Ok, first things first: Yes, this is a picture of the sunrise over the construction empty space near our house. I chose this for two reasons. One, the parallel of the sunrise to new understandings, as I talk about later in the blog, and two, because like sitting and enjoying the sunrise requires doing nothing else… sometimes so does holding onto those new understandings. Maybe it will make more sense as you read 🙂
Anyway….I was reading in Jeremiah chapter 32 earlier, and as I read verses 17-23, something caught my eye.
This part of the chapter is a prayer that Jeremiah prays after he follows the Lord’s leading to buy a field, even though the Israelites are about to be attacked by their enemies and lose their land. He hides the deed in a jar so that it can be dug up as proof that he owns the land, at some point in the future.
Jeremiah prays to the Lord, saying essentially – God, you are great and mighty and I know you understand more than I do. But why did you have me buy this? It doesn’t make sense. We’re about to be destroyed as a nation. God’s answer: Is anything too hard for me? Yes, destruction is coming and the city will be burned down. But I will bring you back. I promise.
This is the part of the prayer that stood out to me:
“You brought your people Israel out of Egypt with signs and wonders, by a mighty hand and an outstretched arm and with great terror. You gave them this land you had sworn to give their ancestors, a land flowing with milk and honey. They came in and took possession of it, but they did not obey you or follow your law….”
The word Obey there is [shama] which can mean obey, but also means to hear, to heed, to listen with interest
The law here is [towrah] – instructions.
So here we have the Israelite child generation (because all their parents died in the desert) that came in, took possession of the land, and didn’t just pass through. They settled down and made it theirs. They enjoyed it. They lived off the fat of the land. Yet somewhere in the midst of all of that, they forgot to listen for the voice that was once a bright flame leading them in the desert, or a cloud leading them at night. They forgot to heed the advice on living that was passed down from Moses to Joshua.
These are the stories we always hear about the Israelites, aren’t they? They remember God, they take advantage of His blessings, then they forget him and things go wrong. Life falls apart for them as a nation… and at some point they begin to seek God again and things go right again.
Summarizing that last part again: They came in, they took possession of it….
We don’t really use this kind of language much in English today, except as it might relate to real estate and lending transactions “When will you take possession of the new house? The plot of land you purchased? The car you just bought?” Or, a bank might repossess a car house or other piece of collateral, if you fail to make payments.
So, we have even in our world where taking possession is a good thing – you are finally getting what you have been hoping for or what you have been working towards. Yet it can also be a not so good thing – where, because of your own failure to pay (sometimes out of bad spending habits, sometimes out of things beyond your control) – you lose that one thing you had at one time taken possession of.
This is what it looks like in the physical world. Yet I think there are spiritual implications to this as well. There are times in our lives as believers, when we happen upon a new understanding of who we are, and what God has said about us. It could be something you heard at church, something the Holy Spirit opened your eyes to as you were reading or praying on your own. Maybe it was a song you heard or something a friend said. But it’s new and delightful and you just can’t stop thinking to yourself “how did I miss THIS???”
So the next few days, that is all you think about, this new aspect of God’s love for you, or this new truth of who you are in Christ. You walk a little taller, you bask a little more in prayer, thanking Him for how He loves you. Eventually – if you marinate in it and don’t just toss it in your “faith basket” as another thing to remember… you begin to possess this new truth. You begin to walk in it.
The fact that you really are FREE.
That you really are LOVED – no strings attached
That you really DO have the Spirit in you. God didn’t just keep that for other people
That you STAND in grace. Its not a moving shadow you have to run and find
That you have a PURPOSE for being here
That you are glorious to Him, and nothing can change that.
The hope, of course, is that we would hold onto these kind of truths and they would always be something we understand about ourselves. But if we are all honest, I can almost guarantee that at some point, even for those who have followed Jesus for a long time – those truths have to be stared at and meditated on longer because they don’t seem as shiny as when you first realized them.
None of us mean to forget.
None of us mean to slip into old habits, old ways of being, speaking, thinking about ourselves.
Heck, Paul chided the Galatians for reverting back to the law as their guide for what made them acceptable to God. This church had experienced the work of the Holy Spirit and seen miracles in their midst – yet in Chapter 3 Paul asks them:
“Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh?”
They had taken possession of the truth of who they were in Christ, but at some point they started to slide back into worth by external law and not worth by virtue of the power of God.
The ONLY way we can avoid this is by staying close to the Lord. “Abide in me” Jesus told his followers “And I will abide in you….” and together fruit will come.
Sometimes we need God to give us a fresh “reveal” of these truths of who we are, who we are meant to be, and who we are to him. Why? Precisely so that we don’t take possession of our identity and how much we are loved and our purpose for being here — and then forget. We live in a world that constantly wars against these truths. Every time you turn around there will be a voice or picture or nagging thought somewhere that says you are not enough, you really are stuck in life, you are not THAT loved, you are not that special, and why would God care about you?
It takes purposeful separation for us to hear these truths and marinate in them again. A quick re-read of a verse isn’t enough. You have to sit in it, ruminate on it, chew on it. I have found that is done best alone…but that may not be everyone’s style.
So my question to you is this:
Do you have a place where you can best pay attention to God and let the Holy Spirit remind you of you are? I sure hope so. But if not – I challenge you to find one. It can be a beautiful space, a messy house while the kids are napping, the treehouse outside, or an empty closet. Sometimes for me, the garage has been the only quiet place in the house. Whatever works! Just find it.
Be determined to take possession of who you really are in Christ and not let go!