In the last several weeks I didn’t have time to “stop and smell the roses.” This is something experts advise you to do, especially at stressful overly busy times. But lacking the time to pause for the roses does not mean I was correspondingly deprived of the joy and the blessings of God’s presence. In fact the contrary was the case – God was closer, His presence was stronger and His joy was more tangible. The recent round of time-pressed activities started before the end of October, at the time when I, with others, left for Jerusalem on a study tour. The end benefit of the study tour that our geographical, historical and cultural literacy of the land in which the Bible was written was raised. This new literacy now makes it a little easier to contextualise the biblical texts with their geography, history and culture. Immanuel, God’s presence, was strongly confirmed, His sovereignty was again brought to the forefront of our consciousness and the joy of His salvation was re-established in our hearts.
On my return, and while preparing for the normal pulpit engagements and getting ready to go to Cambodia on mission work, the whole range of serving duties – or nearly the whole range – was pressed upon me. Deaths, wakes, funerals, baby one-months, pastoral prayers, home and hospital visits, wedding rehearsals and preparations, were all thrown into the overflowing “in-tray.” However, in paring down that in-tray, the joy of the presence of God became more vibrant, the hand of His presence firmer, and I was able to “take delight in the Almighty.”
As I think about this at a time when we are preparing to celebrate Jesus’ birth, we can collectively share this joy together. I’m reminded of the story when the newly crowned king David proposed to bring the Ark of the Covenant (a symbol of God’s presence with the people) to Jerusalem. The whole nation supported the idea and swung behind him. The ark was duly installed and worship was offered. The whole nation then was engulfed in joy, praise and celebration.
Asaph (you might have come across his name in the Psalms) from the tribe of Levi was commissioned as chief “minister before the ark” and was given the responsibility “to invoke, to thank, and to praise the Lord, the God of Israel.” On the day that David appointed thanksgiving to be sung to the Lord by Asaph and his brothers, two of the lines of his song went like this (1 Chron 16:23 and 27):
Sing to the LORD, all the earth! Tell of his salvation from day to day. Splendor and majesty are before him; strength and joy are in his place.
“Tell of his salvation”– that in essence, is to praise God. To praise is to commemorate the Lord, or more literally, to “make mention” of His name in praise. Thus, it is not an accident that all three of the psalm selections of 1 Chron. 16:8-36 refer to God’s “name.” The name of God, and the “telling” of what He has revealed Himself to be and do, is actually the theme of praise.
At this festive season, no matter how busy you may be, will you learn to smell “the rose of Sharon, and the lily of the valleys”, and savour the all-encompassing love of our Lord Jesus Christ?
Pastor Robert Chew