As I pray for our church family this week from Psalm 149, I’m arrested by verse 4, and in particular the first part of the verse:
For the Lord takes pleasure in his people…
The little child in me reads that and thinks, “I assume that God is for me. I’ve been told he loves me all my life.” The teenager in me wryly quips, “Well, he oughta love me. I’m totally worth it.” The young adult in me wonders, “I hope he loves me because I’ve messed up.” The father of teenagers in me opines, “He better love me. I’m in over my head.” And now the middle-aged man in me ponders, “I can’t believe he loves me.” As I get older, I’m embracing wonder and awe more and more. I really can’t believe that the God of all glory actually takes pleasure in me, in us, in his people.
I know me, and I know that God knows me better than I know me. And there’s enough that I know of me that would give God good reason not to take any pleasure in me. Yet, he does. How?
In order for God to be able to take pleasure in me, he has to be able to see me from every conceivable angle. He has to see me in eternity past, united in his perfect plan to a crucified savior, to the lamb slain before the foundations of the world. Presently he has to see me in Christ, united to him in time and space by grace alone through faith alone. And he has to see me in eternity future, holy and without blame before him, just like Jesus in every communicable way. He has to see past my weakness, frailty, and, well, frankly, my sinful repulsiveness to the glory which will one day be revealed in me. That, I believe, is the only way he can take pleasure in me.
Darell Koons passed away a few months ago. He was a wonderful artist, and I remember a couple of decades ago going to church one Sunday evening and watching him tell the Christmas story while he drew a nativity scene with chalk. He started with a clean, blank canvass, and began with herky jerky contortions of seemingly random strokes of black and gray and brown chalk. Other colors joined in, which he smeared with the side of his fist at times; at other times, streaks and splotches that didn’t appear to make any sense stood alone to the opposite side of the section that was then demanding his frantic attention.
At the end, though, wow! What a brilliant, articulate, and beautiful rendering of Mary, Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. Clear as a bell. Then the lights would go off, and he would click on his fluorescent purple light. And out of nowhere, heavenly hosts praising God would leap out above the manger scene, and the glow of glory around baby Jesus would softly beam, every other character obviously enamored with his beauty and staring intently at him. “Oohs!” and “Ahs!” would come from young and old alike. We were all overjoyed at the end product.
Mr. Koons knew exactly what he was doing all along. He knew what he wanted, knew how to get there, and eventually took the entire congregation along for the ride from blank canvas to mess to amazing! And he enjoyed every minute of it. You could tell as he talked, as he chalked, and as he stood there with a grin beside his finished work.
This is a helpful way for me to understand how God can take pleasure in his people. God knows exactly what he’s doing. He knows exactly where’s he’s going, and He knows exactly how to get there. And he enjoys the process. He takes pleasure in it. He planned this in eternity past, executes his grand design with flawless (although confusing to us) strokes of artistic mastery, and will complete what he’s begun so that his people are one day like his son to the praise of his glorious grace. Angels will eternally shake their heads at just how beautiful we will have become. Looking at what God will make of us, they will have even more reasons to thunder the refrain “Glory to God in the highest!”
Dear friend, your life may seem a bit smeared at the present. Chalk can be messy stuff. There may be way too much black, and brown, and gray on the canvass of your experience from your present perspective. But stop and remember that God knows exactly what he’s doing with you. He knows exactly what he wants to do with you. He is able to do it, and he loves you so much he will do nothing less than make you and me, his chosen ones, into glorious statements of eternal beauty. He will make us like Christ. And when the bright lights of the eternal city shine on us, the gentle glow of Christlikeness will emanate from you and me both because we will be like him. Jesus will be the light of that eternal city, and we will reflect him in glory.
The process is long and hard and messy, but rest in the fact that God takes pleasure in his people. One day, when Jesus shines in all of his glory, you’ll see his pleasure in ways you could never have imagined.