Thursday, August 02, 2007

Only a Warning

A man, best known as Mr. X, received a small manila envelope. He was a sniper for hire. In the envelope there was a picture of the man who was to be his target, Mr. Waters. Also in the envelope, were papers detailing information about Mr. Waters, including his itinerary. At the bottom of the itinerary, there is a suggested time and place for the hit. A smaller envelope had a sum of money, and a card with a sentence written on it. It read, “Do not shoot to kill.” Mr. X thought it was unusual, but welcomed the challenge. At the accorded time and place Mr. X shot at Mr. Waters. The bullet did not hit Mr. Waters, but hit so close that there was no misunderstanding it was an attempt to Mr. Waters’s life. After the incident, Mr. Waters was shaking, and looking toward any sound he heard. With a shaky voice, he told some of his associates how his life was spared, because the shooter but missed. Suddenly, the phone rang and a grave voice was heard saying, “The sniper missed on purpose. Next time he won’t. This time was only a warning.” While God never forces us to do anything, He does warn us when we are straying from His will.

When we read Exodus 4: 24-26 we realize that the Lord wanted to warn Moses. Let us read the passage,

Exodus 4: 24 And it came to pass by the way in the inn, that the LORD met him, and sought to kill him.
Exodus 4: 25 Then Zipporah took a sharp stone, and cut off the foreskin of her son, and cast it at his feet, and said, Surely a bloody husband art thou to me.
Exodus 4: 26 So he let him go: then she said, A bloody husband thou art, because of the circumcision.

In the book Patriarchs and Prophets, Sister White expounds on this incident. She calls it “a startling and terrible warning.” Let us read what she said,

“On the way from Midian, Moses received a startling and terrible warning of the Lord's displeasure. An angel appeared to him in a threatening manner, as if he would immediately destroy him. No explanation was given; but Moses remembered that he had disregarded one of God's requirements; yielding to the persuasion of his wife, he had neglected to perform the rite of circumcision upon their youngest son. He had failed to comply with the condition by which his child could be entitled to the blessings of God's covenant with Israel … Zipporah, fearing that her husband would be slain, performed the rite herself, and the angel then permitted Moses to pursue his journey. In his mission to Pharaoh, Moses was to be placed in a position of great peril; his life could be preserved only through the protection of holy angels. But while living in neglect of a known duty, he would not be secure; for he could not be shielded by the angels of God. In the time of trouble just before the coming of Christ, the righteous will be preserved through the ministration of heavenly angels; but there will be no security for the transgressor of God's law. Angels cannot then protect those who are disregarding one of the divine precepts.” PP 255 - 256

So, the Lord in his mercy decided to warn Moses, not destroy him. The angel could have killed Moses if that was truly God’s will. But, God does not want anyone to perish (2 Peter 3:9). He wants us to repent. God wants us to turn around toward Him and to give ourselves entirely to Him. He wants us to be wedded to Him. There is a relationship between weddings and circumcision.

According to this week’s lesson,

“Several peoples of the ancient Near East practiced circumcision. So it was not a new custom that God invented for His people. He just gave it new meaning. For many it was a sign of marriage, performed when a man was wedded, but God used it as a sign of His special link with His chosen people.”

Let us consider this practice a little closer. A man removes the foreskin from penis when he is getting married to a woman. When they have sex and become one, his penis will be covered by His wife’s vagina. When our hearts are circumcised the foreskin of self-righteousness is removed, and God covers it with His own righteousness. At this point we are one with God and married to Christ.

This story lets us know that God is particular about details. What we often consider trivial and meaningless, God may consider the greatest offense. Many times is not the action, but the spirit in which we do what we do. It may be rebelliousness or presumption. He loves us, and because He does He often warns us with rebukes. Hebrews 12:6 says, “For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.” There are no exceptions. God loves us all, and we are all His children. All of us go through trials and tribulations. God allows them for His purpose: to bring us so close to Him, we become (and remain) one with Him. The more we heed to God and His warnings the more our hearts are circumcised and covered with his Righteousness. However, it is important to note, 1) it is God Who sends or allows the warnings, it is also God Who circumcises our hearts, and lastly, it is God Who covers our hearts with His righteousness. Resisting God’s work in us can come in two ways: 1) “I do not want it,” or 2) “I want it, but I want to do it myself.” Either way ends up with the same results: a heart that is covered with self–righteousness. Without the Righteousness of Christ covering our hearts we shut ourselves out of heaven and eternal life.