I’m wondering how many people might be puzzled by today’s title. How on earth could the God of the universe have a problem? He’s the 3 O’s: omniscient, omnipresent, and omnipotent. So what could be a problem to him?
More biblically astute readers might guess “Our sin,” and that wouldn’t be a bad answer. He created the universe just by speaking it into existence, with all its intricacy and majesty, and at the end of it all he rested, but it wasn’t because he was tired. Creation was no problem for him. Our sin, however—that’s a problem. How could the perfectly just God forgive our sin without compromising himself? Of course we know of his mind-blowing solution to it.
But that’s not what I’m referring to today, and unlike the sin issue there’s no 2+2=4 type of solution to it.
Today’s passage, more than any other I can think of, illustrates it perfectly. The Lord redeemed Israel from oppression in Egypt. He cared for her, provided for her, and protected her for 40 years in the desert (and just a reminder, they were only in the desert for 40 years because of their screw-up). Then he brought them into the Promised Land, and just like the name implies, it was the fulfillment of all his promises. The book of Joshua put it succinctly: “Not one of all the Lord’s good promises to Israel failed; every one was fulfilled.”
Here’s where the problem comes in. You see, God loves his children. The best father or mother who ever walked this planet is a sad copy-of-a-copy-of-a-copy of his tender love and intimate care. He loves to bless his children. It’s his great desire to give us the best of the best of the best.
That’s what he did to Israel. He brought them into a land “flowing with milk and honey.” It was fertile and lush and had everything a plot of land could provide. Whenever Israel did things his way, he gave them victory on every side: No enemy could stand before them. He blessed their numbers, taking from a handful in Egypt to numbering in the millions. He gave them physical health and wealth, which a lot of preachers seem to value today. Every possible physical blessing which we can get in this life, they got. In spades.
And what was their reaction?
“When I fed them, they were satisfied;
when they were satisfied, they became proud;
then they forgot me.”
Now do you see the problem? He wants to bless us physically. He loves doing it. Think of Scrooge at the beginning of Christmas Carol and imagine the opposite. But when he does, we often become proud. We start to think we did this for ourselves. It was our hard work. It was our planning.
And as surely as night follows day, pride leads to forgetting God. And as C. S. Lewis put it, pride is the quintessential anti-God attitude, so how could it not?
That’s the dilemma.
And the amazing thing is that—to a very serious degree—the solution to this problem lies in our hands, not his. What could I mean by this?
Let me put it this way. If I show that my physical blessings don't take my eyes off him, if I demonstrate that I can be blessed physically without taking pride in it, then that barrier is removed.
Now please let me clarify. I’m not a believer in the Prosperity Gospel, as if I haven’t made it clear by now. Just because I’m faithful to God doesn’t necessarily mean that he’s going to physically bless me, just like lack of blessing isn’t a sign that I’m being unfaithful (hello, Job). But these things are indisputable: 1) God loves to bless his children, and that includes physical blessings, and 2) if I’m faithful, then he’s able to bless me more without the danger. If he decides not to bless me for some other reason, that’s his call. I just don’t want to give him a reason not to. Make sense?
Father, I want your best for me—nothing less and nothing other. You do all things well, and that includes providing for me. Help me to trust you more, please. And I plead with you to take away any gift that gets between me and you.