Saturday, January 19, 2008
who am I talking to?
Today I was reading the story of King Hezekiah in Isaiah 38 and 39. Interesting fellow. He faces some fierce battles, but because he brings them before God and realises the nation's total dependence on Him, he and his people are saved. Then, after a big victory, he gets sick. A prophet of God comes to him to tell him he will die from the sickness. Hezekiah is not ready to go down so easily. He petitions God for longer life and is granted 15 years. Not bad. But things do not go so well for Hezekiah after this; he gets proud and tries to impress some big shot strangers and pays dearly for it by being the catalyst for his people's exile and his sons' castration and forced servitude. And he has no clue what he has done; he hears the warning of God about everything being taken and hauled off to Babylon and he thinks, if God says it, it must be good. Besides, surely nothing bad will happen in my lifetime, this gift from God lifetime. Warning? What's a warning? God loves me and has a wonderful plan for my life, that's all I need to know.
Some say God told Hezekiah it was his time to die because God knew what kind of trouble Hezekiah would cause if he lived. Well, that cuts into free choice just a bit, don't you think? I don't believe the asking was wrong at all, though his motives seem suspect. In the end, a generous God gives this king a chance to use 15 more years as a wise investment. Sadly, he does not. This humble king begins to think of himself as someone special, untouchable in some way, singled out for favour with God and men, entitled to long life and greatness and blessing. It becomes about him instead of the people he serves or building something for the next generation.
Sad to say, I have seen the same reaction in some people (myself included) when we encounter the merciful intervention of God. Suddenly, we are the stars. OUR prayers are the special ones that change things. OUR miracle is worthy of attention and some measure of fame (to spread the good news of OUR God, of course, that is why we tell it over and over). We take very little consideration for where we are pointing our sons and daughters, or how quickly this glorious patch of mercy can be snatched away.
Let me point out one of the symptoms of this sickness that we refuse to die from. After someone told me about a significant wonderful event in their life, I heard myself utter these ugly words, "Well, I prayed for you!" As if these words could add anything of value to someone who has just had God's hand touch them, whether they were aware of it or not. What difference does it make that I prayed? Why must I insist on wedging myself into the equation? Why not just let God be God? But what if the person is oblivious to God's working on their behalf? Don't I need to tell them I prayed in order that their faith might increase and they give thanks where it is due? I used to think that was my reason for saying this phrase, but this week, I have seen the falseness of that claim and the selfish skin those words are wearing . Who prayed is irrelevant. That God is loving and attentive and watchful and will extend his kindness and compassion to anyone who will turn to him and receive it - that is the real deal. And nowhere in that sentence do you see the word, "I," occur.
I have been giving guided tours of my prayer life as if it were something to ooh and ah at when all God wants is for me to bring all my joys and concerns and troubles and hopeless situations and every day frustrations and decisions and happy moments and all the people I care about to him. Spread my life and all that goes with it before him and leave the mess there. He takes greater delight in my prayers than anyone else ever will. Let me learn to know his divine pleasure in such a way that I do not consider the acknowledgement or admiration of people necessary for my encouragement. Let me know that God does not need my help in revealing or explaining himself to the world. The fact that this great God would humble himself to listen to me should mean that I do not need to be heard by any other.
This is a bird house in Baie d'Urfe after a snow several years ago.