In the last few days I have often thought about whether I have become hard of hearing, hard of hearing in the sense of whether I still notice the important things or whether the unimportant things dominate in my life.
You will feel the same as I do, I have so many issues to deal with.
There is the war in Ukraine, which I think about a lot. I also think a lot about the professional future of my children, who all still live with us. Then, what about the economy? Will we as a family be able to make ends meet with 5% inflation? I didn't get a 5% pay rise. Will driving a car still be affordable?
What is the next step for the community? How will this revitalisation programme start?
Then sometimes I take problems from work into the evening. I try to avoid that and keep work and private life quite clearly separate, but you still sometimes take some problems with you and think about them further.
Then I have a few building sites on the house, some of which are very lengthy and where I'm not really making much progress.
Many issues that often overwhelm you and I think most of us feel that way. Some may also have health issues that even scare them.
On the one hand, these topics all somehow remain, on the other hand, you also put some things aside at some point.
There is a message of judgement to the people of Israel in Isaiah 6:9,10; ELB, which I had to think of when I was dealing with these many issues. I deliberately use an older translation because there are such beautiful figurative expressions in it.
I do not want to interpret this text today, but I would like to look at this metaphor.
Let's take the Ukraine war as an example. When it started, I was sick on the sofa and watched the special programmes about it every day in the media libraries. In the meantime, my ears have become a bit more deaf. I still follow news on the internet, but my attention is waning. I've never been that interested in the Yemen war, which is further away, although people there are probably even worse off than in Ukraine.
The biblical text from Isaiah refers of course to the relationship of the Israel of that time to God, but nevertheless I find these expressions like "fat heart", "hard of hearing" and "glued eyes" also in my life, not only towards God but also towards issues concerning my fellow human beings.
What should it be like?
The basic mission
I believe that we as Christians have a basic mission here on earth. I find this very well described in Jeremiah 29:4-7; NL. The text is actually about exiled Israel, but it is a good image for us, because our home as Christians is actually heaven, but we live on earth.
Older translations write here "seek the best of the city", or "seek the peace of the city".
In the end, this text can be summarised as follows: Live here, enjoy life and try to improve the situation here where you live. Pray for your place of residence. For us as Christians, this includes telling others about Jesus Christ, because Jesus is the best thing that can happen to a person.
This normal order to live naturally includes many of the issues I listed at the beginning. Perhaps, for example, there was also inflation in Babylon at that time, in which case the Israelites also had to deal with this issue. Can I get by on my income?
The rich grain farmer
I would like to look at another example (Luke 12:16-20; NL):
OK, the grain farmer did not have a problem with inflation now. But he had a business that was very successful and he had to deal with it. He probably tithed and maybe gave to charity in addition.
And he had to make a business decision. What does he do with the profits? Increasing storage capacity is not wrong in such a case.
But he blanked out the most important thing in all the issues in his life. The goal of his life was apparently a material, carefree life. Many people still dream of that today.
If I understand the text correctly, it is not even wrong to accumulate riches on earth, but it is wrong if one does not ask for riches from God.
What is it like with all our issues that occupy us? What role does our riches with God play in this? I believe that one can only ask oneself these questions personally.
Riches with God
What is wealth with God?
I once scanned the whole Bible for the word "wealth", over several translations. Using bibleserver.com worked quite well. Of course, I looked for passages that did not deal with earthly wealth.
Insight, understanding, wisdom
The first thing that struck me was King Solomon. In 1 Kings 3:9, Solomon asks for an understanding heart so that he can do right. He gets that and he also gets wealth and I think that God wants to express that understanding and wisdom are as good or even better than wealth.
Knowledge in itself is also a treasure, but understanding and insight, that is real wealth.
Then there is the
Fear of God
Isaiah 33:6b; GN describes a prophecy for Israel and there the value of the fear of God or reverence for God is described:
Why is reverence for the Lord, or fear of God, a wealth?
This is not about fear, it is about realising that there is someone else above me.
I don't know everything, I make mistakes and therefore want to remain humble and also deal humbly with the mistakes of others. And I have also received many things undeservedly and would like to be grateful for them.
If I always think I know exactly what's going on, if I keep quiet about my mistakes and suppress them, if I think I have everything under control and that I have only worked for everything myself, then I lead a very poor life, because the mistakes will be noticed at some point, because I will then become difficult and because failure can really throw me off course.
With the treasure of the fear of God, I can come to God with my failure. I know that he is above everything and will help me.
This is the true wealth of godliness.
Then I found the term "riches" in connection with "grace" (Ephesians 1:7,8; ELB):
Through Jesus Christ our guilt is forgiven. We can start afresh before God and this also gives us the strength to ask forgiveness from those with whom we have been guilty in some way.
That too is true wealth.
The Bible, God's Word, is a wealth for us. Besides countless verses in Psalm 119 about how valuable God's Word is, there is an exciting explanation about the value of God's Word in Matthew 13:10-16; NL:
It is a gift from God to understand and recognise the richness of the Bible. One will always remain a learner, but we have the open ears and eyes needed for this. And that should be our prayer, that our eyes will remain seeing and our ears hearing.
Another wealth is God's blessing. In Romans 15:29; NL it is in one sentence:
God wants us to be well, to experience his help and closeness, even in difficult times.
In doing so, we naturally hope to experience and receive much of this richness here in this house.
Psalm 36:9; NEÜ says
Of course, this is not about a building, but this is the place where we worship together, share, sing together and listen together to what someone is sharing here from the Bible.
I believe that this is also an important prayer for us, that we receive again and again from God's riches.
And how do we make sure that we prioritise our issues properly, that in all our issues we do not forget to ask for riches with God?
The most important thing is probably to turn to God again and again. Perhaps we have become a little deaf to some important issues, perhaps our hearts have become a little fat.
I found a few phrases that I thought were classy.
In Psalm 40:7; ELB, the Elberfelder says "ears you have dug for me". In other translations it says, "You have given me ears", "You have opened my ears", but this "dug" actually expresses that it is already an effort for God to overcome our hearing loss. I want to hear again and again what is important for God in my life.
Another rather impressive formulation is from Isaiah 42:23; ELB:
"To hear", who is even willing to hear?
Are we prepared to let our hearts be degreased every now and then?
Only with the right attitude can we deal with all our issues and problems properly.
For this we can ask for God's help (1 Peter 5:7; NEÜ):
or (Philippians 4:6, NL):
And here we are again with the fear of God. Everything somehow hangs on it. And only in this way do we deal with our issues and problems properly.
- Each of us has many issues that occupy us. But let us question ourselves: Have we perhaps already become deaf to issues that are important to God? Is our heart fat?
- Our basic mission is to live here and seek and pray for the best for where we live.
- In all subjects, one must not forget riches with God, otherwise one acts foolishly.
- What is wealth with God?
- Insight and understanding
- Fear of God
- God's Word, the Bible
- God's blessing, because God means well with us and hopefully we also experience God's richness here in the parish hall.
- How to prioritise properly? Let's pray that God will give us ears to hear, so we can bring things back to our ears. And our issues, our concerns, we can all bring to God, he will take care of us. And so we end up again with the fear of God.