“Why do you provoke me to anger with the works of your hands, making offerings to other gods in the land of Egypt where you have come to live, so that you may be cut off and become a curse and a taunt among all the nations of the earth?” (44.8)
It is so important to understand that the God who needs propitiation is not angry for no reason. I provoke him to anger, daily at that. We want to speak as if we are innocent and God is unjust, but how could we ever believe this. The evil nature of our behavior is transparent to us at all ages. When my 7-year old acknowledges that she does bad things that she shouldn’t, I know that the 25-year old who claims otherwise is deceiving himself.
I provoke God. I willingly, consciously provoke God, doing things I know are wrong in complete obstinacy to his commands. My choice puts me on the wrong team when I read what Solomon says in Ecclesiastes 8. Just because the punishment for my evil is not executed immediately I choose to go on doing it, counting on the ability to just ask forgiveness of it later and all be well. What can prevent my arrogance? God, please save me from myself and from spoiling all the blessings which you have given me. Help me to grow and put all this old self junk to death once and for all.
“As for the word that you have spoken to us in the name of the LORD, we will not listen to you.” (44.16)
This is my response to God when I choose to sin. I am no longer unaware, I am no longer darkened. God has shone his light into my life and yet still I make choices to please the flesh in which I dwell. I fully understand Paul, as he struggles with this in Romans 7. I hate the flesh and the practices of my old self and yet so frequently I detach my eyes from the things of heaven and seek satisfaction in the things of earth. I hate myself.
There is so much conviction in reading these words and knowing that I do the same thing. I love God. I am so grateful for the way in which he has saved me and yet I find myself so quick to deny him with my actions and thoughts. It’s no wonder the New Testament is full of longings for the last days. Though I love this life and am thankful for how God has blessed me in it, I cannot wait until the day when this constant battle to be obedient ends.
“Why are your mighty ones face down? They do not stand because the LORD thrust them down.” (46.15)
In the end we will see that all of our gods are going to be toppled by the Lord. Sex, money, status. Nothing will stay standing, all will be burnt up. In those days all that shall remain are the good things which give glory to the Lord. How much of what I do will still go on in those days? How much of my day is spent doing things which will be toppled in front of God? If it will be that way then then why do I waste time on them now? So much of my life is vanity. Vanity, vanity!
“Fear not, O Jacob my servant, declares the LORD, for I am with you. I will make a full end of all the nations to which I have driven you, but of you I will not make a full end. I will discipline you in just measure, and I will by no means leave you unpunished.” (46.28)
God is true to his promise. He will not leave his people or turn them away in anger. Yet this does not preclude their punishment and discipline. In fact, the reason we are punished but not destroyed is to testify to our status as sons and daughters of God (Hebrews 12.7). Sanctify me, God. Conform me daily to the image of your son and lift me out of this sinful flesh which I wallow around in so naively. I thank you for your promise, that you will deliver me from exile and from destruction and please help me to become more and more obedient along the way. You are so merciful when simply annihilating me would be just. I can’t express how wonderful this is because I don’t think I really quite understand.