Monday, December 22, 2008

here i am

“Here I am; in the scroll of the book it is written of me. I delight to do your will, O my God, your law is within my heart.” – Ps 40:7-8, Heb 10:7-8.

Act 1. God creates. Man sins. And when man sins, man hides. But God looks. And God asks. “Where are you?” (Gen 3:9)

God is looking. Where are you? God calls out.

It starts with Abram. Abram – a child of Adam – was born into hiding. And God finds Abram first. Abram responds to God’s call, but God has been burned before. So God intends to test Abram’s faith. God wants to know just how deep Abram’s commitment to God goes. God speaks on the road to Moriah. Where are you? Abram answers. “Here I am.” (Gen 22:1)

Moses is next. God asks stuttering Moses to lead His chosen people out of slavery. Into freedom. God calls out from a burning bush. Where are you? Moses answers. “Here I am.” (Ex 3:4)

The Lord has plans for Samuel. The word of the Lord was rare in those days. Samuel certainly wasn’t expecting to hear God’s voice. But God calls out to Samuel anyway. Where are you? Samuel answers. “Here I am.” (1 Sam 3:8)

The Lord grants Isaiah a vision. He’s looking for a prophet to the nations – someone to speak His word to the peoples of the earth. The Lord takes council. “Whom shall we send?” Where are you? Isaiah steps forward. “Here I am.” (Is 6:8)

This is God’s question to you. To me. Where are you?

“For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth” (2 Chron 16:9). And He’s looking for hearts that delight to answer His question. Here I am. Abram and Moses and Samuel and Isaiah. They all responded. “Here I am.”

And then one day God sent an angel to an unwed teenage virgin. And God tells her that through the Holy Spirit she will conceive and bear a son. Remember - God is looking. His eyes run to and fro. And His eyes have settled on Mary. All along, God has been looking – looking to recover and restore and heal what was lost. He’s looking to find men and women who have been born into a life of hiding. And so God asks Mary – where are you? Mary doesn’t know what to say. How could she? But her words are beautiful nonetheless. “Here I am” (Lk 1:38).

This is the correct answer to God’s question. “Here I am.” This answer has been given by nomads and exiles and young boys and prophets and unwed virgins. All in response to the question of a good God – a God with a plan.

But …

Somewhere along the line, we stopped hearing God’s question. And we started asking the question instead. God, where are you? In the violence and war and poverty and depression and fear – where are you?

From the foundation of the world, God has been at work in our world. Creating. Saving. Loving. Blessing. Chastening. Building. Destroying. Pruning. Loving. Saving. Creating. But where was it all going? Is there a Word that God had been planning to speak all along? To a stiff-necked people that turned God’s question back around on Him? To a people, who for the most part, ceased to hear the Living God call out – “where are you?”

Job. He was a questioner. And Job – God bless him – thought he had a case. But God tells Job otherwise. The defendant never gets to sit on the judge’s bench. “I have an answer Job. Wait for it.”

The season of Advent is almost over. Advent is a season of waiting. A season of waiting for God’s Answer to our question – a question that God originally asked us. To the question that we dodged and then rebelliously threw back to God. “Where are you God? What word can you speak for yourself?”

On December 25th, we celebrate the Answer of God.

The Word became flesh. God has never spoken so clearly. With one act. A King was born in a smelly manger. A new Adam. To an unwed virgin. In an insignificant corner of the Roman Empire.

For you. For me. For the world.

Jesus was born.

Where are you?

Here. I AM.


karla said...

Not to be difficult or anything (meekly smiles) but I suspect as often as the Psalmist asserts "here I am" he is imploring, "answer me quickly" or "do not hide. My spirit fades. My tears drench my pillow." Or words to that general effect of anguish.

'Course, I do grasp your intended meaning, I think. I suppose Job and the Psalmist feel the absence of God in an important qualitatively different way than one who doesn't fervently and eagerly seek after him. i.e. doesn't "show up" in the act of prayer or service to God/his fellow man.

And just to show I'm not completely a smart-aleck, I can QUITE relate to the concept of nervously squirming (metphorically) in my shoes at my own less-than-satifying answer to God's query: "Where are you" these days. My bad. [sigh] Must return....

John Newton said...

Thanks Karla, I appreciate your reflections. Psalm 40 is a psalm of praise. The psalmist has already experienced salvation from “the pit” and a “new song” has been put in his mouth. And so it’s a psalm of joy and not anguish. HOWEVER, I do think your point is a good one in that sometimes a faithful “here I am” is spoken from a place of anguish. I think that is what Gethsemane is all about. Jesus sweats blood and begs for the cup to pass and when no answer comes, he says, “here I am. I come to do your will.”

But the primary reason I began the entry with that verse is b/c the author of Hebrews reinterprets this psalm through the lens of the incarnate Christ. In other words, the author of Hebrews makes Jesus the voice behind these words in chapter 10 of Hebrews. And since my goal was to portray the incarnation as God’s ultimate “here I am” to our world, it seemed like a fitting verse to begin with …

I do appreciate your thoughts and reflections very much. I hope you have a great