Thursday, February 21, 2013

A Lenten Reflection for February 21, 2013

And when the Lord sent you from Kadesh-barnea, saying, “Go up and occupy the land that I have given you,” you rebelled against the command of the Lord your God, neither trusting him nor obeying him. You have been rebellious against the Lord as long as he has known you. (Deuteronomy 9:23-24)

“Mark this, then, you who forget God . . .” (Psalm 50:22a)

Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest is still open, let us take care that none of you should seem to have failed to reach it. For indeed the good news came to us just as to them; but the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who listened. (Hebrews 4:1-2)

I once had a friend—a bartender, by trade—who defined sin as forgetting about God. It was a great biblical description, even though he might not have gotten it from the Bible. I’ve thought about that a lot over the years, and it is still a definition that, for me, captures the essence of sin.

It’s interesting how we tend to think of the term, good news. Good news for us is gospel (from the old English, godspel, meaning good story) and we think that it emerges right out of the New Testament and starts with Jesus. And while Jesus clearly was the ultimate proclaimer and demonstrator of that good news that the kingdom of God is at hand (Mark 1:15), the writer of Hebrews claims that such good news came first to the ancient people of Israel as they wandered in the wilderness.

The good news, of course, is that God is king, and there is no other—no Pharoah, no Ra the Sun king, no territorial gods, no Roman emperor. This news came to those ancient ex-slaves when they were dramatically rescued from Egypt. They were cared for in the wilderness and given a promise of a new identity and a land of their own.

Then they forgot about God. And so, it seems, can we.

We (certainly there is more than just me in this failure!) forget about God and get busy with things that we decide are more urgent, more important. Having tasted of the new reality of God’s kingdom we forget about him and find new gods in our political parties or national loyalties. Having loved our neighbor we begin to trust in the gods of fear and forget that God’s heart is for the world.

In a way, forgetting about God is worse than just resisting him and demanding our own way. At least in that resistance we are still oriented toward God, even in our rebellion. But once we forget him, we often don’t remember until things start crashing down on our heads.

I’d like to remember God all the time, even though I know that I don’t. I want to remember him when I suffer and also when I am comfortable. I don’t want my memory jarred by a disaster that forces me to see that God was the only true king regardless of my forgetting.

After all, I’m pretty sure that God remembers me.

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