November 1, 2018

God, be real for us . . .

Our world is coming apart at the seams. Political leaders make odd decisions. Social and cultural leaders have lost their common ground. Chaos in the streets, violence in the news. Good news is difficult to find or at least is largely ignored in favor of disaster and troubling stories.

In the Old Testament, prophets brought the will of God to the people. Even though they were often closed to it, at least they had a standard for their lives and work. This is an example of what God said through His prophets to the leaders in the land:

“Jehoshaphat lived at Jerusalem. And he went out again among the people, from Beersheba to the hill country of Ephraim, and brought them back to the Lord, the God of their fathers. He appointed judges in the land in all the fortified cities of Judah, city by city, and said to the judges, ‘Consider what you do, for you judge not for man but for the Lord. He is with you in giving judgment. Now then, let the fear of the Lord be upon you. Be careful what you do, for there is no injustice with the Lord our God, or partiality or taking bribes.’” (2 Chronicles 19:4–7)

I cannot imagine the vast changes in this world if leaders recognized that they serve God, not man and with that understanding, they feared God and were just in their decisions and careful in all they did. We need the anchor that the standards of God supply.

Yet this goes beyond ‘rules for living’ because even the OT believers knew they could not obey God without faith and the power of the Holy Spirit. The prophets said things like this about the religious leaders and their responsibility to guide the people:

“Moreover, in Jerusalem Jehoshaphat appointed certain Levites and priests and heads of families of Israel, to give judgment for the Lord and to decide disputed cases. They had their seat at Jerusalem. And he charged them: ‘Thus you shall do in the fear of the Lord, in faithfulness, and with your whole heart: whenever a case comes to you from your brothers who live in their cities, concerning bloodshed, law or commandment, statutes or rules, then you shall warn them, that they may not incur guilt before the Lord and wrath may not come upon you and your brothers. Thus you shall do, and you will not incur guilt. And behold, Amariah the chief priest is over you in all matters of the Lord; and Zebadiah the son of Ishmael, the governor of the house of Judah, in all the king’s matters, and the Levites will serve you as officers. Deal courageously, and may the Lord be with the upright!’” (2 Chronicles 19:8–11)

In other words, God wants leaders and everyone else to realize that we are accountable to Him and if we fail, we will fall under judgment.

As I read these words, I have this ache in my heart that is well expressed in this prayer by Walter Brueggemann from his book, Awed to Heaven, Rooted in Earth: Prayers of Walter Brueggemann. (I’ve altered its spacing for practical reasons) It is my prayer as well:

Move off the page

For a week now we have been cast in the role of readers, students, scholars, doctors.
A week in the leisure class: air conditioning, many books, assured food, free time
with only a modicum of anxiety.

In our leisure, we have watched you move from verse to verse, noticed the force of your verbs,
pondered your elliptical textual pauses, and now we dare interrupt your anticipated sabbath
with one imperative, for a moment not scholars but petitioners in urgency.

So listen up:
You, majestic sovereign … move off the page!
move off the page to the world,
move off the page to the trouble,
move out of your paged leisure to the turmoil of your creatures.
Move to the peace negotiations, and cancer diagnoses, and burning churches, and lynched blacks, and abused children.

Listen to the groans and moans, and see and hear and know and remember, and come down!
Have no sabbath rest until your creatures rest well, all of us.
Be your Friday self that your world may be Eastered.
Move off the page!

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