I took my coffee this morning with peppermint-mocha cream and a splash of Aristotle. I needed to wrap up yesterday’s Search the Scriptures study on Psalm 113. The one that took a rabbit trail down a dirt road made up of gold dust. I never circled back around to answer the question there on page 439. In fact, I’m not sure I read the question at all. So I circled back.
What activities are here said to be characteristic of God?
Before I could even begin to write on that college-ruled notebook paper, I took to my journal. Thanking Him again for Psalm 113:9. And His characteristic activities. The eucharisteo in advance of the miracle.
And, out of pure curiosity (which is always where those rabbit trails begin), I asked google a question: What is characteristic activity? And I very quickly found myself immersed in the words of Aristotle in his writing On Happiness. I had to read it slowly. Because Aristotle is a lot for my fully-awake-and-functioning brain. It’s even more for my I’ve-been-awake-for-15-minutes-and-had-two-sips-of-coffee brain. I’m a personality that builds ideas based on fact. Abstract ideas of ethics that spark endless debates of which there is no end? Not my cup of tea (or peppermint-mocha coffee). But I was interested in his idea on happiness. I was drawn into the notion that every pursuit in life aims at one thing. I was intrigued as he explored the idea that the highest of all goods (that chief end) is achievable by action. He explained that most people identify living well and doing well with being happy, but with regard to what happiness actually is? Well, that’s where people differ.
Some say pleasure. Some say honor and a good reputation among your peers. Some say wealth and others health. But those seem too superficial to be what we are looking for, he says. He continues on to explore the idea that the chief good that we seek that comes from happiness must be final. Without qualification. And that, if there is a measurable end for everything we do, it is achievable by action. A characteristic activity that points back to the chief good that maintains that final-without-qualification parameter. The characteristic activity, he says, is the thing that makes it what it is. So I took pen to journal-paper:
the ultimate good
is His glory
I think that John Piper hit the nail right on the head in his book, Desiring God when he describes Christian hedonism:
The chief end of man is to glorify God by enjoying Him forever.
My characteristic activity is to enjoy God. To His glory.
God’s characteristic activity, based on the words of Psalm 113 alone, is redemption through miracles. In this case: giving the barren a position of honor with a family, joyfully rejoicing, a mother of children. To His glory.
The cross-reference in Search the Scriptures pointed to Luke 1:46-55. When Mary visits Elizabeth – her relative who had also conceived a son in her old age, and this was now the sixth month for her who was called barren. After the angel told Mary about her miracle-Messiah-conception. After he summed up his story with the overwhelming truth that with God nothing will be impossible. And after Mary replied similarly to how David did in response to God saying no and providing a different narrative to his dream in 1 Chronicles 17:24 – when he spoke words that were weighted with worship, and she whispered in the face of the glory-prophecy that promised a disgraceful-pregnancy-in-the-eyes-of-the-world that would usher in His long-awaited Messiah. (Because He redeems the disgraceful ash heaps with fistfuls of gold dust and miraculous acts of His power.) After all of that, she went to visit Elizabeth. Who spoke truth over Mary that’s outlined in pink in the left column of the left page on my Bible. Words boxed out who knows when in a color that doesn’t have a place in my color-coded study-Scripture-system. A small pink outline that drew my eye 4-1/2 years ago. A promise to Mary that God used to confirm His own promise to me after a girlfriend shared a dream she had that I was hesitant to believe. The kind of pink lines that have to tide me over until I see those long-awaited pink-lines-of-pregnancy.
and mary sang
And her song provides the music that continues this dance He’s been leading me through since Psalm 107:9. A waltz of Him satisfying my longing soul by filling it with fistfuls of gold dust. And He lifts His arm for that slow, underarm turn that I lean into like Mary did in her own waltz:
my soul magnifies
My soul – the same soul that He has satisifed and filled with His goodness – declares the greatness of the LORD. Conspicuously and clearly declaring and attracting attention to it. In the anticipation of the miracle. When the fig tree still hasn’t blossomed. And the fruit still isn’t on the vine. When the labor of the olive still fails. And the field still yields no food. When the flock is still cut off from the fold and there is still no herd in the stalls. Still, I will rejoice in the LORD, and joy in the God of my salvation (Habakkuk 3:17-18). Alongside the women whose fertility is not delayed. We can all magnify the LORD together. Answered prayer or not.
my spirit rejoices
That word spirit is a meaty one. There’s a lot to pick through there. But there was one definition at the very end of the “outline of Biblical usage” for the Hebrew word that caught my eye. And it was the very first definition used in the Thayer’s Greek Lexicon:
v. a movement of air (a gentle blast).
a. of the wind, hence the wind itself
b. breath of the nostrils of mouth
And He picks up right where He left off with me yesterday. Releasing that slow-underarm-turn that comes with Him covering me over with the shadow of His hand. He spins me back toward that ash heap and the empty quiver that’s wind-swept-bare. He takes it. And redeems it. And His Spirit comes like a wind into my empty quiver of delayed fertility and fills it entirely with Himself. I breathe life into that dust, remember? He whispers. And I smile because I know.
And then I read Psalm 34. All of it. And take it at its Word. Breathing in the wind of it. Because sometimes I have to stop picking apart and gathering the gold dust to lift my hands in worship. To magnify His name.
That I might enjoy Him forever.