What a beautiful morning we spent together with the Lord this week!
We had a great discussion in Sunday School -- which meant that I only got through literally half of the material that I’d planned to cover. But as I’ve said so often over the years, I learn more through teaching than I ever do in my own personal study, and a large part of that is due to the wisdom that everyone else brings into our interactive discussions over the text.
And then we had a sweet time of worship together in the service. True, several of our FCCers were either home sick or out traveling, but we had several other fresh, first-time faces joining us for the day who helped fill out our ranks quite a bit. And apparently, God knew what He was doing in terms of timing, all the way around.
First off, I always find it fascinating when Mark leads us in worship through songs which are terrifyingly relevant to what we’ll be talking about in the sermon... especially when he has no idea what I’ll be talking about that day in advance. That always gives me an impressed shiver, thinking about how the Holy Spirit has led both of us.
Second, I ended up speaking on exactly the same chunk of text that our missionary, Melinda Merz, did last week. I’d planned this new sermon series out in advance, but I didn’t know what she’d be speaking on until last weekend -- so I found myself praying about the wisdom of being so clearly redundant. But God nudged me to stick with the schedule (particularly since I was hitting an entirely different clump of observations and applications in my sermon than she did in hers... ’cuz the Bible is a multifaceted book...), and it turned out that God knew what He was doing. An amazing number of people -- including some of our visitors -- came up afterwards to say that they’d just been covering that material in a Bible study that week, or that someone had just mentioned confusion to them the day before about something that I explained, or that this was precisely what they were dealing with in their lives, etc.
God’s so much smarter than me...
See, we’re beginning a new series, looking at aspects of God that some people take as Him “misbehaving” in some way (at least, according to our own, personal, filtered moralities). We often miss details in a Biblical story or we misunderstand the context or what’s at stake, and we think that, for instance, God overreacts to little things. Ananias gives only a portion of the sale of his home to the church... Uzzah tries to catch the ark before it falls off the cart... Achan keeps some small spoils of war... Nadab and Abihu try to spice up worship... and God strikes all of them dead for such little bitty things. Isn’t that a petty overreaction?
But Nadab and Abihu were priests who were disregarding God’s specific commands -- and, it appears, violating the Holy of Holies as well. Achan (and the rest of Israel) had been told half a dozen times to either devote to the Lord or utterly destroy all of the spoils from the victory in Jericho -- to keep nothing whatsoever for themselves. David and Uzzah knew full well that the ark of the covenant was never to be carried on a cart and never to be touched by human hands, but they wanted to cart it around with their troops as their own power battery. Ananias gave money to the church -- but only to appear righteous, functionally stealing from God by falsely claiming that he was declaring the total money of the sale as “holy” for the Lord.
In each of these instances, the issue isn’t the action itself or the money itself (I mean, even Peter agreed that it was Ananias’ money to begin with!), but with the heart behind everything. These people all completely ignored the expressed commands of God because they thought that they were clever enough to come up with something better, or because the situation didn’t really seem like a big deal -- which you and I can too often be guilty of today.
They wrongly thought that their decisions were about personal finances, or about being nice, or about warfare, etc. What they failed to realize -- and what you and I can often fail to realize -- is that their decisions were ultimately about worship, about ascribing worth to God though our actions and attitudes... or not ascribing worth to God though our actions and attitudes...
Maybe a hundred years from now, nobody will care what you said today. But then again, even a thousand years from now, God will care and you will care and the brothers and sisters around you will care why you said it. The question of whether or not you consciously honored God in your heart and your actions today will echo in eternity.