We have two fire extinguishers in the house, one behind the woodstove at the edge of the kitchen and one in a back bedroom. They have been there so long that I don’t even notice them any more. In fact, when I think to look at them at all, it’s to dust them because “suddenly” they look like they have grown white fur.
Fire extinguishers are great to have around, but let’s face it, they aren’t part of a beautiful decor. They aren’t a handy item we use everyday like a coffee pot or a can opener. They aren’t even a once a year need like my pressure canner—at least we hope not. The only reason we have them is “just in case,” and we want that “just in case” to never happen. We treat fire extinguishers more like necessary evils than anything else.
I noticed something when we studied Psalm 99 in Bible class the other day. [Speaking of Moses, Aaron, and Samuel] In the pillar of the cloud [God] spoke to them; they kept his testimonies and the statute that he gave them. O LORD our God, you answered them; you were a forgiving God to them, but an avenger of their wrongdoings, vv 7-8.
Those two verses contain everything we need to know about who can pray to God and expect an answer. First God spoke to them. They listened by keeping His testimonies and statutes. Then God answered them.
Those three righteous men did not treat God like a fire extinguisher. He wasn’t there just for emergencies. He was part of their lives on a daily basis as they followed His laws and prayed for help and forgiveness.
The psalmist is careful to point out that these men were among those “who call upon His name” (v 6). They were not the only ones chosen to receive this blessing. Many others “called upon His name.” That goes for us as well. We possess His testimonies and statutes in the written form. All we have to do is keep them, making God a daily part of our lives, and He will hear us just like He heard them.
The problem comes when we try to make a relationship out of one phone call, so to speak. If we never talk to God otherwise, or more to the point, listen, He won’t listen either. If we ignore His law with impunity, going our own headstrong way, He won’t answer—not according to Psalm 99, and several other passages (Prov 15:29; 28:9; Isa 59:2; John 9:31, etc). We’ve seen too many heart-tugging made-for-TV movies where the old reprobate turns around at a crisis and promises God he will be good if God will just hear him this once. God does not bargain, unless you think you are a man of the stature of Abraham, who talked with God regularly instead of treating Him like a fire extinguisher. More often than not, old reprobates stay that way.
Now is the time to begin that relationship, or deepen it if you already have. If we keep God behind the woodstove until He grows some dusty fur, we needn’t think He will pay a bit of attention when we holler.
As I called, and they would not hear, so they called, and I would not hear, says the LORD of hosts, Zech 7:13.