What is the most surprising verse in the Bible to you? I read Deuteronomy 14:22-26 this morning and I was surprised. Of course, I’ve read the verses before but each time I do, they surprise me! God is giving the Israelites instructions on sacrifices and offerings and then He says,
“You shall surely tithe all the produce from what you sow, which comes out of the field every year. You shall eat in the presence of the Lord your God, at the place where He chooses to establish His name, the tithe of your grain, your new wine, your oil, and the firstborn of your herd and your flock, so that you may learn to fear the Lord your God always. If the distance is so great for you that you are not able to bring the tithe, since the place where the Lord your God chooses to set His name is too far away from you when the Lord your God blesses you, then you shall exchange it for money, and bind the money in your hand and go to the place which the Lord your God chooses. You may spend the money for whatever your heart desires: for oxen, or sheep, or wine, or strong drink, or whatever your heart desires; and there you shall eat in the presence of the Lord your God and rejoice, you and your household.” (NASB)
Are you surprised? Why?
Why am I surprised? Because this seeming “license” just doesn’t go along with my old remnant beliefs thinking of God as a stingy, demanding, rule-keeping God who isn’t extravagant and generous. If I were one of those Israelites, this opportunity for joy might feel dangerous. What is considered too great a distance? How can I know if it’s in alignment with what God thinks is too great? My fear of not keeping the rules rises up and makes me nervous. Could I really completely enjoy this blessing of extravagance or would I feel guilty wondering if my heart is right and I had taken advantage of His kindness?
And does God really mean “whatever your heart desires”? Whatever? Anything? Are you sure? Even strong drink? Isn’t that going too far? Won’t I get drunk? God, you’re just being too liberal here. I need to have the rules to feel safe.
I’m grateful for these verses. They remind me that God is generous, considerate, extravagant, joyful, and wants us to be joyful. He even gives us choices and puts His stamp of approval on them. If I’m feeling safe because of the rules, I’m focusing on the wrong thing. I’m not focusing on God’s graciousness and joy. I‘ve found another way to make a “formula.” (Remember when we talked about that? Check it out at Formulas)
What is your reaction? Does this speak to you? I’d love to hear.
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