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Boldly We Go

FIRST READING JOB 23:1-9, 16-17 / SECOND READING HEBREWS 4:12-16 

I think that generally speaking modern men and women have become far more timid than bold. Indeed, I think words that describe the opposite of bold (antonyms) probably apply to most of us more than we would care to admit: cautious, fearful, unadventurous weak, faint, reticent, retiring.

Or are we more like the synonyms for “bold”: adventurous, daring, fearless, heroic, – resolute, gallant, dauntless – enterprising, intrepid, valiant, valorous.

I think we would like to apply those words both to ourselves and the expression of our faith as much as possible – but again, I think the first set perhaps better defines how most of us move through our days.

I suspect that much of this has to do with the ever-growing legalistic progression of our culture – we are constantly taught and instructed to be cautious and careful because things “out there” will “get you” if you don’t.

Indeed our predatory legal system that now permeates almost every aspect of modern life has helped to forge this outlook. Try running a business or any kind of organization – or even a church – and look at all the red tape and regulations you have to go through to protect and indemnify yourself from anything and everything!

“Uh Mr. Revercomb – you’ll need to sign this “sexual misconduct statement” before you can minister to others – we wouldn’t want to be brought down in case you did anything unseemly.”

“Really?!” I remember thinking. “Wow – there’s some trust for you.” And it felt very much like a “presumed guilty” clause more than a CYA move. Which it of course was as they had to “protect themselves from the legal consequences if I turned out to be some kind of nut case. I mean how were they to know?

Indeed, how are any of us to know anything? Strange and ridiculously unpredictable stuff happens out there. I mean at last count there were over 321 Million people moving around in America  . . . better be protected!

So we mostly all go around cautious and hesitant and just plain old not sure whether we should do anything. No wonder we align far more with the antonyms than the synonyms of BOLD.

And when it comes to our spiritual life – we aren’t much different. We generally approach God – if we approach Him at all – with the greatest of uncertainty and timidity. Uncertainty shaped by so many misconceptions and misnomers about His true nature and character. Many of us wind up in a tangled knot of a mess – as we offer up prayers and supplications (often in the form of bargaining and pleading) that serve to confuse our own selves more than they do to open our hearts to the real change and love that God seeks to bring us.

The simple truth is, we fail to fully trust His real love for us – and accordingly our seeking is far more timid and halting than it was ever meant to be. But of course the opposite can be just as true – the brashly over-zealous can overstep their bounds as they perceive themselves in the sight of God – and, interestingly, in the book of Job we get an excellent example of both.

“Oh, that I knew where I might find him, that I might come even to his dwelling!” says Job “I would lay my case before him, and fill my mouth with arguments. I would learn what he would answer me, and understand what he would say to me.”

Well – there’s some confidence! And maybe it’s at least somewhat well founded. After all God declared Job to be quite a person in His conversations with Satan: “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man who fears God and turns away from evil!”

So Job relies upon his generally upright character and seeks God boldy, with a confident sense that if he could just lay his case before God and make his arguments heard, that God would not only hear what he has to say, but would understand and answer him. That God would not put Him down because he is all powerful and all wise and all knowing, but would rather “heed Job” and would surely acquit him forever.

Well, not exactly. Because Job gets an A+ for effort – for seeking God intentionally AND boldly in the midst of his trials – but he gets an F- for assuming that his cause is 100% just and speaking and operating as if he KNOWS that God would necessarily concur with his understanding.

Job has apparently not been reading his Isaiah 55: “My ways are not your ways, says the Lord – and so very far past your finding out!”

“Even when you see what you think is a perfect application of my law and my love – even when relevant scripture would seem to support it – as well as experience. And even when the sweet whispers of creation fall all around you like snowflakes on the north wind. Know one thing – and never forget it – there is always more in play than you can possibly know. Stay open to my workings – more often than not you are likely going to be very surprised.”

Well, God ultimately allows Job into his presence alright and he makes his case – but the answer is not at ALL what he thought it would be:

 “Who is this who darkens counsel by words without knowledge? (Ouch.) Now prepare yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer Me.” Responds God.  “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements? Surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it? To what were its foundations fastened? Or who laid its cornerstone, when the morning stars sang together, And all the sons of God shouted for joy?”

And Job, of course, is undone. But it’s not for his bold seeking – but rather his brazen – and arrogant – assuming.

Our second reading from Hebrews 4:12-16 also speaks to the boldness with which we are to approach God – and the power that His Living Word has to transform our lives:

12Indeed, the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow; it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. 13And before him no creature is hidden, but all are naked and laid bare to the eyes of the one to whom we must render an account.

14Since, then, we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession. 15For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin. 16Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

The grass withers and the flower fades but the Word of The Lord endures forever.

Well, that’s a scary thought isn’t it? You mean this word of God is really active and cutting? Able to parse and judge the thoughts and intentions of my fallen human heart? I’m not so sure I really want to boldly seek that!

Indeed many, if not all of us, are scared to death to approach the Holy and “dividing and sharper than any two edge sword” Word of God. Because we are afraid not what we will find there but what HE will find here. Yes – right here in the middle of our self-serving, self-seeking, self-glorifying little hearts!

That’s right – even before we get into it, we already have a very real fear and intuition that the Living Word might well read us – more than we are ever going to be able to “read” it! And that in the end, we will be exposed for the fallen, corrupt and self-centered creatures we are, behind the mask and masquerade that we work so hard to put on every day.

Yep – me too. The preacher man certainly isn’t exempt from that reality. I may have encountered God’s Holy Word and even felt and experienced the power of His Spirit upon me. I may KNOW what’s expected of me – but when I get out of bed in the morning and all the details of the day start to swarm around me like bees with all of their demands and needs and “must haves” – I begin to defend my right to what’s best for me and my faith and trust collapses like a house of cards in a hurricane. And with it my ability to truly walk boldly with my Lord and Savior.

And when I consider the words of Paul’s Letter to the Hebrews where he says, “Before him no creature is hidden, but all are naked and laid bare to the eyes of the one to whom we must render an account.” I honestly wonder how in the world I will ever manage to do so. My life story is probably not so unlike yours – and there are some deeply regrettable chapters.”

But thanks be to God that the Apostle Paul was very much in the same boat that we are – and that he knew that this was only the beginning of the truth – and that the most important part was to come. And it IS glorious news:

14Since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession. 15For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses but [rather] we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin.”

i.e. we have a “Super Mediator” who knows and understands our fallen-ness and through who’s life, death and resurrection is able to present us before God faultless and without blemish! If only in humility and repentance we will accept the great gift of his sacrifice.

“So,” Paul says, “Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with BOLDNESS,that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

That last little part there is really important. For Paul implies that the redemptive power of Jesus Christ is NOT only in play in the BIG scheme of things –  to carry us from this world to the next, where we will dwell in eternity with him – but that it’s also that we might find His grace in the times of need we face in the here and now. Where the struggles of this world loom so long and dark and difficult before us.

Folks – there really is only one way to the Father. And it was completed and given to us so very long ago in one unimaginable and glorious moment. The peoples of this world may understand the experience of that great event in many different ways – and some may know it far more clearly than others – but the simple truth remains, that it HAS been done. And that it really is “finished” – as Jesus himself declared from the cross.

Suffice to say, our Lord has done his part. But the jury still seems to be out on whether the vast majority of us will ever do ours.

We have been told in scripture to seek him boldly – to make no assumptions – but to not hold back – as we strive to live out our lives in a fallen and seemingly ever more wayward and lost world. By His grace may we all seek His Kingdom – with pure and confident and ever brave and ever trusting hearts.

  • Stuart Revercomb

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