O Lord, Thou knowest
I awoke one morning in July and as is my daily routine (most days), I sought the Holy Spirit for what He would want me reading in the Word as I began my day. I felt led to the book of John, chapter five, specifically, and when I hit this verse it’s like I bit down on a rock and broke a tooth:
“Afterward Jesus findeth him in the temple, and said unto him, Behold, thou art made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee.” (John 5:14, emphasis mine)
And it’s the last part that got me. I had just finished a particularly long and taxing season from which I figured there would never be an easy escape. And while I was excited to be able to step out into something new, the effort I knew it’d take in order to be fully released from where I’d been, would be considerable. Couple this with the fact that I didn’t really know where I was headed from there and you can maybe see how this idea of “sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee” might sound like a little too harsh an injunction based on the rawness I was feeling. Again, it was almost as if I bit down on something hard I didn’t know was in my mouth. I wasn’t expecting it. I mean, why would God wake me up and then draw me down into the middle of this chapter only to give me a heartless ultimatum bereft of the sweetness and beauty I know Him to be—and that He had indeed showed me He was, and is—throughout the aforementioned hard season? I knew something wasn’t right. This is the God I know (see also Psalm 138:6)
“O taste and see that the Lord is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in Him.” (Psalm 34:8)
I knew a man in Christ
If you must know the specifics of what I was referring to in the previous paragraph, it’s this. Growing up, I was extraordinarily headstrong and also scatterbrained. As I’ve grown and aged, I realize now that there is also a gift in me in need of responsible shepherding (it’s the same for every person). And it was this very realization that my late father, who passed away in July—ending the season mentioned above—knew, looking on. All the discipline he put in my way growing up was an effective roadblock seeing the gift in me be either snuffed out or used incorrectly (i.e. for something other than the glory of God). To where a weed would take root and then seeing said weed turn into a jungle—a “tangled forest of bad decisions”, as it were. So when I read the fourteenth verse from the chapter of John and feel in my heart and mind that it’s God speaking to me in such a way as to inform me that were I to go back to living the way I had been as a kid—even though, get this, even though I had thoroughly grown up from that childish way of thinking and living—then something worse would befall me. Something worse than watching my parents’ marriage dissolve and then my father’s will to go on do the same and then watching as his body slowly follows suit up until his death—while I am left in many ways a child, picking up pieces that shouldn’t be carried by anyone, let alone someone whose mother isn’t around to salve the wound(s). All this cascade came crashing down on me as I read the verse and then stopped reading. It “stuck in my craw” but, like, times ten. Again, this isn’t the God I know. I am concatenating incorrectly. I am drawing conclusions and making connections where I shouldn’t.
“I will hear what God the Lord will speak: for He will speak peace unto His people, and to His saints: but let them not turn again to folly.” (Psalm 85:8)
There’s the same idea expressed in the Psalms. Though I like the way The Message words it:
“I can’t wait to hear what He’ll say. God’s about to pronounce His people well, The holy people He loves so much, so they’ll never again live like fools.”
Whether in the body or out of the body
Notice how with a simple conjunction (“so”) it connects the forthcoming blessings and beauty that God promises to those who walk in His ways with what looks to be a closing of the door to the former ways of foolishness and wrongheadedness. I like that. And whether it’s the same exact idea as expressed by the Sons of Korah, or not, I couldn’t tell you; I didn’t rewind it back to the original Hebrew for myself. But moving forward, it flows with the ways of God: ever encouraging and without a hint of fearmongering. This is the God I know. Now read with me in the fifth chapter of John. Jesus comes to the pool of Bethesda and offers to heal a man who for thirty-eight years could never make it down to the water in order to receive the healing the angel had been providing on a regular basis. Jesus asks him, “Wilt thou be made whole?” The man answers with an excuse, essentially, to which Jesus simply tells him to get up and go. What’s amazing, going forward, is that when the Pharisees later interrogate the man as to who would have healed him on the Sabbath day (*gasp*) the man couldn’t even say who did it. This is remarkable to me because it shows an individual receiving a miracle from the hand of the Lord who doesn’t know Him. Perhaps this is why Jesus gave him the ultimatum he did? Who knows. The rest of the chapter turns into a diatribe on the part of Jesus against the hypocrisy and evil of the Pharisees and their complete lack of understanding of the scriptures from Moses till then. Jesus makes some incredibly powerful declarations as to how He and the Father work in conjunction (see 5:19-23). He then sews up the latter part of chapter five with what could be distilled and expressed as a pithy lesson in fielding other people’s attention. Jesus tells them in verse 41: “I receive not honour from men.”
I cannot tell, God knoweth
It’s funny how God brings things around in His time and in His way. The reason I bring up Concatenatius in part one is because he struggled through a lot of the same issues that I face on a regular basis. In spite of being a fictional character from my imagination (yes, sorry), I would have to say that neither he nor I are the only people who hear from God and then take what He said and run with it to God-knows-where. And if you read the first part of this post, you know that it was the Lord who led me to the fifth chapter of John. Because this was something that I struggled with as I always endeavor to have purity of mind, not just from sin and what-have-you. But from lies and false assumptions and confusion. With the way I’m made up, I cannot function in a sea of confusion.
It’s interesting—and more than just a little bit of a broad allusion—but when chapter five ends, we find this statement (John 6:1-2a):
“After these things Jesus went over the sea of Galilee, which is the sea of Tiberias. And a great multitude followed Him…”
That’s the thing about the forthcoming season. It looks to be busy, that’s all I can say.