Scriptures for Sunday ~ Judges 2:1-5, 17:6; I Samuel 8:19-22; and II Kings 24:20
Our focus word for this week is Squabbling – something that happens very regularly in Scripture. Folks bicker with one another; more often than not they bicker with God. And the bickering leads to a fissure in the relationship that can either be healed or lead to further brokenness.
As I reflect on the bickering – the squabbling – I am reminded of how my brother and I used to act on car rides to our grandparents’ house when we were children. We had your typical “brother and sister” relationship – as in the line drawn down the middle of the backseat to indicate my side and his side and don’t you dare even flick an eyelash into my territory typical “brother and sister” relationship. We would fight, we would bicker, and then we would get into trouble because of our fighting and bickering all because we didn’t handle the adjustment of sharing the same space, or neighboring space, in the car.
(We’re better now…I promise…mainly because we are hardly ever in the same car…haha.)
What I just described is a “growing pain” – an adjustment period were folks are getting used to one another because of a new circumstance, be it a new relationship, new house, new job, new schedule, new school, new whatever. Growing pains can take awhile to resolve or they can resolve very quickly. I believe what hastens the resolution is the effort we (humanity) put forward to bring about the resolution.
In our Scripture passages this week God’s people are experiencing growing pains in their relationship with God. They are discovering it is not so easy to live as partners with God in this covenant community. There are rules – lots of rules – and it turns out that God wants them obeyed all the time because these rules outfit the covenant shared between God and the people.
This covenant model was foreign to the neighbors and neighboring faiths of God’s people in the Promised Land. Whereas the Canaanites had a human-hierarchical structure of leadership, God’s people were called to declare and recognize God’s sovereignty alone. God would be their Lord as well as their guide. But this idea of human-hierarchical structure was too tempting. God’s people wanted to be like their neighbors. Conformity became their priority and soon God’s people strayed from the covenant relationship that brought them up from Egypt and into the Promised Land.
Their straying led to squabbling – squabbling led to major sinning – and major sinning led to physical and spiritual exile.
In I Samuel 8:5b the people say, “Appoint for us, then, a king to govern us, like the other nations.” But God didn’t want God’s people to be like other nations. God set us apart for great and mighty things. If God’s plan for us could have been completed without God setting us apart, why would God have intervened? And why if God made this special movement to set us apart would humanity want to slap a “return to sender” sticker on that precious gift so we could go it alone?
Later in I Samuel 8:20 the people say they want a king not only for governance but so the king can “go out before us and fight our battles.” Since sin came into our lives, God has been going before us and fighting our battles. No earthly king – no human being – could ever do for us what God has done, is doing, and has yet to do.
What we must remember is that God works in mysterious ways that we don’t always understand and that don’t always fit our timelines. We can become impatient in our waiting. We can experience growing pains in our relationship with God, which places us in a fragile position. We can either
(A) Act impulsively to fix them, which may lead us further away from God
(B) Attend diligently to seeking God’s will in the growing pains.
(I’ll give you a hint…go with B!!!)
I believe as we seek God’s will in the growing pains we find peace. This peace is the gift of assurance in our relationship with God. This peace reveals that God has set us apart for great and mighty things and that God will make a way – in God’s time – for their accomplishment.
Prayer: O God how thankful we are that you have set us apart as your people and that you invite us into covenant relationship. Forgive us when we neglect that relationship, seeking conformity with the world rather than seeking your will. Forgive us O God when our straying leads us to squabbling with you and our neighbors. Help us experience your peace and assurance amidst our growing pains. Help us grow closer to you. In your name, which is above all names, we pray. Amen.