Just Do What I Say
And the LORD appeared to him and said, “Do not go down to Egypt; dwell in the land of which I shall tell you. Sojourn in this land, and I will be with you and will bless you . . .” Genesis 26:2-3
Working in addiction medicine, I often wish that I could simply assume control over my patients’ decision making for a couple of days. It’s paternalistic, I know, but they just make such poor decisions on a daily basis. These poor decisions have obvious consequences, frequently landing them in jail or the ER. It seems that if I could just show them what a few good decisions could do for them, they would see how good life could be. You don’t have to live like this. Your life would be infinitely better if you’d stop making terrible choices.
I’ve been on the other side of this as well. I’ve been the one who’s repeatedly made terrible decisions. Many times, in angst over my drug use, I begged God to simply take over my life. I surrender. Just make me a robot that always chooses what’s right. God never assumed control though. He just asked me to follow him. I wanted to do that, but the next day when my appetite for pills showed up, I chose the pills.
God doesn’t force us to follow him. He loves us and he longs that we love him back. Love implies a volitional choice though. If we truly love God, we’ll obey his will (John 14:15). Our problem is that we have our own will continually directing us to do that which is often contrary to God’s will. Our way is misery. God’s way is life. It’s our decision.
This was the choice God presented to Isaac in today’s passage. In it, God appeared to Isaac and gave him specific instructions with an attached promise. Do what I say and I will bless you and go with you. The reciprocal was assumed – If you go your own way, you’re walking away from me and you will find only misery. The choice is yours.
This is where we all find ourselves. God doesn’t force us. He just asks that we love him, seek him, and do his will. But God has never told me what to do! Not true. We have God’s word and we know how we’re meant to live: abandon self, love God, love our neighbors. Daily, we’re responsible only for our own choices. No one else decides for us. Do we want our way and misery? Or do we want God’s way and the new life? In every decision we make, we must ask ourselves, Does this lead me to self or to God? How we respond determines the rest of our lives.