriptures. “Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:30). “But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him” (Acts 10:35). The hope of Heaven is set before all men (Hebrews 6:18). This is quite evident and easily understood. Jesus said, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).
Through God’s loving providence, Israel was rescued from abject bondage in Egypt and set on a course to enter Canaan, a land flowing with milk and honey. Just so, and in true analogy, mankind today is entreated by God’s loving call to escape the bondage of sin and set on a course for Heaven. The hope that is set before mankind today is infinitely more desirable and worthy than the Land of Canaan was to the Jews. That land was certainly more desirable than the slavery they endured in Egypt, but that desirable release from bondage was short-lived. They still had to face the trials of life that the Prophet Job described in his writings. “Man who is born of woman Is of few days and full of trouble. He comes forth like a flower and fades away; He flees like a shadow and does not continue” (Job 14:1-2).
The apostle Paul warned, “For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope” (Romans 15:4). What is there for us to learn from reading the history of Israel? We can employ the wisdom of an old adage, and that wisdom will surely enable us to make a wise decision about what we do, where we go and with whom we share the moments of our earthly sojourning. The adage is, “Fool me once, shame on you! Fool me twice, shame on me!” By observing what happened to others who either obeyed or disregarded the commandments of God, we can arrive at a better answer than if we had no clue as to what to do. When Israel sinned, the nation was punished. When the people obeyed, God blessed them abundantly! We can expect the exact same thing today! Israel had the promise of a goodly land, but we have the promise of an eternal city in the presence of God. “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith…” (Hebrews 12:1-2).
As Christians, we often talk of our love for God, but what does it really mean to love Him? Is your love just a feeling or an emotion? Is love a circumstance in and out of which we fall? Or, does true love for God involve action? Jesus made a statement in John 14:15 that tells how our love for God must be demonstrated. “If you love me, keep my commandments.” We can deduce from this statement that love is not just some feeling or emotion, but rather a true love requires obedience to the will of Jesus Christ. The following questions, which when answered, will test if we really love God as we say that we do.
Do we put God first in our lives? If we truly love God, then we will do much more than just say it. We will seek to put Him first in our lives. Matthew 6:33 records Jesus saying, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God.” This means we are to place God in the #1 position in our lives. He comes before our families, our jobs, our hobbies and everything else that we do. He is the center of our consideration. He is at the center of all that we do.
Do we enjoy giving gifts to God? This deals with our giving. We are afforded an opportunity to give a portion of our blessings to God as a sacrifice every first day of the week (1 Corinthians 16:1-2). People will sacrifice everything they own for the well-being of their children, but why? The answer is because they love them. However, when it comes to sacrificial giving to God, folks have a tougher time doing that. Why? Perhaps it is because they do not love God as they should.
Do we enjoy talking to God? Most people enjoy communicating with those they love, and thus they communicate with their loved ones often. They email them; they call them; and they go to see them so they can talk with them in person. Yet, many find it a struggle to pray to God each day, and when they do pray, they struggle for words to say to Him. Perhaps this is because some people do not have a relationship with God. Building a relationship with God requires communication on our part to Him. If we do not communicate with Him on a regular basis, then do we really love God? I believe we know the answer.
Do we desire to listen to God? Many will declare how much they love God, and yet, they don’t listen when He speaks. God speaks to us today through His Word. If I want God to communicate with me, I must read and study His Word (2 Timothy 2:15). When I read God’s Word, I understand Him better and also grow closer to Him. Thus, my love for God grows stronger.
So, the next time you tell someone how much you love God, remember that loving God involves much more than just saying it! “Then one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, perceiving that He had answered them well, asked Him, ‘Which is the first commandment of all?’ Jesus answered him, ‘The first of all the commandments is: Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment” (Mark 12:28-30).