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Tuesday, December 17, 2013

For the love of God

Imagine this scene: You are in the time of Nehemiah. The wall has finally been rebuilt around your city, Jerusalem. Now your city as a whole, your people, your lives are being rebuilt. And here comes this man, this scribe, with a Book called The Law of Moses and everyone is pulled into an assembly to hear him read it; something that probably hasn't happened since Josiah was king before the captivity (in other words, it's been a long time). He reads it carefully, paragraph by paragraph, and there are people around, priests and leaders, helping explain and making sure that the people hearing, that you, understand. As the Law of Moses is being read out and people are beginning to understand what they are hearing, their response is weeping and grieving; a true tell that they do in fact understand what they are hearing. Now Nehemiah, your governor tells you to stop weeping because this is a holy day to The Lord and a feast was ordered saying, "Do not be grieved, for the joy of The Lord is your strength." And you, and everyone around you leave the assembly to eat, drink and rejoice. (Nehemiah 8)

Why?

Wouldn't it have made perfect sense for God to tell them to repent and consecrate themselves? To make sacrifices at the temple and be cleansed from the sin revealed by their grief at hearing the Law? It would have made sense. We would have read this story and passed on without thinking God impertinent for doing so; He would have been right in calling for such a response, in allowing their grief to lead them to repentance. But here, here He does not call for grief, He calls for them to rejoice.

Why?

Because they understood what they heard.

This is our God. While man was grieving and weeping, God was rejoicing over the fact that they understood. He took delight in them and instead of making that day a day of attonement, He made that day a feast of rejoicing and chose to refresh them by way of His joy.

He chooses to delight in us more oft' than we know; proving how much more we see Him as Judge than as Father.

Does His Word not say, "Enter His gates with thanksgiving, and His courts with praise!..(Psalm 100:4)."? Before you come into the temple to make your sacrifices before God and be attoned for your sins, you are to come into it with thanksgiving and praise; and even after all the ceremonies of attonement are done, you feast and rejoice once more - Sin sandwiched between rejoicing and feasting. Does that even begin to sound like the heart of the god we honestly imagine Him to be?

God's focus is not, nor has it ever been, on our sin; it is a mere footnote in the story of who you are and He delights in your story whether you claim Him as Author or not.

Truly there is a time for repentance, but how often do we linger in repentance rather than rising and walking in freedom? How often do we hammer on our unworthiness refusing to accept the fact that He found us a worthy cause? Truly there is a time for repentance, but there is also a time for rejoicing. How many invitations has He given us that our self-continued grief has kept us from receiving.

For the love of God eat, drink and be merry.