Realizations

Philosophy in the Middle of the Desert

“Hallelujah” by Leonard Cohen: Following The Life of David December 9, 2019

If all the known verses of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” were to continue the story of King David as overtly as the first verse, the song could be interpreted as something like the following verses. Compare them with the original lyrics I put at the bottom of this post. Each verse gets closer inside the life of David as it goes from third person to second person to first person narrative.

VERSE 1: King David played his lyre and composed music for the LORD in a way that pleased Him so greatly that, in a mysterious way, his angelic-sounding music moved the supernatural realm and moved God to suppress demons. David tapped into the beautiful, angelic patterns God created within music theory of the fourth, the fifth, and the beauties of major and minor, dark and light, reminiscent of the joyous and sad seasons in life, but God is glorified and can be worshiped in it all (which foreshadows the ups and downs of his life explained in the coming verses). This mysterious, worshipful experience of music transcends David into the spirit realm to connect with God, leaving him in a state of baffled euphoria in His presence.

VERSE 2: But when God gave him rest on all sides, he started to become complacent and the impenetrable faith of his youth developed holes and he became more casual about his relationship with God and keeping His Law and became prideful, which always comes before a fall. In this state of disconnect from God he wasn’t strong enough to withstand the temptation of moonlight lust on his rooftop which resulted in adultery with Bathsheba,  David’s “great sin.” Because of this great evil, God cursed David so that his royal throne was broken, he lost his power and had to flee for his life from his son Absalom, all for a lustful night of euphoric indulgence. He traded the euphoric “Hallelujah” of worshiping God for a euphoric “Hallelujah” of selfish, carnal indulgence.

VERSE 3: When confronted about it by his first wife Michal, David recounts how their childless marriage had been threatened from the beginning and their love quickly turned cold and distant, and certainly wasn’t any warmer now that they were finally back together in safety, albeit through David’s force. This coldness and lack of love incited David’s lustful eyes to look for something more. And whether leading the triumphant troops home in a victory march under the royal banner of Saul’s house on the marble arch or leading the ark of the covenant triumphantly back home under the scathing eyes of Michal, Saul’s daughter, the joy of those victories was always tainted by the lingering curse of the royal family of Saul overlooking and antagonizing all that David did. Instead of David’s home life being as joyous as his victories, it was cold and broken and marked by the pain of obedience to God to do the right thing toward Saul’s family.

VERSE 4: David is broken in repentance and sings to God in Psalm 51 begging Him to not take away His holy spirit from him and restore their relationship to the way it used to be when God’s spirit was moving in him, showing him what to do, and God was with him in everything he did, glorifying Himself through David.

VERSE 5: It’s ironic that the third of the Ten Commandments is to not take the name of the Lord in vain, but it’s a name that isn’t even spoken and modern Jews don’t even know how to pronounce it; perhaps it was so even in David’s time, and they didn’t know exactly what God’s name was that was revealed to Moses.  With David’s pride resulting in his backsliding, he became lax concerning the Law of God (as evidenced in the mishandling of the ark) and perhaps this included the third of the Ten Commandments, to the point that the holiness of God’s name was forgotten, maybe even influenced by the rough-around-the-edges military companions he surrounded himself with (Joab seems to loosely use the LORD’s name in vain in 2 Sam. 19:7), which certainly wasn’t helped by the doubts and disconnect he felt from God in fleeing for his life — unlike his previous fleeing from Saul, this time fleeing because of his great sins. But even in David’s sins, he still had a core, loving relationship and understanding of God’s grace and heart that overshadowed the Law and his sins (as mentioned in Psalm 51). Saul was instantly removed from being king for not following a specific military command of God, while David did far graver sins and God instantly forgave him (notwithstanding consequences) and He continued orchestrating things to establish David’s legacy for centuries, because David was after God’s heart. It’s this understanding of the heart of God and the Law that allowed David to see the bigger picture and get away with breaking other holy laws like lying to eat the holy, consecrated bread. He understood that God wanted more than just specific rules followed, God wants to be in everything we do and are. More than revering specific laws or a specific name for God as holy, God’s blazing light is in every single word, the holy and the broken words, indeed He is not just in the holy sacrifices and rituals, but in everything in life, the happy and sad things. (“For you do not desire sacrifice or I would give it… My sacrifice, O God, is a contrite spirit,” Ps. 51) “I broke a rule, so what? God is bigger than the rules, he wants our hearts.”

VERSE 6: Even after David’s repentance, God fulfills His prophecy by Nathan the prophet of “the sword never departing from David’s house” when Absalom rises against him. David doubts God’s promises to him and even if God is with him or there at all. He laments that all he’s known from his loved ones (family, friends, in-laws, children) is strife and having to watch his back and literally be prepared to defend his life from someone who suddenly rises up against him. But even in the midst of his life’s tragedies, he was still singing his psalms to the Lord, finding a way to praise Him for His providence and trusting Him to fulfill His promises. Albeit, his Hallelujahs are sung from a sorrowful state of humble, faithful obedience, rather than from joyful exultation, in the midst of external pain and somber repentance.

VERSE 7: Yet at the end of his life, a life of unimaginable conflict, he’s able to say, “As the Lord lives, who has redeemed my life from all distress (1 Kings 1:29)” and in his final words he recounts, “The Spirit of the Lord spoke through me; His word was on my tongue (2 Samuel 23:2).” He dies without feeling regrets, thankful to God for forgiving him of his sins in His grace and for the promise He upheld to establish his throne forever. “Is not my house firm before God? He has made an eternal covenant with me, set forth in detail and secured. Will he not bring to fruition all my salvation and my every desire? (2 Sam. 23:5)”  Again, David is seeing the bigger picture: God is the Lord of Song, creator and sustainer of all music, and so David finally finds himself back in the spiritual state of Verse 1 and uses God’s creation to connect with Him, moving in Him, and once again “Hallelujah” being in every breath he draws. 



 

ORIGINAL LYRICS OF “HALLELUJAH” BY LEONARD COHEN:

[Verse 1]
Now I’ve heard there was a secret chord
That David played, and it pleased the Lord
But you don’t really care for music, do you?
It goes like this, the fourth, the fifth
The minor fall, the major lift
The baffled king composing “Hallelujah”
[Chorus]
Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah

[Verse 2]
Your faith was strong but you needed proof
You saw her bathing on the roof
Her beauty and the moonlight overthrew you
She tied you to a kitchen chair
She broke your throne and she cut your hair
And from your lips she drew the Hallelujah
[Chorus] Hallelujah, Hallelujah

[Verse 3]
Baby I’ve been here beforeI know this room, I’ve walked this floor
I used to live alone before I knew you
And I’ve seen your flag on the marble arch
Love is not a victory march
It’s a cold and it’s a broken Hallelujah
[Chorus] Hallelujah, Hallelujah

[Verse 4]
There was a time you let me know
What’s really going on below
But now you never show it to me, do you?
And remember when I moved in you
The holy dove was moving too
And every breath we drew was Hallelujah
[Chorus] Hallelujah, Hallelujah

[Verse 5]
You say I took the name in vain
I don’t even know the name
But if I did, well really, what’s it to you?
There’s a blaze of light in every word
It doesn’t matter which you heard
The holy or the broken Hallelujah
[Chorus] Hallelujah, Hallelujah

[Verse 6]
Maybe there’s a God above
But all I’ve ever learned from love
Was how to shoot at someone who outdrew you
And it’s not a cry that you hear at night
It’s not somebody who’s seen the light
It’s a cold and it’s a broken Hallelujah
[Chorus] Hallelujah, Hallelujah

[Verse 7]
I did my best, it wasn’t much
I couldn’t feel, so I tried to touch
I’ve told the truth, I didn’t come to fool you
And even though it all went wrong
I’ll stand before the Lord of Song
With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah
[Chorus] Hallelujah, Hallelujah

 

**Author’s note: I don’t actually think this song is intended to be interpreted as one continuous story about the David narrative (or any other continuous story for that matter), as Leonard Cohen wrote 80 verses for it and whittled it down to the above verses. It’s abstract and he probably just picked the most interesting verses, although I do think that observing the song exclusively from the David context is a very moving perspective and more captivating than the more likely interpretation of a modern relationship struggle that just invokes Biblical metaphors. Regardless of the different interpretations, I’d say this is easily among the top ten most intriguing songs ever written by human beings.

 

Crisis Philosophy October 28, 2014

[as originally typed up on my iphone from 4:30-6am, 101714, after waking from a nightmare, terrified by the disgusting abominations I saw and felt, as if they were really happening]

 

The disgusting, demonic nightmare:
The old, placid doctor talked to his assistant (a pretty, young blonde in a labcoat), as if another routine day on the job:
“Yes, my dear. We’re going to rape you and burn you and chop you up and freeze you.”
The young lady was standing very routinely, but with a sudden look of surprise and confusion. Then two men came up from behind and grabbed her, put her down on the ground, and put a large ice bag on her neck.  She screamed as they started chopping her ankles with a butcher’s knife. But the scene cut right before the blade touched her flesh. And I thought, well that’s a relief the scene was cut, otherwise it would have been inappropriate.
Then I was on a bus and this same scene was playing as a movie on a screen. I was watching it again with the other people on the bus and when it got to the point of chopping her ankles I knew the camera would stop again just in time before the blade cut, otherwise it would have been inappropriate for a public place like that. But there was sitting in front of me a pretty young blonde, similar to the young nurse in the movie, and she turned her head away right before the chop, in horror, unable to watch anymore. Then the movie showed the nurse’s head on the ground next to the opaque freezer box which contained her chopped up body. And that’s when I woke up, full of terror and overcome with disgust at the darkness of that movie. And yet I already said in the dream that “at least it wasn’t inappropriate”, though that same “appropriate” movie caused the girl in front of me to turn in disgust, and was enough for me to wake me up in a terrified panic. What symbolism there is all throughout this dream!

And, as only a dream can do, my mind and heart were suddenly opened, and I could feel the fear and pain that blonde nurse experienced, and all my first world problems vanished. I realized that intense human suffering like that was going on right now in the world; it didn’t end with the Holocaust. And being in that fatal doctor’s office with that nurse, I felt her panicked desperation as she thought “Surely there is someone who can save me! Surely there is someone coming for me, or at least working or fighting to get here and rescue me!”

 

Then this dialog played in my mind while I was recovering from the dream.
Old European gentleman: “Oh come now. Eat. Drink!  Be merry. There is much to do, but there is also a time to enjoy life!”
Neo: “No. You don’t get it. You don’t realize how evil evil is. If you did you wouldn’t be able to put that food down. You would be staying up all night thinking and working to save these innocent people right now. The hand is cancerous and its spreading faster than a venom, but because of the remaining good in it we ignore the bad for a little bit longer, hoping it will get better… Hoping until it’s too late.”
Gentleman: “You can’t just throw away the good with the bad, the baby with the bath water!”
Neo: “But I say, yes!  Throw it out!  Better to enter life with one hand than to burn in hell with both.  The thing that’s keeping this kind of evil active is humanity’s existence. As long as we’re still around there will be immense suffering, because there will always be demons to put evil emotions and ideas in our hearts, and just enough lazy, complacent good people to keep the world good enough, and not altogether bad enough to cut off. Good enough people are the problem. It’s the hardworking man in Iowa who works an honest job and comes back to a wholesome meal with his family and settles in for a night in front of the tv. This is the problem. This is what’s allowing more time for the evil in the world to go on betraying and cheating and lying and piercing and burning. This is what’s keeping the stew just lukewarm enough to not be thrown out.  Oh, you don’t understand the evil that exists!”

God, destroy this Sodom even though there be 10 righteous in it!

 

I think about the horrible, utterly disgusting depravity of this world with its inhuman media, making movies like Human Centipede. Not only are people given opportunities and incentives to let their minds wander to such dark corners, inspired by the dark boundaries surpassed by those before them, but then they invest time and money to not only make their evil imaginations visible, but to put them in other people’s heads, into the minds of people that might not ever think of these evil things otherwise. Such is the cancer of pornography and MTV and Hollywood, who makes inescapable commercials that are literally filled with the same scenes that made movies in the 60’s rates R, and in the 50’s rated X.  And yet most Americans think this is … Wait for it… GOOD!!!  We have been so numbed to the evils of pornography that we have also been numbed to the good of innocence and virginity. Numbed to how good it is seeing a young woman as a soul, created in the image of God, and the beautiful work of art she is within, and thus is our desire to protect her from pain and devaluing numbed. The hardworking family man in Iowa is doing nothing to stop this genocide, but instead embraces it, even if only subtly, and subjects his family to it as acceptable prime time tv!  He is the problem. He is in the way of justice and mercy. He is no better than the passive Germans who kept living everyday life when there was a concentration camp in their backyard. Oh that you were hot or cold, holy or evil, but you are lukewarm, and even though you are not altogether bad you will be thrown out, and cause the rest of us to be thrown out with you.

 

When we were children our eyes were still open to see the gravity of evil and it could make us vomit, but today we have been so numbed to how great this evil is, that instead of vomiting out the poison we laugh at it, ingest it, spread it, and it kills us all. America could very well be the most wicked nation on Earth, for we are a Great Whore seeking out nations to invite to drink our cup of adultery, and so make them guilty also. And as if our rated R movies and pornography and sex slavery wasn’t bad enough, what’s even worse than all of that is that we stamp “In God We Trust” on it. I assure you God doesn’t take that blasphemy lightly.

 

Right now, somewhere in the world, someone is being tortured just as bad as the horrors of the Nazis and their Holocaust.  Like what’s going on in Iraq at the hands of ISIS right now.
If I live a good, comfortable life but someone else is living in Hell as we speak, then may both our lives be snuffed if it stops their suffering; for pain is more tangible than joy. Until then let us fight this horror with whatever time and energy we have left.
I pray God would have mercy on us, as in the days of Noah, and wipe us all out for the sake of the suffering that we have allowed to become this unimaginably horrible. I don’t care about justice, all I care about is ending the pain. With people going through this kind of intense pain right now, how can we do anything but be constantly working to rescue them? I mean, we’re in a state of emergency crisis! Put on hold your job, your marriage, your parenthood! Don’t you dare waste any more time on entertainment and recreation when you could always be doing something to help in the fight against the suffering of the innocent. I know you’d wish people would give up entertainment to fight for you if you were in that kind of pain. If you’re not part of the solution, then you’re part of the problem.
Better to err on the side of righteousness and holiness than on the side of blasphemy, apathy, laziness, lust, and violence.

 

———————–

The next morning I knew I had to do something. And while I’m limited at helping to fight the genocide of ISIS (you can support Voice of the Martyrs as they are actively helping those victims), I knew that there were plenty of horrors happening in my own backyard, and so I signed up to volunteer myself (not just my money) with End Slavery TN. Even if all I can help with right now is sorting papers or doing data entry or writing essays, I’m at least part of the solution to bring relief to the suffering. Even if I can do nothing more than menial tasks right now, so that more active people in the organization aren’t tied down doing them, then I will allow more time/energy/attention to be directed to help the suffering.  In whatever we do, we need to live like we’re really in a state of emergency crisis, because we are.

 

The god of Embarrassment October 22, 2014

Filed under: Christianity/Theology/Spirituality — milesprowers @ 1:48 pm
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I worship the god of Embarrassment.  Not in the same way I worship Jehovah.  For I worship Jehovah in praise and great joy and love and gratitude and rest.  But I burn incense on the altar of Embarrassment in great fear, so as to appease his spirits, to pacify him a little longer that I might have partial relief.  And yet Jesus said, you cannot serve two masters.  For you HAVE TO love one and hate the other.  You cannot serve both God and Mammon.  But I don’t serve Mammon; I serve Embarrassment.  And that HAS to change!  For right now I’m not open to doing ANYTHING God tells me to do, only those things which don’t conflict with my previous commitments to Embarrassment.  And so I bind the hand of God from healing this suffering world.  Just so I can live in an illusory comfort zone, hiding behind my rituals and tradition, trying to worship a man-made idol.

 

On the Tips of our Tongues April 24, 2014

Father, order my thoughts and make them words.

There is something on the tips of all our tongues.  It’s the look on the face of a dying man, just released from the hospital, sitting with his eyes closed listening to his friends read a book with him, resting in the gift of that moment.  There’s something there. Something so powerful that I’m speechless, and I don’t dare to interrupt the embrace of that bliss. We all felt it but we couldn’t grasp it; we didn’t know what to do except savor it before it was gone. There are no words for that feeling. We just don’t get it. It’s on the tip of our tongues but we can’t say it.   On the tip of our hearts and souls but we cannot comprehend it.

It’s when a random song starts playing and it unexpectedly brings you to your knees, brings tears to your eyes, and all you can think to do is stretch out your hands to praise God, the only one you can think to attribute such euphoria to.  We don’t understand why or how, but it’s there. There’s something there which we just can’t get at.

But very soon all will be complete and we will see it as it truly is. We will become real and experience reality. We will sense with maximum perception.  For we will no longer glimpse the divine with fleeting experiences, but we will live the divine.

When you smell a fragrance you haven’t smelled since childhood and the nostalgia overwhelms all your senses and melts you inside, bringing you close to unconsciousness, it is a taste of what is to come.  Though right now we can only taste it on the tips of our tongues.  There’s something happening in our midst that is deeper than anything we can ever know right now.  Something is about to burst at the seams.  And when it does we will look back and laugh at our finitude.  But until then all we have are snapshots into the Director’s commentary, glimpses of the divine.

photo (2)

 

A Man After God’s Own Heart March 6, 2014

I think of a child running through the meadows, wide-eyed with wonder, a radiant smile, hands outstretched to Heaven, spinning around, throwing up flowers to the sky, to God.  Taking in the mountains and fields, loving life, rejoicing in it.  Loving God who he can feel there with him, who he knows intimately, talks to and praises openly, with all his heart, thanks God for the beauty of nature, which he knows are God’s gifts to His children, fruit of His love.

And God responds to this innocent boy, perfect in heart, by coming alive around him.  As the boy runs, the flowers around him open up, the clouds part to reveal a beautiful sunset, a breeze blows his hair, light shines down on him, birds fly by, deer appear.  It’s the manifestation of God smiling and hugging the boy, telling him how much He loves him.  And likewise, as if trying to hug back just as hard, the boy shouts at the top of his lungs, “LORD!  I love you with all my heart!!!”

And being overwhelmed with this euphoric experience he falls backward into a soft bed of flowers, eyes closed, no longer focusing on the manifestation of God, but rather God Himself, there beyond the senses. He doesn’t know what else to do except whisper over and over, “I love You.  Thank You.  I praise You.”  Then his joy reaches the next level where his smile turns into a frown and tears of supernatural joy freely flow from his face.  The boy doesn’t care who sees or about anything else going on, because all he cares about is loving and worshiping God as much as he can.

[written with my left hand, while my right was sprained, on 1/16/14]

 

My Valentine February 15, 2014

[written on 1/25/14 with my left hand, during 24 hours of silence; posted in honor of Valentine’s Day!]

If you’ve gone through a whole day without loving God, trusting God, or truly focusing in on Him/tuning into His voice… then you failed your top priority of the day.  The day was a failure.  You got an F.  You didn’t pass the test of loyalty.  After all, isn’t this the greatest commandment in the Old and New Testament, and indeed the meaning of life?  “Love the LORD your God with all your heart…”

If you don’t feel love for God in your heart something is wrong.  Stop everything you’re doing; take off from work if you have to.  Until you’re right with God, until you get to the place where you can honestly ask God to give you opportunities to proclaim His name today, to proclaim your Love.  And then go out actually looking for those opportunities.

God wants us to love Him like a lover — like in Song of Songs — consumed with Him as if we have a crush.  God wants me to run out through the fields to find a tree that I can carve a heart with both our initials in it.

We always put God on the shelf, getting Him out when it doesn’t conflict with anything else.  But why not put everything else on the shelf until it doesn’t conflict with God?  Why not love God and trust Him even if it means we die?  [21514- As my friend, Spencer Argow, pointed out to me last week, the last time I saw him before he died:  “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in Him.” ~Job 13:15]

[I should note that writing this article is my very act of living out my advice, as this came to me during a time when I have so much stuff people want me to do, and I chose to put it on the shelf until I’m right with God again.  It’s kind of corny, I know, but that’s the point!]

 

Lonely God February 8, 2014

Filed under: Christianity/Theology/Spirituality — milesprowers @ 6:25 pm
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[1/27/14-  while listening to John Reuben’s I Pictured It]

Lonely god. A phrase I thought of a week ago. How truly sad it is, this creator god who creates children to love him, but instead even the best of us confine him to increments of our time disproportionate to our other affections. What a shame that I truly care more for his children than I do him, the very one by whom I exist. I’m scared to lift my hands in praise to him because I care more about what my brothers and sisters think, than what my father thinks.  He gets excited when an opportunity arises for us to talk about him, to mention him like we would a lover. But when we think he’s not looking we change subjects or imply that we don’t even know him. And his smile becomes a frown as he turns his head and leaves before we see him and realize he overheard us. And I feel this god crying out in the wilderness, saying, Why won’t anyone come live with me?  Why only brief visits?  Is it the way I look?  Or is it because we don’t have anything in common?  Nothing to talk about?  But oh, my child!  Don’t you have more in common with me than anyone else?  Shouldn’t you have more to talk about with me than anyone else?  You are made from my own genes.

What would happen if we went to live with this god?  And got his advice and encouragement all day?  Ran to him when we were injured or rejected, knowing he would only run to us, embrace us in love and cry with us. And there, resting in between his shoulders, we could feel his heartbeat.   [Deuteronomy 33:12]

People are actually dying around us and yet we are still too afraid to just trust God, to just praise Him as much as we know how, and let him come to us and supernaturally change things, for the best of our own lives and ultimately everyone we are connected to.   People are on the verge of dying and will one day not be able anymore to feel the effects of the reckless faith we could have had. And God cries out to us:  Why won’t you just trust me?!  What have I ever done to you that you would doubt me like this?

O Moses!  What did you find out there in the wilderness?
O David!  What did you find out there in the wilderness?
O Jesus!  What did you find out there in the wilderness?

 

The Boy and his God January 6, 2014

[written on 1514]

2 Kings 19:32 Therefore thus saith the Lord concerning the king of Assyria, He shall not come into this city, nor shoot an arrow there, nor come before it with shield, nor cast a bank against it.
33 By the way that he came, by the same shall he return, and shall not come into this city, saith the Lord.
34 For I will defend this city, to save it, for mine own sake, and for my servant David’s sake.

The thing that moved me so profoundly about that last line was the fact that this was spoken to Hezekiah, king of Judah, 300 years after David’s death.  What was it about this one man David that would cause the almighty creator of the universe to honor him as such that hundreds of years later He continually mentioned him by name and continued to bless his descendants on his behalf?  How was David different than everyone else in Judah’s history?  David was by no means faultless, having committed adultery with Bathsheba and then killing her husband to cover it up.  And even later in his life–a life filled with polygamy and violence (the latter keeping God from allowing him to build a temple for Him)–David’s arrogance caused 70,000 Israelites to be slain.  Yet throughout the books of the Kings God refers over and over to David as His servant, a man after His own heart, and “perfect in heart.”  What was it about David that was so great that it overshadowed all the evil he had done and then put him on a pedestal for everyone to model after?

It all goes back to why David became king in the first place.  Unlike all the kings after him, he was not from the royal line–becoming a king simply because he was born into it. There was no royal line yet.

1 Samuel 13:13 And Samuel said to Saul, Thou hast done foolishly: thou hast not kept the commandment of the Lord thy God, which he commanded thee: for now would the Lord have established thy kingdom upon Israel for ever.
14 But now thy kingdom shall not continue: the Lord hath sought him a man after his own heart, and the Lord hath commanded him to be captain over his people, because thou hast not kept that which the Lord commanded thee.

Saul was a tall, handsome, respectable man and fit the image of “The King of Israel” more than anyone else, but his heart wasn’t perfect.  Now God looked throughout all of Israel to find one whose heart was perfect, though he might not fit the image of “The King of Israel”.

So God sent His prophet Samuel to “Jesse the Bethlehemite: for I have provided me a king among his sons.

1 Samuel 16:6 And it came to pass, when they were come, that he looked on Eliab, and said, Surely the Lord’s anointed is before him.
7 But the Lord said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.

It turned out that of everyone in Israel the LORD could have chosen, He single-handedly selected the youngest and least likely of Jesse’s sons to be king.  Instead of a tall, noble, robust man like Saul He chose a young, humble boy who was merely in charge of looking after his father’s sheep while his older brothers prepared for war.

Here was a young boy, alone with his sheep each day, amazed by the majesty of God in nature, and singing and playing songs to praise God.  Through the years he came to know and love God intimately, and was unashamed of his love for God, singing it at the top of his lungs for all to hear.  It was in those fields that God established his faith, delivering him from the wild beasts that preyed on his sheep, showing him who his shepherd was.  Of everyone in Israel, the LORD had a special, intimate relationship with this boy, and He knew this was one who had the makings of the perfect king.  A king who would be unashamed of his love for God, dancing for Him in the streets for all to see, yet worshiping alone in the house of the LORD.  A king who loved reading and meditating and proclaiming the word of the LORD — not just the exciting stories in the Bible, but also its rules and decrees (he actually sang songs about the Law and how wonderful God’s decrees were!).  A king who would trust in God for protection and success, not in armies to kill giants.  A king who would follow the Law of the LORD with all of his heart, not even willing to defend himself against his enemy, Saul, because God had anointed Saul as king.  And so the LORD gave all the kingdom of Israel to the shepherd boy David overnight through Samuel’s anointing.

Oh that I could live a life like David, and make such a mark on God’s heart that hundreds of years later God would still refer to me by name and bless people for my sake, even though I’m dead!

***********

I think about 1 Kings 18:20 So Ahab sent unto all the children of Israel, and gathered the prophets together unto mount Carmel.
21 And Elijah came unto all the people, and said, How long halt ye between two opinions? if the Lord be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him. And the people answered him not a word.
22 Then said Elijah unto the people, I, even I only, remain a prophet of the Lord; but Baal’s prophets are four hundred and fifty men.

In all of Israel there was only 1 prophet of the LORD?  And of all Israel gathered there, not one person would say they followed the LORD?!  It’s sobering to realize that based on the way I sometimes dance around the subject of God in public, I myself would probably fare no better than the Israelites here if put to an intimidating test like this.  And I can’t help but wonder if when 2 Chronicles 16:9 says, For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to shew himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him, if the LORD’s eyes would stop on me, and say, “Now, here’s a man after my own heart.”  When the standard of men like that is set to Elijah and David, I know I don’t make the cut, and that grieves me.

What changes do we need to make in our lives to be men and women whom the eyes of the LORD will not pass over?  What is stopping us from living reckless, kamikaze lives of faith like David–going up against a giant with only a slingshot and boasting about it to him?

And what would happen if we did risk everything by trusting in God completely (risking our reputations, our personal desires, our control)? Something like this:

After a series of evil and mediocre kings in Judah, all of the sudden came along 25 year old Hezekiah, of whom 2 Kings 18 says, “And he did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, according to all that David his father did.”  What a stir would that cause (actually living like David did) in a country where immorality and “tolerance” had become the norm of society?  Imagine a president showing up all of the sudden and reforming all of our laws to be more strict morally, and less tolerant of religions besides our country’s founding religion, and outlawing everything that goes against the Constitution and the original intentions of our Forefathers?  That would take some serious guts.  Hezekiah did what he knew God wanted him to do regardless of what everyone else thought; he was unflinchingly courageous in his faith and love of God.  So what became of a man that lived like that?

2 Chronicles 30: 26 So there was great joy in Jerusalem: for since the time of Solomon the son of David king of Israel there was not the like in Jerusalem.
2 Chronicles 32: 29 Moreover [the LORD] provided him cities, and possessions of flocks and herds in abundance: for God had given him substance very much.
30 And Hezekiah prospered in all his works.

And when he was confronted with war he never even had to lift a sword, for indeed the battle was very real, and against the strongest of enemies, but The Lord Himself fought for Hezekiah (as referenced in the scripture at the beginning of this post).  Oh that I could be a Hezekiah who when presented with the worst letter imaginable (a letter from the Hitler of the day saying he’s coming for you next!), takes the bad news and, before doing anything else or consulting anyone, brings it into the house of The LORD to lay it before Him and ask for His help.  Outrageous faith and devotion to God is accompanied by outrageous blessings of God.  Whereas in the past God would bless the kings in battle by allowing them to defeat their enemies through their own swords, for Hezekiah God sent out an angel to destroy the Assyrian army, while he and everyone stayed safely inside Judah [See 2 Chronicles 20 for a similar story with righteous king Jehoshaphat]. And even on his death bed, when he cried out to God to remember how he had served Him wholeheartedly, God heard his prayer and gave him 15 extra years of life.  Oh that we would live likewise and give God a reason to do amazing supernatural things!

So how can I become like that shepherd boy that God blessed so much?  I believe that years before Samuel anointed David as king, David’s heart was open and surrendered to God, and so through the years God gave David more opportunities for his love and trust to grow.  Until finally David was “perfect in heart” and then, being ready, God raised him up to do amazing things he would have never guessed.  David didn’t love God so that he could one day be king, he loved God because God is more worthy of our love than anything else, and he would have been content to live the rest of his life in those fields with God, his treasure, the most important thing in life.  What more of a blessing could David have been given than a life in the wilderness, with great amounts of time to spend with his loving God?  Certainly not armies and kingdoms and women and riches.

I have to love the LORD my God with all my heart and mind and strength.  Of course that can only be done by the grace of God, so I have to ask for the grace of God — for God to open my heart and mind that I can love Him as David did.  It’s really not as intimidating as it sounds; it’s actually so simple.  God’s not asking us to drain our energy and finances in service to Him, or even to make the biggest impact possible.  God’s just asking us to love Him right now, as much as possible.  That’s it.  Then, to keep loving Him as much as possible in the next moment and the next.  As long as it is right now.  And in that love, God will show His love for us more clearly and give us experiences to grow our relationship and trust until we love Him intimately and publicly without embarrassment, and trust Him unrealistically.  And when our hearts get to the point of being perfect God will zap us wherever He wants us to be, even if it makes as much worldly sense as a shepherd boy being anointed as king overnight.

So for me personally, am I willing to give up everything that makes sense to simply love God with all my heart?  Am I willing to give up my ministry and my giftings and callings and all the ways I think I can make the biggest impact with my life to be seen as a fool for God?  Or am I hiding behind my so-called ministry, so I have an excuse not to do something embarrassing?  Am I really willing to dance before the LORD with all my might in public and worship Him intimately in the lonely wilderness?  Willing to do embarrassing, corny, cliche things like talk about how much I love Him around people that don’t even believe in God?  Maybe God won’t call you to do that, but would you be willing to if He wanted you to?  If for no other reason than He just felt like asking you to do it, and He is worthy of it?  I’ll do it.  Whatever You want.  Not because it makes sense, but because I love You and care about You.  Here am I, Your servant, Your instrument; send me.  I know that whatever You want me to do, You will enable me to do it.

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Why don’t we believe that if we love and trust God with all our heart that everything will be alright, and indeed better than just alright? What’s the worst that can happen?  We experience pain.  And then it’s over.  Are you okay with something bad happening to you?

And while you should never even entertain this thought, just for a moment let’s entertain it:  What would actually happen to you if you took a risk and trusted God despite the circumstances?  What if you choose to trust God despite the circumstances and he doesn’t come through like you want?  Well, really, what’s so bad about that?  What if you go down in history as the person whose life fell apart and he died, but he trusted God until the very end?  Isn’t it true that we will never see all the things God is doing before we die?   Why not trust God regardless of how things turn out, if for nothing more than being obedient to God who has commanded us to trust in Him?

Daniel 3:16-18: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, answered and said to the king, O Nebuchadnezzar, …Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king.  But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.

As Oswald Chambers put it:
“Our Lord has a right to expect that those who claim to be his should have an understanding confidence in him. But too often our trust is in God up to a certain point; then we go back to the panic prayers of those who do not know God.  We get to our wits’ end, showing that we have not the slightest confidence in him and his government of the world. He seems to be asleep, and we see nothing but breakers ahead.  ‘O you of little faith!’ What a pang must have shot through the disciples. And what a pang will go through us when we suddenly realize that we might have produced downright joy in the heart of Jesus by remaining absolutely confident in Him, no matter what was ahead.”

And as the LORD Himself put it in Joshua 1:9 Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.

God is pleased so much by our ACT of faith, our CHOICE to obey Him by believing, regardless of the circumstances, regardless if they measure up to the world’s standard of being realistic.  The supernatural by definition isn’t natural, therefore it’s unrealistic, thus God is unrealistic.  And hallelujah that He is unrealistic!!!  Because that means He does unrealistic things like coming through for us in our times of need.  Is it realistic that the almighty, infinite Creator of our world would choose to become a helpless baby, born in a stable, raised in the ghetto, later become homeless, and finally tortured and killed as a criminal?  No, we serve an interesting, unique, mysterious God, who isn’t the kind of God we would make up if we tried.  We serve a God who would rather dwell in a tent than a golden palace.  He has his own personality.  And why would you want anything different? Not only do I love You, God.  I like You.  I like who You are and the way You do things.  You are an amazing, cool God.

And when we love Him and have great faith in Him he likes it.  He really likes it.  A lot.  You know how I know?  Because in the Bible His favorite people, who He blessed the most, were those who had a genuine, loving, unashamed, trusting relationship with Him.  God wants us to rejoice in Him, to be excited about Him, to let Him be part of everything we do.  So that whether we eat or drink or whatever we do we give glory to God (just as he commanded us to have feasts in the Old Testament to be glad and celebrate Him!).  He wants us to sing praises to Him, and chant His name.  Applaud Him and do fist pumps in the air with pride, saying, “They’re no match for my God.  My God can do anything!”

I know this is true personally.  Since having this revelation and living life like David lived it day by day, all of the sudden God has come out of the woodwork: putting the right people into my path at the right time, giving this shy introvert an unabashed passion to worship him publicly with tears (not caring what anyone else thinks), hope and peace in the midst of dark circumstances (valleys of the shadow of death) where normally I’d feel afraid and doomed, and an authentic desire to seek out opportunities to proclaim my loving relationship with God to friends and neighbors and anyone God gives me the opportunity to.

We only live once.  Why not go all out, taking risks to serve God with all our hearts, even if we die?  Live the kind of life that would make someone name their child after you.

After we’re all long gone, only the best of us, even the kings, will get only a sentence in a history book.  I want mine to say: And he did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, and walked in all the way of David his father, and turned not aside to the right hand or to the left.

*The musical soundtrack and audio reading of this essay can be found here: https://soundcloud.com/thesecretofdavid

 

The Great Commission hinders The Great Commission? October 2, 2013

Filed under: Christianity/Theology/Spirituality — milesprowers @ 10:12 pm
Tags: , ,

Right now I’m sitting in a gazebo in a garden mausoleum with pink roses outside to my right as it rains. I’m also getting bitten by a mosquito at the moment, sucking my blood in the midst of the dead people who have no more blood.  Sucking the life out of me in the land of the lifeless.  There’s something profound about all of this, but I can’t pinpoint the significance.

 

There’ve been a lot of family deaths lately but I don’t really care. Because families are awkward.   I put awkwardness above family. I give awkwardness and comfort more priority than my own family, my own flesh and blood.

 

Why am I anxious around my family? Because something inside of me feels guilty and sad and fearful that they do not know Jesus and have a relationship with him and thus are not going to heaven. So to escape from the subconscious pain and the awkwardness of my responsibility to share that with them I just avoid them or make awkward small talk. I can’t just enjoy being with them as family or truly, genuinely want to spend time with them for who they are and love them, because this important, spiritual obligation trumps family and love, so it seems to get in the way.  I’d rather just forget about my family and in so doing forget about my responsibility to them.

 

How interesting it is to remember the week that I essentially renounced Christianity and how that instantly broke down the barriers between me and other people because there wasn’t this looming, overshadowing feeling of guilt and responsibility. And I was more likely to hang out with people just because they were people and I wanted to hang out. I would show them love simply for the sake of love with no ulterior motives and no agenda. It didn’t matter to me then what people do with their lives because there was no overarching Law to follow, no worldview they needed to understand.  So instantly I was in the same boat as they were. No better than them, them no better than me. We were just people.

 

So what is it now — now that I’m a Christian again, now that I once again feel awkward around family and friends and strangers — that is keeping me from spending time with people, and just being people with people, and showing them love?

 

It is because I am a Pharisee. I love the rules and I like everyone following the same rules. It makes everything structured and comfortable, and if they are following the rules then I don’t have to worry about them and I don’t feel a responsibility to help them or better them.  [Of course I forget that “rule-breakers” in my eyes are just breaking different rules than the ones I’m breaking.]

 

So what is better? To spend quality time with my family if it means forsaking the Great Commission, or taking the Great Commission with me to family gatherings (making them awkward and tense) fixing a wedge between my psyche and my family?

 

Wouldn’t it be better for me to spend time with people simply for the sake of spending time with them, and loving them, not to influence them towards Christ, but simply to love them?  Love my fellow human beings simply because they are my fellow human beings, my fellow souls, on this planet with me trying to figure out eternity.  Together in the here and now, in the physical, inevitably moving towards death and the unknown together.

 

God is love, so maybe when they feel love they will feel God, who is Christ, and he will reveal to them the face of love.  And maybe he will use me to reveal it. One thing’s for sure, soon enough we will all be dead — one by one — and there will no longer be anymore opportunities to love.

 

Cave of Lusts/Entrance to Paradise December 9, 2012

[written on 112812, with additions on 12812, Jeremiah 9:23-24, Revelation 7: 14b-17]

There is a cave that leads to Paradise.  7 men went in, hoping to come out on the other side.

One man, a coward, left the cave soon after entering, too paralyzed by his worries of the unknown to continue.

In the cave, the 6 found an abundance of the rarest mushroom delicacies in the world, and one man couldn’t help but start eating them.  Upon gorging himself, he grew an unnatural smile and sank to the floor, as the mushrooms had intoxicated him.  As the 5 moved through the cave they came to a wall with a small opening at the bottom.  If they were to continue they would be forced to crawl under it to get to the other side.  Unfortunately, the fat man was too dazed at that point to continue with them.  The group tried pulling him under the wall with them, but he just couldn’t fit and had to be left behind, though they doubted how much further he would have made it even if he could have fit.  But he told them he’d meet up with them in Paradise (though he acted like he was in paradise right now) after he slimmed down in size (as he popped another mushroom in).

Once the 5 all made it under the wall, they found themselves in a tunnel, with what sounded like flirtatious giggling echoing in the distance.  They followed the tunnel towards the noises and turned around a corner to find a band of extremely attractive, nude women.  The 5 moved awkwardly through their midst, trying to ignore eye contact.  But one man couldn’t help at least looking.  He caught eyes with one of them, and soon after was in conversation with her.  The tunnel opened up into a large cavern, but the lecher stayed behind, already being caressed by the women, saying that he would follow them shortly.

The 4 saw the flickering of light bouncing off the cave ceilings up ahead and entered into an elaborate treasure room.  After being amazed by the vast treasure, the group continued, coming to a small ledge that they had to climb over.  But one man shouted “Paradise indeed!” and, finding a treasure chest, filled it with as much gold as he could and planned to follow them out the other side.  However, the rich man could barely drag his heavy chest, and certainly couldn’t lift it over the wall.  They figured he’d figure out the futility of his plight and soon follow them.  He never did.

It looked like whoever had owned the treasure room also had an armor room.  The 3 stepped into a room lined with great, metal armor and powerful weapons.  They thought this would prepare them for whatever lay ahead in the other rooms, so they suited up and grabbed one big weapon each.  However, the only exit they could find was a small, dimly-lit hole towards the top of the far wall.  As they tried climbing the wall, they soon realized how difficult it was to climb with all of their heavy accessories.  2 men, giving up on trying to juggle the weapons in their hand while climbing, threw them to the ground and were able to climb much easier after that.  However, once they reached the hole, they couldn’t fit through with their armor and were forced to jettison it.  Meanwhile the strong man below was still struggling to even climb on the wall, not willing to give up his means of power.

The 2 fell with a crash down into another room, much lower than the previous one had been, and were bruised.  After a few minutes of recovering, they noticed a hole in the ground.  While light made their current room at least dimly visible, this hole below was pitch black.  As the one man sat on the edge preparing to climb down, the other man blasted him.  “What! Are you crazy?  You saw how far that last drop was, and that was through a dimly-lit hole.  This hole has no light at all!”  “Well, it’s our only shot of reaching Paradise.”  “Well, who really said this cave leads to Paradise in the first place?  I’m starting to think it was all made up.”  “Believe what you want; I’m going for it.”  “You fool!” said the smart man.  “It’s common science that if there’s no light then there’s no other exit down there! You’ll fall to your death or get stuck with no one to save you!  This was fun and all, but it’s time to go back.  Was the life we had so bad anyways?  Not even paradise is worth this.”
“Say what you will.  I’d rather die trying to get to Paradise than be stuck in the Hell we were in before.”

With that, the last man slipped into the black, bracing himself for whatever lay below.  In the darkness he hit a rock which rolled him into another rock which rolled him into another rock and there he lay, in the darkness, in the silence.  After coming to, and somewhat in pain from the fall, he balanced himself to his feet.  There was darkness all around him as he felt around the cavern room for anything.  He thought that maybe the 2nd man had been right.  Then his eye caught a tiny beam of light coming out of a small hole in the wall, only the size of a needle’s eye.  The light danced around with wild colors, and as he pressed his eye up to the hole he could see glimpses of Paradise on the other side — green pastures and still waters — accompanied by cheerful voices and laughter.  Prying himself away from the hole and its bliss, he began frantically feeling the wall for a door or some kind of exit, as if his separation from Paradise had set him on fire.  He felt nothing.  The room around the hole was completely bare, with no ledge or anything to climb on.  With fury did he pound his fists at the hole, trying to break it open to the other side.  Futile.  Finally, he dropped back into the darkness to his knees, helpless.  There in the dark silence he could hear weeping and gnashing of teeth from his former companions in the previous chambers above, held in bondage by their lusts.

Yet here was this righteous man, who forsook all those temptations in pursuit of God and still couldn’t make it.  He was no better off than they.  In his depravity, the self-righteous man cried out, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!”

Suddenly there was a crash, and the needle-sized hole broke open, filling the room with phantasmagoric light.  Another crash against the wall and the hole opened more.  Then, with a 3rd crash, a sheep from the pasture burst through the rock, bruised and bloody from the struggle, and collapsed, dead at his feet.

It would be the easiest door he’d gone through of the hole experience.  But it was even easier than that.  He didn’t even get the chance to step forward before he was escorted out by a shepherd from the other side.  He had seen the sheep rush over, hearing the man’s crying from within the cave.  But the shepherd was content to have this new man take its place in his flock, saying to him, “I will guide you to springs of the water of life: and God will wipe every tear from your eyes.”

Which part of the cave are you stuck in?

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