I’m doing a study in Genesis and am digging in to Genesis 4, Cain and Abel this week. I was brought to some supporting verses that opened my heart up wide to see the meta-narrative, the gospel, in a way that filled me with gratitude. I can be so filled with pride, I need to be reminded that God is always the one who provides. He created it, He gave it, He produces it, He is the reason I have any good thing and can do any good work. He wants my heart to be clean of pride so that it will produce worship and surrender to Him.
As I was reading Deuteronomy 26:1-11 God asks for the first fruits of the harvest, not because He needed anything but because He wanted their hearts. They were given the new land as an inheritance of their freedom, they were to settle there, possess it, and work the land. The harvest that was produced was a reminder of what they had been given and where they had come from. No longer slaves in Egypt, but free in the land of milk and honey. The Lord gave them their freedom, and this land. Their heart response should be gratitude, giving back of those first fruits was an act of gratitude and praise. He didn’t want the harvest, He wanted their hearts. If He had their hearts then their response would be thanksgiving and offering up what God had given them. They would not have thought He was taking something from them, or keeping the good for himself (as was Adam’s and Eve’s response when they ate of the first fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil and wanted it for themselves, and as we sometimes behave when we are faced with the choice of obedience).
When reading Exodus 13:2-12, God asks for the same first offspring of the livestock as well, as they also belong to the Lord. They were to consecrate it, prepare it, dedicate it, set it apart to be treated holy, it was to be pure and clean. Just as Christ was given as the holy and clean sacrifice for our sins. What beautiful pictures of all that God does for us!
He provides the sacrifice and offerings, because we cannot do that for ourselves. If our heart posture is right then we see this and will willingly give up ANYTHING the Lord asks us to. Just as Abraham did. God is gracious and loving. He is our provider and sanctifier. He knows what we need to cleanse our hearts of any idols other than Him and He gives us all that we need to be sanctified, purified, set apart, clean and holy. He gave us Jesus. The first fruit. The first born Son. The perfect unblemished fruit of the womb. The ram in the thicket. The innocent lamb. The one who died on the altar of Grace for our sins. The only one who could fulfill what all the other sacrifices and offerings of the law could not. He was freely given to us so that we could offer back to God our hearts filled with the love of the Savior. Our lives set apart as we have died to self, and now live in Christ. Our desires transformed to not just giving something to God but giving back to Him what He has already given to us; holy and righteous love and adoration, praise and thanksgiving, and the first of our everything. The first of our time, our thoughts, our desires, our love and our life. These verses so clearly showed me there is no sacrifice He wants or needs from me. He just wants my heart, and my life, whole-heartedly living in obedience to Him. A life surrendered, not just a life sacrificed.
I love the Holy Spirit’s work to illuminate Jesus in all of this. The more I read the Bible, the more I see Jesus. To see the meta-narrative played out. To read these verses and have my heart sing out, “Jesus”!
And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it.” Luke 9:23-24
That is why I NEED to be in His Word. A podcast doesn’t do this. A guided meditation doesn’t do this. A song doesn’t do this. A sermon doesn’t do this. On their own these other mediums don’t pour into my soul like the Bible as a whole does. I love listening to sermons and great teachings. I love lifting up my voice in praise with a good worship song. I love reading a book on Christian living that explains parts of the the Bible. I love hearing a podcast and conversations that others are having about the Christian life, but if I’m not careful, I can let those voices be louder than the Word of God. I can let those voices occupy my time more than the words that were breathed into the Holy scriptures. That has to be what I consume daily so that just like today, I can see Jesus. I can learn the goodness of the Lord over and over again, because we are little Israelites who forget! When I am in God’s Word, and read of His great love that is on EVERY page, and let my eyes read to and fro as the pages come to life with the redemptive plan that saved my life, and I get to read it first hand, over and over again, it just transforms me in a way that a podcast cannot.
So as Lent is upon us, I want to remember it’s not about my will power, MY sacrifice, or the thing I am giving up if I choose to participate in the Lenten practice. It is about what HE provided, what He gave me, and my need to remember that and desire more of Him. I am not giving up anything. I am only giving back what is His, my time and attention and surrender and what I get in return is a heightened awareness of all that is His that He has given me so I can desire and seek more and more of Him.
We are only asked to give what He has given, His best, for our good. We aren’t giving up or missing out, we are participating in the best that God has for us. Obedience. That is always for our good!