Friday, April 23, 2010

Taking A Risk; Knowing the Master

I find it curious that folks who are willing to assume the existence of Noah's tools - never mentioned in scripture - in order to illustrate their defense of a doctrine of expediency (also never mentioned in scripture) ... that those same folks blanch at the possibility that God might have indeed told Nadab and Abihu and Moses and all of Aaron's sons that only the fire He had authorized could be used in worship to Him.

Just because that instruction never appears (as such) in scripture.

Though it is also quite possible that the reason why the two oldest sons were bringing their own fire was because they had disobeyed by letting the fire go out (Leviticus 6:9-13 which had come from the presence of the Lord a few verses before (Leviticus 9:24). So fire came out from the Lord again and consumed them (Leviticus 10:2). Why else would they be bringing fire in their incense censers, if it had not gone out on the altar?

It's also quite possible that they were schnockered at the inaugural worship ceremony (prompting God's otherwise-irrelevant observation in 10:8-11), violating after one year the 40-year fast from bread and wine that God had imposed so that Israel would depend upon His providence (Deuteronomy 29).

Or possibly they committed the most heinous act of all: serving as priests before God without understanding or recognizing what He wanted of them, even after seeing Him on the mountain, seated above a transparent sapphire pavement (Exodus 24:1-11). Imagine that. Seeing God Himself. Eating and drinking in His presence. Hearing His voice. Rehearsing His commands for this crucial worship assembly ... but not knowing Him; not recognizing the holiness He wanted them to display.

I guess those possibilities would not be expedient to the argument of the Nadabites and Abihuettes.

Their argument is that God will utterly destroy anyone who disobeys Him by doing something that is not specifically authorized (especially in worship). That's how they picture God: keeping His will secret from His servants, at the edge of His throne watching for the moment that He can cast fire down from heaven to consume them at their first and slightest infraction of it.

And that, sadly, reminds me of the way that the steward entrusted with one talent envisioned his master: solely wrathful, greedy and vengeful. He was afraid to do anything with the talent that he hadn't been specifically authorized to do. As Matthew re-tells the story, the master didn't leave specific instructions. So the third servant did the no-risk, nothing-ventured-nothing-gained thing to do: he buried it (Matthew 25:14-30).

(Of course, he hadn't been authorized to bury it, either.)

The first two stewards took some risk, transacted some business, put themselves out there to honor their master's house and to increase the esteem of others at its assets - and his wisdom in choosing and investing in stewards for it.

They were generously rewarded.

Why? They knew their master and what He wanted. They knew what they needed to do to please him, and make his business thrive. (And what would sharpen their skills and acumen to serve him even more effectively, later on.) He didn't have to tell them what he wanted. They just knew.

The third servant did not know his master, maligned his nature to his face and then hoped he would obtain mercy for his cowardice.

In this story - in this life - God is our Master. His business is the gospel of His Son, Jesus, the Christ. It is the ultimate treasure: the salvation of our souls; the restoration of our hearts to His.

He knows how much He can entrust to each of us, because He gave us our trading talents as well as the talents to be traded.

Don't we know what He really wants?

Shouldn't we put ourselves out there when we're transacting gospel business for the chance at gaining the maximum return on His investment?

Shouldn't it be that way every day of the week we're in business, instead of just one day (which is all it takes to bury something)?

Let's face it: We're not specifically authorized to sit or stand motionless singing in four-part a cappella harmony with hymn books in our hands, following only one song leader with a pitch pipe or a tuning fork, in a nice big comfortable church-owned building, either. So if we decide to start forbidding how hearts gifted by God want to worship Him, where do we draw the lines that scripture doesn't?

At one day a week? At one day a week, plus maybe a Wednesday night? At one person speaking, rather than two or three? At one cup? At projected lyrics and/or music? At clapping? At a praise team leading? At accompanying instruments? Which instruments? At whatever I think is decent and orderly? At what my brother or sister thinks is decent and orderly? Do we draw the line at what does or doesn't praise God, because we think we know Him so well through His silence?

Here's the picture I have of God, and I get it straight out of scripture:
  • One who wants us to express His praise, His wonder, His love and His power fully and with all our hearts (and be blessed by doing so!), whether we are gathered in worship, or worshiping by serving, or serving by sharing, or sharing by teaching - giving up what we want to do in favor of what He wants for us to do every day of our lives.
  • One who reveals through this testing what His good, pleasing and perfect will actually is.
  • One who knows that we we blessed by doing so, built up in faith, empowered by His Holy Spirit, transformed into the image of His Son.
  • One who wants us to put ourselves out there - way out there! - and take some risk. Love deeply. Live purely. Transact some gospel. Give it up. Give it all. Don't hold back (Romans 12).

Because that's what He has done and does for us.

That's what I find Jesus doing, and later, those who followed Him.

And if we picture our God and model our vision of Him before others as being miserly and stingy and secretive and vindictive like the third servant did, He will indeed become the God we fear ... but do not love and trust.


Stoned-Campbell Disciple said...

Just for the record that Exodus 24.1-11 text is one of the most amazing in the whole canon. Devote quite a bit of space to in our book A GATHERED PEOPLE (with John Mark Hicks & Johnny Melton). It has been a powerful one on me (and probably us)

Keith Brenton said...

It's a powerful and awesome passage of scripture, and as you guys pointed out in A Gathered People, one which speaks volumes about God's desire to be in holy community with His people.

laymond said...

Who you going to believe Keith.?

Gen 32:30 And Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: for I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved.

Exd 24:10 And they saw the God of Israel: and [there was] under his feet as it were a paved work of a sapphire stone, and as it were the body of heaven in [his] clearness.

Jhn 1:18 No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared [him].

John does not say recently, he said ever. Don't tell me there are "NO" contradictions in the bible, they are both plainly speaking of looking upon God, one said yea the other said nay,if yes and no are not opposing answers then there are none. The new testament, and Jesus Christ say no, the old testament and Moses say yes.and this is not the only place where the new contradicts the old.

Keith Brenton said...

Laymond, is John saying "no one at any time has ever seen God" or that "no one alive today has ever seen God"? Jesus says: "And the Father who sent me has himself testified concerning me. You have never heard his voice nor seen his form, nor does his word dwell in you, for you do not believe the one he sent." ~ John 5:37-38

Is John just opening his gospel with a summary that presages what he'll record Jesus saying a few chapters later?

See also John 14:5-14: Jesus answered: "Don't you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, 'Show us the Father'? Don't you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me?

If John is saying that no one ever at any time has seen God, then he's contradicting what Jesus says in this passage.

I'm going to believe Jesus and try not to put words in John's gospel that aren't there.

laymond said...

"No man hath seen God at any time"
"at any time"

Keith I believe you put many words in John's mind if not in his mouth. I can tell you what a man says, but not what he is thinking.

As for Jn. 14 I believe we have been told that Jesus the son is the exact image of the Father.

Keith Brenton said...

This is, once again, simply an attempt on your part to maneuver me into a discussion I am not interested in having, Laymond.

I didn't put any words into John's mind, mouth or gospel, bro. I asked you some questions, which you once again evaded.

laymond said...

Keith, I thought the words "at any time" was the answer. I only recognised the one question.

And I cannot read John's mind as to what he was thinking. So that leaves me at a loss to pretend I could answer your hypothetical questions.