So there was this guy sitting in a park playing checkers with a monkey. They played on and on, and as they did so a crowd gathered round to watch. There was a buzz in air and most of the conversation centered around the amazing monkey who could play checkers. Finally, with a tone of exasperation the man said, "I don't know why you think he's so great, I have beaten him 7 out of 10 games."
I underline my Bible. I like to underline when I read. One advantage to doing this is it allows words and phrases to pop out when I open the Bible. Deuteronomy begins with Moses recapping the events which we call "the exodus." I had several phrases underlined and circled. I want to share three.
Before we start, I want to emphasize one thing, the Hebrew people had experienced a miracle--God had brought them out of Egypt from bondage to freedom. There had been a series of wonderous signs of God's power in Egypt, culminating in the death of the first born. The blood of the lamb on their door posts kept the angel from destroying them. [here is where my point on symbolism yesterday is so vital. The Lamb (Jesus) is the source of salvation. The lamb (Passover) and its blood is a pointer to Jesus. we call this a type (that is the Greek word in the Bible to describe this) and if it is read symbolically/spiritually you understand the deeper meaning.] Later when Pharaoh's army was about to fall on them a miraculous wind provided a land bridge and the returning waters later wiped out the chariots in pursuit. God had also manifested Himself in "signs and wonders" with fire and thunder. These people had what we all claim to want, an experience of God: "Proof!"
Back to my checker playing monkey. The reason the joke is funny (to me) is because it is a vivid illustration of someone who is missing the point. Probably, the humor is emphasized because he is so arrogant in the process. Focusing on "me" (I win!) he loses his capacity for wonder and appreciation. (There is also some humor in thinking about a monkey playing checkers....)
We often hear that people "today" do not have faith like they used to. We hear that we are not religious like in the old days. I think it is true, but only to a degree. No generation is pure and holy. Hear what Moses says to the people (in chapter one!)
1:26 "...you were unwilling to go up. You rebelled against the command of the Lord.."
1:32 "...but in spite of this, you have no trust in the Lord your God..."
1:43 "...you would not listen. You rebelled..."
Obedience and Faith are at times interchangeable words in the Ancient Covenant texts. To trust and believe and have faith means that one listens and obeys. Faith in action, if you will, is obedience. Disobedience and doubt are not modern inventions, although we have no doubt perfected them somewhat in recent days. Unbelief and rebellion date to the Garden (Adam does not trust God so he acts on his own and disobeys)
Today we will have another day of VBS. Thirty children, and more exciting to me, fifteen adolescent 'helpers.' All these young people spending three hours a day hearing about Jesus, singing about Jesus, learning about community. It is a context where trust, faith, listening and obedience can be experienced and perfected. They are happy days. When I am with the children I feel years younger. I smile more and am happier. It makes me wonder, why am I not "more alive" all the time?
Perhaps, like the checker player, I miss the point.
Perhaps, like Ancient Hebrews, I miss the point.
God is God, always and everywhere.
It is grand that doing VBS with little ones sparks my awareness, but in the journey of faith is vital to open one's self in all times and places to the reality of the God who saves, is saving and will save His people. So I am remnded that Hebrews can forget their experience of God and it leads to sin. I, too, can forget. I, too, sin. It is a very good thing not to miss the point!