Saturday, April 18, 2009

Rock Candy

If my people would but listen to me… you would be fed with the finest wheat; with honey from the rock I would satisfy you.

                        Psalm 81.13, 16

Gone Good

“Honey from the rock” is a seldom mentioned, yet potent Biblical symbol linked directly to Jacob. Of all Old Testament legends, he holds unquestionable title of Bad Boy Gone Good. Nothing he’s taught by his grandfather, Abraham, and his father, Isaac, sinks in. As a young man, he’s a manipulative liar and con artist. He scams his twin brother, Esau, out of his birthright as primary heir. But in his rush to steal Isaac’s wealth, Jacob also inherits the role of Israel’s patriarch. God doesn’t press the matter. He leaves Jacob to his own devices, knowing he’ll eventually meet his come-uppance, which is exactly what happens. He looks up one day to find Esau coming after him. While he waits to pay for his recklessness, God appears in angelic form and wrestles Jacob into obedience to His will. His brother arrives to discover a changed man.

In Deuteronomy, Moses sings a ballad with a lengthy segment about Jacob: “In a desert land he [God] found him, in a barren and howling waste. He shielded him and cared for him; he guarded him as the apple of his eye… He made him ride on the heights of the land and fed him with the fruits of the fields. He nourished him with honey from the rock.” (Deuteronomy 10, 12) A message weaves through this imagery. When we yield to God’s purpose, He takes care of us. Not only does He see to our needs and protection. He provides sweetness in places where none naturally exists.

If Only

Psalm 81 picks up this thread, as God mourns Israel’s rebellion against His plan. Once again, it’s strayed from His ways and become fascinated with idols. God doesn’t temper His words here—He’s obviously exasperated and unhappy. “I rescued you from slave labor,” He reminds Israel. “Any time you got into trouble, I came to your aid.” He wants them to hear His warning about putting other gods where He belongs. “If only you would listen to Me,” He says, “I’d take care of your problems.” Instead of cringing at His anger, they’d enjoy His promise to feed them with the finest wheat and satisfy them with honey from the rock. Again, just mentioning honey from a rock clarifies His message. God wants Israel to realize it’s headed in the wrong direction, chasing the wrong things like its ancestor, Jacob, did. He wants His people to turn back to Him.

A Candy Shop

Relentless advertising encourages us to picture the world as a candy shop, a warehouse of endless goodies to grab. The blitz is so seductive many develop insatiable cravings for things they can’t afford, financially, emotionally, and spiritually. Once they have them, though, the high vanishes and before they know it, another confection calls. If just one thing stole their desire to please God—a house or car, a job or companion, say—they might realign their priorities more easily. But some grow so obsessed with acquiring things—lots of them—it evolves into worship. They meditate on wish lists. They sacrifice everything to scheme and manipulate and even destroy others to amass fortunes they’re not meant to have. They’re like Jacob, oblivious to God’s plan and unaware they’re headed to a reckoning where they’ll wrestle with Him. (We’ve seen plenty of these matches lately.)

If only we stopped fantasizing about sweets in shiny wrappers. If only we realized we’re here to serve God and one another, not to act like greedy brats. If only we pierced the world’s candy-store illusions to realize where we really are—in a desert land, a barren and howling waste. God longs to take care of us. When we relinquish cravings for manmade treats, He reveals sweetness where we think none exists. God’s rock candy is loaded with fulfilling nutrients. “If you’ll listen to me,” He tells us, “I’ll feed you the finest wheat. I’ll nourish you with honey from the rock that satisfies.”

Why get fat on worldly sweets when we can splurge on nutritious honey from the rock?

(Tomorrow: Silent)

Postscript: New Weekend Feature

If you’re a regular here, you know my passion for black gospel music. While I identify with it more strongly than most, I love it too much not share with those I love and respect—i.e., you. Each weekend, either Friday or Saturday, I’ll post a song that speaks to me with some background on the artist. Take a few minutes to give it a look. On Sunday, we can all enjoy our “high church” hymns and anthems. But I know nothing better than celebrating the weekend with a terrific gospel tune!

“Thank You” – Rev. Walter Hawkins & The Love Center Choir

Might as well start with the best. Walter Hawkins has no equal among today's gospel songwriters. Love Center, which he founded and pastors in Oakland, boasts the best gospel church choir there is—period. (For Boomers: His brother and minister of music, Edwin, recorded the 1969 Top Ten hit, “O Happy Day.”) “Thank You” is over 10 years old, but it could have been written yesterday. Listening to Walter’s impassioned legato introduction—he’s in full voice as singer and preacher—is like reading the newspaper. Then the choir’s up-tempo praise dissipates the darkness. One final bit: the lead singer, Yvette Flunder, formerly Love Center’s associate pastor, now shepherds City of Refuge, a thriving GLBT congregation in San Francisco.


Sherry Peyton said...

How very right you are. When we set out sights on the right things, everything pretty much falls into place everywhere else. It's when we yearn for our own satisfactions that we run into obstacle after obstacle and end up unhappy and unfullfilled no matter what we acquire. Thanks as always for your beautiful reflections.

Tim said...

We hear this message over and over in the Word. Jesus says don't lay up treasures here; bank in Heaven, because where you store your treasures is where your heart will be. He challenges the rich young man to sell his possessions and follow him--the man can't let go, and walks away sorrowfully. He tells us about a man who kept building bigger barns only to hear God tell him he's wasted his life collecting a fortune he can't take with him. We hear Paul (not always correct, but spot-on this time) saying he's learned it makes no difference if he has a lot or a little; he's mastered the art of contentment.

So why don't we get it already? It's a mystery, perhaps second only to the mystery of why we don't love and accept one another as we are. And I believe the two are linked in very insidious ways.

As you say, Sherry, when we focus on the right things, everything else comes together. Seek the kingdom of heaven first, Jesus said, and all the other things will come to you. It's just that easy.

Thanks for stopping by and adding your thoughts. It's always great to see you!

Spring blessings of new life,

Missy said...

Awesome music. And comments--"It's a mystery, perhaps second only to the mystery of why we don't love and accept one another as we are. And I believe the two are linked in very insidious ways." That is extraordinarily insightful.

For me it's something to always guard against--I can tell myself that I don't need this or that--and I don't. And I'll be okay until I do something like go to a mall. Then I become a wantin' child.

Thanks so much for your ministry here, Tim. I always feel spiritually fed after visiting.

FranIAm said...

This is brilliant! And that video.

Thank you thank you. You already know I was up at 4, I am off to bed, so a short comment.

Tim said...

Missy, so glad you enjoyed the song. It's one my all-time favorites.

Yep, those crafty ad people and merchandisers are brilliant at bringing out the greedy kid in all of us. And they pitch their goods in such a way they convince us wanting them and getting them are harmless. What they don't tell us, though, is while they're emptying our pockets, they're also crowding our spirit. And if we're not careful, we'll push God into a corner and eventually forget He's even there.

Thanks for the comment, and the kind words, Missy. They truly encourage me. And they're timely, too, as they came in just as I'm twisted in knots trying to figure out tomorrow's post. So I'm going to stop writing--here and there--and calm down a bit so I can listen...

Blessings always,

johnmichael said...

You are so insightful and I'm so glad that you share your insight with us.

Tim said...

Fran, now it's I who's up at 4 AM! Go figure... I'm so glad you liked the video, and grateful you found something of value in the post, which leads to...

JM, how I'd love tell you all this just comes out of the blue, but the truth is I've been extraordinarily blessed to learn what little I know from truly gifted preachers and teachers. When I'm working on the posts, I'm always amazed by how much of what they taught me bubbles up. Whatever insights I'm able to share here can largely be traced back to them. But isn't that how it's supposed to work? We pass our blessings on. And that makes me glad!

Thank you both for coming by with words of encouragement and kindness. They mean more to me than you'll ever know. Have a blessed Lord's Day!