Saturday, August 19, 2017

Running Into the Fire

It has been a troubling time. So many skirmishes across the globe. I don’t suppose it is any worse than it has been in the past, it’s simply easier to share the information on social media and the like. It feels like the world is in freefall, tumbling over a cliff edge of sorts, and there’s nothing we can do to stop it.

I have been reading Psalm 74 over the last few days. Asaph compiled a list of all the things that the wicked were doing to God’s place of worship. It was as if they had taken axes and hatchets to the walls and the ceiling and set light to it all.

Asaph was talking about the temple or the tabernacle but he could have been talking about people and communities today. God’s apparent inactivity bothered him, enough for him to declare;-

“Why don’t you do something? How long are you going to sit there with your hands folded in your lap?” Psalm 74:11 (The Message)

This is sometimes where we stop. We have said our piece. We have waved our fist at heaven and, for some, we have thrown down our faith. There cannot be a loving God in all of this.

Asaph didn’t let the wicked get the last word. He didn’t hand the victory over to them. He began to list the mighty deeds of God. Maybe some of the things on his list were not current victories – but they were great and magnificent ones.

God doesn’t need to know about His victories. He doesn’t need to be reminded of them – but we need to be reminded. We need to know that we follow a God who crushes the head of his enemy. We need to know that He stops floods and dries up rivers.

The word “Leviathan” means “twisted one”. Satan in his conversation with Eve twisted the truth. I suppose he was the original “twisted one”.

People have been acting on twisted truth. Whether that leads them to carry a torch and chant Nazi slogans, or hire a van and intentionally drive into a crowd of people, wounding and killing so many – they have twisted the truth.

It seems like a deluge or a flood. It is relentless. No sooner has the boat been righted then another wave hits. It would be nice to have the wild floodwaters dried up (v15).

I was reminded of a poem I wrote a while ago. The topic given was “Fireman”. I had been reading the accounts of Moses, Aaron and the Israelites journeying through the wilderness.  It wasn’t an easy journey. There was a lot of twisted truth being hurled about. The fireman I pictured was not running into a burning building but was a man running into different kind of fire.

There is a sense in which when we truly grasp what prayer can do we can be like men and women who run into the fires that hot words and heated arguments can create. We take with us love and compassion, and the certainty that God is there in the midst, and throw these things at all things ugly and hateful. The last few lines of my poem end with a promise - “And the fire stopped burning/The plague ceased/And all wounds were healed.”

A Glorious Fire

You should have seen the fire
It was glorious!
Blazing with a blistering heat
Furious flames
Choking smoke
And all it took was
Just a small spark

An abundance of
Driftwood in the wilderness
Exploding out of Egypt
Tumbling around barren places
Rebellious attitudes
Rumbling complaints
Dry spirits
Parched hearts
And arid souls

And I lit my match
As I whispered in the shadows
“Why him? Why not you?”
And their covetous eyes
Gazed lustfully on Aaron’s staff
“Why him? Why not us?”
Their shout echoed among the sand dunes

The ground split
The earth opened its mouth
And swallowed the jealous ones
And fire roared from heaven
Consuming men who envied
And people ran from the flames

Embers glowed dull red
Sparks quietly hissed
Not extinguished
The fire smoldered
I whispered again
To twitching ears
 “They were the Lord’s people…
And Moses killed them.”
And they gathered
And they grumbled

God’s wrath was ignited
Flames of a different kind
Licked at His stiff necked people
Disease crawled over their faces
Gouging holes
Ripping flesh
Weeping blood

And I danced
Among the fallen bodies
Skipping through the flames
Laughing riotously
“Did You really think
You could do it, God?
Take a sin-stained people
And find your image in them?
Look at them!
Look at you!
Yet again I win
You lose!”

Then I saw a man running
Armed with incense
And fire from the altar
Ran into the plague pocked crowd
Making atonement
Standing between
the living and the dead

And a shadow fell
Hinting at
Another time, another fire
Another place, another plague
Another man
running into the crowd
Making atonement

And the fire stopped burning
The plague ceased
And all wounds were healed

It was a glorious fire
While it lasted!

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