I love the old testament. It is full of people who really failed a lot and only rarely really got it right. Even Abraham fell asleep when he was meant to cut covenant with God. That’s kind of an important appointment… yet we are so slacky with our quiet time. Gideon was a bit of a coward and asked God for a million confirmations, but God called him brave and He calls us new and look at what we do with our faith. Samson has a temper and a soft-spot for the ladies, and ended up throwing away God’s promises. Even Elijah ran away from Jezebel after one of the most spectacular showcases of God’s might. They are people like us. How soon we desire the world like Samson – even though we have eternal promises? How many times do we doubt? How many times do we question? How quickly we become intimidated.
This psalm really threw me:
Psalm 131New King James Version (NKJV)
Simple Trust in the Lord
A Song of Ascents. Of David.
131 Lord, my heart is not haughty,
Nor my eyes lofty.
Neither do I concern myself with great matters,
Nor with things too profound for me.
2 Surely I have calmed and quieted my soul,
Like a weaned child with his mother;
Like a weaned child is my soul within me.
3 O Israel, hope in the Lord
From this time forth and forever.
I couldn’t understand the image of a weaned child… I mean, we are supposed to be in connection with God. Surely a child at his mother’s breast is a better image to illustrate simple trust. I thought about it and realised that it’s easy for a suckling baby to trust his mother. He is close to her and can hear her heartbeat and feel the warmth of her body. The trust of a weaned child is that of a relationship where the trust has already been established and no longer needs proof. It’s the trust of knowing in the absence of proof. It’s the kind of trust I talk about but I don’t live.
So I’m saving my favourite old testament anti-hero for last:
Jonah 4:5-11New King James Version (NKJV)
5 So Jonah went out of the city and sat on the east side of the city. There he made himself a shelter and sat under it in the shade, till he might see what would become of the city. 6 And the Lord God prepared a plant[a] and made it come up over Jonah, that it might be shade for his head to deliver him from his misery. So Jonah was very grateful for the plant. 7 But as morning dawned the next day God prepared a worm, and it so damaged the plant that it withered. 8 And it happened, when the sun arose, that God prepared a vehement east wind; and the sun beat on Jonah’s head, so that he grew faint. Then he wished death for himself, and said, “It is better for me to die than to live.”
9 Then God said to Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry about the plant?”
And he said, “It is right for me to be angry, even to death!”
10 But the Lord said, “You have had pity on the plant for which you have not labored, nor made it grow, which came up in a night and perished in a night. 11 And should I not pity Nineveh, that great city, in which are more than one hundred and twenty thousand persons who cannot discern between their right hand and their left—and much livestock?”
Notice how huffy Jonah gets with God? I’m so tempted to judge him, but I’ve been there too. In the end, I realise that my heart is loveless too. It can feel my own discomfort quickly and then feel deep unrighteousness, but am I willing to stand up for unrighteousness? No, because it collides with my plans and my desire for comfort and constant reassurance.
I see the disasters that happen to Jonah as God’s hand scooping him back to God’s plan. So many times the disasters in my life have been the things that saved me. This week we were meant to ponder the names of God and how we experience him in our lives and I recalled that God’s names pertain to Salvation, Blessing and His presence. I have learnt of God’s Salvation, I have seen His Blessing, but I’m so slow to cherish His Presence, which is our exceedingly great reward. How His Salvation and His Blessing serve as ways to scoop us closer. None of the Biblical Heroes achieved anything other than faith and obedience (which God grew in them anyway). God did all the Hero-ing despite their failure and their pain until His Glory bloomed through their and our imperfection and we discover that even the aroma of His Presence or even a glance from his eyes is life itself.