Bible Study Fellowship resumed this week, and it feels good to be back into the weekly small group discussion and lecture as well as the daily study questions. I've read Isaiah many times and God has used verses from this book to speak to my heart through the years. But this deeper study has been especially fruitful.
And I must say, it's interesting how my reading through the Bible is meshing with what I am studying in Isaiah. There was a great quote in yesterday's lecture based upon Isaiah's prophesy of God's retribution upon those who reject Him and the redemption and joy that God gives those who follow Him:
"The choice to believe is yours. The consequence of unbelief is not yours."
Wow! There is a powerful truth in those two brief sentences. God gives mankind free will. We can choose to believe in Him and to follow His word, but what happens to us if we don't is up to Him, not us. And the Bible spells out quite clearly that the consequences of rejecting God are severe. He is a just and holy God as well as a God of mercy and love. If we cannot count on His justice, neither can we count on His salvation.
Then this morning, I read the story of Dinah's rape by the prince of the land, Shechem. In Gen. 34:8-10, King Hamor spoke to Jacob, Dinah's father, and said, “The soul of my son Shechem longs for your daughter; please give her to him in marriage. Intermarry with us; give your daughters to us and take our daughters for yourselves. Thus you shall live with us, and the land shall be open before you; live and trade in it and acquire property in it.”
I was struck by my study notes: The Canaanites wanted to absorb Israel in order to benefit from the blessings Jacob had received from the Lord. This was a danger Israel constantly faced from other peoples and nations—either absorption or hostility, both of which are perpetual threats to the people of God.
Followers of Christ today must fight all the time against being absorbed into the culture around us. It is so easy to begin thinking as our culture thinks rather than the way God wants us to think in His upside-down kingdom where the meek shall inherit the earth and the last shall be first, etc. Haven't we seen denominations reject what God says His people will not do and begin practicing what the culture says is okay? Usually this is done in the name of "tolerance." (Tolerance: a: sympathy or indulgence for beliefs or practices differing from or conflicting with one’s own. b: the act of allowing something.)
For believers, the choice to obey God's call to holiness and the way He expects us to live is ours. The consequences of not doing so are His.
Do I consider what God has spoken clearly to me in His word as I make decisions about using my time and resources so that my present life has the quality of fruitful, joyful, "kingdom life?" Do I reject those cultural influences that are in direct opposition to Christian living? I certainly want to be able to say yes to those questions and to know that I always do as God would have me do in every situation.
How about you?