Friday, May 23, 2014

Reexamining the Water Hose: Why Obedience May Not Please the Lord

In Christian churches today, we often hear an emphasis that our actions need to be pleasing to the Lord. We are told that we need to obey the Lord in all that He says, no matter the consequences, and the Lord will be satisfied with our works.

Only that's not entirely accurate. You see, obeying the Lord is only one half of pleasing the Lord. As you can see in a study of the book of Haggai, obedience at great risk means nothing if we don't also have the proper heart.

Remember the analogy I mentioned in Doctrines of the Christian Faith 3: Nature of Man,
"Imagine a water hose. When you turn on the water, water flows through that water hose. If you put clean water through a dirty water hose, the water is not going to come out clean. Rather all the impurities and filth of the hose are going to pass into the water.
Similarly, in our everyday life, the good works we do are contaminated because they have to pass through us, our dirty water hose."

Our hearts are the water hoses through which all our actions must pass through. The nature of our heart is adequate to change our actions from good to bad and from pleasing the Lord to displeasing the Lord.

Thus, we must make sure our hearts are focused upon the Lord. As aforementioned, in Haggai, the children of Israel err in this particular way.

Here's the background: the children of Israel have been in captivity for seventy years, but the Lord has recently granted them the grace to go repair His temple.

But the king of Persia has been misled regarding their intentions in this rask. Due to this, he forbids them from completing their work.

At this time, instead of continuing to obey the commandment of the Lord, the Israelites obey the earthly king.

Now let's not jump to judge them here. After all, this was their easiest option. Being in the king's good graces can always come in handy, and they don't have to wonder when the axe will fall on their heads. At least not from that king anyway.

The Israelites turn their attention from the Lord and from his house, and direct it to their own homes, neglecting the house of God.

That's where the book of Haggai begins. Because of the neglect of the temple, the Lord has withheld his blessings from the Israelites. Indeed, Haggai 1 explains,
"In the second year of Darius the king, in the sixth month, in the first day of the month, came the word of the Lord by Haggai the prophet unto Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest, saying, Thus speaketh the Lord of hosts, saying,... Is it time for you, O ye, to dwell in your ceiled houses, and this house lie waste? Now therefore thus saith the Lord of hosts; Consider your ways. Ye have sown much, and bring in little; ye eat, but ye have not enough; ye drink, but ye are not filled with drink; ye clothe you, but there is none warm; and he that earneth wages earneth wages to put it into a bag with holes. Thus saith the Lord of hosts; Consider your ways. Go up to the mountain, and bring wood, and build the house; and I will take pleasure in it, and I will be glorified, saith the Lord. Ye looked for much, and, lo it came to little; and when ye brought it home, I did blow upon it. Why? saith the Lord of hosts. Because of mine house that is waste, and ye run every man unto his own house."

The Lord has been gracious again to send Haggai to rebuke the people and bring them back to obedience. Make no mistake -  obeying THE King meant directly disobeying the Persian king. This could have brought any number of punishments onto the Jewish people. The Lord was requiring of them quite a big risk.

Yet when the Israelites resume their work on the temple, the Lord was not pleased with their actions and with their sacrifice.

Yes, they are obeying the Lord, but throughout this time of outward obedience, the Israelites never turned back their hearts to the Lord.  As Haggai 2:11-14 indicates,
"Thus saith the Lord of hosts; Ask now the priests concerning the law, saying, If one bear holy flesh in the skirt of his garment, and with his skirt do touch bread, or pottage, or wine, or oil, or any meat, shall it be holy? And the priests answered and said, No. Then said Haggai, If one that is unclean by a dead body touch any of these, shall it be unclean? And the priests answered and said, It shall be unclean. Then answered Haggai, and said, So is this people, and so is this nation before me, saith the Lord; and so is every work of their hands; and that which they offer there is unclean."

The Lord uses this analogy of Levitical law to indicate that the heart's unclean nature makes the work unclean. Because they turned not to the Lord, the Lord's blessings are still being withheld, and their works are not pleasing to the Lord.

In our Christian walks then, we must be careful not to just attack the visible effects of a sinful heart. Showing outward obedience may make us look good to other Christians, but it ultimately may not please the Lord.

At any rate, it alone is insufficient. The Lord doesn't want begrudging servants to His calling, He wants willing servants, with a desire to serve Him with their efforts. It's not enough that their efforts may align for that particular time. The water hose affects the water, my friend.

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