In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes. Judges 21:25
In the final verse of his book, the author sums up what went wrong during those horrible years of Israel’s history. What catastrophic disaster can account for the chaos, the fragmentation, the madness, the animal cruelty? Here was their mega-disaster: Everyone did what was right in his own eyes. They didn’t do what was wrong in their eyes, but what was right. They meant well. They thought they understood what would work. They were self-assured. But good intentions are not enough. Good intentions often produce bad outcomes. What we need is good judgment. And that comes from beyond ourselves. It comes from King Jesus, who rules through his Word.
“But I care so much” — the next time that thought enters our minds, justifying us to ourselves, let’s beware. Let’s ask ourselves more searching questions like, “Okay, if I’m so right, then what I feel like doing/saying will be clearly authorized in the Bible, chapter and verse. So, where is that validation? And if I can’t find it, maybe I need to doubt myself more and trust the King more, according to his royal Word. His perfect ways are better than my good intentions.”
Our golden hearts are a disaster waiting to explode.
“‘But wait a minute,’ says somebody. ‘Are you saying that the passage of the years makes no difference? Are you asking me to believe that I have got to go back nearly two thousand years, and that the truth is what these men taught then?’ . . .
Yes, I am, and this is why. There can be no development in this truth, and there has not been, because this is not truth that man works out for himself, but is truth which God reveals. Not one of the apostles was a discoverer of truth. The mighty apostle Paul never discovered the truth as it is in Christ Jesus. . . . It is a revelation; it is something that is given by God, something that has been revealed by him supremely in the person of his only-begotten Son.”
D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Love So Amazing: Expositions of Colossians 1 (Grand Rapids, 1995), pages 63-64.
“Research suggests that promiscuity is not associated with increased happiness and, in fact, that the number of sexual partners needed to maximize happiness is exactly one. . . . If sex makes us happy then surely, if variety really is the spice of life, having more sexual partners must make us happier. Well it doesn’t. People with more sexual partners are less happy than those who have just one. People who cheat in marriage (10% of the married people in the sample have had sex with more than one person in the previous year) are less happy. Men who use prostitutes are also less happy. That is, promiscuous people are less happy.”
HT: Marina Adshade. Italics added.
One man, one woman, united for life in Christ — where the best sex happens.
And when the priests came out of the Holy Place, a cloud filled the house of the Lord, so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled the house of the Lord. 1 Kings 8:10-11
Our forefathers used to call this “the presidency of the Holy Spirit,” when the Lord himself would preside over the gathering of his people in such a way as gently, wonderfully to take charge.
I have seen this. Doubtless, many of you have as well.
One Sunday morning at Lake Avenue Church in Pasadena — we were a mainstream church of business people, school teachers, scientists, real estate agents, stay-at-home moms — my dad was preaching. I was eleven or twelve years old, and not paying much attention. But then, with no prompting from the pulpit at all — dad was minding his own business, preaching Christ, and he wasn’t even in the final, appeal section of the sermon — Ed Fischer quietly and with no self-display rose from his place in the choir, went down to the communion table at the front, and knelt in prayer. He felt that he needed to get right with God. Then his wife Lita got up from her place and quietly joined him there. I thought, “That’s odd.” But then I was surprised to see many people from all over the church going forward and kneeling as one there at the front in an overwhelming response to the ministry of the gospel going out in the power of God. There was no emotionalism. It was quiet, dignified, even solemn, but very beautiful. Dad was caught off-guard. He hadn’t planned on this or asked for it or even foreseen it. God stepped in, filling the church with an unusual display of his glory, and dad yielded to the presidency of the Holy Spirit. He stepped back from the pulpit and went to prayer. The organist had the presence of mind to begin playing quietly, appropriately. The service took a surprising direction, in the mercy of God. And although this experience was no panacea, and the next morning everyone went back to work in the usual way, still, God had visited us. God bent down and kissed us that Sunday, bringing us closer to himself, clearing away some problems, opening up new possibilities.
We could never be the same again.
In Breughel’s Icarus . . . how everything turns away quite leisurely from the disaster; the ploughman may have heard the splash, the forsaken cry, but for him it was not an important failure; the sun shone as it had to on the white legs disappearing into the green water; and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky, had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on. W. H. Auden
Auden is referring to a painting by Dutch painter, Pieter Brueghel, based on Ovid’s Myth of Icarus, the story of a boy who flew too close to the sun. It hangs in the Museum of Fine Arts in Brussels.
If you look closely, in the lower right hand corner of the painting you can see Icarus with melted wings falling into the sea. Ovid’s point was the danger of hubris; Brueghel had another idea.
In Brueghal’s version of the myth, Icarus falls and no one cares. Sailors on their ships, farmers and others are unconcerned, going about their own business, unaware of the calamity unfolding in front of their eyes. All are apathetic in the face of appalling tragedy and heartbreak.
Few of us are aware of the sadness all around us; we go our way inattentive and unmoved, too busy with our own business to respond to human need. Something amazing has happened: “a boy falling out of the sky”—right in front of our eyes—but we have “somewhere to get to and sail calmly by.”
You don’t have to go far to uncover tragedy and heartache: a young widow, stricken with loneliness; an anxious parent concerned for a critically ill child; a frightened man awaiting heart surgery; a care-worn checker in a grocery store working at a second or third job to make ends meet; a young boy who’s never had enough father; a single mother whose worries have washed her hope away; an old man who inhabits his bleak world alone; a needy soul behind our own front door—all right in front of us. Perhaps we don’t have much to give, but we can see beyond what others see to the possibility of mercy, compassion and understanding.
I wonder how many times I’ve glanced at a grocery clerk, a bank teller, a waitress and failed to see the marks of woe, the drab, cheerless affect, the weary face, the downcast eyes, the mumbled response to my frivolous query, “How are you?” I hear the splash but miss the forsaken sigh, the deep sorrow in their response. I turn away from the disaster. I feel no tug on my heart; I have somewhere to get to and sail calmly by.
John Newton said on one occasion, “If, as I go home, a child has dropped a halfpenny, and if, by giving another, I can wipe away its tears, I feel I have done something. I should be glad to do greater things, but I will not neglect this.” Nor should I.
“Oh, how blessed are those who care,” Israel’s poet mused (Psalm 41:1). How rare and how happy they are.
“How wonderful it is to come every Sunday into a liberating church! All week long we swim in an ocean of judgment and negative scrutiny. We constantly have to comply with the demands of a touchy world, and we never measure up. . . .
Then on Sunday we walk into a new kind of community where we discover an environment of grace in Christ alone. It is so refreshing. Sinners like us can breathe again! It’s as if God simply changes everyone’s topic of conversation from what’s wrong with us, which is plenty, to what’s right with Christ, which is endless. He replaces our negativity, finger-pointing, and self-attack with the good news of his grace for the undeserving. Who couldn’t come alive in a community which inhales that heavenly atmosphere?
Here is where every one of us can happily take our stand right now: ‘The life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me’ (Galatians 2:20). Our self-focus was crucified with Christ. The need to conceal failure and display false superiority no longer lives. Christ is enough to complete every one of us, without adding anything of ourselves.
As we humbly keep in step with the truth of this gospel, people will find a new kind of community in our churches where sinners and sufferers can thrive.”
Ray Ortlund, The Gospel: How The Church Portrays The Beauty of Christ (Wheaton, 2014), pages 90-91.
In 1836 Judge William Gould led a movement at First Presbyterian Church, Augusta, Georgia, to buy their first organ. It was a break with tradition. In a congregational meeting, one member rose and demanded chapter and verse where the Bible authorizes “the worship of God with machinery.” But the members voted for the organ, and Judge Gould was appointed to raise the money.
Soon after the Judge ran into Robert Campbell, a member who had opposed the organ. Mr. Campbell asked the Judge why he had not asked him for a donation. Gould replied, “I knew you did not wish to have the organ.” “That makes no difference,” said Campbell. “When the majority of the members of the church have decided the matter, it is my duty to put aside personal feeling and assist as well as I may.”
Narrated in David B. Calhoun, Cloud of Witnesses (Greenville, 2004), pages 40-41.
Putting self aside, submitting to the Body, serving a higher cause . . . .