Monday, February 15, 2010

Him, Who? Part 6

This has been a series in which we look to Scripture to see how God has protected and provided for His people, but more specifically how they have responded in praise, giving God a new name.  As we have seen and will see more, God has chosen names for Himself, but He has also revealed Himself in such a way to His people that they give Him new names (or name people or places after Him and what He has done).  "Why does it matter?" you might ask.  The Bible has shown that God is a jealous God.  One disposition that makes the fall of man most apparent is that He seeks after other gods.  You might say that you worship the God of the Bible, but how do you know?  Is it apparent to those around you?  This is no way an evaluation of the song, but take the popular chorus, "Let's Just Praise the Lord," made popular by Bill and Gloria Gaither.  A question we might ask ourselves about the words we use in worship is whether or not the words could be spoken or sung and expressed truly by people who aren't Christians.  Could a Muslim sing the song to Allah without changing the words?  Could this text be used in a Unitarian Universalist gathering?  One of the core values of Christian worship is that the words we pray, read, say, and sing, are all words that set the true and living God apart from the false gods.

This week, our text comes from Genesis 24:3 and 7, where, for the first time, God is referred to as the "God of Heaven" and the "God of Earth".  Actually, this is the only reference to God as the God of Earth, but I would like to draw particular attention to the name, "God of Heaven."  This name is one that will set the people of Israel apart from the other nations.  As a matter of fact, the Gospel of Matthew's frequent use of the phrase, "Kingdom of Heaven," is one of the distinguishing features that causes it to be known as the most Jewish Gospel.  The most frequent use of "God of Heaven" is found in two major focal points, other than the current usage.  Its most common occurrence is in the period of Ezra's revival (the books of Ezra and Nehemiah) and in prophecy of the Day of the Lord in Daniel and Revelation.  A whole-Bible understanding of this name shows an emphasis on God being from somewhere else, but despite that fact, He comes and reveals Himself in our world.  One of the things that set the God of Israel, and later of the Church, apart from the gods of the world is where He chooses to dwell.  This is of particular significance to Abraham, who is the first to utter this name, among whose descendants God has promised to dwell.  This promise is fulfilled in Christ, our Emmanuel.  We worship the God of Heaven in the same way.  He, who dwells in inapproachable light, has come to be amongst His people.  This is the nature of the beautiful reality we sing about in songs like "God of Wonders," and, "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing."  God is with us, and has promised to always be with us.  This is true not only in a salvific way, but also in fellowship.  At times when we feel the most alone, we know that He is there.  What a loving God we serve!

-Mark Whitaker
Minister of Music and Worship
Interim Minister of Students

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