One of the great promises of heaven, a promise that I long to see fulfilled, is that what becomes old and tired in this world will always remain new and fresh and exciting in the world to come. The declining joys of this world will be ever-increasing joys 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 God for his 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 me to grow weary of things that are good and even things that are so very good? How could I build up such hardness, such spiritual resistance to God’s greatest gifts?
God 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 possibly have been lonely, living there in that perfect world. And yet he realized that he was incomplete. God 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 God for his marvelous provision.
But then Adam sinned. He fell for the deception of the devil. And when God called out 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.
Jesus 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 am I like this? Why do I 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?
Recently the Lord saw fit to have his Word taken to some of his children, to some of our brothers and sisters who live almost a world away. 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 at last they have the entire New Testament, all four gospels in which they can read about the life of Jesus Christ, Acts which allows them to study the earliest days of the earliest church, all those epistles in which the apostles tell us how we are to live in this world for God’s 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 the 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 God. And now at last, in his perfect timing, God is 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 God 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 God’s Word when these people, his children in the Kimyal tribe, are just now receiving those words for the first time? How could I grow so hardened to the gift God has given me? I sit in an office surrounded by Bibles–I can count seven without even turning my head and I know there are many more at home 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.
God: It is clear that 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 denying your goodness, 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.