What Do We Do With A False Sense Of Security?
The Story of Adrian Plass–
I want to begin this post with a story of a church youth worker–it could be any dedicated Christian worker involved in ministry:
A youth worker had been involved for years of zealous ministry, burning both ends of the candle in the needs of inner-city youth and he “burnt out”. He had a complete emotional breakdown, became so depressed, he was admitted to a psychiatric ward to recover.
During his stay he started to keep a diary as part of therapy in reflecting on his past life and present. At a certain time, he felt prompted by the Holy Spirit to seek out a certain man of God who lived in another city. He made an appointment with the man and traveled there.
This man of God sat down with him to pray, then he paused in listening prayer, “God has shown me a picture of a field overrun with weeds, thorns and brambles. THIS FIELD REPRESENTS YOUR LIFE.”
This burnt out young man thought, “Oh that’s great! That’s my life alright. Nothing but weeds. That’s how God sees my life…a useless wasteland.”
A STUDY IN 1 KINGS 8:
Some Questions before the journey begins–
— Have you been perplexed and disillusioned, or even now, experiencing these feelings, of “being in the weeds”?
— Are you disappointed at God in the midst of pain and suffering?
— Are you thinking or have thought God is punishing you for something in your past?
Disappointed, Perplexed and Disillusioned?
You are not alone if you are asking yourself questions. We have all, at one time or another, been stuck with the WHY’S...why is this happening to me? I’ve read in my Bible almost every day–I go to church, even when I don’t feel like it–I pray and do good to others–so WHY NOW LORD?
An important exercise to begin–
Reflecting, remembering and looking back over your life can sometimes be trying–making sense of how you started with the promises, the dreams and ideals that God gave you. Maybe you tried to make sense of God’s promises in your given given situation, trying to remember how God revealed Himself, in light of where He was clearly leading in His promises. So what went wrong along the way?
The Journey Begins–THE BIBLICAL BACKGROUND FIRST:
The referenced story in The First Book Of Kings, is written by someone who asked himself and his people the same question: WHAT WENT WRONG?
They’re in EXILE looking back at their history, trying to make sense of where they find themselves.
Jerusalem, their Holy City, has been ransacked and in ruin. Their Temple has been destroyed by foreign powers, they’ve all been taken captive, including the former King (David’s descendant) and now they are living in a foreign land with resident aliens. This was oppression of an empire, who usually was not sympathetic to them, their values or their God.
AND NOW… they were trying to think back where God made some important promises of enduring Kingship of David’s descendants, a Temple that was to be the center of worship; where God’s name and Presence remain forever.
Background of The Temple–
DAVID wanted to build GOD a Temple worthy of worshiping Him. Instead, God promised him a legacy of an enduring house or Kingly dynasty.
GOD also told DAVID that his son would build the Temple. So David spent many years preparing for that glorious day, collecting materials and articles for this Temple to be.
Solomon comes to the throne–
In the midst of struggle, who among David’s sons would become King? The aging King David (with God’s prompting), selects Solomon. Solomon starts construction in the 4th year of his reign and it takes 7 1/2 years and thousands of laborers/artisans to complete the task; including being completely covered…in costly gold.
THE PASSAGE (1 Kings 8):
Finally finishing the task, King Solomon calls all of Israel’s leaders and ‘common folk‘ to join in celebration of the big national Autumn Feast of Tabernacles and the dedication of the Temple; asking God’s Presence to dwell with His people–symbolized especially by bringing up of the Ark of the Covenant–representing God’s Sinai covenant given with the Law to Moses (the Torah) to all the people delivered from Egyptian slavery.
This day was one of the most glorious days in the History of Israel. The people finally have peace (David had conquered ALL their enemies in his 40 years of reign)…and, they had a consolidated kingdom with the pinnacle of success, power, wealth, and international renown.
First, the qualities of God–
Let’s look together at some qualities shown about God in this passage of Scripture. I hope you have your Bible close by so we can look together.
Wrong images of and misbeliefs about God keep us from God presence, because FEAR CASTS OUT LOVE!
1. GOD’S TRANSCENDENCE.
I used my ROGET’S THESAURUS for the above ‘fancy word’. It means, God is way beyond us with all His qualities and attributes–ALL- KNOWING, ALL-POWERFUL, MAJESTIC, way beyond our limited understanding to grasp Him and who He is. That said, in the time of the Old Testament, the acceptable means of worshiping was in sacrificing animals by fire. The “how big” and “how much” to offer, was in order to express and give a sense of how powerful you imagined this Great God to be and what He is worth.
“King Solomon and all the congregation of Israel who had assembled before him were with him before the ark, sacrificing sheep and oxen, so many that they could not be reported or counted” (1 Kings 8:5 AMP).
How much did it cost them in money and time to worship God? How costly is our worship?
A Heavy Impenetrable Cloud and the Bright Shining Glory Filled the Temple–
God’s presence filled the house so much that the ministering priests could not enter to do any work (1 Kings 8:10-11). In a parallel passage in 2 Chronicles 7:1-3 says, that after Solomon prayed, fire came down from heaven and consumed the offering and sacrifices.
How would you feel about God in your next week’s worship service or after your prayer time at home, God sent fire down in front of your eyes?
WHEN SOLOMON had finished praying, the fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the Lord had filled the Lord’s house. The priests could not enter the house of the Lord, because the glory of the Lord had filled the Lord’s house. And when all the people of Israel saw how the fire came down and the glory of the Lord upon the house, they bowed with their faces upon the pavement and worshiped and praised the Lord saying, For He is good, for His mercy and loving-kindness endure forever” (2 Chronicles 7:1-3).
I highlighted the people’s words, for the purpose of remembering in life’s journey, while…IN THE MIDST–Disappointed, Perplexed and Disillusioned. HOLD THAT THOUGHT.
One way of becoming complacent in our lives–in the midst–is when we lose our reverence for God. Can you bring to mind right now, specific times that moved you deeply in beauty and awe of wonderment over God and His works? The bible says the natural created world and the heavens, declare and reveal the glory of the Creator–give revelation of His splendor of His character (Psalm 19:11; 5:11; 108:5; Isaiah 6:3; Romans 1:20).
One Starry Night…
Several years ago, my wife and I celebrated our Wedding Anniversary at a B & B (bed and breakfast inn) in Leavenworth, Washington USA. After dinner in town, we drove back to this wonderful re-created Swiss Chalet, and when we got out of the car, Dianne said Look up into the sky and see what an awesome God we have.
In the night sky, looking up was millions of stars, galaxies…millions of light years away…in a vast Universe. Maybe sometimes, we have lost sight of the awesomeness of God…who cannot be contained because we have so timed and domesticated our view of God. Maybe we have lost our wonderment along the journey–in the midst of disappointments, perplexities and disillusionment’s. Just maybe we need to ask God to help us to recover this wonderment. Only when we realize God’s grandeur, do we realize the tremendous sacrifice He made to stoop to care about us in His vast Universe. Do we think we can control or domesticate this awesome God, put Him into our own boxes; try to manipulate Him in our agendas, in our timing as if He had to do our bidding?
THE SCENE OF WORSHIP:
It’s hard to believe from that scene of worship presented in 1 Kings, that Solomon and God’s people would so deteriorate into that very same thing I just mentioned.
In Jeremiah, the people eroded to an illusion because they had the Temple; that their salvation was secure and God was somehow bound to bless them–keep them safe–nothing bad would happen–no matter what their behavior was.
The PRIDE of Being Chosen…
In the Hebrew, there are several words mentioned for the English word PRIDE. One in particular is the Hebrew word ga’on: “arrogance, presumptuousness, haughtiness, conceit.”
There were several reasons the Israelites would give us if we were there for their PRIDE:
— Having the ‘Golden Temple’.
— God’s Presence.
— Kingdom power.
— Well Fed.
The people had been lulled into falsely thinking that ALL WAS WELL. This was their False Security–they took all of God’s blessings and God for granted as a given–that could be demanded as a right.
WHAT IS OUR “FALSE SECURITY” IN THE MIDST?
Ronald Rolheiser in “The Shattered Lantern” states:
“To be a saint [or one of God’s people] is to be motivated by GRATITUDE, nothing more and nothing less. In the end gratitude is the root of all virtue. It lies at the base of love and charity… Essentially the condition is this: God tells Adam and Eve that they may receive life as a gift but they may never take life as if it were theirs by right…as long as you continue to receive and respect reality as gift, it will continue to give you life and goodness. Conversely, as soon as you attempt actively to seize it, life will decrease and there will be shame, loss harmony, pain, death and loss of proper connection with God…LOVE can only be received as a gift.”
This mysterious God is GOD…
High above us, so Holy, He will not be domesticated with our agendas. He wants us to RESPOND to Him, not with fear and distance, but in GRATITUDE and LOVE.
A Dog and Lion Story…
Years ago, I was an owner of an English Mastiff dog. A dog at adulthood, who weighed 210 pounds and stood at 34 inches at his shoulders. In coming up with a good name for him, I found in a dog breed book on English Mastiffs, that ‘as a Lion was to the cat family…English Mastiffs were to the dog family’. So we named him ASLAN. If you are acquainted with C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia, you get the picture.
GOD is like the Lion, ASLAN: the King of all Beasts. He is not tame but He is good!
“The Lord is gracious, and full of compassion; slow to anger, and of great mercy. The Lord is GOOD TO ALL: and His tender mercies are over all his works” (Psalm 145).
God’s MERCY is “over all His works”! Everything He does is based on mercy. When He heals you, it’s because of His mercy. When He gives you the finances to pay a bill, it is because of mercy. Even your salvation–the act of being born again–is based on mercy. The apostle Paul said it this way:
For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:8, 9 KJV).
God’s character shows His goodness, but do we believe God cares that we can approach Him and actually have intimacy with Him? God’s presence in creation doesn’t mean that He winds up creation like a watch and then sits back to watch it run.
I will continue this series in PART TWO…GOD’S IMMANENCE.