Monday, April 14, 2014

When God's Covenant Looks Like It Died

I'm on bedrest again. 3rd time in a decade.

Between a heart attack (2004), hysterectomy and repair of prolapses (2011), and now deteriorating disks pinching nerves and causing foot pain, my body has betrayed me often.  (Spinal surgery may be necessary. Prayers appreciated!)

I know I am a child of the Covenant of Grace, through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. I also know that this covenant has nothing to do with making my life a bed of roses.

Considering that this life is microscopic compared to eternity, I don't want my best life to be NOW!  So I have a lot of peace about this... certainly much more than I had in 2004 when I only had religion, and no relationship with Christ!

But still, it's easy for us to feel we can excuse a certain amount of spiritual wandering at times of hardship, isn't it?  God promises grace to endure, but I'd rather have escape than endurance, thank you. 

So the old familiar idol of escapism rears its many seductive heads, tempting me to forget my troubles... and to forget seeking to love God and my neighbor, too!  How easy to want everything to revolve around my quest for comfort!

Looking at Genesis today, I was struck by the bizarre-seeming covenant-cutting ritual in chapter 15. Could there be anything more foreign to modern Western eyes?

But as I think about it, I am even more struck by the image of Abram chasing away carrion birds which kept trying to pick apart the animal carcasses... those bloody, nasty carcasses which God had ordained to be signs of the covenant (Gen.15:11). 

Carrion birds are often used to represent satanic forces.  And don't the enemy's minions love to swoop down and tear up all visible evidences of God's promises to us?

How often do God's promises look like ugly, dead things to us? What beauty or hope did Abram have to look upon in those mutilated animal carcasses? And how relentless would those carrion birds have been! How frustrating and discouraging to have to keep chasing them, non stop, for who knows how long!

I would have been tempted to walk away, but Abram stayed and chased the birds away, over and over again.

If Abram had allowed the birds to pick apart the bodies, wouldn't the signs of the covenant have become hideous and loathsome in his eyes?
So, when he chased them away, he preserved the integrity of what he had to look at. 

Do I have carrion birds in my life? What do they look like?  I believe I know.  

Doubt, distraction, anger, self-rule, lusts of various kinds, discouragement, fear, irritability... these things don't merely indicate understandable human weakness. No, if unrepented of, they can distort my view of God and His covenant promises, until even the physical evidences of His truth can begin to seem like ugly, worthless corpses.  The carrion birds tear them apart.

But in Abram's story, even without carrion birds, the dead bodies would have become loathsome on their own, just through the process of decay while he waited for God. In the same way, the process of waiting for God makes the promises lose luster in our eyes, unless we continue to see them through the eyes of faith.

Lord, help us to recognize those carrion birds as they appear in our own lives, and help us to resist them tirelessly by Your Spirit (because we can never do it in our flesh).  Help us to remember that Your covenant promises are all about resurrection, so even when things seem dead, there's hope!

Help us to seek to love You with all our hearts and souls and minds, and with all our strength, no matter how long You see fit to delay, or how many carrion birds of temptation we have to fight off. In Jesus' name, amen!
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