Promises, Promises – Br. David Vryhof

Br. David Vryhof

Exodus 24:3-8

I’m impressed this morning by the whole-hearted response of the Israelites to the Law that God gave them through Moses:

“Moses came and told the people all the words of the Lord and all the ordinances; and all the people answered with one voice: ‘All the words that the Lord has spoken we will do.’ (v. 3)

And just a few verses later:

“Then [Moses] took the book of the covenant and read it in the hearing of the people; and they said, ‘All that the Lord has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient.'” (v.7)

Total buy-in!  A whole-hearted offering of themselves to God.  An enthusiastic embrace of the Law and all its demands.  A willingness to seek and to do God’s will above all else.  It’s very impressive.

BUT when we read Israel’s history, we see that resolve quickly begin to fade.  Before long, these same Israelites are expressing discontent, impatience, rebelliousness, and disobedience.  The promises they had made so whole-heartedly are soon forgotten, and they begin to show that they are, in fact, more interested in their own desires than in God’s desires for them.

Unfortunately, the same thing can be said of Jesus’ disciples.  Listen to the brave words of Peter in Matthew’s gospel when Jesus is about to be betrayed and arrested:  “Though all become deserters because of you, I will never desert you.” But Jesus knows Peter better than Peter knows himself.  “Truly I tell you,” says Jesus, “this very night, before the cock crows, you will deny me three times.”  To which Peter replies with even greater bravado, “Even though I must die with you, I will not deny you.”      

“And so said all the disciples,” the gospel writer adds. (Matt. 26:31-35)

Unshakeable confidence….  complete loyalty….  absolute devotion….  But then came Gethsemane, and the betrayal and arrest, and the trials before the High Priest and before Pontius Pilate, and the mockings and beatings Jesus endured, and the judgement and sentencing, and the crucifixion.  With these hardships, all that admirable resolve melts away, and Jesus’ friends desert him and go into hiding.

Sound familiar?  I’m sure I’m not the only one here who has at different times and in different ways been moved to pledge my total allegiance to God, only to find the initial enthusiasm and zeal fading away — sometimes within weeks or even days.  It’s not easy to sustain such commitment, just like it’s not easy to keep New Year’s resolutions, and most of us, most of the time, will find our good resolve fading with time.

What’s the answer to this?  I think we need to recognize that our commitment to Christ, just like our commitment to a marriage partner or to a religious community or to a particular vocation, needs to be renewed year after year, week after week, day by day, moment by moment.  Every day, and several times during the day, we need to choose Jesus again and reaffirm our desire and intention to follow him and to live according to his will.

It is a very good thing that “the Lord is patient and kind,” and that God exercises such tender-hearted compassion towards us.  God accepts our weaknesses and offers us his strength.  God knows our limitations, and therefore promises to abide in us and to do greater things than we could ever imagine in and through us.  Even Peter’s outright denial does not disqualify him from the Lord’s service.  With the simple question, “Simon, do you love me?”, Jesus is willing to welcome him back and make him a leader in the community of Christ’s followers.

If you’ve stumbled and fallen, if your initial fervor and zeal have faded away, if you haven’t been true to your promise to love and serve God with your whole heart, if you’re keenly aware of your weakness, don’t be troubled.  Don’t waste time wallowing in guilt and shame.  Simply return, in repentance and faith, and offer yourself once again.  There can be no doubt that God will welcome you with open arms.

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  1. Pedro A. Romanach on August 15, 2023 at 13:26

    Very nice! Thank you very much, Brother David. Very wise and true words.

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