“And if you call me a ‘tin woman’, make sure you put ‘Chris’ in front of it! God’s way, God’s way, or the highway…”
Yeah, I thought about jumping on that TikTok trend (a play on a clip from Bad Girls’ Club where you turn an insult into a genuine description of yourself by adding a word or phrase to the insult). But then I decided against it.
One, because I hate how I look on camera, and two, because I wasn’t sure how it would sound. Would people think I was a blind follower of tradition, unable to think for myself, all because I was a Christian who wanted to follow “God’s way”?
Because let’s be real, we all feel that way sometimes, even the most genuine Christians among us.
And even the Israelites. In Deuteronomy 12, Moses is still talking, and now his sermon turns to a description of how the Israelites should live when they enter the Promised Land. This is important because they’re going to be around a lot of cultures and people who don’t live the way that they do. To keep the Israelites from being corrupted by these nations, God through Moses warns His people to follow everything He asks of them – and then proceeds to reiterate a really long list of rules.
Controlling much? Why was God so specific with His rules? Is He just as specific today?
Is it really God’s way or the highway?
“Destroy all pagan places of worship.” “Worship in only the place I show you – don’t worship anywhere else.” “Worship me with the sacrifices and offerings I have described to you.” “Settle down and build your houses and cities only where I tell you to.” “Don’t eat the parts of the animal I have forbidden you to eat.” “Don’t even ask a question about the gods of the nations around you.”
These were the laws God repeated to the Israelites in Deuteronomy 12, and they are just a subset of all the commands and regulations God has given them from the time they left Egypt to now.
Why so serious?
As dramatic as these rules might seem, God is God. He’s wise. He’s loving. That means that we know that God asked these things of the Israelites not because He really likes the smell of roasted dead animals or because He’s a control freak, but because He knows what’s best for the people He created.
It may not be obvious at first how the rules in this chapter were “best”. But as we keep reading the Bible, God reveals to us, verse by verse, the absolute wisdom behind every last thing He says.
One bit of wisdom is given right in this chapter, in verse 31. God tells the Israelites to stay far away from the nations around them and their gods because “they even burn their sons and daughters in the fire as sacrifices to their gods”. Any more objections to God telling the Israelites to stay ten miles away from these folk at all times?
What about you and me? Doesn’t God know what will make us happy? Doesn’t He know what will strengthen us? Or what will teach us valuable lessons that we’ll never forget? Or what will deepen our faith in Him? Or what will keep us from making life-altering mistakes? Or what will lead us to amazing people and experiences and places?
So why do we get mad when He asks us only to treat people how He tells us to, or work how He tells us to, or have sex how He tells us to, or just live life how He tells us to?
These are all instructions from the Manufacturer, the Creator, the Grand Artist, the One who knows intimately how you and I work. He should be the first one we go to to figure out how to be happy.
Because at the end of the day, God’s rules are there to benefit us, not control us.
Mix and Match
We may know all of this in our heads, but are our lives telling the same story?
The Israelites’ lives told the story of a people who would obey God – for a little while. Eventually, they would begin to slip. They would start to dabble in sin. But the whole time they continued to offer sacrifices and offering. They continued to call themselves the children of God.
The Israelites tried to obey God and play with the fun customs of the people around them at the same time.
We only have to keep reading the Bible to see how disastrously that turned out for them.
The Israelites seem so silly and immature to us, but we do the exact same thing.
We dabble in a little vice here, a tiny compromise there. We stick a toe into the fun customs of the people around us. We flirt with sin. We take a little bit of the Bible and a little bit of the world.
That’s the story our watch history tells compared to the “Christian” in our social media bio. That’s the story our words during the week tell compared to our church attendance. That’s the story our secret sins tell when compared to our brief devotions.
That’s the story our lives tell.
What about yours?
“My way is the only way under heaven that will save you.”
Why do we need to be reminded of this? Why is it so hard to follow God’s way and not my way?
Is it pride? Is it the lie my heart tells me – that I’ve got this, that I know what I’m doing? Is it ignorance? Is my study time so limited that I don’t even know what God’s will is? Is it a lack of faith? Is it hard for me to believe that God’s way will truly make me happy?
Maybe it’s personal. Maybe the answer is different for everyone.
Whatever the reason, whatever the root of the desire to go our own way, God’s way begins with hope. It begins with a strong arm that yanks us out of our mess and into His light. It begins with change.
It begins with a decision. Will you stick to your way? Or will you take God’s?
What do you think? Which way are you taking right now? Let’s spend this next week praying that God will put us and keep us in His way.