Every morning, I lay the pieces of my life
on your altar
and watch for fire to descend.
-Psalm 5:3 The Message
Psalm 5:3 is what you might call my "life verse," except it is really more than that. It is my operating system.
My commentary tells me this was the Hebrew Morning Prayer. When I first stumbled across it in Eugene's Peterson beautiful translation The Message, I stopped dead in my tracks. Something in my heart said, "Let's sit right here for awhile." "Awhile" turned out to be ever since, and that was years ago. This verse has taught me so much.
In the beginning, it captured my imagination, as I pictured the story it tells. It uses the language of the offering or sacrifice. Perhaps you have brought a dove or a little goat, which you have led through the camp to the opening of the Tabernacle, where the great bronze altar radiated with the smoke and smells of others' sacrifices. You handed your offering to the priest, who carefully slaughtered it according to Levitical law and laid the pieces up on the altar. The flames leapt and the fire hissed as the fat burned away. The smoke filled your lungs, mingling with the smells of blood and roasting flesh and the incense of the altar, particular to the Tabernacle. When you walked away, you were marked by that smell. It is the smell of death, the aroma of life with God.
This is what Paul had in mind when he wrote, "Offer yourselves as living sacrifices." (Romans 12:1) Or as Eugene Peterson translates it, "Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking around life—and place it before God as an offering."
When you do this, when this is your operating system, this is what you do: You carefully lay out the pieces of your life. All the questions, the tasks, the people, the problems, the hopes and dreams, the details of the day, the way you think life works. And you stand back and watch. What will God do? Some things he will burn away, because it doesn't belong in your life, or because it doesn't belong there anymore. Some things will die.
What are you letting die?
Some things God will light up with His Spirit. This conversation, that appointment, this project, that passion. This is where God is working and asking you to join him. There is where he is going.
Where is God going in your life? What is he lighting up? And are you going with him?
I was thinking about this as I learned this week's story for Wednesday Bible study. Peter and Cornelius and all the believers find themselves caught up in something God is doing, something he has never done before. And they must lay the pieces of it on the altar and stand back. Some old things are doing to burn away. Some new things are going to light up with God's action.
How do they know where God is going and if it is okay to let go and follow?
"And then I remembered Jesus said, "John will baptize you with water,
but I will baptize you with God's own Spirit."
- Peter, in Acts 11:16
It's that simple, and it's that challenging. It is that adventurous. It is that intentional.
That's why Jesus said that the way to life with God is narrow and requires our full attention.
Are you watching for fire? That is the believer's operation system. It is what marks us as people who have life with God.
Click here to listen to this week's story and download the Bible study.
Who will you tell this story to?