I was a party animal. The zoo of social interaction that takes place on these masqueraded gatherings is much too scintillating to pass. When one is able to hide behind the kliegs and beats, instant pretensions abound. One night, I feign a regal persona; the following gig, I turn into some wild outback junkie. There is no telling who is really who during these unremitting rendezvous.
It was a full moon in May, I stole my father’s mustang and I was wearing a thick US Navy jacket, which somehow hid my scrawny physique. The party was at some rich girl’s house. I remember arriving late, but with swag. The night’s most popular girl somehow gravitated towards my charisma and decided to zero-in on me. She was from the most affluent clan in the city. Well bred and naturally unsuspecting of duplicity. It was a feast for my social dexterity as I floored my accelerator to impress her with my camouflage. It was not every night that one gets to spend it with some cool hunk, you know.
The following day, she called and audaciously proposed for an exclusive relationship. Astounded as I was, without much room for leverage, I just said, “let’s do this.” When I hung up, I felt a giant load of sudden responsibility encroaching upon me as though I was coerced into a matrimonial pact. My emotional reserves rattled with tectonic anxiety: I never had experienced having a girlfriend.
The days went by fast and furious. Every passing day, I got exposed for my true ineptness. I was offering nothing but dry straws. After only a few weeks, she faced up with the sting of truth and broke up the delusional cul-de-sac.
I was more relieved than humiliated. Amidst my initial test-drive, however, sprang a stigma that emits a haunting poison taunting the clay-natured feet that barely holds me up. How can I even dream of seeking to be in a relationship, when my own evaluation demeans everything about who I really am from the inside out? Strip me of my stolen goods and social steroids and what is left are negative decimals–the mathematics of which could not even add up to a decent sum of wholeness.
I am scandalized by my mere thoughts of restarting anything about love, among others. How can one enter the gates of relationships when there is not an iota of integrity to muster a promise, let alone, the pretension of keeping it?
My heart desperately needs a radical transplant. But what kind of heart fits some animal, who does nothing but party till he’s dead?
A song of ascents.
O LORD, remember David
and all the hardships he endured.
He swore an oath to the LORD
and made a vow to the Mighty One of Jacob:
“I will not enter my house or go to my bed–
I will allow no sleep to my eyes, no slumber to my eyelids,
till I find a place for the LORD,
a dwelling for the Mighty One of Jacob.”
We heard it in Ephrathah,
We came upon it in the fields of Jaar;
“Let us go to his dwelling place;
let us worship at his footstool–
arise, O LORD, and come to your resting place,
you and the ark of your might.
May your priests be clothed with righteousness;
may your saints sing for joy.”
For the sake of David your servant,
do not reject your anointed one.
The LORD swore an oath to David,
a sure oath that he will not revoke:
“One of your descendants I will place on your throne–
if your sons keep my covenant
and the statutes I teach them,
then their sons will sit on your throne
for ever and ever.
For the LORD has chosen Zion,
he has desired it for his dwelling:
“This is my resting place forever and ever;
here I will sit enthroned, for I have desired it–
I will bless her with abundant provisions;
her poor will I satisfy with food.
I will clothe her priests with salvation,
and her saints will ever sing for joy.
“Here I will make a horn grow for David
and set up a lamp for my anointed one.
I will clothe his enemies with shame,
but the crown on his head will be resplendent.
Now you, brothers, like Isaac, are children of promise.
Galatians 4:28 NIV
God’s relationship towards us stands upon the integrity of his promises. When God speaks, every word he utters demonstrates his impeccable character and wisdom. In direct contrast to humans, we speak a lot, but with very little concern for true substance. Our world runs on an unceasing stream of information, which are for the most part, limited guesses to who we are and why we even exist.
So, when we utter promises, there are no real guarantees on the quality of our follow-through. But we make them anyway, with an unspoken understanding that our verbal warranties must never be taken at face value. We cannot simply stand behind our words for they are fickle and fleeting.
What God does to remedy this duplicity is to infuse his very nature into our lives so that our anchors are forever changed. We are enabled to speak with fluent humility, recognizing the primacy of God in causing all things to work together for our good. We are called to join God in his work, and as such, we find ourselves endowed with the simplicity of making promises that are actually made for keeping.
The Psalmist recounts such incident in the life of David who made a promise: “I will not enter my house or go to my bed - I will allow no sleep to my eyes, no slumber to my eyelids, till I find a place for the LORD, a dwelling for the Mighty One of Jacob.” Having experienced God, David’s resolve to offer his utmost efforts for his LORD came rather naturally. The LORD’s dealing with David and his people characterized a covenant promise. As such, the very trustworthy nature of God ensures the fruition of His promises. When a person of faith experiences God’s unwavering loyalty, a kindred conviction is imbibed. In gratitude, we turn to God and offer a promise.
Quite disparate from our former oaths, our words take on the substance of integrity. We learn of God’s ways and having been infused by His spirit, we are enabled to speak a language of precision. Our yes becomes yes, our no, means no. Our commitments have been taken over by God’s superintending acuity in our lives.
We are being transformed to become a people of promise. God spoke his blessings to his people and as such we are called to believe not only its dissemination but also its culmination. We learn the simplicity of God’s speech: when he opens his mouth to speak, it is as good as done.
Our call to adopt the language of promise originates from the impetus of God’s oath to do what he said he will accomplish through David, and for all kindred believers who take the stipulations of God’s promises seriously, There is a specified guarantee of promise in the person of One of David’s descendants who will sit on God’s royal throne forever and ever. The promise comes from the chosen place of Zion where the specifics of that promise shall be born without hindrance. All those promises revealed in the Old Covenant are now revealed in the New Covenant in the flowering disclosure of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the Son of God. As the promised Mediator, the Messiah shall usher a new era of priesthood, where in royalty, the redeemed shall sing with joy for eternity. The promise is contingent solely upon the initiative and determination of God’s actions, devoid of any human scheme: a new people of promise shall arise akin to a lamp that is lit by no more no less than the resplendence of their glorious King. While all this is accomplished by divine fiat, all those who have chosen to ignore the promised Messiah, shall be “clothed with shame.”
The light of the world shines into the lives of men and women who are currently sifting through darkness. It is within this search that God introduces the good news of salvation found in Christ alone. There is no other means to understand life apart from the revelation of the person of Christ. It is either you take refuge in the singular lumens of Christ’s witness or you stay forever in eternal gloom.
God made this promise. It shall therefore take place, as He said.
There is something about travel that sets me on a course of anticipation. Japan Airlines normally took eighteen hours from the US to the Pacific Islands. I usually occupy those hours oscillating between reading and napping. The layover at Narita had always been a welcome respite, especially when paired with fresh sushi and sashimi. On one particular flight, I was hoping to sleep-in undisturbed for the last few hours but fate had other intentions.
There was a well-dressed blue-eyed gentleman rushing towards the seat next right to me. He pulled out his noise canceling headsets and dove straight to dreamland. After about twenty minutes, he reached for his briefcase to retrieve a book with Hebrew scripts.
Within the hour, I stood up to stretch, proceeding towards the far end. My seatmate likewise strode to where I was. A conversation began which somehow caused him to be nonplussed with my basic knowledge of some Hebraic lines, particularly about the Tehillim. I shared my curiosity regarding the Jewish religion, causing him to go for the jugular: “It is all about honoring God with our best efforts. There is always the proper way to do stuff. A good Jew is one who pays attention to details of how life ought to be lived.” He then quickly added: “I am not quite a good Jew. No one gets to do all the strict laws. I get by with the basics; just enough to make God happy.”
After about thirty minutes of Judaica, he turned the table and asked what Christianity was all about. I began by saying that there would not have been any Christianity if there were no Judaism. “The Messiah came to fulfill all your laws. He claims to have fully satisfied every single requirement laid out by Yahweh.” He interrupted, “So what does that have to do with you?” I quickly responded: “Well, here is where it gets interesting … since he knows my ineptness, he simply invites me to believe in him and confide in the efficacy of his work. He promised to take it from there. It’s like, riding on all his merits so that I might look good in God’s eyes.” And this Messiah is your Jesus, I suppose?” he mutters, and continues, “You know … that is so unique and quite attractive to me: with your formula I do not need to strain for anything, huh?”
He abruptly left my discourse by opening his laptop and introducing me to his young family. He bragged that if this Jesus is truly the Son of God, he might be among the first ones to see him: he lives right next door to Armageddon. He walked me through pictures of his kids hiking in the streets of Jerusalem, even showing me Golgotha! He intimated: “If you visit Israel, be my honored guest!”
I felt a great deal of uneasiness, having disclosed my faith without granting my new friend an opportunity to see its kerygma. I subtly grabbed the opportunity with a restart: “Just to add, when the Messiah was crucified in between two criminals …” he then interrupted, “what do you mean, crucified in between two … where did you get this story?” “I did not invent it …” “… It is a historical gospel incident.” He prodded me to continue. “Well, the criminal on his right was chiding him about his claim to be the Son of God and was coarsely coaxing him to demonstrate his claim to power. The one on his left hollered a rebuke saying: “You better shut your mouth, we are both guilty of our crimes, but not him!” Jesus then turned to him, saying: “I promise you, today you will surely be with me in paradise.” This snapshot pretty much summarizes the weight of Christianity. With absolutely no personal worthiness, Jesus takes the man’s raw belief as sole basis for being made right with God.” My friend looked astonished, saddled with a quietness that seemed to take all the notes in.
As the plane landed, he handed me his calling card, thanking me for taking time to bring in some gleam on the things discussed. I noticed his Hebrew name, which I quickly recognized to mean: “my resplendent promise.”
Upon returning home, I curiously invited him to my social network. God’s promise to shine through lives on, as promised.