God is Like Priceline, Part I

I was reading the later chapters of Exodus one evening – the part where God is instructing the Israelites how to establish the tabernacle, the ark of the covenant, the altar, and the priestly garments – and it struck me how nice it would be sometimes if God were always that explicit with us.  He told them precisely what to do, what materials to use, where to get them, the exact sizes, how to do it, when to do it…  God laid out the entire blueprint to Moses, who passed it along to the remaining Israelites, who did everything just as the Lord commanded Moses (Exodus 39:32).  Wouldn’t it be nice if things were always that clear?

There have been plenty of times in my life when I can’t seem to figure out what the next step should be; forget about gazing upon a complete blueprint of where my life, this day, the next hour is headed.  Sometimes, it seems, God is rather like Priceline.com.

Priceline.com is a travel service Web site where you can bid on airfare, rental cars, and hotels in the hopes of receiving a good deal.  The catch is that you are only given partial information about what you are bidding on.  You might know, for example, that there is a three star hotel within 5 miles of a particular destination, but you won’t know anything else about it.  You might know there is a flight departing sometime between 6:00 am and noon going to your destination, but you won’t know what airline.  It is only after you commit – once you have punched in your credit card number and your bid has been accepted – that the itinerary you just purchased is then revealed to you.

More frequently then not, this is the way God relays his plans to me.  It’s only after I’ve committed, sometimes several years after I’ve committed, that I look back and see the full itinerary.  I see that this is where He intended for me to go, how He intended me to get there, who He intended for me to encounter along the way.  But in the beginning, there is only a single question: are you willing to book this trip with me? 

It can be a little unnerving to type a credit card number into Priceline.com.  It can be downright terrifying to hand a blank check for an amount “up to and including my life” over to God.  Yet ironically, the thing we should be more afraid of is not handing our lives over to Him.  Paul admonishes: Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness (Romans 6:16)?  There is a dichotomy here, Paul is saying.  We can obey God which leads to righteousness, or we can not obey God, at which point we become a slave to sin.  There is no middle ground.  Non-action is still an action.  Non-obedience is disobedience.

In Genesis 12:1, we see a classic example of the Priceline itinerary of God.  The Lord said to Abram, “Leave you country, your people, and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you.”  There is no detailed blueprint here.  Just “I want you to commit.  I want you to leave.  Then I will show you.”  And Abram went.  We know the story, then, how Abram was renamed Abraham and had a son named Isaac who had a son named Jacob who fathered the 12 tribes ofIsrael.  There is a beautiful blueprint that stretches for generations.  We can look back upon it now and see how carefully crafted it was, how everything worked together for God’s purposes.  But in the beginning, there was only a Priceline-type itinerary: Are you willing to book this trip with me?  We know what Abram said.  What do you say?

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!” (Isaiah 6:8)

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