Thursday, December 7, 2017

In our religious culture, one does not pray in anger to God, putting Him in His place because of something one thinks He is responsible for.   I know some do when in the valley of despair, but most feel that such actions border on blasphemy!  Since most do not fully understand what the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is, fear stops such prayers from being offered.  Most do not want to cross that invisible line.

Yet, in reading the Old Testament, especially Psalms, the prayers of David seem to teeter on that line, if not cross it!  Remarks usually made concerning that crossing is, “We don’t pray like that today.”  No one does unless his life has been visited by some tragedy that violently pulls life’s rug out from under him.  Such prayers are viewed as being related to doubt or disbelief.  Any doubt on the part of a Christian is viewed as an indicator of a weak or dying faith.  But, is that perception valid?

According to the Old Testament, David is not portrayed in that way, even in his darkest hour.  The most outstanding sin of David, according to scripture, is with Bathsheba.  Yet, the rest of his sins are not exposed as is that specific one.  His sin of numbering Israel doesn’t receive first page exposure like the following.

David did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, and had not turned aside from anything that He commanded him all the days of his life, except in the matter of Uriah the Hittite” (1 Kings 15:5).

In the New Testament, Paul states,

He raised up for them David as king, to whom also He gave testimony and said, ‘I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after My own heart, who will do all My will.’” (Acts 13:22).

When Saul, as well as David’s son, Absalom, was attempting to kill him, David’s cry to heaven was, “God, where are you?”  When reading some of David’s psalms one is tempted to question his lack of faith.  Yet, those times of “faltering” are not hinted at in either 1 Kings 15:5 or Acts 13:22.  If I am in that same valley which David trod, will God put me in an identical category as He did David, who “had not turned aside from anything that He (God) had commanded him all the days of his life” and “a man after My own heart”?

Sometimes our religious culture is an expert in ignoring what is revealed in holy writ.  A cousin of Jesus sent word to him asking, “Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?” (Luke 7:20).  Didn’t John remember, after immersing Jesus, that a voice from heaven announced, “This is My Beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:17)?  Did he not tell his disciples, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29)?  I find it strange that we refer to the apostle Thomas as “doubting Thomas,” but we don’t attach that epitaph to cousin John!  Why?

In the garden while praying, Jesus petitioned the Father with, “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me” (Matthew 26:39).  In Hebrews the writer tells us that Jesus stated, “Behold, I have come to do Your will, O God.” (Hebrews 10:9).  If Jesus knew what was going to happen and what he was supposed to do, why say “if”?  Despite knowing the truth about something, flesh can introduce that “if” in our life.  Such is not the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.

A preacher lost his family when they were violently taken from him by an individual they had been helping.  When news of their deaths reached him, that “if” tore him apart.  Expressions of condolence with any mention of “God” were successful in deepening his sadness and adding to his grief.  Preaching the good news died in the blood of his loved ones.  If a prayer was offered, it would not contain “Thank you.”  Church and all it trappings became meaningless.  The foremost question that grabbed every thought was, “Why?”  Grief challenges our faith.  It offers two paths.  One goes the same direction taken by those mentioned in Hebrews 6:4-6 and 10:25-29.  The other is to an even stronger faith than possessed prior to the tragedy.  That preacher did take the path toward a stronger faith once he had passed through his valley.

Life contains its disappointments.  For some there are more and higher hurdles to jump than experienced by others.  We don’t always have an answer for our “Why.”  Yet, it is not the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit to create the “Why” nor the “if.”  When we get through that part of our life, we realize that our strength comes in leaning upon God despite life’s battles.  Paul stopped at prayer number three.  Some of us have larger numbers.  Hopefully, regardless of the number, we will join in with Paul by accepting God’s answer, “No. But I am with you; that is all you need. My power shows up best in weak people.”  Paul’s reply was, “Now I am glad to boast about how weak I am; I am glad to be a living demonstration of Christ’s power, instead of showing off my own power and abilities” (2 Corinthians 12:9).  May his reply also be ours!