FAMILIARITY AND STUPOR. A BLESSING BECOMES A CURSE.
Israel failed to obtain what it was seeking. The elect obtained it, but the rest were hardened, as it is written, “God gave them a spirit of stupor.” Romans 11:7-8
Many who are familiar with the Bible, with the sacraments, with the history of the church, even with basic doctrine don’t have a personal relationship with God. Their knowledge and familiarity is really their enemy. When their pastor preaches under the fire and anointing of the Holy Spirit, they are interested only for drama’s sake and the opportunity to talk about it over Sunday dinner. The fire did not make their heart burn. The anointing did not bring tears. This is the stupor of which Paul refers.
The blessings (scripture, covenant, vast love of God, undeserved privilege of being a chosen child of God) actually become their stumbling block. What is so familiar deceives them into believing that they really possess it.
A story in scripture paints this vividly and tragically. Malachi, a prophet sent to bring a warning to the priests of Israel, faces an unreceptive and hostile audience. They were surprised and indignant at Malachi’s words and could not see that their heretical teaching had led the nation of Israel astray. They were in a stupor.
They answered him, “How have we defiled? How have we wearied God? How have we robbed him? What have we said against Him?” They presumed to be chosen but lived in rebellion and unbelief. A strong judgment was pronounced against them. “If you will not listen, if you will not take it to heart to give honor to my name, says the Lord of hosts, then I will send the curse upon you and I will curse your blessings. Indeed, I have already cursed them, because you do not lay it to heart.” Malachi 2:2 Jesus said it another way. “These people honor me with their lips but their hearts are far from me.”
I am not one who wants to cause a believer to doubt. Just the opposite. But I also want to encourage honest soul searching. Have I been baptized because it was the proper outward sign but since then, have had no inward commitment? Am I relying on communion for forgiveness of sins and an entrance into eternal life? If so, the blessing of remembering Christ through this sacrament actually becomes a cursed thing.
A spiritual stupor holds members of every church in its grip. There can be a tender move of the Spirit, even an electrifying move, but those who are not alive to Christ will not be moved. Nothing lights a fire under them because their spirit is, most likely, still dead.
David said, “Let their table become a snare and a trap.” The extravagant love of God was presumed upon. Familiarity with the subject of religion is a dangerous thing.
Smash any trace of stupor about anything. Even your children can be lulled to sleep. Oh God, wake us up. Amen