This week, as I was finishing my path through chapters 16-18 of the Frist Five Books of the Bible, I read a blog post from a friend that made me question my own paying attention to God. I remembered lonely days, sitting on a bridge at night, asking God my whys and wherefores and getting answers- and wondered why it seemed so distant now. As you might expect, the answer was simple- "I am still talking, you stopped listening for Me." True that. So I need to make a better effort at listening. But how do you accomplish that? Well, the series I was in the middle of at the time pretty much covered that question.
STEP 1: Welcome Him in.
Gen 18:1 And Jehovah appeared to him by the oaks of Mamre. And he was sitting at the door of the tent in the heat of the day.
Gen 18:2 And he lifted up his eyes and looked; and, behold, three men were standing by him. And he saw, and he ran to meet them from the entrance of the tent. And he bowed to the ground.
Gen 18:3 And he said, My Lord, if now I have found favor in Your sight, I beg You, do not leave from near Your servant.
Gen 18:4 Please allow a little water to be taken and You wash Your feet, and rest under the tree.
Gen 18:5 And I will bring a bite of bread and will sustain Your heart. Then You may pass on, for this is why You have passed over to Your servant. And they said, Do so, as you have said.
Once again, we have a sighting of the pre-incarnate Christ (those who doubt this, night I suggest John 8:58), and the first thing that Abraham did was marshall his resources to make Him welcome. Do I start my morning prayers with a greeting, or just present the day's "laundry list"?
STEP 2: Cast your doubts behind.
Exo 17:5 And Jehovah said to Moses, Pass on in front of the people, and take with you some of the elders of Israel. And take in your hand your staff with which you smote the River, and go.
Exo 17:6 Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock in Horeb. And you shall smite the rock, and water will come out of it; and the people will drink. And Moses did so before the eyes of the elders of Israel.
Exo 17:7 And one called the name of the place, Massah, and Meribah, because of the wrangling of the sons of Israel, and because of their testing of Jehovah, saying, Is Jehovah in our midst, or not?
So many times, I have heard atheists with their excuse, "I know the Bible better than you do." Big deal. Did you ever once come without doubt? Did you ever once come without the challenge in your words, your heart? Notice that God didn't come for the Hebrews who doubted, but were blessed by His listening to Moses, who had no doubt.
STEP 3: Come clean.
Lev 16:2 And Jehovah said to Moses, Speak to your brother Aaron, and he shall not come in at all times to the sanctuary within the veil, to the front of the mercy-seat.
Lev 16:3 With this Aaron shall come into the sanctuary: with a bull, a son of the herd, for a sin offering, and a ram for a burnt offering.
Lev 16:4 He shall put on a holy linen coat, and linen underpants shall be on his flesh, and he shall gird himself with a linen girdle, and he shall wrap himself in a linen miter; they are holy garments. And he shall bathe his flesh with water and shall put them on.
God is a Holy God, and we need to come in a proper state. Those of you who have partaken in Communion/the Lord's Supper know what I mean. Confess your sins, be penitent. Reflect on your unworthiness and the Holiness of God. Aaron lost two kids who thought they could come into the Holy Place in any old state and any old time; he himself was then instructed to wash thoroughly, put on the holy linen garments, and when he was done, to remove the garments and bathe again.
You ever notice on All In The Family that the only time Archie Bunker wasn't loudly self assured was when he prayed? He would take off his hat, bend a bit, and in a low, humble voice, say, "Good evening, Lord, A. Bunker here." How do I enter the Holy Place?
STEP 4: Come respectful.
Num 16:12 And Moses sent to call for Dathan and for Abiram, the sons of Eliab; and they said, We will not come up.
Num 16:13 Is it a small thing that you have brought us up out of a land flowing with milk and honey, to kill us in the wilderness, but must you seizing also seize dominion over us?
Num 16:14 Yea, you have not brought us into a land flowing with milk and honey, nor given us inheritance in fields and vineyards; will you put out the eyes of these men? We will not come up!
Num 16:15 And Moses was very angry, and said to Jehovah, Do not respect their offering; I have not taken one ass from them, nor have I done evil to one of them.
The rebellion in the middle of the Book of Numbers was all about three men- the two listed above and Korah- who thought that everyone should have the same access to God that Moses did. They claimed that all the congregation was holy, but they were dead wrong. Moses was God's servant because he was obedient; the three stooges were worried only about power. If you want to be able to listen to God, you can't interject your own agenda.
Another common misconception of atheists is, "If God is good, He should treat everyone the same." Not so fast, my friend. Korah, Dathan, and Abiram wanted to get God's blessings for doing whatever they wanted, up to and including undoing God's dramatic rescue of them from Egypt. Atheists have much the same agenda- to do what they want without the Judgment of a Holy God, and to wipe out anyone who would hold them back from doing whatever they want, or judge them as God would. That's why they fight so hard about prayers at commencement ceremonies and Ten Commandments on courthouse walls. It doesn't offend them- it EXPOSES them.
STEP 5: Come rejoicing.
Deu 16:10 And you shall keep the Feast of Weeks to Jehovah your God according to the measure of the freewill offering of your hand, which you shall give according as Jehovah your God blesses you.
Deu 16:11 And you shall rejoice before Jehovah your God, you and your son, and your daughter, and your male slave, and your slave-girl, and the Levite that is inside your gates, and the alien, and the fatherless, and the widow that are among you, in the place which Jehovah your God shall choose to cause His name to dwell there.
Deu 16:12 And you shall remember that you were a slave in Egypt; and you shall take heed to do these statutes.
Deu 16:14 And you shall rejoice in your feast, you and your son, and your daughter, and your male slave, and your slave-girl, and the Levite, and the alien, and the fatherless, and the widow that are inside your gates.
Deu 16:15 You shall keep a solemn feast seven days to Jehovah your God in the place which Jehovah shall choose; for Jehovah your God shall bless you in all your produce, and in every work of your hands, and you shall be altogether joyful.
Now just in case you think that "rejoice" and "joyful" are mistranslations, they come from a word that literally means "To brighten up". Why joyful? Look back over what God has done! Verse 12 reminds them that they are no longer slaves; verse 15 reminds us that God will bless us. No matter the crap we are currently stuck in, we all have that which brought us TO God, and that which God brings us TO. So be joyful!