Sunday, 25 October 2015

And my aroma today is?

“They followed worthless idols and themselves became worthless. They imitated the nations around them although the Lord had ordered them, “Do not do as they do.””
2 Kings 17:15 NIV

There is something is this passage with which your spiritual instinct witnesses, but which requires more reading to get to the bottom of.

The important word is the one rendered as 'worthless' in the NIV which is not wrong, but does not seem rich enough to go to the depths of this passage.

The Hebrew word in question is 'hebel' (transliteration) and is one of the key words used in, and required to understand, Ecclesiastes.

The KJV translates it vanity, whilst the commentators and various Hebrew word books add to vanity with the following group of words:
transitory, vapour, breath, fleeting, without value or substance. One commentator in trying to discover an image that lay behind the word believes that it was used of the smoke from the rubbish that was burned outside of Jesrusalem some of which then drifted back over  the city.

The word 'idols' Heb: 'gilluwl' does not actually appear in the text at this point but has been added based on the context.

This word is derived from a root word meaning 'dung pellets' and although roots of words are by no means always good guides as to the meaning of words based on them this one is probably quite apt in giving a good sense of the disdain with which idols should be treated in terms of their ability to offer anything of worth or value.

What this passage seems to be saying is that the people, in trying to follow or 'appease' God, or in their case also 'gods' (they were hedging their bets) - were focussing on things that were without value ( themselves worthless, and unable to offer anything substantial to achieve what the people were seeking), illusory - offered the superficial appearance of being 'something' but actually amounted to nothing, it was vanity insofar as people were choosing to believe that this action or these actions of theirs were putting them in good standing with God - there is also the strong notion that the vanity lay in the fact that they were seeking to appease multiple 'gods' who themselves did not exist - so the whole exercise was quite literally 'in vain' - then there is the smoke or vapour imagery - that which appears but then is gone, however, in the case of smoke from burning rubbish, it clings to you and leaves a stench.

These people were following practices which in their spiritually darkened state, they supposed were valued or acceptable offerings - but which in reality were without substance or value, and were transitory. However, and this is the crucial aspect, they left them, in terms of their relationship with God, without substance or value, the stench of the smoke stuck to them..... They were becoming not so much 'what' they worshipped but 'how' they worshipped.

What's more they were not even doing so in particularly original ways ( not that originality implies acceptability) - they were simply taking aspects of the cultures around them and wrapping them up into something they thought would 'do the trick'....
They were, in New Testament language, seeking to conform to the prevailing cultures not be transformed by the only culture worth being part of.

So the challenge is for us to examine the way we worship, the attitude with which we worship, what we bring to worship and where it is from. 

What may we become engaged in that we believe is acceptable to God, or which gives the appearance of being acceptable, but which is in fact without substance or value, is transitory and is therefore being done in vain. Things that are more about conforming to external patterns or practices than to the response or offering of a transformed heart and mind? Things which leave a stench clinging to us that is the opposite of the fragrance that is acceptable to  God.
Romans 12:2 , 2 Corinthians 2:15-16

Although the nature of the aroma has changed between the OT and the NT, it is clear ( particularly in Leviticus) that acceptable sacrifices have an acceptable aroma.

Thursday, 22 October 2015

Turn away? ..... Not on your life!

“My people are determined to turn from me. Even though they call me God Most High, I will by no means exalt them.”
Hosea 11:7 NIV

No one who calls themselves a Christian is ever likely to say 'Yep, today I am determined to turn from God, that's my ambition' 

But, as I have experienced in my own life, it is something we can so easily 'slip into'

Without actually consciously deciding or admitting to it,we can find ourselves beginning to live, act or speak in ways that indicate we are, nonetheless, set on a course diametrically opposed to our Father. This is one of the subtleties of the work of the enemy. It is as if, once given the smallest foothold in our lives, our direction of travel is slowly tweaked and turned and in our own mind we either do not realise it or, more likely, we begin to justify it and confirm to ourselves that we are actually doing what God wants rather than exhibiting a determination to turn from Him. 

At this point it becomes Enemy 1 : Christian 0

Eph 4:27 tells us not to give the devil a foothold, or to give him no opportunities in our lives or, in certain translations, not to make any room for him in our lives.

This implies that it is down to us to ensure we do not, by giving him access, start to turn from God.

How might we give him space, room to manoeuvre in our lives ? 

Basically by living, acting or thinking according to his nature and character rather than according to God's. By choosing, in areas of our lives, to march to his tune rather than keeping in step with the Holy Spirit, (Gal 5:25)

It's all about our state of heart and mind....

In 1 Cor 2:16 we are told an amazing truth: "we have the mind of Christ'

One of the incredible privileges of the children of God is that we can think as Jesus did - have the same outlook and attitude.

We are told in Philippians 2:5, “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.” Which means we are to consciously direct our minds to think as Jesus thought - in other words 'to have the same attitude as Christ Jesus' (Phil 2:5)

The state of our mind is directly related to the state of our heart which in turn is a directly affected by the quality, closeness and intimacy of our relationship with Jesus. 

There are so many subtle effects as we slide slowly away from our Father - we no longer spend quality time with Him, we always find or justify a reason not to, there is always something more important. Ultimately we persuade ourselves that 'doing things for Him' is a higher priority than 'spending time with Him'

As our heart slowly loses connection with His heart so our mind loses the ability to discern what is of Him and what is not - we no longer 'let our mind be that which was in Christ Jesus'  

We operate in the borderlands of being in His will then out of it, but in our increasingly self justified state we are less able to tell the difference.... 

We become hard hearted, we display less of the fruit of the Spirit, very few if any of His gifts, we can become two people ( evident to those closest to us) and the life giving 'quality time' we had with Jesus has either become a dry duty or disappeared altogether. Although this becomes a bit of an open secret because, to others who are in close relationship with Jesus, it eventually stands out like a flashing red warning light..... as we display our determination to turn from Him.

However, God has give a sure and certain remedy : Godly sorrow brings repentance (2 Cor 7:10) which gives rise to immediate restoration - even as the prophet says : 'restoring the years the locusts have eaten' (Joel 2:25)

Do our lives, actions, attitudes or words give away a determination to turn away from God or a determination to 'seek His heart'?