Friday, August 28, 2015

Let the Land Celebrate

The heavens rejoice, the rocks cry out, and the land...celebrates? This is what's going on all around us, if only we were quiet enough to hear it. Just after God pronounces another curse on Israel, He tells them exactly what will happen once they are destroyed and exiled:

Then the land will enjoy its time to honor the Lord while it lies deserted and you are in your enemies' land. Then the land will joyfully celebrate its time to honor the Lord. All the days it lies deserted, it will celebrate the time to honor the Lord. (Leviticus 26:34-35)

In other words, it's the same thing we saw yesterday with the rocks. If man keeps quiet, the rocks will cry out; if man would leave it alone, the land would celebrate. 

It's not what we typically think. Most of us read back over the early chapters in Genesis and take off with this idea that God has given man "dominion" over the land, that He's given it to us as some gift, something we're supposed to do something with. And then with the curse in chapter 3, He says man will do backbreaking work just to get the land to do anything at all. So we come at the land with a mix of domination and arrogance, as if this land will do only what we make it do.

And if this land wants to sing, we must make it sing. If this world is going to be pleasing to God at all, we must make it pleasing to God. 

Oh, how wrong we are. 

Because look at what the passage in Leviticus goes on to say in v. 35b - All the years you've been here, the land has not been able to celebrate. (paraphrase) So God flat-out says, yes. You've been working the land, but you've been working it too hard. It hasn't had a chance to celebrate; it's all but lost its song. 

And as soon as you're not here any more, as soon as your wickedness carries you away to somewhere else, this land is going to find its voice again. It's going to start singing again. It's going to celebrate. It's going to celebrate without giving you, man, a second thought; it's going to sing the song that I, the Lord, gave it with my very breath. 

And it's going to be glorious.

That's what we too easily forget, I think. We spend so much of our time thinking that we have to make this world glorious, that that's part of what God put us here for. That when He said we must work the land hard to get anything out of it, that anything is the smallest glint of glory, the tiniest offering. 

But the offering of the land is beyond what we could ever draw out of it. What the land produces is not a product of all of our labor. And the glory of this land is no reflection of our toil; it is, as it has always been, a reflection of God's grace. Because God makes things glorious. Not us.

If we could find it in ourselves to stop striving, to stop working this land so hard, to stop pursuing to make glory all around us, we would see that this glory already is.

Several years ago, I was standing in a field on the outside of town. It was a well-mown field, well taken care of, but it was still just a field - a mixture of grass and weeds. The sun was either coming up or setting; I can't remember right now, but the lighting was just right. And there, in the middle of this field, was one scraggly, straggling wildflower that just refused to be mow down. Amid all this green, one little splash of yellow or purple or whatever it was. Declaring the hidden glory of God. That even as we try to subdue the earth, it every once in awhile stands itself up again and declares the goodness of its Gardener. 

God even tells us - look at the fields. See the way they grow. Look at the lilies. Aren't they beautiful? And without a single ounce of effort, without any striving, without any work. Look at their glory. Can you hear them sing?

And you can, if you're listening.

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