devos from the hill

From Blessing to Bondage

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Where are you in the cycle?
Lesson 39 from The HOPE Study Guide

INTRODUCTION

For over a thousand years, the Hebrew people attempted to live as God had commanded them. But many times they drifted away from God, sometimes even following false gods. When they did not turn back to God, He would discipline them, often by sending a foreign nation to invade their land and rule over them. The Hebrew people would then acknowledge their unfaithfulness, and call to God for deliverance. God would then raise up a leader to free the people from their oppressors. And the people would renew their commitment to live according to the ways of God. From blessing to bondage to blessing to bondage, over and over, again and again, the Hebrew people had been called to show the world what God was like. But because of the sin that infected the world, they could not walk in the ways of God without falling.

– The HOPE, Chapter 7

OBSERVE & CONSIDER

As we delve into this lesson, it is important to keep in mind that The HOPE is a summary overview of the Bible. An 80 minute video could not possibly cover the entire Bible. The HOPE excerpt above describes what happened over a period of more than a thousand years. During this time numerous kings and prophets made their mark on Hebrew history. Their stories are recorded in many books of the Bible. However, if you had to describe this period of time in one paragraph, the excerpt above would be an accurate one.

This excerpt describes a cycle that was repeated often in the history of the Hebrew people. One writer has described this cycle as follows:

from faith to obedience
from obedience to blessing
from blessing to abundance
from abundance to selfishness
from selfishness to judgment
from judgment to bondage
from bondage to brokenness
from brokenness to faith …1

After the Hebrew people saw the miracles of God in their Exodus from Egypt, they had the faith to obey God. They were quick to commit to whatever God asked of them. God promised to bless them when they obeyed, which He did. In fact they were blessed to abundance. And so the cycle began, and continued for centuries.

This cause and effect progression is not only descriptive of the Hebrew people; it can apply to any nation or individual in relationship with God. Notice that there is a differentiation between blessing and abundance. Abundance usually means having more than we need. From God’s perspective, having more than we need brings the responsibility to use our surplus to glorify God by blessing others. To do anything less is selfishness. In the case of the Hebrew people, judgment followed selfishness. There is a verse in the New Testament (Hebrews 12:6) which tells us that God disciplines those whom He loves. God’s judgment of the Hebrew people was motivated by His love for them. His judgment often resulted in bondage to another nation, which brought them to a place of brokenness and an awareness of their need for God!

ASK & REFLECT

  • Can you think of any specific situations with nations, groups of people, or individuals in which the cycle identified above has occurred? Explain.
  • The critical shift in this cycle is from abundance to selfishness. Have you seen this shift in your own life? How do you think it might be avoided? Explain.
  • Where would you place yourself in this cycle? Explain.

DECIDE & DO

Think about the step of obedience in this cycle we have been considering. Faith is a gift from God (Ephesians 2:8). We can ask God for faith, but we can’t manufacture it. Brokenness is an overwhelming awareness of our insufficiency apart from God. We can resist God’s work in our lives to break us, but we cannot break ourselves. Every step in this cycle, other than obedience, is something that God does for us or to us. Obedience on the other hand is man’s responsibility.

Consider the real meaning of obedience. There is a verse in 1 Samuel 15:22 which reads, “to obey is better than sacrifice.” There is a difference between sacrifice and obedience. A sacrifice can be an act of obedience, but it can also be something else. A person can make a sacrifice on his own initiative when he chooses, where he chooses, and how he chooses. It is possible for a person to make a sacrifice that God never asked him to make.

Obedience is different. Obedience is always the only appropriate response of man to God. True obedience is something that begins in the heart. Obedience brings blessing. Obedience is the only thing that will prevent abundance from producing selfishness.

Consider your place in the cycle that defined the Hebrew people for so many years. Wherever you are, respond to God with obedience from the heart.

FOR FURTHER STUDY

Footnotes

1Fred Carpenter, GENERATION, Personal Study Guide. (© Mars Hill Productions, 1997, page 10).

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB

One thought on “From Blessing to Bondage

  1. Thank you for the reminder that obedience is better than sacrifice. I Sam. 15:22

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