One of the great promises of heaven, a promise that I long to see fulfilled, is that what gets old and tired in this world will always remain new and fresh and exciting in the world to come. Niagara Falls will send chills down my spine every time I see it; the Grand Canyon will cause me to gasp in delight, not just once but for all of eternity; the night sky will move me to praise you for your greatness each and every time I look up. Nothing will get tiring, nothing will get old, nothing will be just the same time after time after time.
What is it that causes us to grow weary of things that are good and even things that are so very good? How could we build up such hardness, such spiritual resistance to your greatest gifts?
You called Adam to name each of the animals, and paraded them in front of him one by one. He saw two of this animal, two of that, two of another, and through it all realized that there was no helper fit for him. He could not have been lonely, living there in that perfect world. And yet he realized that he was incomplete. You caused him to fall into a deep sleep and there, when he awoke, standing before him, was the perfect complement to him, the perfect mate. In wonder he exclaimed, “This at last is bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh.” He praised you for your marvelous provision.
But then Adam sinned. He allowed his wife to lead him astray, he fell for the deception of the devil. And when you called to him he turned on that woman, he turned on that gift and said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.” He turned on that gift, hated it, and in that moment hated the one who gave it.
Your Son called Peter to be one of his disciples. Jesus simply said, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” And Peter followed. For several years he followed, walking in the steps of the man who claimed to be the Messiah. He followed him all the way to Jerusalem, even proclaiming, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
But then danger came. Suddenly that Savior did not seem so mighty. And when the people said to Peter, “You were with Jesus of Nazareth,” he cursed and swore “I do not know the man!” He turned on that gift, hated it, and in that moment hated the one who gave it.
Why are we like this? Why do we marvel at something for a time and then grow weary of it, grow complacent toward it and even come to despise it? How do good gifts become old and tired gifts?
Father, I learned recently that you have seen fit to take your Word to some of your children, to some of my brothers and sisters who live almost a world away from me. Until recently the Kimyal Tribe in Papua, Indonesia have had only a portion of the New Testament available in their language. They loved that Word, they memorized it, they fed upon it. But like Adam after he named the animals and saw no helper fit for him, they knew that what they had was incomplete. But now, Lord, now you have given them the entire New Testament, all four gospels in which they can read about the life of your Son, Acts which allows them to study the earliest days of the earliest church, all those epistles in which your apostles tell us how we are to live in this world for your glory, those pastoral letters that will encourage the men in church leadership to hold fast the precious deposit that has been given them, and Revelation which beautifully describes that which is to come.
Their joy is remarkable. They overflow with it. They weep with the emotion of holding in their hands your precious Word. They throw a feast in an attempt to give back of the firstfruits. They dance and celebrate and act like this is the greatest thing that has ever happened to any of them. And that may just be the case. They have been waiting for two thousand years to hear from you. And now at last, in your perfect timing, you are speaking to them in their own language. And oh, how they rejoice.
I weep to see them celebrate. I weep with joy for them. I am grateful to you on their behalf, grateful to the ones whose long labor of love translated that Bible. But I also weep with shame and sorrow for me. How can my heart have grown so cold to your Word when these people, your children in the Kimyal tribe, are just now receiving those words for the first time? How could I grow so hardened to the gift you’ve given me? I sit in an office surrounded by Bibles–I can count 7 without even turning my head and I know there are many more downstairs and a whole box in the basement. And I say, “I’m tired. I don’t feel like it. It all feels the same. It just doesn’t seem exciting today.” My dancing has turned into mourning, my celebrating into complaining.
Father, I need you to renew my love for your Word. I need you to keep my heart from growing cold toward your greatest gifts. I need you to keep me from looking to my wife and seeing only those things I think she isn’t, only those things she doesn’t do; I need you to keep me from denying you, perhaps not in my words but too often in my actions, in the orientation of my heart. And I need you to keep me from being complacent toward your Word, from assuming that I know enough about it, from regarding it as a chore rather than an honor, a responsibility rather than a delight. Stir my heart as you’ve stirred the hearts of so many of your people when they read your Words for the very first time. And let even this remind me of the greater joy that is to come on that great day when you wipe away my tears of sorrow, when you take away every ugly complacency.
As they say in the Kimyal language:
Al weig buna’ ag bulamlange
ab Domba Me ab se,
sig aga meibna’ ab,
gibna’ ab, bebnag ab, migib ab,
unum-unum se ulamla.
“To him who sits on the throne,
and to the Lamb, be blessing
and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever.”
To the Father, to the Son, to the Holy Spirit be glory for ever and ever. Amen!
Note: Here is the pastor’s prayer upon receiving the New Testament:
The month that you had set, the day that you had set, has come to pass today. Oh my Father, my Father, the Promise that you gave Simeon that he would see Jesus Christ and hold Him in his arms before he died. I also have been waiting under that same promise, O God. You looked at all the different languages and chose which ones will be put into Your Word. You thought that we should see Your Word in our language. Today, the day you had chosen for this to be fulfilled, has come to pass. You have placed it here in our land. And for all this, O God, I give You praise.