Posts tagged ‘Restoration’

The Beauty of Simplicity

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In our complicated world and time, simplicity can be a blessing.

When the prophet Isaiah is preaching, the people of Israel accuse him of insulting them with his simple teaching. They scoff at him and ask:

Who is it he is trying to teach? To whom is he explaining his message? To children weaned from their milk, to those just taken from the breast? For it is: Do this, do that, a rule for this, a rule for that; a little here, a little there. (Isaiah 28:9-10)

The people of Israel accuse Isaiah of trying to teach them the ABCs and 123s of theology when they fancy themselves to be graduate-level students. They are not dopey youths; they are highly educated and enlightened adults. So, they scoff at Isaiah.

What they do not perceive is that it is not merely Isaiah who is trying to teach Israel the basics. It is God Himself. But since they will not listen to Isaiah, God will use foreign invaders to get through to His people. These invaders will conquer Israel and carry them off into exile until they learn to listen to God. Isaiah warns:

Very well then, with foreign lips and strange tongues God will speak to this people. The word of the LORD to them will become: Do this, do that, a rule for this, a rule for that; a little here, a little there. (Isaiah 28:11, 13)

As we read the rest of Isaiah, we quickly learn that the Israelites were not heeding God’s most basic commandments. They were worshiping idols, plundering the poor, and abusing the vulnerable. The Israelites did not need a graduate-level course in theology, even though that’s what they demanded. Instead, they needed to obey what they already knew to do.

As we enter into a new year, Isaiah’s message of simplicity presents us with a question: what simple things are we overlooking in our lives to which we need to attend? Have our hands become stingy or our words become prideful or our thoughts become lustful or our relationships become callous or our prayers become rote or our hearts become cold? To us, Isaiah would also say: “Do this, do that, a rule for this, a rule for that; a little here, a little there.” A little attention here and a little attention there to even the most elementary matters in our lives can go a long way.

Often, a new year is an opportunity to set lofty goals and make grandiose resolutions. If you have such a goal or resolution, I certainly don’t want to dissuade you, but I do want to invite you, along with whatever big project you plan to tackle this year, to continue to consider the smaller and simpler things in life that need your attention and affection. Attention to small things can make a big difference. So, begin with those. And remember: those small things are gifts from a big God.

January 3, 2022 at 5:15 am Leave a comment

Hope in the Psalms

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Recently, life seems to have been a series of calamities.

COVID continues to ravage the world.

Those still struggling to leave Afghanistan are terrified for their very lives.

Countless communities are struggling to clean up after Ida.

Burnout, hopelessness, and despair feel like they’re everywhere.

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about a way forward from all of this. But such a way seems elusive – at least right now.

Of course, calamity in life is nothing new, nor is it anything avoidable.

Theologians have noted that within the book of Psalms, there are different genres of Psalms:

There are Psalms of Praise that honor God for who He is.

There are Wisdom Psalms that offer guidance for and through life.

There are Royal Psalms that give thanks for the ancient kings of Israel and yearn for a coming king, sent by God, who can rule the world.

There are Psalms of Thanksgiving that reflect on the good things God has done.

And there are Psalms of Lament that shed tears when life does its worst to us.

It is, of course, not surprising to read of tears and fears when the Psalmist is lamenting some tragedy. What is surprising, however, is that in even many of the sunny Psalms, there are still notes of melancholy.

For example, Psalm 40 is a Psalm of Praise, but the Psalmist praises God because He has rescued him from a terrifyingly terrible time:

I waited patiently for the LORD; He turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire. (Psalm 40:1-2)

Psalm 104 also praises God, but nevertheless says of God:

When You hide Your face, Your creatures are terrified; when You take away their breath, they die and return to the dust. (Psalm 104:29)

Though the Psalter has a few purely positive Psalms scattered throughout, for the most part, even the happiest of Psalms are salted with notes of need, sadness, judgment, and helplessness.

That is, until you get to the end of the book. The final Psalm sings:

Praise the LORD. Praise God in His sanctuary; praise Him in His mighty heavens. Praise Him for His acts of power; praise Him for His surpassing greatness. Praise Him with the sounding of the trumpet, praise Him with the harp and lyre, praise Him with timbrel and dancing, praise Him with the strings and pipe, praise Him with the clash of cymbals, praise Him with resounding cymbals. Let everything that has breath praise the LORD. Praise the LORD. (Psalm 150:1-6)

Here is sheer praise – sheer joy. But it comes at the end of the book.

Though we may have moments in this life of pure joy, like the Psalms, for the most part, our lives are salted with notes of need, sadness, judgment, and helplessness. But the End is on its way when we – yes, even we who have lost our breath in death – will have our breath restored and we will praise the Lord.

As we continue to encounter calamity, may we look forward to that day when we praise God everlastingly.

September 13, 2021 at 5:15 am Leave a comment


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