Thursday, July 15, 2010

Are you Listening?

At this my heart pounds and leaps from its place.
Listen! Listen to the roar of his voice, to the rumbling that comes from his mouth.
He unleashes his lightning beneath the whole heaven and sends it to the ends of the earth.
After that comes the sound of the his roar; he thunders with his majestic voice.
When his voice resounds, he holds nothing back.
God's voice thunders in marvelous ways; he does great things beyond our understanding.
He says to the snow, "fall on the earth," and to the rain shower, "Be a mighty downpour."
So that all men he has made may know his work, he stops every man from his labor.
The animals take cover; they remain in their dens.
The tempest comes out from its chamber, the cold from the driving winds.
The breath of God produces ice, and the broad waters become frozen.
He loads the clouds with moisture, he scatters his lightning through them.
At his direction they swirl around over the face of the whole earth to do whatever he commands them.
He brings the clouds to punish men, or to water his earth and show his love.
Listen to this Job; stop and consider God's wonders.
-Job 37:1-14

This past week I discovered how much I do not necessarily appreciate reading through the book of Job. Its an awesome story of faithfulness and trusting God in uncertainty, but after 30+ chapters of Job and his three friends debating the source of his suffering and repeating their arguments, I was definitely ready to move on to the next chapter in my study. This passage, though, was one that really stuck out to me, and I was left rather awestruck at Elihu's speech to begin chapter 37.

Everything Elihu says to describe the majesty and glory of God brings him such pure delight: At this my heart pounds and leaps from its place! His wonder and joy for the Lord overwhelms him, and then overflows to those around him. "Listen!" he urges, "Listen to the roar of his voice, to the rumbling that come from His mouth." He launches into a fervent dialogue identifying example after example of tangible, earthy examples of God's power. Elihu's passion for this subject practically leaps off the page as he pleads with Job to really listen to what he has said:
Listen to this Job; stop and consider God's wonders. His ardor for the subject is so evident I can just imagine him taking hold of Job's shoulders to look him in the eye. "Are you listening, Job? I mean, really listening? Can you even begin to comprehend such glory?"

This kind of passionate response to God's marvelous glory is so often lacking in my understanding of God. Its easy to worship God for the wonderful things He has done for me, but His inherent praise-worthiness beings simply with who he is, the awesome and powerful creator of the world and of us. Yet how often do I emanate uncontainable praise for my Lord for this reason? Certainly not often enough.

The Temple

I have chosen and consecrated this temple so that my Name may be there forever. My eyes and my heart will always be there.
-2 Chronicles 7:16

Its so easy to breeze through Old Testament readings without really taking the time to contemplate them. Its understandable, though, since they were written for and about a people so long ago, right? Certainly, there is very little relation between these thirty-nine books and our faith today. The Israelites may have served the same God we serve, but that was the Old Covenant. Christ came and did away with all that sacrificial stuff. We're part of the New Covenant. That all may be very well and true, but if today's Christians completely dismiss the value the Old Testament writings have, we're missing out on a beautiful picture of our relationship with Christ. The New Testament doesn't eliminate the need for the Old Testament, but instead becomes a companion to it, so that studying it leads to a deeper understanding.

In the Old Testament, the temple was the place where the glory of God resides. Immediately after being built and dedicated, Solomon's temple is overwhelmed by the presence of God:

When the priests withdrew from the Holy Place, the could filled the temple of the Lord. And the priests could not perform their service because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled his temple.
-1 Kings 8:10-11

(Did you catch that? The glory of God was so overwhelming, the priests couldn't even perform their duties... and the Levites were the MVPs of holiness amongst the Israelites, the only ones who were called to do God's work directly. Wow! Our God is just that marvelous!)

Fastforward a thousand years or so, and Paul is writing to encourage the church in Corinth. He strives to provide answers to their struggles to act as believers in the midst of the world that surrounds them and play out their faith as a unified body of believers. To illustrate his point, he draws a comparison from their former Jewish faith in order to create a picture they can more fully comprehend:

Don't you know that you yourselves are God's temple and that God's Spirit lives in you?"
-1 Corinthians 3:16
God's temple is sacred, and you are that temple.
-1 Corinthians 3:17b
Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, who you have received from God? You are not your own.
-1 Corinthians 6:19

It is here, where the Old and New Testament collide that we find a beautiful portrait of our faith. In the same way that the Temple bore God's name, we bear the name of Christ and represent Him to the world that we live in. As the Old Covenant declared the Temple to be chosen and consecrated, we are God's chosen people, and he has consecrated us, setting us apart from the world as something drastically different (John 15:19). And we have the beautiful promise that, like the Old Testament Temple, the eyes and heart of the Lord are always fixed upon us!
Such a captivating passage that provides so much elaboration of our faith, but would be hidden if we forget to regard the Old Testament for the value it has.