TO WHAT PURPOSE IS THIS WASTE?
I have wrestled with this question all week long. It appeared in the 26th Chapter of my daily Bible reading from the book of Matthew. Jesus is at the house of Simon the Leper, in the town of Bethany. It was the hometown of Mary, Martha and their famous brother Lazarus.
The men were gathered around the table, eating their meal while the women were busy taking care of their guest. I wonder what the conversation was like. There’s no doubt that it somehow found it’s way back to Jerusalem. Jesus’ mind was always thinking of Jerusalem. Oh, how He loved Jerusalem, just thinking of the beautiful city of God brought pain and heaviness to His soul. If only they had accepted Him as their Messiah. Things would be so different.
Excitement was in their voices as they discussed the temple. It was their heritage, their pride and joy. The place built to worship God, yet somehow it had replaced Him as the heart of worship. It seemed the temple was more important to them than the God of the temple. With their heads falling slightly lower, their voices changed as they thought of His words of destruction to their beloved sanctuary.
(Sigh) He had talked of his own death too. That day was approaching fast. Time was running out and there was so much more they needed to know. He tried to prepare them for the worst, yet He knew as He looked at them now, they still did not get it. His heart was filled with pity as He thought of them. So much they would have to endure, but they would endure. Afterwards, yes, afterwards, when His task here was done, they would finally grasp the truth. How much easier for them if they could only achieve that now, but for now their minds were still on earthly things and earthly kingdoms.
That’s why they didn’t see her. They did not know what she was about to do until it was too late. Had they known, they would have stopped her. The conversation grew quiet as she stepped toward Him. In their minds they deemed her a rebellious and defiant. How dare this woman approach a man. It was surely an act of disobedience that cause her to do such a thing.
However, Jesus loved it. He watched their faces as she poured her love on Him. She got it. Above all the men in the room, she understood. He felt it in His Spirit, saw it in her eyes. Her love and devotion was far greater than admiration of miracles, more than respect for a teacher, deeper than loyalty to a leader. It was from the soul. The only part of a human that can fully comprehend God. She loved Him with more than her mind, with more than her heart, she loved Him with her soul.
The sweet aroma of praise filled the air as she lifted her alabaster box and poured out her precious ointment on her Lord. This simple gesture showed all who could truly see, that He was more than just a friend, He was more than just a good teacher. He was her King, her Anointed One, her High Priest, her Savior. She knew that His worth was far more greater than the perfume contained in her alabaster box. He was worth her everything, even her life.
“To what purpose is this waste?” the voice questioned with great repulsion. “This ointment could have been sold and given to the poor”.
What could have been a glorious praise service came to a screeching halt as the hearts of the men were revealed.
Giving to the poor was a good and noble thing to do. Why, Jesus had just instructed them to give. He had said that giving to those in need was as though they were giving to Him. So why had they been rebuked? Giving to the poor was not their sin. Their sin was placing more value on the poor than on Jesus.
In their presence was Jesus, the Son of the Living God. The stage had been set for an opportunity to worship the Temple Maker, their God, yet their focus was not on Him. It wasn’t the woman who wasted, but it was them. How easily the question could have been asked of them. “For what purpose is this waste”? As a student of the scriptures I begin to cast judgement on these men, but it cut short by overwhelming conviction.
How many times Lord? How many times have I wasted the opportunity to praise you?
My heart is gripped by guilt as I think about the number of times I have rushed to be at church. Not rushing to praise and worship You, no, I was rushing to make sure that my project, my agenda was announced. Instead of welcoming my sisters and brothers with a heart of worship, I greeted them with a flyer.
It has become more about me and less and less about You. Oh, I try to hide it behind Your name. If I put scripture on it, then it’s about You-yea, right. You know the truth, Lord. I say I’m doing it for this one or that one, when I should be doing it all for You. I focus more on making everyone else happy regardless of whether You are pleased.
I get upset when things don’t go my way, never thinking that my way is wrong. I put way too much emphasis on what can be seen and felt with the hands than what can be seen and felt with the Spirit. Jealousy has taken root. I am so afraid someone will do a better job than me. Someone else will get praised. I’m a mess.
My priorities have shifted from worshiping you through my deeds to worshiping my deeds. I’ve mixed up my works with my calling. My calling is not the “jobs” that I do or the “positions” I hold. No my calling is greater than that,
My calling is not to do, but to worship, to praise and to honor YOU.
No wonder I am tired.
No wonder I am so critical.
No wonder I get frustrated.
No wonder I am burned out.
No wonder I want to give in and give up.
I lost my joy.
I lost my enthusiasm.
I’ve turned from my first love.
I work to no end trying to satisfy my hungry soul only to find myself starving and craving more. My soul is thirsting for Your touch, yet I continue to pull further away. There’s no longing in my heart for Your house. No desire to fellowship with Your people. No time for reading Your word, let alone to pray. I am running on empty. I am destitute and alone. But, You say I don’t have to be.
“To What Purpose is this Waste?”,
You ask of me. Why continue to pursue that which will not satisfy you? Come back to me. Let Me restore your joy. Put Me back as the object of your souls desire.
Let Me set you on fire again.
Let Me fill you again.
Come, everyone who thirsts,
come to the waters;
and he who has no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without price.
Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread,
and your labor for that which does not satisfy?
Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good,
and delight yourselves in rich food.
Incline your ear, and come to me;
hear, that your soul may live;
and I will make with you an everlasting covenant,
my steadfast, sure love for David.
Behold, I made him a witness to the peoples,
a leader and commander for the peoples.
Behold, you shall call a nation that you do not know,
and a nation that did not know you shall run to you,
because of the Lord your God, and of the Holy One of Israel,
for he has glorified you.
“Seek the Lord while he may be found;
call upon him while he is near;
let the wicked forsake his way,
and the unrighteous man his thoughts;
let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him,
and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.
For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven
and do not return there but water the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.
“For you shall go out in joy
and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and the hills before you
shall break forth into singing,
and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.
Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress;
instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle;
and it shall make a name for the Lord,
an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.” ~ Isaiah 55
Father, forgive us. We’ve gotten our priorities and our focus all mixed up and now we are all messed up. We are busy working and worshiping our calling and not You, the one who called us. Our joy is gone. Our hearts are in despair and our minds are in disarray. Our church houses are empty when they used to be filled. Our songs have no praise. Our altars are vacant. Our eyes are dry. God help us. Convict our hearts. Call us to come back, come back to You, our first love. Cleanse us from our selfishness. Cleanse us from our pride and our lust. And make us a people who Praise You and Worship You the way that we should. Lord, let our souls sing forth Your glory and majesty so that all will see You and You alone. Forgive us and teach us Your ways. Set us on Fire again. Rekindle our flame.
In Jesus name I pray, Amen.