With Christmas almost here and the big movie Star Wars coming out on Friday I thought I would role out this gem. As in Star Wars, the Rebel Alliance fights against the Empire and their rule over the Galaxy. They raise up X-wings Y-wings to battle the Tie fighters. War is at hand. Jedi are needed. But what’s everybody so upset about?
15 As it is said,
“Today, if you hear his voice,do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.”
I have always pictured Darth Vader saying this line to the rebel alliance, calling them to return to the Galactic Empire, but alas it was not so. The author of Hebrews is of course talking about the Israelites who grumbled and complained about life on the road. But God was saying you don’t have to live like a refugee.
The Israeli rebellion was all about losing their way. It was about looking at the accommodations on the journey and musing if it was better in first class. The rebellion was about people grumbling. Isn’t that where it always starts, with discontentment?
I have had to start asking myself this question. What causes you to complain? What causes you to complain to God? Does being a Christian mean that our lives should reflect the American dream? What comforts are essential to you and yours?
How does God fit into the picture? When I spoke in Tucson at my vetting I was discussing this very issue. I realized that even though I escaped the name it and claim it theology of my youth I still had expectations of God that put stress on our relationship. I expected him to fulfill certain needs, wants, and desires in my life. I expected his grace to look a certain way. When after long enough, it didn’t, or they went unmet, I started to to wonder at some other promises from God. It started to affect my relationship with God.
You know like a relationship with a friend or family member who you feel cheated you or let you down and it still affects the way you think about them. In person you are cordial enough but you always come back to the wrong or the disappointment. In the end the relationship becomes of toleration, or perhaps you depart it.
I realized I expected certain comforts especially since I was pursuing ministry. Since I was pursuing God. A certain amount of wealth, health, protection and provision? What expectations of God do you have?
As I have gone on in my Christian I keep coming back to the Exodus story and the wilderness journey. The longer I live my life I have become convinced that the Torah is a picture of our lives. The first five books of the Bible I believe represent our faith walk. Just like in the Exodus, for us Jesus raises himself up and delivers us from the bondage of sin. He does miraculous works and so why wouldn’t we follow him? But as we travel together and we start to learn some of his truth and his ways we can get a little overwhelmed. We continue to walk and we start to realize that this journey is actually hard. We walk and start to think that life perhaps was a bit easier when I wan’t out in this wilderness but safe back in the city as they did.
We are warned in scripture that those who desire to live a righteous life will suffer persecution. We are reminded that we will have trouble in this world. Jesus warns that we will hated as he was. This doesn’t mean all is bad of course but it does mean the accommodations may not always make us feel like we are in that 5 star place of rest. Perhaps sometimes we get to stay in the stable. There will be times of challenge but what do we do? Do we grumble at the pillar of fire or drag our feet at the leading cloud?
I think the Exodus is a picture our lives with God. God wants us to continue on to the promised land, but some fall in the desert or give up, or harden their hearts and rebel, as this verse was referring to. Some raise up for themselves new leaders who will tell them what they want to hear. They look for leaders who will lead them how they want to be led, and feed them how they want to be fed. So does Jesus like Darth Vader find your lack of faith disturbing? Are we grumblers or are we committed to the walk, the journey, to the destination? That classic question are you a Caleb or a “nay-sayer”?
This is what happened with Korah’s rebellion as well. They were tired of Moses’ lead, one that dragged on through the desert. They grew tired of him saying that he spoke for God and brought to them the words of God. The grew tired of the mana. They wanted their own leaders who would be nicer to them. They wanted their own representative, their own relationship with God. Their own meals. But God was Kingdom building and was not interested in an insurrection.
I feel the pull of not only a society that wants a specific kind of freedom but a growing sect of churches who want a certain kind of savior. A kind of savior that only possess one attribute. Unadulterated acceptance. We can continue to say the words of God after him. Or we can grumble depart and raise up teachers who teach a form of religion that pays service to God and Jesus but denies his harder side. His side that cares about conduct. His side that calls to repentance. His side that says if you desire to live a righteous life you will be persecuted. His side that says you will hated as I was hated because I call people’s deeds evil. His side that makes whips. I don’t say this because I prefer Jesus when we said those harsher things and not when he communicated grace, but to honestly follow him I have to come to terms with everything he taught. He is interested in my obedience as well as my love. Jesus is more complex than he simply loved people and accepted them. His message also said go and sin no more. His love looked like sacrifice because our lives of sin are repulsive. His love looks like taking sin very seriously. He taught his disciples this as well and they continued to write about it the rest of the New Testament
Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.
Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.
Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!
God is concerned about his Kingdom not yours and what you want to bring into it.
So do we grumble and attempt to follow new leaders back to Egypt? Back where we were still on good terms with the Egyptians? We wouldn’t want to upset anybody. We wouldn’t want to make the Egyptians feel bad about worshiping false gods. We wouldn’t want the Egyptians to feel bad about their sin so perhaps we should go back and join them? This is that wide road that many go, the highway to hell that doesn’t upset the status quo. That road that is paved with smiling leaders that say “peace, peace” when there is no peace, only capitulation. As the writer of Hebrews again reminds
Take care, brethren, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God.
We have walked through history and we are starting to feel the squeeze of what persecution feels like, of what being uncomfortable for our beliefs is.
This is my squeeze because I know as Jesus said that holding to his truth would not make friends. Jesus even says woe to you when people speak good of you. Our message is so upsetting that Jesus encourages us to check our walks when people are liking the things we have to say. Because the kinds of things we are supposed to say sound like death, death to ourselves, death to our vices, death to our idols and life to the King.
I am not tempted to grumble against God so much. But I see my temptation of one feeling sad that the Gospel is no longer good news to our culture. I feel the squeeze of trying to say God’s words after him while others are raising up new gospels that itch ears. People raise up rebellions and we who want to be disciples of Jesus are made to look like bigots and fundys and the worse charge yet? Unloving. Well all I can say is I love God and I love his people and so we continue through the wilderness at his leading. Some may grumble and some may rebel but we must continue onto the promise land. So please rebels but down your pitchforks and blaster rifles, soften your hearts and come back to mountain of God.