Sometimes gazing upon the face of God stumps us. Sometimes it stupefies us. And sometimes it means we have to rethink the picture we have created in our minds of who God is. All of this was true of me the first time I contemplated that God was humble. I honestly didn’t know how to fit it in with attributes like omnipotence, omniscience, and sovereignty. It seemed that a God who was holy and just and a “consuming fire” that blazed forth wrath upon evildoers certainly, in my mind, didn’t quite match what I envisioned as “humble”.
The road for me began with the words of Jesus when He said that He was “gentle and humble in heart”. Now I had read this many times before, but often the Spirit of God will highlight some words to us and it’s as if we had never read them before. So here was Jesus telling us that He had a humble heart. Well, in my shallow thinking, I thought that this was, of course, true of Jesus, but certainly couldn’t be true of God the Father, for He, in my mind, was the Lawgiver, the Judge and that awful “Consuming Fire” that devoured the offerings on Mt. Carmel and subsequently 450 prophets of Baal were slain. He split the ground open and swallowed up the entire clan of Korah and 250 priests were burned up. He is the God of Revelation who sends forth the four horsemen of the apocalypse that destroy vegetation, seas and rivers; He blasts trumpets and pours out bowls of wrath and sends plagues where the rivers turn to blood and men are consumed with sores; mountains are moved and stars fall from the sky and locusts torment men for months.
Whew! Hard to reconcile the holy, wrath of God with a humble heart.
And so I didn’t.
I basically began to think that the “humble” heart was for Jesus and the consuming fire was the Father. And, unwittingly, I slowly created a polytheistic god in my mind and not the One God of Scripture.
Then the Lord highlighted another passage for me. This was the killer.
In the Upper Room, Jesus performed one of the greatest acts of humility, washing the disciples stinky, dirty feet. A few minutes later, after performing this humble act, Philip said to Jesus:
“Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.”
And Jesus made the stunning response:
“Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father…”
And it dawned on me, that when they saw Jesus kneeling before them washing their feet, they were watching the Father as well.
Paul states that Jesus is the “exact image” [eikon] of the invisible God (Colossians 1:15). We could dwell on this word for days, but the essence is just what Jesus said: "If you’ve seen Me, you’ve seen the Father."
There is no polytheism here. There is One God, and He is humble… through and through… Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
So how do we reconcile our bad thinking? How do we bring together what we have erroneously thought as incompatible: the powerful, omniscient, almighty, holy, consuming fire of God and His humility?
Well, the problem isn’t with God, for none of His attributes are contrary and He is totally consistent within His own Being, so it must be with us… with our thinking.
I have often used this metaphor:
Suppose there were two kings. Each ruled over half of the earth and all of its wealth. Both unimaginably powerful. One king would never, ever engage with the people, especially paupers. The other king, when his duties were done at the end of the day, would put on a ragged cloak and walk in the streets, talking with the people, the shop owners as well as the man who swept the street.
In your eyes, which is the greater king?
It is here that we begin to understand just what it means for God to be “humble”.
In Psalm 113 we read this great passage:
“Who is like the Lord our God, who is enthroned on high, who humbles Himself to behold the things that are in heaven and in the earth?”
The Hebrew word here [shaphel] means that God has to “stoop” to engage with our world. This is like the king who puts on the ragged cloak and comes down from his lofty throne to speak with the peasants. But it is greater, for God is higher than any king could ever be. And to him, we are lower than any peasant could ever be to an earthly king.
But this is our God… who stoops, who humbles Himself, to engage with us.
“... Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to His own advantage; rather, He made Himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!” Phillipians 2:5-8
And why did God do such a thing? Because His humility is bound up inexorably with His love. It is impossible to truly love unless you are humble, for true love requires sacrifice. Jesus “humbled” Himself and became a man. He “stooped” to take on flesh that He might save us. This was not contrary to His nature, but it was in conformance with His nature. Just because God is all-powerful and sovereign does not mean that He is not humble in heart.
When the Scripture calls us to be holy, it is because God is holy.
When it calls us to be perfect, it is because He is perfect.
When it calls us to be humble, is this because He is proud and arrogant? No. It is because He is “gentle and humble in heart”.
There is no room in the heart of God’s people for pride and arrogance. There is no room for haughtiness or lack of love. If we are the children of God, we should be characterized by humility. Not a mousy, no-spine kind of thing, but a strong, courageous willingness to “stoop”, to sacrifice, to become engaged with the lowliest of God’s creatures.
The Philippians passage begins with these words:
“In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus…”
And then it describes His willingness to “stoop”, to sacrifice, for the good of another.
Are we willing to “stoop”? Are we willing to set aside our comfort, our script, our plans for the sake of those who, from a worldly perspective might be “beneath” us?
God is opposed to the proud, but He gives grace to the humble. James 4:6
Ah! Therein lies a great clue.
Verses to ponder throughout this week:
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Philippians 2:5-8
But we do see Him who was made for a little while lower than the angels, namely, Jesus, because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone. Hebrews 2:9
Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; He is just and endowed with salvation, Humble, and mounted on a donkey, Even on a colt, the foal of a donkey. Zechariah 9:9
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Matthew 11:29
Who is like the Lord our God, the One who sits enthroned on high, who stoops down to look on the heavens and the earth? He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap; Psalm 113:5-6
Though the Lord is exalted, he looks kindly on the lowly; though lofty, he sees them from afar. Psalm 138:6
For this is what the high and exalted One says—he who lives forever, whose name is holy:
I live in a high and holy place, but also with the one who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite. Isaiah 57:15
These are the ones I look on with favor: those who are humble and contrite in spirit, and who tremble at my word. Isaiah 66:2
God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. James 4:6
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“I WASN’T BROUGHT UP IN A RELIGIOUS WAY, BUT I BELIEVE THERE’S SOMETHING OUT THERE THAT LOOKS AFTER YOU.” DAVID BECKHAM
When I first read this quote from David Beckham, my thoughts went to how easy it is to be self-centered in everything. Even when something within us knows there is a God, we turn Him into someone who “looks after me”… a kind of “Genie-With-a-Beard” or a “Mommy-Divine”.
But as I pondered it further, I realized that there are many people in our culture who are no longer raised in a “religious way”. Yet, despite this, they still have that inward voice that knows the material world is not all there is. This is quite remarkable given that our culture is inundated with a science paradigm rooted deeply in naturalism, in which no evidence, no matter how strong, can ever point to anything outside of the natural box. And since academia, media, entertainment and the state are now also wedded to the same worldview philosophy, it is a testimony to the truth of Scripture that man still “knows” there is a God. Paul writes that it is “plain” to all men because God has “made it plain” to them through what He has made.
This is why David Beckham “knows” there is “something out there”.
But just “knowing” there is a God sits an infinite distance from “knowing Him”.
This is what Paul ran into while in Athens. They had lots of gods, but they had made an altar to one they labeled as “unknown”. This is where David Beckham is and millions of others in our culture. They know there is a God (though they may not admit it) but He is unknown to them.
And just as Paul took the time to get engaged with the Athenians so he might reveal to them this unknown God, so we, too, have a culture before us who knows but doesn’t.
We must build relationships with the David Beckhams around us and begin the delightful process of telling and showing them who the true God is.
When we are sick, there is nothing we want more than to be restored to health. I can think of several times in my life when I was so sick (Lima, Peru and Cairo, Egypt) that I ashamedly admit I thought it would be better to die. That’s how “bad sick” it was. I can remember lying out in a field during pilot training after a bad parachute landing with my shoulder way out of joint. I thought I was going to die from the pain. I HOPED I would die from the pain!
But these are just physical ailments.
Much worse to be emotionally sick or spiritually sick and feel as if there is no way out. Increasingly, more people, especially young people, are seeking to “escape” life through suicide because they feel so emotionally sick (lonely, isolated, unloved, worthless) that death is the only way they think they can be “healed”. Others try to escape through alcohol or drugs or entertainment or any number of ways to attempt to numb the pain or mask the negative emotions that seem overwhelming at times, trying to pull us into a black hole.
Ah, but there is balm in Gilead. There is a great Physician… the God who heals.
If you were to tally up all of the miracles of Jesus and then classify them, by far the largest category would be His role of healing people. Here is one of the great understatements for which the Scripture is so famous:
“And Jesus was going about in all Galilee… healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness among the people… and they brought to him all who were ill… and He healed them.” Matthew 4:23-24
Think about this: “every kind of disease and sickness … and He healed them”. Cancer? He healed it. Withered arms? Healed. Diabetes, hemorrhages, bad hearts, kidneys, gout, blindness, mute, deaf? All healed. Every kind of disease and sickness. Including the demoniacs… people who were physically, mentally and emotionally impaired due to a spiritual force. Healed by the Great Physician… Yahweh Rophe or Rapha, as it is more popularly known.
There are more than sixty references in the Scripture describing God as Yahweh-Rapha, the God who heals or restores. One of the early ones is in Exodus 15. Here is the back-story:
The children of Israel were in misery, slaves in Egypt until God intervened and restored them to freedom. God showed Himself mighty before their eyes, through the miracle of plagues, release from the captivity of a hard-hearted Pharaoh, crossing the Red Sea on dry ground, destroying Pharaoh’s army, and leading them with what must have been an eye-popping, jaw-dropping cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. No one has ever had more open, physical evidence of God’s miraculous desire and power to restore than did the Israelites.
But they soon started to grumble and complain.
They travelled through the desert of Shur for three days without water until finally coming to what was probably a set of springs, looking cold and delicious. But the water was bad, “bitter” as can be found in similar locations in Saudi Arabia today. And the hearts of the people then turned bitter too and they began to whine and complain, “grumbling against Moses”. So Moses went to the Lord and prayed and God gave Moses a medical “instrument”, a piece of wood, which he threw into the water and it was restored and became “sweet”. God then told them that if they would listen and follow Him, He would keep them from all the plagues He had brought upon the Egyptians, for He was their healer… literally, “for I am Yahweh-Rapha”, the first time this name of God is used. And it was Yahweh-Rapha who had Elisha use instruments of a jar and salt to purify the bad water in Jericho (2 Kings 2:21) and flour to cleanse the poisonous stew (2 Kings 4:41).
As I write this, we are praying that God will use the instruments of human physicians to heal our dear friend of cancer. We desire for this to happen now, but we know that all of those in Christ will be ultimately healed, in the day of restoration, when the God of Restoration, Yahweh-Rapha, will restore everything.
And, ultimately, the real healing that we need is not physical, for our deepest and most serious disease is spiritual. Jesus made this connection plain:
On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners. Mark 2:17
Through Jeremiah, God spoke of how the Israelites had an “incurable” wound, that there was “no healing for their sore” and their “injury” was serious. But He wasn’t speaking of a physical wound or sore, He was talking about their spiritual state:
“… your iniquity is great and your sins are numerous.” Jeremiah 30:14
After speaking of Judah’s rebellion, sin and iniquity, calling them evildoers, sons who act corruptly, abandoning the Lord, despising the Holy One of Israel, God says of them:
“The whole head is sick, and the whole heart is faint.” Isaiah 1:5
David cried for healing from the Lord, but it wasn’t for physical ailments:
I said, “Have mercy on me, Lord; heal me, for I have sinned against you.” Psalm 41:4
In Psalm 147:3, it is Yahweh-Rapha who “heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.”
In one of the great passages concerning Christ’s work on our behalf, that He has healed us of our wounds… not physical wounds, but the spiritual sickness that would have separated us from God forever:
But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. Isaiah 53:5
Many, unfortunately, misunderstand this passage and make it apply to our physical ailments, when it is so clearly speaking of Christ healing us of our transgressions and our iniquities. Nowhere are we promised, in this fallen world, to be free from its ubiquitous pull toward decay. But much of our maladies are caused by spiritual rebellion. It is here that we can find rest for our souls, if we would let go of our hold on the world and what it offers, and turn to Him. Every one of our negative emotions are birthed in our belief in the lie that if we can just get our own personal script fulfilled, we will be happy and content and pleasured. But the world around us continues to step on our scripts and sometimes just downright trashes them. As long as we desperately fight for our own scripts, we will be doomed to anger, disappointment and the host of dark emotions that follow.
Are you brokenhearted? Is your soul downcast? Does a darkness pervade you from within?
There is a balm in Gilead.
Do you feel lost and alone, isolated? Are you filled with dread and fear? Does guilt or bitterness eat at your heart?
Does your past weigh upon you so heavily that you can barely take another step? Are you sick with sorrow or despair?
Behold! Yahweh-Rapha, the God who heals!
Draw near to Him… gaze upon His face.
Do not neglect the instruments of healing that He has decreed for us. Meditate upon His Word; call upon Him in prayer; and do not forsake the deep fellowship of the saints.
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”
We are hopefully getting closer to beginning the pre-production filming for the Engagement. All we need are the funds! :) And props!
We will have a lot of vignettes, interviews, man-on-the-street, animation, etc. and we will also be using a lot of props. I have a symphonic gong that a friend built a great walnut stand to hold it up, a huge teddy bear, etc. But, one set of props that needs to be made are large letter blocks, like the alphabet blocks kids play with, except closer to 4 ½“ x 4 ½“.
In our tours, we will be looking at several Hebrew and Greek words that are important and I thought it would be good to have them on the object table made up of these large blocks (using English letters as you see in the picture).
If you know of someone who might have an idea of how to make them or where to get them, please send me a note. I thought it might be good to ask the “family”.
Soli Deo Gloria!
In one of my favorite texts, Isaiah cries out in anguish, “Woe is me, I am undone! For I am a man of unclean lips…” His cry does not come because God has verbally chastised or rebuked him for his failures, but simply because Isaiah has come into the presence of a Holy God. When this happens, you and I are exposed. No matter how good we think we are nor how good we are at pretending or faking it or wearing a mask, the pure holiness of His being strips us naked and leaves us totally exposed before Him.
Of all the attributes of God, this is the one that overwhelms us simply by being in its presence. It is not an act of God that does this, or any speech from His mouth that shakes us to our very core. It is finding ourselves in the mere presence of pure, infinite holiness that buckles our knees and causes us to cry “Woe is me!”
It is for this reason that Adam, who had before walked with God, was now ashamed, hiding from His presence, lest he be openly exposed in his new depravity before God’s holiness.
It is why Moses was told to take off his sandals, for he was standing upon holy ground because of the presence of God.
It is why the tabernacle and the temple were both built at the specification of God with a Holy of Holies in which only the high priest could enter, once a year, and then only after significant cleansing.
It is a fearful thing, indeed, to come into the presence of a holy God.
Who will not fear you, O Lord, and bring glory to your name? For you alone are holy. Revelation 15:4
In a culture that daily shakes its face in the face of God and increasingly flaunts its unholiness before Him, it is a wonder that He doesn’t evaporate us all.
Behold… the patience and grace of God! For there will arrive a day when the Holy One will stand and the world will not. Judgment will eventually come, and it will come because He is absolutely Holy.
Our movie industry takes great pains now to make sure that all heroes are portrayed with some sort of dark side… creating in us a deeper and deeper distrust of each other. But in God there is no darkness… at all. He is pure holiness in all His attributes and all of His ways. The fear of God does not come because He has a “dark” side, but because He is totally pure; completely and immutably holy.
And we are not.
“Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord Almighty.” This is the cry of the seraphs in His presence. And after declaring this the doorposts shook and the temple filled with smoke. Understandably, Isaiah then cries, “Woe is me!” Because it is the holiness of God that exposed Isaiah’s unholiness and the unholy cannot dwell in the presence of pure holiness.
But this brings us to the good news! And, one might even say, impossible news!
God has made it possible for the unholy to become righteous in His sight. His sacrifice tore a path through the veil that separated fallen man from the presence of God. Clothed now with the righteousness of Christ, we come boldly before the throne. Not because of our righteousness, which is no righteousness at all, but because of His righteousness.
We wear a robe that cannot be earned. The holiness of God can’t be reached by any amount of good works. In comparison to His infinite holiness, our efforts are but filthy rags in His sight. No, the robe we wear is not earned. It is placed upon us by the unmerited grace of God. Only then can we, dare we, stand in the presence of “Our Father, who art in heaven. Holy is your name.”
Verses to ponder throughout the week:
“Who is like you, O Lord, among the gods? Who is like you, majestic in holiness, awesome in glorious deeds, doing wonders? Exodus 15:11
Your eyes are too pure to look on evil; you cannot tolerate wrongdoing. Habakkuk 1:13
Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify your name? For you alone are holy. Revelation 15:4
God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. 1 John 1:5
In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphim, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another:
“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.”
At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke. “Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.” Isaiah 6:1-5
“Moses! Moses!” And Moses said, “Here I am.” “Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” Then he said, “I am the God of your father,[a] the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God. Exodus 3:4-6
All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away. Isaiah 64:6
Sing praise to the Lord, you His godly ones, and give thanks to His holy name. Psalm 30:4
Exalt the Lord our God and worship at His footstool; Holy is He. Psalm 99:5
The Lord is righteous in all his ways and faithful in all he does. Psalm 145:17