Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Prayer Closets

This idea of quiet faithfulness that we see building in Moses's story is the same idea (in reverse) that Jesus rails against in the Pharisees.

For the Pharisees, the longer they lived lives of so-called faith, the louder their lives got. They took great pride in the sweeping motions of faithful living, even though these were no longer the motions that God had called them to. They loved to stand on street corners and show off their long tassels and pray in loud, booming voices, and essentially call all kinds of attention to themselves. 

But a life of true faith? A life of true faith gets quieter the more you settle into it. Because the more your learn about faith, the more you practice faith, the more you make the motions God calls you to make, the more you realize just how big and powerful and incredible and beautiful and loving God is. So you pull back into quiet faith because you know that God is the One who does the really cool things through it. 

Moses knew God was going to send the hail, the locusts, the darkness. He didn't have to see it any more. He didn't need Pharaoh to see him any more. He didn't have to make a big show out of it because the longer he listened to what God was telling him, the easier it was for him to believe - and to trust - that God was making a big show of it. 

And so, from Goshen, from his own house, from his bedroom, Moses makes the move and God sweeps through Egypt. 

It's why He tells the Pharisees to go into their closets and shut and lock the door. You really believe in God? I mean, really believe in His awesome power and incredible beauty and deep love? Then you don't have to be the one to put it on display; He'll do that. You just have to live a life of quiet faith.

You don't get this from the Pharisees. Right? The more the Pharisees talk, the louder they shout from their street corners, the more you know about...the Pharisees. The more you know about...religion. The more you know and ritual purity and the kinds of sacrifices that God says He doesn't want.

But watch Moses's life. Or David's life. Or even Jesus's life. They work their way quieter and quieter and quieter, they work their way inward into rest and trust and beautiful faith until all that you see by the end of their lives is God's glory.

Moses started as an exile, came in as a thunder, settled down into a life of quiet faith, and led his people all the way to the edge of the Promised Land. From the mountain of Moses's last gaze, we see the full expanse of God's promise and glory, a land flowing with milk and honey, just like He promised.

David tended sheep, then came in with all the bravado of a foolish young soldier who challenged a giant, became a renowned military commander, and quietly settled into the life of a man after God's own heart. His broken prayers in the psalm reveal his deep faith and trust in God, so much so that he could be an authentic human being before Him. And at the end of David's life, we see the stockpiles ready for the construction of the Temple, the Lord's mountain in Zion, His capital city firmly planted in Jerusalem. What we see of David in His final moments is the Great City, but we recognize it as the Lord's.

Jesus entered this world in a humble way, but with a great star in the sky. He drew tremendous crowds, everyone pushing through to get a glimpse of Him, shouting His name as He passed by in the streets, begging and pleading and following Him around to make a spectacle of Him. But His final moments are spent in an upper room with a small circle of friends, on His knees in the garden in deep, trusting, agonized prayer, and on a hill outside the city where so few could even bare to watch. His life, too, worked its way quieter...until with His final breath, the whole earth shook, darkness fell, and the Temple curtain tore in two, forever opening the way for men to enter the Most Holy Place.

Every life of faith works its way quieter and quieter, deeper and deeper into faith and trust and the quiet kind of faithfulness of a leader of Israel who waves his hands in his own bedroom, knowing that God is sweeping over the world, until God's full glory washes over His creation in the most stunning, breathtaking, beautiful ways.

It's why, I think, Jesus kept telling them, don't be like the Pharisees. Don't be like this. They get louder and louder, more and more self- and religion-centered until at the end of their lives, all you know of them was their shouting and not a thing - not a single thing - about their God.

But go into your closets. Go into your closets and shut the door. There...there live a life of quiet faithfulness. Not that the world may see your piety, but that they would see His goodness.

Because His story reveals quite plainly that this is how this works. The world knows Him best not from street corners, but from closets, from bedrooms, from gardens. From places of quiet faithfulness, what is so much unseen becomes painted across creation itself. 

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