Approaching God with Consistency, Not Convenience
Think back to a time as a child when you desperately wanted something from your parents. Possibly a toy, an outing, maybe a piece of candy from the checkout or an ice cream cone from the ice cream truck. Have it in mind? Did you promise anything to your parent at that moment? Possibly bribe them through good behavior or even the assurance of future good behavior? Think back on that moment, or any moment where you exchanged the promise of compliance for something you wanted from someone else. At that time, what do you think the motive behind your obedience was?
From my experience, the only reason for my compliance in those moments was simply to manipulate my parent into giving me what I wanted.
Believe it or not, the Egyptian pharaoh at the time of the Israelite enslavement suffered from these
same motives. We read in Exodus of Pharaoh’s reaction to the seventh plague that the Lord sent over the Egyptians. In Exodus 9:27-28 Pharaoh says this to Moses and Aaron in response to the hail. “This time I have sinned; the Lord is in the right, and I and my people are in the wrong. Plead with the Lord, for there has been enough of God’s thunder and hail. I will let you go, and you shall stay no longer”.
Basically, the pharaoh had promised obedience to the Lord by releasing his people from slavery, only if God would save the Egyptians by removing the plague. We see here that Pharaoh’s motive behind compliance is quite similar to how we were when we were kids; simply trying to gain something from our parents. So as a means of manipulation, Pharaoh’s only intention behind obedience and giving in to the Lord’s will was to gain what he wanted out of the Lord: the removal of the plague.
After this, Moses goes on to assure Pharaoh that he would leave the city and raise his hands to the Lord, plead with Him, and that the Lord would lift the plague, and that the thunder and hail would cease. And after the Lord in his infinite, relentless mercy, stops the storm over the Egyptians, verses 34-35 says, “But when Pharaoh saw that the rain and the hail and the thunder had ceased, he sinned yet again and hardened his heart, he and his servants. So the heart of Pharaoh was hardened, and he did not let the people of Israel go, just as the Lord had spoken through Moses.”
Let’s review. Pharaoh has a need or a want from the Lord. Then he pledges obedience to the Lord. He receives what he asked for, and then turns his back on the Lord once again. How many times as kids did we manipulate our parents into giving us what we wanted, and then as soon as we got what we wanted, we went right back to our old disobedient ways? We see that Pharaoh’s compliance with the Lord’s commands ceases once he gets what he wants out of the Lord, revealing his true motives.
My question to you is; How many times have we done the same? How many times do we pray harder, more diligently, repent more, obey more intentionally, and more obsessively act in a manner worthy of the Lord the second we are in want of something from Him? How many times do we comply more with the Lord the second He becomes useful to us? And furthermore, how many times does our desire to obey mysterious dissolve the second we receive what we want from the Lord? Does the ebb and flow of our faithfulness to the Lord rise and fall according to what we need and receive?
If we're being honest, I think we can all attest to the fact that we have all been there, and may still periodically operate in this fashion from time to time depending on our desperation and self-sufficiency. The crazy thing is that when Pharaoh operated in this way, it’s shown that his heart was hardened. In verse 34 it says “he sinned yet again and hardened his heart” along with several other times it is mentioned how Pharaoh’s heart was hardened towards the Lord throughout the entire course of the plagues. It is clear that these selfish interactions he has with the Lord are not only caused by a hardened heart but also cause further hardening in itself.
When we come to the Lord more persistently, more faithfully when we want something from Him, and basically treat him as a check out machine, it that actually serves as evidence that our heart is hardened to the Lord. To continuously wait until we have a need or want to draw near, and be quick to draw away from God and cease to pursue him the second our desire is fulfilled, is the sign of a hardened heart, and a wake-up call to surrender and allow the Holy Spirit to soften it.
A hardened heart is truly detrimental to our walks because it causes us to never enter true rest. Never We will never find rest if we never reach a place where our pursuit of God is rooted in the desire to simply behold Him. Rest is an impossibility when our motive behind communing with the Lord is rooted in gaining things because our heart is only captured by fickle things that rise and fall, but never by the constancy and steadfastness of a perfect savior.
Hebrews 3 says, “Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says, ‘Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, on the day of testing in the wilderness, where your fathers put me to the test and saw my works for forty years. Therefore I was provoked with that generation, and said, ‘They always go astray in their heart; they have not known my ways.’ As I swore in my wrath, ‘They shall not enter my rest.’” (ESV).
Do not harden your heart towards the Lord, as Pharaoh did when drew near, took what he wanted, and then turned his face again. Do not harden your heart as the Israelites did in the wilderness, when they saw His power and his faithfulness, but were plagued by their forgetfulness. The word for “provoked” in verse ten; “prosochthizo” actually means to be displeased or offended with. We have actually displeased and offended our provider when we approach Him like this when we treat Him as if he is only worth what we can get out of Him.
We can consider ourselves having gone astray in our hearts when we fall into this place when our hearts become entirely captured by the things that the Lord is simply using to get us to be captured with just Him. And as a consequence, we will never enter rest while in this place. Rest begins in pursuing Jesus simply for the sake of who He is, and not for what we can get out of Him.
Rest comes at the worship of the giver, not just his gifts.
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