I sometimes have difficulty reconciling the God of the Old Testament, with the God I know. I’ve just read about this horrible string of events in Samuel:
Israel was defeated in battle
The Ark of the Lord was captured by the Philistines
Eli the priest and his two sons died.
The Philistine god Dagon was found bowing and broken before the Ark
They were tormented with tumours and ‘the Lord’s hand was heavy upon them.’
Cities were thrown into panic and they decided to send the Ark back.
On its return to Israel, seventy men were killed when they looked into the Ark.
Imagine the people’s fear as they said ‘Who can stand in the presence of the Lord, this holy God? To whom will the ark go up to from here?’
I was meditating on this question as I turned my music on and was captivated by these words:
“Before the Throne of God above, I have a strong and perfect plea, a great High Priest whose name is love, who ever lives and pleads for me… I know that while in Heaven He stands, no tongue can bid me thence depart.”
The fearsome God of Israel is no less the God of today, but while nations trembled and many died in his presence, we are invited into his very Throne room finding no condemnation, only grace.
The contrast is dramatic. How radically has Jesus Christ transformed the way we may relate to God!
I was recently in Las Vegas. I had low expectations of glitzy facades attempting to cover seedy bars and casinos, and filthy streets; I wasn’t expecting to love it.
But love it I did. It was fabulous: glitter and glamour, bright lights and creativity and a central strip that never sleeps. It was like a giant, adult carnival, and the seediness, while certainly present, wasn’t as overt as I’d feared. I remember walking down the strip one night, past the extraordinary fountains of the Bellagio and the soaring spire of the Eiffel Tower and thinking that human creativity had outdone itself. Here in Vegas, was everything that man had to offer.
Two days later, I drove out of Vegas and went to the Grand Canyon. The contrast was immense. Not just in size and in grandeur, but in heart. In Vegas, human creativity was at its peak, at the Canyon, we caught a glimpse of God’s. And it won, hands down.
The next day we were in Monument Valley, and we rode through the desert on horseback. The silence was overwhelming. The monuments rose, towering trough the frigid air. They were so sure of themselves. Their majesty did not need the adornment of bright lights, or the lure of naked women. They didn’t care whether people came to look at them or not. They reflected the glory of their creator, and they will likely stand in worship of him, long after Vegas falls.
One of the guys at our Church, Carl Robinson, preached a cracker of a sermon last night. He has a real heart for loving people and, at the end, during the closing song, I found myself thinking: ‘I really rate that guy.’
Suddenly I felt God speak to me in a surprising way: “It’s not Carl.” With that revelation, I got more clarity about godly speakers than I have, perhaps, ever had before. Instead of just seeing Carl, I saw Jesus.
That heart for people? That was Jesus. The compassion for the broken? Jesus again. The Gospel that changes people? That’s Jesus. The ability to speak with passion and conviction? Even that is Jesus working through a man to show love to his people.
How quick I was to glorify Carl and forget Jesus. I saw Jesus more clearly last night and he used his servant Carl, but all the great bits? They were Jesus, not Carl.
Next time you are inspired by a great Christian, remember that the glory you see belongs to Jesus.
I doubt there is any sin more prevalent in the hearts of fallen humanity, nor one so destructive than that of pride.
In fact, the other day, I began to wonder whether there was any person more useless to God than the one whose heart is consumed with pride.
I doubt there is.
I know for myself that when I am focused on my own importance, on building my own kingdom in which I reign supremely as queen, I am about as useless to God and His Kingdom as I can be.
For the Christian who is genuinely focused ahead on the glory of heaven, one thing that should be most frightening is that we may get there, only to look back and discover that we spent our lives being largely useless to God.
As I reflected on this, I began to see, with joy, that God is in the business of destroying pride. In fact, as I look back on the greatest trials I have faced, I can see that God was using them to slowly chip away at this barrier that stands in the way of me being used for noble purposes.
It has made me realize that I should rejoice in any situation that causes my pride to be crucified. For it is in those moments of humility before the Lord, that He can use me for greater glories than I would ever be able to achieve on my own.