Can you see the analogy?
For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is His mercy toward those who fear Him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us. As a father pities his children, so the Lord pities those who fear Him. For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust. – Psalm 103:11-14
A song of praise assuring us that God loves His children very much like human fathers love theirs – only more. So much more. And with perfect love.
We love Him because He first loved us. – 1 John 4:19
After all God has done for us, can we grasp this idea, of how He looks and waits and longs for His children to find awareness of His presence, to notice His goodness, to be awed by His majesty… to speak intentional words of, Wow, You made that, and Wow, you did that for me, and Thank you, and I love You, Daddy?!?!
For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth to show Himself strong on the behalf of those whose heart is loyal toward Him. – 2 Chronicles 16:9
The Catholics missed it, too. Thought they did God a favor by keeping His words locked up in Latin and a handful of approved translations. Burned men on stacks of timber for translating God’s holy words into lesser languages and violating church sanctity.
What it (the church) opposed was people reading interpretations [of] the Bible apart from the teaching authority of the Church, which would lead to the kinds of problems we have today with 30,000 denominations interpreting Scripture differently. The Bible itself warns against this (2 Peter 1:20). With the invention of printing, there was a communications explosion, and one suddenly saw lots of people making very poor and heretical translations of the Bible and popularizing them throughout Christendom. The Church tried to stop this. (source: catholicbridge.com)
The church of Rome feared one thing: if they didn’t oversee the translations and the teachings of God’s Word, and if their authority was undermined, heresy would spread – and their power would diminish.
Yet, heresy spread within the Catholic church – through indulgences, the invention of Purgatory, the church being the said means of salvation and not Christ alone. And regarding the practices of confessing sins to find forgiveness from a priest, and praying to saints instead of praying directly to Jesus, practices that don’t lead us closer in relationship with a personal God and Savior – they keep us at a distance. Jesus is the Mediator between God and man. Not Jesus’ mother. Not a priest. Not a flawed human who was granted sainthood by another human.
(How is it that they had the “pure” Word of God, and still veered off course? More about that to come.)
Jesus was accused of hanging out with the losers of that time and place.
God very much wants His words to be printed in the languages of everyday rustics and ordinary people, of common men, women, children, teens, elderly – to be read in every language, by every tribe and culture, on every continent and island, in homes and schools and churches, carried in a pocket or a backpack, wrapped in a bundle and tied to a stick, downloaded as an app, imprinted upon walls, wherever, however. Just get it into the hands of the eight billion souls alive today and who are headed for eternity(!)
So they can read it.
So then the Holy Spirit can do His work in the hearts of individuals.
Behold, a sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell by the wayside; and the birds came and devoured them. Some fell on stony places, where they did not have much earth; and they immediately sprang up because they had no depth of earth. But when the sun was up they were scorched, and because they had no root they withered away. And some fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up and choked them. But others fell on good ground and yielded a crop: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. He who has ears to hear, let him hear! – Matthew 13:3-9
It’s no surprise to God that all the seeds won’t produce fruit. Why then do we sow sparingly? Cautiously? Miserly?
And how can a person get into the Word and apply the Word, when she doesn’t understand what the words mean?
I get it, how multiple translations can bring numerous interpretations. And I understand the need for teachers and mentors to aid in providing understanding.
Yet even during the first century Christians didn’t agree on every point, at a time when there were only three translations of the Old Testament and only one translation of the (not yet complete) New Testament. Division of thought and interpretation still occurred. And during Jesus’ ministry, many of those who heard Him misunderstood and misinterpreted His words (and His deeds), and were divided on their views of Him and the Gospel message. He stood in their midst and spoke their language – the Son of God in the flesh(!) Still, not everyone who heard Him walked away with the same interpretation or grasped His meaning.
Just maybe the fault lies with the human heart and not as much with our methods?
Two of the men on the road to Jericho didn’t get it, either.
The priest and the Levite had been deceived, thinking their role was too sacred for menial, ordinary, dirt-encrusted tasks. And they walked past the bleeding man in need of help.
Did Jesus commend them for keeping themselves clean, for placing greater value on their service inside the synagogue, even though it suppressed their compassion outside its stone walls, or for attempting to preserve their separational stance by doling out religious favors in limited quanitities?
Jesus is the Word. And God had His words inscribed to be copied and shared and handled by human hands and absorbed by receptive hearts and minds. It’s about the message – communicating God’s heart and plan for the ages – about receiving the Word and applying the Word.
Not about enshrining the Word or the church, and relegating these to a place high beyond our reach, where we’re allowed only to grovel before it… where we must ask those higher and holier and closer to God to explain the meaning… while we remain in ignorance.
From the God who is here. From the God who is with us.
The two-inch-thick curtain was ripped in half from top to bottom once Jesus breathed His last on the cross.
Do you see how we miss it? God is holy, yes. And as a believer I should live in pursuit of holy, too. Not to earn reward points, but to be less like me and more like Him. In a world so desperate for more of Him.
Ever since that dark afternoon outside Jerusalem, we’ve been invited into the Holy of Holies. No longer a place reserved for the high priest and once a year – but for anyone who wants entrance anytime.
God does not keep Himself at a distance. He entered our world, and paid the ransom for our crimes, desiring relationship with mere mortals who messed things up for the world and couldn’t fix it.
And He says, Come. Whoever will may come.
Not everyone gets it, but He’s not threatened by rejection. He invites us still.
It’s the very reason He went to such lengths to create us and breathe life into our temporal frame, already having the plan in place to redeem us. And nominated Himself to be the Savior. The scapegoat, the sacrificial lamb, the One who took the weight of every sin – and got Himself a little dirty in the process.
Because He’s that kind of God. A personal God. A God who wants His children close. A God not far away, but right here among us.
And a God who’s not afraid of dirt. Or of getting dirty.
Because He made the dirt.
(He made water, too. For washing away dirt and rubbing out stains. The water of the Word. Those who seek wisdom and truth will find it in the Word and by the Holy Spirit’s help. And seeds will grow.)
Do we get it yet?
Oh that men would praise the Lord for his goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men! – Psalm 107