Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Yesterday when Tim asked if I wanted to watch the inauguration ceremony I realized that my normal ambivalence about politics had shifted into a bitter cynicism with an unhealthy bite to it.

In the morning we read John 2:23-25,
Now while he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many people saw the miraculous signs he was doing and believed in his name. But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all men. He did not need man's testimony about man, for he knew what was in a man.

This lead me back to one of my all time favorite readings called “The Discipline of Disillusionment” from “My Utmost for His Highest” by Oswald Chambers. As I read though it yesterday it felt like the right antidote to my state:

Our Lord trusted no man, yet He was never suspicious, never bitter. Our Lord's confidence in God and what His grace could do for any man, was so perfect that he despaired of no one. If your trust is place in human beings, we shall end in despairing of everyone.
One of the ways I dig deeper into something is to do word studies (I’m an amateur philologist, which means I have just enough working knowledge to be dangerous) and this time it proved to be a rich exercise for me. When I read “Jesus did not entrust/commit himself to any man” it sounds to me like he didn’t open himself up or give himself over to them, in the sense that if you don’t have a close relationship with or trust someone you keep them at arms length, but it turns out that the Greek work episteuen shares its root with pistis, to have faith (in, upon, or with respect to, a person or thing), believe, commit (to trust), put in trust with. This brings to mind a verse that was read in the Northland service on Sunday, Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding (Proverbs 3:5,6),as well as the admonitions not to trust in our resources no matter how strong and secure they make us feel, like horses and chariots made armies of those days feel strong:
Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help, who rely on horses, who trust in the multitude of their chariots and in the great strength of their horsemen, but do not look to the Holy One of Israel, or seek help from the LORD. (Isaiah 31:1-3)
The idea that came to mind was resting your weight on something. When we used to go walking in the mountains of Mexico, Tim was always on the lookout for a good walking stick. He would pick up sticks that seemed like they were the right length and then he would lean onto them with his whole weight. More often than not they would snap. Tim would throw them away and keep looking for one that would bear his weight if he slipped and needed help to catch his fall.
I hear John saying that Jesus didn’t need to lean onto people to know that they would snap if he were to put the weight of his trust on them. But this didn’t make him angry or cynical. He knew that before he came to earth, in fact that is precisely why he came.

So when I find myself suspicious and bitter, it’s probably a symptom of me misplacing the weight of my hopes and desires; no matter how much I like a person or how competent they are, they are not the foundation of my hope, and I only have myself to blame it I get disappointed when I expect them to save me. Instead I want to be like the psalmist who sang, Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God. (Psalm 20:7)

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