Lately we’ve been getting quite a bit of rain here in western North Carolina. That’s good news because for the past couple of years we’ve been in a drought of some historic proportions. Wells have gone dry. Rivers and creeks have run low. Some towns have imposed mandatory water restrictions. Others have encouraged voluntary restrictions. Thankfully, however, experts have now declared the drought officially over.
But there is another kind of drought, one that is mentioned in the last part of Psalm 68:6:
“…But the rebellious dwell in a dry land.”
The literal teaching here is that God doesn’t bless the rebel. He acts as a “father to the fatherless” (v.5). He serves as a “defender of widows” (v.5). He “sets the solitary in families” (v.6). He “brings out those who are bound into prosperity” (v.6). But what does He do for the rebellious? He lets them dwell in a dry land.
If we bring spiritual symbolism to this portion of scripture (and it’s perfectly alright to do that if God is in it), we can equate water with the word of God. The Bible does this in passages such as Psalm 119:9 and Ephesians 5:25-27. This means that the rebel’s land is dry because his life runs contrary to the word of God.
Even though the rebel might own a Bible, it’s possible to like hell with a Bible under your arm. After all, a person can memorize and quote various passages and yet still live a life that contradicts the book’s plainest teachings. As evangelist Gypsy Smith said, “What makes the difference is not how many times you have been through the Bible, but how many times and how thoroughly the Bible has been through you.”
And oh how our society glorifies the rebel! James Dean, Marlon Brando, and Johnny Depp became icons by playing that role. It’s no coincidence that Frank Sinatra’s signature song was, “I Did It My Way.” Pirates, gangsters, outlaws, and bad boys all have a certain “coolness” about them, don’t they? People look at them and want to be like them, either secretly or not so secretly.
When we come to God’s word, however, we find a different opinion of rebellion. It says:
“For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry” (1 Samuel 15:23).
Have you been dealing in magic, conjuring up spells, and chanting to strange spirits lately? Probably not. But have you been rebelling against God? If you have, you might as well have been practicing witchcraft. Have you been offering sacrifices to a graven image in your backyard? I doubt it. But have you been stubbornly refusing to do what God wants you to do? Then you might just as well have been fully embracing idolatry.
Isaiah 65:2 is another verse that goes a long way in describing the rebel. In it God says,
“I have stretched out My hands all day long to a rebellious people, who walk in a way that is not good, according to their own thoughts.”
Obviously, God wants the rebel to rush into His arms so that He can hug him and pour out His blessings upon him. But that doesn’t happen. Why? It’s because the rebel wants nothing to do with submitting to God’s commands. To the rebel, no word carries the amount of stigma the word “submission” carries. He’d rather die in his rebellion than live in submission. Even as his life dries up, he refuses to repent of his sins. The bottom line is, he’ll choose to dwell in a dry land where he can do as he pleases rather than dwell in a lush, fertile, well-watered land where he must submit to God.
And the lengths to which the rebel will go to explain away his sin are astounding. He’ll rationalize his conduct in an effort to make it look acceptable. He’ll compare his life to the lives of other sinners rather than to God’s standard of holiness. He’ll say, “I’m just doing what makes me happy.” Through it all, though, one word will ring out loud and clear over his life: rebellion.
Those of us who know something about a fireplace know what a backlog is. It is a big log that you put at the back of the fire to keep the smaller logs from rolling off the back. One day a father asked his grown son to bring in a backlog. The son said, “No.” The father kindly but firmly said, “As long as you live in my house you will obey me. The choice is yours. You can obey me and live here or disobey me and leave.” The son flew mad, packed his bags, and left. But a few days later he came back home. The father met him and said, “Son, that backlog is still out there.” This time the son obeyed and was welcomed back into his father’s good graces.
So, I ask you, do you have some backlog that you are in rebellion to God about? If you do, I plead with you to lay aside your rebellion, repent of the sin, and rush into God’s open arms. Dry lands always come to rebels as God eventually reaches the limits of His patience. But that doesn’t have to happen to you. Your land doesn’t have to turn dry. To keep it watered you must live in obedience to the word of God. Yes, that will cost you your rebellion, but that price will pale in comparison to the blessings that God sends your way.