So, things are opening up, eh? Here in my city the roads are busier and I am grateful. Yes, I am grateful for traffic. It is a sign of normality. I did not like the silence. The deserted streets, the closed businesses, the ghostly masked figures in the supermarket who avoids even eye contact were scary. I felt like a leper, the carrier of death to all around me, and I wasn’t even sick. I pulled off my mask as I left the supermarket one morning early walking out the door and smiled to the lady coming in through the other door. She pulled down her mask and smiled back. It was wonderful.
We all have to pick up our lives and start living again. Most of all, we need to start working again. I know many, many people who continued working throughout these abnormal times, whose jobs could be conducted from home and online. For the frontline workers (are they getting massive bonusses from all these aid packages?) it was war in combat uniform. I am in awe of their commitment and courage. Many people were forced to stay home without income and a nagging, debilitating worry about starting anew, creating income, finding another job – just picking up the pieces of life after virus-regulations.
How will we go forward? Will there be a scary second phase? Was the extreme reaction to close the country correct? You might say: I am a Christian. I know what to do. I pray, right? Of course, it is right. Go ahead, pray with all your might. But consider the following.
There is a way to walk this earth. It is called the pathway of praise. It is the highest form of prayer.
A highway shall be there, and a road, and it shall be called the Highway of Holiness. The unclean shall not pass over it, but it shall be for others. Whoever walks the road, although a fool, shall not go astray. (Isaiah 35:8)
Holiness means to be set apart for a specific purpose. It is not a high and mighty road that cannot be reached. It is yours, set before you. Choose to walk this highway today.
Think about your life especially in this time. Is this the life you have signed up for? Think about your dreams and aspirations as a young person. What was your ideal life back then? Could it be possible that things have turned out so very different from what you thought it would be?
Consider Leah. She is a pawn in deceit. Her life is marked by love lessness. She is given in marriage to Jacob by her deceitful father, Laban and she calls herself unloved. She vies for the favour of her husband and contends with her sister. I bet it is not what she dreamed it would be. She bears three sons in the hope for something better, holding on to her dreams, trying desperately to manipulate the feelings of her husband to whom she is given in fraud. No choices here. She must live with the “cards” she has been dealt.
When the Lord saw that Leah was unloved, He opened her womb; but Rachel was barren.
So, Leah conceived and bore a son, and she called his name Reuben; for she said, “The Lord has surely looked on my affliction. Now therefore, my husband will love me.”
Then she conceived again and bore a son, and said, “Because the Lord has heard that I am unloved, He has therefore given me this son also.” And she called his name Simeon.
She conceived again and bore a son, and said, “Now this time my husband will become attached to me, because I have borne him three sons.” Therefore, his name was called Levi.
And she conceived again and bore a son, and said, “Now I will praise the Lord.” Therefore, she called his name Judah. Then she stopped bearing. (Genesis 29:31-35)
Four sons were a guarantee for prosperity in the ancient world. God’s love for Leah is displayed in the fact that she is the mother of the priestly and kingly tribes of Israel.
Judah means Praise and out of him comes a great tribe of Israel. Jacob speaks important words over Judah.
“Judah, you are he whom your brothers shall praise;
Your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies;
Your father’s children shall bow down before you.
9 Judah is a lion’s whelp;
From the prey, my son, you have gone up.
He bows down, he lies down as a lion;
And as a lion, who shall rouse him?
10 The scepter shall not depart from Judah,
Nor a lawgiver from between his feet,
Until Shiloh comes; [Shiloh = the One who reigns = Jesus]
And to Him shall be the obedience of the people. (Genesis 49:8-10)
This is a high blessing spoken over Judah.
His brothers will praise him, he will triumph over his enemies, he will have royal authority (scepter) and legal authority (lawgiver) and will bring forth the Messiah.
Out of Judah comes David and the Christ. The Christ’s life, all his actions and words are a praise to the Father.
The tribe of Judah led Israel through the wilderness.
“All who were numbered according to their armies of the forces with Judah, one hundred and eighty-six thousand four hundred—these shall break camp first. (Numbers 2:9)
The tribe of Judah led the conquest of Canaan. (Judges 1:1-19)
Judah is the first tribe to praise David, making him king. (2 Samuel 2:1-11)
All this because his mother praised the Lord.
Praise is the cure for “dry times”. When the people of Israel arrived at the well at Beer, there was no water. It is significant to come to a place where you would expect sustenance and then be disappointed. Remember when we talked about the ditches in 2 Kings 3?
It is the right thing to pray. Here at Beer, God said: Gather the people.
There is power in the unity of the body of Christ. Call up the prayer warriors. That is good. But listen closely. Hear what they did.
The people sang to the well.
From there they went to Beer, which is the well where the Lord said to Moses, “Gather the people together, and I will give them water.”
Then Israel sang this song:
“Spring up, O well!
All of you sing to it—
The well the leaders sank,
Dug by the nation’s nobles,
By the lawgiver, with their staves.” (Numbers 21:16,17)
The lesson here is not to stay alone. Gather with the praising body of Jesus and sing. It is what one should do in times of anxiety, pressure and depression.
A song of thanksgiving for past blessings and a song of faith in God’s promises for the present and the future.
This pathway will lead us into the presence of the Father. We know that because of the song of David when the Ark of the Covenant returned to Jerusalem. David was not even supposed to be near the Ark. Only the High Priest could enter once a year into the Holy of Holies. David’s heart and genuine desire to be with God, not only draws God’s tolerance but his seal of approval over David’s act.
David praised God’s otherness, his sacredness. His focus was on God and his character. In this song is implied the mystery of God’s ways. Isaiah sings about that. His ways are higher ways and his thoughts are higher thoughts (Isaiah 55).
Tremble before Him, all the earth.
The world also is firmly established,
It shall not be moved.
Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad;
And let them say among the nations, “The Lord reigns.”
Let the sea roar, and all its fullness;
Let the field rejoice, and all that is in it.
Then the trees of the woods shall rejoice before the Lord,
For He is coming to judge the earth. [Rest in God’s judgment when you consider world events]
Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good!
For His mercy endures forever. [This is a declaration for the future]
And say, “Save us, O God of our salvation;
Gather us together, and deliver us from the Gentiles, [Say this when confusion sets in because of twisted arguments; untruths; fake news; lies; double standards and double mindedness]
To give thanks to Your holy name,
To triumph in Your praise.” [Praising God means dwelling in triumph, in victory before it is real]
Blessed be the Lord God of Israel
From everlasting to everlasting! (1 Chronicles 16:30-36)
The theme of the song is that of the angels, cherubim and seraphim in heaven. (Isaiah 6:3; Revelation 4:8)
To worship God in the beauty of holiness keeps our worship transcendent and God-centered – unrestricted by the world’s style and unpolluted by human self-centredness.
God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble.
Therefore, we will not fear,
Even though the earth be removed,
And though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea;
Though its waters roar and be troubled,
Though the mountains shake with its swelling. Selah. (Psalms 46)
When you read this – whatever your circumstances may be, write a song of praise. Stir up the Psalmist in you. Go and sit in a quiet place and write a song of praise. Read the Psalms for ideas. Write down the phrases in those songs and practise… practise to praise the Lord, until it is your knee-jerk reaction to everything.
Thank you Lord for your majesty, your almighty deeds ……