..."and a highway shall be there, and it shall be called the way of holiness; evil minded people shall not travel on it, but it shall be for those wayfarers who are traveling toward God. (Isaiah 35:8, adapted)

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Consolations or The Consolation of Israel?

"And, behold, there was a man in
Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon;
and the same man was just and devout,
waiting for the Consolation of Israel:
and the Holy Ghost was upon him" (Luke 2:25)

Now there was one, Anna, a prophetess, ...
who did not depart from the temple, but
served God with fastings and prayers night
and day... and spoke of Him to all those who
looked for redemption in Jerusalem (Luke 2:36-38,

In this time when much is being said about
"feeling" a sense of God's presence there
is much wisdom in considering whether
it is spiritual consolations that we
want or the Consolation of Israel, who
is Christ Himself.

Before there was "pickling in His Presence",
"getting sloshed in the Spirit", "tokin'
the Ghost", "being hammered on the
carpet", the old spiritual writers used
to refer to "spiritual consolations." It
is a widely discussed topic throughout
Christian devotional history.

Spiritual consolations can be described
as a sense of God which "has its beginning
and is felt chiefly in the senses or
sensible faculties." There are many
types of consolations, base ones and pure
ones, real ones and false ones. And much
consideration has been already been given
to their place in the life of a Christian.

This passage from Luke on the Consolation
of Israel
, never fails, speaking of
consolations, to make my heart skip a
beat. The devout Simeon, and Anna,
the prophetess, served God day in and
day out. Their life was God. They were
given entirely to Him. They had seen
the good and the bad, they had seen the
faith of many wax and wane, they had seen
enough tragedy to break their hearts and
to turn them away from God, but still they
served God, in His Temple.

Their longing was not for a feeling,
or a spiritual experience, there longing
was for God! They longed for the Holy
One of Israel to break into human history.
They longed for the bloodshed to stop,
and for their exile to be over and for
peace to come and for the terrible
ache in their hearts to be comforted.

"Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem and cry to her
that her warfare is ended, and her iniquity
is pardoned" (Isaiah 40:1,2). Here was
the consolation that they looked for, a
consolation that could only come in the
person and work of Christ.

These two old covenant saints, who got to
witness the birth of the One who would bring
them into the New Covenant, longed for redemption,
and for forgiveness, and for reconciliation.
They longed for the kingdom of God. They
longed for the everlasting rule and reign
of The Lord God of Hosts.

Poor consolations they are indeed if they
do not bring us to this elevated level of
longing and fulfillment. I fear that the
consolations that people are currently feeling
are hardly to be called worthy of the name
"consolations" at all. For if we feel something
that we assume to be God, we can judge whether
that something really is from God by some basic
criteria. God isn't against excess, He is
against excess that takes us away from HIM!

In the late 1800's, in the city of New
Haven, not too far from here, a man
named John Wesley Redfield preached up a storm.
People fell under such conviction of the
Holy Spirit that they were found laying
in the streets. The paddy wagon would
come around and pick them up, along
with any alcoholically drunk persons
who might also be passed out in the street.
Even the jailers knew what the difference
was: when those with "Redfield's Disease"
"woke up" the next morning, their lives
were changed. They cried out "Holy!"
They gave up drinking and gambling and
whatever vice they had layed down with.

Encounter with God produces not just
a good feeling, but a changed life.
Consolations without holy adaptations
are worth very little. The point of
"feeling God" is not the feeling part
but the being changed part.

Simeon and Anna were long past wanting
just to personally "feel good" in God.
They had sat with God, cried with God,
cried for God, waited for God, longed
for God, prayed and prayed and prayed
and prayed some more and in so doing
had built relationship with the Consolation
of Israel. It was only He that could
console them. It was only His purposes
that they longed for. It was only
His Kingdom that was on their minds.

Let me ask you, "Do your consolations
bring you the feet of the Consolation
of Israel or do they just make you
feel good?" Don't waste your time
with spiritual child's play or,
perhaps, the devil's distractions.

The wise counsel of spiritual directors
through the centuries has been to advise
people not to center on consolations:
not to seek them, not to pursue them,
not to be attached to them. If they are
there, fine, but if you never "feel" God again,
it does not matter. It does not, or
should not, affect your commitment to Him
and His purposes. They are certainly
not what you judge the validity of
a revival upon.

There are some very real things to be felt in
God. Substantial, life-changing things.
Things that you will never get to unless
you abandon lesser pursuits. Simeon and
Anna knew about those substantial things,
you can feel it flooding out of this text.
Until your insides turn inside out, and
you fall to your knees in repentance
and adoration when you think of who God
is and what He is about, then you have barely
begun your journey. It is only then, that
you can, as Simeon, die in peace.

Until your vision and your life
are on the full tilt of complete surrender, total
obedience, and utter commitment to holiness you are
missing the mark. Until you are pursuing knowing
Christ and Christ alone, then you are living with
a lesser standard than you should be.

If it is the Living God who is coming to you
then He will take you, not for a "wheeeeeeee
eeeeeeeeeeeee", not for a spiritual roller
coaster ride, but to the foot of
Cross. Funny thing about God though,
He allows us humans to choose. So choose
wisely. Seek the Consolation of Israel.
Seek the Living God. Nothing else matters,
and everything else pales in comparison--
even spiritual inebriation.

Know the most important thing that a
life in God has to offer: a deeply integrated
knowledge of Christ. Such a knowledge is so high
and so holy it can hardly be called
a "feeling"! There is much, much more
to knowing God than mere spiritual rushes.
God is seeking worshippers in Spirit
and in truth. "In Spirit" might not
be what you think it is, "in truth"
definitely will be a shock to all of us.
Better get started.

1 comment:

FollowJesusAlone said...

Years ago the LORD spoke to me about this very verse in Luke, regarding Anna who spent her life waiting and serving God night and day!!! How precious His Spirit leads us into His Truth! Anna knew the Truth, and was waiting for HIS COMING! Anna gave her life to The LORD God of hosts! Here King and heavenly Home. We are but Members of the heavenly HOSTS, Now known as the Body of Christ!