Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Tale as Old as Time

Last week I had the privilege of leading a Messianic Passover for about 50 people at a church in Traverse City, Michigan. Most of the people had never participated in a Passover, so it was a special joy to introduce them to the Hebrew prayers, the elements around the four cups, and all of the symbolism that is found in this service. I emphasized that the Passover was the beginning of a journey that began in the lush fields of the Nile Delta and ended in the harsh desert before Mount Sinai where they were to participate as the bride in a wedding with God Himself (YHWH) as the Groom. I had learned of this concept through Ray VanderLaan’s teaching; he just finished his series at Central Wesleyan Church. If you would like to see some examples of his teaching, I encourage you to check out www.rvl-on.com.
The Biblical God has always sought to bring Peace/Shalom where there is chaos. Tohuw is the transliterated Hebrew word that was used to describe the formless void in Genesis 1:2 and the waste howling wilderness in Deuteronomy 32:9 (see below)

The desert has been like a spiritual bootcamp that God uses to teach His people lessons that only that type of environment can produce. Today God still uses the desert and its modern counterparts to train his recruits in the art of spiritual warfare. 
Though Israel’s journey from the crossing of the Red Sea to the foot of Mount Sinai had plenty of miracles and fantastic effects, it was also very trying and revealing. It was kind of like a marriage class that a church requires before they will marry a couple. They want to find out if the couple is ready to get married. Was Israel really ready for the task? When they finally got there, the ceremony ran into some glitches. I mentioned that the 10 commandments were like marriage vows, but they were uttered with a level of power and might that frightened the people.
Exodus 19:16-25  “Then it came to pass on the third day, in the morning, that there were thunderings and lightnings, and a thick cloud on the mountain; and the sound of the trumpet was very loud, so that all the people who [were] in the camp trembled. And Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet with God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. Now Mount Sinai [was] completely in smoke, because the LORD descended upon it in fire. Its smoke ascended like the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mountain quaked greatly. And when the blast of the trumpet sounded long and became louder and louder, Moses spoke, and God answered him by voice. Then the LORD came down upon Mount Sinai, on the top of the mountain. And the LORD called Moses to the top of the mountain, and Moses went up. And the LORD said to Moses, "Go down and warn the people, lest they break through to gaze at the LORD, and many of them perish. "Also let the priests who come near the LORD consecrate themselves, lest the LORD break out against them." But Moses said to the LORD, "The people cannot come up to Mount Sinai; for You warned us, saying, 'Set bounds around the mountain and consecrate it.' " Then the LORD said to him, "Away! Get down and then come up, you and Aaron with you. But do not let the priests and the people break through to come up to the LORD, lest He break out against them." So Moses went down to the people and spoke to them.
Now all the people witnessed the thunderings, the lightning flashes, the sound of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking; and when the people saw [it], they trembled and stood afar off. Then they said to Moses, "You speak with us, and we will hear; but let not God speak with us, lest we die." And Moses said to the people, "Do not fear; for God has come to test you, and that His fear may be before you, so that you may not sin." So the people stood afar off, but Moses drew near the thick darkness where God [was].”
This may sound sacrilegious, but this encounter makes me think of the Disney movie Beauty and the Beast. One can get into trouble when trying to make a parable or a Bible story fit into another analogy, but there are aspects of this story that remind me of how the Beast interacts with Belle. 
In the following scene, the Beast is being counseled by His servants on how to relate to Belle with whom He is talking: 
BEAST: (Tenderly to Belle)
Now, if there's anything you need, my servants will attend you.
LUMIERE: (whispering in his ear)
Dinner--invite her to dinner.
BEAST: (Growing angry)
You...will join me for dinner. That's not a request!
(BEAST leaves, slamming the door behind him. BELLE, terrified, runs over to the bed and flings herself onto it, finally breaking down and crying. 
BEAST: (Yelling)
I thought I told you to come down to dinner!
BELLE: (From behind the door)
I'm not hungry.
BEAST: You'll come out or I'll...I'll break down the door!
LUMIERE: (interrupting)
Master, I could be wrong, but that may not be the best way to win the girl's affections.
COGSWORTH: (pleading)
Please! Attempt to be a gentleman.
BEAST: (growing angrier)
But she is being so...difficult!
MRS. POTTS: Gently, gently.
BEAST: (very dejected)
Will you come down to dinner?
BEAST: (furious)
You can't stay in there forever!
BELLE: (provokingly)
Yes I can!
BEAST: Fine! Then go ahead and STARVE!!!!
If she doesn't eat with me, then she doesn't eat at all!
(BEAST runs back down the hall, slamming a door and causing a piece of the ceiling to fall on LUMIERE.)
MRS. POTTS: That didn't go very well at all, did it.
Now, I’m not saying God is a Beast, but there is a huge gap between the awesome majesty of God and the frailty of man. Perhaps that’s why God chose to send His Son as a baby. The irony is that humanity became the beast when we killed the Son. But in a resurrection that trumps the Beast turning into a Prince, the Prince of Peace defeated death and rose to become a King and will yet marry His bride at the wedding supper of the Lamb. 
In closing, one of the lessons that Ray shared was illustrated with pictures that he took in the desert near Israel. In the middle of this dry, hot, rocky wilderness Ray came across a small group of Bedouins. The men sat under the shade as the women tended the sheep. There were sheep on a hillside, but Ray couldn’t imagine what they were eating; there were only rocks. So he asked an Israeli friend about this. Even in the desert, some moisture visits the place here and there. If you look closely, you will see an occasional tuft of a few blades of grass. The Israeli friend said that we Americans imagine the imagery of Psalm 23 as a place of lush green grass where the sheep are gorging on the food. “The LORD [is] my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures ...” But, the reality in Israel is that the shepherd leads the sheep to one tuft after another. There is just enough for now, and in a few minutes there will be just enough for then. This keeps the sheep following the shepherd. 
The analogy is clear. While God can and does sometimes give us blessings that are pressed down and overflowing, more often it is just enough for what we need. When that is done, He will lead us to the next tuft of grass. I am going through a time right now where there is a lot of uncertainty. I need to trust Jesus as my Shepherd to lead me to tomorrow’s provision, as I thank Him for today’s daily bread.

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