Saturday, June 18, 2016

Folly of Passing Snowplows

Some years ago, while I was living in Oregon, there was a severe snow storm that blanketed Portland and the surrounding areas. While listening to the radio I recall hearing a bulletin put out by the State highway patrol that I did not expect. This bulletin warned of dangerous conditions on all roads and freeways and specifically stated a request to “not pass the snowplows.” 
I have never forgotten this because it spurred this question in my mind: Why would someone pass a snowplow on a road covered with multiple feet of snow? Is this not safe? Of course it was not safe—thus the State highway patrol was asking people to refrain from doing this. 

Yet there is something in the fact that people were “passing the snowplows.” Why could they not wait till the road had been cleared and there was a safe path established by which to travel? Impatience is one obvious answer. Stupidity perhaps? Or better yet reckless pride. All the above may be fitting. 

I think that this a fitting example of how many people think of spirituality and relating to God. They can simply pass by the established authorities and guides which have been sought out for thousands of years and push ahead through the depths of so-called “spiritual” paths to God. Modern people are utterly confused when it comes to spirituality because they have abandoned even the very concept of Truth—at least in so far as it has anything to do with morality or spirituality. This is the generation of “do-it-yourself spirituality.” 

The Scriptures testify to God’s standards, decrees and instructions for how to be a “spiritual person.” And the prophets of God came to plow through the confusion of lies and false worship of idols so as to show what the path to the One God is.

“Thus says the LORD: Stand at the crossroads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way lies; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls. But they said, ‘We will not walk in it.’ Also I raised up sentinels for you: ‘Give heed to the sound of the trumpet!’ But they said, ‘We will not give heed.’” (Jeremiah 6:16-17, NRSV)

I would suggest that the reader consider Leviticus as an example of this instruction. (Yes, I am serious about this.) Specifically, I have in mind Leviticus chapters 1 to 7. God’s instructions show that he wants everything from those who worship him and that nothing less than this will satisfy the living God. 

For example, there is that principle of the life-blood of the animal. In order for God to find the offering of worship and sacrifice acceptable there must always be blood—offered as a means of atonement or poured out as a sacrifice to God by the priest. This represents death in that its life was given up to the God who created it. Thus no one was to ingest blood under any circumstances. And this restriction was also true of the fat of the animals given. “It is a perpetual statute throughout your generations in all your dwellings: you shall not eat any fat or any blood.” (3:17, NASBU) Further, even an offering of grain was to be given in totality and before it could be accepted it had to be broken and seasoned (see chapter 2). 

It seems to me that these regulations teach important principles for true spirituality. One is that the people they must always come to him in his own appointed way and use the means (animals, grain, etc.) as he has prescribed. Two is that they need to set themselves apart for God (be clean) before approaching the Holy One. Three is that any sin must be acknowledged and confessed before the priest while offering the appropriate sacrifice. Fourth is that this process of making restitution with God always costs the worshipper something (sacrifices). Fifth is that the priests, who are an essential intermediator in the worship, must themselves be in a state of “cleanness” before they can rightfully eat their designated portions of the sacrifices (see 7:19-21).  

Further, the repetitive pattern of the specific process for bringing animal sacrifices and the rational for that process demonstrate that the weakness, error and sin are that of the person bringing the sacrifice. The whole process is a means to make restitution to God, and God in great mercy, will forgive. This is grace. The animal or grain that the person brings does not “save” him or her (thus the statement in Hebrews 9:9-10; 10:1-4). This was the means to approach God that if enacted would being one to a position of learning that God alone can forgive and restore of his own hesed (covenant love; often translated as “loving-kindness”). These requirements are symbolic of what is ultimately required to have relationship with the holy God (see Hebrews 10:1-18). 
And then, in order to make it clear that sin against God includes harm caused to other people. For if one sins against another person then confession of the exact deed and restitution must be made—in addition to sacrifice to God (see 5:1-13). Confession, forgiveness, restitution are all necessary in the covenant relationship with God and with one another. 

Is this not a demonstration of the two greatest commandments (as identified by the Lord himself)? The principles (stated above) describe what true worship of God involves and requires of the worshipper. And how one treats one’s neighbor directly impacts, if one sins against one’s neighbor, what one must do to restore relationship with God and that neighbor. 

We modern Christians have much to learn from the Scriptures and God has much to teach us. This brief reflection merely touches the surface of the gold mine of insight in Scripture that the Holy Spirit wants to open our hearts to see and receive. But can we listen? Will we listen? Will we seek him in the way he has established for us to find him? From my perspective I am not sure unless the living God moves with power to stir us up again to seek him wholeheartedly and steadfastly. 
The whole cultural tide of modern culture is pushing aside Truth and any universal means of relating to God. All is relative to one’s cultural perspective and religious background. So many of us who identify as Christians are not only terrified to testify to the truth of God’s word but also to even put it into practice ourselves. The remedy for this is for each person to accept the Lord’s discipline and learn to abide in the Lord Jesus, seek to know and practice the teaching of the word of God and walk in step with the Spirit “so that finally we may not be condemned along with the world.” (1 Corinthians 11:32, The New Testament: A Translation in the Language of the People, Charles Williams)

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