Revisiting inspirational books
I’ve been revisiting favorite books on my shelf – two that stand out are written by Eugene Peterson. Leap Over a Wall is about David’s life, and Run with the Horses is about Jeremiah. I wish I had dated my notes in these books. I may have been reading them for more than 20 years.
A chapter in Run with the Horses is perfect for January when we reconsider our spiritual practices, take stock of spiritual disciplines, and set goals. The chapter elaborates on Jeremiah 35 – a story that might not be well known.
In Run With the Horses, Eugene Peterson writes, “How can people who are conditioned to a life of distraction and indulgence be moved to live at their best, to be artists of the everyday, to plunge into life and not loiter on the fringe?”
This question captures my imagination and thoughts today since,
at the very least, we are a distracted and indulgent culture.
What’s up with the Recabites?
In Jeremiah 35, God instructs Jeremiah to use the obedience and commitment of the Recabites to illustrate to Israel the need for attention to God’s laws. Note: “The Recabites are not commended by Yahweh for their rules as such but rather for their faithfulness to the rules” (Zondervan Illustrated Bible Dictionary).
The Recabites were a guild of metalworkers, a wandering people. They traced their history back to Jehu, King of Israel, in the days of Elijah, leading distinctly disciplined lives following the standards set down by their forefathers. No houses, no gardens, no wine. Artists of obedience! They settled in Jerusalem to escape the Babylonian and Aramean armies. (It is unknown when they left Jerusalem to be a wandering people again.)
God instructs Jeremiah to invite the Recabites into one of the side rooms of the Lord’s house. There, he served them wine. Even under these circumstances, the Recabites said “no” to the wine. That’s when they told Jeremiah the story of their heritage.
From this experience, with God’s prompting, Jeremiah questions the Israelites. Peterson paraphrases the question like this …
“You also have a way of life that requires certain disciplines to maintain its character. The disciplines involve you in making specific decisions about the way you live: regular worship, faithful prayer, tithing and caring for the poor, moral conduct and the pursuit of righteousness. Now, why don’t you do it? … Why will you not let God’s command develop in you a life of holy obedience instead of letting the crowd drag you into a sloppy indolence?”Eugene Peterson, Run With the Horses, pg. 140
Why will you not?
That’s the question for us today. Why will we not let God’s Word develop a life of holy obedience in us? Spiritual formation is the work of the Spirit. As we intentionally yield to the work of the Spirit, the Spirit of God develops in us Godly virtues, the fruit of the Spirit. We can’t manufacture those independently, but we can tend to our environment and habits to create space for growth. Our attentiveness to God’s word, His people, and His mission will make a difference – we call that abiding in Him.
God doesn’t intend for us to do nothing about our growth. Sloth is not spiritual. As Dallas Willard wrote, “Grace is not opposed to effort, but [it] is opposed to earning.” The difference between legalism and spiritual discipline is not the work or energy involved; it’s the motivation. Are we doing things to impress God and earn his favor? Or are we doing them because we are dearly loved children of God who are being conformed to the image of his Son by the power of the Spirit (Romans 8:1-17, 29)?Packiam, G., Packiam, H. The Intentional Year: Simple Rhythms for Finding Freedom, Peace, and Purpose.
I want to be an “artist of the everyday” living fully in the present in God’s presence in 2024. How about you!?
Father, You who dearly love us, who
Call us Your children, who continually
Work in us both to will and to do
Your good pleasure, teach us to abide
In 2024, to intentionally, attentively abide
In You so that our lives will stand out in
Our culture. May we be artists of the everyday!
May Your name be glorified
In all that we say and do, and may the world
know who You are because of Your light shining
Through us. Amen.
Douglas, J. D., Tenney, M. C., Silva, M. (2011). Zondervan Illustrated Bible Dictionary. United States: Zondervan.
Packiam, G., Packiam, H. (2022). The Intentional Year: Simple Rhythms for Finding Freedom, Peace, and Purpose. United States: The Navigators.
Peterson, E. H. (1983). Run with the Horses: The Quest for Life at Its Best. United States: InterVarsity Press.