Hear my prayer, O Lord, Give ear to my supplications! Answer me in Your faithfulness, in Your righteousness! And do not enter into judgment with Your servant, For in Your sight no man living is righteous. For the enemy has persecuted my soul; He has crushed my life to the ground; He has made me dwell in dark places, like those who have long been dead. Therefore my spirit is overwhelmed within me; My heart is appalled within me. I remember the days of old; I meditate on all Your doings; I muse on the work of Your hands. I stretch out my hands to You; My soul longs for You, as a parched land. Selah.
–Psalm 143:1-6 (NASB)
Part of the Returning to the Tent of David series
This is the “flip side” to this morning’s meditation, The Christianization of Acts 15. Every couple of weeks or so, I have coffee and conversation with a friend who is smarter and wiser than I am. Certainly, his spirit is far closer to God than mine. I often tell him of my thoughts and feelings and he is direct and forthright in his response.
This is a continuation of my Returning to the Tent of David series since it has a direct connection to my reacquaintance with the church and how I have been conducting myself within its walls.
Apparently, I haven’t been doing so well.
I spend a fair amount of time expressing my point of view on this blog. I guess that’s OK since, after all, it is my blog, my platform for talking about my experiences as they occur. But I also air out my opinions of and frustrations with the church and its members on occasion. I commented to my friend that I felt my Sunday school teacher is rather dogmatic in how he presents his lessons. And the instant the words left my lips, I knew what he was going to say.
So am I, just with a different point of view.
I’ve been spending a lot of time presenting and expressing my opinions. But what about God? That is, who is expending the effort here and whose purpose is being served, mine or God’s? In my friend’s view, it’s the former, totally.
No, he isn’t being too hard on me and in fact, I have every reason to believe he speaks not only with an honest heart, but from the heart of God. I’ve been studying and using what I’ve learned as a sword or a club to “go after” those with whom I disagree, and without the slightest concern about God’s desires. I guess I assumed that if I was doing this, it must be what God wants, but that was arrogant presumption on my part. I never even considered the possibility that I wasn’t in the right spiritual frame from which to conduct such activities.
No, it doesn’t mean I’m going to stop going to church, attending Sunday school, or meeting with my Pastor (unless none of them will have me anymore). It does mean I need to take a step backward and start “preparing” for these actions in a different way.
Yes, studying the Bible is good. Studying intelligent and informative commentaries is good. But is it the mind and will of God that makes change, not the efforts of mere men.
There’s little doubt that my Pastor and I, in meeting together, are each trying to help the other change in a particular direction. Of course, I learn a great deal from these conversations, but I’m also hoping to impart something as well. But so far, I’m the only one doing the imparting. Has God been in my voice? Am I even aware of His presence in the Pastor’s office? For that matter, am I aware of God’s presence in the chapel during services or in the classroom during Sunday school?
The vast majority of the time, I must say “no.”
My friend keeps suggesting I “meditate” on the Bible, but the word “meditate” seems indistinct to me. He says it’s matter of considering a portion of scripture and mulling it over. What does it mean? What does it mean to me? What can it tell me about God and about myself? What scripture should I choose?
I meditate on all Your doings;
I muse on the work of Your hands.
I read books, including the Bible, as fast as I can, as if I’m in some sort of race to cover the maximum amount of territory in the least amount of time. I’m only mortal and my span on this sphere is exceptionally limited. God is infinite and forever. He can afford to take His time. After all, it is His time; He made it. Time exists only within His will and should He desire, time would cease to exist and scurry back to the nothingness from whence it came.
“In that day I will raise up the fallen booth of David,
And wall up its breaches;
I will also raise up its ruins
And rebuild it as in the days of old;
That they may possess the remnant of Edom
And all the nations who are called by My name,”
Declares the Lord who does this.
–Amos 9:11-12 (NASB)
I keep coming back to these verses because they define my purpose within a “Hebraic” and “Messianic” context. I say “my purpose” but it’s really the purpose of any non-Jewish disciple of Messiah, “the nations who are called by My Name,” says the Lord. It’s the “job description” for Gentile disciples of the Jewish Messiah who perceive that they are operating within a Jewish religious and spiritual context and not necessarily inside of “goyishe Christianity.”
I’m not trying to be insulting, but consider who our King is and from where he will reign. Can there be any doubt that Moshiach our King is and will be King of Israel, King of the Jews, and only out of all that is he King of the World?
But I’m getting ahead of myself again. Humility is something I didn’t think far from my grasp, but a guess I am farther from its sheltering arms than I imagined. This isn’t my battle. I didn’t come here to fight. I came here to serve God. What an interesting thought, since it never occurred to me to say it that way before. I always thought, harkening back to Boaz’s book, that I returned to the church to help breach the gap between the traditional fundamental and evangelical perspective on Jesus, the Bible, and everything and how it all should be seen within the Jewish context, using Jewish terms, Hebrew language, and especially removing the paint from “Joseph’s” alien face (Genesis 45:4) to reveal the son of Jacob or more to the point, the son of David…the Jewish son and firstborn of Israel. The son of God.
If this is how you want me to serve you God, then I have to admit I haven’t been doing such a good job. If this isn’t what you’ve wanted me to do, then I’ve been doing an even worse job than I thought.
How can I promote any form of healing at all by “banging heads” with other people or by beating my head against a wall? When Jacob wrestled the Divine, in midrash, it is said that Jacob wrestled with his doubts, or his evil inclination, or his own dark angel. He had to conquer something in himself before he could take the next steps back into the Land his descendants would one day inherit, the Land of Promise. Is that my mission as well, to conquer something within myself?
That I should slow down, take time with scripture, mull and turn over the Word in my mind and heart, meditate on His wisdom day and night is all worthy and right, and I’ve been in too much of a hurry to actually do it. Where will my spirit and the Spirit of God find a common meeting ground? Jacob arose at night, crossed the ford of the Jabbok and was left alone. There he encountered God. Jacob wrestled for the rest of the night and when the sun began to dawn, the battle was still raging. Jacob’s “companion,” seeing he had not prevailed, injured Jacob, permanently disabling him (see Genesis 32:22-32). But Jacob also received a blessing, a new name, and a mission to form a dynasty; to ultimately become the father of a mighty nation that belongs only to God.
I seriously doubt my destiny is such a great thing in God’s eyes or in man’s. And yet there must be some reason for my existence, else God would have long since extinguished me, like I might blow out a candle. Not that I’m such a great light or even a small one. Who can glory in their own light when confronted with the blazing inferno of an Everlasting God? Only a fool. I pray that I am no fool, though I know I’ve been foolish.
God will judge us not according to how much we endured, but how much we could love.
Whatever God wants me to do could easily fail if it was all up to me. Having launched myself in a particular direction for nearly a year, I haven’t looked back and I haven’t checked the map. I just figured if I went in a nice, straight line, I’d end up where I’m supposed to be. But there are no nice straight lines in my terrain, only back alleys, narrow corridors, dark tunnels, and labyrinthine passages. Getting lost if I am the only navigator is a foregone conclusion.
…but whatever your original intentions, you have become truly lost.
-Ducard (played by Liam Neeson)
Batman Begins (2005)
Is that me? Maybe. Or maybe it’s what I’m on my way to becoming. But according to my friend, it’s not too late. I can slow down the horse, so to speak, take stock of my surroundings, renew my connection to God, through the Bible, through meditation on His Word, through prayer, through sincere repentance. Like a watchman on the walls of the city at night, I rely on the Presence of God as I await the dawn, considering His mighty deeds, recalling Days of Old, meditating upon Him in my heart.
My voice rises to God, and I will cry aloud;
My voice rises to God, and He will hear me.
In the day of my trouble I sought the Lord;
In the night my hand was stretched out without weariness;
My soul refused to be comforted.
When I remember God, then I am disturbed;
When I sigh, then my spirit grows faint. Selah.
You have held my eyelids open;
I am so troubled that I cannot speak.
I have considered the days of old,
The years of long ago.
I will remember my song in the night;
I will meditate with my heart,
And my spirit ponders…
–Psalm 77:1-6 (NASB)
And my spirit ponders…as I cross the ford of the Jabbok and am left alone in the dark…waiting.