Today's Lectionary Text
I am the Lord your God,
“But my people did not listen to my voice;
If only -- these are familiar words that are often used as an excuse when something doesn’t go as planned. I think of a famous poem/proverb (there are several variations but I’m most familiar with the one about King Richard III and the Battle of Bosworth Field) that usually starts, “For want of a nail …” The point of the proverb is that seeming inconsequential or unimportant acts (or omissions) can lead to drastic and/or unforeseen consequences.
What does this have to do with Psalm 81:10-16? Several times in the NIV version of this passage, we read/hear God speaking a version of “if only” about God’s people. If only the people would listen, they would follow God’s ways. If only they would listen, God would subdue their enemies. If only they would listen, they would be fed with the finest wheat.
It almost seems as if the consequence of the people not listening is that God has withdrawn. Not at all! Indeed, as a parent who has recently moved her oldest to New York to start her freshman year of college, I see something different in verse 12. I see a loving, connected parent who is unwilling to force their desire(s) on a child/children who are unwilling to listen. Instead this loving, connected parent allows that child/the children of God to “follow their own devices,” even knowing that there will be unpleasant consequences for the child/children. The “if only” part of the passage is a reminder of the consequences, not a naming of a punishment.
My understanding of God is that God allows us to face the consequences of our actions/choices. However, God does not leave us to face those consequences alone. Additionally, God is ready and willing to welcome us and treat us to the goodness of relationship with God -- when we listen to God’s voice and follow God (even if we’ve willfully chosen to previously ignore God’s voice!).
--Rev. Karen Jeffcoat
Registrar, Great Plains Board of Ordained Ministry
Prayer for Reflection
Open my ears to hear your words. Open my heart to receive your love. Open my hands to share your ways. Forgive me when I fail to do any of these things. Amen.
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