The angel’s message from God was pretty clear. The Israelites had messed up by disobeying God’s command. Our last reading said they had “failed” to drive out the Canaanites. Did that mean they didn’t even try? Or is it that they should have tried harder and never accepted defeat because that meant they were ultimately “disobeying” God?
Sometimes in life we have to be prepared to read between the lines and understand what is intended. When we start to make assumptions that our actions are “good enough” without striving to be what God wants us to be, maybe we’re being disobedient, too. We can’t say we didn’t get the memo. We’ve got God’s word right here in our hands. Now it’s up to us to read it. He wants to bless us!
There was a bit of a rollercoaster ride feeling in today’s reading. Overall, the theme of blessing was stronger with only a few jolts of judgment thrown in for good measure. Yet we see that God doesn’t force himself on the people. We start with an almost surprising verse. “So the Lord must wait for you to come to him so he can show you his love and compassion.” Is it like a test? Does God want to see how we respond to him?
I had to check another translation because this just didn’t sit right with me. The English Standard Version (ESV) says it this way,“Therefore the Lord waits to be gracious to you, and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you. For the Lord is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for him.” That’s better. God is waiting for the perfect time to bless us and bring justice. It’s nothing WE NEED to do. There is no test. But we do need to be faithful and wait ourselves.
Remember the Beatitudes from Matthew’s gospel? Today we see the 2nd in the similar blessings of Jesus coming to us in Revelation. I didn’t recognize the first one in Revelation 1:3, “God blesses the one who reads the words of this prophecy to the church, and he blesses all who listen to its message and obey what it says, for the time is near.” In today’s passage, in verse 13, “Blessed are those who die in the Lord from now on. Yes, says the Spirit, they are blessed indeed, for they will rest from their hard work; for their good deeds follow them!”
Why do we have more “beatitudes” (there will be a total of seven in Revelation)? Don’t you think Jesus knew his followers would need more encouragement all those years later? These new blessings were directed first to the seven churches we read about when we began our journey through Revelation. Jesus’ new blessings reinvigorate His followers to hold on and to realize that, while it’s not always easy to be a Christian, it would be worth it! In other words, “stay the course!”
Moses is referred to here as a “man of God.” How do you hope to be remembered some day–as a man or woman of God? I certainly do. God has used Moses in some amazing ways as we look back on his life and teaching. What a prophet! A prophet who had Facetime with God! That certainly doesn’t happen every day. But we can be still and listen for God’s voice.
I was talking with another business coach the other day, and we were comparing notes about how God is moving in our lives. She lamented about how she had really struggled lately not knowing which direction she should go with her business. She wondered where God was. So she asked him. His answer back was, “you haven’t been listening.” Is that us? Are we too busy to listen for God’s voice?
Notice that Moses begins this passage with the words, “In the future, when..” God knew that the people would turn from him, that they would stumble, that they would be distracted. Notice he doesn’t say “if you mess up.” What happens to people who turn their back on God and endure the curses we’ve read about? Does God shut them out completely? Forever? These verses would seem to suggest to the contrary. “If at that time you and your children return to the Lord your God, and if you obey with all your heart and all your soul all the commands I have given you today, then the Lord your God will restore your fortunes. He will have mercy on you and gather you back from all the nations where he has scattered you.”
Our God gives second chances. God’s mercy is unbelievable. Even if these people walked away from God, did every despicable thing God warned would end in a curse, he would still take them back. And there’s more, God would see that they were even more prosperous than before.