We would like to sell our house in the near to medium future, so we called in Real Estate Agent who we know. Actually, I by grace had the privilege of marrying him and his wife and in the process being instrumental in his salvation. All I wanted was that he explain what I ought to do or not do in preparing the house for sale. He arrived this afternoon with a colleague.
Because it was so hot, we had the back and front doors open for a draught. The heat did not seem to lessen so I tried to put the aircon on. It would not work. Here I am trying to get a suggested value for my house and the aircon does not work … then suddenly there was a huge bang, like the DB Board tripping. “O no” I thought, “What does this man think of my house”? On investigation we found Eskom’s load shedding was on, so the DB Board could not have tripped. I got the generator going and there was electricity and now the aircon worked. The back door had actually slammed shut causing that terrible bang. We had to laugh!
Spiritually, politically and economically there was this huge bang rippling through Judah when Nebuchadnezzar captured the king, the people and the country. For the Levitical Priesthood and all intentional Jews awaiting the Messiah’s entrance … this loss of the king, people and land seemed the end of the Kingdom. Messiah would not come … there was such a huge spiritual bang … staggering … yet God was at work. He even used a pagan king:
Da 1:3 Then the king ordered Ashpenaz, chief of his court officials, to bring in some of the Israelites from the royal family and the nobility— 4 young men without any physical defect, handsome, showing aptitude for every kind of learning, well informed, quick to understand, and qualified to serve in the king’s palace.
He was to teach them the language and literature of the Babylonians. You will recall that yesterday we saw three characteristics that encouraged us with reference to Messiah … Birth, Beauty and Brains… and we applied these to ourselves spiritually. I want to return to “Brains” for a while … showing aptitude for every kind of learning, well informed, quick to understand, and qualified to serve in the king’s palace. He was to teach them the language and literature of the Babylonians. Those chosen needed to show:
(1) An aptitude for every kind of learning. Here we are reminded that a pastor, youth and children’s leader needs to have a desire for all aspects of learning. This does not mean they need a degree, diploma or certificate in all fields and disciplines … but they need a desire to have at the very least an interest in all aspects of life that affect their congregation. When pastoring a Church in a mining town, one council member who as an engineer at a gold mine insisted I go underground to see where and what conditions some of the men in the congregation have to endure. It stood me in good stead. This does not mean the pastor is a “know it all” … but having an interest in general knowledge helps.
(2) To be well informed does not refer to listening to all the weekly gossip doing the rounds. Rather … it leads on from an aptitude to learn. Reading … not just the Bible, commentaries, biographies, books of doctrine, evangelism, missions, marriage, parenting, families, careers, sexual orientation, etc. … but reading up on areas the congregation might be interested in. If as an example you have men following or participating in motor sports, fishing, rugby, etc. or ladies interested in soccer, netball, cooking, etc., thin books or magazines will help a lot. At the same time, the spiritual leader needs to be a good listener when the flock speak of their hobbies, studies, careers, children’s progress, illness and disease, etc. Listening to the radio and watching TV news is a must. (Newspapers are expensive and don’t always have much more news … though I scroll through a number of newspapers that have online papers, both in our country and overseas).
(3) Being quick to understand does not necessary mean a higher IQ. The more the aptitude for learning and the more one gathers general knowledge, the quicker one will be to grasp issues as they arise. As one matures in a variety of disciplines, the quicker one will be able to dissect, discern, analyze, assess and process information.
(4) Once these three things are in place, the person will be more qualified to serve God in the Church as a fulltime or part time worker. However these points apply in all disciplines of work … and especially in politics! Serving in the king’s palace literally means working in government. Irrespective of the country, from first to third world, these qualities are needed. Be it before democracy or since democracy we have suffered and still suffer with “cadre” deployment. Before democracy, to work in the Post Office all you needed was a Standard 8 (Grade 10) certificate … and support the ruling party. I am not saying education is all important and neither am I saying supporting the ruling party is wrong. What I am saying is that we need to best qualified people for the job if we want to achieve the best results in government … local and national. Pagan king Nebuchadnezzar knew this and ordered that it be like this!
(5) One of the great losses we have in our country is the inability to speak languages not our own, but that of our neighbor. Language is not just speaking! Language learning helps one understand culture … and it’s in this sphere I mean we are at a loss not knowing our neighbors language. We don’t understand him or her because we don’t know his or her culture. Hear me out here … speaking a language does not mean being able to know a person … unless you link and associate the language to the culture. This is why the original languages the Bible was written in is so important. One word could mean many things depending on how it is used in a sentence. That same word will give understanding into the cultural context and environment it is used. At our Bible School (George Whitefield College), Hebrew and Greek studies are not optional for the degree program. No one is able to teach the Bible without being able to understand the words and phrases used, in their context, culture and time zone if accuracy is to be achieved … and it should be so, so that the teaching or preaching exposes Biblical Truth to the hearers. Let me repeat … where degrees have great value … general learning through reading, speaking, observing and studying must be a leader’s daily exercise and activity.
Father, grant desire and passion for learning in us. Amen.