“Is it Worth Passing Up?”
(Reflections of a believer about the summer of 2000)
Mary Ann Nguyen
Sept 2, 2000
Is it worth passing up?
Have you ever read a verse in the Bible and understood intellectually what God meant, but just didn’t know how that piece of beautiful, inscrutable Scripture would apply to your life? Often, I read these verses and I pass it up for the verses around it or I settle for a very surface meaning and application of the verse to my life. Somehow, I fall into the faulty thinking that no matter how much I might choose to ponder upon the verse, I just won’t be able to understand what God wants to tell me in my life today.
Well, somehow, I don’t think this is God’s intention with His Word. He means to tell us something very personal with everything that our little eyes may fall upon and absorb. Do you believe this?
A lot of times, I say that I do, but somewhere in the depths of my heart, I don’t know if I really do. And sometimes, I might believe that this is true, but I don’t “have the time” to meditate on it or study it further. And this impatience and unbelief makes the difference. For me, this summer has been a summer of passing over a lot of verses. In fact, it has been a summer of passing up chapters at a time, books even. Looking back, I can see that it was more of me keeping my God at a distance, holding Him at arm’s length instead of allowing Him to come in and pierce my heart and reveal my sins so that He could change me inside out. When we pass up verses we can sometimes miss out on the message, which He has so diligently preserved so that He might share it with us.
So what do we do when this tinge of unbelief motivates us to urge our eyes along the page pass verses that don’t quite click in our hearts?
Something I often do in times of spiritual drought and dark nights of the soul when God seems silent and far away is simply to read a passage over and over again with a heart's desire to hear His voice. In times of nondrought as well, reading the same passage repeatedly is surprisingly satisfying! When you reread a passage, God will most definitely open your heart and mind up to things that you did not see with one reading or two readings or three readings. In fact, when you read a passage over and over again, believe it or not, God still has something new to tell you – even if you just read that passage the day before. And when your mind is hazy and unclear, your heart cold, your feet restless and the whole of you completely distracted, rereading the passage helps to imbed His Word into the folds of your heart until finally comprehension falls over you like a shadow, and it will be as if God suddenly entered in.
God has been there the whole time but it will be like a warm streak of sunlight broke through the clouds on a cold, overcast day and shone on your very heart. It will be very obvious.
God has a very personal message for you. Do you believe it? The only way you can know this is if you refuse to pass over any more verses. Don’t skim anything. Read each word like you are drinking in the very sustenance of life. Because you are.
So what have I been passing over?
In Malachi 2:2, we are admonished twice to set our hearts to honor the Lord. The charge given to believers to honor the Lord is implicit in becoming a believer. Because in calling someone your “Lord,” you are surrendering all your rights and possessions to another and giving him a place of honor in your heart and your affections. Calling someone Lord means saying, “All of me, for you, forever;” where forever really lasts infinitely. But somehow, as the days slip away from the day when you first called Jesus Lord, it is easy to forget the implications of crowning Him with this title.
When I read this warning of the need to set my heart to honor the Lord, I had a vague sense of what that meant in my mind but not grippingly in my heart. I passed over this admonishment for other verses in this book. But as the days progressed, I kept coming back to this one simple phrase: What does it mean to honor the Lord?
This line of meditation brought up another thought: Well, what does it mean to honor my parents? Is it simply to obey certain instructions that they have given me because I feel a sense of obligation to do so? No, I think honoring my parents goes deeper than that. It is choosing to obey without reluctance because I want to. It’s choosing to say no to other things at times to be with them. It’s choosing to do what might please them even before they ask. (This presupposes that I would know what would please them because I know them well.) It is making choices in regard to them because I love them, as opposed to constantly thinking, “I am twenty-something, an independent American (as opposed to Asian) and I can do whatever I want and whatever pleases me.” Such thinking is secular idealogy that does not honor my parents.
Obeying God, then, goes in the same manner. I must choose to obey His explicit commands because I want to. I must choose to say no to other things so that I can spend time with Him. I must choose to do things in the manner that I think would please Him, in accordance to His heart and His passions, even before He asks. All of this presupposes that I must know what the Lord is like.
Realizing the many instances where I had the right to choose was shocking to me because I knew that I hadn’t been making these choices well. I hadn’t been making many righteous, right choices the whole summer. Malachi cites Levi as an example of one who knew how to honor the Lord. The Lord Almighty had given Levi a covenant, and He tells us, “My covenant was with him, a covenant of life and peace, and I gave them to him; this called for reverence and he revered me and stood in awe of my name. True instruction was in his mouth…” (Malachi 2:5-6) Why was Levi able to revere the Lord rightly? He tells us in the verse. God gave Levi a covenant of life – such a wondrous covenant – which called for reverence, and so Levi revered Him. It wasn’t just that the covenant had instructions that said that Levi ought to revere the Lord and so Levi obeyed. No, reverence was the natural response to God’s wonderful promise of life, and Levi responded just as he ought. Why? Because he had a full understanding of the implications of that covenant for him. Knowing God’s extravagant promise for him probed him to stand in awe of his God. Should it not be the same for us?
We need to be well acquainted with the covenant that God has made with us. We need to be acquainted with our God, because once we are, I believe that we will never again have to tell ourselves that we must honor the Lord. We will just do it voluntarily without any conscious thought whatsoever. So what is the Covenant for us?
Seek the Lord!
Along with wondering what this covenant is in my quest to understand what it means to honor the Lord, yet another question came up. I had moved on to the book of Amos after Malachi, and the repetition of another phrase that I was tempted to pass up “bothered” me. The phrase was, “Seek the Lord and live.” (Amos 5:6) Alongside honoring the Lord, seeking the Lord is another seemingly “trite” exhortation for a believer. But after reading the chapters within this book several times over, I found myself at last unable to pass over the command any longer. Jeremiah 29:13 surfaced to my ears, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” Isaiah 45:19 also came to mind where the Lord says, "I have not said to Jacob's descendants, 'Seek me in vain.' I, the Lord, speak the truth; I declare what is right." Jeremiah 33:3 also echoed in the halls of my mind, “Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.” There is a definite assurance from the pages of Scripture that God desires for us to seek Him, because when we do with all our hearts, we will find Him.
But then the questions starting coming. What does it mean to seek the Lord? How do you really seek the Lord? And as I kept asking the questions, an understanding of its relevancy dawned on me. I needed to know! Because if I could seek Him, then I am promised life – abundant life, true life. To experience life finally as God had originally intended – yes, to truly live – would compel me to an all-and-everything reverence and honor of my God.
So how does one get to that point?
But what's the answer?
I don't think I can really say. (You were expecting an answer, weren't you?)
I think that is something you will have to meditate on and discover for yourself. Amos tells us what it means not to seek the Lord (and the consequences thereof), and that may help. An explanation of the Covenant of life is clearly set down for us in Hebrews 7:22-8:13. And all the pages of Scripture proclaim about the greatness of our God whom we desperately need to seek and to know intimately as our own. And that is the key to the answer. There are questions you yourself must ask about who He is, what He is like and what His passions are, and there are pages of Truths and promises and commands and stories and testimonies from His Word, which you need to search and study and digest in order to find the very personal answers He has for you. Remember what I said at the beginning? God has a very personal message for you. It lies within the pages of Scripture and the quiet times you have chosen to set aside and sit with Him. Don’t pass any of it. It’s not worth it to miss out on honoring our God.
“He who forms the mountains, creates the wind, and reveals his thoughts to man; he turns dawn to darkness,
and treads the high places of the earth – the LORD God Almighty is his name.” (Amos 4:13)