You, O God, sent the reviving rain upon your weary inheritance,
showers of blessing to refresh it. Psalm 68:9 TPT
I have a deep down wariness of what I call, “ritualized-religion.”
This is because I have lived with it’s numbing effects. I am painfully familiar with it’s dry and weary landscapes.
Can you imagine being a slave, yet living unaware of your own slavery?
I can. I have see men choose the idols of power and money. I know exactly what it is like, to become so accustomed to Pharaoh’s foot on your neck, that dreams of escape seem pointless…
And, even worse, impossible as you watch a church die.
How do you convince a spiritually blind man, he is a slave?
It isn’t easy. Because, we become accustomed to the rituals that enslave us.
Someone daring to call themselves “a deliverer” definitely makes us nervous. Possibly, so nervous, we might even indignantly ask, “Who do they think they are?”
We console ourselves by looking at our fellow slaves, thinking, “They believe FREEDOM is a silly pipe dream, so… it must be.”
Losing sight of freedom’s hope.
I am walking through a Lenten devotional this year. (Not my usual practice.) But, so far, I am enjoying this particular book. And, I found an illuminating observation on the subject of slavery.
In one of the daily readings, Dan Boone shares these thoughts on the Bible passage from Exodus 6:1-13:
The people of God have been under the heavy hand of Pharaoh and his empire-building demands for so long that they cannot imagine a different future. They have acclimated themselves to the plight of the powerless. Even though they groan for relief and complain about the bitterness of slavery, they have stopped believing that freedom is possible for the likes of them. They pray prayers of deliverance without the accompanying expectation that anything will happen.
And then God burns a bush in Midian and sends a bored sheep tender back to the dark land of Egypt, where he once made a bad decision and possibly had a rap sheet waiting for him.
(I smile as I turn my face toward heaven, because I am pretty sure, God must be smiling too.)
This is a journey Moses would prefer to skip.
(Oh, Lord, You’re reading my mail again!)
He wants out in the worst way, but God won’t take no for an answer… finally (Moses) goes down into Egypt on a mission from God.
After the story has gone a few chapters, we find Moses declaring the message of God to the slaves: “I am the LORD, and I will free you from the burdens of the Egyptians and deliver you from slavery to them. I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment. I will take you as my people, and I will be your God… I will bring you into the land that I swore to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; I will give it to you for a possession. I am the LORD.” (Exodus 6:6-8 NRSV)
I can’t imagine better news for slaves… you would think they’d be ready and open for this good news, but not so… as I read through the rest of Exodus, a lack of persuasive preaching doesn’t seem to be the problem. Sometimes people can’t see a preferred future because of a broken spirit and cruel oppression. When the dark powers that run a dying world have done their number on you for a long, long time, believing the good news is hard.
It is interesting to compare the call of Moses to the call of Jesus. They both go on a journey for the salvation of the people of God. On the Lenten journey of Jesus, many were ripe and ready to believe that God was on the move to set them free. But there was as much blindness as belief.
Jesus invites us to be faithful on the journey, even if those we encounter are not ready for the good news. It may have nothing to do with the way we say it. It may be that a broken spirit needs tending.
Gracious God, grant us perseverance in the face of hearts so heavy and spirits so broken that imagination has been crucified.
May the faithfulness of Jesus be our hope along the way.
Dan Boone, For God So LOVED, A Lenten Devotional
Have our imaginations been crucified?
I believe this man, Dan Boone, speaks the above tender words from the heart of, The Warrior, Jesus, who came to set us free!
But, we must continually choose to believe that our freedom is possible; that the Holy Spirit is not an “it,” but He is a personal manifestation of a living, loving Deity, in my heart.
And, He is breathing the freshness of what He wants to say and do, now, today!
You know, I never thought of people in our churches as having “crucified imaginations” but that is exactly the effect of continual, redundant, treadmill-rituals upon a church body.
I have been in churches where I’ve seen this happen.
A church can easily slip into numbing habits where there is no freshness from the presence of the Holy Spirit, who I believe, is a constant surprise; always doing something new!
Instead the money-changers begin to call all the shots. Appearance and popularity begin to guide their decisions.
We dare not try to cage the Lion of Judah! The LORD warns us, as He did the Pharisees, against the effect of such a thing; white-washed tombs full of dead men’s bones, yuck!
Revival must always be connected to our believing, and if we are no longer expecting our LORD to do anything new, fresh, or impossible, how can we possibly BELIEVE for His, more?
Oh, Holy Spirit of the Living God, come save us from our dreary rituals! For, LORD, You are always fresh, and alive, and always doing the surprising, and unexpected! LORD, we once believed, save us from our unbelief! Open our eyes and hearts. Give us the simple faith and expectations of a child again!
Arise, my darling! Come quickly, my beloved. Come and be the graceful gazelle with me. Come be like a dancing deer with me. We will dance in the high place of the sky, yes, on the mountains of fragrant spice. Forever we shall be united as one! Song of Songs 8: 14 Passion Translation