WILDERNESS: Primitive, Plain, and Powerful

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May 12, 2020

Exodus 20:24-26 (NIV)

22 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Tell the Israelites this: ‘You have seen for yourselves that I have spoken to you from heaven: 23 Do not make any gods to be alongside me; do not make for yourselves gods of silver or gods of gold.

24 “‘Make an altar of earth for me and sacrifice on it your burnt offerings and fellowship offerings, your sheep and goats and your cattle. Wherever I cause my name to be honored, I will come to you and bless you. 25 If you make an altar of stones for me, do not build it with dressed stones, for you will defile it if you use a tool on it. 26 And do not go up to my altar on steps, or your private parts may be exposed.’

CONSIDER THIS

What are we learning in this wilderness journey?

God hears the prayers and cries of his people and remembers his covenant with them.

God delivers us from evil, from slavery, from oppression, and from the power of Pharaoh and every other worldly and heavenly principality.

God provides for our needs with daily bread and every other dimension of provision, though he will allow us to hunger and thirst at times. 

God guides us on the path of pilgrimage, cloud by day and fire by night. He leads us in the way of his will and according to his wisdom. 

God fights through us and with us and for us, defeating our enemies and his in the wilderness. 

God instructs us according to his Word. He speaks his Word to us concerning how he would have us live before him and others. 

God is holy and he wants a holy people for himself and his purposes in the earth. 

God is love and he only wants one thing of us: bonded attachment in our relationship with him and covenant faithfulness in our relationships with others. He knows the propensity of human beings to wander away from God; to be attracted by all the shiny things that promise life and deliver death. He reiterates a warning in today’s text:

23 Do not make any gods to be alongside me; do not make for yourselves gods of silver or gods of gold.

And already today we see a mark of God’s anticipatory mercy in the instructions concerning altars, offerings, and sacrifices. He knows our frailty and weakness and desperate need for atonement and grace.

“‘Make an altar of earth for me and sacrifice on it your burnt offerings and fellowship offerings, your sheep and goats and your cattle.”

In these earliest days, God makes clear, this is about a simple, yet comprehensive relationship with a sovereign holy God. Note the level of concern God goes to to make this plain and keep it so:

If you make an altar of stones for me, do not build it with dressed stones, for you will defile it if you use a tool on it.

All of this adds up to a very primitive and even primal faith. It is plain and unadorned albeit very, very powerful.

One of the things I love about John Wesley is the way he emphasized what he called, “Plain Scriptural Christianity.” He often spoke of primitive faith. I wonder how our faith has become adorned with all manner of decoration, attire, and accoutrements. I wonder what it would mean to get back to primitive faith, to plain Scriptural Christianity. Might we have such an opportunity before us now?

THE PRAYER

Father, thank you for your persistent mind and heart to pursue relationship with us. Would you train us in the simplicity of how we might respond to your initiative? We are so filled with our own initiative, even noble religious initiative, we so easily miss what it is you are doing in our midst. Awaken us to the primitive and plain faith our ancestors. Enliven us by your Spirit to the recreative power of your Word. Come Holy Spirit and strip away the layers and levels of adornment and amenity we have constructed that we might be alive again to the fullness of you. In Jesus name, Amen. 

THE QUESTION

What are you learning in this wilderness journey? How is your life and life with God being pared back, stripped away, brought back to the primitive edge?

For the Awakening,
J.D. Walt
Sower-in-Chief
seedbed.com

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Farmer. Poet. Theologian. Jurist. Publisher. Seedbed's Sower-in-Chief.

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