Advent has begun. Many different denominations follow liturgical calendars, on Sunday I was in a service that used readings from one of those calendars, for the first time in a long time.
I love pomp and circumstance, and on one hand, the pomp-ier and circumstance-ier, the better! I like things that twinkle and sparkle, I like things that smell and make tinkley little noises, I like gonging, chants, well trained choirs, good organists, lone pipe-men, bugles, responsive readings, ancient architecture, Latin and Greek and people having services in their mother tongue. All kinds of things that go along with High Church Ceremony. There’s an ease that seems to come with feeling like if everything is run to The Formula, then life will be ok.
Unfortunately, while some days I think I’d make a good High Church Person, and live my life knowing that if everything is running ok inside the Ceremony and I follow “The Formula”; I know that there’s a significant part of me that has been made completely counter intuitively to those kinds of formulas. One of the reasons I love rule and law is because it helps me know what is really important, and what is just window dressing…
It’s the presence of this dichotomous nature, structure and freedom; that I have been working through this week.
God’s desire for us is to live from a place of absolute freedom in and through Him. When we attempt to regain control, or to maintain control, we actually do ourselves a disservice. My particular concern is ‘what if I make a mistake, or the wrong decision?’ I will often prevaricate, asking God over and over and over and over. Asking for signs, asking for confirmation after confirmation, in the past even asking for Him to write on the wall, as He did for Belshazzar here. I would probably ask for another sign to confirm even that too!
Good and upright is the Lord; therefore he instructs sinners in his ways. He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way. (v8,9)
Who, then, are those who fear the Lord? He will instruct them in the ways they should choose. They will spend their days in prosperity, and their descendants will inherit the land. The Lord confides in those who fear him; he makes his covenant known to them. (v12-14) Psalm 25:8-9, 12-14 (NIV)
I was in a quiet chapel service, minding my own business, enjoying the responsive readings and the Advent Candle lighting, those light touches of pomp and circumstance, reading the Psalm Of The Week - Psalm 25 - and then whomp! Holy Spirit!
So; I did a little digging through these verses. Here’s some gold for you!
In the first two verses, the Psalmist tells us, that God will teach/instruct people in His ways. The word that is used for teach and instruct there, is a word that carries the following connotations: accustomise, instruct, goad, teach with a rod if necessary, diligently, skilfully, learn. It implies to me, that in the beginning, it’s a lot of top-down learning. My own experience backs that up…! The word “right” covers everything from a judicial process to discernment, manners, form and fashion (I assume it’s not talking about clothing, but rather about the way things are) and order! It also says that He won’t do any of that until you recognise that you need help, that you’re ready to deal with your stuff.
Then the words change. Instruct, teach and guide in verse 12 become less about Rote Learning, and more about using the strength you’ve gained through the last process, and God aiming that strength. The Strongs Concordance says: to flow- as water, to shoot arrow, cast, direct, to aim with finger (point out) archer, show, lay out, shoot, teach, through.
‘Way’ is still the same, meaning a road, a course of life or action, custom, journey, manner, through, toward, highway, pathway, [direction], but the language around ‘should choose’ is fascinating. “should” is not in the Bible. Neither is shalt or shall. I have no idea what that means. I just think it’s very interesting. If there are any Messianic Jews out there, can you tell me why? Did we just put it in because we have grammatical issues? Because I think it changes the whole point of that sentence. It seems to me that when God actually requires some kind of behaviour, He points out the consequences of not doing it. He doesn’t do vague. Not like the word ‘should’ implies, however, that is my own opinion from my own study.
Please do your own study! I wonder if ‘might’ would actually be better here. Reason being, that the next word, ‘Choose’, seems to be a word that means we can actually pick things ourselves after going through that other process. Strongs says that it means: to try, select, acceptable, appoint, choice, excellent, join, be rather, require.
After we have learned God’s ways, He gives us freedom to choose. We can try things out and it’s acceptable, because we have learned His ways. He trusts us to choose good and right things.
Again and again I am learning that what it actually comes down to is fear. That is what is at the root. Do we trust His training, do we trust His voice? Do we trust Him when He says, this time you can choose. It’s your choice, I trust you. We’ve walked a long way together, what do you think? What would you like? You know what I like, I want to know what you would like.
I think that scares me a little. The Self Existent and Eternal God wants to know what I would like, and wants to do something that I would like to do. There’s a little too much responsibility in that I think. It’s the same amount of access and responsibility we all have, it has nothing to do with me in particular.
He wants to do what YOU want.
Verse 14 here has one of my favourite Hebrew words in it. It is