The Day the Stars Sang
Perhaps you’ve heard the story told by Chuck Swindoll about Chippie, the singing parakeet. He said the bird’s problems began when the woman who owned him decided to clean up the seeds and loose feathers from the bottom of his cage using a vacuum. When the phone rang, the owner turned to pick it up, and—you guessed it—with a thud and whoosh, Chippie was gone.
I’ve wondered whether our understanding of God has become so distorted and cynical that we end up seeing life through a prism filled with trials and troubles.
The owner quickly turned off the vacuum and unzipped the bag. There was Chippie. He was stunned but breathing. Seeing that he was covered with black dust, his owner rushed Chippie to the bathtub, where she turned on the faucet full blast and held the bird under the icy water.
At that point she realized that she’d done even more damage, and she quickly cranked up her blow dryer and gave the wet, shivering little parakeet a blast. Swindoll finished the story by saying, “Chippie doesn’t sing much any more.”
I’ve thought a lot about Chippie and us as Christians. Why is it that some of us seem to lose our spiritual fervor? I’ve wondered whether our understanding of God has become so distorted and cynical that we end up seeing life through a prism filled with trials and troubles. Does it really matter if we pray or don’t pray? Is God still in charge and if He is, can He hear us? Our understanding of God is critical. It is at the heart of stewardship. To become a good steward or effective manager we must understand the Source of the resources we’ve been asked to manage. Troubles no doubt will still come but knowing the Who of stewardship is the first step in learning “to sing again.”
Jesus spoke about spiritual dangers and He often did so by clarifying who God is and how we should relate to Him. In Matthew 6: 5-15, we see that He was concerned with the abuse of prayer. In contrast to the public hypocritical prayers offered on the street corners, Jesus taught how to pray differently. Prayer had a different meaning for Jesus. We get a hint of this early in the “The Lord’s Prayer.” After addressing God as “Father,” the very next words were “Hallowed be your name.” The word “hallowed” means to treat something reverently or as the ultimate or most important thing. Jesus says that before we ever get to petitions (“give us this day our daily bread”) and confessions (“forgive us our debts”) we need to acknowledge God as the most important part of our life. It’s a radical perspective. Everything that follows in the prayer is seen from the perspective of the hallowed name of God. It puts questions like “Who am I?” and “What shall I do?” in a very different light. Our petitions and confessions are seen in the context of who God is and in whom we can place our ultimate trust. “Know thy self,” in other words, can only be truly answered after we’ve first grasped the meaning of “Know thy God.” The Bible itself begins with this same perspective—“In the beginning God . . .” (Gen. 1:1).
The book of Genesis is about God telling us His story and He does so by first telling who He is. It is only then that we are told who we are and in whose image we have been made.
The Magnificent God of Genesis 1
The book of Genesis is about God telling us His story and He does so by first telling who He is. It is only then that we are told who we are and in whose image we have been made. Genesis 1 is like a call to worship. It is a review of what God has done in the preparation of a home and a mission for those created in His image. The sequence of days in the Creation week reveals how He anticipates needs before they arise and makes provision to meet them. He fills empty forms, for example, with new creations—water and the sky are created in anticipation of the needs of fish and birds; land and vegetation for animals and man. This foundational principle is repeated throughout Scripture. He transforms the unpromising into order by turning nothing into something. He does the same thing with our own lives. It becomes obvious as the Creation week unfolds, that this all-powerful God is moving toward a special objective. Genesis 1 is not simply a showcase of what He can do. Rather, with this recognition, Scripture invites us to trust and to have confidence in the Creator-God. The name used for God in the first chapter is Elohim which gives emphasis to the majesty and power of the Creator-God. It becomes very clear that God is not only the Creator but He is also the intended Presider or Owner over all that has been made.
The Benevolent God of Genesis 2
The caring and relational characteristics of God are accentuated in Genesis 2. To give emphasis to this characteristic, another name for God is introduced, and that name is Yahweh. Throughout Genesis and all of Scripture, this name is associated with God as the “Promise-Keeper”, the Covenant-God and the One who intervenes and saves. In chapter one, God is the “All-Powerful-One” but in Genesis 2 greater emphasis is given to Him being the “Relational-God” who uses His power to sustain and fulfill with meaning and purpose. God invited Adam to join Him in caring for His creation. This is seen, in part, by the two responsibilities given to Adam in Genesis 2:15: “to keep” and “to guard” the garden, which suggests that there were dangers that could threaten God’s ultimate purpose for the newly created earth and its inhabitants.
When God put Adam and Eve in the garden, He did so with one stipulation: You can have everything except what is produced by that one tree. No reason was given except that He told them they would die if they ate of it. God was essentially saying, “Trust Me.”
When God put Adam and Eve in the garden, He did so with one stipulation: You can have everything except what is produced by that one tree. No reason was given except that He told them they would die if they ate of it. God was essentially saying, “Trust Me.” The serpent then appears and says, “You know why God won’t let you eat of the tree? It’s because it is the best one.” Implied in his cunning tale was a principle that has undermined God and stewardship throughout the history of the world: “If God won’t let you have everything, it means He doesn’t want you to have anything. That just proves you can’t trust Him!” Generations later, when Jesus presented instructions about prayer, He conceptually and indirectly referenced the objectives of the first two chapters of Genesis and the very essence of true and lasting stewardship. The hallowed names of God elicit our praise and with it comes freedom, purpose and a fulfilled life. The praise of God is the root of faithful stewardship. With Genesis 1 and 2 providing the assurance that our God is all-powerful while at the same time being all-caring, it is only natural to conclude that He can still be trusted. The remaining unspoken question begs an answer: “Can He trust us?”
God’s Questions for Us
Genesis 3 introduces us to the early signs of a broken trust-relationship between God and man. Ironically, the “fall” takes place in the context of a garden filled to overflowing with the provisions made for Adam and Eve by their Creator. Greed—not need—broke the developing relationship. Sin fragmented the relationship by moving God from the center to the sideline and then filling the vacuum with self. Without seeing God as their “ultimate” source of fulfillment, without God being “hallowed,” caused them to see their petitions as a means of serving self first. Soon Adam and Eve distrusted and blamed one another. When God came to the garden to be with Adam and Eve, it wasn’t He who had changed. Adam and Eve had. His penetrating question, “Where are you?” (Gen. 3:9), was not one about location but one of relationship. It gave them an opportunity to reflect and repent as they considered the implications of their actions. “Are you for me or against me?” “Do you trust me?” Later in Genesis 4 we are introduced to the outgrowth of a me-centered life. How ironic, in the midst of worship, self flourished—a brother kills a brother—and God asks another incriminating question that reveals the progression of selfishness. “Where is your brother?” (Gen. 4:9). When the relationship with God is broken, it is only a matter of time before relationships with others will also become strained and broken. Things, power and recognition become more important than people. The more self becomes the center, the more we become like the things we crave. If one’s identity and meaning comes first from human relationships, then it is natural to become driven by what people think. We live in fear of losing the affirmation of men rather than of God. Then the image of God shrinks to the image we can comprehend at the moment. The Creation story then becomes the foundation for a refocusing of our lives and that is precisely what the ultimate goal of stewardship is.
“Hallowed Be Thy Name”
When God’s character and the plans He had for us became obscured as they were in the story of Job (Job 38:1-6), God directed Job’s attention to the Creation account. Of that time it was reported that “the morning stars sang together and the angels shouted for joy” (v. 7). Yes, we can learn to sing again when we “stop and consider God’s wonders” (Job 37:14). Seeing the wonder of who God is and what He had and still has in store for us, leads us to the personal conviction: “Hallowed” be His name.