Take Deuteronomy chapters 27 and 28, dealing with the blessings and the curse. There were a couple of sentences that really jumped out at me. At the very end of chapter 27 in The Message paraphrase, it says this:
“God’s curse on whoever does not give substance to the words of this Revelation by living them.”In chapter 28 in The Message paraphrase Moses goes on to explain why the curse comes about:
“Because you didn’t serve God, your God, out of the joy and goodness of your heart in the great abundance, you’ll have to serve your enemies whom God will send against you. Life will be famine and drought, rags and wretchedness; then he’ll put an iron yoke on your neck until he’s destroyed you.”It goes on further to talk about how everyone would turn against each other when they are under siege and how the most gentle of people will end up doing the most despicable things because they have lost everything, even their humanity.
Give substance to the words by living them. Serve God out of the joy and goodness of your heart in great abundance. Sounds a lot like the words spoken by Jesus in the New Testament “love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and love your neighbor as yourself.” I am also reminded of Victor Frankl, a survivor of the Holocaust, who wrote “Man’s Search for Meaning”. I know many consider the book not worthy of discussions in biblical circles but I found that reading the book gave me a greater appreciation for my faith!
Frankl, in his book, talks about a point when he looked in to the face of another prisoner and knew that they had given up. They would die in a very short time. They no longer had a name, or, an individual identity, they had a number. And it was a tremendous struggle to remember your individual value and worth in the face of such utter, cruel, brutality. Those who gave up, in essence, lost their humanity. They lost sight of the fact that they were precious despite their circumstances. Let me just say that I do not believe that the Holocaust was a result of God carrying out a curse against the Jewish community. No, the perpetrators of the crime lost their “humanity” first in order to carry out such dire insanity! They thought they were superior and anything inferior must be eliminated. And I remember watching interviews with citizens who said that they were not aware of what was going on. They would say things like “he was such a kind person, always treating others well, not the kind of person who would do such a thing!” Yet, some did do such horrible things. The atrocities happened and we should never forget that they happened because, quite frankly, similar atrocities have happened in recent years and if we are not careful, will happen again!
Advent and Christmas, the season of peace on earth and good will to men. We give substance to these words during the holiday season, but do we carry that message with us beyond the holidays? Do we serve God with joy out of our abundance once we get past the holiday season? Do we still volunteer and help out at the food shelf or the battered women’s shelter once January first rolls around? Do we have a kind word for a stranger in the store? Do we live the message beyond the holiday season? I know that there are individuals that do, God bless them! Perhaps the rest of us, should think about making a pledge to do the same. Not that we will always succeed or get it right, but if our heart is in the right place, how can we not help but be blessed?
Serve God with joy, out of your abundance.