Acts 7:1-22; Deuteronomy 29-30; Job 18
Back in the dark ages, someone invented a machine called the Video Cassette Recorder (VCR). To use this machine, you would connect it to your TV and put a tape into the machine. If the tape was blank, you would record a TV program. If the tape was already recorded on, you could watch anything from movies to instructional videos to home movies. These VCR machines had a really cool feature in that you could program them to record TV programs that aired when you were out of the house. Many people couldn’t use that feature, though, because it required setting the clock on the VCR and those people couldn’t follow the simple directions they needed to set the clock. The result was that in many homes, the clock on the VCR flashed the incorrect time all day long.
Simple instructions. You would think that people could follow them, but for some reason, they either can’t or won’t follow them. If you search the internet for things like “mess up simple instructions” you’ll find a whole host of people complaining about adults who mess them up and how to help your kids avoid messing up. While following God is not easy, the instructions are fairly simple. “Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach… For I command you today to love the LORD your God, to walk in obedience to him, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the LORD your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess.” (Deuteronomy 30:11,16)
Moses was preparing the people of Israel to enter the promised land. He wasn’t entering because He messed up on some instructions God gave him. In this final message to his people, though, he sought to protect them and future generations from what was to come. In other words, if they wanted to live in the land and not be destroyed, they needed to follow God’s simple instructions. They were to love God, obey Him, and follow His teachings. Simple instructions, but awfully hard to follow. If you read Stephen’s defense in Acts 7, he gives the history of the people of Israel not following these instructions. The people of Israel continued to follow after false gods, they continued to disobey God, they continued to ignore the pleas to repent delivered by God’s prophets. The instructions, so simple to read and understand what needs to be done, were nearly impossible for God’s people to follow because there were so many forces pulling them away.
Dare I be too hard on the Israelites? I probably had better do some reflection first. Not only do I have the same instructions, I have a written (and electronic) copy of God’s word that can remind me while the Israelites didn’t have easy access to God’s word. When I mess up the Simple Instructions, I have forgiveness because Jesus Christ died on the cross in my place. I have the power to overcome sins through the Holy Spirit who dwells in me. I have a strong support system of fellow Christians who can help me love and obey God. And what do I do? I still mess up. I keep needed to go back and ask forgiveness. I need to ask for power to overcome my sins. And, Amazing God that He is, He continues to love me and show mercy to me. Do I deserve this? No. God has blessed me with His love and forgiveness not because of any good thing I’ve done, but because of His grace. But aren’t I a good person? Perhaps I give that impression on the outside, but on the inside, I fight sin battles and lose all the time; I struggle with my sin and am constantly needing to ask forgiveness when I fail. Christians aren’t Christians because we are “good” or “nice,” we follow God because we recognize that we can’t follow simple instructions to love and obey God without His help – and even then we have problems. Thank God for His mercy and grace.
Lord, I just can’t seem to follow simple instructions. I say that I love You, but then I’m drawn to other things instead of spending time with You. I know I should obey Your word, but so many things entice me to do things my own way. Thank You for the mercy and grace that You show me each day.