Deuteronomy 28:1-3 New Living Translation
28“If you fully obey the Lord your God and carefully keep all his commands that I am giving you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations of the world. 2 You will experience all these blessings if you obey the Lord your God:
3 Your towns and your fields will be blessed.
If My People prayer pilgrimage, Day 4, has us really thinking about some hard stuff, mainly, on obedience to God. In our ego driven culture of self fulfillment, immediate gratification, monetary wealth, it is hard to think of answering to a higher being… to God. While few of us have any trouble maxing out our credit cards and selling our soul to the banks for immediate gratification of whatever trivial thing crosses our path, we bulk at the thought that we owe our humility, our love and respect, our very existence to One Mightier than All Others… God.
Today’s Word tells us that if we fully obey God and carefully keep all his commands, that he will bless our nation and each of us individually. In James 1:1, he begins his book with “James, the slave of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ…” A slave of God. I have to tell you, the first time I read this verse several years ago, I was irritated. Who wants to be a slave to anyone, including God. If I was a slave to God, that would mean that I needed to give up who I was and become totally who God wanted me to be and continually do His bidding. I just didn’t want to think about it as I had been existing quite happily with my compartmentalization of God to Sunday morning Mass and Thursday evening small church group with a prayer tossed in here and there. It was a balanced life with no one even thinking of tossing me into the Bible Thumping Group. I knew where God fit in and more importantly, God knew where He fit into my life. It was convenient. It was safe. It was acceptable to the culture that I lived in. But it wasn’t the plan He had for me, which I soon discovered entailed so much more.
A slave of God is actually found many times in the Bible. In the Old Testament the word doulos (meaning slave, one who is subservient to and entirely at the disposal of his master) is used from ancient Greek to describe the Patriarchs and prophets of the Old Testament including the following: Moses (1 Kings 8:53), Joshua and Caleb (Joshua 2:8 and Numbers 14:24), Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Deuteronomy 9:27), Job (Job 1:8), Isaiah (Isaiah 20:3), Amos 3:7, Zechariah 1:6, Jeremiah 7:25. For these men of the Bible, the title of doulos was one of honor. Was it difficult? Yes. Challenges and strife along the way doing God’s work? Definitely. Worthwhile and meaningful? Without a doubt.
“Obeying God to the point that we are His slave,” what does that really entail? Am I filled with images from Civil War era movies of cuffs, starvation, ill kempt, bone weary work. Is this what God has in store when I grudgingly agree to do His bidding. No! Of course this is not His desire for any of us. I have to get my heart in the right place when I think of being His slave. I give Him my absolute obedience. I am absolutely His possession and I agree that I will follow Him in whatever He has in store for me without thought or question. I give Him my absolute humility. I focus myself on my duties and obligations to God over my privilege and rights. I give Him my absolute loyalty. I am utterly pledged to God and to everything for His glory, not my own. If I can fill my heart with obedience, humility and loyalty to Him who knew me before He formed me in my mother’s womb (Jeremiah 1:5), He will bring blessing not curses to me. Blessings too numerous to list here. For being His slave is so different than being man’s slave or even slave to this battered world we live in. He brings light into the darkness of the world (John 8:12), beauty from ashes (Isaiah 61:3), plans of hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11).
So in this time of darkness with racial tension and ISIS and inflation and lack of jobs to the point of homelessness of many, where many children are being raised by social media and our elderly mostly forgotten, it is time to grab on to His promise that if we commit our ways to Him, trust in Him, He will act (Psalms 37:5). He will act with justice and steadfast love and tender mercies. He calls us to obey Him and follow His commands. The greatest of these is to love our God with our whole heart and to love our neighbor as our self (Matthew 22:38). He says love all our neighbors as our self, whether they are black, blue, Muslim, homeless, disabled, gay and on and on and on. He does not say to pick and chose the neighbor that makes you feel most comfortable and looks like you and thinks like you and has all the same stuff you have. No, He gives us more of a challenge today just as it was when Jesus walked among us 2,000 years ago. Love the Pharisee. Love the Gentile. Love the Good Samaritan. Love the Police Officer. Love the Thug. Love the Woman in Burqa. Love the Transgendered Woman in the Target Bathroom. Love the Gay Couple stating their vows. Love. Love. Love. Let the judging and the justice come from Him above, not from us. Reach out your hand, though you may be filled with fear and just Love…. Then, He will place you where your doings and loving and kindness will bring the greatest glory to Him and He will then bestow you with great, magnificent blessing.
Praying that you find that place in your heart to say, “Lord, I am your slave. Do with me as you wish.”
May you find peace and gratitude in every moment.