Saturday, November 25, 2017

God's Boundaries

“I, the Lord, define the ocean’s sandy shoreline as an everlasting boundary that the waters cannot cross. The waves may toss and roar, but they can never pass the boundaries I set.” Jeremiah 5:22

Earlier this week, our church family was talking about boundaries, about what they were and why they were needed.  We were encouraged to share our insights. We talked about the Ten Commandments and the teaching of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount. We also talked about the tendency that some churches, or Christians, have to set a boundary where God doesn’t place one.

A number of years ago I lived in Cyprus and attended a Brethren Church.  A young couple in the church were married and weeks later showed their wedding photos to everyone. No one really commented on how lovely the bride looked or how handsome the groom was. They focussed on the number of wine bottles on the table. As they counted the bottles, their lips took on a thin disapproving line and their eyes narrowed. The guest list wasn’t confined to members of the church but an extended family and friends’ network. The rule of the church, unwritten as many of these things were, was a teetotal existence. That the breaking of it at a wedding bothered so many – that bothered me. A few years later my best friend there was a science teacher. The two of us broke the law over many an evening, cooking a meal together, drinking a bottle of wine, watching a Greek soap opera on TV with English subtitles.

What really came to mind when asked about boundaries was the one where God sets a boundary for the sea. Very often when the Bible talks about the sea, it’s not usually about pretty shore lines and tranquil waters. The flood that carried Noah’s ark was not pretty. The Red Sea that brought down the Egyptian army was not tranquil. The sea often seems to be all about what is dangerous and cruel. It was seen in ancient Hebrew culture as a symbol of evil and of chaos before God brought order to the world.

Dangerous and cruel, evil and chaotic – and God has set the boundaries of it.

I have to say that these last few weeks have been difficult. If I have sung praises it has been through gritted teeth. I don’t for one minute suppose that my difficult times have been any worse than anyone else’s but mine are mine and bad enough.

Part of the problem lies in my overactive imagination. I am, at times, often perhaps, a worse-case scenario kind of a girl. The glass is not just half empty but there’s a mere mouthful of water in the bottom of it, I’m in the desert and said water is dirty. There’s a sand storm brewing in the east and a hoard of the screaming dervishes in the west. And don’t forget the onset of sunstroke because I dropped my hat somewhere. That kind of girl.

It give me great encouragement that even if the sea isn’t evil, God sets the boundaries on what can happen to me and my household. I’d like to think there is a limit to the bad stuff that conme upon me. (And then I remember Job, those limits lifted and those things he had imagined, the bad stuff, happening – but then, what mazing revelation he had about God at the end!)

Whatever. God is firmly in control.

It has been encouraging to know that over the last few weeks I have seen answers to prayer. I have gone into God’s presence time and again with a heavy heart. Perhaps I have complained a lot and been quite miserable company for God. I have listened to Him make right all the elements in my scenario with His view of things.

My glass isn’t half empty or even half full. It is always overflowing. It’s living water. It I am in a desert I am making it a place of springs and wells for others who follow in my path. I can raise my hands towards the sandstorm and, as Jesus rebuked the waves of the sea, I can do the same to my sand. I can meet all dervishes that whirl and send them spinning into the abys. And the sunstroke?  Ah, Son-stroke cures all.

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