makes the heart grow fonder…

Two years ago, during Sabbath School at Michigan campmeeting, I heard a testimony that baffled me and still has me lucidly befuddled. It was time for mission spotlight and they had an older woman share about her experience on the mission field. After the formal presentation, the interviewer announced that they also had that woman’s mother up front with them.

Now details elude me but the mother was definitely over 90 years of age. What I’m not sure about is if she was near 100 yet. I’m quite enamored with people who’ve lived that long. I wonder what their eyes have seen, what they’ve heard, experiences they’ve lived through and how they view the world in light of it all. I wonder what clarity perspective has brought them, what things matter most when you’ve witnessed so much, what wealth of wisdom they represent in their own person.
I know it’s possible to be old and yet unwise, but it’s also possible to be old and wise right šŸ™‚

The interviewer asked her age first – which response I don’t recall. Then he asked her if she had been on the mission field. She’d spent all of her adult life on the mission field, raised her children in that manner, and now her daughter was living the missionary life as well.

I began to ponder what all those years on the field had done to her faith. What I mean is, she’d been preaching that Jesus is coming soon, for a century, but He isn’t here yet. Did she still believe it? Could I still believe it after another 30years elapsed and I found myself married with children and perhaps, even grandchildren?

The interview was done, but then she requested to make an additional comment. Her words brought tears welling up and barely constrained from streaming down. I wish I could remember the precise wording but it was something to the effect of, “I am looking forward to Jesus coming back.”
This was not an answer to the interviewers question…It was a statement spoken from the abundance of her heart. She really wanted to see Jesus come back.

How can you give your whole life in mission service for the goal of seeing Christ return and as you approach a century of such service, still yearn for that “elusive” goal ever the more earnestly? How can you go from believing that Jesus is coming soon, to believing He is coming SOON 80years later? And how does your desire to see Him come grow even as He seems to tarry?

The thought struck me that she must love Jesus. She must love Him so much that she would do anything to please Him, and can’t wait for Him to return. And when you love someOne, distance makes the heart grow fonder! Especially when you remain in constant communication, stay up-to-date on each others lives, spend time in activities together…Then the longer you’re apart, the more earnestly you desire to be together.

If we grow weary of waiting for our Lord, then we probably don’t love Him. We love those things that we are growing impatient of waiting for, but we don’t love Him. Because our desire for His return would be only the more fervent as time tarries.
Oh that we would love Him!

first stoning of a Sabbath-breaker

I don’t know about you, but when I read of the Israelites stoning someone to death, I imagine anger, contempt, pride and self-righteousness in their countenance. I suppose it’s because that’s the picture painted just about every time they’re out to stone someone in the New Testament. Take the woman caught in the act of adultery, for instance. Or poor Paul… Even their attempts on the life of Christ!

But a different picture came to mind as I read from Numbers 15 this morning.

He was someone’s father, another’s uncle, your neighbor. You had been through a lot together; witnessed many miracles, rebelled and survived many a chastening, shared hopes, endured disappointments. Then coming out of your personal time of reflection one Sabbath, there he is, engaged in prohibited labor on the Lord’s day.

I imagined those who first saw him in Numbers 15:32-36 doing a double-take. Wait a minute! Is that “so and so”? It can”t be! But it is. What is he doing? Did he forget that today is the Sabbath?

In incredulity, a second opinion is sought. Maybe it’s during the early hours of the morning before most people are up. He was hoping no-one would see him gathering sticks and kindling a fire to cook his manna. But some early riser saw him and now the question…what to do?

Nobody knew what to do with the malefactor who has broken the Sabbath. I wonder why no-one had transgressed on this wise before. Perhaps the miracle of the manna was enough of a deterrent (no manna on Sabbath and extra manna gathered on Friday not spoiling…). Perhaps fear of the unknown consequences of Sabbath-breaking was enough to stay disobedience.

Moreover, why did this solitary soul determine to so grossly transgress? It could be that he didn’t think there’d be any consequences for his actions since there was no stated punishment for being caught. Or he hoped to avoid any punishment if he could evade being caught. Regardless, it’s clear that he had no true regard for the command of the Lord.

Having reprimanded him, they bring him into the camp. And they wait, with bated breath, to hear the Lord’s decree. He gets the death sentence. And it’s you, his son, uncle, cousin, neighbor and friend, who has to administer the sentence.

For some reason, as I read the story this morning, I didn’t envision an angry mob intent on stoning this malefactor. I saw tears in the congregation’s eyes. I saw conviction of the areas in their own lives where they were falling short of God’s command, yet their lives had been spared. I even saw them hesitate to drag him, kicking and screaming, without the camp.

Who has to cast the first stone? Who dares to? Yet the Lord’s command to stone him is as clear it was not to work on the Sabbath. To disobey is death.

I don’t think it was a flippant scene, theĀ firstĀ stoning of a Sabbath-breaker. I don’t think anyone there wanted to be the one who cast the stone that took that man’s life. At that moment, the gravity of sin must have seemed so weighty, its wages too costly. And if I’d rather not stone another man, then I am my brother’s keeper.

You know, when we sin, alone, in the privacy of our thoughts even, it would seem that we own our sin. In the pride of our hearts, we may dare to think that we alone are affected by our actions.
But the communal stoning sent a different message. The wrong you’re doing when you think you’re all alone, affects those around you. No man is an island.