Friday, March 18, 2011

Devotional for the Tenth Day of Lent

For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who is not partial and takes no bribe, who executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and who loves the strangers, providing them with food and clothing. You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. You shall fear the Lord your God; him alone you shall worship; to him you shall hold fast, and by his name you shall swear. He is your praise; he is your God, who has done for you these great and awesome things that your own eyes have seen. (Deuteronomy 10:17-21)

Since, then, we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:14-16)

As for me, I am poor and needy,
but the Lord takes thought for me. (Psalm 40:17)

In a course that I co-teach with a friend of mine, we ask our students to respond in writing to a statement and a question that always challenges them: Imagine that God is thinking of you right now. What does he think? Every time we do this, the majority of the students struggle to believe that God would bother to think about them at all; and if he were to think about them, his thoughts wouldn’t be all that pleasant.

The psalmist makes the claim that God does indeed take thought for us. What is the character of this God who holds us in his mind? He is described as mighty and awesome, impartial, and worthy of fear and worship. He is also described as compassionate and loving toward widows, orphans, and strangers. The writer of Hebrews offers a metaphor for Jesus—the One in whom the fullness of God dwells—as a high priest who fully relates and identifies with human weakness. Because of that sympathetic identification, we can trust that God receives us when we approach him and is happy to extend mercy and grace to us as we need it, which is pretty much all the time.

While western Christianity can get a bit narcissistic about our relationship with God, making it all about me, it is about me as a subset of us. Yes, God’s concern is for the world, but I am part of that world. God’s love and care is universal (“For God so loved the world”), but it is also, it seems, particular. The Lord takes thought for you and me. I find that to be a stunning revelation.

This God who is awesome, mighty, and who is to be feared and worshipped, thinks about us. He cares for widows, orphans, and strangers. This is God unlike the other so-called gods, who were seen as distant and capricious, disdaining humans and not slow to cast bolts of lightning in their direction. This God is impossible to figure out, with his mightiness on the one hand and his loving care on the other. This is the God who has created all things and sustains all things, and yet, he takes thought for me.

Ask yourself: If God is thinking of you right now, what does he think? If your answer is a dismal one, think again. Then approach the throne of grace boldly. He has mercy and grace in abundance to give to you. At all times, you are in his mind.

No comments: