A longing look back
Job 30: How I long for the good old days.
Job’s longest speech comes after his three friends have had their say. His comments range from direct replies to their statements to his view of the world and the inequities he sees in it. A portion of these thoughts are focused on how things have changed for him. There was a time, he remembers, when he was wonderfully blessed by the Lord, and, he says, “Everything was going my way.” Job handled these blessings well. Instead of it all going to his head, he became a friend to those who were going through loss or who needed help along the way. Those were good days, but remembering them isn’t a source of comfort to Job. Instead, the memories add to his pain as he realizes he’s lost more than wealth and health. As I read Job’s story I note that loss comes in a wide variety of forms. Job is unique because he lost it all at once, but it’s painful to have even a small portion stripped away. That includes loss of influence, which often comes with the passing of years. Those who have given their lives in full time ministry aren’t exempt from this. The day comes when our ideas are no longer sought after and younger voices dominate the conversation about what God is doing “now.” Like Job, it’s natural to “long for the good old days.”
Take Away: As time passes so does our influence. It’s possible to graciously accept that and to simply go on, trusting the Lord with that which is beyond our influence.
Ezra 3: People couldn’t distinguish the shouting from the weeping.
Joining the young adventurers in returning to rebuild the Temple at Jerusalem are some who, as young children, saw the Temple before its destruction. When they hear of the expedition to Jerusalem they bravely sign up to return to the land of their birth. These people have stories to tell of what life was like in Jerusalem before it was destroyed. When they stand before the pile of stones that was the center piece of the city their memories are almost more than they can bear. More than anyone else these senior adults realize all that’s been lost. Now, as the foundation for the new Temple is being laid and the dedication celebration is taking place, the younger people shout in excitement. These “remember-ers,” however, begin to weep aloud. Their weeping is a mixture of sadness and joy. They join with the younger people in rejoicing over prospect of the place of worship being rebuilt but they’re saddened as they remember just how much has been lost. The rebuilding of the Temple means a return to God. For the younger people, this is something new and thrilling. It takes the senior adults, those who’ve been “around the block” a few times, to fully appreciate the power of this event. As I hear these white-haired people weeping aloud I’m reminded of the depth some precious “senior saints” provide to my life.
Take Away: Senior Christians offer a depth of perspective that won’t come from any other source.
1 Chronicles 15: God exploded in anger at us because we didn’t make proper preparation and follow instructions.
This is the second effort David has made to bring the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem. The first ended with death. David says that was because the proper preparations and procedures weren’t followed. This time things will be different because he’s paying better attention to the details. There’s nothing like the Ark in Christianity. Many traditions have holy objects but none of them are revered as was the Ark. There’s a reminder here of the importance of sacred places and things. For instance, there are places that are special to me because I’ve had especially powerful encounters with God in them. Maybe you have your mother’s old Bible and just holding it causes you to feel not only closer to her, but to the Lord. These things aren’t the same as the Ark or, later on, the Temple’s Holy of Holies. Still, though, as I see David making plans to move the Ark, I’m reminded of the power of some things that have been used by the Lord to connect me to him. I don’t worship them, but they are precious to me.
Take Away: It’s a good thing to be reminded of times and places where the Lord has seemed especially near.
Exodus 14: The Israelites walked right through the middle of the sea on dry ground.
The crossing of the Red Sea is a vivid, unforgettable event. We don’t need Charlton Heston and the magic of Hollywood to picture for us something spectacular happening. Moses lifts his staff over the waters and the wind begins to blow, splitting the sea. Then, after a night of waiting, the order is given to move out and over 600,000 people walk through that canyon of water, arriving safely on the other side. The rest of their lives they’ll remember that experience, and well they should. Big events, powerful evidences of God, don’t happen every day, although this generation of Israelites is going to see way more than the rest of us. I’ve never seen the sea part or anything else that could be labeled “spectacular.” However, I’ve experienced some personal encounters with the Lord that have shaped my life. No, I’m not going to write about them here…they’re my precious memories and not for public consumption. However, like those Israelites of old, I warmly remember them and they have defined my life. I don’t need to see daily miracles to keep on believing but I’m both thankful for and humbled by what I have seen and experienced.
Take Away: Our personal divine encounters may not be as spectacular as those in Scripture, but they define our lives.
Living in the “right now”
Isaiah 43: Forget about what’s happened; don’t keep going over old history.
This passage was especially meaningful to me several years ago when I was going through a major change in my life. At the time, I was dealing with some “baggage” from the past even as I prepared to move forward. As I read this portion of Isaiah the Lord seemed to highlight these words. I needed to focus on what God was doing right then and move forward into that. This passage inspired me to look forward with confidence. The Lord was about to do a new thing and he was going to let me be a part of it. How about you? Is there something from your past that needs to be forgotten? If so, let the Lord help you to do that. The place to start is to refuse to keep thinking about it. “Don’t keep going over old history.” Every time it comes to mind, reject it. Then, replace those memories by concentrating on the “new thing” God is doing in you and through you. Live in what God is doing right now rather than in some past disappointment.
Take Away: Is there something from your past that needs to be forgotten?