Small Steps, Single Drops and Little Foxes
So writes Asaph in Psalm 81 as he looks back at the history of God’s people and recounts how the Lord brought them out of slavery in Egypt and set them above all other nations as His chosen. Asaph only mentions one command, one warning, given to Israel. The people were not to worship any other gods (vs 9). If they obeyed this command they would be protected and provided for (vss 10, 13-16). In fact, obeying this one would ensure that all the rest of God's instructions would be kept as well. Unhappily for Israel they chose not to obey the command. That disobedience cost them a great deal.
But the verse from the psalms is reminiscent of something Paul repeats several times in the beginning of his letter to the Roman church. He describes the wickedness of men who reject God in Romans 1. Three times he writes: “…God gave them over…” He let them do what they wanted. Paul specifies in Romans 1 what God gave them over to: “…the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another…,” “…shameful lusts…,” “…a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done.”
Though sexual sins are emphasized, Paul goes on to include others as well: “…they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God…They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful. They invent ways of doing evil. They disobey their parents; they are senseless, faithful, heartless, ruthless” (Romans 1: 28-31, emphasis mine).
Where does the slide down that, “slippery slope” begin? What triggers the problem? Both Asaph and Paul give us the answer to that question. Israel would not listen to God or submit to His commands. Paul describes that same ill by saying that men “did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God.” These were people who knew the truth but walked away from it.
A couple of recent articles highlighted this problem for me. An Anglican minister is being hauled up before church authorities because she openly says that she doesn’t believe in either God or the Bible but refuses to leave her church because she doesn't wish to lose her "platform." This particular article was linked to a similar one about a Presbyterian minister. I have heard that a pastor in my own community has openly stated that she doesn’t believe in many parts of the Scripture. Those of us old enough to do so, remember the fuss and furor that took place in the United church back in the 60s when church authorities dismissed many Scriptural accounts as fable and fantasy.
The “slippery slope” toward God giving us up to our own devices, to live out the consequences of our evil, begins with unbelief. A hallmark of that unbelief is the rejection of God’s Word.
It would be easy to point the finger at others and do the “aha” thing. But as God said to Cain back in the early days of history: “…sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it” (Genesis 4:7). We are constantly tested as to whether we will bend or bow to the pressure of the world and compromise the truth that we know. Our churches are constantly being tested as to what they will sacrifice in order to survive. It is one thing to be tolerant of the beliefs of others and something very different to compromise our own.
To walk out from under the umbrella of God’s protection and provision is a serious matter. The beginning of the march away from God is often made by just one small step; oftentimes one that seems relatively innocent and inoffensive. But nature tells us that a single drop of water applied over time will wear away the strongest stone. And anyone will tell us that one small unattended leak can often end up being a much bigger problem than it first seemed.
A constant check is called for:
Am I listening to God as He reveals Himself through His Word?
Am I obeying God, putting into practice what He has told me?
Are there areas in my life where I am tempted to compromise a standard that God has put in place?
Are there biblical truths that I no longer consider important or relevant?
These are only an example of the kinds of questions we should be asking ourselves. There are things I permit today in myself that I never would have permitted years ago. That, in itself, is not a bad thing when we are talking about human tradition and legalism. But I remember Paul’s words in Galatians 5:13: “You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature….”
One small step.
One drop of water.
The prayer for today, and for everyday, is described for is in Songs of Songs 3:15: “Lord, examine me, and ‘catch for us the foxes, the little foxes that ruin the vineyards…’”
I don't know about you, but I certainly don't want God to leave me to my own devices.