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Monday, August 30, 2010

Did God Change His Orders?

Maybe this has happened to you before.  You believed unquestioningly that God told you to start an ambitious project.  The project opened with a spectacular, supernatural confirmation from God.  Then, sometime down the road, when you were well into it, you began to doubt the origin of your errand.  Maybe you started out in the black, but now you find yourself deeply in debt; maybe it started out as a happy relationship, but now there is nothing but discord; maybe every grade was a good one at the beginning, but now every class is boring and you are failing all your classes.  You had felt that God set the goal and you were pushing toward it, but now in light of what appears to be impossible circumstances, it seems this venture is nothing more than an exercise in futility.

Did you imagine the whole thing?  Did you really hear the voice of God?  What if you messed up, and God meant for you to take this other direction in your job, marry that other person, major in this other subject in college?  Perhaps nothing is going well because God's against you in this project, and you need to quit, and soon!  There may even be people in your life who are confirming the doubts you feel.

Lately I've be struck by these sorts of doubts, but I know that they are of Satanic origin.  I remember that Satan hates God-ordained projects, and therefore tries to bring trouble against them.  Just think of Nehemiah, when he tried to build the wall of Jerusalem, and how many things went wrong.  Despite the problems, he pressed on, and when "prophets" came to tell him to flee from his enemies (as if God had ordered him to abandon the project) he recognized that God had not sent them, and prayed, "Now strengthen my hands," (Nehemiah 6: 9 NIV).

The Man of God from Judah

Today God directed me to read 1 Kings 13, about the man of God from Judah, who spoke against Jeroboam's altar at Bethel.  This prophet set out from his home in the southern kingdom of Judah on an errand of God, to prophesy against the altar that Jeroboam had built to honor a golden calf god.  This was a risky task, to say the least.  He ventured into the other half of the divided kingdom, and dared to prophesy in the presence of Jeroboam, who was solidifying his position against the king of Judah.  Surely we can assume that he went with the confidence that God had ordained the errand.

As soon as he delivered the message, it began to be fulfilled--the pagan altar cracked in half and spilled its ashes on the ground, just as God had predicted (verse 5).  Jeroboam stuck out his hand against him, but God made it shrivel up.  What more confirmation did the man of God need to see that he was on the right track?

The second half of God's orders were that the man from Judah should not stop to eat or drink in Bethel, nor should he return by the way he had come.  He rejected King Jeroboam's offer of a meal and a gift, because He knew this was against God's plan for his trip.  He even set off on a different road from Bethel, just as God had told him.  So far, so good.

Then another man, also known as a prophet, who was in Bethel, heard that the man from Judah had left by a different road.  Even though he'd heard what the man from Judah had told the king, this old man decided to have him over for dinner, anyway.  He saddled his donkey and caught up with him where he was resting under an oak.  The man of God from Judah repeated what he'd said to the king.  Again, so far so good.

Then the old man lied and told the man from Judah that an angel from God had specifically told him to host this man at his home.  This is where the man from Judah did wrong.

Had God changed His orders?  Why was God now contradicting Himself?  God had confirmed the first set of orders with a sign, but now (perhaps because he felt thirsty, hungry, and tired) it didn't seem that God was in the errand anymore.  There were even others confirming his doubts.  The man of God from Judah went with the old prophet to his home and ate and drank.

Then God spoke through the old man and told the guest that he'd contravened God's orders, turning back and eating and drinking, and because he'd disobeyed, he would be killed by a lion and never return to his home--and that's just what happened.

Don't Stop Now!

There are many lessons that can be gleaned from this story, but the main one for today is that when we've been given a task from God, we must see it to the end.  Though there may be plenty of "words from God" that contradict these orders, we cannot heed them--even if it seems tantalizingly easy to just quit, and even if the messenger seems to be from God.  God confirmed His errand at the beginning; that means that if we have persisted in everything He told us to do, He is still in it, even if His involvement is not as visible as it once was.  He does not contradict Himself, nor does He change His mind (Numbers 23: 19).

Don't doubt now.  Press on.

"Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain" (1 Corinthians 15: 58 NIV).


Wayne Lin said...

God doesn't change his plan. One consistent theme through the Bible is that God, at least to me, doesn't change his dispensations. He works through both testaments to His glory. That being said, doubts are natural, because we live in a sinful world. I've had doubts about my career, degree choice, etc., but God has remained faithful, even through the most wicked people on earth. Ultimately it makes no difference what job or place we find ourselves. Our ultimate end is to bring glory to God, and that takes place in anything we do.

That's one of my soap boxes, but in my old Baptist days I used to think maybe God changed it up on me, but then I realized, nah. He's followed through his word and has redeemed those promises through and through.

I would say don't doubt anymore. Bring glory to God by all that you do and be happy about it.

Rachel said...

I'm doing my best to keep that in mind! You're absolutely right, Wayne, it is natural to doubt, but God, unlike others in our lives, has proven Himself reliable. We are the unreliable ones. Sometimes life gets so tough that I need to be reminded of God's faithfulness, and I wondered if any of my readers felt the same. You've brought a lot of wisdom gained through experience to my blog, and I thank you for it. :)