This Week: Feelings for God… Who’s your daddy now?.. When leadership changes… and much more!
DAY ONE – Psalms 81, 88, 92, 93
God has feelings. We are created ‘in His image,’ so we have feelings too. Our feelings are integrated with our thoughts and ideas. Our feelings, thoughts and ideas lead us to conclusions, from which we decide on a course of action. We are free to decide. And that is what makes us different… what makes mankind different from all other living things. We get to decide, to choose, whether we will live this way or that way; whether we will live here, or somewhere else; whether we will like that person, or not. God created mankind with feelings, thoughts and choices–His ‘image.’ In our readings today God’s feelings emerge with strong passion toward Israel, the nation He chose and loved well. His love was translated into a prescription for life, based on relationship. The Lord God instructed and admonished Israel on how to live in such a way as to guarantee a future and a hope. And He blessed Israel in that relationship with blessings above and beyond what sometimes even seemed reasonable. Israel’s response was often to choose lesser gods and be devoted to them, rejecting and insulting the God of their creation and salvation. Then God was passionate. Yes, sometimes He felt angry, sometimes sorry, yet always was He moved by love to restore Israel and lead her closer to His forgiving heart. And sometimes God was unsuccessful because Israel did NOT return His love, spurned His overtures, rejected His counsel. The relationship was broken, and even the God of all creation could not save those He loved.
Our readings today also include the passionate cry of those whose feelings reach deep lows and exulting highs–from cries of despair to praises and singing with reverence and joy. What’s interesting to me is that the low feelings always seem to be focused on the events and circumstances occurring in a person’s experience; while the high feelings find their expression in who God is, in what He has done, in the blessings He is pouring out from His own great store of character and creative love. Despair is rooted in the notion that God has forgotten, that He doesn’t care. But as soon as that thought gives way to the Lord’s eternal vigilance over His creation, to His unyielding love for His creation, thanksgiving and praises rise to fill the space of the worshipper. When God’s true and rightful place is acknowledged in this manner, the world is right again! When the Creator, the eternal God, fills my thoughts and feelings, EVERYTHING is okay. I’ll be all right. Now I know I can do this, and the Lord is with me… all the way.
DAY TWO – 1 Chronicles 6-9
Would it surprise you to know you can google your own name and likely discover yourself on the internet? Certain pertinent facts will be there which statistically identify you but probably don’t contain much interesting information! In some ways this is like the genealogies of the Bible–people’s names are included by family, sometime location, and sometimes activity; but they don’t say much about the person–who he was in real life, what he was like, what contribution he made in his generation. In fact, most of us won’t make the history books either, unless we have contributed significantly in a public role. So that cannot be what life is about–a name, a place, kids, the usual. No, each of us is much more than that. Created in God’s image, we are personally known and loved at some point in our life. Someone ‘begot’ us. Someone loved us. Someone reared us. Each of us would have to tell our own story to make any sense of the statistical facts of our life; for certainly life is more than where I was born and grew up; more than what vocation I pursued, if any. To know me you have to know me in my family, in my relationships, in my daily work, in my worldview. You have to know what I think and feel, how I treat people, what I have on my mind. I may be listed in my genealogy, but only eternity will reveal what value I was to my own generation.
The Bible reveals the value God places on you and me in no uncertain terms: John 3:16-17 For God so loved the world (Ray, that’s me), that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever (Ray, that’s me) believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life. 17 For God didn’t send his Son into the world to judge the world (Ray, that’s me), but that the world should be saved through him. Yahweh God clearly saw enough value in each of us that He sent Jesus Christ to give His life for every one of us, in order that we might be saved. Jesus’ life then, represents the value of my life! Knowing that the value of my own life is bound up in the value of Jesus’ life, I clearly want to know Jesus; I want to know Him as a person, to bind my life into His, to value myself as He values me. I am willing to give the rest of my life to this great endeavor, whether it makes me great in this world or not. I cannot wait to meet my Savior face to face, to personally fall before Him with thanksgiving. I want to know Him and make Him known to others. So today I am reading through this Bible one more time, even the genealogies!
DAY THREE – 2 Samuel 5:1-10, 1 Chronicles 11-12, Psalm 133
We can survive changes of leadership if we understand what is happening. King Saul lost his position because of unfaithful character; King David was chosen and anointed in his place. But Saul could not accept that, and he chose instead to pursue and persecute David, with intent to kill. In the meantime, Israel divided in their loyalties to the two men. But all was not lost; God was still at work. David had a small but loyal following, while Saul continued to command most of the nation. Then Saul and two of his sons died in battle, and David asked God what to do next. He then went up to Hebron where he was crowned by the tribes of Judah and Benjamin. For seven long years a war of attrition was fought by Saul’s followers, his kingdom slowly fading away. Finally elders from the ten northern tribes of Israel approached David and accepted his covenant to unite the kingdom again. Israel was back together, and David reigned as king for the next thirty-three years, bringing a lasting peace and vaulting Israel into a world power. In the process, notable and worthy men rose to the challenge and distinguished themselves in the new, united kingdom. This is the blessing that always results when God’s plans are being carried out.
We are insisting that understanding the word of God is really about understanding the heart of God. God always has a plan that is moving forward into and through history, to demonstrate his loving intention to save the world from itself! What do I mean by that? Left to itself, mankind reverts to ‘man-centered’ wisdom, philosophy and government. And that always leads down a path toward destruction, because we CANNOT save ourselves. We need a Savior, whom God supplied in His Son Jesus Christ. So to the extent that we recognize and cooperate with God’s plan to save the world, nations move forward successfully. To the extent that we reject and marginalize God’s plan with a view toward implementing our own plans, we run out of options and divide over the way to move forward. That is futility. According to Psalm 133, when the elders of Israel came together around God’s plan, it reunited the kingdom and led to generations of blessing–a blessing commanded by God Himself.
DAY FOUR – 2 Samuel 5:11-6:23; 1 Chronicles 13-16
These chapters signal a shift in protocols of worship. Years before, the Ark of the Covenant of God had been stolen by the Philistines during the battle in which King Saul died and had been removed to the temple of Dagon in a Philistine city. The terror the Ark caused among the Philistines caused them to sheepishly return it after only seven months’ capture, and it remained out of the way for all those years. David, now King David, decided to return the Ark–not to its place in Shiloh–but to a new location he had prepared in the city of David. His first attempt ended in disaster, Uzzah dying for touching the Ark. Angrily David returned home, only to discover through research that he had failed the protocol for moving the sacred relic. Three months later they tried again, this time with the priests carrying the Ark as originally prescribed, and they found success. But another element was added–singing, giving of thanks, dancing, and rabid celebration! David was so animated during the procession that his wife Michal despised the spectacle he made of himself. Unlike at the original Tent in the Wilderness, proceedings in the new location in David’s city brought a whole new genre of worship. The priests and Levites were appointed to serve the sacrifices as usual, but an entire cadre of singers and worshippers were commissioned and stationed around the clock to sing and give thanks to the Lord. New songs were written, new instruments were added, and fresh inspiration took hold of the hearts of the people. There was joy and peace in the land as David settled into his kingdom.
The older generations usually decry the sounds of worship coming from the younger ones. Songs and styles that brought comfort and joy to our hearts fade into memory as youthful enthusiasm finds its own voices of expression. A chorus that has been around about twenty years says, “I’m coming back to the heart of worship, and it’s all about You, it’s all about you, Lord…” The HEART of worship–that’s the key. Not the sound, but the heart. Worship protocols involve the whole person, and the soul–where dwells our feelings and thoughts–must engage if we are to explore the outer limits of our salvation experience. 1 Chronicles 16:9-11 (see also Psalm 105) Sing to him. Sing praises to him. Tell of all his marvelous works. 10 Glory in his holy name. Let the heart of those who seek Yahweh rejoice. 11 Seek Yahweh and his strength. Seek his face forever more. This song composed by David touches the heart of worship; it not only praises the Lord but announces His wonders and works to the next generation. Let this be the standard for our protocol.
DAY FIVE – Psalms 15, 23, 24, 25, 47
Is it outrageous to think we can know Yahweh God, our Creator? Is it presumptuous to believe we can be close to Him? David asks, “Yahweh, who may abide in Your tabernacle? Who may dwell in your holy hill?” (15:1) Again he asks, “Who may ascend into the hill of the Lord? Or who may stand in His holy place?” (24:3) You could bullet list the answers David gives in these two psalms, but what is the missing ingredient? He speaks of ethics, morality, good living and good attitudes. He talks about maintaining good relationships with good practices. And I do believe God takes all of these into account; but what is the missing ingredient? It all depends on what you mean by ‘good.’ A man once addressed Jesus as ‘Good Master.’ Jesus responded, “Why do you call me good? There is One who is good, and that is the Father in heaven.” Well, then, if Jesus holds that view, where does that leave me? Occasionally I like to give a humorous response to the question, “How are you?” And I say, “Compared to what?” It’s really hard to admit that, when we compare ourselves to God, things don’t look that good. So we go about the process of comparing ourselves to everything and everybody else to find our place of ‘goodness.’ Maybe that way we don’t look so bad. So what is the missing ingredient? It’s LIFE itself. Life–eternal life–is the gift Jesus came to secure in the world and give to all who will follow Him. Even if I live up to every good quality or character trait that David has mentioned in these songs, I will discover that I cannot live up to them fully! Something will always be missing, or I will be filled with angst, always wondering what else I can do.
I like to read these Psalms out loud as worship; and as prayer. David has given voice to almost every feeling and question I have had over the years. As I read them aloud, LIFE springs up in me through the Holy Spirit, given to the world by Jesus and His Father to help us find LIFE! It’s what keeps all my ‘efforts’ from turning into religion–which is nothing more than my attempt to impress or satisfy God with my efforts! God’s Word is filled with the life of Jesus, and as I recite these songs as prayers out loud, His life rises within me to bring assurance and hope. It works something like this:
- I follow Jesus–that is, I respond in my heart to His claims and guidance.
- Jesus gives me LIFE–that is, the eternal life He received in the resurrection by the Holy Spirit.
- God’s Words support this life I live, helping me as I devote myself to Him and His eternal kingdom.
My suggestion is that you say out loud some portion of scripture every day, so that you get used to hearing yourself affirm what God has said, back to your own psyche, and into your own spirit. Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is living and active, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and is able to discern the thoughts and intentions of the heart.