(Paul Merrill writes here every First Friday)
Since I was a little kid, I always thought God valued what was long-lasting more than what was quickly over. Lately, I have been seeing that God lives and breathes in both worlds.
In Matthew 6, Jesus says, “And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you.”
God made mountains – and flowers. Both are beautiful and can cause us to praise their creator.
God did many amazing things for the Israelites, as He has for me during my lifetime. But like the Israelites, I easily forget those His wonderful actions and interventions in my life. So God asked them to build memorials (piles of stones) that their future generations could look at and remember (or be explained) the ways God had worked. Those altars were long-lasting ways to remember God’s power. That was important for the times when they did not see His actions.
On different piles of stones, God asked his followers to burn sacrifices to honor Him. Those actions were very short-term. But God enjoyed those sacrifices and what they represented. The quick and very much ephemeral benefit of those sacrifices somehow pleased God. He wanted (and wants) both short-term and long-term obedience. And He enjoys both short-term and long-term beauty.
So what does this mean for our lives? We can remember that God is worthy of our devotion, as He wants both our long-lasting, more expensive gifts as well as our smaller, easier short-term acts of worship. God wants every part of us.