The boys of Fall. It's high school football season in our house. Weight training and agility continue all year, but the intensity really gets turned up before district play begins next month. Our football guys love the game, and work so very hard, trying to perfect the skills their dedicated coaches are teaching them.
Football can be dangerous which requiring regulations to keep the game as fair and safe as possible. When a player or team makes the conscious, or unconscious, decision not to play by the rules, someone can get seriously injured. While football requires great physical strength and endurance, it also requires players, and coaches, to understand and agree to the rules by which the game will be played and to apply self-discipline to abide within these rules. When an infraction is made, referees and umpires determine the consequences and assess the penalty.
“Consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am the LORD your God. Keep my decrees and follow them. I am the LORD, who makes you holy." Leviticus 20:7-8 NIV
The consequences of rule violations can be assessed against the team or as personal fouls, sometimes as stern as removing a player from the game. Too many errors or infractions will give the opponent the upper-hand which can alter the outcome of the game. Numerous fouls resulting in negative ball progression can place the opposing team in scoring position. Teams that are the best at utilizing developed skills, maximizing opportunities, playing by the rules and executing plays as a synchronized contingent will out perform their competitors.
If you fear the LORD and serve and obey Him and do not rebel against His commands, and if both you and the king who reigns over you follow the LORD your God—good! But if you do not obey the LORD, and if you rebel against His commands, His hand will be against you, as it was against your ancestors. “Now then, stand still and see this great thing the LORD is about to do before your eyes!" 1 Samuel 12:15-16 NIV
There are many examples throughout Scripture that demonstrate battles won through obedience to God's instruction. When the Children of Israel were positioned to conquer the Promised Land, although numerous as a young nation, the Israelites were unskilled warriors and were dependent on God's help to go up against the many people groups who inhabited the territory. Elohim's children moved as a group, won battles together by following His instruction, including destroying the walls of Jericho with a shout! (Joshua 6)
“Be very strong; be careful to obey all that is written in the Book of the Law of Moses, without turning aside to the right or to the left. Do not associate with these nations that remain among you; do not invoke the names of their gods or swear by them. You must not serve them or bow down to them. But you are to hold fast to the LORD your God, as you have until now.
“The LORD has driven out before you great and powerful nations; to this day no one has been able to withstand you. One of you routs a thousand, because the LORD your God fights for you, just as he promised. So be very careful to love the LORD your God." Joshua 23:6-11 NIV
Sports teaches important life lessons to our children. As we have discussed previously, adversity and struggles build character. Sports provides opportunities for competition, platforms to discover talents and abilities while teaching our kids determination, courage and self-control, to win graciously and to loose with heads held high. Learning to face challenges with confidence, working in unity with their teammates to accomplish mighty goals will help our children both in and outside the classroom or boardroom. Having the commitment to stick with an obligation and to walk within God's established rules for living are important life lessons. Encouraging teammates to do the same is leadership.
On the football field, the consequence of disobedience can be great, resulting a win versus a loss or a physical injury. In our relationship with our Heavenly Father, it can mean the Creator withholds blessings and the benefits of walking in His Presence. The holiness of God is an absolute that few realized. Leviticus 26:28 (KJV) says, “Then I will walk contrary unto you also in fury; and I, even I, will chastise you seven times for your sins.” When we sin, God in His mercy will tolerate our sin until a point, then He may correct us. The word chamah, which is rendered as fury, is actually the same word used to describe viper's venom. Fury in this verse is not anger, but a violent spewing, vomit. Leviticus is creating a word picture: Yahweh is walking with us in our sin, but our actions cause Him to foam at the mouth as if He has been poisoned. As we approach our God in our sin, no matter how serious we consider it, will be an encounter where the Holy One is left with the terrible taste of poisonous venom in His mouth. Perhaps in His mercy we get a five yard penalty, but when our God has enough of our disobedience, He may well sit us on the bench, removing us from His Presence until we humbly repent and agree to play by His perfect rules.
Holy Father God, we acknowledge the righteousness of all Your commandments. Each one was carefully given to us for our edification with a purpose to keep us in right relationship with You. Like in sports, if we do not abide by the right rules, we will be given over to the consequences of our actions. Help us hold every decision up to Your standard, giving sober judgement to our actions and motives, and encourage those around us to do the same. In courage and love may we hold our brothers and sisters in Christ accountable while accepting criticism in humility allowing us to repent of wrong doings and remain blameless in Your eyes. In all things may we demonstrate our love for You, the LORD our God, with Your Son, Jesus the Messiah and the Holy Spirit who guides us, the Trinity, today and always. Amen.