"For thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God, and the LORD hath chosen thee to be a peculiar people unto himself, above all the nations that are upon the earth." ~ Deuteronomy14:2

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Raising The Standard: Contentment Is Avoiding The Bondage Of Personal Expectations

"My soul, wait thou only upon God, for my expectation is from Him." ~ Psalm 62:5
From The Pages Of Scripture:
Expectations destroy relationships. They compete with the principles of contentment. When God commanded the armies of Israel to conquer an evil and wicked city, He warned the soldiers not to expect personal gain from the battle. They would get their reward at a later time. One man listened to these warnings, but became the willing prisoner of his own expectations. In the course of fulfilling his selfish desires, he brought tragedy to his nation, his family, and himself.
How Is The Bondage Of Wrong Expectations Illustrated In Scripture?
Giving up expectations is not easy. That is why God invites us to transfer them to Him. The Lord assures us that He will fulfill every expectation that will benefit our lives if we are faithful to learn the discipline of contentment. Which man in Scripture lost his life because he decided to disobey God's command so that he could fulfill his own expectations? Achan. Hundreds of supernatural lessons should have prepared him for this crucial test. Previous tests involved the multitudes, but this test he faced alone. Little did he know that the lives of his wife, his children, and all his future generations hung in the balance during this crucial time. As a boy, he had witnessed the moving of the mighty hand of God. He knew how the Lord had provided not only for his needs, but for the needs of the whole nation. There were times when finding sufficient supplies of food and water was humanly impossible. In each instance, God graciously assured the people that He would fulfill their basic needs. Times of waiting taught them important lessons in contentment. How could he have forgotten the day when he and the people had asked God for food? The Lord answered by showering them with bread from heaven that day and for the next forty years! Had he also forgotten how he and the people had cried out to God with parched throats for water? There in the barren desert their leader struck a rock according to God's command causing fresh, cool fountains to miraculously flow forth. And when they had grown tired of bread, had not God filled their camp with flocks of tender quail? Could this man also have lost sight of the fact that the leather soles of his sandals had lasted for over forty years of wandering? These and many other powerful lessons should have caused him to quickly turn away from the objects that now tempted him, but he kept staring at them. The longer he looked, the more he became attached to the forbidden articles. Finally, he scooped them up, nervously hurried off to his tent and buried them. Several days later he quietly stood before the entire nation. At his leader's urging, he confessed how he had violated the command of the Lord. "When I saw among the spoils a goodly Babylonish garment, and two hundred shekels of silver, and a wedge of gold of fifty shekels weight, then I coveted them and took them..." (Joshua 7:21). In one foolish act, he had forsaken the provision of the Lord and relied on himself. By doing so, he entered into bondage of wrong expectations. He and his family were led into the valley. There Achan, his wife and his children were stoned to death. [From Joshua 7]
What Caused Achan To Commit Such A Foolish Sin?
Achan gives the answer in his confession before the assembly. "When I saw among the spoils a goodly Babylonish garment, and two hundred shekels of silver, and a wedge of gold of fifty shekels weight, then I coveted them and took them; and behold, they are hid in the earth in the midst of my tent, and the silver under it" (Joshua 7:21). Achan's downfall began with a deliberate decision to continue to look at the beautiful garment and the money. He became distracted from his assigned duties as a soldier and soon coveted the forbidden spoil. A battle began in his mind. He was deciding whether or not to yield the members of his body as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin or as instruments of righteousness unto God. (See Romans 6:13) He chose the former and took the prohibited items. The evil look and the evil thought led to the evil deed. Now Achan had to deal with his conscience. He ignored its prompting to repentance. In spite of thirty six deaths. Achan refused to confess his sin until the lot finally fell at his feet. The "innocent" look had started a process of sin which destroyed him.
Why Did Others Have To Suffer For Achan's Sin?
Because of Achan's private sin, thirty six men were killed attempting to capture the city of Ai. Parents lost sons, wives lost husbands, and children lost fathers. The Lord declared to Joshua, "Israel hath sinned, and they have also transgressed my covenant which I commanded them: for they have even taken of the accursed thing, and have also stolen..." (Joshua 7:11). The Lord held the entire assembly responsible for the secret sin of one of its members. This is a principle stated throughout scripture. The Apostle Paul compared God's people to the members of a body. "And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it" (1 Corinthians 12:26). For this reason we are to "... consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together ... but exhorting one another ..." (Hebrews 10:24-25). We are not individual islands unto ourselves; we are a corporate body. We stand or fall together.
Why Was Achan's Punishment So Severe?
Achan was stoned, burned, and buried under a pile of rocks for stealing. God made Achan an example to the nation. The Lord was teaching His people that an act of direct disobedience to His revealed will is worthy of death. (See Numbers 15:30-31) The first man to break the fourth commandment by gathering sticks on the sabbath day was stoned as an example to the others. (See Numbers 15:32-36) The first professing Christians who lied to the Holy Spirit were struck dead as a sobering example to the early Church. (See Acts 5:1-11) Achan's punishment demonstrated the exacting nature of God's forbearance and mercy toward us who deserve the same when we violate God's commands. (See Lamentations 3:22)
Illustrated In The World Of Nature:
In the united States, the oyster catcher resides on the east and west coast beaches. The western species is completely black. The eastern species is black with a white breast. Both species are easily identified by a bright red bill which is twice as long as the head. Oyster catchers are large birds, fifteen to twenty inches tall. Flocks of these birds, contain a large majority of older birds --- some as old as twenty-three years.
How Is The Bondage Of Expectations Illustrated In The World of Nature?
Thunderclouds overshadowed the silent bird as he pointed his scarlet bill into the salty ocean breeze. The tide had just receded, exposing a vast array of shoreline delicacies. Wading into the shallows, the hungry shorebird feasted on oysters, crabs, and mussels while other shorebirds probed the wet sand for worms and cockles. But with the delicacies there were hidden dangers. After devouring all of the available oysters, the bird turned his attention to an abundant supply of limpets. These one-shelled creatures had attached themselves tightly to rocks with a single pad like foot. The confident bird expected each limpet to be relaxed and easy to pry loose with one quick flip of his beak. This was the case well into the afternoon. Gradually, the foamy advances of the tide began to infringe on the busy shoreline. As the swelling surf warned the feeding bird to retreat from shore, he decided that there was time to enjoy one more meal. The agile hunter spotted a delicious looking limpet fastened to a saw-toothed rock. Assuming that the shellfish would be an easy prey, he jabbed his pointed bill between the limpet and the rock. Aroused by the incoming tide, the limpet had already tightened its grip on the reef. The bird tried in vain to pry the limpet loose, and when he attempted to withdraw his bill, he discovered that he was trapped! The frightened bird frantically attempted to free himself from the limpet's vise like grip. Meanwhile the surging tide began to lap against the rock where the bird was hopelessly caught. The struggles of the bird only caused the limpet to increase its hold. Soon, powerful waves broke in alone the shore and splashed over the bird. Suddenly the pinned bird stopped struggling. He folded his wings and just stood still. The limpet responded by loosening its grip for a moment. In that instant the oyster catcher yanked his bill free and flew to safety. Only by surrendering his struggle for freedom was he able to experience it.
The Characteristics Of The Oyster Catcher In Scripture:
The oyster catcher ceases to struggle if initial attempts to free itself are unsuccessful. Similarly, Christians are to stoop striving or contending with others who reject the truth which they give.
"And the servant of the Lord must not strive, but be gentile to all men..." ~ 2 Timothy 2:24
Further counsel is given by God for this important point in Scripture:
"Cease from anger, and forsake wrath: fret not thyself in any wise and do evil" ~ Psalm 37:8
"A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger" ~ Proverbs 15:1
When an oyster catcher finds itself in a territorial confrontation with another oyster catcher, it will end the battle by yielding its rights and becoming vulnerable. As Christians, we are told to submit ourselves to the older.
"Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject to one another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble." ~ 1 Peter 5:5
Hematopus palliatus is the scientific classification assigned to the oyster catcher. The Greek root words mean "blood" and "taking that which is hidden". Christians identify with God by the blood of Christ and grow by daily feeding on the hidden truths of the Word of God.

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