From believing the Lord to loving Him

Gideon Lee 4/25/2018

Dear friends,

One of the bankable weekly high points for me serving in this church is the devotion time with my pastoral colleagues during our weekly meeting.  There are always some fresh exegetical insights and spiritual experiences we learn from each other.  Often, we get to dig deeper into the biblical text in ways that are not possible for sermon messages or group studies.  For example, I led the devotion last week with the burning bush chapter and I made some observations that I simply didn’t have the time to work into my sermon message.  One observation is the nuanced differences in the translation of Exod. 4:15. I grew up reading the Chinese Union (Ho-Ho) version, which is similar enough to the NIV:

你要跟他說話,把話放在他的口裏,我要賜你口才,也要賜他口才,又要教你們做當做的事。You shall speak to him and put words in his mouth; I will help both of you speak and will teach you what to do.

But note the way ESV translates it (and CSB in the footnote):

You shall speak to him and put the words in his mouth, and I will be with your mouth and with his mouth and will teach you both what to do.

The Ho-Ho version highlights eloquence (口才) as a gift.  The NIV highlights the continual help from God in the act of speaking.  But the more literally translated ESV draws attention to the spiritual presence of God in the mouths of Moses and Aaron.   We must be careful not to extract too much out of the translation nuances – after all, exegesis aims at the meaning of the original context – how did Moses himself understand this and what did he mean as the author?  But the translational differences are clearly there identifying different possibilities.  And I couldn’t help but think that the translation we have also colors our appreciation of the ministry of speaking. I suppose it could take a reader to see eloquence as a trait-like spiritual gift, another reader to see preaching as requiring constant help from God, and a third reader to emphasize the indwelling of the Spirit in our physiology.

The different translations could be said to highlight different “means” by which God works.  Historically, theologians in the west always make a big deal about the means: what roles who play and how.  I think that’s often a reductionist perspective.  The more literal translation in ESV helps us to see that the means may not be as important as the ultimate cause and ultimate outcome.  If the ultimate cause is there (God), the ultimate outcome (the revelation of God’s Word) is guaranteed no matter how it happens.

Yesterday, Minister Patrick led us through a devotional study of Psalm 145.  Patrick drew our attention to verses 17 and 18, which bring out the righteousness, faithfulness, and (what I would call) responsiveness of God.  Instead of letting ourselves immerse in the sea of frustration when things don’t as we plan, we need to lift our eyes up to focus on the dependability of God.  God might not use our plan, but God will get us there.  I thought it is quite relevant to what Pastor John Frazier said this past Sunday when he provoked a lively discussion Sunday in promising “guaranteed success” from God.  Psalm 145:19 reads:

He fulfills the desires of those who fear him; he hears their cry for help and saves them.

One of these days I am sure John will do a word study for us on the word “desires.” And my bet is that, in the case of Psalm 145:19, John would say “desires” is more properly translated as “longings” in English.  God of course doesn’t take order from us.  God never promises us that every to-do list that we submit to Him through prayer will be implemented.  In fact, the desires (in the sense of affections) of even people who fear God are sometimes quite ungodly.  However, there is a deep-seated longing for a loving relationship with God in all those who belong to God.  And those are the longings that only God Himself can fulfill.  And not can He, God will.

What does it have to do with guaranteed success?  If Blackaby is correct, what people of God long above all else is an ultimate success as measured by bringing themselves and others to a closer relationship with God.  Even what we planned to do is delayed or frustrated, we could be brought to a closer relationship with God in the process.  “Guaranteed success” of relationship deepening is not just a conceivable idea in terms of God’s hidden plan, we should expect to experience the reality of such deepening of loving relationship!  To wit: when God is “with your mouth,” you simply know it!

This Sunday, Elder Raymond will take us to the study of the second reality of experiencing God: God pursues a loving relationship with you.  He will preach on Matthew 22:34-40, which records how Jesus answers the Jewish religious leaders about the Greatest Commandment in the Law.  I don’t need to repeat what Jesus said.  But I invite you to reflect on some questions that any inductive bible study on this passage will likely begin with: Why did they ask?  Why did they expect Jesus to say? What kind of assumption did they hold that led them to ask that question?  What’s wrong with that?

Weekly prayer meeting is at church tonight.  I hope to see you!

Blessings,

Gideon Lee

English Ministry Pastor, CBCGL