“O My people, what have I done to you?
And how have I wearied you?
Testify against Me.”
I was watching an old movie last night, and one of the characters tried to point out to the antagonists that they had been led astray, and so he told them to look at the Lord’s Prayer they had likely all learned as a child. Specifically, he told them to look at the part that says, “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” (Matthew 6:13a KJV) I myself often reflect on that statement, because I sometimes feel like God really pushes the limits of my faith through the ways He allows me to face temptation. Of course, then I come back then to the words of the apostle James:
12 Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.
13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone.
14 But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed.
We ourselves are quite capable of providing our own temptations, and we do so by indulging our own desires, our own weaknesses, our own lusts and hatreds. While I do believe Satan is behind quite a lot of the evil things in the world, the accuser can’t be everywhere at once. And so we cannot blame Satan alone for all the evil in our lives. We need to realize that much of the evil we see around us – even the sins of our own lives – are simply the results of decisions we weak humans have made, giving in to our base temptations. That is why that sentence from the Lord’s Prayer has two parts: “Lead us not into temptation” – i.e. keep us from stumbling – and “deliver us from evil” – i.e. save us when we DO stumble.
In today’s verse from the prophecy of Micah, when God asks “O My people, what have I done to you?” it is a plea for sanity and thoughtfulness. God asks the Jews to stand up and try to make a case against Him. The Lord mentions that He brought them out of slavery in Egypt, and even set faithful people to lead them – Moses, Aaron and Miriam. (Micah 6:4) When others tried to curse the Jews, God instead blessed them. (v.5) So He asks, “And how have I wearied you?” What is it that caused them to tire of the Lord’s blessings?
When I hear people today say we are better off without faith in our country, I have to laugh. Are we really? Wasn’t it Christians who fled religious persecution to found this country? Wasn’t it Christians who led the charge to end slavery in this country? Wasn’t it Christians on the front lines of nearly every move for equality and social justice? Wasn’t it Christians who founded the first halfway houses, hospitals, clinics, soup kitchens, orphanages and crisis counseling centers? Yes, throughout the ages, there have been those who went to war or oppressed others and claimed they were doing it “for God,” but it doesn’t take a genius to see the vast disparity between rhetoric and reality. Even today we have politicians who invoke the Lord’s name to back up their ungodly causes, using God as a playing card rather than actually following their faith and the clear instructions of the Lord God and His Word. Despite the misuse of the Lord’s name, the clear evidence is that the Lord’s WORK is being done by a very faithful few who strive valiantly against the rising evil that is a result of our declining belief.
I have a couple of friends who are – as I once was – agnostic. For a long time, I simply didn’t believe in God because I didn’t see any evidence of His favor. Yes, I was pretty blind as I told people how “lucky” I was and yet I never attributed my blessings to God. But once my eyes were opened and I saw clearly His movement in my life, it was like a flood of faith washed over me, and now it’s very difficult for me NOT to see His hand in my life and the lives of others. As James said, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.” (James 1:17) I see the truth of that statement every day.
So why do people turn from God? They turn from Him in anger, in frustration, and mostly, in ignorance. They run from Him because they are afraid of His judgment. People turn from God because His imperfect servants have hurt them. Like myself, some people allowed their sin to blind them to God’s blessings. But in any and all cases, there is not one unbeliever who can make a case against God Himself. Sure, they could certainly press a case against His servants who’ve been led astray, and also against those who claim the Lord’s name but practice evil and deceit. And while those who suffer persecution or oppression might blame God for such things, in their heart of hearts they know it is truly others who are responsible for their plight – perhaps even themselves.
No, we cannot make any sort of case against God, and yet we can always make a case FOR God. Were we to honestly consider the trials of our lives, we would see quite clearly that they are the results of choices made by ourselves and those around us. And were we to look at the unexpected blessings in our lives – the things that are NOT the result of our own choices – they would be difficult to count. So how can we testify against God? As a nation, as communities, as familes, and as individuals, how can we testify against our Father God who has given to us so abundantly? Perhaps He has not supplied our every wish and given us great wealth and prosperity. Perhaps He has allowed us to fall into our own temptation and sin and degradation. Perhaps He has allowed us to live with the consequences of our own actions. Perhaps He has even taken loved ones from us in the midst of our greatest happiness. Perhaps He has allowed us to live in slavery and hardened the hearts of our masters for far longer than we would wish. Nonetheless, He has still given us a great gift.
10 Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people.
11 “For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.
12 “And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.”
13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:
14 “Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”
We have been given such a great gift, such an enormous blessing, this Son of God in whom resides the mercy of our Lord for our salvation. What then has He done to us? How then has He wearied us? If we are honest with ourselves, we will see He has blessed us beyond measure, and so we will join David in saying:
I will praise You, O Lord my God, with all my heart,
And I will glorify Your name forevermore.
O Lord my God, find that my heart is steadfast for You, that in the midst of my trouble, in the midst of my stumbling, I will seek Your face and find Your salvation. Be near to me today, Father, and shelter my heart from evil and temptation. I can make no case against You save to bring You praise and glory. You alone, O Lord, are my strength and my song. Awaken my soul to praise You as You alone deserve. Amen.