Therefore say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD, “You eat [meat] with the blood [in it], lift up your eyes to your idols as you shed blood. Should you then possess the land? You rely on your sword, you commit abominations and each of you defiles his neighbor’s wife. Should you then possess the land?”’
In context, these verses are part of a larger narrative. Jerusalem had fallen and most of the Israelites had been taken into captivity. Those who remained in the land thought that the promise made to Abraham regarding the land — viz., to give it to him — was passed through to them. God’s response to their thought process is this morning’s verses. In essence, He asks them if He should bless their disobedience.
The covenant with Abraham was contingent on only one thing: faith. Abraham had to believe that God would do what He said He would. At least once, God makes a promise to Abraham and the author of Genesis notes that Abraham believed God and God counted that belief to Abraham as righteousness. So, faith was at work in the life of Abraham.
The Law given to Moses did not come for a while and carried with it all manner of promises — both promises to bless obedience and discipline disobedience. What I see in God’s response to the remnant in the land is commentary on failure to obey the covenant of The Law as well as a failure to believe.
The eating of meat with blood in it and defiling neighbor’s wives were acts of disobedience against things that are part and parcel of The Law. Committing abominations and lifting up their eyes to idols are also infractions against The Law. So there is a clear case of failure to hold up their end of the covenant of The Law.
What about belief? The covenant with Abraham seems to hinge on Abraham’s belief; his faith and trust in God. The idols and the reliance on their sword — a metaphor, I think, for their own strength and ability — are failure to believe; to trust in God.
There are two principles I derive from these statements to the remnant.
One, God will not bless my disobedience to His commands. Jesus gave two commands, boiling down the entire Law into these two things: Love God with everything and love my neighbor as I love myself. If I am in rebellion against either of these commands, I should not be surprised if I see God’s discipline in my life instead of His blessing. In truth, I am always failing to obey one of these to an extent, but God is looking at my intent. Am I seeking to obey or seeking to disobey? The answer makes all the difference in the world.
Two, failure to believe; to trust forestall the fulfillment of promise. God has made some amazing promises to those who believe. Revelation has a series of promises made to the one who overcomes that are overwhelming once one begins to unpack them. The first promise made to those who believe is, I think, Jesus’ statement in the Great Commission wherein He promised that He would be with us to the end. God’s promises of blessing, however, are contingent on belief. Those who would come to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.
Why would God point out actions? Simply put, actions reveal faith. My works do not save me. Rather, my actions reveal that I am saved. If I do only what those who do not walk with Christ do, then I must take a serious look at whether or not I have truly trusted in Christ. My trust; my faith determines my actions. If it does not, then there is every possibility that I do not trust.
As an example of actions revealing trust, I must trust quite a bit to strap on a harness and slide down a zip line. I have done it and tried very hard not to think of just how much trust I was putting in so many things and people with which I was unfamiliar. I must trust that the harness is sound; that the zip line can bear my weight; that the integrity of the line has not been compromised; that the anchors on either end are secure; that the things to which the line is anchored are stable; that the crew know what they are doing; that the person orientating me on how to do this thing did not forget to tell me anything. The list just keeps going. There is a terrifying amount of trust involved in an action that occupies a minuscule amount of time. When I step off the platform and slide down that line, I reveal my trust in all of those things.
Have I stepped off the platform where trusting God is concerned? As one of my favorite lyricists has it: To trust is to obey. My faith will reveal itself in obedient behavior. If I do not see such behavior, let me examine myself and determine whether or not I trust the God I claim to trust.