What Were You Thinking?!?!?
What Were You Thinking? The last time you heard that phrase used were you the one giving or receiving it?
Were you the one waiting for the answer or scrambling for a way to respond intelligibly?
That question, while only four words long, is a loaded question, isn’t it? And there really is no good answer to that question. Those five syllables carry a lot more than just a single inquiry.
When that question is asked, what you really hear is something like this:
“What were you thinking? Because you weren’t really thinking,were you? If you had been thinking, you wouldn’t have done or said what you just did. Am I right? Seriously! If you made use of that space between your ears, I’m sure you would not have made that terrible choice. I know that you know better. What were you thinking?
Ever been on the receiving end of that kind of message? Yep. Me, too. Fun times.
If you are an emoji user, there is even an emoji for this question = 🤦 🤦 🤦
On Sunday mornings our Junior High class has been studying key events and characters in the Old Testament. We have examined the leadership of Moses and Joshua and how God brought His people into the Promised Land and desired to establish Israel as a holy nation, as His people. We looked at how God used the judges to help keep the people on the right track and, recently, we have explored the times of the kings (Saul, David & Solomon). We learned how some of them got it right while others got it wrong.
As we walked through the Old Testament, we have experienced a number of moments where one could ask, “What Were You Thinking?” to the people we encountered. Here are a few examples.
In Exodus 32, while Moses was on Mount Sinai receiving the Ten Commandments, the Israelites grew impatient and asked Aaron “to make us gods who will go before us.” (Exodus 32:1). His response was a to make a golden calf and the people rose early and sacrificed burnt offerings. Really? Worshipping a metal cow you watched Aaron make from your own jewelry? What were you thinking?
Throughout the book of judges we see a cycle of Israel disobeying God, Israel crying out to God, God sending a judge to rescue His people and Israel obeying . . . for a while. Then the cycle repeated itself. The book of judges ends with this phrase, “In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as they saw fit.” (Judges 21:25)
Ignoring the commands of God even when He rescues you time and time again? What were you thinking?
Fast forward to the time of the kings. God selects a king for Israel – after they begged for one because all the other nations had one (sound familiar?). Saul looks like a king and is a head taller than all the other men of the nation. He seems like a great fit for the job.
However, in 1 Samuel 13, we see that Saul gets impatient and does not wait on God. He is getting ready to lead his army into battle against the Philistines, but his men are scared. They are hiding in caves and thickets, among rocks and in pits and cisterns (1 Samuel 13:6).
To rally his men and help them overcome their fear, Saul offers a burnt offering to God – a job reserved only for the priest. Samuel, the priest, shows up right when Saul is done and lets Saul knows he has done a foolish thing. Why didn’t Saul just wait for the priest? Why was he so impatient? What were you thinking?
David is called a man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:14, Acts. 13:22), but even he had some facepalm moments. In 2 Samuel 11 we read that David stays home instead of going off to war as kings do (2 Samuel 11:1). He wanders around on his roof, sees a young woman taking a bath, seeks to find out who she is and . . . you can read the rest of the story in 2 Samuel 11. The bottom line is that David took another man’s wife and then tried to cover up his sin. Really David? As the king of Israel and a man after God’s own heart? You did what? What were you thinking?
Solomon was known for his wisdom. In fact, we read that “the whole world sought audience with Solomon to hear the wisdom God had put in his heart.” (1 Kings 10:24) Pretty smart guy.
Then, in the next chapter we read that “Solomon had seven hundred wives of royal birth and three hundred concubines, and his wives led him astray. As Solomon grew old, his wives turned his heart after other gods…” (1 Kings 11:3-4) 700 wives Solomon? For real? 700? What were you thinking?
And the list could go on and on of people who made decisions that might lead us to drop the question, “What were you thinking?”
But, if we pause for a moment, and are honest with ourselves, we are not unlike the people we read about in the pages of scripture.
🤦Haven’t we allowed other passions, possessions or people become more important than God?
🤦 Aren’t we guilty of being repeat offenders – falling into the same bad habits over and over (and over) again?
🤦 Can we think of times we let our eyes linger too long on something we knew we should not see or continue to watch what we know we shouldn’t?
🤦 Perhaps we have allowed the influence of others to move us in a direction we know God did not want us to go?
After taking that mental inventory I’m confident each of us could look in the mirror and ask the face staring back at us, “What were you thinking?”
The Apostle Paul points out that is one of the reasons we see these events in the pages of the Old Testament.
“Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did.” (1 Corinthians 10:6)
One of the purposes of these passages is to be a flashing light to warn us of the trouble ahead. If we set our hearts on things other than God, we will end up in a place we do not want to be. When we follow our own hearts, our own desires, our own line of reasoning or even the advice of others instead of God, we will end up regretting those choices.
Paul adds a second warning sign in the next verse.
“So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!” (1 Corinthians 10:12)
I mean, c’mon, we would never do what those people did, right?
We would never make that mistake, right?
Paul warns us that when we think we have arrived, when we think we have it all figured out, when we think we have it all together, we need to be careful that we do not fall.
One of the verses we have in our home is a good reminder to us and can help us avoid the question, “What were you thinking?”
“For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.” (Proverbs 2:6)
This week, may we tune our ears to the wisdom of God. When we are faced with a decision, may we pause long enough to allow the knowledge of God to direct our steps. Let us heed the warning of those in the past (and even our own past mistakes) to set our heart of the things of God.
Then we can do a better job of avoid the dreaded question, “What were you thinking?”