For the Love of the Master
I used to have a rat by the name of Chahala. I loved her like my own flesh and blood. Coming home to her was a wonderful experience. I kept her cage next to my desk and she would periodically come up to visit me when I was working. When I held her, she would kiss my fingers. She always came when I called her and was nearly always happy to see me.
Today, I have another rat by the name of Edal. Edal is as precious to me as Chahala was. Edal, however, is much more reserved. She never gives kisses unless she is stressed. It took nearly two years to even get her to the point where she was willing to be picked up. I love Edal very much, but my relationship with her is nowhere near as satisfying as my relationship with Chahala.
This made me think. We benefit no end from our relationship with God because He loves us unconditionally. But what is it like for God? Does He derive more pleasure from some of us than from others? Does how we react to God cheer Him or hurt His feelings? I see the answer to this as an unequivocal "absolutely".
Looking through history, it seems readily apparent that though the Lord reached out to friend and foe alike, He definitely had favorites. Abraham, David, Daniel and John were among His most cherished friends. Others, like Saul and Ishmael, were loved by God, but were also among those He could barely stand. What was the difference? Why did these few people find such special favor in God's eyes? It was because they treated God as a friend.
Of course, it is only natural to fear God. Fear of God is a good and healthy thing. It keeps us from doing things that royally tick Him off. But when your inclination is to run and hide from Him, that's not healthy. Adam and Eve ran from God and it really hurt His feelings. Jonah ran from God and God became very angry. It is true that none of us is worthy to stand in God's presence. He is holy and we still have the remnants of our sinful natures clinging to our feet like a string of toilet paper. When I pray, it makes me a tad uncomfortable to imagine God seated on His throne in front of me. I want to turn away and shield my eyes. I begin thinking "I don't deserve to be here." My requests all begin to seem selfish and frivolous in the presence of the Holy God. I would not dream of addressing Him with any disrespect. But can one be friendly with God without being disrespectful? I think history shows that we definitely can.
Abraham was friends with God. He began by acknowledging God as master. Everything God told him to do, he did, even to the point of being willing to sacrifice his son. God blessed Abraham for his great faith. But their relationship went beyond that of a master and an honored servant.
James 2:23 And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God.
Abraham did more than just obey God, he TREATED God like his friend. He welcomed God into his house. When God appeared as a traveler, he begged Him to stay a while. He washed His feet and fed Him a fine meal. The two of them spoke together about their plans. Abraham showed God real love in his obedience and faith, but also in his hospitality and affection.
Moses was a passionate man. When God first called him to serve, he was very timid. However, Moses did all that he was instructed, even when it didn't make sense to him at the time. Soon, God was speaking to Moses in person just as He did with Abraham. The two of them spent days together at a time. As a result, Moses had God's favor. God became angry when Aaron and Miriam thought themselves the equal of Moses in God's eyes.
David was called a man after God's own heart. We all know that he made mistakes, but he loved God with all his heart, and spent his days composing songs to the Lord. He held nothing back. He sang both his joy and his sorrow.
Solomon, though he began to drift in his later days, pleased God in his youth. He sacrificed far more than he ever had to. Not that God needed his sacrifice, but God was very moved by such an expensive gift. God favored Solomon by giving him a wish, something He does almost never. Solomon's wish was for the wisdom to do discharge the duties God had given him as king. Because Solomon spent his wish so unselfishly, God also gave him everything he did not wish for.
Daniel and his friends Hannaniah, Azariah and Mishael made a conscious decision to honor and obey God in all things. They refused to break his commandments and they refused to worship anyone but Him at any time. Because of this, God walked with Daniel in dreams and visions, and He visited the others bodily in the midst of their greatest trial.
The Apostle John was perhaps the closest to Jesus in His lifetime. He already loved God before meeting Jesus in person, having apparently studied under John the baptist. He stayed close to Jesus always, even in the bad times. Tradition has it that he was the only one besides Peter to follow Jesus to His trials.
The pattern we begin to see here is that to please God, it is first necessary to accept Him as master. This does not mean we become slaves, though that is one appropriate analogy. More like pets. A pet typically cannot take care of himself, but must depend on his master to direct him and care for him. Or if you're not comfortable with that analogy, like children. I am reminded of the climax of the movie "Bruce Almighty", where Bruce is forced to admit that he has ruined everything by taking on the role of God. He then kneels and says "I surrender!" He is forced to acknowledge that only God is qualified to order the world, and his life, and submits his will to the master. That is where we all need to be. It is impossible to please God without faith. Faith that He is all wise and that He has our very best interests at heart. Faith that doing as He says will be for the best for all concerned. This includes, obviously, accepting God's plan of salvation on His terms. If one is unwilling to comply with His plan of reconciliation, there can be no relationship.
Once we acknowledge God as master, the best way to please Him is to treat him the way you would your friend, or even your lover. After all, Jesus is the "lover of our souls". Be eager to meet Him in worship. Give Him gifts by supporting the poor and the ministry. Sing Him a song- not just those the worship leader chooses, but one from your heart. Sing it in the middle of the day with no one to prompt you, just out of love. When you pray, speak as though you were speaking to someone you love and respect. After all, that should be the case. Me, I begin my prayers by imagining that I'm running up to Jesus and giving Him a big hug. I want Him to know that I am happy He's my friend.
Thank you all for coming. Go with God. Goodnight.
Today's reading: Genesis 18:1-8
18:1 And the LORD appeared unto him in the plains of Mamre: and he sat in the tent door in the heat of the day;
2 And he lift up his eyes and looked, and, lo, three men stood by him: and when he saw them, he ran to meet them from the tent door, and bowed himself toward the ground,
3 And said, My Lord, if now I have found favour in thy sight, pass not away, I pray thee, from thy servant:
4 Let a little water, I pray you, be fetched, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree:
5 And I will fetch a morsel of bread, and comfort ye your hearts; after that ye shall pass on: for therefore are ye come to your servant. And they said, So do, as thou hast said. 6 And Abraham hastened into the tent unto Sarah, and said, Make ready quickly three measures of fine meal, knead it, and make cakes upon the hearth. 7 And Abraham ran unto the herd, and fetched a calf tender and good, and gave it unto a young man; and he hasted to dress it. 8 And he took butter, and milk, and the calf which he had dressed, and set it before them; and he stood by them under the tree, and they did eat.