Thursday, August 20, 2009

If only...

During my church's last community group rotation, we leaders in the children’s department enjoyed the unique privilege of teaching, among other things, the sacrificial system outlined in Leviticus. Yes, you read that right: Leviticus. You know you’re in for interesting lesson when the curriculum instructs you to “Read portions of Leviticus 11-16.” To five and six year olds, mind you. We (the teachers) joked among ourselves last Sunday night that we need tee shirts: WE SURVIVED LEVITICUS. We think we deserve it.

This past Sunday night’s lesson, however, marked a departure from Leviticus and a return to the struggles of the Israelites and their 40-year sojourn in the wilderness. We learned about the people grumbling and whining despite the Lord’s gracious provision of manna. “If only we had meat to eat!” they cried. Well, the Lord gave them meat to eat all right, quail and plenty of ‘em, but only after His righteous anger “blazed hotly.” In fact, Numbers 11:1 tells us of the fire of the Lord’s wrath consuming parts of the camp because of the people’s complaints.

The Israelites’ grumbling and complaining were sins before God. They were not only ungrateful for the manna He provided every morning; they were resentful. By wishing for something else, something other than what He had given, they were rebelling against His provision and accusing Him of neglect. They wished for what they thought was better than what God had given. Ultimately, they esteemed meat as greater than the Lord God Himself.

His punishment was just and right.

Really, honestly, I’m no better than the Israelites. I do (more than) my fair share of complaining and whining (teaching Leviticus notwithstanding). I too cry out in frustration and resentment: “if only ______!” Most of my “if only’s” are a wish, a longing, a discontent and dissatisfaction with what the Lord has granted for me this season. Some of my “if only’s” are regrets couched in crippling shame and weighty condemnation over past sins and failures.

Both “if only’s” are sin.

Looking for satisfaction in something other than Christ exalts that “something” over Christ—the very definition of idolatry. And wallowing in the guilt of sins confessed and repented belittles the cross and the redemption purchased with the precious blood of Christ.

What’s on the other side of your “if only”? What are you longing for? Where are you grumbling and complaining and wishing for something else? What do you think you need to be happy/successful/content? Look to Christ and find in Him the only true satisfaction. Cry out to Him, no longer in resentment, but in a humble desire for Him alone.

What shame are you harboring? What regrets weigh you down? Confess and repent of your sin and rejoice that through Christ you are forgiven and clean! His mercies are new every morning; great is His faithfulness!

Instead of grumbling and complaining like those grouchy Israelites, may our petulant “if only’s” be laid aside and may we instead boast: “only Christ!”
Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe... Phil. 2:14-15

7 comments:

  1. I use that last verse on my daughter a LOT. I need to be using it on myself! As she gets to this age, I find myself saying If only she acted differently... or If only I'd done a better job at parenting...

    Both sides of the "if only" coin, and neither are very pretty! Thanks for reminding me that it's all sin and it needs to go!

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  2. Wow, very powerful and very timely.

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  3. Ouch! Thanks for a well-timed reminder.

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  4. Just this morning (I'm not kidding) my husband and I were talking about this very thing; we're steps away from our "Red Sea" deliverance and the complaining begins. We forget the provision and faithfulness of our God and try to manage it for the future by making unreasonable and fearful demands along these lines. I told my husband, "we're just like them!"

    Our new study this fall is all about this. Priscilla Shirer does a wonderful job of leading us through the wilderness. I'm getting ready to watch another video in the series this evening. And for the record, I love Leviticus.

    You're a good woman with good gifts. Thanks for giving them to the children and to others. We need you.

    peace~elaine

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  5. I have no personal revelations to make, but this is a great post.

    We studied Moses last year in BSF and got through Leviticus as well -- teaching the children along with the adults.

    It really did help to clarify the degrees of sin, and sinful attitudes.

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  6. I use that last verse on my daughter a LOT. I need to be using it on myself! As she gets to this age, I find myself saying If only she acted differently... or If only I'd done a better job at parenting...

    Both sides of the "if only" coin, and neither are very pretty! Thanks for reminding me that it's all sin and it needs to go!

    ReplyDelete
  7. Just this morning (I'm not kidding) my husband and I were talking about this very thing; we're steps away from our "Red Sea" deliverance and the complaining begins. We forget the provision and faithfulness of our God and try to manage it for the future by making unreasonable and fearful demands along these lines. I told my husband, "we're just like them!"

    Our new study this fall is all about this. Priscilla Shirer does a wonderful job of leading us through the wilderness. I'm getting ready to watch another video in the series this evening. And for the record, I love Leviticus.

    You're a good woman with good gifts. Thanks for giving them to the children and to others. We need you.

    peace~elaine

    ReplyDelete