Elisha was a great prophet and example to the nation. As I was praying for a friend yesterday to be thus, the Lord gave me three key qualities he would stand in particular need of in the year ahead:
- flexibility (adapting to unexpected or enforced changes)
- lowliness (humility)
- and timeliness (that is, not putting things off!)
Although these words were specifically for one person, I think they will be helpful for us all. To some extent, they overlap, too, with another theme I have been pondering, how the wise men ‘opened their treasures, and presented unto Him gifts: gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.’ (Matt. 2:11)
The much loved hymn O Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness begins and ends with these words: ‘With gold of obedience and incense of lowliness, kneel and adore Him, the Lord is His name.’ As with every abstract quality, these need to equate to down to earth ‘real’ situations. What does the gold of obedience look like to you? What does it speak of? And with what might you associate the incense of lowliness?
Augustine once said, “If you should ask me what are the ways of God, I would tell you that the first is humility, the second is humility, and the third is humility. Not that there are no other precepts to give, but if humility does not precede all that we do, our efforts our meaningless. . . . It was pride that changed angels into devils; it is humility that makes men as angels” . . .
“Do you wish to be great? Then begin by descending. Do you desire to construct a vast and lofty fabric? Lay first the foundation of humility. The higher your structure is to be, the deeper must be its foundation. (Augustine)
God does not look on a soul’s greatness, but on the greatness of its humility. (John of the Cross)
The hymn I quoted above continues:
Fear not to enter his courts in the slenderness
of the poor wealth you would count as your own;
truth in its beauty and love in its tenderness
these are the offerings to bring to his throne.
May we move in both truth and love – or grace and truth as John puts it. (John 1:14 and 1:17)
Let’s bring this matter of our obedience, lowliness, flexibility (adapting to unexpected or enforced changes), and timeliness (not putting things off!) to the Lord for 2018.
Father, shape and fashion these qualities in my life, Lord. Sharpen my senses so that I may know how to respond in situations that call for these qualities. May I grow through experience to discern that which is of You, and become familiar with Your ways, just as You are familiar with all my ways. May I know which people to reach out to, which places to visit, and which books to read and themes to study.
As for the third gift given to the infant Jesus, myrrh derives from a word meaning ‘bitter’. Myrrh is often used as a symbol for suffering, but when mixed with perfume and other fragrances its effect can often be uplifting.
In amongst the many challenges and blessings that are sure to come our way this year, many will have the fragrance of myrrh about them: a bitter taste but with great potential also to be ‘Heaven scent’.
At the heart of our offering of myrrh is the willingness to share in the Lord’s sorrows as well as those in our own communities and those we hear of in the world.
In the light of Paul’s promise that ‘Those who suffer will also reign with Christ.’ (2 Tim. 2:12 KJV KJ21, EXB GNV) there is a great deal to be said for spelling and thinking about suffering in the context of ‘suffer-reign!’
Lord Jesus, in this coming year, realign our senses to drink deeply of that which comes from You. Help us to seize these moments with both hands and to offer them in love to the One who sent them our way, and Who sends us on our way.
May we walk this year with the ones You most desire us to walk with. Bless our phone calls and other communications this year. May we not put off doing that whatever lies within our power to do.
Keep us from becoming weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. (Gal. 6:9) Thank You that we can do little things in life with great love, so that in time You may reap the benefits. Make this a year of harvest to Your glory, Lord!