On Mixing and Mingling

Standard

“…and all the mingled people…” (Ezekiel 30:5)

 
Well, I’m not focussing on a whole verse today but this phrase, “and all the mingled people.” It just jumps out at me. What’s the context? Egypt is about to be humbled by God in judgment but it’s not just effecting Egypt. It’s going to effect Ethiopia, Libya, Lydia, all the mingled people, and Chub, and all the others who are in league with Egypt. And I wonder if the mingled people are just one specific group of people or if all these people aren’t mingled in a sense?

 
Ereb is the Hebrew word for mingled people here. It’s used for the web or transverse threads of cloth, or a mixture, or a mongrel race. I think Arabia is used as an example. That makes sense since during the Exodus, there was a “mixed multitude” that joined the Jews. Again, we hear in Nehemiah how the people of Israel read the book of Moses after so long neglect, and found that the Ammonite and Moabite were banned from the congregation of God for ever. When they heard the law, they separated the “mixed multitude” from themselves. Jeremiah talks of the “mingled people” having to drink from the cup of the Lord’s fury.

 
I wonder if this idea of being a mingler really matters? I’m thinking that if God mentions it, it does matter, and that it matters significantly. But I also think that this idea of mingled things is something that we brush off. If I jump back to Leviticus and Deuteronomy, I see that You introduced this concept to Your people. You thought it was significant enough to instruct them on. You introduced kilayim and shaatnez. And though they seem inconsequential to us, they aren’t for You.

 
First You say, “You shall not sow your vineyard with divers seeds [kilayim]: lest the fruit of your seed which you have sown, and the fruit of your vineyard, be defiled.” (Deuteronomy 22:9) Kilayim is a forbidden mixture. What makes it forbidden? God says so. Do the two seeds explode when planted together? No. Will poison gas be given off? No. Will I not understand something of God if I don’t take His words at face value? Yes. Does listening, and trusting, and obeying have to do with honoring the absolute dignity and divinity of God? Yes. Does it matter if I trust You unconditionally in the “little seeming” things I don’t understand? Yes. Because if I can’t understand in one little thing I don’t get , how will I understand in all the other things I don’t agree with or can’t see or don’t feel like? And when did I become the one who knew better? When did my honor and dignity become more valuable than Yours?  When did I become omniscient?

 
“There is no wisdom, nor understanding, nor counsel against the Lord.” (Proverbs 21:30) God, You set up for us prohibitions. And I’m pretty sure that they are there for our good and for our understanding. Proverbs 21:30 tells me and all of us that You alone know best. Nothing tops Your wisdom, or understanding, or counsel. You are such a good teacher that You get us to utilize all our senses for greater understanding. You give us this visual picture or representation, like in parables or real life. You give us things that touch our real lives. You warn us against disregarding but You allow us the freedom to experience the consequences. But the truth is, it’s not always about understanding why. Why can’t I? It really doesn’t matter. Because the real question that You are asking is, “When I tell you something, who am I to you? Because, Child, the way you treat my words shows me who I am in your heart.”

 
Some of these commands of our God truly defy “full comprehension.” And maybe so because it’s not a matter of our comprehending You, but a matter of our knowing You and honoring You for who You are. Let’s face it, some mixtures are just dangerous. I found that out one time when I mixed some water in to some dry chlorine. It sounded like gunshots and even out in the open air, the toxic fumes invaded my lungs to the point I had trouble breathing. What about nitro and glycerin? Or drinking and driving? Oh I get those. But what about if God says don’t mix milk and meat, or wool and linen? Does that not matter because it doesn’t make sense to me? What if it doesn’t have to make sense to me? What if God just wants to know if I’ll honor Him no matter the littleness or bigness of the request? Isn’t it interesting that it might be so much easier to leave for a foreign country than it would be to not eat milk and meat mixed together?
The image of a donkey and ox working together and how that isn’t best for both is easy to see. So we can agree with that one.

 

Maybe that’s why You introduced that one first, to show that this stuff isn’t really hard to honor. But it was never meant just for a physical understanding. Your way has spiritual implications too. That’s why Paul related this in a more personal way for us humans in 2 Corinthians 6. “Don’t be unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship has righteousness with unrighteousness? And what communion has light with darkness? And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has he that believes with an unbeliever? What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, ‘I will make My dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them,’ says the Lord, ‘and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you, and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to Me,’ says the Lord Almighty.”

 
You mean that when I understand how to separate between my way and Your way and choose Your way, then I understand about choosing a relationship with You? Then I start experiencing Your presence as my heavenly Father? Then I get to experience You acting in my life, for my benefit? Weren’t You always? Oh, but I wouldn’t acknowledge it and you don’t experience what you won’t accept and acknowledge even when it’s right there for you.

 
So I can be like a donkey and an ox. I can choose disunity and dishonor by choosing my own way. You never really sit on the fence. That’s a farce. I’m either a donkey or an ox. Or an ox or a donkey. Depending on the moment. What are You asking me to be? That’s what I ought to be. And I ought to join in with others that are obeying the same goal You’ve given so as not to be distracted or hindered or distract or hinder others. Maybe if Cain was a little more pliable to Your way, his donkeyness wouldn’t have mattered more than Able’s oxenness, or maybe it was that his oxenness wouldn’t have mattered more than Able’s donkeyness. Maybe we can overate our own individuality, especially when it trumps God’s honor and uniqueness and rightness and sovereignty.  I mean, let me face reality here. Like I think my character is something to boast on? Neither Cain nor Able could boast on their own characters. We’re all flawed. We’re all a mix of good and bad. Therefore, we have to be aware. Therefore, we have to let God take care of our dangerous mixes because He alone is not flawed. He isn’t mixed. He alone can instruct on purity. He alone can unmix us.

 
But I digressed from those diverse seeds and the fruit that comes from them. What if God was saying, “Look, I’m going to use these examples in nature because I want You to first, and foremost understand the spiritual dimension between us. Don’t focus on just the physical. Get what I’m trying to show you.” God is pure. He is unmixed, undefiled. He is purely God. He purifies us and produces pure fruit in us. Somehow we are His fruits and we produce more fruit. But it only comes from His seed, not mixed seeds. It’s not some of me and some of Him. It’s all of Him. And of course, that’s something we’re all learning, to let God plant and produce all of His seed in us and to realize that ours just spoils the vineyard.

 
Jesus spoke on this. “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in Me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in Me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved Me, so have I loved you. Abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.” (John 15:1-10)

 
I guess the truth is that I can’t really love God if I don’t honor Him. God is God, that’s all there is to it. I can treat You like You are God, or I can decide when I want to treat You like God, but that doesn’t change the fact that You are still God and You are still right no matter what I think or feel. It just means that I’ve decided to dishonor You and to demonstrate that I don’t love You as much as I say I do. If “the honor of God overrides all human concerns, even that of human dignity,” (Hershey H. Friedman) then when did my dignity come to outweigh God’s honor? Why would I think that God didn’t know what He was talking about? Why would I think that I could understand everything when God declares, “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways.” (Isaiah 55:8) And why aren’t our thoughts equal and of equal value? “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.”

 
Maybe it would do well for me to dwell on the predicament that Egypt and the nations and these mixed people had gotten themselves in. Maybe it would do well for me to be careful of mixing in my life those things that God tells me not to. And maybe it would be better if I learned to take Your word as Your word and not decide what I agreed with or didn’t agree with. Maybe it would be best if I acknowledge that You know far better than me every time and that You have my best interests in mind and understand them way better than me. Maybe I should just learn to trust and obey and stop trying to interject myself so much. Maybe it would be better If I let You interject Yourself into me instead, if I allowed myself to be wholly filled with You.   Then maybe I’d learn what it was to be a beacon of purity and light on the face of this darkened planet. Maybe then, I could rescue someone else from judgment. That would be much better than gaining honor for myself.

Advertisements

How is Your Heart Set?

Standard

Photo credit to Fine Art America.

 

“…Because your heart is lifted up, and you have said,’I am a God, I sit in the seat of God, in the midst of the seas;’ yet you are a man, and not God, though you set your heart as the heart of God.” (Ezekiel 28:1)

 
I wonder how it felt for Peter that day that Jesus said to him, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance for me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man”? (Matthew 16:23) Not long before that, Peter had been commended on how God had revealed to him that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the living God. But now, “Get behind me, Satan!”? Ouch, that stings. It probably stings more for Peter who really cared about You God than maybe it stung for the king of Tyre. But if I were to put myself in the place of either, whether Peter or the king of Tyre, I would say that the king’s blow was even more of a sting in reality. I mean, Peter was thinking like Satan when he thought like every man thinks instead of thinking like the Spirit. But the king was not only thinking momentarily like Satan. He had taken Satan’s stand and taken God’s glory and claimed it as his own, and claimed God’s seat of authority, and made himself god in his own heart. Pride does that in a person.

 
Let’s face the facts here. The king of Tyre was one wise guy. You tell us that Yourself, Lord, “you are indeed wiser than Daniel; no secret is hidden from you; by your wisdom and your understanding you have made wealth for yourself, and have gathered gold and silver into your treasuries; by your great wisdom in your trade you have increased your wealth, and your heart has become proud in your wealth…” But let’s stop to think for a second. Where does wisdom and understanding really come from in the first place?
Here’s a scriptural hint about where wisdom and understanding come from. “And God gave Solomon wisdom and understanding beyond measure, and breadth of mind like the sand on the seashore…” (1 Kings 4:29) Even before that, Moses was speaking of God’s statutes and rules and doing them and said, “Keep them and do them, for that will be your wisdom and our understanding in the sight of the peoples, who, when they hear all these statutes, will say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’”

 

Why would following statutes and rules of God show wisdom and understanding? Because, in Moses’ words, it would show that God was that near to them “whenever we call upon Him.” God is the one, after all, who forms every man, woman, and child.
Genesis 2:7 uses the Hebrew verb form yatsar for formed. The words of the verse say, “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.” Later in time, You tell Jeremiah about his origins as the person he is. “Before I formed you in the belly I knew you; and before you came forth out of the womb I sanctified you, and I ordained you a prophet unto the nations.” (Jeremiah 1:5) God uses this verb, yatsar or formed, to not only describe how He forms the details of a person’s life but of how He fashions Israel itself. According to Otzen, “this verb connects human craftsmanship with divine activity.” Part of the problem is that we forget where and who our abilities came from in the first place. After all, had I not been formed first, I wouldn’t be forming these words on these pages right now. And neither would the king of Tyre have been orchestrating all his wonderful plans if he hadn’t been wonderfully planned first.

 
But maybe yatsar isn’t just about independent being or just being made and formed into something. Maybe yatsar is more specific and more relational than that. Skip Moen calls it a verb of partnership with God. I love his thoughts on this so let me share them here. Remember, “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.” On this Skip shares, “The clay isn’t inert. It responds to the potter. For Man to be Man, there must be a response to the divine action. For Israel to be Israel, there must be a response to the electing God. Yatsar is a relationship verb. When God “forms” the dust, He doesn’t just pile up whatever can be gathered with the sweep of a hand. He establishes a relationship with this “stuff,” and it is the relationship that identifies the uniqueness of this creative act. Yatsar is the God-human verb of the story.”

 
Genesis is the explanation of origins. It’s the origins of man. Skip continues, “God’s relationship—His choice, purpose and selection— is the essential factor in formation. Without the relationship, nothing exists…God’s fashioning activity and His infusion of the breath of life is the reason human beings are what they are. Removing the relationship inherent in the forming or withdrawing the infusion of the breath of life means that Man returns to what he was before these actions occurred. He returns to the dust. He ceases to be. In other words, there is no inherent quality, no spark of the divine, no ontological substance residing in Man so that he lives independently of the action of yatsar and the infusion of the breath of life. Man exists in relationship with His creation, always. His breath and his body are entirely dependent on God. Perhaps Paul captures this Genesis thought when he wrote, ‘in Him we live and move and have our being.’…you do not exist without dependence on God. If you think or act in ways that deny this dependence, you are simply deluded— and a fool.”

 
Pride deludes. The king’s heart was lifted up because of his riches. He totally forgot or ignored who formed him to be this way, Who gave Him the wisdom and understanding in the first place. He was so deluded that he thought of himself as god. A man or an angel can say and believe all they want that they are God, but it doesn’t make it so. I don’t know what angels came from before You made them, God, but I know that man came from dust and goes back to dust outside of You. But in You, what is formed and responds to You remains in You.

 
I’m still thinking about Peter that day Jesus said, “Get behind me, Satan!” But there wasn’t a long story shared to go along with that. I wander though, if just saying that would have brought people back to Ezekiel’s words and the longer back story pronounced over the king of Tyre? And I wonder how Satan, or rather, Lucifer at the time, could forget where he came from and who formed him? I mean, at one point Lucifer wasn’t until God made him. It’s the same for me. It’s worth lamenting over the foolishness of forgetting this, over being deluded like that. Imagine the most beautiful, wise angel thinking he could be more beautiful or wise than God, the one who anointed him with that beauty and wisdom in the first place for a specific purpose!

 
And now I come to thinking about David after he sinned with Bathsheba and Nathan comes to him. See, David had been anointed, just like Lucifer, for a special purpose in God’s creation, just like each of us in whatever way God has decided for us. And Nathan says to David, “You are the man! Thus says the Lord God of Israel, ‘It is I who anointed you king over Israel and It is I who delivered you from the hand of Saul.’” (2 Samuel 22:7) We’re each called to holiness, not its evasion. Each of us has a purpose formed into our individual beings that only we can fulfill and only we will be responsible for avoiding.
Lucifer was that angel. The king of Tyre was that king. Peter was that man. David was that man for that time. I’m that woman for now. Sometimes I’m just like Satan too, just like Peter was and David and the king of Tyre. Sometimes I think I deserve what’s not mine to take. It might be a rest from leading because I deserve a break. It might be love, where I would walk into something I know I shouldn’t. I can rationalize with the best of them and decide to let my brightness shine brighter than it really is.

 
Yep. I’m the one that will need forgiveness. I’m the one who will suffer because of my pride and my delusional thinking to give more credit to myself than I deserve, or rather to just be busy taking the glory from You, Lord. That happens when I think more about me and my hurts and pains than I think about Your glory and Your brightness and Your wisdom and my dependence upon You to understand any of it. And that makes me the one who will harm those around me by my lack of participation with You in my God ordained purpose.

In Man of Fire Denzel Washington asked, “Do you think God will forgive us for the things we’ve done?” Well, I know the answer is yes. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9) Don’t forget though, that the innocent pay a price for the guilty who are forgiven. Jesus paid the price for us. Probably 1/3 of the angels paid the price for Lucifer’s sin. I’d say that guy who had his ear sliced off by Peter payed a price, even though Jesus was gracious enough to put it back. And what about the others who ran away because they had thought like Peter that they could control things, but it wasn’t really theirs to control, was it? And how many people payed the price for David’s delusion? Or for my delusions when I follow them?

 
I was just thinking, that Jesus’ words aren’t so mean after all. He was just reminding Peter to get in his proper place. Before we sin, we need to get behind Jesus instead of in front of Him. I need to be under You, God, and in You, and behind You and just let You be God and remember that I’m not. So Lord, don’t leave off reminding me, even if it sounds like an insult. Let me remember that when You tell me, “Get behind me, Satan,” it’s for my good and it’s the place I was created to flourish in. If only Satan listened and could get behind You again. May I never forget to respond to Your relationship with me and acknowledge You as God and me as Your beloved creation formed by You for Your purposes and not my own. And may I joy in my position in You and joy in You being God and not me.

Writing on the Wall

Standard

Photo credit to Keith Patschka.

 

“Then Daniel answered and said before the king, ‘Let your gifts be to yourself, and give your rewards to another; yet I will read the writing unto the king, and make known to him the interpretation.’” (Daniel 5;17)

 
Today I’m thinking about seeing the writing on the wall. The problem is that most of us can see the writing on the wall but we have no idea what it means. There it is, right in front of us plain as day, but we are clueless to it’s impact for us. Sometimes we’re just as clueless as Belshazzar.

 
Belshazzar was king of Babylon. His reign followed that of Nebuchadnezzar. He’s also frequently referred to here as the son of Nebuchadnezzar. That’s a constant implication that he should have been more alert and have responded differently in his ruling than he chose to, considering the things that Nebuchadnezzar had learned about God before him. But let’s look back at the immediate story.

 
Let’s set the stage. It’s the beginning of the third year of Belshazzar’s reign. He calls a great feast with hordes of important people and lots of wine drinking. That can be a normal thing for kings. But then he decided that wasn’t enough. His pride got the better of him and he called for the sacred golden and silver vessels that had been taken from the temple in Jerusalem. Those he would use to drink his wine and thank the the gods of his choosing. It was a way to mock God and say that He was no god. So they drank wine, and praised the gods of gold, and of silver, of brass, and of iron, of wood, and of stone —all those idols made by men’s hands and imaginations, and mocked the God of creation who created their very hands and the intimate workings of their bodies that were able to sustain them and enable them to even appreciate the taste of the wine they were mocking Him with.

 
I’m wondering if Belshazzar was aware of what Daniel knew, that the 70 year reign of Babylon was coming to a close?  I mean, after all, he was surrounded with all these counselors who would be aware of prophecies about the kingdom. Daniel himself was the chief of the chief of counselors. But Belshazzar was a human being like us, and sometimes we choose to ignore the truth and choose, instead, what we want to believe. But you can only ignore the truth for so long. See, lies are like idols. They are not real and have no weight when push comes to shove. But truth, it always comes through in it’s time. Truth will always make itself known. You can’t hold it back. Especially when it’s God’s truth.

 
And that’s what happens. God shows up. It’s pretty terrifying. These fingers of a human hand appeared. It was just the fingers; not the rest of the body. And it was big enough for everyone to see. Now that’s a party stopper! And these fingers write on the plaster of the wall of the palace. The king is watching and his color changes, and he’s thinking, “Holy mackerel, what in the world?!” He was terrified, his legs forgot how to hold him up, and his knees clattered together. He called for the Chaldeans, the wise men to come in and interpret the writing but not a single one could. He even promised to cloth the one in scarlet and with a gold chain and make him third ruler. It didn’t matter. Everyone could see the writing on the wall but not one knew what it meant.

 
Belshazzar’s face was probably white as snow. His leaders were just as perplexed. It seems that the queen was the only one with a little understanding as to how to find the answer. I wonder if that was because her heart might have contemplated differently about the gods and things she had seen and learned about Daniel’s God? I don’t know, but of all the advisors she was the only one with the advice that would lead to the answer. “There is a man in your kingdom, in whom is the spirit of the holy gods; and in the days of your father light and understanding and wisdom, like the wisdom of the gods, was found in him; whom the king Nebuchadnezzar your father, the king, I say, your father, made master of the magicians, astrologers, Chaldeans, and soothsayers…”(Daniel 5:11) “ He is alive still and can show you the answer.”Why? Why can Daniel do this?

 
The queen actually lists 6 qualities or evidences of Daniel’s ability. Let’s look at them. The first was an excellent spirit. That didn’t just mean he had a great personality. That word for spirit is the same word, ruach, used for when God breathed His spirit into the first man Adam. This excellent spirit is the spirit of God Himself inside of Daniel that is over and above all spirits. This is the Only Spirit who is able to do “exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us.” (Ephesians 3:20) The Holy Spirit of God Himself imparted wisdom and knowledge from above and of below to Daniel because that’s where Daniel sought his wisdom.

 
This Spirit of God imparted to Daniel that second quality of being able to rightly divine knowledge, wisdom, understanding, intelligence, and reason. I think it corresponds to how we relate our thoughts to the things around us like science and the things we’re conscious of. Maybe this is the practical and scientific application of what we know. And this most intelligent man above all others in the kingdom, retained his intelligence while retaining and promoting his personal belief in God in the midst of all he knew and in the midst of a foreign culture who didn’t know or want to acknowledge his God. Yet that knowledge and application of the inter-relatedness and power of his God in all of men’s affairs, was what led him to the top and brought him before the king of a whole nation as the only one with the answer.

 
When we as speakers of English see the words wisdom and knowledge and understanding, we think on the same terms. But these are different words in Hebrew and Chaldean and retain separate identities of meaning. Daniel had understanding, soklthanu, intelligence and understanding. How is that different? It’s from sekal which means to consider. So maybe truly understanding the writing on the wall around us only comes when we truly consider things God’s way. This is where we sit down and take the time to look at something closely, and set our minds or our eyes to it with attention. But I think this isn’t just looking at things and sitting down with them and thinking closely about them. That could bring us into a multitude of conclusions, each his own. But this is considering, sitting down with God, and thinking with Him, close by His side, and setting our thoughts to Yours, Lord. This is the kind of considering that led Daniel to be able to read the writing on the wall.

 
God gave Daniel the ability to interpret dreams. That was evidenced by the time he interpreted King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream. But Daniel could also figure out the solutions to hard riddles or enigmas that others could not solve. No matter how concealed by obscure language, Danielle had the ability to figure out the hidden meaning. Proverbs 25:2 tells us, “It is the glory of God to conceal a thing: but the honor of kings is to search out a matter.” How do you find out something concealed by God? Do you seek it through false idols? Or do you go to the God who knows the answers? Daniel knew who to go to and God blessed him with the knowledge he sought from Him.

 
The last characteristic is that he could unravel riddles. The root of that is about freeing what has been captured. The King James Version says “dissolving of doubts.” Can you hear that? Some of our thinking and understanding and confusion over answers can cause us to be bound, to be knotted up. They can cause us to feel like Belshazzar. And we can be trapped and bound by those thoughts and feelings, feelings like guilt, pride, fear, insufficiency, worthlessness, superiority, anger, hurt, whatever. Or we can be set free by knowing the One who is the Truth, like Daniel knew Him. After all, Jesus declared, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Luke 4:18,19) This was the God of the Old Testament, the Isaiah 61 God, identifying Himself to the world in Jesus. This is the same God that Daniel worshiped and the same God who calls us to worship Him today.

 
So here is this woman, who seems to refer to Daniel more by his Hebrew name than his Chaldean name. And maybe that’s because she realized that Bel or Nebo weren’t gods who saved but Daniel’s God was. And you know, Daniel could care less about the scarlet robe or golden necklace or being third in the kingdom. Daniel just cared about God being made known. And he interpreted the writing. But before that, he reminded Belshazzar about the things he had forgotten or overlooked or chosen to ignore. Because Belshazzar should have remembered and acted upon those memories. Belshazzar should have remembered how all of Nebuchadnezzar’s power was given by the Most High God. He should have remembered what happened when Nebuchadnezzar’s heart was lifted up in pride and his spirit hardened to God, how he lived like a beast all those years until he remembered and knew that God rules the kingdom of man.

 
But Belshazzar was not like the queen. He had disregarded it all and lifted himself up against God. “Mene, mene, tekel, and upharsin.” Therefore, God had numbered his days and brought an end to his kingdom. He was weighed in the balance and found lacking. His kingdom would be divided and given to Medes and Persians just as had been foretold by Daniel according to Nebuchadnezzar’s dream. And that very night, it came to pass. What did the purple robe, gold necklace, and third place in the kingdom mean to Daniel then? Nothing. It’s all emptiness if God isn’t in the heart of it. It was the end of Belshazzar and what a sad, empty end. But it was not the end for Daniel. The new ruler, Darius, noticed something about him and, get this, made him one of the three high officials. Belshazzar’s appointment didn’t matter. But God’s appointment does.

 
I want to be able to read the writing on the wall. I want my life to be totally guided by considering You and Your ways, Lord, all the days of my life. I want people to see something different in me that causes them to seek my two cents, my counsel on things. I don’t want it because they see me, but I want them to see something that leads them to You and to Your council. I want to be like a Daniel in this world today of so many gods. I want to live in Your wisdom, and knowledge, and blessing, and presence, and counsel. If kings won’t act like kings, I will. I’m not afraid to search Your ways and Your answers out, O Lord. So teach me to understand all that You are writing on the walls and floors and sky and people around me.

Unwrapping the Knowledge

Standard

Photo credit to Minden-Press Herald.

 

“My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge…” Hosea 4:5

Not just any people, but God’s people are perishing, are dumb, are silent, are failing, are being cut down and undone utterly. Why? For lack of knowledge. I’m wondering if “lack” here is the best interpretation of the Hebrew beliy. I mean, the truth is that Paul tells us “that unto them were committed the oracles of God.” (Romans 3:2) So there was no “lack” of “knowledge” as we think of these terms. It was there. They had it. So what was the problem?

You tell us the heart of the problem with your subsequent words, “because you have rejected knowledge, I will also reject you.” Therefore, I see, that one can have knowledge right there in their grasp and yet still not have knowledge. I can have a “form” of knowledge, yet it be totally worthless to me because I don’t acknowledge the knowledge for what it truly is.

The Psalmist in Psalm 101:3 says, “I will set no worthless thing before my eyes; I hate the work of those who fall away; it shall not fasten its grip on me.” But this is just the problem. The people of God turned their hearts to focus on worthless things and in so doing, treated their relationship with You as worthless and might I say, worth less. Your pleasure, Your will, Your image became to them good for nothing compared to the other things that lured them. They treated Your ways as garbage or trash and went after other gods who offered them things the way they wanted them. In treating You like garbage they fell into worshiping that which was garbage and that which couldn’t deliver anything but lies and harm.

That word translated as lack here is a strong emphatic word in Hebrew. It’s a pronouncement about the character of a thing and in this case, of a people. It’s usually about moral character. It’s about people choosing to “practice and promote disobedience to God and man” even though they have all the knowledge to know better and do better. But You look at their life and call it worthless, not because You see no value in them, but because they are depriving themselves of their own worth and their own purpose upon this earth. These people were choosing to defy God and practice and promote what was totally against Him. They would choose to defy their very purpose in creation. Now that’s a sticky situation.

So, what kind of knowledge was lacking or made worthless by the people? The knowledge of God. It’s the heart of all true knowledge. Solomon shared, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction.” (Proverbs 1:7) That doesn’t just mean that we can know about things because we are afraid of God. It’s not just about a proper perspective on life. It’s about respecting and honoring God for who God is, for all the magnitude of who He is. And then it goes beyond respect and honor into a personal, intimate relation with Him as someone who is alive and cares and shows that care.

Do I know that God cares for me? Do I know the depths of Your caring? Later in Hosea, he will use the term “knowledge of God,” daath Elohim. And the truth is that knowledge in the Hebrew sense always means more than knowing with Your head or having a strong theological background. It’s all about being human, every range of it. Knowing, really knowing involves every aspect of the emotions, the will, and the intellect. The head and the heart work together. Head knowledge effects heart knowledge and, I suppose, vice versa. It’s not just cognitive. It’s not just rationalized thinking.

When examining the Hebrew word most often used for knowledge, yada, Heschel suggests it this way, “an act involving concern, inner engagement, dedication, or attachment to a person. It also means to have sympathy, pity, or affection for someone.” It’s the farthest cry from correct doctrine. It’s greater than obedience. It’s far greater.

“Hear the word of the LORD, you children of Israel: for the LORD has a controversy with the inhabitants of the land, because there is no truth, nor mercy, nor knowledge of God in the land.” (Hosea 4:1) God’s broken heart is crying out to his children. We see Your heart in the image of the marriage analogy. How would our hearts feel if that were to happen to us? Wouldn’t we feel it? Well, God feels it too because it’s not just reading about a relationship, it’s an actual real living relationship with real live attachment and commitment and hearts involved. God feels everything, all the hurt, the humiliation, the sorrow, the betrayal, and more. He knows the consequences of His lover’s choice. He knows what she is missing and what she will receive instead. Her problem is she is lacking a heart knowledge. She doesn’t get it. She doesn’t know Him at all or she would never leave His side. She didn’t even know what she had when she was there with Him. How tragic.

Knowledge is not about information. It’s about reciprocal feelings. It’s about reciprocal sympathy. It’s about feeling the way God feels, understanding how God understands, loving as He loves, acting as He acts, enjoying what He enjoys. And it’s not even about us each doing it on our own. It’s about doing all this along with You, God. It’s about a relationship of enjoying You as much as You desire to enjoy us. Knowledge is knowing You intimately and enjoying You intimately and personally as much as You enjoy us. It’s delighting in You as You delight in us.

But Israel and Gomer aren’t the only ones not weeping over the intimacy they are missing. Many nations and many of us in the nations are not weeping over the love we’ve thrown away and wasted and lost. We’ve numbed ourselves to the pain of separation. We no longer agonize over You, who ought to be our dearest One. There is no heart for You. And that’s the saddest part.

And then we read and hear about the divorce rate skyrocketing today. But here we have the contrast of God’s love. Because He holds on to the people of His own choosing. He refuses to let them go and give up even though they don’t even care about how He feels. They make love to everything You hate, and yet You continue to love and call them back. They choose to become animals instead of the Beloved. But You don’t give up hope.

No, it wasn’t because Israel lacked information. And it’s not that we lack information either. It’s that we lack “sensitivity, empathy with God.” (Skip Moen) Are we any different? Do I feel what You feel, Lord? Do I share the same sensitivity? Do I cry with You? Do I agonize over what You agonize over? Do I care enough about You to be willing to die to more than myself? Do I care enough about You to be willing to just die to whatever I had to, even if it meant death itself? Because this Husband gives more than I could ever imagine. His life, through Christ, was spent for mine, not out of duty, but out of immeasurable love. He owed me nothing, yet gave everything. And this is GOD who did that. This is GOD. This is the ONLY GOD who has ever and would ever go to those extremes for the love and redemption of His people, His own creation.

I can run around in the midst of my own lies, living any way I want, but it would just be an utter waste of my life. There is absolutely nothing that compares to You and Your love God. Absolutely nothing. I can choose my own way and disregard You and start perishing today. Or I can regard You in Your fullness and know You better than I know myself. I can delight myself in You, the only God who delights Himself in me. And in that kind of knowing and experiencing and living it out, I can see the desires of Your heart come to life in mine as Your love blossoms in me. It would be a shame to be destroyed for lack of knowledge when you held that knowledge right there all along and never experienced it because you never even opened it up and looked inside.

Centered in Your Heart

Standard

“Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth.  Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling.”  Psalm 2:11-12

Psalm 2 opens with David speaking about the heathen raging against God and people in general focussing on empty things.  Together they counsel together against God’s anointed.  But God’s got it all covered.  He’s already decreed the Answer, the Deliverance.  “You are my Son; this day have I begotten You.”  And He’s already promised the heathen to His Son.

Well, that’s You, Lord, that David’s speaking about.  And that’s Jesus that You are speaking about.  And the heathen and vain ones are any that stand against You.  And they have the choice of being broken with a rod of iron and dashed into pieces like a clay pot thrown to the ground because it won’t conform to the potter’s plan, or they can be wise and instructed.  I had and have that same choice.

Maybe that seems kind of violent or rough. Maybe it is.  Oh, wait, but perfect love casts out fear, right?  1 John 4:18 tells us “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear: because fear has torment. He that fears is not made perfect in love.”  Don’t these contradict each other?  No, they go together perfectly.

Isaiah 8:13 tells us that “It is the Lord of hosts whom you should regard as holy, and He shall be your fear, and He shall be your dread.”  See, it’s that whole idea of repentance needing to come first.   I was listening to Ravi Zacharias answering a student’s question and the student was asking if it wasn’t sufficient enough to follow Jesus’s teachings to be a good person and accepted without committing to Jesus.  Wouldn’t that be acceptable worship before God?

Ravi pointed out three necessary responses that must occur in our lives in a specific order.  Basically they were repentance, redemption, and righteousness.  See, kings and queens, and people everywhere want to jump to the top and be righteous before You, God.  But there’s no way to meet Your righteousness, to be that kind of good, without You doing that in us.  Our good is no match for Yours.  Elsewhere Ravi observes, “Our hearts need to be transformed…We need a new birth…Only Jesus can give you the power to change.”  That comes only through redemption by Christ.  But how do we get to the point where we see our need for redemption?  “Redemption is prior to righteousness.  You cannot be righteous until you are first redeemed.”  So how do we get there?  How would these kings get there?  How does any one in any nation get there?

Here’s the first step.  “Only through repentance and faith in Christ can anyone be saved.  No religious activity will be sufficient, only true faith in Jesus Christ alone.” (Ravi Zacharias)  Isaiah tells us that “It is the Lord of hosts whom you should regard as holy, and He shall be your fear, and He shall be your dread.”  Stop and think about it.  Whatever we fear controls our lives, doesn’t it?  If I fear failure, I’m driven to succeed.  If I fear flying, I avoid planes or take medicine.  If I fear heights, I don’t go up where it’s high.  If I fear what people think about me, I do all kinds of things to make them like me.  I modify my behavior depending on my fear.  So, what if I chose to fear God instead of anything else?  What if my mind was preoccupied with Him?  What if I cared most about Your acceptance, Lord?  What if You were my driving force behind my behavior?

The truth is, we ought to fear what matters.  If I’m going to serve and pay homage to something, it ought to be You, Lord, not something that really should have no control over me. So I guess, here You are, this fearful and terrible God and judge, giving these heathen kings and people a chance.  When You invite them to be wise and instructed, You’re not inviting them to take a rational and mental break to think about things here.  Your not telling them to think their way through things.  As frail and finite as we are, how could we do that?  How could we even think we are capable?  How could we ever see the big picture clearly enough?  So what are You saying?

Kings, wizen up.  Be teachable.  Rely on Me.  Rely on My Words.  You don’t have to understand all of what I’m doing or thinking.  Learn to discern my ways.  Let it warn you.  It’s not enough to discern without proper action.  After all, Herod and his counselors knew the prophesy of the Messiah, but they didn’t respond in obedience.  Instead of receiving the Messiah, they wanted to slaughter him.  Kings and all people, well, we need to act upon what we learn.  Only when we act in correct response will we avoid the evil consequences.  My thinking must lead to acting upon the right solution.  I can reason all day and get no where.  I can reason in the middle of a flood and drown.  Or my behavior can act upon what I’ve learned and respond appropriately.

I suppose I could also just choose to be instructed, to accept correction in my ears and walk on.  “Oh, look!  There’s a cliff!”  “Yes, isn’t that interesting.”  I can hear and then keep walking, keep walking right off that cliff to my death.  So it’s not just about being instructed but about understanding the punishment and accepting and responding to the correction, discipline, or chastening.  It’s not just rational.  It ought to involve my emotions.  It ought to be tangible.  Why?  Because the consequence is real.

King Solomon shared this thought in Proverbs 28:14, “How blessed is the man who fears always, but he who hardens his heart will fall into calamity.” Let’s think about this.  What if this is saying that the person who lives in continual fear that drives him to care most about what You, God, think, is a man to be envied because of that trust in You?  What if that person is blessed because they act upon what they know rightly?  Maybe it means that as a result of what they know about God, about You, they do something, they act appropriately and are filled with bliss because of that response.  What if that kind of response leads them to be overjoyed in You?

So, that means fear and be overjoyed?  Yeah, it does.  Because it all has to do with the object of our fear.  When we realize the greatness and power and omniscience and love and judgment and everything else that embodies You and that is Your right and we put it all together and we understand and begin to grasp it’s truth in You and I begin to see myself and see that I am no god but I am in need of a God, then I come to this point called repentance where I understand and act upon the greatness and necessity of You.  That realization brings me to a decision, a point of action where I come to fear and trembling.  Fear because You are worthy of being feared.  All things belong to You, we’re made by You, are under Your control and You alone are the judge of all.  Trembling  comes because You invite me to change my way of thinking and living and enter into the safety and protection of You.  Who wouldn’t twirl around in inexpressible joy to know and act upon the reality that though I should be judged guilty and spend an eternity separated from the holy God of my creation, I am forgiven, accepted, and made His?  Yes, I am overjoyed.  And I must never forget that fear.

Why not forget?  I’m under grace now, right?  Well, I don’t know who Moses Luzzatto is but he made this statement,  “A man may be apprehensive every moment of the day lest he stumble and commit some deed that is wholly, or in part, opposed to the glory of God’s name.”  Skip Moen continues with that, “In other words, ‘fearing’ is that state of mind attained when we are so concerned with the glory of God’s name that we dread doing anything that would diminish His magnificence. Being in such a state is, in fact, overwhelmingly joyful because it means that we are constantly aware of Him and thinking of His honor at every moment. True bliss is to be continually in His awareness, and that comes when we are caught up in magnifying Him at all times. In other words, we are so concerned with Him that we dread sin.”

That’s what the invitation is to, to constant living in You, to constant walking with Jesus.  It’s an invitation to being caught up in You moment by moment.  That’s what it is to serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling.  That’s what it is to kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little.  That’s what it is to be blessed by putting our trust in Him.  That’s what it is to be more concerned with God and Your will than myself, my life, my circumstance, my friend, my ministry, or anything else.

Do you know why there’s no fear in love.  Because there’s only fear when our actions go against God.  Just like You said in Genesis 4:7, “If you do well, will you not be accepted?  and if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door.  It’s desire is for you, but you must rule over it.”  The choice is ours.  I can choose God’s way and act in accord with Your word and feel the intensity and receive the depth of Your love.  Or I can act on my own accord, and receive the consequences of those actions, which bring fear.

I’m not the only one who thinks about this stuff.  I bet John might have been thinking about these things too.  So I’m going to share his thoughts in 1 John 4.   Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? This is he who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ; not by the water only but by the water and the blood. And the Spirit is the one who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. For there are three that testify:  the Spirit and the water and the blood; and these three agree.  If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater, for this is the testimony of God that he has borne concerning his Son.   Whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself. Whoever does not believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has borne concerning his Son.  And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.  Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.   I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life.  And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us.  And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.  If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask, and God will give him life—to those who commit sins that do not lead to death. There is sin that leads to death; I do not say that one should pray for that.  All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that does not lead to death.  We know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning, but he who was born of God protects him, and the evil one does not touch him.  We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.  And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.  Little children, keep yourselves from idols.”  We’re like the old time kings, just as good at making idols of ourselves.  What a warning!  But will I heed it?  Will I act appropriately to that instruction?

In searching for Ravi Zacharias’ answer earlier, I heard him say this, “God gives you the most sacred gift of the prerogative of choice, but God does not give you the privilege of determining a different outcome to what the choice will entail.  The consequences are bound to the choice and you go right back to the book of Genesis and it tells you ‘If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you don’t sin stalks at the door and desires to have you.'”  Every last one of us, king or pauper is given this sacred gift of being able to make the choice ourselves.  I can choose repentance and see how much I need You, God.  Or, I can refuse repentance.  But each choice comes with a different outcome and I must be willing to accept that outcome with my choice.

To choose repentance, leads to redemption.  And only through repentance and redemption will I attain righteousness.  I can’t skip one and attain the other.  Ravi states elsewhere, “Our hearts need to be transformed…We need a new birth.  Only Jesus can give you the power to change.  Has your heart been redeemed by Christ?”  He emphasizes, ““Redemption is prior to righteousness. You cannot be righteous until you are first redeemed…That is where it begins…We will never change the outside until we are changed within.  Then the world will see the beauty of Christ and follow Him.”  Quoted elsewhere, “Only through repentance and faith in Christ can anyone be saved. No religious activity will be sufficient, only true faith in Jesus Christ alone.”

If it were fear alone that held us to You, Lord, we would wind up being repulsed.  But it’s so much more because the One we ought to fear actually loves us so and makes a way for us to not have to be afraid.  The One whose wrath is terrible desires to be our Heavenly Father, our Abba.  The truth is that the One who is absolutely worthy of my fear and dread, loves me so much that He gave His one and only Son to die and be resurrected to bring me back to Him.

Well, Lord, that’s a lot to think about.  But I want to do more than just think about it.  I want to live like I fear You more than anything.  I want to live moment by moment as though I care about what You care about.  I want to be acceptable to You so I want to behave in ways that are acceptable to You.  I want to moment by moment walk with You and respond to You.  I want to do more than meditate on Your word and on You.  I want to walk it out.  Help me to do that.  Don’t let me use excuses about my own weaknesses.  Because the truth is You’ve got me covered and Your love is sufficient for all my needs.  I just have to keep myself centered in Your heart.

Who’s Your Daddy?

Standard

“That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.”  1 Corinthians 2:5

“Who’s your daddy?”  That’s what coach Boone asked a prideful player on his team.  This was at a time when racial prejudice was high and the school system was desegregating their school in Alexandria, Virginia.  The young man came with his pride and request for his team mates and coach Boone refused the request, got in his face, and asked, “Who’s your daddy?”   Because to be on his football team, this young man would have to be under his authority, not his own, and not the authority of the world around him or even his parents.  When on that team, this young man was going to have to focus on everything this coach expected and demanded.  Would he start understanding that? “Who’s your daddy?”  His quiet answer was, “You.”  So, the question today is, “Who’s my daddy?”

In 2003, I meditated on 1 Corinthians 2.  And here are my thoughts and prayers from that morning.  Lord, let the only thing of importance be unto me Jesus Christ and Him crucified.  Let Your Spirit and power be seen through and in me.  Don’t let it be just my words.  Oh, Lord, that my faith would never stand in the wisdom of men, but in Your power alone.  We are all fallible, but You are not.  Lord, You have shared Your wisdom with us who believe though those outside don’t understand.  Daily You reveal Yourself and Your promises to me by Your Spirit which not only seeks and investigates all hearts, but knows the depths of the things of God and shares them with me.  Lord, we as man don’t even know ourselves, except through Your Spirit.  How would we know You?  Open my heart to the things that You have freely given me.  Lord, I pray for spiritual discernment.  Teach me to judge all things.  I am not under the scrutiny of man.  You are my only judge.  Christ knows Your mind, oh Lord.  We may know it too because we have the mind of Christ.  I have the mind of Christ.  Let me live this truth.

Yes, today I still pray that I would live this truth, that when You look me in the face and ask, “Who’s Your Daddy?” I would not look with my head held down in shame, but with head held high and full of delight I want to answer “YOU!”  Paul was like that.  Here was a man, unlike me, who was a top-knotch scholar expected to be one of the greatest rabbis of his time.  But he didn’t approach preaching by using his excellent speech skills, power of persuasion, or all his stores of wisdom.  What was he declaring the power of God with?  What was he declaring the testimony, the witness of God with?  Jesus.

Paul decided, he determined, that nothing else mattered for sharing except to share the witness of Jesus Christ and the power of His crucifixion.  See, the crucifixion has this glorious supernatural outcome.  Everyone else who’s ever been crucified, well, they wind up dead and crucified.  But not Jesus, not You.  You wind up alive though crucified.  Now that’s something to declare!  The wisdom of man says that doesn’t happen and it can’t.  But the power of God says, “Look here, I can do what man can’t do.  I have done it.  I am alive.  I’m alive because I’m God and You can’t kill God.  And imagine if You are for me and You are mine.  Imagine the ramifications of that.”  Wow!  That’s the testimony of God speaking.  Blows the mind of the wise, doesn’t it?

But Paul goes on to say, “And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling.”  What does that mean?  That word for weak is the Greek word “astheneia.”  That “a” is a negative in front of “sthenoo” which means “strength or power.”  Therefore, it means without strength or power.  It’s used for the sick people that Jesus healed who were sick in body and spirit.  When we are like that we can’t do it ourselves.  We’re helpless.  That’s pretty much our condition and Paul was saying it was his condition.  “I’m powerless.”  Admitting our weakness is the first step in getting over our addiction to ourself.  Think of all the things, like Paul, we’re powerless over.  I’m powerless to stop what rages inside of me, to stop doing what I don’t want to or ought not to, powerless to lift myself up out of the pit, and more.  We’re all there, just as Paul was.

But Paul doesn’t stop with weakness.  He also said they were together in fear.  What kind of fear?  Why?  I wish I understood.  I think Paul experienced fear in a way that I haven’t.  I mean, here in the U.S., I live a fairly sheltered life.  What do I know of real, every day, day after day fear?  I know that for Paul, not only was he handling false teachers rising up against him, but he’s experienced being stoned and being beaten many times.  Is that what he was afraid of?

In Hebrews 10:31, Paul tells us, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”  Really?  Both places here are looking at the Greek word from “phobos.”  The Hebrew word equivalent is yare.  Skip Moen puts it this way, “Sudden, sheer terror–life turned into flying shrapnel–is more likely the message.”  I think of those who have to confront evil every day as an ordinary part of their lives.  I think of the testimony I see in them.  Those who haven’t avoided all confrontation with evil, those who have had to face it in their weakness and rely on Your strength and power alone, they are the ones who know, I mean really know, the majesty, the testimony, the witness of Your good.

And as though weakness and fear weren’t enough, Paul adds trembling, and not just trembling, but much trembling.  The NAS New Testament Greek Lexicon defines this trembling as a “trembling or quaking with fear.”  It also is “used to describe the anxiety of one who distrusts his ability completely to meet all requirements, but religiously does his utmost to fulfil his duty.”  Now, I don’t think that Paul was going through and fulfilling religious duty here.  But I do think that Paul distrusted his own ability, his own worthiness, his own skills of persuasion, his own heart.  And because he felt this way about his own weakness, and his fear, and his trembling; because they were a reflection of the dependence of not only his heart but his life on You, Lord, he could rely fully on His Daddy.

Therefore, he was the first to realize that his speaking and his preaching wasn’t of effect because he used all the right words or because he was charismatic or because he was wise or persuasive.  He knew that the power of his preaching was because the Holy Spirit was empowering his words, empowering his testimony of You, empowering the hearts of the listeners.  He knew that faith doesn’t come from man or from man’s wisdom or man’s understanding.  Faith comes from and is in the power of God.

The weak find faith.  They realize they need You.  They realize they are helpless, no matter how great they were in the world’s eyes.  The weak find strength in You.  The fearful need a Deliverer.  The one’s who live in fiery and fearful circumstances need a Rescuer.  They know what rescue and deliverance look like and feel like.  The one who trembles at his own frailty, his own disability, his own inability, is the one who looks to Another.

And Paul said, “I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling.”  Is this the life of faith that we as believers are living together?  Paul was with the Corinthians in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling.  Am I with my fellow believers in the same way or am I just doing my own thing, thinking I’m doing good, but not really experiencing life, and I mean real life, together with them and with You?  It’s so easy to live life in a comfort zone, but I wonder if that’s Your zone at all God?  Maybe I’m not really living as You intended until I experience You in weakness, and in fear, and in trembling, with my brothers and sisters in You.

“Who’s my Daddy?”  You.  But that also means that I have brothers and sisters out there.  And I need to be a real sibling to them.  There’s experiences in You we were meant to have together so that we, together, would have a greater and living witness in the world.

A Higher IQ

Standard

“Scripture says, ‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise.  I will reject the intelligence of intelligent people.”  1 Corinthians 1:19

I was a good student but there are so many people who are so much smarter than me.  There are so many people with a much higher IQ.  I don’t know what mine is but I serve alongside someone who has a photographic memory.  Imagine that!  Not me.  I serve around doctors and nurses who have specialized in tough things.  They amaze me.  There are people who can outreason and outwit me.  Why would You choose me, Lord?  And then I read this verse.  Well, I read this verse and meditated on it twelve years ago.  And here’s what I saw then.

Lord, man’s greatest wisdom and understanding is nothing compared to You.  In Your wisdom You created the world and all within it.  We have the world to testify of You yet knew You not.  Yet through the simple teaching of words You save us who believe.  All creation cries out and praises You, yet we seek other miracles or signs and wisdom and knowledge.  The only knowledge that matters is knowing Christ’s sacrifice.  But that offends some and is difficult for some to accept.  But You have invited and appointed me in You and have opened my eyes and understanding to know that Christ is the power and wisdom of God.  Christ is the sign and the knowledge that we seek.

What men deem as foolishness of God, is wiser than man, and what they deem as being weakness concerning You is stronger than them.  You have made clear to me who You are and what You have done for me.  You have invited me into an intimate saving relationship with You and I experience Your grace daily.  If I had been proud, or wise, or haughty I never would have seen my need for You.  I would have never sought a relationship with You.  You would have invited, yet I would have ignored the invitation.  Lord, You have shared Your wisdom with someone like me- foolish, weak, base.

Those who lift themselves up are so confused that they block their minds and hearts to knowing You.  One day You will bring to nought all those that lift themselves above You.  One day we will all stand before You and they will learn that Yours alone is the glory and they will see themselves as they really are.  What a sad day that will be for many.  But I am Yours in Christ Jesus.   Through Him, I am made and given wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption.  All glory for who I am and what has been done in my life goes to You, Lord  Your righteousness makes me righteous.  Because You are set apart and holy, it makes me set apart and holy,.  You are wisdom and through You it has been imputed to me.  You have redeemed me through the cross.

Lord, help me to realize all I am in You.   Help me to live in Your wisdom and righteousness, as one set apart, holy, and knowing all I owe You.  Let my life be a testimony.  Bring me into a deeper intimate knowledge of You.

I’m glad that You, Lord, had me meditate on these verses back then, but I’m also glad You’re having me meditate on them now.  Because there is still a warning.  You are still giving me and all those who read, the same warning that You gave the Israelites back through Isaiah.  And what was that?  Let me remind myself.

You were upset with Your people.  Why?  They were going through the motions of worship but it wasn’t true worship.  You said, “Go on and keep offering your sacrifices Your way.  I’ll let you do it a few more years.  But then I’m gonna change things up and I’m going to make You a fireplace on my altar for real.”  That’s a hard place to be.  You were going to bring nations against Your people in order to teach them true worship.  Why?

They knew the truth and were bearers of the truth but they were more concerned about the heart and teachings of man than the heart and teaching of God.  Isaiah 29 tells us that God’s own people had confused themselves, and made themselves confused.  Because they made themselves stupid, that’s where they stayed, in stupidness.  They blinded themselves, so they walked in blindness.  They were like drunkards but not from wine, staggering but not from liquor.  So You, Lord, let them stay where they brought themselves.  You let them experience even more what it was to walk in that deep sleep, that lethargy.  You closed the eyes of prophets and the seers.  If they weren’t going to see, You were going to show them what it was really like to not see.

Does that only happen in the old days?  Or do we bring ourselves to this point even today?  I know this happens outside the church, but isn’t this what happens sometimes, maybe more than we think, within the congregation of the “righteous”?  Sometimes, is there this lethargy amongst us as believers because we’ve held onto traditions of men instead of the living word of God?  Has the “church” sometimes come to the point where the things You want to show us are closed and sealed up to us?  We hand this Book to those who ought to be able to read it, but they don’t want to look at some things, or they can’t, and they say, “Oh, I can’t read it, it’s sealed up.”  Haven’t You given us the key to unseal Your word?  So then we hand the book to someone who can’t read.  Huh?  And of course they answer, “Oh, I can’t read.”

Why can’t we read?  Why can’t we open the seal?   Why can’t You be everything You always have been?  Why can’t You require what You’ve always required?  Why can’t we see things the way You do?  Why can’t we live like You live and love like You love?  And that’s where this verse starts coming to life.  You say, “These people worship Me with their mouths and honor Me with their lips.  But their hearts are far from Me, and their worship of Me is based on rules made by humans.  That is why I am going to do something completely amazing for these people once again.  The wisdom of their wise people will disappear.  The intelligence of their intelligent people will be hidden.”  There’s coming a day when God is going to open blind eyes and deaf ears and fill hollow hearts.  “When that day comes, the deaf will hear the words written in the Book.  The blind will see out of their gloom and darkness.  Humble people again will find joy in the LORD.  The poorest of people will find joy in the Holy One of Israel.”  There’s coming a day when those who were blind and deaf and stupid will treat You as holy.  There’s coming a day when those who were wayward in spirit “will gain understanding, and those who complain will accept instruction.”  Jesus came to deliver us.  He’s the bringer of that day.

The question is, am I walking in to that day?  Will I let You have Your way in my heart and throw out my way?  Will I cry out to You to open my eyes and give me Your sight?  Do I really want to see You lifted high?  Will I cry out to You to open my ears that I would hear Your truth and obey it and love it and cherish it?  Or will I stick my fingers in my ears?  Will I count my wisdom as dung just to hear from You and be filled with Your wisdom and Your presence and the knowledge of You?  Will I let You teach me what it is to truly worship You in spirit and in truth?  Am I still in a stage of heart where I need to go through destruction and rejection in order to understand what I’m missing?  Or have I come to treasure Your wisdom and Your intelligence, Your intervention in my life and spirit, Your life, Your way more than anything?  Lord, help me to know were I stand, and I pray that I would be humbly bowed down at Your feet, ready to receive and be made complete in You.