Saturday, January 06, 2018

A Late New Year’s Thought

I’ve always been kind of a non-conformist. Can’t post a New Year’s thought on New Year’s. Almost didn’t post one at all. You may have noticed IC usually writes almost all the seasonal posts here. If something’s expected, I have real difficulty delivering.

I just don’t much like marching in lockstep or following the crowd. If I find myself surrounded on my way from Point A to Point B, my first question is “Where are we going and why are we going there?” My second question is “Who’s leading us?” by which I really mean, “Does this person have even the foggiest notion what he’s doing?”

That wariness is a product of having followed a bunch of people who, well … didn’t.

Oddly enough, despite my natural inclinations, there is one area of life in which I’m slowly learning to go with the flow without a whole lot of annoying queries. Because when the right Person is leading the procession, there’s no reason to ever worry where we’re going to end up.

Over and over again in Psalm 68, David pictures God leading his people.

Prisoners to Prosperity

The first reference is very personal. The same God who vanquishes and scatters the armies of his enemies with ease throughout the rest of the psalm is occupied first and foremost with the needs of his own. He is the “Father of the fatherless and protector of widows” even while still enthroned in his holy habitation. He is not so occupied with affairs of state that he cannot see the little guy suffering. In fact, this seems to be his first priority.

So David can say:
He leads out the prisoners to prosperity …”
God cares about the lonely. He “settles the solitary in a home”. And the prisoners he leads out to prosperity.

He is still doing that today. We know it because we see the “ex-prisoners” coming into our churches, freed from slavery to all kinds of evils. At Christmas, my brother shared a couple of remarkable stories of prisoners he knew being delivered, one woman so enslaved to substance abuse that her husband took her to the emergency room in despair, crying out to a God he wasn’t even sure existed for help for his wife. He (and later she) found there a Father of the fatherless who has led them out to emotional and spiritual prosperity and settled them in a home.

Remarkable. And absolutely typical of a God who leads.

Through the Wilderness

The second reference takes us back into Israel’s history. A nation is freed from slavery in Egypt and offered the prospect of a land of milk and honey. But when they go out into the wilderness, they do not go alone. God is at their head:
“O God, when you went out before your people, when you marched through the wilderness …”
He led them out into the wilderness toward a dwelling of their own and the spoil of the land, and despite their repeated sin and rebellion, whenever they have repented he has led them right back to the place of blessing.

Israel’s history and its prophesied future stand for us as evidence of God’s ability to take the most obstinate and useless people and make something of them. If he could do this for some obscure middle-eastern nation nobody would otherwise have ever heard of, he can certainly do it for you and me, notwithstanding our failures and moments of doubt.

A Host of Captives in His Train

The third reference to God’s leading is specifically Christian, probably not so much in its original context, but certainly in its application:
“You ascended on high, leading a host of captives in your train.”
The apostle Paul appropriates this image to great effect in his letter to the Christians at Ephesus. He’s saying there that one of the consequences of Christ’s work on earth and his subsequent ascension into glory is that he led a host of captives out with him.

Here we find that the captives are not merely turned loose into a place of blessing to enjoy themselves like a dog running aimlessly around the back yard. He has also equipped these former captives for service. He “gave gifts to men”. Part of the process of moving toward the filling of “all things” with his own glory is that he fills us with it right now, giving us the tools we need to show forth the praise of his glory in this life, and to equip others to enjoy the same meaningful life we do.

In fact, he gave a spiritual gift to you. Are you using it to equip the saints for works of service and build up the Body of Christ, to help others grow to maturity in their new life? If you’re not, January would be a good month to start.

Into the Sanctuary

The fourth and final reference to leading is related to worship:
“Your procession is seen, O God, the procession of my God, my King, into the sanctuary.”
Singers, musicians, virgins and princes — the “great congregation” — all proceed into the sanctuary. This is the intended destination, and it’s not some groveling, knee-wearing supplication of a distant deity. God’s procession is playing tambourines and rejoicing. The Father seeks worshipers.

David had something awfully right in mind when he danced before the ark of God. Worship is not some onerous task we drag ourselves out of bed for weekly or monthly, but a joyous celebration of deliverance and of the One who delivered us. The believer who does not “get” worship does not get very much about the Christian life at all.

And in worship, as in all facets of life, it is God who leads.

Letting Him Lead

So are we letting him? Our job is to hear the Lord’s words and do them in every area of our lives. It is only in doing them that we are established: “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you?” Following faithfully along behind him is sort of implicit in the word “Lord”, isn’t it?

And isn’t it amazing that he even gives us the option? He sure doesn’t have to.

Human responsibility is a very real thing, notwithstanding the teaching we get in some Christian circles. Perhaps that’s why far too many people in our churches today have made a public confession of faith in Christ and then have not really gone anywhere at all. Some are sitting at home watching the occasional Christian message on YouTube, not really sure what to do next. Some are sitting weekly in the pews of churches where they are not being effectively taught what they are supposed to be doing and have little opportunity in a church context to either worship or serve. Then there are some of us who are in happy fellowship with a group of growing believers, getting lots of spiritual food … and yet are simply not doing very much with it. We still think serving and worshiping are jobs for others.

God leads. That’s what he does, all through history and all through the years of our lives.

So in 2018, are we going to let him REALLY lead us? If not, we’re probably not headed anywhere good.

1 comment :

  1. Just as with the apostle Paul God will sometimes select leaders from unlikely sources. Here is an example of someone who eventually recognized that abortion and God do not mix and now leads to change hearts and minds.