Phyllis Beveridge Nissila
Oswald Chambers wrote,” Get out of your mind the idea of expecting God to come with compulsions and pleadings*.” It is in a devotional on the theme of hearing God’s call to ministry. We can best hear it, he writes, by our “disposition,” the “state of our ears,” and by “proving” ourself to be “the chosen ones” by being in a relationship with God through Jesus Christ.” Few, however, Chambers notes, are “chosen”.
Whereas I do agree that being in a relationship (by faith through grace) with Jesus Christ enables us to more clearly comprehend God by the gift of the Holy Spirit imparted to us when we are born again (see previous post for an expanded discussion), with all due respect to Chambers, I do not agree that God never “pleads” with us.
As for God having “compulsions,” although one might make an elegant argument for love’s eternal impetus to “draw all men unto itself” (some needing more persuasion than others and some forms of love being “tougher” than others), I’d have to explore the young teacher’s writings further.
But what I do know, from my vantage point as a metaphorist, is that God does plead with us, inviting us to look, listen, and yield to Him because His “words” of invitation everywhere illustrate this.
Everything He has created can be viewed as God pleading (entreating, appealing, even imploring) “Come!”, inviting us, as the Psalmist put it, to “Taste and see that the Lord is good (because) blessed is the one who takes refuge in him” (34:8).
He also exhorts us to stay away from that which destroys.
Because if you think about it, love (and God is love) compels and creates, which is the opposite of hate that repels and destroys.
Love, by its nature, attracts, expands, nurtures, multiplies, heals, aids, comforts, and warns the object of its love when danger is nigh.
And love at all times yearns for unity with the object of its love.
Hate, on the other hand, dead ends, both figuratively and literally.
Of course because God has also gifted us with free will** we are not forced to respond, and there comes a time when God no longer strives with those who have rejected Him with a certain finality only He knows.
(And I think that must break His heart, as our Abba, Father.)
But back to the good, compelling, creating–and comforting–news.
God’s pleas for a close and loving relationship with us are perhaps most powerfully revealed in the verses of Song of Songs, a metaphor for God’s love for His people. The following excerpt reveals this best, I think, potent as it is with the promise of youthful love, which is a comparison with universal appeal:
My beloved spoke and said to me,
“Arise, my darling,
my beautiful one, come with me.
11 See! The winter is past;
the rains are over and gone.
12 Flowers appear on the earth;
the season of singing has come,
the cooing of doves
is heard in our land.
13 The fig tree forms its early fruit;
the blossoming vines spread their fragrance.
Arise, come, my darling;
my beautiful one, come with me.” (2:10-13)
As put in another kind of pleading, this with tears, there is another powerful image suggested in the night Jesus, His arms spread wide, body bent toward Jerusalem, grieves over the city that would shortly be stained by His blood.
He laments for–and pleads with–those therein who would not comprehend Who He is (as in God’s love personified***) until the prophetic day when a tougher love will draw all to declare Him Lord. Luke’s Gospel records it thus:
33 In any case, I must press on today and tomorrow and the next day—for surely no prophet can die outside Jerusalem!
34 “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing. 35 Look, your house is left to you desolate. I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’” (13:33-35)
But for many, at least at that moment in time, caught up in a mob mentality of hatred and envy, His pleas, His yearning and desire, went unheeded.
It is easy, however, to become hardened to God’s entreaties, whether they are presented as invitations, revelations, reminders, or warnings.
It is easy to close our eyes, ears, minds, and hearts to perceiving them.
But consider an additional invitation, this one evoking yet another potent comparison, another call to the heart, as from a shepherd to His sheep:
(For) he is our God
and we are the people of his pasture,
the flock under his care.
Today, if only you would hear his voice,
8 “Do not harden your hearts… (Psalm 95:7-8)
What follows in the remainder of the verse is a reminder of the hard consequences of not doing so–which a loving shepherd would do for his sheep in the ways of that occupation.
And drawing again from the image of God as Abba, Father, He must grieve as we harden, even as we can see this illustrated in our own lives as parents when our children, despite all, harden and walk away…
Here is a closing thought-entreaty, invitation, appeal–plea:
“Beloved,” (I can almost “hear” Him say, just now, leaning in toward you and me, arms outstretched, longing in His voice and in His verse), “come!”
Or as put another way by Jesus, Himself, Who not only invites us but also waits on us to respond:
“Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends.” (Revelation 3:20, NLT)
If you will.
And be nurtured, nourished–and drawn closer to Him today…
*Chambers, Oswald. My Utmost for His Highest. Grand Rapids: Discovery House, Oswald Chambers Publications Associationm Ltd., 1963. Jan. 14th, “Called of God.”
For those who find Chambers’ sometimes “works-based-sounding” comments rather harsh, it helps to know He viewed the divine through the lens of the Holiness tradition. It also helps to remember that we perform both internal and external “good works” because we are saved and yielded to the ever-maturing action of the Holy Spirit imparted to us at salvation. We don’t perform them to be saved. Jesus did that work for us in our stead. A word of reminder–and appeal–again today.
**For more discussions on free will, I invite you here.
***For a good discussion on Jesus as God’s love personified, consider this.