Friday, May 12, 2023

Playing Tickling Games With God

Suggested Reading: Exodus 10:16-11:10

When my son was very young, he and I had a game we liked to play. He would come up and "attack" me when I wasn't expecting it and I would "retaliate" by tickling him. He'd begin to cry out between fits of laughter, "Stop! Stop!" I'd ask if he was going to attack me again and he would promise not to. I'd release him and he would immediately "attack" me again. We would repeat the cycle numerous times until I got worn out or he got tired of being tickled. But the key to the game was my son knowing that I would relent if he promised to stop and my being prepared to tickle again as soon as he attacked.

Throughout history, many people have thought God was playing a similar game with them. Pharaoh was one of them. When God sent Moses to deliver his people from slavery in Egypt, he sent Moses with a repertoire of miracles/plagues to perform against Pharaoh when he refused to cooperate. The first nine of these plagues were temporary kinds of plagues and, when the plague became too much to bear, Pharaoh would promise to comply long enough for God to remove the plague. Pharaoh played a game with God, believing he could go back to doing what he wanted as soon as God relented from the plague. He kept doing it until Moses announced to Pharaoh, “This is what the Lord says: At midnight tonight I will pass through the heart of Egypt. All the firstborn sons will die in every family in Egypt, from the oldest son of Pharaoh, who sits on his throne, to the oldest son of his lowliest servant girl who grinds the flour. Even the firstborn of all the livestock will die (Exodus 11:4-6, NLT). Not until a plague arrived that couldn't be taken back - the death of Pharaoh's firstborn son - did Pharaoh realize that God was not playing a game.

How often do we try to play the same kind of game with God? We suffer terrible consequences for sin in our lives and pray for God's mercy, only to return to our ways when the consequences lessen? How often do we end bad habits because life gets tough, only to return to those same habits when things get a little better?

Whether it's mishandling finances or abusing drugs or simply being nonchalant about spending time with God, are we playing with God, hoping things will get better so we can go back to doing our own thing? My son was never able to win the tickle game with me, and we can't expect to win when we play games with God. Isn't it about time we get serious?

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