Like 2013, I began this year on a journey to read through the Bible, one book per day (plus 3 Psalms per day). As of today, February 7th, I completed the Old Testament, and have made it through Psalm 114.
This year was different than last year. I’m not sure if it was my circumstances that changed how I heard things, or being the 2nd time through, if I was able to hear better, more clearly. Nevertheless, there are two words that jumped off the pages… many pages… as I read.
Most of the occurrences appeared as I came across passages where a covenant was being established or renewed, or a warning and a blessing being declared by a prophet.
These two words are:
The second cannot occur without the first happening, and the first is never isolated from the second. In other words, “If you return to God, He will restore…..”
The first major time this occurred when it hit me was in Deuteronomy 30. Moses knows he’s about to die. The children of Israel are getting ready to cross into the Promised Land. Moses is giving them one last charge. He says:
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. Even though you are banished to the ends of the earth, the LORD your God will gather you from there and bring you back again. The LORD your God will return you to the land that belonged to your ancestors, and you will possess that land again. Then he will make you even more prosperous and numerous than your ancestors!
“The LORD your God will change your heart and the hearts of all your descendants, so that you will love him with all your heart and soul and so you may live!
“The LORD your God will then make you successful in everything you do. He will give you many children and numerous livestock, and he will cause your fields to produce abundant harvests, for the LORD will again delight in being good to you as he was to your ancestors. The LORD your God will delight in you if you obey his voice and keep the commands and decrees written in this Book of Instruction, and if you turn to the LORD your God with all your heart and soul.
You see this in other passages like 2 Chronicles 7:13-15 where if the people humble themselves (return), then He will restore. Job 42:10-11 talks about Job returning to favor with God and God restoring. Psalms is full of returning and restoring. King Hezekiah talked about returning to God and God restoring him and his health (Isaiah 38). The prophets are absolutely full of language that talks about returning to Him, and God restoring. Read it for yourself.
We Tend To Stray
Here’s the problem.
We are all scum, sinners, rebellious. We stray and we become far too independent. We tend to be idolators, placing things and others at places of prominence over God. I may not carve a little wooden statue, but my pride, my business, and my way tend to usurp the throne.
If you read the Old Testament, you will find that there are two parts to the covenant:
- If you honor me, I will bless you.
- If you dishonor me, I will curse you.
Pretty simple. You can’t water that down and say that doesn’t apply today. If it doesn’t apply, then God isn’t God, because I just read today in the last book of the Old Testament, Malachi 3:6, “I am the Lord, and I do not change.” That phrase is also said multiple times throughout the Bible.
Granted, we live by grace, but that doesn’t give us a license to sin (hmmm… I think there is a passage in Romans about that).
My Two Words for 2014
So, that brings us back to my two words – return and restore.
I’m committing myself and my family to returning. I’ve been a jerk, a jackass, and a fool. I’ve been arrogant (the OT has plenty to say about that too) and have sought to blaze my own path.
No more. Micah 6:8 – “The Lord has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.”
The covenant offers a blessing if you return… and it couldn’t be more clear. He will restore:
- the Throne of David
Now, don’t go getting all bent out of whack… I can just hear some of my Bible college friends saying “That’s a health and wealth gospel.” I understand, but don’t go getting all dogmatic. I’m just reflecting on what I read. I’m not taking anything out of context. It’s from Genesis to Malachi. That’s over 1,000 pages of context!
The Crux of It All
We tend to live our lives independently of God. If you look above at that Malachi passage, there are 3 things it says God requires:
- to do what is right (act justly)
- love mercy
- walk humbly with your God
The problem is we live by the Meatloaf principle – “‘Cause two out of three ain’t bad.” Good song, but poor advice when seeking to please God in light of those 3 things.
I believe, as a whole, we live under God’s curse as a nation and as individuals. The opposite of return is to leave. The opposite of restore is to destroy or take away.
I am a living example, proof, that leaving brings destruction and taking away. I’m not proud of that. But, hey, 2 out of 3 is bad.
Maybe, just maybe… if we would repent and return, God would restore. I believe in that promise.
Those are the two words that are my focus for 2014.
(I chose the word crux on purpose by the way)