Hearts are awakening by the love and mercy of God! This is a beautiful thing. It’s like the new growth of spring we already see on our hillsides in Camarillo. As fresh, tender, bright- green shoots appear, it’s a promise of renewal and new life after drought, fires, and destruction. But along with new hope awakening is the mystery that, as God woos our hearts out of cold storage, fear, shut-down mode, disappointment or hope deferred, we might notice EVERYTHING coming to life—the “weeds” in our hearts, too! So, as we open our hearts deeper to receive the love of God in this new season for the new season ahead, let me share a surprising encounter I recently had with God.
During Bridal Prayer last Wednesday–our weekly prayer based on Galatians 4:19 for the formation of Christ in His Church — I saw a picture of us all throwing spears at each other, especially toward the ones sent by God to help us escape the funk we often find ourselves in; the ones sent to help us step into God’s presence, life and abundance. It was jealousy and fear, but we couldn’t see that; we were fixated on our losses and focused on ourselves. Hurling our spears, we sought to silence the new song and new hope rising.
We were like Saul.
For some of you, this may not resonate, but for many of us, allowing the Holy Spirit to speak to our hearts about this will change our lives: Throwing spears is the opposite of throwing our hands up in praise. Rather than rising in faith, we rise in jealousy. We hurl our spear, our authority, and our weapon to silence praise and the new song, thinking it will silence our torment. We see someone else’s success or freedom in Jesus as a threat and accusation against us. We can feel that silencing them would free us, but oh, how wrong we are. Though this can initially sound like a harsh word, I truly believe God has a message of His true love and freedom for each one of us!
Let’s take a quick look at Saul. He was a man head and shoulders above all of Israel. Chosen by God to be the first king of Israel, he nevertheless had a problem: He was chosen before he had chosen God himself. He was the consummate picture of a king made in the image of man. Therefore, his strength was his weakness. He was more concerned by what others thought and did than he was about the Lord who had chosen Him. In fact, Saul barely knew the Lord. Gifts, talents, and attributes of man can create such self-awareness that we have a difficult time building God- awareness. We can think like this: Sure, we need a Savior, but only so that we can do better and accomplish more. Whoa. Convicting!
Saul was man-centered rather than Christ- centered; he measured himself by others rather than in Christ (I say “in Christ” because even though He is not mentioned in Saul’s time, all of Scripture points to and is fulfilled in Jesus, the Word made flesh as explained in John 1). You know the story, found in 1 Samuel, chapters 16-31: After three missed opportunities to wait on God and honor His word, Saul found himself shut out and left in torment. When David, who was skilled on the harp to worship the Lord with song, played for Saul, Saul was released from his torment and could find peace. Saul had a capacity for God, but did not know how to find the Lord on his own. This was primarily because he had never chosen God above man. He needed someone else’s praise.
We also see that David’s intimacy with God threatened the king’s position. Where David could stay in the secret place in God, protected and hidden despite all the attempts on his life, Saul became more and more fearful and jealous. Saul saw David as a threat vs. a blessing. That’s when he started throwing spears. Imagine standing before a king, worshipping with your whole heart, willing to be vulnerable to carry others into your secret place with God. Suddenly, a spear is hurled at lightning speed toward your head. You barely have time to make a quick exit as the spear still wobbles in the wall where it embedded itself.
In the end, Saul was a tormented man, never finding God for himself. Obsessed with killing David, he pursued him throughout Judea, hunting him like an outlaw. He mistakenly thought David would bring his demise when in truth, his own outlawed, orphaned heart was the reason for his torment.
This is where we can let God examine our hearts.
Fear and jealousy both devalue and seek to destroy those who seem to be accepted. We feel that they possess what we should possess; in its full-fledged form, it awakens the seed of murder! Like Cain killing Abel because his gift had not been regarded by God, we can seek to extinguish the one who is being received, awakened, given new hope. The first murder was over worship. Rather than humbling himself and learning how to approach the Lord, how to offer worship acceptable to the Lord, Cain chose murder. Saul’s heart was the same.
Back to the prayer meeting last week. . .To be honest, the whole thing surprised me. I wasn’t planning to be overcome in the Spirit by this intense intercession. I began to repent for all of our stubbornness, indifference and unwillingness to be led into true worship before God. Whether sitting or standing, but not fully engaging in singing and raising our hands, I saw us stewing in our own troubles. I repented for throwing spears at all those worshipping in true freedom before God; I repented for all the times we had not submitted to being led or to receive the new song and new sound. I repented of the pride and jealousy that creeps into our hearts and causes us to resist the Spirit, the words being sung, the prophecies released and uttered. Indifference instead of childlike wonderment intact, we wonder what the big deal is. Rather than praising Christ fervently and pulling intentionally on the Holy Spirit, we sit, heartbroken, lost in our grief or bitterness of life. We refuse the one thing that will obliterate our torment: PRAISING JESUS!
Praise: Wholehearted, fully- submitted praise to God takes away depression and clothes us with the garment of praise; as we move our attention away from ourselves and others and turn our affections to God, we are set free again to see and enjoy God.
Then I remembered King David and how he had danced with all his might before the Lord as the priests carried the ark on their shoulders into Jerusalem, only to have Michal, his wife, despise him in her heart. “No, I will not be silent,” I said within myself, in my heart of hearts. “Saul is not our worship leader, David is!” With that, I saw all of us wholeheartedly, self- abandoned, worshipping before the Lord, like David: secure in God’s love, oblivious to our station in life, our situations, our impossibilities. . . In humility and in awe, we were worshipping the Lord.
This encounter that I experienced, I believe, was not to condemn our hearts, but to remind us to fix our eyes and affections once again on Jesus, who is the only One worthy of our praise and worship. And if you notice jealousy rising, well. . . There’s God’s love right there, too, covering you, BIGGER than anything. He wants our hearts. He wants us to give Him our hearts first and foremost. As we turn from self-focus, others-focus, our losses and disappointments—as we throw down our spears, and throw our hands upward in praise–I see Jesus, receiving our wide open arms. . . and pouring His love and new song into our tender, open, worshipping hearts, refreshing us anew. May we all receive His invitation into true love and freedom, as Jesus once again becomes our all in all. Amen.