David writes, “In my distress I called upon the Lord; to my God I called. From his temple he heard my voice, and my cry came to his ears” (2 Samuel 22:7, ESV).
Time and time again, we see that God hears the cries of those who are hurting, helpless, and hopeless. Hearing is not a passive verb but rather implies that he listens to the requests, sees the need, and does something about it. God is never too far off. We are never too far away. He saves those who need saving. Hence, the Hebrew slaves who felt lost in Egypt…they needed a hero. So a burning bush interrupts Moses in the wilderness, anointed with a staff, and sent straight to the palace of the Pharoah.
And here we read of a king who has lost everything…to a rebellious son of all people. The very man who he should have been able to count on the most. After all, David was loyal to a corrupt king. How much more should his very family show allegience to a righteous one? He has nowhere to turn. A nation caught in the middle. But God heard. And brought about deliverance. Restoration. The Davidic covenant is able to live another day.
God hears us. God acts on our behalf. But do we hear God? Do we act on his behalf? Sure we hear him. But do we REALLY hear him? What am I doing to show that I hear him loud and clear?
I wonder if our culture is missing something. If our churches are missing something. If our bodies are missing something.
I don’t want to get into a theological debate. I am not necessarily interested, at the moment, in denominational debates. Jesus made it pretty clear – the Sabbath is for us and not the other way around. But don’t discount the fact that the Sabbath IS for us. A gift. One that we too often discount.
We are a fast-paced people. John Ortberg, the author of “The Life You’ve Always Wanted,” believes that rest is a step of faith. Going to bed every night is one way that we recognize that God is in control even when we are not conscious. Maybe going home from work every night is a way for us to express that our respective businesses can function without us? That we are not the answer to everyone’s problems.
So I am not saying that, by not observing the Sabbath, we are placing our salvation in Christ in jeopardy. Not at all. But I am saying that maybe we are putting our health at risk. Think about it. Maybe God gave us the Sabbath that we might be all that we were created to be. Maybe our Creator knows us better than we know ourselves. That we need a break every seven days. We need to disconnect. That we can do so much more by not doing so much once in a while. By doing so, we admit that we are not gods. That we need to refuel. Be replenished.
The Bible reads, “But if you listen to me, declares the Lord, and bring in no burden by the gates of this city on the Sabbath day, but keep the Sabbath day holy and do no work on it, then there shall enter by the gates of this city kings and princes who sit on the throne of David, riding in chariots and on horses, they and their officials, the men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem. And this city shall be inhabited forever. And people shall come from the cities of Judah and the places around Jerusalem, from the land of Benjamin, from the Shephelah, from the hill country, and from the Negeb, bringing burnt offerings and sacrifices, grain offerings and frankincense, and bringing thank offerings to the house of the Lord. But if you do not listen to me, to keep the Sabbath day holy, and not to bear a burden and enter by the gates of Jerusalem on the Sabbath day, then I will kindle a fire in its gates, and it shall devour the palaces of Jerusalem and shall not be quenched” (Jeremiah 17:19-23, ESV).
Could this apply to the business sector? Israel was commanded to even give land a rest every so often. To forgive debt. To free those who were enslaved to others. There is no record that they ever did any of this. I wonder what would have happened if they actually would have? How would families be effected if the employees did not have to work? If shoppers were not tempted to shop? If people were forced to rest? Play? Worship? If people just stopped…and life did not go on as usual?
And we as pastors should not fall into the trap of thinking that everything would just be better if people attended church once a week. It would, in some respects, but not in all areas. Attendance is not equal to rest. I am talking about people actually getting out of the routine and reconnecting to Christ. I am talking about pastors resting, too. Sundays do not fit that bill for many of them. They work. And work. And work. They think about the elements…what needs to happen, what needs to be said, what people think….They need to lead the way of rediscovering “re-creation.” Not apologizing for the fact that they are not always accessible, available, and active. That they do block off moments – hours, days, weeks, and even months – where they remove themselves from the busyness. Would the churches survive? If not, what does that really say about the community? Do we trust God enough NOT to do anything?
Pastor David continued our church’s Soul Print series this morning (based on Mark Batterson’s recent bestseller – http://justinfarley.blogspot.com/2010/12/print.html) by focusing on authentic humility.
The Bible reads, “As the ark of the Lord came into the city of David, Michal the daughter of Saul looked out of the window and saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord, and she despised him in her heart. And they brought in the ark of the Lord and set it in its place, inside the tent that David had pitched for it. And David offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before the Lord. And when David had finished offering the burnt offerings and the peace offerings, he blessed the people in the name of the Lord of hosts and distributed among all the people, the whole multitude of Israel, both men and women, a cake of bread, a portion of meat, and a cake of raisins to each one. Then all the people departed, each to his house” (2 Samuel 6:16-19, ESV).
This narrative makes me consider: How am I guilty of taking myself too seriously? Of thinking far too highly or far too often of myself? What would be my royal robe? What is it, outside of Christ, that I find my identity in? Has a gift become more important than the Giver? What great blessing is in danger of becoming a great curse?
Is it time for me to say…this is who I really am? Is it time to be who I am to be in Christ and do what I am to do in Christ…period. Regardless of the personal cost?
Check out Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove’s “God’s Economy: Redefining the Heath and Wealth Gospel.” In it he writes (concerning the Jim Crow Laws), “Looking back, it’s easy to see how this system was captive to the principalities and powers and needed to be interrupted. But I grew up going to church with Christian men and women who had defended segregation. They read their Bibles, loved their children, and could be generous – even to people unlike them. But they had a limited imagination in the 1960s. They couldn’t see then how the end of Jim Crow could mean anything other than death. It took the power of God and the disruption caused by the civil rights movement to make their blind eyes see” (56).
The Bible reads, “I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep” (John 10:14-15, ESV). I asked this question of myself about three years ago when I visited South Africa for the first time. How could Aparthied actually go on as long as it did? How could Christ followers stand by and allow it to be a reality – even encourage it? So now the question becomes . . . what injustice in our day will future generations look back on and ask, “How could they let that happen?” What can the church do today to bring life where there is only death . . . and no one seems to be doing anything about it?
I use to have a professor at Northwest University who would cry anytime she began talking about the Davidic Covenant. We just could not understand why she responded that way. Now I think I know. God deserves better. A tent did him no justice. And let;s be honest, neither would a temple. You just cannot read these words of Nathan without thinking of Immanuel . . . God With Us.
The Bible reads, “But that same night the word of the Lord came to Nathan, ‘Go and tell my servant David, Thus says the Lord: Would you build me a house to dwell in? I have not lived in a house since the day I brought up the people of Israel from Egypt to this day, but I have been moving about in a tent for my dwelling. In all places where I have moved with all the people of Israel, did I speak a word with any of the judges of Israel, whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, saying, Why have you not built me a house of cedar?’ Now, therefore, thus you shall say to my servant David, ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts, I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep, that you should be prince over my people Israel. And I have been with you wherever you went and have cut off all your enemies from before you. And I will make for you a great name, like the name of the great ones of the earth. And I will appoint a place for my people Israel and will plant them, so that they may dwell in their own place and be disturbed no more. And violent men shall afflict them no more, as formerly, from the time that I appointed judges over my people Israel. And I will give you rest from all your enemies. Moreover, the Lord declares to you that the Lord will make you a house. When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son. When he commits iniquity, I will discipline him with the rod of men, with the stripes of the sons of men, but my steadfast love will not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away from before you. And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever.’ In accordance with all these words, and in accordance with all this vision, Nathan spoke to David” (2 Samuel 7:4-17, ESV).
But I am beginning to wonder what God would say to us today . . . or is saying. Does he STILL deserve better? Would he say to us . . . stop trying to contain my Gospel, my Message, my Body, My Movement, My mission in a building. In a budget. In a ministry. In a doctrine or methodology. In a weekend gathering. In a denomination. A structure or strategy. My Spirit, the very Spirit who raised Christ from the dead, is in you . . . in YOU . . . “you” being plural . . . and has compelled you . . . and is propelling you . . . to Go. Scatter. Be the church. Every last one of you. My dwelling place is now your heart. Not in a tent. Not in a temple. Surely not in a sanctuary. Then, and only then, will his Kingdom come and his will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Most of have the sort of “righteousness” that keeps us from taking matters into our own hands. We refuse the temptation to seek revenge on those who have wronged us. We might even go as far as to forgive those individuals – to refuse our right to retribution. But that does not mean that when the “bad guy” finally gets it . . . that there is not a small part of us that takes a bit of satisfaction in the thought. After all, they got what they deserve.
The Bible reads, “Now the sons of Rimmon the Beerothite, Rechab and Baanah, set out, and about the heat of the day they came to the house of Ish-bosheth as he was taking his noonday rest. And they came into the midst of the house as if to get wheat, and they stabbed him in the stomach. Then Rechab and Baanah his brother escaped. When they came into the house, as he lay on his bed in his bedroom, they struck him and put him to death and beheaded him. They took his head and went by the way of the Arabah all night, and brought the head of Ish-bosheth to David at Hebron. And they said to the king, ‘Here is the head of Ish-bosheth, the son of Saul, your enemy, who sought your life. The Lord has avenged my lord the king this day on Saul and on his offspring.’ But David answered Rechab and Baanah his brother, the sons of Rimmon the Beerothite, ‘As the Lord lives, who has redeemed my life out of every adversity, when one told me, Behold, Saul is dead, and thought he was bringing good news, I seized him and killed him at Ziklag, which was the reward I gave him for his news. How much more, when wicked men have killed a righteous man in his own house on his bed, shall I not now require his blood at your hand and destroy you from the earth?’ And David commanded his young men, and they killed them and cut off their hands and feet and hanged them beside the pool at Hebron. But they took the head of Ish-bosheth and buried it in the tomb of Abner at Hebron” (2 Samuel 4:5-12, ESV).
This makes me think of movie after movie after movie that I have watched . . . where the story is just not complete until the villain finally is killed. I wonder if this sort of poetic “justice” numbs me to the fact of death altogether? After all, this was not the way of God’s Anointed. David did not rejoice at the death of his enemy. Even his enemy.