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Sunday, December 12, 2010

Invitation to look beyond the cover

 2 Humans are satisfied with whatever looks good;
   God probes for what is good. 
(Proverbs 16:2)

As a member of the human race, I speak as one fully aware of what the writer of Proverbs states in this passage.  We are so consumed with what "looks good" - many times judging a book by its cover without inspecting the pages to see what is contained within.  The perception of eyes often becomes the only method we utilize to determine the "goodness" or "evil" of a certain thing.  We set ourselves up for accepting things that are clearly outside of God's best for our lives when we are only "cover readers".

Let me give a few examples of how this works:
  • David and Bathsheba - David was King of Israel, his troops are out fighting the battle to take more territory in the name of Israel, and he is at home, enjoying the view from his rooftop.  He gazes upon Bathsheba, a beautiful woman, bathing on her rooftop (a custom of the day).  What he saw "looked good" - what he saw, he wanted and so, he took her as his own.  What he failed to do was to consider the reality that she was another man's wife.  He looked only at the cover, became enamored in what he beheld, and engaged in his plan without further thought.
  • The Rich Young Ruler - a man of wealth, a real place in society, approaches Jesus and his disciples one day while they were ministering to the crowds.  He proclaims to Jesus that he want to be a follower of Christ - one of his disciples.  To this he adds a long litany of "credentials" he hopes will show Jesus just how "qualified" he was for the role.  His "credentials" are all "good" - kept the letter of the law, observed the feasts and holy days, studied the scriptures, etc.  Jesus asks him to sell all he has (a substantial amount), give it to the poor, and then come to follow him as his disciple.  Obviously, this is too much for this man, as we see him leave and never return again.
What we see in these two examples is man's tendency to judge a book by its cover.  David saw the "woman of his dreams" - or more accurately, the woman of his fantasies!  He never stopped to listen to the niggling of his conscience that she was another man's wife!  She looked good!  He wanted her and he never looked back until it was too late.  The rich young ruler saw a life of tremendous fame in front of him.  He had attained all he could attain in the society in which he lived.  Now Jesus and his disciples, thronged by crowds, fill the streets with miracles, signs, and wonders.  He wants what they have.  I am not sure that he actually saw what they had as "fame" or "renown", but he is called upon to go deeper than he has ever gone in his obedience before - and he is unable to do so.  What he saw "looked good" to him - but he had failed to count the cost of such a life of service.

Our writer gives us insight into how it is that we are to "look beyond the cover" of what we see.  We are to "probe" deeper.  When we probe, we look into a matter with the intention of seeing all there is to see (just like when we read the pages of a book rather than skimming it or only looking at the pictures).  This type of "examination" allows us to see beyond the surface appearance of "good" to what actually is at the root of a person, a circumstance, or a pleasant appearing opportunity.

God's invitation to us today is to look deeper than we ever have before - to learn to see the heart behind the action of another; the temporary satisfaction of an immediate gratification of our longings/lusts; or the indicators of integrity that give us insight into the heart of another.  We need to learn what it is to "examine carefully before we buy"!  We "buy into" much that God would rather we never consider in the first place!  Sin has an enticing cover - we need to learn to look beyond the cover to see the trap contained within.