You know, as much as I love to read and study the writings of the Old Testament prophets and psalmists, I have come to realize that they had to wrestle and fight over the same problems of evil in a Universe that is both divine and natural, but it seems that their approach was a “whole bunch” more direct than ours. It is hard to explain, but in many ways they never had difficulty combining our God and His natural world. Especially when you read the Prophets. They were able to see Yahweh while the winds howled and heard Him in the midst of a storm or a burning furnace. He approached them in burning bushes and spoke through their animals. Go figure. But in all of these things, they never hesitated to talk about it!
They seemed to experience an immediate apprehension of the divine, in their lives, where everything in heaven and on earth assured them that this is the world Yahweh created and has complete control of. Yet, in our lives we only wonder and hope that things will work out. We worry about the next meal we will eat, and whether we can afford the next payment of our three automobiles.
Think about the events in Job’s life. Everybody wants to criticize him. Some feel he was self-righteous, and lacked faith. Others judge him for having a defeatist attitude, as he whined and complained about his problems. Some even charge that he did not “have any faith,” because if he did, he would never have suffered as he did. Yet, the Scriptures tell us that it was because of his faith that all those things occurred in his life. The Lord had already declared there was “no one on earth like him; . . . blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.” I don’t know, but that sounds like a pretty reliable judgment to make! I can say that because all of us know that “without faith it is impossible to please God!”
What amazes me about Job’ story is that worship was his initial response; it is a spontaneous reaction to tragedy that simply welled up out of his heart! I’ll be honest with you, that type of response is foreign to most of us. If we face similar circumstances, worship does not come to most of us naturally or spontaneously! In fact, most of us won’t respond like that because it is a practiced response, it is the fruit of a long faith and discipline. Job could never have reacted as he did unless he had been practicing for this moment all his life.
I still wonder if we would have fallen on our knees and worshiped the Lord. I know some who waiver and are ready to renounce the Lord if their BMW stalls on the highway! They feel that they are going through great testing because they do not have enough money to pay their monthly bill for their cable TV and are angry with the Lord because they cannot afford a microwave oven! Dear God! There are millions of people who cannot even afford one meal a week, let alone the luxury of watching MTV or I Love Lucy reruns!
Tell me. Know don’t. But ask yourself how much of a storm it will take to make you fall? Job lost everything and still worshiped the Lord! Not only that, he did not have the insight as to the accusations made by Satan concerning his integrity. He had no idea he was being put to the test. All he could feel was the pain in the aftermath of the attack.
If you read Job’s story, did you ever notice the attitude of heart in which words of worship were offered? In the midst of this turmoil and grief, I realize he did not continually have a peaceful spirit nor was he filled with some kind of spiritual joy. No, no. He was as broken and cast down as a man could be. Granted, he apparently had the presence of mind to shear off all his hair and then take a straight razor and drag it across his scalp (no easy task, I can imagine). However, if Job’s hand was uncannily steady, it certainly was not from being cool and collected. Rather, It was from being in a state of shock.
But let me ask you. Can true worship really happen when our heart is broken and our mind is shocked and dulled with horror? Is there any place in worship for bitter tears and wailing? I mean, eve Job groaned, “May the day of my birth perish.” Did his worship end at that point? Did self-pity overpower him? Ooh, on the other hand, is groaning a part of worship too? Hmmm?
Picture Jesus’ mother Mary, at the foot of the cross. Was it a sweet and mystical experience for her to stand there and watch her son die? I mean, sure, years later, when she looked back on the day, she might have had more tender feelings. However, at the time, it must have been hellish! Friends, I will be very frank and honest with you. When we come into direct contact with the Cross, that is how it will be for us, especially if we apply that daily in our lives. It is marvelous to meditate on the cross and to be flooded with peace and joy. Because that is the Holy Spirit showing us the effects of the cross; but it is not the cross itself. It is wonderful to be filled with mystical rapture at the thought of Calvary. My question, though, is how will it be for us the moment the rough wood touches our flesh and the nail bites our skin? Real worship has less to do with offering sacrifices than being a sacrifice. Isn’t that what Paul directed us do: “Present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, for this is your spiritual worship.”
I heard a story about a preacher being called to the bedside of an older woman, who was dying. He said he was frightened; but the old saintly was radiantly happy! When he tried to express the sorrow he felt about her illness, she would have nothing of it. “Why, God bless you young man,” she is reported as cheerfully saying, “there is nothing to be scared about. I am just going to cross over Jordan, where my Father owns the land on both sides of the river!” Brother and sisters, friends, she understood about the unity of all things in God’s creation!
Paul understood this when he cried, “Death, where is your victory? Death, where is your sting? . . . Thank God that he gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!” (I Corinthians 15:55, 57). My wife and I know, as difficult as it is to admit, that her dad may not be alive for another 40 years or so, but he knows and fully understands that there are so many things our God has made that draw our attention back to His divine and gracious will toward us, and he possesses such a calm assurance of that. I am quite impressed with my father-in-law. His faith may not be tearing down Kingdoms and shattering the windows of evil, but it is indeed very simple and sincere!
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With these Morning Messages, I take you on guided tours to, as Bunyan described, the Celestial City. At times we linger at corners familiar and unseen. And explore the depths of our faith along the way.
The trail is long, but there’s no hurry. Though we do need to stock up on supplies for the way, and that’s where I need your help. If you enjoy these messages, please consider becoming a contributing member of this tour group. It will be very much appreciated.