Dear West Family
You don’t have to look too hard to see how badly messed up the world is. Sin and its affects are all over the place out there, and as if that isn’t bad enough, it is in us too. The bad news of the world isn’t just seen in the things that are released on news media outlets every day, it is also clearly evident in the fallenness and rebellion within ourselves that reminds us painfully and vividly that things are not as they ought to be. This knowledge should lead us to a healthy homesickness and a serious sobriety as Christians, to be sure, but it can and does sometimes lead us to a defeated despondency, which is less appropriate as it only tells half the story of the world. Some Christians have extended the idea of total depravity morphing it into a form of utter depravity, staining even some good things in the world, things that can be celebrated and enjoyed, with sin’s brush of joylessness and brokenness. I have certainly been guilty of this, and it shows all too often in my countenance and approach to some of life’s simple pleasures and enjoyments. Sue and I have a friend in South Africa (who we have known for more than 20 years) who calls me Pastor Crankypants. She has a high amount of relational collateral with me that allows her to get away with such mockery, and so this isn’t an invitation to such belittling titling, but it does make me think about how sometimes I view God and His creation. Sometimes I forget how good, and how kind, and how loving, and how fun God is in what He has made for us to enjoy. It can feel as if all the world is simply to be endured, but isn’t some of it to be enjoyed?
In Genesis 1, admittedly before the fall, we see God creating the world and everything in it. The recorder of the Genesis account punctuates the creation narrative with pronouncements of goodness. “And God saw that it was good” is the constant refrain. The Hebrew word that is used again and again in the account is tov, and according to many scholars it is a word that is much stronger than our overstretched poor little English word, good. Tov is an exclamation of joy, an almost playful one at that. It is a like a spontaneous expression of woah or wow or check that out, and when we picture God examining the world He made with that sort of joy and exuberance, it changes a lot about how we see God, how we see some of our ongoing work and how we see the world around us.
I love the way Justin Whitmel Earley expressed this. He said:
Tov is the benediction God speaks over his creation, and if we miss that, we miss the fundamental truth that God is caught up in his love of matter and being and creation … God’s work is love. He loves the world into being. He sings it into existence, and he is enamored with the world he has made.
I don’t know about you, but my heart is lifted when I picture our glorious creator bringing something out of nothing and exclaiming tov as he does so!
Humans! Tov! Tov! Tov!
Friends, I am all too aware that the fall exposes us to all of the ugliness of the world, but part of the way we can fight against that ugliness is to share in God’s delight in the things He has made and called tov! Take a look around at your world and I promise that if you look hard enough you will find thousands of imprints of God’s extravagant goodness and kindness for you today. And not only that, He also gives us meaningful participation in the spreading of His goodness to the world. Back to Whitmel Earley who exclaims:
…all our professions are born out of the good work of God. Artists and inventors, like God, create things. That’s tov. Lawyers and accountants name realities, bring order to chaos. That’s tov. Builders make things that didn’t used to exist, and plumbers fix things that are broken. They are both tov. Investors and entrepreneurs make things fruitful and multiply. It’s all tov!
The world needs a healthy dose of the goodness of God. Let’s recognize it. Let’s spread it.
Now that’s tov.
See you Sunday.