“Watching & Waiting” Meditations: 10. No Pressure
Rev 8:3 “He was given much incense to offer, with the prayers of all God’s people, on the golden altar in front of the throne.”
Sometimes in our watching and waiting, as we utter prayers hoping we are on target, we may wonder, “Am I on right track?” What is fascinating about this verse is that it doesn’t say “all the right prayers of God’s people”, just “all the prayers.” Now the thing about incense throughout the Old Testament, is that it is burnt to please God, so incense AND prayers being offered means that ALL of our prayers (at least uttered meaningfully from open hearts) are a blessing to God and please God. As our loving heavenly Father He just loves to hear His kids pouring out their hopes and dreams to Him, so don’t get too stressed about whether they are right or wrong. We will consider in the next study how we may seek to ensure our prayers are more ‘on target’ but for the moment I want us to just focus on this sense of being God’s children.
When I have observed the travels of the children of Israel from Egypt to the Promised Land of Canaan, I have noticed that there were two parts to their journey. Part one was leaving Egypt, escaping through the Red Sea and then making their way round the Sinai peninsula along what might have been a familiar route for Moses because it was an area that had mines in it, worked by the Egyptians, and he might well have visited them in his time in the first forty years of his life as prince of Egypt, and he almost certainly would have gone that way when he had originally escaped from Egypt forty years earlier before ending up in Midian. The first half of the journey thus took them to Mount Sinai where Moses had originally met with God and where God inferred he would come back to. (Ex 3:12) Now here is the thing I noted about that part of the journey: the Israelites grumbled and complained and all God did was provide for them. It was as if He realised they were having to learn about Him and were like little children in respect of their heavenly Father, so He treated them very leniently, very gently.
The next phase of the journey involved a stop-off at Mount Sinai where they had amazing revelations of God, received the Law from Him, and entered into covenant with Him. When they left Mount Sinai on the last leg of their journey north to Canaan, it was very different. When they complained and grumbled, they were disciplined. Why the difference? They were no longer ‘little children’, they had grown up in terms of experience of God.
On the first leg they simply had their knowledge of God through what had been passed on to them down the generations from the patriarchs and then, almost at a distance, their experience of God bringing the ten plagues on Egypt (which largely missed them) and then His deliverance out of Pharaoh’s hands as God led them through the Red Sea. On the first leg, they experienced His provision for them of food and water. Now on the last leg, they have all that plus the knowledge and experiences of God that they have had at the mountain, and they have agreed to be His people who would obey Him – and that at least twice. So now they can be considered ‘grown up’ and thus when difficulties occur, God expects them to simply ask Him for help, via Moses, not complain. God disciplines those He loves (Heb 12:4-13) because not only does He want to teach them how to live as His children, but He wants to train them to carry on ‘His business’. We’ll see more of that tomorrow.
But before all that happens God wants us to realize what it means to be His little children. In an earlier study we quoted, “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.” (Lk 12:32) The fact that they were, his disciples, a ‘little flock’ reminds us there weren’t many of them yet, but also it has the implication of immaturity, of them being in their early days of being disciples. It is probably that reason that accounts for the fact that Jesus put up with Peter opening his mouth only to change feet, James and John talking about calling down fire on those who were not with them, and all the while knowing that one of those days they would all abandon him and Peter would even deny him three times. It was early days and Jesus understood that. After his death, resurrection and ascension, and the coming of the Spirit at Pentecost, it was a different thing all together! Ananias and Saphira found themselves on a quick track to heaven, as did some of the Corinthians (1 Cor 11:30). When revival comes and God is moving more openly and powerfully, understand that discipline is also meted out more powerfully and openly. And so? So if we are in our early days of seeking to watch and wait for God, put aside all fears for your rambling prayers and stumbling faith, God knows and God understands and delights in His children. Yes, He wants us to grow up as we’ll see next, but in the meantime enjoy the privilege of being a small child with a loving heavenly Father. Amen? Amen!