Earlier this week, an old friend quietly slipped away almost unnoticed. The strong, steady and reliable voice became silent. No longer can we count on its company through sleepless nights; warnings of approaching deadlines or of running late are past.
I had noticed that things were different, but Judy spoke of it first. “My parents’ mantle clock quit working. The motor must have burned out.” We have had the clock since about 1993 when it moved from the home of her parents to ours. Prior to that, it had devotedly served their household since 1954, according to the date inscribed on its back door. Sitting proudly on a fireplace mantel or dining room buffet, it faithfully proclaimed the “Westminster” chimes each quarter hour. Since my injury, I have spent many nights listening to its relentless rings, as time marched on.
When we first got the clock, it’s peals were very noticeable, at least to me. But before long, I became accustomed to its dings every quarter hour. Although it rang consistently, I was often unaware of its message, subconsciously choose to ignore it. Nevertheless, it faithfully announced its message.
Some parallels from my life and experience
As a pastor, I can identify with the clock. I consistently attempted to proclaim God’s message, which seemed to be ignored by many. I was often encouraged by the Scripture promise that God’s word will not return to him empty but will accomplish the purpose for which he sent it. God gives his preachers a prophetic responsibility to declare his message. Faithfulness to his word is what pleases God.
Psalm 19 rings a similar note. Verses 1 – 6 tell of God’s glorious and continuous self-revelation in nature. Romans 1 informs us that we ignore it and also records God’s response: “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.” (Romans 1:18–20) . God declares who he is through and to his creation, but we often ignore it.
Finally, the old clock reminds me of God.
Of course, there are many dissimilarities. For instance, the clock was dependent (on electric), while God is utterly independent. The Clock wore out, whereas God is infinite, eternal and unchangeable. You can probably think of more.
But it reminds me of God’s love, mentioned in my last blog. God’s steadfast love or HSD, is the loyal, covenant love of God which he has promised to us. There are many times in life when we really need to relish in and rejoice in God’s gracious love to us.
But there are also many more times than we would like to admit, when we forget, ignore or reject this love. But, just as the clock continued to declare its message, the LORD God demonstrates his unfailing, steadfast, loyal love. Even when we do not discern it or cannot recognize it – even when it’s hidden or hard to understand, even then, the LORD wisely, compassionately and consistently cares for his own.
Exodus 34. 6 – 7 reports part of an interaction between God and Moses. God has been instructing Moses about leading his people and Moses needs reassurance. Moses asked God to show him his glory.
The Lord responds by hiding Moses in a cleft of a rock as he passes by declaring his name. “The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.”” (Exodus 34:6–7, ESV)
Volumes could be said or written about these words. I will not try your patience, except to mention one the highlighted phrases. The LORD abounds in steadfast love.
Many years ago, Judy and I visited her parents in upstate New York. They had recently retired and were establishing their farm. Her father wanted a bandy rooster and hen and suggested we go to see the “chicken man.” The chicken man lived several miles away, but we eagerly make the trip.
Pulling into his lane, we were overwhelmed at the site of chickens. Not only the barn and barnyard but the lawn and every outbuilding housed chickens – they were everywhere. Getting out the car, I called out but no one responded. Standing at the door, I again cried out. This time I heard a distant, “Come on in…” Entering the front door and going into the living room, I was overwhelmed not only with the smell but the sight of – chickens! They were everywhere – all over the furniture, in the closets, on the table in the dining room, on the chairs – everywhere. The kitchen was filled with chickens, some in cages, some running loose. Chickens in the sink, chickens in the cupboards, on the chairs, on the table, on the counter…
When we came face-to-face with the chicken man and told him what we wanted, he suggested that we look in the bathroom. You guessed it, chickens in the sink, chickens in the tub. Even chickens in the commode! It is not a stretch to say that he abounded in chickens!
Even though the chicken man abounded in chickens, his abundance was limited. The steadfast love of the Lord is unlimited – Yahweh abounds in loyal love for his people. More than that he guards his steadfast love.
What’s more dependable than the old clock? The LORD’s love for his people.
“The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty…