Monday, December 13, 2010

You're not moving? You're not moving. I can't believe you're not moving.

Recently I read through 1 Samuel, thinking a look at the life of David would be good preparation for the Christmas season. Sure enough, I noticed one parallel I hadn't picked out before - not with David per se, but with the ancillary characters.

Early on in 1 Samuel, we read about the lazy, apathetic priest Eli. He of course would go on to lose the priesthood due to his extreme passivity. Others have noted how frequently the scripture mentions him sitting or lying, a subtle way to illustrate that he wasn't exactly a man of action. The most extreme example of this is found in 1 Samuel 3.

Samuel had been given by his parents to tabernacle service, and he was sleeping in the tabernacle when God called to him. Thinking it was Eli, he kept going to ask the old priest what he wanted. The third time, Eli figured out that it was God speaking. Don't let that slip by too quickly - the creator of the universe was speaking! What an incredible occurrence! And Eli, the high priest, whose whole life's work was to be devoted to serving God - when he perceived that God was speaking audibly, how did he respond?

Then Eli perceived that the LORD was calling the young man. Therefore Eli said to Samuel, "Go, lie down, and if he calls you, you shall say, 'Speak, LORD, for your servant hears.'" So Samuel went and lay down in his place.

Yeah, okay. The one person on earth who should have been most excited about this spectacular, earth-shattering news that God was speaking basically said "God called? Take a message. I'm going back to sleep." Oy.

Fast forward a thousand years, give or take. The parallel I see in the Christmas narrative? Can you imagine what the Jewish religious leaders were thinking in Matthew 2 when the magi showed up? Here were people who had traveled a long, long way because they were certain the long-awaited hope of Israel, the Messiah, had been born. The greatest announcement they could imagine had just been made, and how did they respond? At best, they just pointed the magi in the right direction and asked for a report of what they found. Where was the excitement and urgency? Was there no one to celebrate and go with them? This was what they had supposedly been wanting for generations, they even had the promise on the tip of their tongues, and when it was finally here, at best they couldn't be bothered to walk a couple thousand feet to Bethlehem.

And total apathy about the Messiah is the best possible spin. Notice this shocking phrase in verse 3: "When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him." Far from being their hope, it seems they found news of the Messiah's birth was terrifying. We could analyze why - fear of Herod trumping fear of God, lack of faith that the Messiah would do what God said he would, love of status with the Romans (a theme which would come back later). Regardless, rather than longing for Messiah's appearing, these guys were at best apathetic towards it and more likely in dread of it.

So what about us?

We have perpetual access to God's word. The creator and sovereign Lord of all that is has spoken - and we have a record of it in the Bible! Is our attitude towards that any better than Eli's apathetic laziness? Is it similar to the Jewish leaders' dread? Do we pay lip service to admiring God's revelation, yet cringe at the thought of actually listening because of what it may cost us? Are we waiting for something 'better' than God's word (I speak as a fool)?

If the fact that God has spoken isn't enough to get us moving, what could it possibly take?

1 comment:

Robert said...

I think I might print this and place it on my wall so I can look at it when I get home every day. I am thankful for my family and the time we have together, but I need to keep our time more God-centered.