What an indictment! The Lord has been gracious to His people. They didn't bring themselves into the Promised Land. In fact, they couldn't get themselves out of "Egypt land." They were slaves in need of deliverance. And it was the Lord alone Who broke the bonds of their captivity and led them out from under Pharaoh's cruel rule. But when they got out and got in, they acted like God was owed nothing for their change of address.
Something struck me about this passage this morning as ringing with an eerie air of familiarity to our experience with God today. The hymn writer says, "Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it! Prone to leave the God I love..." We are guilty on two accounts. First, for forgetting from whence God has brought us. We were slaves to sin and unrighteousness. When we look back we see that others have died for stuff we did too. But we're still here. Others are hooked on stuff leading pathetic shameful lives, and we're living lives of relative respectability. Like the children of God spoken of in Jeremiah 2, we have forgotten that God has led us a mighty long way. And it was grace, not our hard work that got us free.
But the second account for which we are duly charged is for forgetting that it was God who placed us in our "fruitful lands." I think of this individually and corporately. When I think of my own life, I enjoy bounty, blessings, goodness, and favor from God. AND IT'S NOT BECAUSE OF ANYTHING I'VE DONE. But sometimes I forget just how blessed I am. God's got a case against me. He could win in any court of law if He wanted to. Sometimes I'm ungrateful for all that He has given to me. I didn't earn it. I certainly don't deserve it. It's "unmerited favor."
I'm asking Him to help me be grateful. Being grateful keeps you from forgetting where your blessings come from. When I say "Thank you, Jesus" it helps me remember that He gave it to me.
Corporately, I think the Seventh-day Adventist Church is guilty too. We are a rich little church. Many North American Seventh-day Adventists are solidly middle class. I know that African-American Seventh-day Adventists enjoy life in a way that their parents could hardly have imagined. But many of us are ungrateful. And yes, I'm back on this praising God for what He has done for us. We are almost ashamed to admit all that God has done for us.
I have some Baptist friends who really have an appreciation for salvation. A Seventh-day Adventist friend of mine sings a hymn entitled "I Believe It." I've heard him sing it in an Adventist gathering. And I've heard him sing it in a Baptist Church. Here are the lyrics from the first verse:
I am free from condemnation
Jesus Christ has set me free
I am now a new creation
Hallelujah! He saved me
I believe it! I believe it!
Jesus Christ has set me free!
On the cross He bought my pardon
Hallelujah! He saved me
In the Adventist gathering there was an "Amen" and the congregation looked at the bulletin to see what was next in the order of service. In the Baptist gathering, there were red wet eyes of thanksgiving, there were shouts of "Amens" and "Hallelujahs" and an appropriate pause before moving on with the service in grateful reflection for the SALVATION that God has given.
God has blessed this church. Many of my Baptist friends struggle toward the end of their lives with things that many Adventists don't because of the lifestyle advocated by the teachings of the church. (SDA's advocate a healthy diet free from unclean meats, caffeinated and alcoholic drinks, and cancer-causing cigarette smoking.) Yet, with their gout and their walkers, my Baptist friends still out-shout us any day. And we can be in the vigor of health and still (I guess) afraid to confess, "Hallelujah! God saved me!"
Nothing we have that's good is ours simply because we earned it. Moses shares faithfully in Deuteronomy 8 that even the strength we employ to earn wealth comes from God. The disciplines of healthy eating and clean living can never become our idols.
I am asking God to help me be grateful for bringing me out and bringing me in -- bringing me out of slavery to sin, bringing me into "a fruitful land to enjoy its bounty and goodness."