This past week I had an interesting confluence of thought-threads that inspired me to write this post. I suppose you could call it a coincidence, but from what I’ve seen of the way God has worked through my multi-decade journey, coincidences have gone the way of Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy–I no longer believe in them. I think that God orchestrates things in our lives to help us connect seemingly separate dots–to show us a new way to think about something or to nudge us into action. I also think He does this far more often than we notice.
But I digress already. The first stream in this interesting confluence came when I was listening to a great book on prayer, How to Pray: A Simple Guide for Normal People, by Pete Greig. In it, he talks about meditating over a simple phrase at the start of your prayer time–anything that will help center your mind and chase away distractions. I decided to try this at my prayer time afterward. I left my mind open to whatever phrase God would put there, and what popped into my head was, “You are my King.” So for that day and the days since, I’ve been starting my prayer time by meditating on that phrase a few times, accompanied by some deep, intentional breaths.
The second stream flowed into my consciousness through the Daily Audio Bible reading the next day. This week we made our way through the book of Esther. Mordecai, Esther’s uncle, needed Esther to plead before King Xerxes on behalf of all the Jews in the land, to save them from Haman’s evil plot to kill them all. Even though she was one of Xerxes’s wives, Esther was reluctant to go before the king, explaining:
“All the king’s officials and the people of the royal provinces know that for any man or woman who approaches the king in the inner court without being summoned the king has but one law: that they be put to death unless the king extends the gold scepter to them and spares their lives. But thirty days have passed since I was called to go to the king.”Esther 4:11 (NIV, emphasis added)
In case the suspense is killing you and you don’t remember there even being a book in the Bible called “Esther”, King Xerxes extended the gold scepter, so Esther’s life was spared, enabling her to launch a counter-plot that ended up saving all the Jews in the kingdom. This brought home Mordecai’s prophetic words in response to Esther, which is probably my favorite verse in Esther:
But I digress again. Anyway, shortly after hearing this story in the Daily Audio Bible reading, when I came to my prayer time, I entered God’s throne room breathily repeating the words, “You are my King.”
Then, POW! Jesus connected the dots for me: “Don’t take for granted the ability to enter into My Presence! And be glad you don’t have to fear for your life–no gold scepter required. Only because I love you.”
ZAP! I was electrified like a moth drawn too close to a bug zapper.
I have to admit that sometimes I can be too cavalier about entering into God’s presence. I pop my head in and rattle off a few requests, then hurry on my way, as though God were my assistant. I have been in a relationship with Jesus for so long that occasionally I allow my familiarity to cloud my vision of who He really is.
Yes, Jesus loves me. He sticks with me, closer than a brother. He wants what’s best for me. He will do anything for me, and He always gives me what I need, but not always what I want (which is part of what I need, to not always get what I want!). What a friend we have in Jesus, and all that.
But, He is God. He spoke the universe into existence. With ease, He parted the Red Sea to enable the Israelites to escape a murderous Phaoroh on dry ground. With a word, He totally squelched an angry storm that was powerful enough to scare the hell out of experienced sailors. He defeated death.
In other words, He is not to be taken lightly.
It is entirely appropriate that we find peace and comfort in God’s presence. As David famously wrote:
But it’s also entirely appropriate that we remember God’s awesome power as we enter into His presence. We can and should love Him and cherish our relationship with Him, but we should also tremble when we come in contact with Him.
Even though there are plenty of passages in the Bible that support the idea of trembling in the presence of the Lord, I want to shift over to C.S. Lewis because he also said it very well. In one of my favorite passages from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (from The Chronicles of Narnia), Lucy encounters Aslan the lion (the Christ figure from the series) for the first time. She’s terrified. She asks her traveling companion, Mr. Beaver if the lion is safe. Mr. Beaver’s response is classic C.S. Lewis:
So enter into God’s presence whenever you want, thankful that out of His goodness, no gold scepter is required. He welcomes you and loves you and longs for you to talk with Him.
But also remember that as loving as He is, He’s also not entirely safe. This is because when you come before God, you gather up your life in your hands and offer it over to Him. And you just never know what He’s going to do with it.