Rev. Katherine Todd
I hear a voice I had not known:
“I relieved your shoulder of the burden;
your hands were freed from the basket.
In distress you called, and I rescued you;
I answered you in the secret place of thunder;
I tested you at the waters of Meribah.
Hear, O my people, while I admonish you;
O Israel, if you would but listen to me!
There shall be no strange god among you;
you shall not bow down to a foreign god.
I am the Lord your God,
who brought you up out of the land of Egypt.
Open your mouth wide and I will fill it.
“But my people did not listen to my voice;
Israel would not submit to me.
So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts,
to follow their own counsels.
O that my people would listen to me,
that Israel would walk in my ways!
Then I would quickly subdue their enemies,
and turn my hand against their foes.
Those who hate the Lord would cringe before him,
and their doom would last forever.
I would feed you with the finest of the wheat,
and with honey from the rock I would satisfy you.”
Hear the word of the Lord, O house of Jacob, and all the families of the house of Israel. Thus says the Lord:
What wrong did your ancestors find in me
that they went far from me,
and went after worthless things, and became worthless themselves?
They did not say, “Where is the Lord
who brought us up from the land of Egypt,
who led us in the wilderness,
in a land of deserts and pits,
in a land of drought and deep darkness,
in a land that no one passes through,
where no one lives?”
I brought you into a plentiful land
to eat its fruits and its good things.
But when you entered you defiled my land,
and made my heritage an abomination.
The priests did not say, “Where is the Lord?”
Those who handle the law did not know me;
the rulers transgressed against me;
the prophets prophesied by Baal,
and went after things that do not profit.
Therefore once more I accuse you,
says the Lord,
and I accuse your children’s children.
Cross to the coasts of Cyprus and look,
send to Kedar and examine with care;
see if there has ever been such a thing.
Has a nation changed its gods,
even though they are no gods?
But my people have changed their glory
for something that does not profit.
Be appalled, O heavens, at this,
be shocked, be utterly desolate,
says the Lord,
for my people have committed two evils:
they have forsaken me,
the fountain of living water,
and dug out cisterns for themselves,
that can hold no water.
We as a people have a problem.
Not unlike those who came before…
Not unlike the ancient Israelites who God is addressing in this passage…
WE routinely trade down.
Day after day, we choose the lesser.
Why on earth do we do that?
Though our God owns all the cattle on every hill…
Though our God owns the whole earth and everything in it…
Though our God wants for nothing…
We still try to get what we want on our own.
It’s as though we don’t believe that God will attend to our wants and desires.
It’s as though we don’t believe we are that important to God, that God would be attentive to our daily needs…
Is this you?
Jesus instructed us, “Ask, and you will receive. Seek and you shall find.” And yet, we doubt.
Why is that?
Have we asked & not received?
Do we have Santa syndrome: we asked & didn’t get what was on our list?
It is fair to question this teaching, Jesus’ instructions; after all, we do not believe Jesus is our personal genie-in-a-bottle, granting every whim and request.
So what does it mean to ask and receive?
Perhaps this is where other scriptures can give us greater insight.
“Who among you would give your son a snake, if he asked for fish…” Jesus asks? (Luke 11:11)
God does not give us evil gifts, or gifts to harm us. God wants our good and gives us good gifts.
“Delight yourself in the Lord, and God will give you the desires of your heart.” (Psalm 37:4)
I find this scripture fantastic. It does not imply that God gives us all things we desire. But it does imply that when we spend time delighting in God, our desires are perhaps made more and more into what is pleasing to God – such that God will fulfill the desires of our heart.
So in summary, not everything we want is of God, and God desires our good. So if we wish for evil, God does not give us evil (though we may go after it). But the more and more we delight in God, our desires grow according to God’s will. Because when we delight in God, God gives us the desires of our hearts.
Our scriptures don’t support the idea of our God being a great genie in the sky, but they do point to a loving a merciful God. I love that God will actually grow God’s will in our hearts – such that we desire it more and more when we delight ourselves in God.
This means that if we are making space in our moments and days to think on God, to give thanks, to delight in God’s goodness and truth – we can also lean into our desires and ask God for that which is on our hearts. We can trust that in God’s presence, our desires will conform more and more to God’s will and to what’s in our best interest.
I used to think that, like a parent, God would give me only the things I most needed and not the things I very much wanted. But as I’ve learned to live more and more of my days listening to the Spirit and following that trail, I find God tending to all of me – wants and desires, along with my needs.
As many of you know, I’ve been in the midst of a big renovation project, and mid-stream it appeared that the source of our funds was less than expected. It was a major concern, and we were ready to completely stop the project, when God brought to mind another way, a source of funding that had been forgotten. Right there, my enormous concern was provided for.
But then, in looking for a small table we needed to mount a fan on, I discovered a beautiful pair of shoes – all leather, which my feet require – and they have the exact marking that my Dad’s shoes used to have. It made my heart happy. And on top of all that, they were just my size, AND ridiculously cheaper than they are worth.
In this small way, I felt God’s loving care.
Do these shoes really matter?
Are they connected to some big part of God’s plan and eternal wisdom…
But do they warm my heart & fill it to the brim?
In my experience, God has not only provided for my needs. God has provided for so many wants and un-spoken desires. How good is that?!
What a loving and generous God we serve?!!
Can it be any wonder why GOD wonders why we’d trade in God for lesser things, lesser loves, lesser provision, lesser security, lesser truth?
Can it be any wonder GOD wonders why we’d choose the lesser, letting go of God, the greater?
It is foolishness above all foolishness.
But if we are to go all in – to hang our lives on God – to receive the manna God gives and trust God to take us into the promised land in our lives… we have to trust God. We have to trust that God exists. We have to trust that God has our best interest at heart. We have to trust that God sees all and knows all. We have to trust that there is no better GPS for our lives than God. We have to trust that God loves us completely and exquisitely – tenderly caring for not only our needs but also for many of our wants.
Brothers and sisters, may we never again choose the lesser.
May we finally get clear in our hearts and in our minds that there is no other god above our God.
WE cannot satisfy ourselves better.
WE cannot provide better.
A person cannot meet all our needs.
A purchase cannot fill and satisfy.
Even food is here for a moment and gone the next.
All the things & people we try to fit into the God-sized hole in our hearts just doesn’t make us whole. But God, our God, our God satisfies. Our God is the fountain of living water, bringing life and health and wholeness and satisfaction to the whole of who we are.
May we trust and believe.
May WE delight ourselves in God,
and may we SEE the generous provision of our God.