In my previous blog entry, "MASTERclass," I shared how the relationship between a vocal student and his operatic mentor, captured in this video clip, was analogous to our encounters with God. I must confess, however, that there was something that transpired that I did not include in that blog.
The incident happens right at the beginning of the video. Reaching an intense moment in the aria, the instructor raises his palm toward the young singer and blurts out a curt, "Shhh!"
As I considered the spiritual metaphor, my first thought was, "Well, God wouldn't do that." Frankly, it seemed a bit beneath God to actually shush someone. But just as I tucked that incident into my pharisaical "Things God Wouldn't Do" file, I sensed a questioning nudge from the Holy Spirit. "Are you sure?" Appreciating the fact that God is willing to challenge my tidy theology, I paused and invited Him to "go there" with this conversation.
As I lingered in prayerful listening, the Holy Spirit began to bring Scriptural encounters to mind where God, indeed, seemed to shush - but not in the way that you might think.
After King Saul's final leadership fumble, his deep mentoring relationship with Samuel, the Priest came to a dramatic end [I Samuel 15:34-35]. Can't you just imagine Samuel replaying the highlight reel of their friendship and rehashing how it all tragically ended? Perhaps he found himself dazed in melancholy numbness, lamenting "Saul, you could have been great, what in the world were you thinking? This is not how it was supposed to be."
While we are not told how long Samuel was lost in grief, chapter 16 begins with a divine "Shhh" in the form of a pointed question. “How long will you grieve for Saul?"
Honestly, my first thought was, "That's a wee bit harsh, God, don't you think?" But, it occurred to me that perhaps the question was not to scold, but rather, to offer a lifeline from the God of All Comfort [2 Corinthians 1:3] to rescue Samuel from the vortex of incessant rehashing of an unchangeable past. Out of the kind intention of His will, God frees Samuel saying, "You have mourned long enough for Saul. I have rejected him as king of Israel, so fill your flask with olive oil and go to Bethlehem. Find a man named Jesse who lives there, for I have selected one of his sons to be my king” [16:1 NLT].
When a disillusioned and discouraged Israel began to whine and complain, God's "Shhh" came, once again, in the form of a question. In answer to Israel's short-sighted accusation that God had lost track and didn't care what happened to them, the Prophet Isaiah asks, "Don't you know anything? Haven't you been listening?" Those shush-questions prepared Israel to freshly discover the true character and nature of God toward them. "God doesn't come and go. God lasts. He's Creator of all you can see or imagine. He doesn't get tired out, doesn't pause to catch his breath. His intelligence is unlimited; he is never puzzled over what to do!"
Then, rather than berating them, he lavishly offers a promise. "He empowers the feeble and infuses the powerless with increasing strength... those who wait for Yahweh's grace will experience divine strength. They will rise up on soaring wings and fly like eagles, run their race without growing weary, and walk through life without giving up" [Isaiah 40:27-31 MSG and TPT].
As I continued in prayerful dialogue, the Lord also brought to mind a familiar incident found in Luke 10. Though not a question, this divine "Shhh" was equally poignant: calling a busy and distracted host by her name, "Martha."
Surely she had heard Jesus reaffirm Truth before using that same "Verily, verily" technique. So imagine the impact of this tender moment as the Father of Compassion [2 Corinthians 1:3] affectionately consoles, "Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered and anxious about so many things; but only one thing is necessary..." [Luke 10:41 -42 AMP]. Remember, she was owner, lord, and mistress of the house and her gifts and graces clearly generated quite a "to-do" list. But, rather than sealing her identity as "gifted task-accomplisher," His empowering shush invited her to live and to lead as "Martha."
Seeing each encounter in a different light brought me to an unexpected revelation: just how often I have often misinterpreted the Father's heart by misinterpreting His actions. You see, I don't think that God's question to Samuel of "How long?" was meant to minimize Samuel's grief, but rather to release Samuel, (and soon to be king, David, for that matter) into his destiny. The divine "Surely you know. Surely you have heard" [NCV] to Israel wasn't a passive-aggressive way of saying, "Duh, you idiot," but rather a gift to release them from pouty ingratitude to overflowing thanksgiving. "Martha, Martha," was not spoken to publically humiliate nor to demean sacrificially hospitable efforts, but rather, to release her from striving for acceptance under a self-imposed yoke of "successful" performance.
And the young tenor in that MASTERclass video? He wasn't being squelched, he was being released to sing his song with a greater depth of freedom and power! Oh beloved, do you see? Just as the singer in that video understood the heart behind the master's palm-raised "Shhh," so too, are we invited to trust in the kind intention of the Master's will.
As you have been reading, perhaps you, too, have been sensed a divine "Shhh" in your faith journey with God. Know this, precious child. It is not a harsh, punitive, "Knock it off!" from a temperamental God. It's not a dismissive, "talk to the hand," from a God who wants to "teach you a lesson." No, precious one, out of relentless love, lavish generosity, and steadfast faithfulness, God's "Shhh," is a word of release from the tyranny of the present... to step into your destiny, with overflowing thanksgiving and rejoicing in the One who rejoices over you. Indeed, "The Lord your God is with you; the mighty One will save you. He will rejoice over you. You will rest in his love; he will sing and be joyful about you" [Zephaniah 3:17 NCV].
So why not take some time, right now. Perhaps in gentleness, the Father has shown you that you have misinterpreted His heart and misunderstood His actions. Maybe you've been pouty and ungrateful. Or maybe, you've just been so busy, and you haven't heard One who knit you together in your mother's womb call you by name in a very long time. Take a moment and listen, and join in the declaration of this simple springboard for prayer called "You Know My Name."
Be released. Bless the Lord, with all that is within you. And sing your song like never before. Amen.
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