Throughout the Old Testament, particularly in the early parts of it, God calls His people frequently into battle. They have to fight for everything they have, pushing their way into the Promised Land inch by inch, sword by sword, blood by blood. At several points, He takes a census of the number of fighting men available.
But not all of the fighting men were ever actually available.
There were a number of reasons that a fighting man may not actually fight with the people. Gideon, for example, sent two divisions of fighting men home - those who were afraid and those who drank water in a certain way - because the Lord told him that his army was too big for the fight, for the Lord to get the glory of it.
There were also, however, rules on which of the fighting men couldn't fight with Israel on any given day. For example, men who had just gotten married but hadn't had the chance to cement their new bond with their wife were exempt from fighting. They were to go home and lay in the marriage bed and be a family. Also, men who had purchased land but hadn't had the chance to work it were exempt from fighting. Men who had built a home but hadn't moved into it were exempt from fighting, too.
In other words, if you haven't had a chance yet to live your life, God won't put you at risk of dying.
And this is contrary to a lot of what it's too easy to think about God. It's too easy for us to have the kind of Christianity that thinks that God is just a lot of rules, that He doesn't want us to have any fun, that He doesn't want us to do anything ever. That God is all about danger, about calling us into difficult places and putting us at risk, asking us to do things that we don't want to do and never would do of our own volition. We think that God is about pushing us harder, calling us deeper, taking us away from everything we've known and loved into a boring, difficult life of something merely called "obedience" that feels like it has so very little to do with us and everything to do with a God that we just don't quite understand.
It's easy for us to feel a little disconnection from our faith, like God's ways and God's rules aren't relevant to life in today's world. Like He just doesn't "get it," doesn't understand what 2019 requires of us in terms of being a person who lives in a community or being a person who holds onto a privatized faith or...whatever it is that we conceive of in this world.
What we've lost sight of is the essential nugget of truth that is God's compassion, that is His purpose and intent. It's here in the Old Testament law, even in the midst of almost-constant battle, and it's reiterated again and again, no place better than in the life of Jesus. And that little nugget is this:
God's primary concern is life, and life abundant.
Every single one of God's rules and laws was meant to guard your life, not to ruin it. It was meant to enable you to thrive, not to suffocate you. It was intended to give you a way to live, not just offer you a good and holy way to die.
Somewhere along the way, our Christianity got the idea that our faith is about dying well, but it's just not true. It's not true. The Christian faith, the very essence of everything God has ever said or done for us, is about living. It's about life.
And if you've built a life but haven't lived it yet, God doesn't call you out to put all of that at risk. Not even in faith. He always, always calls you home. To your best life. To His best life. To life abundant.
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