May 10, 2009

Love the Lord your God with all your Strength

This week we are going to think about what it means to love God with all your strength. This doesn’t mean physical strength, but with your whole self—everything that makes you strong—the hopes, dreams, abilities, and everything else that makes us who we are. The word ‘strength’ is from the Greek ischus that can be translated as ability as well as what we think of as being strong.

Every day we are confronted with a culture that judges our strength (and our abilities) on the basis of bank account, size and location of your home, model of car, and place of employment. We are also evaluated on our looks, our body shape, and if that isn’t quite the ‘perfect 10’, we can be discounted and feel second best.

However, the strength of our identity is not really related at all to what we produce or look like or where we live. Jesus pointed to a different way of living. In Christ we have a life where we ourselves are valued as individuals, not compared to some arbitrary norm.

“Do not be anxious about your life, what you shall eat or what you shall drink, nor about your body, what you shall put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.” (Matt. 7:25-26) Our Lord goes on to say “Are you not of more value than they?”

What a wonderful reminder of our real worth—we are worthy of our Father’s love no matter what we wear or eat or look like! We are loved because we are who we are with the distinct individual abilities, characteristics—strengths that make us perfect in God’s eyes!

Abigail was one of David’s wives. In fact, she was his wife even before he became rich and famous. She married him while he was still an outlaw and exile from Saul. Her first husband was Nabal, a wealthy man whose pride in his wealth and his greed resulted in his death. He put all his strength into getting more and more and forgot to use his abilities for God’s good. Nabal set his wealth ahead of loving God and above the Law of God that requires caring for the sojourner. Nabal refused to acknowledge the claim of David for payment in return for his protection of Nabal’s flocks. (I Sam. 25) Abigail bravely intervened and saved the household. She takes food to David and his troops in this scene from My Abigail. Below is Rubens' interpretation of the same episode.

“Who are you?” Rock crunched as the man stepped close.
“Forgive your handmaid this impertinence,” I had to raise my head slightly to speak. “My husband is as his name. Nabal is a fool.”
There was no reply from the outlaw leader, although a quickly stifled chuckle came from his troops. I could see his bare feet not far from my outstretched hands. The rock under me was hard but I dared not shift my position.
With a deep breath I tried again. “Your maidservant did not see the messenger you sent to Nabal. It is known to me how my lord protected all the property of my husband. The man is foolish and blind to the generosity and kindness of my lord.”
I paused. Still no reply came from the man looming over me. I wished I could see his face but it was impossible as long as I lay at his feet.
“Surely, if your maidservant had spoken to your messenger I would have provided all you asked. Behold, even now, I bring donkeys with supplies for you and your men.”
I heard a little jangling of harnesses and guessed that Paliel moved the animals closer.
“What would the wife of my enemy have me do?” At last a deep voice broke the silence.
“May my lord forgive the presumption of your maidservant,” I risked lifting myself to my knees so I could look up at the man.
The expression on the bearded face was still stern. However, I took courage from the fact that his hand no longer rested on the hilt of his sword. Instead muscular arms were crossed over his chest. David stared into my face. I resisted the urge to draw my veil back around me.
“What do you seek?” After a long silence the warrior asked more gently.
“Let my lord accept this gift from my hand,” I gestured to the donkeys behind me. “Surely my lord does not need to seek out and slay one who is as a dead dog to him. The man Nabal is not worthy of my lord’s rage. He is only a fool who thinks of nothing beyond his own comfort.”
“Did your husband send you?” Abruptly David bent toward me.
His face was very near. I found it hard to speak with his blue eyes studying me closely. Shaking my head, I lowered my gaze.
“Truly, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob sent you to me.” The next statement caught me by surprise. “If you had not come, I would have taken revenge on the man Nabal. There would not have been left alive a man to praise his memory.”

Abigail knew that what she was doing went against her husband. She took a huge risk is taking food to a known outlaw, but one of her strengths was a caring heart. Loving God had to come first and the wealth of Nabal was no substitute for loving God with all her strength—all her abilities, all her personality, all she was. David recognized her courage and sought her out as his wife after Nabal died.

Are you using all your abilities to show your Love for God? Would you be willing to risk all—your reputation and even your life to do something out of love for God?

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