In our ‘Little BIg Church’ service tonight, Stephen Turner spoke about Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego (Daniel 3). The Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar had previously asked his wise men to interpret a dream he had had (without telling them the dream!) and Daniel’s interpretation had made him realise ‘your God is the God of gods and the Lord of kings and a revealer of mysteries, for you were able to reveal this mystery.‘ (Dan 2:47) Nonetheless, despite promoting Daniel and his friends, Nebuchadnezzar’s heart was not yet fully changed, for he then went on to make a gold idol and order everyone to bow down to worship it.
The three Jews refused to do this and were therefore threatened with being thrown into a fiery furnace, an ordeal that no one would relish.
Despite this threat, the faith of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego was unwavering; they believed God could deliver them, but even if He did not, they were still resolute in not bowing down to a false god. Their faith was vindicated. The fire, made seven times hotter (so hot the soldiers in charge of them were killed), did not kill them and Nebuchadnezzar saw a fourth man in the fire walking with them.
This story not only highlights the need for us to stand up for our faith even in times of testing, nor the fact that our God is so powerful He can deliver us from all evil (the only thing the fire did was burn through the ropes around the three men; they themselves were not scorched or singed and didn’t even smell of smoke.) It shows us also that God knows our hearts and is able to discern what is invisible to men. Nebuchadnezzar often was dazzled by God’s power but his heart was not towards God for a long time. We need to be sure our hearts are open to God and that we stand firm, even in times of trial.
We celebrated the first of our August birthdays this morning, with Pat due to have a significant milestone birthday soon. We didn’t want her to miss out on our singing while she’s away!
2 Sam 6:1-23 and 1 Chron 15:1-29 tell the story of how David the king brought the ark of the covenant – the symbol of God’s presence with His people – back to Jerusalem. Both stories are needed to gain a fuller picture of what happened in the two stages of the story: the first journey characterised by death (the death of Uzzah) and the second by dancing (David’s worshipful response to God’s presence.)
1 Chron 15 acts as an interpretation of 2 Sam 6, for in that chapter, there is no explanation as to why God’s anger should burn so fiercely against Uzzah. In the three months between the first and second journey, David has clearly sought God. He may have been frustrated and even angry with God, but he is wise enough to seek God for an explanation and in 1 Chron 15:13 says, ‘‘It was because you, the Levites, did not bring it up the first time that the Lord our God broke out in anger against us. We did not inquire of him about how to do it in the prescribed way.’
David’s initial reaction – of frustration and anger – did not become his final reaction, and this is one reason he has so much to teach us. He was prepared to seek God for understanding and was big enough to change the way he did things: ‘So the priests and Levites consecrated themselves in order to bring up the ark of the Lord, the God of Israel. And the Levites carried the ark of God with the poles on their shoulders, as Moses had commanded in accordance with the word of the Lord.‘ (1 Chron 15:14-15)
David learnt the lesson we would all do well to learn: worship is all about God. It means doing things God’s way and putting God first; self-forgetful abandonment is necessary. Michal represents the Pharisee in all of us: how we like to do things decently, in order, with decorum, all the time being more concerned about appearances than about God. Such worship is grievous to God (see Amos 5:21-24) because God looks at the heart. Michal remained barren after this; to despise those who worship God is a dangerous thing to do.
Our worship must be focussed on God and not on our selves. It must involve our whole hearts – and at times we will run the risk of being accused of being undignified, reckless, even perhaps a little crazy. What matters most? – the acclaim of people or the acceptance of God?
There are some passages in the Bible which cause us to wonder why, which arouse in us confusion, bewilderment and even anger. 2 Sam 6:1-23 is one such passage, the tale of how David sought to bring the ark of the covenant back to Jerusalem and how one man’s apparently innocent gesture resulted in death. The lessons to be learned from this passage are not easy.
After years of being a fugitive from the king, David is now crowned king and wants to bring the symbol of God’s presence back to its rightful place. Taken by the Philistines many years earlier, the ark was a sacramental sign of God’s presence which had proved too hot for the Philistines to handle and now David wishes to unite the religious and the political by bringing it to his new capital city. It was a day of celebration which turned to mourning; carrying the ark on an ox cart, the cart stumbled; Uzzah reached out a hand to steady the ark and died on the spot.
David, we are told, was angry at what God had done (2 Sam 6:8) and so often, we too feel like this. God’s ways are so often incomprehensible to us and we do not understand what He does. Uzzah’s actions seem so ordinary and reasonable, but in actual fact, by moving the ark on a cart instead of being carried by the Levitical priests on poles, the people were trying to do things their way rather than God’s way.
How often do we feel we need to protect God and keep Him safe? We fail to realise that God is not benign or cosy; we cannot control Him (or fit Him into a box). David had failed to read the instructions given and it took three months of fear, awe and learning for David to understand his mistake and do things differently.
The second time, David and the people had learned their lesson. The ark was transported properly and there was great celebration and rejoicing – and sacrifices along the way. David had learned the lesson that reverence and awe can go hand in hand with joy and dancing. What happened this time was that David lost himself in the awesome love and holy majesty of God. His wife did not understand this; she viewed his reckless worship as something that was vulgar and undignified. David’s heart was given over to God, however, and he had learned the lesson that nothing was more important than worshipping the Lord whose presence makes all the difference.
August is a month of holidays and general changes in routines. We’re having building work done at the moment on the roof, guttering, doors and notice board. Here’s what’s happening at GPCC and the area in August.
Our meetings on Sundays will still be at 10.30 a.m. and 6.00 p.m., with the meeting at Cherry Tree Court on 11th August at 10.30 a.m.
We don’t have midweek meetings in August, but may be holding some prayer & Bible studies in homes this month. More details to follow.
Team Building Day
Our next Team Building Day is on Saturday 10th August between 4 and 6 p.m. Join us and Sarah Davey to investigate what church looks like, how we can find our role and giftings in God and what our mission field really looks like! Stop for a takeaway and further fellowship at the end of this session.
Family Fun Day
Our Superhero Party will be on Wednesday 14th August between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. at GPCC, organised by the Dearne Area Team. We’ll be doing superhero crafts and will have entertainers coming in for part of the session. Free entry & free lunch provided. Come in superhero costumes if you can!
There’ll be another fun day on Wednesday 28th August between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. at Hanover Street Park in Thurnscoe, a picnic outdoors with crafts and other fun (bring your own picnic blanket.)
If you’re looking after children in August, there are a number of community events happening, including the ‘Go Wild In Thurnscoe’ sculpture trail where you can find Vincent the sun bear and other animal sculptures in a variety of locations in Thurnscoe.
There is also the ‘Bounce Into Summer’ event at the Welfare grounds in Goldthorpe on Wednesday 21st August from 12 noon.
We were thrilled to hear from Fredrick and Reeba in Bangalore recently and to see the photos they sent of the recent baptismal service in their new building. We supplied some money towards the building of the baptismal tank, so it was a special privilege to see the completion of this project and to know that Hindus who have converted to Christianity were baptised in this service.