August 16, 1989
It was only a cardboard airplane, but with few other toys to play with, the little fellow that I was taking care of was quite glad to have it. We put it on the end of a string and I showed him how to “fly” it. Since it was not a Fisher-Price model but came from the side of a cereal box, I added this warning, “This is not a strong airplane. If you crash it into the walls or the floor, it will not fly very well anymore. Then you will not have an airplane to play with.”
It was my intention that he happily play with it for as long as he wished, so my “commandment” was to preserve his pleasure not destroy it.
You guessed it. He crashed it. And no sooner was the airplane laid to rest than he was whining that he had nothing to play with. Instant object lesson. When you don’t follow the rules, you ruin your fun.
A few days later I came across these verses in Deuteronomy 11, part of God’s commandments to His people: “I set before you a blessing and a curse; a blessing if you obey... and a curse if you will not obey the commandments of the LORD your God, but turn aside out of the way...”
Curse? What does it mean that God will curse His people? Out came my Hebrew dictionary. (The Old Testament was originally written in the Hebrew language.) I discovered that there are several words for “curse”. The one used in this verse is “qlala” (phonetic spelling). It means “the absence (or reversal) of a blessed or rightful state, and lowering to a lesser state.”
In other words, God had a blessing in store for His people. It could be experienced through obedience to His commands. Therefore, every time they disobeyed a command, they forfeited some blessing that He intended. Not only that, they often experienced the opposite -- a reversed blessing, a curse.
The child with the airplane illustrates this kind of “curse”. God says, “My commandments are for your good,” but when His people disregarded what He said, they ruined their own fun.
Before I knew Christ, I thought that obeying God would be confining, no fun at all; and surely people who did, didn’t know what they were missing. Now I know better. I was the one that didn’t know what I was missing -- the blessing of God in my life.
That doesn’t mean that breaking the rules has no pleasure. Hebrews 11 says, “Moses, by faith, forsook the pleasures of sin for a season...” Sin can be fun... for a while. But I’ve learned that the joy of the Lord grows into a finer ecstasy than forbidden behavior can ever produce -- if we are willing to obey, and wait for it.
Yes, it may take a while for the blessing to appear. It was said of Moses that he endured suffering with God’s people BEFORE he received the reward God had promised him. In the meantime, he had to trust the Lord with all his heart, be patient, and remain obedient.
Trust, patience, and obedience are easier when we remember God created us with far greater goals for our life than we could ever set; deeper joys than we could ever imagine. “I know the thoughts I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.”
In our impatience for “are we having fun yet”, it’s so easy to jump over the line and lower ourselves to less than what we could have had. Even more tragic, at the same time, we can be deceived into thinking we are getting more, because of the thrill of the moment. How we need to know the love of God so we can obey Him and wait in faith for Him to give us the rewards He promises.
Crashing the plane may have offered a momentary thrill, yet in the end, even the child realized it wasn’t worth it.