Sunday, June 24, 2007

Go and then I'll tell you where.

Go and then I’ll tell you where.

If I were God, a position counselor #3 regularly tells me is already filled, I would probably give people detailed instructions on the things I wanted them to do. Maybe I’d have a website called “Godquest” where you could type in an order I give you like “work in Atlanta” and then get directions. Move your family to your in-law’s house for a few weeks. Buy a house in Alpharetta. Write advertising for Home Depot for 14 months, etc. People would love it and say, “Man, that God Jon is so detailed!” And I’d shrug my huge God shoulders as if to reply, “Hey, that’s just the kind of God I am.”

The real God however isn’t like that. Rarely in my own life has he given me specific instructions. The closer I get to him the more I feel I am able to discern his heart, but it’s never 100% clear. And it wasn’t clear for one superstar in the Old Testament - Jacob.
In Genesis 43, Joseph of the colorful coat fame has asked his long lost father to come to move to Egypt. This is no easy feat given the size of Jacob’s family. Plus he owned a ton of livestock and moving goats by foot has to be an unpleasant experience. In verse 1-3 it says:

“So Israel (Jacob) set out with all that was his and when he reached Beersheba, he offered sacrifices to the God of his father Isaac. And God spoke to Israel in a vision at night and said, “Jacob! Jacob!” “Here I am,” he replied. “I am God, the God of your father,” he said. “Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for I will make you into a great nation there. I will go down to Egypt with you, and I will surely bring you back again.”

Note the progression of events here. Jacob sets out with all his goats in verse 1 and then eventually in verse 4 God says ”I will go down with Egypt with you.” Not the other way around. If I were Jacob I would have thought “That’s great to hear God because I’ve kind of already left.”

Jacob had to move his entire family, everything he had ever known to set out for a strange land with only his faith in his relationship with God to back him up. No detailed plans, no vision, no promise of success.

Why doesn’t God always give us an instructional sheet for the journey ahead? I think it’s because he’s brilliant and knows that if I had a sheet, that sheet would eventually become my god. When times got tough, I wouldn’t cry out to God in confusion, I would look at my sheet and trust in it for clarity. I’d make an idol out of his instruction and put my faith in the piece of paper instead of Him.

I don’t know if you have a big goat move ahead of you, but if you do, don’t think that God isn’t with you just because he hasn’t delivered clear directions. His silence might be the greatest sign that he wants you take the first step long before he’ll tell you the next one after that.

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