Saturday, November 13th, 2010 | Author: Skip Moen
they desire to draw near to God Isaiah 58:2
Draw Near – Yesterday we learned that qirbah is used only twice in Scripture. This is the second occurrence: qirvat Elohiym. Asaph desired only that God should be near. Now Isaiah tells the people that their pleas for God’s presence are in vain. Why? Because they refuse to accept the pictograph of qareb. They want God to be close, but that don’t want to humble themselves.
Read Isaiah’s accusation. “Look! Your fasts are motivated by strife and contention. You want to strike with a wicked fist. You are arrogant in your religious rituals. Do you think that is what I want?” God goes on. “You think bowing your head and putting on sackcloth shows your humility, but I see nothing but pride. Let me tell you what kind of fast I want. Remove wickedness! Let the oppressed go free! Divide your bread with the hungry and your clothes with the naked. Do not hide yourself from your own sin!” Ouch!
Do you want to draw near to God? Do you want Him to draw near to you? Asaph knew that being in His presence was the only good thing in life. That is all Asaph wanted. Isaiah reminds us that drawing near is not a function of religious ritual. It is a matter of social justice! And God’s version of social justice (the only version that counts) begins with humility! Get rid of the wickedness you harbor in your life and your community. Expel the corruption. Vomit the violence. Cast away the unrighteousness. Then act with benevolence toward the oppressed, the hungry and the homeless. Share yourself and your on-loan assets! Divide what you have among those in need. Lend a hand to help them up. Show them mercy and kindness. Don’t hide behind your self-righteous status. Be vulnerable. You were once a slave in Egypt too.
No man draws near to God on a golden chariot. And God approaches no man who is not willing to bow down before the King. We have to spend some time feeding pigs before we can realize the honor that comes with being a servant in His house.
Qirbah may only be used twice in Scripture, but those two occasions are very instructive. One shows us the intensity of a man who desires God at any cost. The other shows us the wayward delusion of a people who think they have earned a right to demand that God draw near. It is a sad fact that most people are described by the second occurrence of qirbah rather than the first.
What have we learned? From Asaph we learn that “it is not important what dying appears to be in the eyes of man: if he lives in communion with God, he knows that God is eternal and that He is his ‘portion’.” From Isaiah we learn that the practice of religion is a sham if it is devoid of humility within community. Ritual means nothing if it is not accompanied by justice. We learn that we can, in fact, command God’s presence – by being His hands and feet to those in need. What is my good? To be with God. And where is He? With those who need Him most.
Where are you?
Topical Index: qirbah, nearness, Isaiah 58:2, Psalm 73:28
Martin Buber, The Prophetic Faith
, p. 201.
TRAVEL NOTE: Today I start my last trip of the year. I do not know if I will have internet access for the next week. If not, I’ll catch up on the 21st. Thanks for being such faithful readers and participants in this journey. Skip
Friday, November 12th, 2010 | Author: Skip Moen
As for me, the nearness of God is good to me; I have made my refuge in the Lord YHWH, to declare Your works. Psalm 73:28
God/ Lord/ YHWH – Before we look at the deeper implications of this verse from Asaph, we must notice that he includes three designations for the Holy One of Israel in a single sentence. The first is elohiym – God. Asaph begins this line with a declaration that being in the presence of the one true God, the only God, is good. Then he immediately adds that he takes refuge in Adonai YHWH. The one true God, Elohiym, is his Lord (Adonai) who is YHWH. There can be no confusion here. There were many “el” gods in the fertile crescent during the 10th century BC. But there is only one Elohiym Adonai YHWH. Asaph wants us to know that he has only this one God in mind.
What does Asaph say about this one true Elohiym Adonai YHWH? He says something quite remarkable, if we slow down long enough to read it without our added theology. He says that being in the presence of Elohiym Adonai YHWH is all that matters. Asaph is not longing for “heaven.” He is not waiting for the escape hatch or for death to sweep him out of a world of turmoil. He is not looking for blessings from on high or a comfortable ride here below. He wants only one thing: to be where YHWH is. That is enough. That is good.
Step back a moment and reconsider Asaph’s insight in light of your own attitudes and circumstances. Are you able to say with Asaph, “The nearness of God is my good”? It’s a powerful statement. It means that trials and troubles are of no consequence if they bring us near to God. It means that the encounters and experiences of my life really don’t matter unless they draw me near to Him. It means that I stop looking for a way out and start looking for the Engineer who arranged it for me. It means that I seek Him in everything He brings across my path. My life pursues His presence. My attitude adopts contentment. It’s good to be where God is.
Brother Lawrence wrote a tiny book called Practicing The Presence Of God. He lived what Asaph declared. My good is to be in His presence. Where doesn’t matter. With whom matters. If you and I examined our lives on the basis of this simple distinction, do you think we would need to make some changes? Would our attitudes need correction? Would our “vacation” plans and “retirement” dreams be altered? Would we need to take another look at our current location?
“Nearness” is a very unusual Hebrew word. Qirbah is used only twice in Scripture. It is tied to the verb qareb, to draw near, to approach. The pictograph is quite revealing. It is “the least (or last) person in the house.” Ah, now we see it. Drawing near is a function of humility! The last shall be first. God’s presence is found where we are humbled, and in Scripture, that usually means suffering. But that’s for another day.
Topical Index: nearness, qirbah, humility, Psalm 73:28
Tuesday, March 21st, 2006 | Author: Skip Moen
But as for me, the nearness of God is my good; Psalm 73:28
Good – Do you remember the boxed candy called “Good and Plenty”? Black and white tiny morsels of licorice packed the pink and white container. I’m sure Asaph never heard of licorice but the word he chooses to describe “good” could easily have been the name of that candy. Tovah is the Hebrew for “good” but it is not limited to ethically or morally good. It covers a wide range of things that are good for me. What is correct, what is pleasing, what is fruitful, what is useful, what is profitable, what is abundant, what is kind and what is proper are just some of the uses. When we see the umbrella of meanings under tovah, we know that Asaph has “good and plenty” in mind.
Asaph’s insight re-directs our thought. We often come to God thinking that He will supply all of the “good” things in life. We pray for abundance, usefulness, uprightness, kindness and a host of other pleasing things. But Asaph pushes all those provisions aside. He sees that the one thing that satisfies all my good is the presence of God. Yes, God can, and sometimes does, supply all these other lesser good things. But the true good that I so desperately need is not what God provides but rather who God is. I need God as close as I can get to Him. And if I am as close as I can possibly get, I will discover that all the other good things I thought I needed have been satisfied just by being with Him.
Look to Yeshua. Once again we see just what goodness comes from close proximity. We wonder how Jesus managed. No home, no income, no source of security, food and clothing. I doubt that many of us would trade places. We have such short-sighted views of our good. Jesus enjoyed more of life than we can ever imagine. He had more freedom, more confidence and more exuberance than any of us. Why? Because his good was to be with the Father. He saw what we ignore. Everything except God is withering grass. So we trade true tovah for accumulated grass and then we wonder why our lives seem so confusing and unfulfilled and exhausting. Listen to the hymn of Asaph. The nearness of God is my good.
Are you singing Asaph’s song or does your life melody play a different tune?
Topical Index: Psalm 73:28, good, tov, nearness
But as for me, the nearness of God is my good; Psalm 73:28
Nearness – Asaph wrote this psalm. He was a choir leader and musician in David’s court (see 1 Chronicles 6:39). In 1841, Sarah Adams put the thought to the music we know. “Nearer my God to Thee” recalls Asaph’s great Hebrew hymn. History recalled both Asaph and Sarah on the evening of April 14, 1912 when the band played this hymn on the deck of the Titanic.
The Hebrew word is unusual. It is only used twice in the entire Bible, once here and once in Isaiah 58:2 where the term is connected to “delight”. With so little to help us understand the meaning, what can we glean from qirvath? We can take a clue from the Hebrew apostle, John. In the first verse of his good news, he says that the Word was “with” God. He uses the preposition pros. It has this special sense: to be in the closest possible proximity, to be right along side. Jesus, says John, was in the closest possible nearness to the Father. The rest of John’s gospel is nothing more than an illustration of this point. Jesus is so close to the Father that he is able to say, “that they may be one, just as We are one” (John 17:22). Isn’t that what we really desire? To be so close to Him that we continually breath His presence. Jesus prayed that we might experience such nearness, not in the moments of terror and tragedy like the night on the Titanic, but in every moment of ordinary life like the evenings and mornings of our Savior.
Asaph knew that true delight comes from nearness to God. Jesus is the living example of what that delight looks like in human form. Asaph knew that being in breathing proximity with the Father is the epitome of what is good (another word we will need to explore). He understood the absolute depths of reality. This ancient choirmaster saw that God’s sheltering arms around me, the sound of His breath in my ear and the beat of His heart of compassion are more precious than all the kingdoms of the earth. What is my good? To be gathered next to God.
Today the world will do all it can to push you away from your “good”. The world does not believe in the bond that brings a child to a father’s arms. It lauds separation, a seductive reality that would destroy your good. Today you will not succumb to that lie. Today you will know that nearer to God is your good.
Topical Index: Psalm 73:28, nearness, good