"Fragrance of the Holy Spirit" painting by Margaret Solomon-Bird

Today: Proverbs 4:10-19; Matthew 26:31-46; Exodus 4 & 5; Exodus 6:1-12

Proverbs 4

“They eat the bread of wickedness, and drink the wine of violence.” Proverbs 4:17

Proverbs 4:17 describes an evil version of the holy Eucharist (Communion). Satan offers a corrupt counterfeit for every good pure thing God has created. The devil isn’t very creative. He can only produce rotten knockoffs of the original. But he does own this world right now. And he’s loud. Often we only are familiar with the counterfeit version.

Consider something wicked like demonic possession. We’ve all heard of it. It’s mentioned in the Bible many times. I believe it’s real.

But did you know it is possible to be “possessed” by the Holy Spirit? It is possible to be so guided by God that he completely controls us. This is what I experienced when I died. This also happens to me in my visions where God takes my soul to heaven to pray with the saints. On these occasions, I am not in control of my own body. I just observe what God is making me do. But it doesn’t feel scary or like a violation of my autonomy. I willingly, enthusiastically submit to it because it is so glorious. I don’t ever want these experiences to end.

I wish my normal daily life could be lived this way, completely controlled by the Holy Spirit. It is my prayer. Not my will but Yours be done, Lord!

"Prayer for the Cup (Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane)" painting by Paul Gauguin

Matthew 26 – Garden of Gethsemane

“My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will.” Matthew 26:39

Jesus didn’t WANT to endure crucifixion. He knew what was coming and dreaded it. His first prayer is a request to be rescued from this fate.

“My Father, if this cup cannot pass away unless I drink from it, Your will be done.” Matthew 26:42

By his second prayer, he has surrendered to the inevitability of the cross.

Matthew tells us that he prayed “a third time, saying the same thing once more.” (v.44)  Matthew gives us a poignant glimpse into Jesus’ personal turmoil as he approaches crucifixion. We watch him confront his future and wrestle with his own feelings. He had just told the disciples that “the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (v.41) I think he was talking about HIMSELF. His spirit was, of course, resolved to complete his mission of salvation. But his flesh, the human half of him, recoiled with dread at the impending torture… not just the physical torture he would soon endure, but also the agonizing separation from his holy Father. “My soul is deeply grieved,” he tells the disciples, “to the point of death.” Maybe he even felt afraid?

He ends both prayers with “Your will be done.” Even before his struggle begins, he commits to God’s will regardless of his own preference. I am so thankful that Matthew reveals that our Savior grappled with his flesh to bring it into submission of his spirit. He truly does understand our human plight. He suffered and struggled just as we do.

Has God ever told you to do something you didn’t want to do? Often doing the right thing is difficult. Are we willing to struggle with our flesh, bring it into submission to God? The key is committing to follow God’s will BEFORE the struggle even begins. The key is to say to God, as Jesus did, “Your will be done.”

"Moses and the Serpent" etching by Marc Chagall

Exodus 4-6

When God tells Moses to do something he doesn’t want to do, he gives God every excuse in the book to avoid it. God is very tolerant of Moses’ whining!

When Moses complains that no one will listen to him, God gives him a little magic trick to break the ice. He tells Moses to throw down his staff and it promptly transforms into a snake. Moses is obviously afraid of the snake and runs away from it. I bet it was a big, scary poisonous one! (God never does anything halfway!)

I always thought God was being a bit facetious when he tells Moses to grab the snake “by its tail.” Anybody who knows anything about snakes knows you don’t grab them by the tail. They will whip around and bite you. But you gotta give Moses credit. Even though he was afraid, he still did as God told him and the snake turned back into his harmless staff in his hand.

Moses’ excuses continue, even after God gives him a few more parlor tricks. Moses frets that he cannot speak well. So God says that’s no biggie, since I made the human mouth anyway! “I myself with be with your mouth,” he tells Moses. (v.4:12) I just find that line a bit humorous. Can you sense God’s exasperation with Moses’ whining?

When Moses tells God to send someone else, God has finally had enough and agrees to send Aaron, Moses’ brother, to help out. Moses finally acquiesces, wisely.

However things only get worse. The Israelites were indeed wowed by God’s handy bag of tricks and believed Moses at first. But they quickly turned on him when Pharaoh angrily increased their workload.

We like to ridicule those fickle Israelites, but are we any different? We want the glory, the freedom, and the blessings. And the magic tricks are pretty cool too. But how many of us are in it for the long haul? Are we committed to follow God even when life gets tough? It is so difficult sometimes to truly live a life of “Your will be done.” Lord, help us to mean it!