This week, several "visual" Scripture verses caught my eye and stuck with me. These visuals mentioned dust, grass, a flower of the field, a bruised reed, a smoldering wick, mist. I also could not let go of a verse with sounds which supported the vision (wordless sighs and aching groans).
Psalm 103:13-16 As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust. As for man, his days are like grass, he flourishes like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more.
Isaiah 42:1-4 "Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him and he will bring justice to the nations. He will not shout or cry out, or raise his voice in the streets. A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out. In faithfulness he will bring forth justice; he will not falter or be discouraged till he establishes justice on earth. In his law the islands will put their hope."
James 4:14 Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.
Romans 8:26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.
And the cherry on top, a quote from Jack London “I would rather be ashes than dust! I would rather that my spark should burn out in a brilliant blaze than it should be stifled by dry-rot. I would rather be a superb meteor, every atom of me in magnificent glow, than a sleepy and permanent planet. The function of man is to live, not to exist. I shall not waste my days trying to prolong them. I shall use my time.”
Amen. And Amen. What does this mean God? What do I need to learn from these words which create sentences which lead to thoughts which describe something I am supposed to understand?
"To keep a lamp burning one needs to put oil in it."
And so back to Psalm 103:13-16 . Dust. We all have dusted our homes. Have seen dust fly through a sunlit room and swatted it just to create more dust. However, this verse is referring to the dust of the earth. See http://www.gracecathedral.org/enrichment/brush_excerpts/brush_20030521.shtml.
A man's (and woman's) days are like grass. He flourishes, then in comes the wind and it is gone. Forgotten. Of course I am paraphrasing! I remember growing up in New Jersey and we would travel through cornfields on the way to get to the ocean. I will never forget the rows of dirt every few seconds that had been trod and rutted by machinery and men in the cornfield. Whir. Whizz. Shoosh. Seemed the corn and dirt went on for miles.
However, if a slow-moving farmer in a tractor-trailer pulled onto the road, we would slow to a snail pace. During the slow part of the drive, I looked up and watched the tall grasses as they subtly swayed in the almost non-existent breeze. The grasses mingled with the corn in many places. It was beautiful. Sometimes the sun would glisten behind the green and gold grassy spikes. and a prismatic effect would blind my pre-tween eyes.
Sadly though, I was never prepared for the fall harvest. The corn seemingly overnight husked and so much of the field burned to a sooty mess. Then tilled and left to the hands of time to once again be healthy soil fit for a field of grassy corn. One day grassy green goodness - the next darkly burned brown lifeless earth. When I think of "the dust of the earth" this is the image I visualize. I cannot help seeing this image without having the stench of burning brush in my nostrils.
Isaiah 42:1-4 A bruised reed he will not break. A smoldering wick he will not snuff out.
The burning candle is easy. I looked up the definition of smoldering. My mother-in-law bought me a candle snuffer. Bright shiny brass with a long handle. Did the trick! I could snuff many candles in no time! Some of us believers are just slightly on fire for God. We are still smoldering, but secretly hoping to get snuffed out so we won't need to keep pretending God is our priority. But no - God will not be the candle snuffer in our lives. He will be there always (Hebrews 13:5) to softly blow inspiration into our lives so as to re-kindle the passion for Him that He intially celebrated when we first came to know Him personally.
My husband often uses a tool to saw the palm fronds from high up in the Queen Palm trees in our front yard. He bought this sickle from a very knowledgeable landscaper who grew up in Mexico hacking away at palm fronds. This man promised it would slice anything instantly. Well it did slice well before my husband left it in the front yard to rust (he doesn't maintain his tools very well - lol).
Oh the sickle still slices but he has to hack away very hard at the fronds now. Often he will yank and pull and the fronds will hang by several threads of palm fibers. My well-intentioned husband then goes to Tool #2 (some type of cutters) to cut the fronds away from the fibers before falling to the ground.
Sometimes he gets distracted between the "sickleing" (word?) and final cutting from the tree. Days later we will see the frond dangling from the tree no longer in its former greenness. It becomes dry and brown.
In the same way, we all sadly sometimes become disconnected from the group. We detach - but not fully. God allows us to lose some of our radiance but does not cut off those who are truly His. In this way, others see our sad state and hopefully will be obedient to come to our aid and help us become the vibrant fruitful branch we were intended to be.
Hopefully we haven't been too badly sickled and we will mend and become useful again. Sadly, we may cut ourselves loose from the group on purpose or we may enlist their aid to chop us. Even more sad, well-intentioned Christians may disconnect us merely because we asked them to just "keep it all a secret." But God would never do that to us. No, not God. (Hebrews 13:5). He wants us to win the battle.
Romans 8:26 Groans. Yes, Lord I can visualize it with my ears. A groan is very hard to hear. It is painful to experience let alone have to sit idly back and listen to a groan. However, when the Holy Spirit groans for us no doubt the Heavens open up and action instantly begins on our behalf. No doubt it is a groan that has a guttural resonance. Amazing.
Lastly, from Jack London “I would rather be ashes than dust! I would rather that my spark should burn out in a brilliant blaze than it should be stifled by dry-rot. I would rather be a superb meteor, every atom of me in magnificent glow, than a sleepy and permanent planet. The function of man is to live, not to exist. I shall not waste my days trying to prolong them. I shall use my time.”
Visualize it. Have you ever had something dry-rot? I am embarrassed to say that I kept a pair of support pantyhose in my drawer (ten years after I moved to Florida from New Jersey - - I know I know that is pathetic). I kept those pantyhose and never wore them but I kept them because just in case I needed a pair of nearly nude support pantyhose" one day they would be there for me. Not! They had dry-rotted and left a tiny mound of dry-rotted pantyhose dust in my panty drawer. Their only destination - the garbage. I cannot visualize a candle wick dry-rotting. Especially because it sits in a base of oil.
"To keep a lamp burning one needs to put oil in it."
Oh yeah God. I am still trying to figure out why you said that in the first place while I blogged today.
Matthew 25:1-13 "At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them.
The wise, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep. "At midnight the cry rang out: 'Here's the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!' "Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps.
The foolish ones said to the wise, 'Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.' " 'No,' they replied, 'there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.' "But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut. "Later the others also came. 'Sir! Sir!' they said. 'Open the door for us!' "But he replied, 'I tell you the truth, I don't know you.' Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.
Ahhh. I get it now. To keep a lamp burning one must put oil in it. God's Word.
Visualize it. No, do not focus on the actual image of a book. The Bible is so much more. It is a life ring. It is a light not just unto your feet but a light for your path. Visualize it. Pure utter darkness. Have you ever seen it? God's Word is not only essential for seeing but it is essential for surviving.
I don't know about you but I don't want to be dust, without light, but instead a burning candle in a bowl full of oil. I want to be there when my bridegroom arrives.
Until then, we shall faithfully fill our lamps with oil for that one day. Until then I will continue to imagine the vision of Your glory through your Word.
Dust, grass, a flower of the field, a bruised reed, a smoldering wick, mist, wordless sighs and aching groans. Hard to visualize? Not when you have the Creator to teach, guide and direct you.