I’ll never forget the day. Josh was a toddler having fun inside our little apartment in Mrs. Dickenson’s mansion at 770 W. Westleigh Drive, Lake Forest, Illinois. I was in seminary during these days while Diane cooked Mrs. D’s meals; and in exchange the grand dame provided our food and a little space for us to live rent free. Oh yeah…and cable.
That day my son’s plastic toys were scattered around our tiny little living room, and I noticed that he had begun to step on them, coming down with the full force of his massive (40 lb.?) weight. Fearing that he might break one, I instructed him not to do that.
And…after clearly hearing my word, he maintained eye contact while simultaneously and slowly lifting up his foot and setting it down on one of the toys, somewhat like a conquering hero might do to the vanquished.
It didn’t take me long to show the defiant little villain what it really meant to be vanquished.
I like to think that neither one of us ever forgot that day – he certainly hasn’t because he’s heard me tell the story a hundred times. And yet there is a point to it all: the truth is that though at first glance, my instruction looked to be detrimental to him. However, in fact I did not aim to take away his joy, but to preserve it. My “command” came from a father’s heart that had his son’s best interests in mind – I wanted him to continue to enjoy his toys, and stepping on them might have destroyed this possibility.
And so it is with our Heavenly Father’s commands to us – they are meant for our good, most clearly illustrated in Jesus’s discussion regarding the Sabbath and his simple word: “The Sabbath was meant for man, not man for the Sabbath.”
Now, I don’t believe the Sabbath command continues today, except in the truth that we are called to rest in the gospel (Hebrews 4:9), but the point remains: Jesus was saying that the Sabbath command was for our good. Get this – God aimed to give his people rest – making Saturday the best day of the week. But of course, under the Pharisees, it had become not the best day, but the worst.
But still, the Sabbath command revealed the Father’s heart, and what continues to be the His heart regarding anything He asks of His children – He aims for our good. In fact, you might say He even shapes commands for us.
As in the Sabbath, all of God’s commands are “made for” us…not we for them.
Tomorrow, April 15th: Mark 3