God sometimes allows, perhaps even causes, difficulties in our lives as a sort of stress test of the strength level of our trust. Difficult circumstances quite often reveal if our heart trusts him or not. Why does God allow hardship? Simply because there is nothing more precious to God than a trusting heart—and that is something he can’t create that; we have to offer it to him. So at times he will allow that which reveals our trust, or lack thereof, in hopes that we will see it and do something about it.
Going Deep // Focus: Leviticus 14:33-34
Then the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “When you arrive in Canaan, the land I am giving you as your own possession, I may contaminate some of the houses in your land with mildew.
For several chapters in Leviticus—and now through several devotional blogs from yours truly—we have waded through what seems like an endless list of defiling afflictions that could possibly come upon the Israelites, both bodies and buildings, and regulations the Lord required for ritual purification from these very afflictions. As I have mentioned before, you may have been tempted to skip these readings; I certainly have. And I’ve got to tell you, if you think reading them is difficult, trying writing an uplifting devotional thought about them. Poor me!
Okay, enough of the self-pity. Now, how do we pull anything worth applying out of Leviticus 14? Why is any of this important to us when we live in a time where we have resources—medical preventions and cleaning products—to remediate molds, mildews and their odors? Most of all, why would God put a mildew, or as other translations say, a spreading mold in a house? Yes, that is exactly what the text says in Leviticus 14:34,
I may contaminate some of the houses in your land with mildew…. (New Living Translation)
I put a spreading mold in a house… (New International Version)
I put a case of leprous disease in a house… (English Standard Version)
Certainly this qualifies as one of those head scratchers, of which there are many in the Old Testament, if not outright one of the hard sayings of the Bible. So let me take a shot at what is going on here. Here are three possible explanations for God sending a spreading mold into a home:
One, God is sovereign. Simply put, God can do what he wants, when he wants and with whom he wants. Now a statement about God sending a spreading mold may shake our confidences in a kind, benevolent, caring and loving Deity, but it shouldn’t. God will never violate his own character. So even when there is no humanly satisfying explanation of the what and why that God has done, we can know that there is more to the story, even though only may God know it. By the way, even though God’s sovereignty over sending molds may be a little disconcerting, overall, the sovereignty of God is one of the most comforting and cherished doctrines about our Lord that the Christian has.
Two, sometimes God sent mildew as a form of judgment. In Amos 4:9 God tells the Israelites, “I struck your farms and vineyards with blight and mildew. Locusts devoured all your fig and olive trees. But still you would not return to me.” We don’t talk about the judgment of God much these days, especially any kind of Divine punishment other than the final judgment, but God does step in from time to time with a variety of discomforts that are pleading reminders for people to repent and return to him. In this light, this doctrine of God is also a comfort to us, for Divine punishment is also a Divine pleading from a merciful God who takes no delight in judging people he loves.
Three, God sometimes allows, even causes, difficult things in our lives as a stress test of our trust. When bad things happen, are we going to trust him? Hardship has a way of revealing what is in our hearts. Arguably, Deuteronomy 8:1-5 is the defining word on this:
Be careful to follow every command I am giving you today, so that you may live and increase and may enter and possess the land the Lord promised on oath to your ancestors. Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years, to humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands. He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. Your clothes did not wear out and your feet did not swell during these forty years. Know then in your heart that as a man disciplines his son, so the Lord your God disciplines you.
A pure and loyal heart that completely, continually trusts God is the most precious gift that we can give to God. He can create everything else that would bring pleasure to himself, but since he has created you with the freedom to choose whether you will love and trust him or not, the offering of your heart brings him joy like nothing else. And while he can’t make you do that, he can show you whether your heart is right or not. And like a good and wise parent, that is why he brings tests into your life: so that you will know what is in your heart. In that sense, hardship is the paternity test of your trust. And when it is obvious that trust is lacking, you can do something about that.
Which of these three explains Leviticus 14:34? We don’t really know; maybe all three. But for sure, what you and I can grab onto and apply is the last reason: More than anything else, God wants our trust! I love how Brennen Manning put it in his book, Ruthless Trust:
The splendor of a human heart which trusts that it is loved gives God more pleasure than Westminster Cathedral, the Sistine Chapel, Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, Van Gogh’s Sunflowers, the sight of ten thousand butterflies in flight, or the scent of a million orchids in bloom. Trust is our gift back to God, and he finds it so enchanting that Jesus died for love of it. …Unwavering trust is a rare and precious thing because it often demands a degree of courage that borders on the heroic.
Why does God send spreading molds? I don’t really know. But what I do know is that he longs for your trust!