I have the privilege of singing in a small choral group in my church. From time to time we’re confronted by a fresh piece of music that looks – to be frank – quite baffling. There are notes everywhere; parts splitting, changes of key, it’s as if a spider has crawled all over the page. How do we turn this confused ‘mess’ into beautiful music?
Fortunately, we have a skilled and patient leader, under whose guidance we are slowly led to see our own part separately from the whole. We gradually become more familiar with it and then learn to blend our own part with the others until, just at the crucial point, it all comes together and a wonderful offering of praise is presented, to the welcome admiration of those listening, as well as to the glory of our Living Lord. It’s a far cry from the puzzled apprehension with which we first greeted the sheet music.
Life itself is like that sometimes. Indeed, it has been thus since the beginning of time. Look at the ancient Israelites whom Moses led out of Egypt to the Promised Land. When they crossed the Red Sea, they hadn’t a clue where they were going; they simply knew that living under the Egyptian yoke couldn’t carry on. Once they were out in the desert, it was a different story; they began to experience difficulties, and grumbled often to Moses, comparing the food they had been given there to the comparative luxuries they had in Egypt.
When they finally arrived and sent spies to explore the land, they still couldn’t accept the story that Joshua and Caleb brought back of a land flowing with milk and honey (Numbers 13:27). All they saw was the potential difficulty of overcoming the present occupants, who were rumoured to be giants. They threatened to choose an alternative leader and make their way back to Egypt (Numbers 14:4).
Even in Jesus’ day, attitudes had changed but little. One day, he asked his disciples who they thought he was. Peter – always the bold and outspoken one – said, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God” (Matt. 16:16). Jesus then began to explain to them what this would mean, how he would suffer, be killed, and be raised to life on the third day. Peter took Him aside and told Him He’d got it all wrong, that this couldn’t happen to Him, only to receive the severest of all rebukes, to be told that he was the Devil incarnate (Matt. 16:23).
Peter couldn’t see the bigger picture. He hadn’t grasped what the Messiah had actually come to earth to do: to save all of mankind from its sinfulness. He saw it only in terms of relieving the Jews of their oppressive Roman occupation.
What about us: what’s the bigger picture around our lives? Where do we fit into it? These are questions to which we rarely see the full answers. However, if we are consistent in prayer and persistent in seeking God’s will for us, we get an occasional glimpse. The blessing is when we see that glimpse for what it is, and have the courage and imagination to seek God’s strength to take it further. We can only sing that new song when we follow the right notes.