9. Encouragement

Meditations in the life of Abraham : 9. Expectancy & Encouragement

Gen 12:6,7  Abram travelled through the land as far as the site of the great tree of Moreh at Shechem. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. The LORD appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.”

Abram has entered the land; he has done what he believed the Lord had told him to do, so now what? If in doubt, keep moving, so he travels on southwards through the land until he arrived at Shechem where there was a great oak (see 35:4). Now such a feature usually meant it was a shrine or some sort of special worship place. That may be why we are immediately told that this time in history was when the Canaanites were still in the land; it was a Canaanite sacred place of worship. Now they became known for their pagan and idolatrous practices and so it is quite possible that Shechem, and especially this great tree, was a recognized central pagan worship place at the time. Now for Abram, coming from an idol-worshipping culture, this would not have been that strange, but quite an ordinary place.

Now, in the light of what is about to happen, it takes us back to Abram first having heard the Lord, and we might wonder when that actually happened and even more, where it happened, for if we are right and this is a pagan place of worship, Abram is about to hear God there, and one wonders if the Lord spoke to him previously at some other pagan worship place?  Now bear in mind that idols are just lumps of wood and, indeed, this oak tree is just an oak tree. It is only superstitious minds that are open to Satan’s deceptions at such places. But it may be that this was a place where Abram would expect to hear the Lord, and so it is rather like a modern computer user going to a cyber café to use the internet. If this is so, it would be quite natural that Abram, having entered the Land, would now be looking for further guidance as if to say, “What now, Lord?”

If this is so, and I believe it is, then it sets us thinking about the way people use things or places to raise their spiritual expectations. Now without doubt this does happen. The Eastern Orthodox Church uses icons to focus their worship. The Catholic Church uses the Stations of the Cross. Very often old church buildings convey a sense of the holy, possibly through years of prayer there. For us individually we may have places where we have had special encounters with the Lord and we may return there with high expectations of encountering Him similarly again. Thus it may be that it is no accident that the Lord waits until Abram reaches Shechem before He speaks to him, for the other half of speaking is hearing and in spiritual terms sometimes that depends on our expectancy.

Which raises a question: how does your expectancy of hearing the Lord vary? Is it limited to Sunday mornings, or do you have an expectation that in your ‘quiet time’ (if you have such a thing) you will hear Him?  Or do you have the understanding that actually the Lord is everywhere and therefore it is possible for you to be open to Him anywhere?  That is easy to suggest but needs some working on to become a reality. I confess I find it easier to hear Him in quiet if I am attentive. That is not to say I cannot hear Him in other circumstances or that He hasn’t spoken in such circumstances, for He has.

So, for whatever the reason, the Lord waits until Abram has well and truly entered the Land before He encourages him. The word He speaks is an extension of what He has said before. Previously all He has said is that Abram is to go to the land that the Lord will show, and that He will make Abram a great nation. There was not necessarily a direct link between the two. Now the link is spoken: “To your offspring I will give THIS land.  Yes, this is the place that will become yours.

Now again we may see the links between the Canaanites being in the Land and this word.  Abram may have arrived and thought, “Well this can’t be where I am going to become a great nation, because it is full of people already.”  “No,” says the Lord, “this land will be yours, or rather the land of your descendants.”

There is a simple lesson here: when the Lord speaks, listen carefully, for He hasn’t said that this will be Abram’s land but the land of his offspring, i.e. his descendants will have it and, as we will see later, that won’t be for some four hundred years yet, and that is all within the plan of God. But for the moment, this is sufficient encouragement for Abram: he had heard aright, and he was in the right place. A lot has to happen before this word is fulfilled but that is only partly down to Abram. When the Lord speaks about our future He doesn’t usually tell us how we will get there or what will have to happen first. He simply tells us the end, the goal He is aiming for with us, and that is to be enough! Rest in that. He knows what He is doing and what He will achieve in and through you.

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2. Wrong Settling

Meditations in the life of Abraham : 2. Settling in the wrong place

Gen 11:31,32  Terah took his son Abram, his grandson Lot son of Haran, and his daughter-in-law Sarai, the wife of his son Abram, and together they set out from Ur of the Chaldeans to go to Canaan. But when they came to Haran, they settled there. Terah lived 205 years, and he died in Haran.

There are mysteries in life, things we’ll never know this side of heaven. It’s like that in the Bible as well. There are times when the Bible seems frustratingly sketchy and we want to ask lots of questions. Why did Terah leave Ur? Why did he settle in Haran? We simply aren’t told, so this tends to be a little speculative. All we can do is look at what we are told and speculate in the light of what we know about life.

There are two areas where the Bible gives us information about Terah. The first is about his family. As we noted yesterday, when his first son came along, he seems to have high hopes of the family name being carried on through this son for he names him ‘exalted father’. Yet as the years pass that doesn’t happen. Obviously it would be a number of years before Abram grew up and took a wife, and then some more years before they concluded she was barren. In the meantime Haran is married and has a son, Lot, but then some unspecified time later, dies.

Now it may just be possible that Terah takes the family and leaves Ur because he wants to escape the unhappy memory of losing Haran. That is one possibility. It may also be possible that, being a superstitious man, he wonders if Ur is an ‘unlucky’ place and further wonders that if they go somewhere else, Sarai may be able to conceive and have a child to carry the family name through the eldest son. There is a faint possibility that Terah heard from God because their departure was with the express intent of ending up in Canaan, which is where, we find, the Lord told Abram to go. The truth is we just don’t know, but life decisions are so often made through a combination of such things. There is a further probability that we’ll consider later.

Now there is a second area of information about Terah that we only get later in the Bible. Presumably the story of Terah was handed down by word of mouth and that in more detail than we find recorded in Genesis 11. We have to wait to some way through Joshua that we find this prophetic word coming from the Lord through Joshua:Joshua said to all the people, “This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: `Long ago your forefathers, including Terah the father of Abraham and Nahor, lived beyond the River (Euphrates) and worshipped other gods. But I took your father Abraham from the land beyond the River and led him throughout Canaan and gave him many descendants (Josh 24:2,3). Ah, Terah worshipped idols!  It is said that the moon-god was worshiped at both Ur and Haran so it is likely that Terah worshipped the moon at least. Now there is an interesting thing about people who worship the elements or idols; they indicate a need to reverence some other Being or force.

They recognize a spiritual existence but may be completely misled in their understanding of it, for understanding of reality can only come from God. But their hearts are inclined more in His direction than in no direction, such as the atheist would claim.  So Terah sets out from Ur and intends to go to Canaan. As we’ve said previously, we are not told why he left and even more we’re not told (here) why he was aiming for Canaan. As we wondered previously, is it coincidence that Abram ends up in Canaan? (Yes, as we read on we’ll get answers but in these early verses these are legitimate questions). However he’s got his leading, and we said it may be through a variety of feelings or circumstances, he’s had this sense that he wants to take his family to Canaan. When we consider all that subsequently took place in Abram’s life, we can only conclude that that initial sense was a good one. So he sets out from the place of hurt towards a place of hope. (We will come to more definite conclusions later in the series).

On the way he passes through Haran, which in the Hebrew, I’m told, is spelt differently from his son’s name, but was it sufficient to trigger the memories all over again of the son he has lost?  We read,when they came to Haran, they settled there.” To settle means to stop moving on. If Canaan was Terah’s destiny, he stopped short of it, he stopped moving towards it and never arrived. We read that he died there in Haran.

Terah is the picture of a man who caught a sense of something new but stopped along the way and settled, so that he never reached it.  How many of us mirror in our lives what happened to Terah? We started off well, clear about where we were going with our lives, but somehow, somewhere along the way, we settled. Is it too late to get under way again? No, but we’ll probably need the Lord’s help to get out of our rut. When you settle, it’s difficult to get under way again, but not impossible.

Did you give up going to church some way along the path? Did you stop reading your Bible, stop praying, stop attending the mid-week meeting, stop giving, stop whatever it was that became your ‘stopping off point’?  If you stay in Haran you’ll die there. It’s not the place of your destiny. There’s a land out there for you to reach, a land filled with milk and honey, a place of plenty of goodness, a place of God’s calling. Please don’t settle, don’t remain at Haran, don’t accept second best. A lot of people are. There are a lot of people who are Christians who stopped along the way and settled. Your calling is to be a man or woman of God, a person of faith. The first step is to get under way again. If you remain in Haran it will kill you. Move on!

33. Established Religion

Meditations in Deuteronomy : 33 :  Established Religion

(Focus: Deut 12:1-7)

Deut 12:1,4 These are the decrees and laws you must be careful to follow in the land that the LORD, the God of your fathers, has given you to possess–as long as you live in the land. ….. You must not worship the LORD your God in their way.

There is something very specific about the instructions that Moses now gives, something that we have seen again and again but not made much note of. It is that the laws that he is sharing are for this nation in THIS specific land. The rest of the world may be doing something quite different but in THIS land this is how Israel are to live. It is this thing about them being a unique nation in the world, and they are unique because of their relationship with the Lord and because of the guide rules (the Law) that He has given them to follow as they establish their life as a nation in this particular piece of land.

Note also the use of the words, “decrees and laws”. A decree is simply a royal declaration of intent. For instance we have said that a “blessing” is God’s decree of good and a “curse” is God’s decree of bad. When God ‘decrees’ something it is a statement of His sovereign will, which WILL then happen. A law is simply a rule that is to be followed. So God decrees His will and expresses it in the form of individual rules or laws that Israel are to follow. All of the blessings and curses of chapter 28 are examples of decrees.

Note also that the call is for them to “be careful to follow” all these decrees and laws “as long as you live in the land”. These are for the whole of their existence. They are not just for the first couple of years; they are for all time that they are this nation in this land. Then comes the specific things that Moses has in mind and in this part of his speaking: it is all about their worship or their religion (I am using ‘religion’ here to denote the way they express their faith and their obedience to God) when they go into the land. First of all it is about establishing it: Destroy completely all the places on the high mountains and on the hills and under every spreading tree where the nations you are dispossessing worship their gods. Break down their altars, smash their sacred stones and burn their Asherah poles in the fire; cut down the idols of their gods and wipe out their names from those places.” (v.2,3)

We saw this exact same command in chapter 7 which was followed by the reason for it: “For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession.” (7:6) Part of that is similar to what we have above when Moses speaks of the land that the LORD, the God of your fathers, has given you to possess.” It is a reminder that they are what they are and where they are because of the Lord. They belong to Him and owe their existence there to Him, and they are to stick to him and not succumb to the worship practice of the occultic, pagan, idol worshippers in the land. To ensure they do that they are to remove every sign of their religious practices from the land the moment they enter it.

Moses sums it up: “You must not worship the LORD your God in their way.” This is both a summary of God’s intent and a preamble to what is about to come. They are not to follow the practices of the people of this land in any way. Now comes a specific way that their worship is going to be very different: “But you are to seek the place the LORD your God will choose from among all your tribes to put his Name there for his dwelling. To that place you must go.” (v.5). This is going to be where the Tabernacle is going to be set up. The big difference is that they are only going to have ONE place of worship whereas the occupiers of the land worshipped all over the place, making their own religion.

No, with God, it is going to be clearly established that they will go to the Tabernacle and “there bring your burnt offerings and sacrifices, your tithes and special gifts, what you have vowed to give and your freewill offerings, and the firstborn of your herds and flocks. There, in the presence of the LORD your God, you and your families shall eat and shall rejoice in everything you have put your hand to, because the LORD your God has blessed you.” (v.6,7) In the book of Leviticus Moses has enumerated all the laws regarding how to bring sacrifices and offerings and hold feasts to the Lord.

These are the very basic ‘ground rules’ for their worship of the Lord. Worship was expressed formally first, not as singing (although David later established that) but as bringing offerings as a tangible expression of their love for God, or sacrifices as a tangible expression of their penitence when they had done wrong. A number of times a year they would gather to worship the Lord in the form of celebrations of the Lord’s goodness. These were the ‘feasts’. These ways would be at the heart of their worship. It is clearly prescribed activity to be the expression of their hearts. No longer do we have such offerings and sacrifices for Jesus has become THE sacrifice and no longer are they needed, but today our hearts are still to be the arbiter of our worship. If it is not heart worship, it is not worship. That bears thinking about!

 

30. Respect and Honour

Meditations in 1 Peter : 30:  Respect and Honour

1 Pet 2:17 Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honour the king.

There is an ongoing flow in Peter’s train of thought. We might trace it back to verses 9 and 10 where he speaks of us being “a chosen people… a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him … now you are the people of God.” We are, in other words, a special people. Having identified us in this way, he wants us to stand out for good: “Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God.” (v.12). Expanding on how we are to act within society he said, “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority” (v.13) so that “by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men.” (v.15) and, on a negative note, he warns us “do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil.” (v.16). In all of these ways he wants us to be people of good standing in society so that we will glorify God through our lives.

Which then brings us to “show proper respect to everyone.” There’s been a lot about respect in the media in recent years, largely because of the feeling that it is something that is largely absent in modern society. So what does respect mean? Why does it permeate right the way through culture? Even the youth culture phrase, “Don’t you dis me,” (i.e. don’t you disrespect me) speaks of this requirement to be respected, something we would like but which seems is often missing.

Now when Peter speaks of showing ‘proper respect’ there is an implication that respect should be given to every person. Respect means holding a good and right attitude about others, accepting them and esteeming them for who they are. At the very basic level, every person is made in the image of God, and every person is loved by God. Yet God has made each of us a sovereign figure, we rule our lives (in some measure at least) and have the ability to make choices that affect our own lives. We are not mere animals and we are not robots. We are human beings with an amazing range of abilities. We hold multiple roles in life – e.g. daughter, mother, grandmother, sister, aunt, employer etc. etc.  – and in what we do and how we live we reveal something of the wonder of God, whether we realise it or not.

If we were really able to see one another with God’s eyes, we look past the failures and foibles and go, “Wow!”  I really like the prophetic gift because it allows one to see past the exterior and see something of the reality of the person before you and their potential and we are all considerably more than a cursory glance reveals. Because of that, each and every person is worthy of our respect in some measure.

But then Peter continues with three further brief injunctions which will reveal to others what we are really like. First there is “Love the brotherhood of believers.” That is shorthand for having a good attitude towards all other Christians. Note ALL other Christians. Why? Because we are all part of one big family that has God as its Father and who have their origins in Him. We are indeed all brothers and sisters in this family. We are related by the Holy Spirit and therefore there should be love among us.

Second there is simply, “fear God.” That is shorthand for, hold on to a right and proper relationship with the Lord whereby we honour Him for His greatness and glory and give Him the worship that is due to Him. He may be our heavenly Father but don’t be over familiar or casual with Him. He is God Almighty, Creator of all things. ‘Fear Him’ means realise the awesome wonder of who He is!

The third and final injunction in this simple verse is, “honour the king.” There is a right balance here. Honouring God first and then the rulers He has put in place, the figurehead of human society. The head of state or government is a powerful person and a person who carries much responsibility and, Scripture testifies, is answerable to God for the way they exercise their rule at the head of society. This person also deserves our respect (and prayers).

As we respond in different ways as Peter indicates here – with love, fear, respect – we reveal that we are people who understand our place in the scheme of things and our responses indicate we understand those to whom we respond. Thus, more than any other people, we should reveal reality. That is what this is all about! This is a world with God at its head and, one way or another, everyone is related to Him. Christian or otherwise, they deserve our respect, our ‘esteeming them for who they are.”  May it be so!

3. A Living Hope

Meditations in 1 Peter : 3 :  A Living Hope

1 Pet  1:3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead

Peter bursts into praise. It is praise to God who is also the Father of Jesus. But Peter doesn’t speak casually about Jesus as he might have done years previously while Jesus walked on the earth and Peter walked alongside him. Then he probably would have referred to ‘the Master’, the rabbi who taught them to become fishers of men. But much has happened since those days. His master had been arrested and crucified and then he had come back from the dead and then he had ascended to heaven. Oh yes, he was no longer merely ‘the Master’ for they now recognised him for who he was – their Lord. We take this word ‘Lord’ for granted when it is used in respect of Jesus but it means he is our ruler, our owner, the one who has rights over us, our king! This is who Peter now knows Jesus to be, but it isn’t Jesus he focuses on, it is God the Father, the Supreme Ruler, the Almighty One, the One who has a plan that He is working out in the earth that involves eternity. All of these descriptions will come out in this letter. This is the One who is worthy of our praise.

When you ‘worship’ someone you bow down before them acknowledging their great superiority over you. When you ‘thank’ someone you express your gratefulness for what they have done for you or given you. When you ‘praise’ someone you extol them for what they have achieved. That brings us to the heart of this verse, Peter’s praise of the Father for what he has achieved. If we are Christians who have known the Lord a long time we may have come to take these things for granted and so we need to ask Him to bring them alive to us again. There are wonderful things being written about here!

Because of the nature or character of God He has done something wonderful. He has given us ‘new birth’, He has given us a new life; He has made us anew. We talk about it and preach about it so easily but it is truly a wonderful thing, that God has come to us and re-energised us by the power of His Holy Spirit and given us the ability to be different people, godly people, people in a living relationship with Him, receiving His guidance and direction and wisdom and enabling to be good!

The concept of being born again was brought to us by the apostle John in his Gospel (Jn 3:3) as he reported the conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus. He had already referred to it in his opening chapter: Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God– children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.” (Jn 1:12,13) but it is clearly a teaching of the early church for Peter is saying the same thing: God has made it possible for us to start life again on a completely different basis and with a completely different power and motivation.

What was so incredible about this was that we didn’t deserve it. In fact there was nothing in us that merited this; it was a pure act of mercy on God’s part. Mercy is kindness or forbearance that is not deserved. Perhaps we’ve never seen it like this but mercy is an expression of love. John tells us that “God is love” (1 Jn 4:8,16). Now love is benevolence or strong benign feelings for another and everything about God is this, we are told. For this reason (which we are unable to explain any further than John says) God expresses mercy to whoever will receive it. It is a benign or benevolent attitude which is expressed in benign or benevolent actions.

Thus God did not condemn us but drew us to Himself and poured out His love on us in the form of forgiveness and adoption and empowering with the Holy Spirit and thus we were ‘born again’. All it required of us was to believe in Jesus, that he is the Son of God who died on the Cross for us, attested to by his resurrection from the dead. That confirmed who he was and what he had done.

But there is yet something more to consider. This new life, having been ‘born again’, is described by Peter as a living hope.” In the world hope is a very vague thing. “I hope it won’t rain tomorrow.” or “I hope I’ll get a pay rise next month.” Mostly these are vague wishes, things we’d like to happen. However, when we come to Scripture ‘hope’ is a very strong thing, a certainty based upon God’s promises. Hope is always about tomorrow, about what is yet to come. In the Christian walk we have a number of such things. For example whatever goes on in life, God will always be there working to bring good out of it for us (Rom 8:28). We also know that in the walk we have today and tomorrow He will always be with us (Heb 13:5b). Moreover, this walk will not end with death for we have been promised eternal life (Jn 3:15,16), a life that will never end.

In fact as we go through the New Testament we find it is filled with such promises, such declarations from God that say “Tomorrow will be a good day because God has said He will do this and carry on doing it.”  This hope is not just academic based on things God has said (although that is true), but it is living in the sense that it is verified by the living presence of God within us, His Holy Spirit. It is an ongoing, daily experience, Him in me, teaching, convicting, correcting, guiding and empowering for change. I know this will be like that tomorrow because it is like it today and it was like it yesterday. Some days we are very much aware of it, others not, but it is true. This is the wonder of the life that God has brought us into! Hallelujah!

2. Praise & Blessing

Ephesians Meditations No.2

2. Praise & Blessing

Eph 1:3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.

God is worthy of our praise and worship. The fact that most of the time we don’t praise and worship Him is simply a sign of our spiritual blindness. The fact that people even deny God or speak badly of Him is an even greater sign of foolishness. It was the psalmist who said, “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’” (Psa 14:1). Paul was elsewhere to condemn sinful man in that, “since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him.” (Rom 1:20,21). Paul, now in this letter, has things on his mind that he wants to convey to the Ephesians, and the very thought of these things evokes praise in him.


He has just greeted them with a blessing: “To the saints in
Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” He has described the believers as ‘saints’ which simply means ‘holy or consecrated ones’ which is what all Christians are. He has desired grace – God’s power or ability for us to live out our lives as His children – and peace, which comes through that relationship. Instantly these are things where there is an interweaving between God and man. This book is all about that. It isn’t about ‘God out there’ and it isn’t about us on our own. No, it is all about the coming together and interaction of God and man that results in transformed and changed men and women who form a ‘called out people’, the church, and it is all the work of God through His Son, Jesus Christ. Thus when he asks for grace and peace for them, it is from both the Father and the Son, for it is a joint activity.


But now, as we’ve already noted, he praises God. Praise automatically rises within him when he thinks of what God has done. Praise is about acknowledging someone’s achievements. Worship is about acknowledging God’s greatness, the fact of Him being infinitely greater than us, but praise focuses on what He has done. We praise our children when they have done well. We praise God for what He has achieved.


Do you notice how he links Father and Son: “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” He wants to remind us at every turn that Jesus is God’s unique Son and that God is uniquely his Father. But he’s not just ‘Jesus’, he is ‘our Lord’. Paul is quite clear; Jesus is our Lord, because he is the Christ or the Messiah, the anointed one sent by God to save us. Every word is significant. Paul is quite careful in the way he uses each word, and we shouldn’t miss the significance of each word therefore.


But now comes the reason for Paul’s praising God: who has blessed us.” A frightening number of people never seem to see this, that God’s intent is to bless us. Now the word ‘bless’ is not a word commonly used today but in the Bible it is very significant and used a great deal. When God ‘blesses us’ He ‘decrees good for us’ and when God decrees something it IS done. So Paul is praising God because of what God has done and the outworking or end product of what He has done is that He has been able to decree good for us.


But there seems a condition on this blessing as far as it is being mentioned here: who has blessed us in the heavenly realms.” Now to catch the meaning of this we have to look at the other four times that Paul uses this phrase in this letter (and nowhere else). The next reference is, “which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms.” (
1:20) which clearly refers to heaven as a place. Then comes, “And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus.” (2:6) which suggests us being linked to Christ who is in heaven. This is followed by, “His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms.” (3:10) and “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (6:12) both of which suggest that there is a spiritual dimension of which we need to be aware.


Putting these together we can therefore suggest that our being blessed “in the heavenly realms” means that our origins have been settled in heaven and God decrees good for us from heaven now, and in heaven in eternity. It also suggests that in the spiritual world, where we (knowingly or unknowingly) interact with angelic forces or demonic forces, God decrees good for us. As the Bible indicates that this spiritual realm also impacts the material realm, it is also a suggestion that God decrees blessing in every aspect of our lives.


Every spiritual blessing in Christ”? Yes, everything that is good that can be considered as part of the outworking of Christ’s work on the Cross, is for us! Perhaps a shorthand for this is the sense of Paul’s rhetorical question in Romans 8 put as, “God is for us(Rom
8:31). Yes, all of God’s intents, attitudes, call them what you will, in respect of us, are GOOD. Be blessed! Praise Him!

27. Simple Seekers

ADVENT MEDITATIONS No.27

27. Simple Seekers

Matt 2:9,10 After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed.

Because we live in a scientific age, because we have TV’s, Hi-Fi’s, and Computers, and because many of us work in activities that are constantly measuring our work or our progress or our development, we tend to think we are clever people who have got life under control. The arrival of so-called ‘reality shows’ on TV should, however, alert us to the true reality of life. Watching families where the parents have lost control, families where the main partners are only too glad to get out and try a swap, or watching ‘Big-Brother’ or ‘Get me out of here’ shows, should make us realize that many of us are far from in control of our lives. We are actually unable to be in control and ‘be nice’. Nevertheless we do so often think we’ve got it sorted, simply because we know lots of information or have been through certain sorts of training. This makes us people who are not good in the simple faith realm of God’s kingdom.

Yet that is what believers, Christians, are called to do, to have simple faith. Now these ‘wise men’ put us to shame. They’ve come all this way because ‘something’ tells them there is a new super-king arrived on the planet who deserves their worship. They’ve got the last stage guidance from the leaders in Jerusalem who, you might note, don’t come with them – and they still follow the star! He’s in Bethlehem , they’ve been told, so why not just go straight there? Do you see what happens when you start thinking about aspects of this story? You have to start asking questions.

What are they actually doing? They are checking their guidance with the guidance of the people of Jerusalem.  But a star???? A meteorite perhaps? What sort of guidance about something that has happened on the earth, is that? Pretty freaky! Now don’t take this as an excuse to read your ‘stars’ in the paper. Doing that is a man-centred, man-devised, and a sign of being godless. If you need to think about that, just ask yourself, does ‘reading the stars’ draw you close to God and evoke worship in you? No? Well that’s what following this star did for these men!

Seriously, the simplicity of these men leaves our so-called modern minds befuddled. They leave us with our mouths hanging open. They know what they’re doing, these men, and it’s so simple! God has told them to follow a star. How do I know that? Well think about the possibilities. Would Satan tell them to go and worship Jesus? I think not! Who else knows about this? No one! As we might say today, the proof of the pudding is in the eating! These men travel hundreds of miles – without global positioning satellite navigation systems – and they arrive exactly at the place where the baby has been born! This may be freaky guidance – but it works!

That’s where we come back to simple faith. It may be that just recently you’ve responded to the promptings of these meditations and you’ve entered a new-found relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Welcome to the ‘Walking by Faith Club’! What is that? It’s being one of God’s kids, being led by His Holy Spirit in your daily walk with Him, responding to the promptings He gives you, checking it against His word, the Bible, and then just stepping out. You know what happens when you do that? You encounter Jesus and you realise the wonder of what is happening, you are overjoyed, and you worship! Go for it! The Wise Men did, and it worked for them!