God’s Good No
Well, it’s almost a week later, and I’m still thinking about last Sunday’s sermon. (Good job, David!)
For those who weren’t there (and for those who were and were sleepy), David walked us through Exodus 19. God leads the Israelites to Mt. Sinai, he descends upon the mountain, and he calls Moses up onto the mountain so that God can to speak to him. But God very clearly states that none of the rest of the Israelites are even to touch the mountain. If they do, they will be put to death.
Maybe not quite what you were looking for when you got out of bed early on Sunday morning.
It’s a hard scripture, and it was a hard message. David spoke to us about the limits that God puts on us and our behaviors. He showed us that because God is a holy God — as this passage makes so clear — there are limits on how we can act and what we can do. Because we are created in God’s image and called to reflect his holiness, and because we are human and not gods, there are limits on our choices and our behavior. Both God’s holiness and our humanness mean that God sometimes says “no” to us. That “no” can be very difficult — but because it is God’s, it is also very good.
What kind of limits does God put on us? David gave us lots of hard, specific examples:
- Limits on how we spend our time and our money.
- Limits on our work-life “balance” (or lack thereof).
- Limits on physical intimacy in dating relationships.
- Limits on marriage.
- Limits on our internet and other media consumption.
There was something in there for just about everyone — it was what I think of as an “equal opportunity convictor.”
David also showed us how the Israelite community was charged with protecting and preserving the limits God had set around Mt. Sinai; those who transgressed the limits were not immediately smited by God but received their punishment at the hand of their fellow Israelites. In a similar way, we as a community of people following Jesus bear the responsibility of naming, protecting, and preserving the limits that God has placed on us. This doesn’t mean that we have to turn into the morality police, but it does mean that we as a community need to take seriously the limits on how we live in light of God’s holiness.
Does that make you uncomfortable? I hope so. It does me. This is hard stuff. It’s hard to hear. It’s hard to accept. It’s hard to do right — and all too easy to do wrong. But I think it’s true. And so we have to wrestle with it.
So this is an invitation to a wrestling match. I think this sermon should be the beginning of a conversation, not the end of it. We want to hear what you think. What spoke to your heart? What made you mad? What made you seek and receive God’s forgiveness? What did you disagree with? What made you want to stand up and cheer? We want to hear it all.
So please talk to us, and talk to each other. Talk to your roommate, your spouse, your kids. Talk to someone from your last small group. Talk to me or to David (you can always reach us here). Let’s wrestle together to understand God’s good “no.”