The Tendency To Stray

Psalm 119:21 “You rebuke the arrogant, who are cursed and who stray from your commands.”

Do you have a tendency to stray?

When I was a child, my Dad took us to Sears. He liked going to Sears, and my brother Randy and I didn’t have much of a choice. We weren’t huge fans of these errands. That is, until the Atari video game system came out. When we saw the display system, Randy and I begged Dad if we could stay and play while he shopped for what he was looking for. He said, “Sure,” and off we went.

It didn’t take Dad long to finish his errands. He came back and said, “Boys it’s time to go.” We started to follow him. In fact, I think Randy kept following him. But, not me. The pull of that Atari video game system was too strong. It was as if a magnetic force was pulling me back. I had been locked into the tractor beam of the system and I felt like it was useless to fight back. I went back to play. And, my Dad didn’t even notice that I was gone.

I was well into my third game of Asteroids when my Dad found me. And, boy, was I in trouble. Why? Because I strayed. I strayed from my father’s instruction, and he was worried about me.

And, today, I fear that I haven’t learned the lesson that straying is not worth it. Do you know what God calls my ignorance? He calls it arrogance. To stray from the commands of God, when I know full well what those commands are, means that I am inviting the Lord’s rebuke upon me.

What do you think God’s rebuke looks like? David says that the arrogant are not only rebuked, but they are cursed. Cursed by God, himself.

At least one Old Testament prophet wasn’t buying Psalm 119:21. It was Habakkuk. In his short, three chapter book, Habakkuk complained bitterly about the preferential treatment that he felt the ungodly were receiving from the Lord. In Habakkuk 1:2-4, the prophet complains, “How long, O LORD must I call for help, but you do not listen? Or cry out to you ‘Violence!’ but you do not save? Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrong? Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife and conflict abounds. Therefore the law is paralyzed, and justice never prevails. The wicked hem in the righteous, so that justice is perverted.”

Do you ever feel that way. When we feel like we’ve got it all together spiritually, (which I’m not sure has ever been the case for me) and we see those who deny God and think Christians are stupid, having what looks like such a great time, it can feel like God is being unfair. He’s not. God responds to Habakkuk in the following verses. He tells Habakkuk that the wicked nations will not go unpunished. They will experience what Psalm 119:21 talks about. In their arrogance they will be rebuked. But, it would happen in God’s time, not Habakkuk’s. Those that Habakkuk complained about were punished decades later. Decades!

So, back to you and me. I know my tendency to stray has yielded me less punishment than I deserve. God, in His mercy, has extended more grace upon me than I deserve. Maybe that’s so that I’ll stop straying. So that I’ll recognize before it’s too late that God’s love is extravagent. I don’t want to feel His rebuke. I don’t want to love God out of fear, and I don’t think that’s the point. But, I do believe that God will get our attention if we continue to stray from His commands. And, it will come when we least expect it. May we all learn the lesson of Psalm 119:21.

Dear God,

You are grace. You are love. You have extended your mercy, love and grace upon us even though we don’t deserve it. We all deserve Your rebuke and cursing. Help us to walk in Your ways. Help us to desire You more than anything this world has to offer. Help us to love you not out of fear, but because of the love that you have lavished upon us. We can’t deny that love exists. Help us to celebrate it every moment of every day.

In Jesus’ name,