Deuteronomy 8:1-10 (ESV)
1 “The whole commandment that I command you today you shall be careful to do, that you may live and multiply, and go in and possess the land that the Lord swore to give to your fathers. 2 And you shall remember the whole way that the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not. 3 And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. 4 Your clothing did not wear out on you and your foot did not swell these forty years. 5 Know then in your heart that, as a man disciplines his son, the Lord your God disciplines you. 6 So you shall keep the commandments of the Lord your God by walking in his ways and by fearing him. 7 For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs, flowing out in the valleys and hills, 8 a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive trees and honey, 9 a land in which you will eat bread without scarcity, in which you will lack nothing, a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills you can dig copper. 10 And you shall eat and be full, and you shall bless the Lord your God for the good land he has given you.
Many of us struggle with “the God” of the Old Testament. This may stem from the genesis of Jesus at Christmas, which can lead to confusing God with Santa Claus. After all, Santa keeps a list that distinguishes between naughty and nice, i.e. goats and sheep. But, really, who ever received coal in their stocking?
Actually, someone did. But he received it on Good Friday rather than Christmas morning, even though his list had no entries whatsoever in the “naughty” column; and his “nice” column is infinitely long. Of course, we don’t think of these things during the Christmas season when we think of God. To do so seems inappropriate.
But now we are in Lent, a time when it is most appropriate to think about Good Friday, our ultimate Christmas Gift. A more contemporary notion helps us here, and may even help our struggle with “the God” of the Old Testament: no pain, no gain.
God is not a type of Santa Claus—God is far, far better. He is more like our Olympic Coach, guiding us toward greatness through a combination of harshness and encouragement. He knows what it takes to “win the gold,” and he is committed to our success. In fact, he has insured it.
Still, we have work to do. One of the most common New Year’s resolutions (gift wishes that follow soon on the heels of Christmas) is to lose weight. Losing weight is not a gift; rather, it is an outcome.
God is coaching us into eternal life with him—his gift, but our outcome. We train for a single event: repentance. His regimen can be severe, but is always successful. We shall eat and be full.
Lord, help me today to turn from the sin you have shown in me this Lent.