There is an interesting verse in Isaiah chapter two which says, “Their land has also been filled with idols; They worship the work of their hands, That which their fingers have made.”(vs.8) It is in the context of God’s people taking up the practices of the foreign nations around them, abandoning humility and trust in their one true God. There are so many verses like this one that can be applied more or less directly to our own times. Our setting of course is different, but our sins are the same. We make Idols of many things. We worship the works of our own hands. The Lord has always sought humility and trust from His people. Yet He is too often met with arrogance and self will. God has given mankind many talents and abilities. He has given us creative minds. He looks for us to use all He has given to the fullest. But He look for us to acknowledge Him as the Giver and to seek His wisdom in the use of all that He gives. When we fail to do this, we find ourselves in the same troubles as the people to whom Isaiah had to speak. Look again into God’s Word. It has many lessons for life.
I take a walk in the mornings around our neighborhood. Up at the end of our cul-de-sac there is a very sweet smell. Honeysuckle has filled the bushes along the fence row. It is a very pleasant odor as I make the turn around the end of our street. The Bible talks about another pleasing odor in relation to the sacrifices that were made by the Old Testament Jews. God told them, “Then burn the entire ram on the altar. It is a burnt offering to the LORD, a pleasing aroma, a food offering presented to the LORD.”(Exodus 29:18) Of course we think this quite strange. What can be pleasing about the smell of burning animal flesh? The smell was not that of the animal, but of the obedience of the people. They were in a proper relationship with Him, and following His commands. God would later say, I hate your offerings, (Isaiah 1:14) because they were done by rote, devoid of meaning, obedience, and grace. God has given us His Word as the true guide for life. We are to be a pleasing aroma to our Lord when we heed that Word and seek to live a life that brings glory to His name.
I usually don’t get involved in speaking about the government as I did yesterday, but it is important to understand the basic principles at the founding of our country. There was a vast difference between the American and the French Revolutions. The American Revolution began a nation founded on the sovereignty of God. The French Revolution sought to remove all reference of God from their nation, which continues to this day. We were not then, and are not now a Christian nation. I’ll say more about that tomorrow. But we are a nation of many Christians, and we follow the injunction of St. Paul in Romans 13:1. “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established.” Our task as Christians, is to be obedient to the government, to the extent that conscience allows, and to work for the good of the community in which we live. In doing this we witness to the truth that we are a God fearing people.
Amos, one of the twelve minor prophets at the end of the Old Testament, was a reluctant messenger, called to speak God’s word to His people. Unlike the major prophets, Isaiah, and Jeremiah, Amos describes himself as a shepherd, and a tender of sycamore trees. He was an ordinary, blue collar guy that God chose to use. Further, he was a southern boy who was sent up north to prophesy against the sins of Israel. That is like a lone Virginian preaching in the streets of Washington during our Civil War. You can imagine that there were many protests in the heart of this young man. But there are times when God calls us to difficult tasks, for which we feel ill equipped, and way out of our comfort zone. You can pray that He ask someone else, but you are there, and the task has been given you. With any call, God never leaves us alone, but gives the strength sufficient for the task. Amos was obedient, and we can be as well.
Can you imagine receiving an instruction from the Lord like Abraham received? “Leave your country, your people, and your father’s house, and go to the land I will show you” (Genesis 12:1). We would have to be pretty certain that it was the Lord who was speaking, and even then, would require a tremendous amount of faith and trust. We are told that Abraham (Abram, at that time) obeyed, and from that obedience a great people of faith was born, beginning a line that would lead to the Messiah. No, it is difficult for me to imagine receiving that kind of instruction from the Lord. Nevertheless, it is the kind of trust our Lord is asking of us. Jesus said, “Do not worry about your life. Your heavenly Father knows what you need” (Matthew 6:25-34). This is not a command to leave our home, but we are called to trust the Lord for all parts of our life, and not be afraid. It is this faith the Lord seeks in all of us.