For the week of January 8, 2011 / 3 Shevat 5771
Torah: Shemot / Exodus 10:1 - 13:16
Haftarah: Jeremiah 46:13-28
Updated version of "Don't Miss It" from the week of January 19, 2002
Call the name of Pharaoh, king of Egypt, "Noisy one who lets the hour go by." (Jeremiah 46:17; ESV)
Can a person miss their life's calling? This sort of question presupposes that each person has a specific God-given destiny that needs to be discovered. I don't know if the Scriptures teach that this is God's intention for each and every person, but it certainly seems that he intends this for some. It's not that these people's lives necessarily matter more than others. It's just that some people are chosen by God for very particular purposes.
Whether or not each one of us has a general life's calling, throughout our lives God presents us all with all sorts of opportunities. How much effect on history these opportunities might have differs from situation to situation, person to person. The things we do may seem very insignificant to us, especially at the time, and we may or may not be aware of how crucial the outcome of an opportunity might be. But just as seeds are so small in comparison to what they produce, so are our deeds in relation to their results.
This week's Haftarah portion is from the prophet Jeremiah. It is a message to Pharaoh, king of Egypt. The selection of this passage to coincide with this week's Torah portion is obviously because it harkens back to the Pharaoh of Moses' day. Jeremiah's description could be applied to either Pharaoh: "Noisy one who lets the hour go by." Both Pharaohs held positions of great power. Their decisions had wide-reaching effects. It was in their power to do a vast amount of good for the benefit of many. But in the case of both men, they let the hour go by, or, in other words, they each missed their opportunity.
Whether or not we can miss our life's calling is irrelevant if we miss the opportunities that God brings our way. What good does it do, if we have correctly discerned our vocation, but fail to respond properly to God-given opportunities as they arise?
One of the things that can easily distract us from responding effectively to God-given opportunities is found in how Pharaoh is described in our verse, where he is called "noisy one." The Hebrew word "sha-'own" may indicate more than just a lot of sound, but rather the clamor of a great amount of useless activity.
It is so easy to fool ourselves and others into thinking we are living truly productive and successful lives by increasing our noise level - the noise of busyness that is. Being busy, even doing good things, can function as a smoke screen, clouding over our reluctance to do what God is actually calling us to do.
Busyness often breeds more busyness in that it never allows us to turn down the noise level of our lives long enough for us to face the possibility that we have been neglecting God's will.
This is not to say that being busy in and of itself is just noise. It might be that God himself has you very busy. But let's not be fooled into thinking that busyness itself is a sign of being true to God's call on our lives. Turning down the noise of our busyness also doesn't necessarily mean we need to change vocations or other major aspects of our lives. It might, but we won't know until we turn down the noise of unnecessary busyness. As we begin a new calendar year, what a good time to stop and turn down the noise.
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