I think we often interpret Old Testament Bible verses in terms of New Testament reality.
Sometimes that’s warranted because the verses foreshadow the fullness of Christ’s birth, life, death and resurrection.
But sometimes we miss out on the deeper meaning of what God was saying through His prophets.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard the verse, “This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it” quoted as a general blessing/admonition/encouragement at the beginning of a worship service or just the start of an ordinary day.
I don’t think that’s technically a misappropriation of the sentiment, but I do think it falls far short of what the Psalmist was trying to convey.
The Temple stood on a hill above Jerusalem and those last steps for the pilgrims who traveled faithfully three times a year to celebrate the appointed festivals were hard. Many had walked miles and miles and were just plain tired.
So they sang songs (Psalms) to encourage their hearts as they plodded forward.
If you have a Bible with notes you’ll see them marked as “Songs of Ascent” because that was exactly what they were.
In addition to the expense, time, effort and commitment it took to make it to the Temple, pilgrims were expected to offer a sacrifice. Some could bring their own and some had to purchase a lamb or ram or other sacrificial animal from those offered by vendors just outside the inner courts.
It could be easy to resent the cost of coming.
It would be absolutely understandable to get just a bit disgruntled making those last few steps to plunk down a sacrifice to a God they couldn’t see.
So the Psalmist says, “This is the DAY(the appointed feast, the reminder of covenant, the renewal of promise) the Lord (Yahweh, the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and you) has made (ordained, appointed, set aside). Let us rejoice (revel in the fact that He has chosen us of all people, that He is faithful, that we can come and worship) in it.”
God doesn’t need my lamb or goat or calf.
The feasts weren’t designed to jog His memory regarding my relationship with Him, they were designed to help ME remember that I am creature and He is Creator.
And I need that reminder most when things are hard, when I am tired and when I may have forgotten that worship is a privilege.
Some days are uphill all the way.
I’ve had a few of those lately.
And while this verse isn’t really about ordinary days, it helps my heart as much on those as it does on the special ones. ❤
Even if my lifeblood is to be poured out like wine as a sacrifice of your faith, I have great reason to celebrate with all of you.
~ Philippians 2:17 VOICE
In many ways I feel like this season of my life is a drink offering-poured out on the ground-unrecoverable except as a sacrifice lifted to the throne of grace.
But my story is not only loss and pain, it is also life and love.
I have to be careful to remember that.
… you may reformulate your story in terms of sadness and pain. Because you lost a child, or experienced a divorce, or killed someone in a car accident, you will never be happy again. Or even worse, you are never allowed to be happy again.
In all of these cases, we must remember that our stories fall under Christ’s story of redemption. Your life is but a chapter in God’s greater narrative of restoring the world. Your Worst is merely a chapter in your own story. If we allow God to write our stories and to carry us through the season of darkness and despair, he will ensure that redemption constitutes the central progression of our stories.
~Cameron Cole, Therefore I Have Hope
Redemption is the overarching theme of my story, of all history.
It doesn’t mean I have to deny the pain and darkness. In fact, if I try, I diminish His glory in redeeming what would otherwise be nothing but brokenness and loss.
I can lift those feelings to the throne of grace as a drink offering.
I can pour them out at Christ’s feet and trust that even though in the natural there is no way to recapture and restore what has been lost, in His power and love it is never, ever wasted.
And I heard a voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and He will live with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
I have to be completely honest-I’m not sure at all that my heart is truly submissive. It may just be that I figure, “What’s the point of resisting God?”.
Paul told the Roman believers to “present your bodies as living sacrifices”.
Trouble is, living sacrifices can (and do!) crawl off the altar.
I’m trying to stay there, subtle and malleable under the hand of the God Who made me. But unlike inanimate clay, I feel every pummel, slap and squeeze as He continues to mold me into the image of Christ.
Some days I’m better at it than others. Honestly, I think I’m better at it when I feel it most. Because then I recognize the bits that need changing, the attitudes that need adjusting, the habits that need to go.
But when it’s little things-judging someone by his outer appearance or demanding my “rights” as a customer from a tired store clerk or even impatiently charging through the house ignoring a phone call because I “have to get (whatever) done!”-that’s when I want out from under the hand of God.
Then there are the REALLY big things that I always balk at.
Why do I have to be ill when I have so much to do? Why my child? Why do all the appliances need replacing at once? Why are relationships so darn hard? Why won’t my RA go into remission? Why did the hurricane make its way right over my parents’ home?
Why, why, why?
And I find myself back at the beginning because truth told, I can’t do a thing about any of that.
Am I willingly submitting to what God allows in my life or am I simply accepting it because there’s no use resisting?
It’s a daily battle.
Still, Eternal One, You are our Father. We are just clay, and You are the potter. We are the product of Your creative action, shaped and formed into something of worth.
Rocking babies I never dreamed that one day my life would look like this.
I never imagined that one of those tiny bodies I held close to my mama heart would not outlive me.
Now I sit in the same rocking chair in the dark, thinking about how so many things I wouldn’t have written into my story are now part of it.
And if I’m honest, it can easily overwhelm my heart. It can carry me to a place of despair and desperation where there’s no room for thanksgiving-not the holiday OR the feeling.
Here we are-the fifth year of holidays without Dominic-and I’m no better at it than I was at first.
Oh, I’ve figured out how to make my way through the day. I can lay out the plates, fill the pantry and put on a spread. I am not nearly as prone to tears as I once was-at least not while folks are watching.
But that easy flow of laughter and near chaos that once marked our gatherings has been replaced by a kind of mechanical plodding that moves from one moment to the next until the day has passed and I’ve survived once again.
I always expected our family to grow larger. I looked forward to the day we would no longer fit around the dining room table and we’d have to figure it out. Spouses and then grandchildren peopled my imagination with such clarity! While I never saw faces, I could hear the laughter and watch the motion of so. many. new. lives filling my home.
This year is especially strange.
Circumstances and work schedules and distance dictate that Thanksgiving will be spent with most of my family far away from my table.
So there won’t be just one empty chair today, there will be several.
And if I stare too long or focus too closely on what I don’t have, I can forget what I still possess.
It’s a temptation-always.
But temptation can be resisted. I am not doomed to follow that train of thought to the bottom of the pit of despair.
I refuse to let the darkness overwhelm the light.
I will be thankful for all the love this house has known, still knows and will know. I will be grateful that even though we are physically distant, we talk to one another, sharing laughter across the miles. I will cherish the moments I had with Dominic and rest in the knowledge that in eternity we will have so many more.
I can’t fill that chair-no one can fill that chair except my son-but I can fill my heart with good things.
I can choose thankfulness even when it’s hard.
Maybe that’s what Thanksgiving is really about-not an unending list of all the sweet things in life-but a short list of beauty extracted from the hard places.
Thanksgiving isn’t always bounty, sometimes it’s sacrifice.