Friday, 28 October 2011
I do not know from what song this line is taken, but it serves as a modern day reminder of our fickleness and inability to sustain long term enterprises; "When I have crawled off the altar again ... inspire me to serve you again!"
This reflects some of Paul’s thinking in his letter to the Roman believers; "Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship." (Romans 12:1)
Under the law of Moses, almost always the sacrifices that Israel offered were dead -- slain for the primary purpose of devotion to their God. The bloody offering of Jesus on the cross of Mt. Calvary brought us near to God qualifying us as priests in His kingdom. As His priests in this new order, we offer our selves -- our very lives and all that we are and do -- as "living sacrifices" to Him. They are lives given wholly to the service of Yahweh God. The obvious problem with being living sacrifices is the tendency that we have in losing our focus -- of taking our eyes off Jesus and focusing them on ourselves and the circumstances surrounding us so that we eventually crawl off the altar to pursue the things that have distracted us.
This human propensity is illustrated in the exasperation Yahweh God expressed toward the people of Israel after they had been rescued from Egypt: "I was provoked -- oh was I provoked! ‘Can’t they keep their minds on God for five minutes? Do they simply refuse to walk down my road?’" (Psalm 95:10 [MSG]).
In a sense, David verbalized this same frustration from his own human perspective: "God teach me lessons for living, so I can stay the course. Give me insight so I can do what you tell me -- my whole life one long, obedient response... Divert my eyes from toys and trinkets, invigorate me on the pilgrim way" (Psalm 119:33-34, 37 [MSG]). It is really a prayer -- a deep seated longing that he might escape this irresistible proclivity for short sightedness and inconsistent devotion.
It is with ease that we get side tracked from job one toward insignificant, even frivolous and useless enterprises that accomplish little or even the opposite of what we have intended. It is a battle of daily proportions because it is an inseparable part of our humanity. A significant portion of Romans 7 addresses this very conflict. In extreme frustration Paul concluded; "I find then... that, when I would do good, evil is present with me... O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from [this] body of death?"
With the next stroke of a pen, Paul restored the only appropriate focus that can guarantee the peace of a troubled heart; "Thanks be to God--through Jesus Christ our Lord!" (Romans 7:25)
What do you do with this human propensity of 'crawling off the altar'? How do you avoid this tendency? How do you handle things when you come to understand you have been distracted by trivial matters and you have crawled off the altar again?