Friday, July 19, 2013

God: Mercy vs. Judgment

Maneuvering through day 4 has thus far been the most challenging for me: I am conflicted: I am confused. I find myself somewhere in the middle, not sure where to go, better yet, where I am being taken. I have thoughts of, am I getting this right? Why am I so far from the author on this? How do I go about dissecting this in a manner to put into words for the sake of my readers? To not only read, but understand? How, how, how???????? And, what, what, what????? I also find myself wondering if I should find a prayer study that is more along my frame of mind and spirit. Then I am reminded that I did not choose this prayer study, God did. Ok…so, He wants me to do this. I trust He knows what He is doing. But I am not sure I like it right now. Obey. I must obey. I just must.

It dawned on me, hours into Day 4, that I need to pray – Ha Ha!! Right? I need to pray about my prayer study. Who would have thought? I feel a bit ridiculous, realizing I have not prayed for God’s guidance before starting this chapter of the study…Get over it, I say to myself – And I pray:

Lord, I know it is Your will for me to not only complete this prayer study, but to share what You do to my heart with my readers. I am struggling and need Your help.
Please guide me; Show me Your way; Help me to hear Your truth; I need You in order to do this.
Help calm my frustrations and keep me from focusing on the things that pull me from Your purpose. In Jesus Christ’s name, Amen.

So, a prayer and a coffee run later, I am back. I take a few deep breaths, centering myself and emptying my mind of the thousands questions that wish to possess it, and begin again.
I am going to outline the main points of the prayer study and expound my thoughts as I go. Expect tangents within this editorial. If nothing else, it will break up the reading. But hopefully, God will reach into your heart and do things to it you can’t even imagine…And be the better for it :)

Day 4 is an extension of Day 3, though more in depth. I am to compare Exodus 32, from Day 3 with Ezekiel 22. 

Ezekiel 22:23-31 is to be read:
23 Again the word of the Lord came to me: 24 "Son of man, say to the land, 'You are a land that has had no rain or showers in the day of wrath.' 25 There is a conspiracy of her princes within her like a roaring lion tearing its prey; they devour people, take treasures and precious things and make many widows within her. 26 Her priests do violence to my law and profane my holy thinks; they do not distinguish between the holy and the common; they teach that there is no difference between the unclean and the clean; and they shut their eyes to the keeping of my Sabbaths, so that i am profaned among them. 27 Her officials within her are like wolves tearing their prey; they shed blood and kill people to make unjust gain. 28 Her prophets whitewash these deeds for them by false visions and lying divinations. they say, 'This is what the Sovereign Lord says' --when the Lord has not spoken. 29 The people of the land practice extortion and commit robbery; they oppress the poor and needy and mistreat the alien, denying them justice. 
30 "I looked for a man among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not have to destroy it, but I found none. 31 So I will pour out my wrath on them and consume them with my fiery anger, bringing down on their own heads all they have done, declares the Sovereign Lord."

Then, I am to answer these questions:

Why was the nation of Judah in danger of receiving God's judgment? 
My thoughts: They had removed the holy from their duties; the priests weren't teaching the people of Judah to follow God's will; the priests were doing as they thought was best; the priests perverted religion by using it to cover their sins instead of abiding by God's law and word; the priests and the people were not revering His Holiness. 

What did God do "so [He] would not have to destroy it (Judah)?"
My thoughts: He looked for a man to repair the wall (faithful people of God bridging the gap to bring His people to Him).

The following parallels are noted between the two stories, copied verbatim from prayer study: 
In both instances:
The people had broken covenant with God.
God desired to intervene in the natural course of events and show mercy instead of judgment.
He looked for an intercessor to allow Him to intervene and change the natural course of events.

Then we discuss how the two instances take opposite turns, copied verbatim from prayer study:
When God looked for an intercessor for Israel, He found Moses. 
When God looked for an intercessor for Judah, He found no one. 
Israel received mercy. Judah received judgment.

Note: I changed the 3rd down under Israel, otherwise this is straight from the study.
The author references Genesis 49:10 to show God seeking mercy.
Since I see this exercise as comparing the story of Moses and Israel in Exodus against the story of Judah and a lack of an intercessor in Judah, I have opted to put in the verses I see as a show of God desiring mercy from Exodus.
I will explain why as I further break this down.

The first two parallels are straight forward: In both Israel and Judah, the people have forgotten God, trampling His holiness by diminishing what is rightfully His (the Sabbath, God's temple). The people of both tribes are worshiping false idols (money, material possessions, etc.), and choosing sin over God's commandments. In their efforts to quiet their guilt and shame, they use religion to excuse their inappropriate actions, not only condoning sin, but covering their sin. This angers God immensely. But God desires mercy. He wants to save His people. He does this by looking for an intercessor (someone to work on His behalf, speaking God's words for Him). 

In Israel, He found Moses. Moses prayed for mercy. He asked God to show His mercy on Israel. The reason I put this under God desires mercy, is because Moses prayed God's will. God wanted mercy, and through Moses' prayers, God was invited in to show that mercy upon the people. Moses shared God's heart and desires due to their long and intimate relationship. Prayer is a gateway to God entering our realm to do as He wishes here on earth. Prayer is about our hearts being opened up to God's will, and in Moses' prayer for mercy, God's will was ultimately realized. 

In Judah, there was no one worthy of being an intercessor of God. There was no one that was willing to put God's will over their own. They tried to bring God down to their level, refusing to rise to God's level. When we pray for God's will and living a faithful life to Him, we are being raised above the traps of the earth. 

Now, as shown above, the author notes: "Israel received mercy. Judah received judgment." 

I have a slight issue with this sentiment. Not because it is a wrong interpretation, but because I understand the initial judgment God was to pass over the people separately from the type of judgment they ultimately ended up with. How are we defining judgment? I believe there are overlapping meanings behind judgment and punishment. God judges. There are various forms of judgment. In both stories, initially God's judgment was to destroy the nations. Their destruction would have been finite. If this were to have happened, the line of which Jesus was to come from would have been demolished, resulting in no Savior. God did not want this. His plan was to send His Son to act as a mediator between us and Him, to be the ultimate in the wall of the faithful to bring God's children back to Him. In His desire for mercy, though He found no intercessor, instead of wiping out an entire nation, He permitted their sins to play out naturally. 

Ezekiel 22:31 So I will pour out my wrath on them and consume them with my fiery anger, bringing down on their own heads all they have done, declares the Sovereign Lord."

I feel that there is a mercy within the punishment Judah received. While God allowed Judah to collect the full effect of their sins, He did not destroy them, or wipe out their nation. He allowed them to live, giving them an opportunity to right their ways after enduring their punishment. By allowing sin to carry out its own built in punishment God showed mercy, but He came to this after first looking for a man to lead His people back to Him. Remember:

Ezekiel 22:30 "I looked for a man among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not have to destroy it, but I found none.

The wall referenced in Ezekiel is the wall of the faithful people of God, creating a barrier to sin and helping to lead God’s children back to him. The priests had stopped doing this, making decisions based on their own opinions and discounting the holiness of God. In the notes of my bible, the following is worded wonderfully: “What people really needed was total spiritual reconstruction! When we give the appearance of loving God without living his way, we are covering up sins that could eventually damage us beyond repair. Don’t use religion as a whitewash; repair your life by applying the principle of God’s Word. Then you can join with others to stand ‘in the gap; and make a difference for God in the world.” God permits the full truth and repercussions of sin to unfold in its natural course of action, choosing not to intervene on their behalf. Instead of wiping out a nation, the people destroy themselves. Remember, we all have free will. God let their free will of choosing sin, being tempted by evil, to come down on them. That is quite a punishment.

Here are questions asked about changing God's mind, copied verbatim from prayer study:

1.) What if Moses had not been available to intercede? Would God's eternal plan have been thwarted? If that's the case, doesn't God's sovereignty hinge on man's obedience? 

My thoughts: I have a hard time with these questions. I am not able to reconcile the God I know with the God presented in these questions. But, with that said, here is what I have in response to those questions: God is omnipotent! He is the only authority of the knowledge of every single person's heart. Because He is the one that knows our true hearts, He knows who to choose to carry out His will. He knows how to approach them, what kind of time to give them, and how they are going to respond to His request. God knew Moses' heart was aligned with His heart. God knew Moses would pray the prayer of mercy: God put that prayer within Moses' heart! There was no way for God's eternal plan to have been thwarted! We should find immense joy and peace in this fact! God's sovereignty does not hinge on man's obedience, but man's relationship with God does hinge on his obedience to God.

2.) If God wanted to show mercy to Judah, but did not because there was no on to intercede, was God's sovereignty not limited by man's disobedience? 

My thoughts: Well, how do I answer this when I believe God did show mercy on Judah? I believe that by God's choice to not destroy Judah, but to step back and allow Judah to feel the full effects of their sinful ways proves God's sovereignty. Once again, God's sovereignty is NOT limited by man, but man's preservation is limited to choosing to rise to the level of God in accepting His will, not living life purely for himself.

Did Moses change God's mind?

a. Yes. God was swayed by Moses' reasoning and passion and decided to take Moses' suggestion. 
b. No. When Moses poured out his own deep desires, He was expressing the heart and mind of God. 

My thoughts: I agree with answer 'b.' Moses had created an intimate relationship with God. Through his prayers to God, Moses' heart was changed, molded, and aligned with God's heart. When we invite God into our lives and hearts through prayer, we are asking God to change our hearts to His desires. We are allowing God to intercede in this world to make His will known, His plan realized, and His desires expressed.

What God wants to do on earth, He will do through intercessors. When God wants to intervene and change the course events will take on their own, He searches out an intercessor upon whose heart He can place His own desires. 
What is your reaction to this? (Agree, or Disagree, because...)

I agree. For myself, when I pray to God, I am asking for Him to use me as He needs; For His will to be carried out through me; For God to show me what to do, how to do it, and where to do it so that He may reach His children through me.

I live God.
I choose God.
I am God's.
I belong to Him.
I want to be one with Him.
I want to share His heart, His will, and His love.
I want to express God to everyone I see.

If we are open to God's Awesomeness in being revealed to us so that we may not only live it, but share it, we will have a most blessed life and find joy and peace in all we do; because we are working for God, not ourselves. The best things in life come from the Almighty Lord. Only good comes from Him, and I am certainly seeking it...through the act of prayer.

Following the assignment, I see the familiar prayer:
 ~ Psalm 25:4-5 ~
4 Show me your ways, O Lord, 
teach me your paths;
5 guide me in your truth and teach me, 
for you are God my Savior.

The emphasis today is on the words: teach me; And, on the words: guide me. What I felt was, Show me; lead me where to go.
Based on my heart's understanding of the first four words of this prayer, the prayer within my heart reads: Reveal Your truth, my God given self, Your will, and Your purpose, O lord, show me; lead me where to go.

Prayer Study Day 5 here.
For credit purposes, the Prayer Study I am using is: 
Live A Praying Life, New and Revised Anniversary Addition 
Jennifer Kennedy Dean ~ 
This is not an endorsement. This just happens to be the prayer study I am using, and I have decided to share my study experience, here on The Paisley Butterfly

My Bible: Life Application Study Bible, New International Version 
Why I like this bible: There are extensive notes on the verses. Each page has more notes:bible verse ratio. 

Here is a link to an online bible -- there are other online bibles out there, this one just happens to be the one I use most. 

Again, listing my bible references is not for the purpose of endorsement, but an effort to appropriate credit to materials used.

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