Links Daily Devotional

The Edge and the Hedge

“Do not make a covenant with them or with their gods.” (Exodus 23:32, NIV)

I have been most definitely saved not once but twice in recent rounds by the hardwood of trees planted along the edge of the golf course.

Still trying to make my way back from a year where I spent more days in the hospital than on the golf course, I’ve been sending shots laughably wayward. Chuckling has been made easier by the trees that have contained my lefts and rights and quite literally kept me on the golf course.

They now worshiped other gods; and the Lord knew that their misplaced worship would be a snare for Israel.Off the golf course, as you know, is out of bounds. When our ball leaves the yard in golf, we don’t get to rejoice in a home run. Instead, we drop our heads and return to the bag for another ball, all the while feeling the pinching pain of penalty.

In both of my recent incidents, the out of bounds was defined by a six-foot fence. That was the edge of the golf course. The trees grew inside this. The trees were not the edge, but they provided a hedge. And to my blessing, the hedge kept me on the right side of the worst consequences.

All of us who pursue God-honoring righteousness would do well to understand the principle of the edge and the hedge.

The first of the Ten Commandments, found in Exodus 20:3, is this: “You shall have no other gods before (or besides) me.” This is the edge. On this side of it—where we worship God alone—we are on “the right side of the law,” obeying and honoring the word of the Lord, and made safe in his keeping by doing so. And the other side of the edge, we have forsaken God’s will and stand to bear the consequences.

Now let’s state the obvious: God is no dummy. When the law was given, humanity had already proven its inability to obey God. Even the simplest rules tripped up the people, including those “close to God.”

So in today’s passage we find God building a hedge. Through Moses, the Lord warned the people that they should have nothing to do with the other people living in the land into which he was sending them. These, too, were people created by God and set in the land by him. But they now worshiped other gods; and the Lord knew that their misplaced worship would be a snare for Israel. The people in the land were better left alone.

You and I are equally prone to straying, to disobeying the plain laws of God. It was for this reason that Jesus laid down a shocking principle in the Sermon on the Mount: “If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell” (Matthew 5:29). Though he made a parallel statement regarding one’s right hand, Jesus was not commanding physical mutilation; he was making a statement about spiritual commitment in the strongest possible terms. The law was not to gouge out one’s eye or cut off one’s hand. Instead, this was the hedge that would keep one from the edge.

What edge calls you to cross over into pain and even death? Resist that temptation by building a hedge—a margin—that will allow you to stay on the path of righteousness and enjoy the full pleasure of a healthy relationship with God.

Jeff Hopper
February 1, 2017
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