Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Bitterly Cursed or Abundantly Blessed?

Would you rather be bitterly cursed or abundantly blessed? I'm guessing you would rather be abundantly blessed.


God has always offered us the choice, for He created us to operate with free will. But for our wills to be truly free, the choices we make must have real consequences. Adam originally chose for us, while we were yet in his loins — and we have each, in our own way, ratified that choice — and the consequences have always been dreadful!

Even so, God has, from the beginning, always given us a way to choose again. For example, as the children of Israel were poised to enter into the Promised Land, after wandering in the wilderness in unbelief for forty years, God renewed His covenant with them, saying, “I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live” (Deuteronomy 30:19).

Years ago, my wife and children and I watched Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, about a modern quest for the “Holy Grail.” Near the end of the story, Dr. Jones, who has learned the value of a penitent heart, the name of God and the meaning of faith, enters a cave where the object of his frantic search has been preserved for hundreds of years, guarded by an ancient Knight Templar. The only problem is that the holy object is hidden, in plain sight, in a room full of goblets. To complicate things even more, the cup’s guardian warns that, though to drink from the grail would be life, to drink from the wrong one would result in death.

About that time, the villain of this piece, having carefully followed Jones’ path, enters the cave and, being armed, gains the upper hand. He, too, has long sought the Holy Grail, but for purely selfish reasons. Carefully reviewing the array of goblets, he finally settles upon a beautiful, ornate, gold cup. Surely this cup, he reasons, is truly fit for the King of Kings. So he takes a drink from it — and dies in a horrible fashion. “He chose … poorly,” says the old Crusader.

Now it is left to Jones to choose, for he must find the correct cup in order to save his father’s life. Realizing the humility of Christ, and the true significance of what the grail symbolized, he selects a plain goblet, but beautiful in its simplicity. He drinks. After a few moments, the ancient knight reassures him, “You chose … wisely.”

God has laid out the choice of life and death for you and me, and He has made it very plain how we can choose wisely. It all has to do with in whom we place our trust:

Thus says the LORD:
Cursed is the man who trusts in man
And makes flesh his strength,
Whose heart departs from the LORD.
For he shall be like a shrub in the desert,
And shall not see when good comes,
But shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness,
In a salt land which is not inhabited.
(Jeremiah 17:5-6)
Here is a man who trusts in himself, or in others just like him. He has made himself his own refuge. He follows his heart, little realizing that his heart is “deceitful above all things and desperately wicked” (Jeremiah 17:9). He walks in the counsel of the ungodly, stands in the path of sinners and sits in the seat of those who mock God and good (Psalm 1:1).

It shall never go well for him. He shall be like a dry bush in a dry land: parched, withered and blasted by the wind. Even when good comes his way, he shall not even be able to draw from it or even to recognize it, because of the hardness of his heart. All he shall know is wilderness, a toxic wasteland not even worth inhabiting. He is bitterly cursed, and that by his own choice.

But God has a better way and a greater destiny for you and me, and He leaves the choice up to us:
Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD,
And whose hope is the LORD.
For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters,
Which spreads out its roots by the river,
And will not fear when heat comes;
But its leaf will be green,
And will not be anxious in the year of drought,
Nor will cease from yielding fruit.
(Jeremiah 17:7-8)
This is the man who puts all his confidence, not in himself, but in the LORD. He has a positive expectation, a joyful anticipation, a powerful assurance that God is going to take care of all that is needed. He has not consigned himself to the wilderness of unbelief or the toxic salt land of his own pride. No, he is like a tree that has been transplanted beside the abundance of waters, and whose roots are well-established. The heat may come and dry winds may blast, but he will not be troubled, for he is well-nourished; he has not abandoned himself to his own pitiful resources, but has come to God’s bountiful supply. His leaf will not wither for lack, but will be fresh and green. He is not merely a survivor. He thrives and will never cease to bring forth good fruit. He is blessed, and he is a blessing.

Life or death; blessing or curse. This is the one choice that settles all the other choices. It is the wisdom recorded in Proverbs: “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6). It is the choice Jesus preached in the Sermon on the Mount: “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Matthew 6:33). It is the startling choice presented to Nicodemus when he sought out Jesus one night:
God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. He who believes in Him is not condemned, but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. (John 3:16-18)
Do you want to be bitterly cursed, or abundantly blessed? It all depends on in whom you choose to love, honor and trust. The choice is yours — choose life!