Experience the Holy Spirit in Contemplation | 05

AUTHOR: Holy Scripture

READ:

Read or listen to Ezekiel 3:1–9.

He said to me, “Son of man, eat what you find here. Eat this scroll, then go and speak to the house of Israel.” So I opened my mouth, and he fed me the scroll. “Son of man,” he said to me, “feed your stomach and fill your belly with this scroll I am giving you.” So I ate it, and it was as sweet as honey in my mouth.

Then he said to me, “Son of man, go to the house of Israel and speak my words to them. For you are not being sent to a people of unintelligible speech or a difficult language but to the house of Israel—not to the many peoples of unintelligible speech or a difficult language, whose words you cannot understand. No doubt, if I sent you to them, they would listen to you. But the house of Israel will not want to listen to you because they do not want to listen to me. For the whole house of Israel is hardheaded and hardhearted. Look, I have made your face as hard as their faces and your forehead as hard as their foreheads. I have made your forehead like a diamond, harder than flint. Don’t be afraid of them or discouraged by the look on their faces, though they are a rebellious house.”

What does God’s revelation to Ezekiel concerning the scroll reveal about his word?

The written Scripture is CSB, however, the audio Scripture is ESV.

FOCUS:

Read or listen to the blog. What is one thing you learned about what it means to lovingly gaze on Jesus? How can you incorporate what you learned into your daily routines? For example: I will meditate on Psalm 1 today during my run.

How Rules Reveal the Beauty of the Lord

By Caleb Jenkins

…the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and just and good (Romans 7:12).

I LOVE rules. As a little kid, I was the one who made sure everyone knew the rules of whatever game we were playing, and nothing horrified me more than someone else intentionally breaking them. As a very obedient child, pretty much my only reason for going in ‘time out’ was my outbursts of anger and rage when others didn’t follow the rules.

Even as an adult, my fascination with rules hasn’t gone away. I recently codified the rules of my family’s version of UNO as a gift to a colleague, and the experience of meticulously spelling out the ”dos and don’ts” was an exhilarating way to spend a Saturday afternoon. The one time I was called up for jury duty, I was thoroughly disappointed when I wasn’t selected because the orderly process of the court proceedings is captivating to me and I wanted to experience it. I think in another life I would have been a lawyer or judge instead of a pastor. And yes, in case you are wondering, my enneagram personality type is one.

Why do I love rules so much? I think there are a combination of reasons. Part of this is because explicit clarity on what is acceptable or not is so needed. “Clarity is kindness” as Brené Brown so aptly says. It is good to know what is expected, rather than trying to guess what one is supposed to do. Also, there is a certain kind of beauty to the order and stability that rules provide.

 

Responses to God’s Rules

However, if I am honest with myself, part of the draw to rules for me is the advantage knowing them well can give me over others. Whether it’s knowing the rules to a card game so I am best positioned to win, or even knowing what God requires of people so that I can feel better about myself as compared to ‘bad’ people who don’t obey God, there is a shadow side to any preoccupation with rules. While my love of rules is not universal, its shadow side reveals one of the two common responses to God’s law; namely loving rules because other goods (competitive advantage, financial gain, self-esteem, etc.) can be accessed by knowing rules well. This is often called the ‘legalistic’ response to God’s law.

The other common response to rules is to see them as a necessary evil at best, or restrictive and oppressive at worst. It is easy to view rules as a nuisance that gets in the way of better things, whether that be a burdensome administrative regulation that costs time and resources at work, or an obscure technicality that overrules an amazing play by your favorite sports team. We can easily transfer these feelings onto God’s rules. We can think that God gave commandments just to keep us from having a better time. We can feel like God is withholding something good from us, just like Adam and Eve were tempted to eat the forbidden fruit by the serpent, insinuating God didn’t want them to become like him (Genesis 3:5). This response has often been called ‘license’.

 

Reason for God’s Commands

In contrast to both legalism and license, God’s laws aren’t here for their own sake or to intentionally spoil a good time, but rather to reveal God’s beauty. Throughout Leviticus, a book many Christians seldom read because lists of rules seem boring to many, there is a resounding refrain that undergirds the myriad commands of the Lord. “…Be holy because I, the Lord your God, am holy” (Leviticus 19:2). God called the people of Israel and brought them out of slavery to be his particular people as a priestly kingdom who would demonstrate God’s holiness, his set apart nature of goodness and beauty, to the rest of the nations in the world (Exodus 19:6). Peter writing to the Church of both Jews and Gentiles in the New Testament combines these Old Testament teachings about the nation of Israel and applies them to the way Christians should live so that others may come to know the goodness of God (1 Peter 1:13–17; 2:9–10).

God doesn’t command us to do one thing and not another just because he feels like it. He isn’t making up rules randomly for the game of life, like I might do for a family card game; each of the rules is given for a purpose. That reason is to clearly lay out what actions and attitudes are in line with who he is and how he created us to be. Following God’s rules ought to make us into the kind of people that can demonstrate God’s goodness, beauty, and truth to others.

 

Contemplating God’s Law

Of course, because of sin’s power and the brokenness of this current world, we are unable to perfectly follow God’s rules. However, the problem, like Paul argues in Romans 7, is not with the rules from God, which are holy, good, and just, but with us as sinful and broken humans who can’t follow them. Seeking to follow God’s law will lead us to recognize how terrible sin is and how much we need a savior, rather than legalistically making us feel better about ourselves. Rules are holy, good, and just, because they are pathways to knowing God’s holiness, goodness, and justice.

As we lean into the discipline of contemplation in this study of Romans chapters 6–8, I encourage you to contemplate God’s beauty through his rules. Rather than valuing rules for rules sake, or seeing them as a necessary evil, see them as a sign post to God’s goodness. What might this practically look like?

Think of any rule we’ve received from God. Let’s say, “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31). Take some time to ask God to show you his beauty through this law. Reflect on how his rule points to God’s holiness. As you do this, you may think about how loving others reflects God’s love for us. It reflects God’s free decision to create us, not because he needed anything from us, but because he wanted to lavish his goodness on us. Not only that, but he also saved us from our sin, when we didn’t deserve it, even when it cost him dearly: the life of his own son, Jesus. As we love others selflessly, we embody and demonstrate the sacrificial love of God.

What might another command reveal to you about God’s character?

May we encounter the beautiful God behind his beautiful rules as we contemplate them

PRAY:

Lord, fill my heart with delight in your word. Grant me the desire and the discipline to study it and see you in every page. 

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Week 5 of 5 Contemplation

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