Friday, October 19, 2007

Burning Bushes (Part 2)

Two stories in particular come to mind when we consider how Christians today subscribe to the Culture of Choice instead of walking by faith (see this post for the start of the conversation).

The first story is about Abraham. Like many God-followers from Scripture it is easy for us to discount their faith because it seems they were given such clear direction from on high. If God provided them burning bushes, voices from clouds, bright lights, or still, small voices, it is no wonder they walked steadfastly in His Will! If I ever get stopped on the road by the Angel of the Lord wielding a flaming sword, I doubt I'll have a problem listening and taking the words to heart.

The LORD, the God of heaven, who brought me out of my father's household and my native land and who spoke to me and promised me on oath, saying, 'To your offspring I will give this land'-he will send his angel before you so that you can get a wife for my son from there.
. . .
Then the servant took ten of his master's camels and left, taking with him all kinds of good things from his master. He set out for Aram Naharaim and made his way to the town of Nahor.
. . .
Then he prayed, "O LORD, God of my master Abraham, give me success today, and show kindness to my master Abraham.
. . .
Before he had finished praying, Rebekah came out with her jar on her shoulder. She was the daughter of Bethuel son of Milcah, who was the wife of Abraham's brother Nahor.
. . .
Without saying a word, the man watched her closely to learn whether or not the LORD had made his journey successful.
-- Genesis 24
This part of the story starts with God speaking to Abraham about a wife for his son. Abraham then has to send a servant, who has to make his way across the country with a caravan. There is no specific destination, just a general hand-wave of a region in which to end up. Once there, the servant has to figure out how to actually go about choosing the wife. He begins this with prayer. The critical part to draw attention to is that after praying first and then seeing the results of the prayer is he still proceeds to watch her closely.

Even given such clear direction from the Lord about a wife, notice how there was a whole host of things that had to be done for His Will to work itself out the way we interpreted it would. Some of the activities required Abraham to work through another person (the servant). It also required that Abraham have faith that God would guide the servant independently, far from home. The servant also needed faith that the options would be presented and one would be both acceptable and the clear choice.

As we examine many of the stories and parables found in Scripture, especially those that speak so definitively about His direct involvement, it is possible to see how much faith was also required. The plant erupting in flames might provide a reassurance of His Will, but by itself it is insufficient.

Consider that at any time, the servant could have totally punted. He could have just settled on the first girl he came across, or have been less diligent in testing and examining his initial choice. Abraham could have inadequately prepared the servant (ten camels!) or been less restrictive in his instructions. Each aspect of this unfolding Will required a faithful response, a full commitment from the participants. They had to give up other choices to follow His Will (no more touring the countryside with camels for the servant, Abraham had to trust the servant wouldn't squander the gold, would bring back an acceptable girl, etc.).

When you do come across a bush that's burning, how do you keep walking by faith? Considered another way, how do you figure out which direction to head when the landscape around you is devoid of any bushes, enflamed or otherwise?

So we know we can't get sucked into the trap of always trying to leave our options open. We also know our choices do matter, and we are expected to choose something. In the follow-up we'll discuss why we can't just reject all the choices completely and wait on solely on the shrubbery to ignite.

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