Thoughts from Doug Knox.
Thinking Man’s Warfare
A few nights ago, I had Gary Rathbun’s radio talk show, “An Economy of One,” playing in the car again. And once again, he drove me to thought. Mr. Rathbun mentioned an article that he had read recently on the current state of affairs among the generation that has grown up on technology. This generation no longer is required to possess knowledge. Why should they, when they have all the answers at their fingertips? The downside to easy access is easy opinion. Everyone has come to have an opinion, but by definition, every opinion has become equal.
Opinions in Conflict
The college professor who wrote the article said he had gathered three students with radically differing views on a particular subject to engage in dialogue. He asked them, “Without a recognized standard of right and wrong, how do you decide which one of your views will prevail?” One student threw up her hands and walked off. The second student said that he would yell until he shouted down his opponents. And the third student said he would bully anyone who disagreed with him into submission. The first student typified indifference, and indifference walks away. The second student represented those who yell until they get their own way. The third student represented force.
The Process Historically
The insight has proven to be true historically. During the 1990’s the tolerance movement reaped havoc in schools around the nation. Students entered college with far greater fear of being labeled intolerant than they were of being morally cowardly. A friend who taught college philosophy courses during that decade told me once that whole classrooms of students were unable to say whether the Holocaust was wrong. That wholesale indifference has brought us to the present time. In the political sphere, the LGBT movement has forced its opinion on society by being loud. Men and boys now may use women’s restrooms on the flimsy premise that they “feel” like the opposite gender. Many schools teach gay lifestyle curriculum as early as the second grade. The list is endless. This week, force entered the equation with the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting. FBI investigators learned that Nikolas Cruz had posted a YouTube video last year saying that he would become “a professional school shooter.”
How do we approach this situation as Christians? Our anchor is worship. I am not talking about praise-fests. Nor am I talking about hunkering down in our churches and waiting for the problem to go away. I am talking about the deliberate act of turning to the Lord and acknowledging that he maintains control in spite of the severity of our circumstances. An example of worship in the midst of adversity occurs in the book of Nehemiah. Nehemiah ministered as the governor of Judah during the late fifth century BC, after Judah’s return from Babylonian exile. Jerusalem and the temple lay in ruins. Nehemiah’s primary job was to rebuild the walls around the city and make it defensible against hostile peoples again. The first seven chapters of the book concentrate on the work of rebuilding. When the urgent work was completed, the people were able to take a breather and seek the Lord’s face. In Nehemiah 8:2, Ezra the priest read the Book of the Law to the people. Most likely, the reading came from Deuteronomy. The reading brings us to a significant passage on worship.
And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people, and as he opened it all the people stood. And Ezra blessed the LORD, the great God, and all the people answered, “Amen, Amen,” lifting up their hands. And they bowed their heads and worshiped the LORD with their faces to the ground. Also…the Levites helped the people to understand the Law, while the people remained in their places. They read from the book, from the Law of God, clearly, and they gave sense, so that the people understood the reading. --Nehemiah 8:5-6, 7b-8
This passage shows a number of important points regarding worship:
· Nehemiah mentions “all the people.” Private devotion times are essential to our Christian walk, but ultimately we need to be with each other for mutual encouragement and discipline. Worship in Scripture is corporate.
· Ezra’s act of opening the Book of the Law before the people shows that the people understood that worship involves more than just praise music. The act takes place under the authority of God’s word.
· When Ezra blesses “the LORD, the great God,” he does so with recent history in mind. The people had rebuilt the walls of the city during great opposition, and they acknowledged God’s protection. They recognized his greatness during the difficult times.
· The people “bowed their heads and worshiped the LORD with their faces to the ground.” Not all worship is praise. Solemnity in worship is equally important appropriate.
· The section on the Levites’ assistance as teachers takes up the bulk of the paragraph. Nehemiah summarizes their work in three parts. First, the Levites read from the Book of the Law of God clearly. Second, they explained the meaning of what they read. And third, they made sure the people understood the reading.
This last section is the most important of all. Teaching is not separate from worship. It is the backbone. If we reduce worship to an act that feels good to us in the moment, we make God our slave, but if we understand worship to include hearing from God as well as voicing our response to God, we build a much deeper relationship with him.
Worship that has learned to listen as well as speak is able to transform us. The narrative shows that revival swept through their ranks. People were moved to tears over their oversight in worship. Nehemiah 8:9-9:38 describes the transformation that God accomplished among them. Worship alone may not sound like much, but its ultimate effects can be huge. It rescues us from the tyranny of irrelevant opinions and calls us to ground our thoughts in the sovereign God. That in turn makes our thinking knowledgeable and relevant.When our thinking is aligned with God’s word, we can become voices for reason and dialogue. We do not need to make our point by yelling. Finally, worship draws us into knowledgeable calmness. We can defend our position by reason, without resorting to force.