Friday, August 15, 2008

The etching of God--Unpacking the passage part 4

I've been loving my time in the book of Deuteronomy. Though I've read this book through several times God always reveals a greater richness and depth than I took in each time prior. It reminds me of this place in Ontario where my husband and I used to go on the weekends from time to time. We'd take a twenty minute drive out into the country where the city sounds were hushed by the whispering harmonies of Winter Wheat's meandering gardens. An artist's home, a craft boutique of sorts, a chorus of gardens and most of all a tiny haven of refreshment for parched city dwellers, this place offered a new inspiration with every visit. And so it has been with Deuteronomy. Listen as Moses reminds the Israelites of the time they received the second set of commandments from God. "At that same time the Lord said to me, "Carve out for yourself two stone tablets like the first ones and come up to the mountain to me; also make for yourself a wooden ark. I will write on the tablets the same words that were on the first tablets you broke, and you must put them into the ark." So I made an ark of acacia wood and carved out two stone tablets just like the first ones. Then I went up the mountain with the two tablets in my hands. The Lord then wrote on the tablets the same words, the ten commandments, which he had spoken to you at the mountain from the middle of the fire at the time of that assembly, and he gave them to me. Then I turned, went down the mountain, and placed the tablets into the ark I had made--they are still there, just as the Lord commanded me." (Deut. 10:1-5) This week my boys and I have talked at length about rocks and stones--their use to mankind over the years. In particular we've discussed their usefulness as tools for some of the first people God placed here on earth. Did Abel use a spear with a stone tip to kill the first lamb he offered to God? Did God himself use a rock to scrape the animal skins he fashioned into clothing for Adam and Eve after they realized their nakedness before Him? Perhaps though, the most significant use of rock is found here in the Old Testament when God tells Moses to carve two tablets from stone. I love the phrase "Carve out for yourself..." that God uses when he instructs Moses. The Bible describes mankind's heart in various forms, one of which is stone. (Ez. 36:26) There are so many days when my heart carries the weight of the heaviest stone behind the cavity of my chest. Days when it's texture is not smooth or soft within the hands of others, but rough and jagged. Days when the hardness of it can only be likened to a rock's density. A heart of stone is a term with which I am familiar and it is true that I have carried a hard heart more than once in my life. But we serve and love a God who specializes in rocks and stones. God tells Moses to carve out two tablets from stone--not from some soft squishy sweet clay, not from some sifted sand which takes any form, but from stone. To imprint His ways permanently for the people of Israel, God needed something that would not alter over time. God's Word says that he replaces our hearts of stone with hearts of flesh and I love that. I believe Him when he says in chapter thirty of Deuteronomy, "The Lord God will also cleanse your heart and the hearts of your descendants so that you may love him with all your mind and being and so that you may live." Over and over and over in this book God repeats the phrase "love the Lord..." Love him. Just love him. And what is so incredible is that He is willing to cleanse our hearts, make them a space where He can etch Himself into their stone surface, transforming what once was dense rock into flesh and life. To make a space for God to imprint the way of life for the Israelites, Moses had to carve tablets from the face of stone. Carve it out. So often, it is the same for me. It is in the places and points in my life where I've struggled, wrestled the most over things that God has left His indelible mark as He has carved out a space for His image. Carving out is never painless for the heart of mankind--the scraping away of old grudges, painful pasts, and deeply rooted desires not founded in God. The chipping away at habits that don't glorify God, the peeling back of misconceptions and distortions of God's Word--these are all intense and often heart wrenching processes that take time. Rarely do they happen overnight. These are the processes and transformations of the long-haul followers of Christ. Even now as I write God has been carving into my heart the Words, Sarah, I'm worthy of your trust. I AM. And as He carves, He places me in situations where I want to cry out, "No, God, I need to take care of this on my own." As He scratches away deep gashes from the portals of my past He gently whispers I know there have been people in your life who weren't trustworthy, who let you down, but I am not like them. Learn ME. Learn who I AM. Submit to my yoke and you'll rest." And over time as I allow Him to inscribe His ways on my heart, I will reflect the writings of a loving, faithful, good and trustworthy Heavenly Father. This is my purpose in being created--that I would bring Him glory--reflect His character to the world. This was the heart of God when he gave the Israelites those commands too--that they would obey Him and have life. How many of us are like that old movie Dead Man Walking? I never saw it, but the title has always captivated me. Am I choosing ways of death because the way of life--the carving out of the stone of my heart a place soft enough for God to write Himself into it's surface--is too painful, too risky, too radical even? Let it not be so. Most often the book of Deuteronomy is associated with the law, but I believe that is a short sighted understanding. This is a book that begs to echo the heart of God--I love you enough to inscribe myself on stone. I love you enough to give you clear boundaries and a way to live life in abundance. I AM love. Carve out a space for me within your heart. Lord, take your tools and carve yourself into my being. Etch your face and your heart and your character deeply into my heart that it may not fade or wash away with the passing of time. Create in me a clean heart, cleanse me from within--allow me to reflect the perfect law that gives freedom to all mankind. I declare you are a good and faithful Father. I choose today to live in that knowledge. Amen. Read with me: Deuteronomy 30:6, James 1:25, Psalm 51:10

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