By Brock Bondurant
2 Corinthians 5:17 – Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
I live in Missouri – the Show Me State – where we’re known for being as stubborn as a mule (the state animal), which fits us well coming from our agricultural background. We were largely farmers at one time. I think that the people of God are called to be farmers too.
God created man to work the ground (Genesis 2:15); Jesus calls us to scatter seeds (Mark 4) and to bear fruit (John 15); Paul describes what that fruit looks like (Galatians 5:22-24).
But the people of God haven’t always been farmers…
The litany of Lent this week starts us off in Joshua 5:9-12. Up until this moment, the nation of Israel had been living as slaves in Egypt for 400 years. Following their exodus from Egypt, the Lord rained down sweet bread from Heaven everyday called manna. The people relied on the daily provision of the Lord as they wandered for 40 years in the wilderness, not yet knowing how to live into their new freedom. After Moses passed away, Joshua was raised up as the one to lead them into the Promised Land. In Joshua 5, the people celebrated Passover for the first time in a new land. In verse 11, it says:
11And the day after the Passover, on that very day, they ate the produce of the land… 12And the manna ceased the day after they ate the produce of the land…
So, after they celebrated the Passover for the first time as freed people, why did the sweet manna stop falling?
God wanted to show them a new way. Where we used to be slaves and then wanderers, God wants us to become farmers. God made a way in the Passover; he then made a new way – THE way – through Easter (what Passover ultimately points to). At each miraculous moment of deliverance, He calls us into our new identity.
Slaves are forced to work for masters that do not share in the fruit or the wages. Wanderers don’t know who they are or what to do. Farmers cultivate the land and enjoy its fruits as they do the Lord’s work on earth.
The people of Israel needed the Lord to show them the new way of living. While God provided manna for a time as Israel got on their feet, God desires that they learn to become cultivators like himself. As God freed us through Jesus’ resurrection, he calls us to the same in our lives. His provision shifts from raining down food they didn’t work for to showing them how to work and grow their own.
This truth is found in Psalm 32:8-9:
8I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go… 9Be not like a horse or a mule without understanding, which must be curbed with bit and bridle…
God provides, but he won’t do everything for us. He doesn’t curb us with “bit and bridle”. He shows us a new way, whether that is teaching recent slaves to become farmers or sending Jesus to show us the new way to live. But God loves us and respects us so much that he allows each one of us to choose whether or not to follow his new way; whether to remain a slave or a wanderer, or to become a farmer.
Jesus calls for farmers.
He commissions his disciples to go and proclaim the good news of the Kingdom, to heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, and cast out demons (Matthew 10:7-8). In other words, he calls us to help others get out of their own slavery. This is farming for the Kingdom – scattering seeds, watering the ground, but trusting on God for their growth (1 Corinthians 3:3-9).
We used to be slaves ourselves – slaves to sin, slaves to our flesh. But the great work of Christ has set us free, making us a new creation (2 Corinthians 2:17), no longer subject to our old master.
It is in this new creation that we inhabit the experience of the prodigal son in Luke 15. This son hired himself out as a slave in a foreign land, much like the people of God in Egypt, or ourselves in our own slavery to sin. The prodigal son realized that he was called to be a son rather than a slave in a foreign land. As he began to return, his father saw him from a long way off and ran to meet him. What a picture of the love of our Father in Heaven. We were once slaves by our own volition, now sons and daughters by his redeeming love.
Whether you’re still enslaved – not yet in Christ – or wandering around in the wilderness wondering what to do with your freedom, God is calling you to enjoy the fruit of the new way. You’re not called to be a slave; you’re not called to be a wanderer. You’re called to be a farmer.
Litany for week 3 of Lent: Joshua 5:9-12; Psalm 32; 2 Corinthians 5:16-21; Luke 15:1-3, 11-32.