Twice in two weeks I heard the same challenge from two different pastors regarding two different sections of Scripture…sacred echo. The first time I heard it I thought, that’s interesting. The second time, I started to feel the conviction in my soul. Is this true of me?
Week one the preacher was teaching on the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector found in Luke 18. In this parable Jesus is teaching about prayer. He has finished the one image of the persistent widow asking for what she needs and getting it, but Jesus does not leave us there. He continues on, sharing about a Pharisee, the top religious leader in the day, being in the temple praying, while at the same time a tax collector, who isn’t even allowed into inner parts of the temple, and is contemptible for his cheating and wild life, is also there. The deeply religious, highly admired Pharisee is thanking God that he is not like the tax collector, while the tax collector is beating his chest asking God for mercy.
This story would have been confusing to its first century listeners. They would have thought the Pharisee should be the poster child of prayer and all that is good, and the tax collector the wicked poster child for what not to do. In our eyes we are not tripped up by that, we know the Pharisee is bad and the tax collector is good in this scenario. We want to be like the humble tax collector, and not like the prideful Pharisee. Once we remind ourselves, it is easy to move on… but then the pastor said, “we tend to choose to identify with the tax collector, but really we are more like the Pharisee and need to honest about that.”
Fast forward a week, and my husband was preaching about David in 2 Samuel 6 where the ark is being brought back to its people, and David is full on worshipping. He is “dancing before the Lord with all his might.” Yes, I want that. I want to be like that. Then we get to David’s wife Michal, who is up in her palace looking out at all the people excited and dancing, specifically her husband. Scriptures tell us she looked at her husband and despised him.
Years of reading, David is the good guy and I want to be like him, Michal is the bad “guy” and what is her problem? She missed it. But not this week, my husband said the same thing as I had heard the week before. We want to relate with David, but more often than not we are more like Michal. What?! Really?! It never crossed my mind to try to see if I related to Michal or the Pharisee. I quickly picked the good guys, connected with them and moved on. But not this time, the question had been asked more than once. Am I too quick to connect with the heroes, the good guys, and miss the point?
The prophet Jeremiah tells us our heart is wicked and deceitful who can know it (Jer. 7:9). I have said over and over in my study groups that we easily buy what we are selling. I buy my own hype. I know I am a sinner and I have issues. Believe me I know this, but am I really willing to let God call out sins and attitudes that I have totally missed, because I got the point of the story and let’s move on.
God is patient and merciful. He is not in a rush to move on. He is willing to wait and send the sacred echoes until we hear Him and allow Him to do the soul work in us. I am challenged to go back to many of the common stories where it is plain to see who we want to be like and should be like to find the characters who more often than not reflect my own heart.
Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. Psalm 139:23-24