My six year old, Mia, painstakingly worked on a note for her sister. She made sure to cross every “t” and dot every “i”. She embellished it with a few sketches. There were a few misspelled words but her message was from the heart. She was so excited to show Addie how hard she worked and how much she loved her…until she gave it to her.
Addie took one look at the paper and threw it back at Mia exclaiming, “I don’t want this! I don’t like it!” Addie didn’t like the paper Mia had chosen. It had Mia’s homework on the back. As Mia ran away in tears, Addie said, “This isn’t a nice note. This is homework.” What Mia intended for love, Addie saw as miserable work.
How many times do we act the same way towards God? Towards our well-intentioned brothers and sisters? When they present us with a gift they’ve sacrificed with pain to give, we regard it as a trifling piece of wretched work or utter trash. Perhaps we become enraged at them for even giving it to us. Why?
We simply aren’t willing to embrace the work alongside the love. We miss the forest for the trees. We focus upon our distaste for the medium when we should really be appreciating the message flowing forth from that medium. We dwell on the misspelled words (humanity’s imperfections) to justify our ignorance and violence towards both they and their message to us.
People don’t like church so they ignore its message. They don’t like pastors so they ignore the gospel. People don’t like Christians so they refuse to study the bible. Christians don’t like their brothers and sisters so they refuse to hear sincere concerns and cast others out of their lives as trash.
Nevertheless, wisdom teaches us that when God speaks his truth, the medium is wholly unimportant. (Consider the burning bush, the donkey, Esther, the Roman soldier at the cross, Saul/Paul, etc.) We must let not our distaste for the form cause us to miss the favor.
May we never carelessly disregard the thoughts and cares of our Christian brothers and sisters expressed towards and regarding us. They are God’s hands and feet! May we ever recognize the hand of the potter molding us through the work of the church, pastors, and, especially, the body of Christ – our Christian brothers and sisters. Though these mediums are yet imperfect, if their message is from the heart we would do well to listen.
That said, Psalm 78 describes a similar situation. This psalm describes how ungrateful God’s people were to him despite all he had done for them.
In verses 1-8 the psalmist opens by saying, “Give ear, O my people, to my teaching; incline your ears to the words of my mouth!” It’s as if he is a teacher in a classroom shouting, “Listen, students! This is about you! What I’m about to say you always ignore! This is very important!”
He begins by placing a strong emphasis on their responsibility to teach their children the history of God. We should take note of this ourselves since the practice has been all but lost in America today. Daily is the job of instructing our children in the message of the Bible. Parents are the chosen vessels responsible to do so.
The psalmist goes on to expound upon their rebellion towards God. He shows them how severely they have sinned. These are the things he reminds them of. They are:
78:9 – They were suitably armed, yet unwilling to fight. They were cowards.
78:10 – They were disobedient.
78:11 – They were purposefully ignorant of God’s past miracles.
78:17 – They were sinful and rebellious.
78:18 – They were lustful and selfish.
78:19 – They were doubtful and unbelieving.
78:57 – They were unjust.
78:58 – They were idolators.
Throughout the psalm, the writer also reminds these rebellious, yet privileged, people of all that God had done to correct and deliver them from slavery and sin (Psalm 78:12-16, 23-29). He proves God’s loving-kindness towards them all throughout their history and shows them why they had no excuse to act as they did. From the exodus to the covenant to the manna, God had extended himself in sacrificial love and grace. (Just like Mia had done towards Addie on a much smaller scale.) But what did they do? What did Addie do?
They turned up their noses and threw it back. They complained about the provisions and lustfully craved the meat and idols which God had forbidden. Though they had been given bread and a loving Father, they were the epitome of ingratitude and narcissism.
Furthermore, they were hypocrites. Even when they “repented”, remembered God and spoke well of him, they had a disconnected heart (Psalm 78:35-37). They remained unfaithful and in sin. It was obvious they did not mean what they said or practice what they professed. They were false professors and apostates. “Hypocrisy is the high road to apostasy.”~Matthew Henry
Where Mia got upset and cried at the rejection, God got angry (Psalm 78:31, 59-67). God didn’t run into the other room and hide, he destroyed the men of youth and strength (Psalm 78:31, 63). He killed their priests and brought them to shame. Since they rejected him, he rejected them.
Let us never think so highly of ourselves and our agendas that we cast God’s plans aside considering them unfavorable. Let us never cast our brothers and sisters aside and rip their gifts to shreds on account of the work it will take to receive them. Let us never be guilty of that kind of selfish rebellion and ingratitude. God has given us difficult work and tools to accomplish it. Let us not be cowardly and unbelieving when it is time to go to battle. Many times that battle is to lay down arms and simply allow God, his Bible and his people to chisel away our pet sins.
Despite this unfortunate scene found in psalm 78, God, in his mercy, still elected a remnant. He chose them to live and reign with him forever. These are the true seed of Abraham (Galatians 3:29); the true Israel (Romans 2:28-29). Though many will cast the people of God off as trash and miss the blessing they bring, God will not. If you have been cast off and rejected, take courage! Whenever our favors are spit upon, ripped up and trampled, we just look even more like Jesus. God embraces those whom the unbelieving world shuns and rejects.
But He made His own people go forth like sheep,
And guided them in the wilderness like a flock;
53 And He led them on safely, so that they did not fear;
But the sea overwhelmed their enemies.~Psalm 78:52-53