By Shawn McMullen
It’s a time to think about stretching ourselves, moving out of our comfort zones, even stepping outside the boundaries of culture and tradition if necessary to honor God in our service and worship.
Boundaries still have their place, though. The Bible contains many positive references to boundaries set by God and by his people.
When God created the world, he set geographic boundaries. Proverbs 8:29 says, “He gave the sea its boundary so the waters would not overstep his command.” God said to wayward Judah, “Should you not fear me? . . . Should you not tremble in my presence? I made the sand a boundary for the sea, an everlasting barrier it cannot cross. The waves may roll, but they cannot prevail; they may roar, but they cannot cross it” (Jeremiah 5:22).
In Psalm 74:17 Asaph refers to the seasonal boundaries God set: “It was you who set all the boundaries of the earth; you made both summer and winter.”
Genesis 10 records the lineage of Noah’s three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japeth, and the regions of the post-flood earth their descendants occupied. Later God set apart the promised land for the children of Israel and gave each tribe its own portion of land within the nation. Moses reflected on these national boundaries in his parting speech to Israel: “When the Most High gave the nations their inheritance, when he divided all mankind, he set up boundaries for the peoples according to the number of the sons of Israel” (Deuteronomy 32:8).
Before he died, King David instructed Solomon to remember Shimei, the Benjamite who cursed David as he fled from Absalom, and to hold him accountable for his actions (see 1 Kings 2). When he ascended to the throne, Solomon confined Shimei to the city limits of Jerusalem for the rest of his life. Three years later, Shimei disobeyed the king’s order and was put to death. He failed to respect the punitive boundaries Solomon established.
Within the national and tribal borders of ancient Israel, land-owning families established personal boundaries. Once they were set, they were not to be tampered with. Proverbs 22:28 warns, “Do not move an ancient boundary stone set up by your ancestors.”
Boundaries serve many good purposes. On the other hand, some boundaries may be unnecessarily restrictive and we may need to go beyond them in our service to God. Jesus transcended sectarian and gender-based boundaries in his conversation with the woman at the well. Peter transcended religious and racial boundaries by taking the gospel to the Gentiles.
Is anything holding you back in your service to God? Have you been restricted by boundaries others have imposed on you? Have you imposed boundaries on yourself?
As you step into a New Year, ask yourself what you would do for God if nothing held you back. Ask him to show you any misplaced boundaries that have hindered your service. Then take a deep a breath and step outside.