An intriguing title for a chapter that forced me to look for an appropriate definition. It seems that Manning wants to help us focus on the constant, consistent, even monotonous theme we find throughout the Bible: God’s love. He loves us through creation, through the Fall, in our sinful nature, in our best and at our worst.
Another recurring theme in this chapter is the call to prayer. From Isaiah’s paean of praise1 to the call to be men and women of prayer, Manning implores us to see the God of compassion, to stop blaming and see the love of God woven in the Gospel of grace and understand that grace is the active expression of his love.
Yet if we were truly men and women of prayer,
our faces set like flint
and our hearts laid waste by passion,
we would discard our excuses.
Manning provides several examples of how the legalistic interpretation of sin leads us nowhere. “If your God is an impersonal cosmic force, your religion will be noncommittal and vague…but trust in the God who loves consistently…a loving God fosters a loving people.” I love the example of Jonah’s reluctant call as a prophet and how his desire for God to fit his definition is completely ignored by God (funny how that works!). As kids, we recall the story of Jonah as the man in the whale saved by God, but this misses the point. I am Jonah, the man who wants God to listen to me. I’m the hothead that calls God to strike down those who are worse sinners than myself! Thankfully God doesn’t react to my selfishness or that of billions of other people. God is love.
It’s interesting how we quickly read beyond the first three commandments, how we have convinced ourselves that we are not like the Hebrews that Moses led. When we shape God into the image we demand we are guilty right out of the gate. When we stop reading the Bible in Exodus because of guilt that we are reminded of by the legalists, we miss the point — God is the God of grace — read the whole story!
The Word we study has to be the Word we pray…from sitting still in the presence of the living Word and beseeching Him to help me understand with my head and heart His written Word.
Manning implores us to accept ourselves so we can begin to grow. There is some tension here, especially in our culture, because we tend to define success in terms of wealth and position, of power and popularity. There is no support for this notion in the Bible at all. Our call in this life is to “go and make disciples” not become wealthy and popular. We need to be attractive magnets to those who are far from Christ. The key ingredient is love. “Love is a far better stimulus than threat or pressure.”
I’ve told my wife, “I love you” a thousand times and I will likely tell her another thousand times. I’m pretty sure she doesn’t think that’s boring or monotonous. 🙂 God tells us over and over again He loves us. This is a Magnificent Monotony. Thank you God!
1 Paean, as in Isaiah’s paen of praise to the all-powerful Creator: song or lyric poem expressing triumph or thanksgiving.