Why Is It So?
Song of Solomon 2:2-14
2 Like a lily among thorns, So is my love among the daughters.
3 Like an apple tree among the trees of the woods, So is my beloved among the sons.
I sat down in his shade with great delight, And his fruit was sweet to my taste.
THE Shulamite to the Daughters of Jerusalem
4 He brought me to the banqueting house, And his banner over me was love.
5 Sustain me with cakes of raisins, Refresh me with apples,For I am lovesick.
6 His left hand is under my head, And his right hand embraces me.
7 I charge you, O daughters of Jerusalem, By the gazelles or by the does of the field, Do not stir up nor awaken love until it pleases.
8 The voice of my beloved!Behold, he comes leaping upon the mountains,Skipping upon the hills.
9 My beloved is like a gazelle or a young stag.Behold, he stands behind our wall;He is looking through the windows,Gazing through the lattice.
10 My beloved spoke, and said to me:
“ Rise up, my love, my fair one,And come away.
11 For lo, the winter is past,The rain is over and gone.
12 The flowers appear on the earth;The time of singing has come,And the voice of the turtledoveIs heard in our land.
13 The fig tree puts forth her green figs,And the vines with the tender grapes Give a good smell.Rise up, my love, my fair one,And come away!
14 “ O my dove, in the clefts of the rock,In the secret places of the cliff,Let me see your face,Let me hear your voice;For your voice is sweet,And your face is lovely.”
You probably will not know who this is. This is Professor Julius Sumner Miller was the enigmatic, brilliant and wonderfully mad American television professor who tried very hard in the 1970s to introduce us young Australians to science, with his television programme “Why is it so?”. He was deep, forthright, aggressive, brusque, and looked more than a little bit scary.
His main question was always – “Why is it so?” Of course being a young whippersnapper, that question came to mind for all sorts of things, not just my limited interest in science. I am sure you have all heard kids in the supermarket yelling out “Why?” to their mum.
We all have, I am sure, questions we want to know the answer to. For me its usually asking it of my computer when its failing or of other drivers who either fail to indicate when driving or cut me off on the highway. The question I am often asked about is “You are a Christian. Why is it so?” My father, was and remained throughout his life a convinced agnostic and in the few conversations we had about religion and Christianity, he could never understand why it was, that I couldn’t just admit that I would never know if God existed or not, far less a God who was personally interested in me. My reply as ever, was that the very question “Why is it so?” needed to be answered, in order for me to be satisfied.
And that is what I want to share with you today. Why I am a christian. Now I could say that at the age of 12, we moved to a town on the coast of Australia, and was invited along to a local youth group and several weeks later, gave my life to Christ and became a Christian. Of course that is partly true. I can’t even claim to be a Christian because I was raised in a Christian country. Australia was and is probably the second most secular or nonreligious country on this planet, after France. Sure Australia has its moral base grounded in historic Christianity, but for the latter part of its history, Australia has been thoroughly secular and non-religious. Even if I had been raised in a country such as England, with Christian parents, that would also, only be partly true and I could have rejected Christianity as many people do. The reason that I am a Christian is not because I chased God, but rather He chased me. Unknown to me at the time, He was chasing me and following my every path. This was despite my unknowingly pushing Him away.
God had been pursuing me, with the urgency of a lover after the beloved, just as we had in our reading from the Song of Songs. (SoS 2:2-14).
In this passage the woman describes her lover as
- Running over the mountains to meet me
- Racing across the hills to me
- He looks in through the window at me
- My lover speaks to me
And the man constantly beckons her “Come” he says. “Come my darling, with me. So I can see your face and listen to the sweetness of your voice”. And this piece of poetic Scripture speaks about the love that God has for his people, and the energy He puts in to calling his people to Himself. He is always reaching out, for all to return to His arms. The language of this book puts metaphor upon anecdote through out. Some of it is a bit racy and I didn’t want to be embarrassed by having those bits read out!!
As for me, it wasn’t until I was a 12 year old that I heard that I needed to accept Jesus as my Lord and Saviour. Before that I didn’t know I had to do anything with this Jesus. Jesus was only a curse word for me at the time. That or was just someone or something that the RE teachers bored me with at school.
We are primarily Christians, not because we come to church services or just happened to have been born in a supposedly Christian country. We are primarily Christians, because God first chased and harried us into His arms. We are Christians, if you are one, because God first loved you. And as a tremendous lover, He beckons and calls people all the time to respond to His call, and back to Him.
How does He chase us with His love? He chases each person differently, just as each Christian testimony is different. Take for instance the Apostle Paul. God chased him through Paul’s mind and his religious upbringing and education. Paul had known about God from his childhood. Paul was a righteous Pharisee who saw persecuting these ‘Christians’ as his religious duty, so that he may somehow find favour with God. As Paul was gloating over the death of the martyr Stephen, God was pursuing Him, probably raising doubts in Paul’s mind as to why Stephen would say at the point of death “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit and forgive them for what they do”. Surely doubts must have been raised in Paul’s mind as he approved of this death. Paul was also wrestling with his conscience. Externally he was a righteous man, a Pharisee of Pharisees. Yet when he internally examined himself and his heart, he found himself failing regarding covetousness, which is the last of the ten commandments. Then finally, Jesus himself makes a sudden and dramatic appearance before Paul and confronts him directly, “Why are you kicking against me? Why are you rejecting my advances?” Paul’s conversion to Christianity is often described as being sudden. But the only thing sudden about his conversion was this climatic appearance of Jesus.
Lets see what some christian writers say about their own conversion.
Malcolm Muggeridge: He was, as I am sure you know better than I do, somebody who for years was anti-religious and cynical of church and about God. Yet in the story of his coming to faith and belief he could identify steps that he had taken and how God had been pursuing him.
In 1925, he wrote to his father: “I want God to play tunes through me. He plays, but I am out of tune.”
In 1958, he wrote in his diary: “Christianity, to me, is like a hopeless love affair. It is infinitely dear and infinitely unattainable. I . . . look at it constantly with sick longing.”
In 1966, he wrote in his diary: “I am a religious maniac without a religion. I don’t believe that Jesus was the Son of God in a christian sense. Yet I am enchanted by a religion I cannot believe in”.
He describes God as the Hound of Heaven and himself as the quarry. God was so close to him that he could hear the padding of footsteps chasing him.God was so close to Muggeridge, that he could feel God breathing down his neck. Then sometime between 1966 and 1969, Malcolm Muggeridge finally became a Christian.
Or take CS Lewis: In his earlier years, CS Lewis wrote “I maintained that God did not exist. I was also very angry with God for not existing. I was equally angry with Him for creating a world. Why should creatures have the burden of existence forced on them without their consent?”… “Christians are wrong, but all the rest are bores”… “The young Atheist cannot guard his faith too carefully. Dangers lie in wait for him on every side.”
Then some years later, he gives with hindsight, startling metaphors for how God had been chased him. CS Lewis was the fish and God was the fisherman. God had Lewis caught. God had his hook through Lewis’ tongue.Then God was a pack of hounds, and CS Lewis as the fox, and God pursuing him and chasing him through the woods.Or finally, God outplaying CS Lewis at chess. Lewis was backed into a corner with no escape, and God had Lewis checkmate.
It was then that Lewis at first dejectly admitted that there was a God and then shortly after, he became a christian. He writes “You must picture me alone in that room at Magdalen College Oxford, night after night, feeling, whenever my mind lifted even for a second from my work, the steady, unrelenting approach of Him whom I so earnestly desired not to meet.”
Both Muggeridge and Lewis describe being pursued. Just as Francis Thomson so eloquently wrote in his poem the Hound of Heaven.
I fled Him, down the nights and down the days;
I fled Him, down the arches of the years;
I fled Him, down the labyrinthine ways
Of my own mind; and in the mist of tears
I hid from Him, and under running laughter
Up vistaed hopes I sped;
And shot, precipitated, adown titanic glooms of chasmed fears,
From those strong Feet that followed…
But with unhurrying chase,
And unperturbed pace,
Deliberate speed, majestic instancy,
They beat – and a voice beat
More instant than the Feet -
“All things betray thee, who betrays Me.”
Lo, all things fly thee, for you flee Me!
Strange, piteous, futile thing,
Wherefore should any set thee love apart ?
Seeing none but I makes much of naught” (He said),
“And human love needs human meriting:
How have you merited -
Of all man’s clotted clay the dingiest clot?
Alas, thou know not
How little worthy of any love thou art!
Whom will thou find to love ignoble thee,
Save Me, save only Me ?
All which I took from thee I did but take -
Not for thy harms,
But just that thou might seek it in My arms.
All which the child’s mistake
Fancies as lost, I have stored for thee at home:
Rise, clasp My hand, and come!”
Halts by me that footfall:
Is my gloom, after all,
Shade of His hand, outstretched caressingly?
“Ah, fondest, blindest, weakest,
I am He Whom thou seek!”
Just as that was true of Francis Thomson, Muggeridge and Lewis, it is true of me! Just as it is true of all those who profess to call themselves Christian. I am a Christian not because of anything I have done, but rather because He first chased me. Because He first loved me. Jesus himself said “I came to seek and to save the lost” (Lk 19:10).
If you are a Christian today, it is not because of anything you have done. It is because of the events at Christmas and Easter that you are a Christian, when God took the necessary steps so that all people could have the choice to be His people or not. In my more smug moments I used to congratulate myself for being a Christian. How proud I was that I, Dave Roberts, was a Christian and that God was a jolly lucky God that I had decided to follow Him. It was during one of my less self-deluded moments, that I examined myself and I found God pricking my conscience and correcting me, and I read the New Testament “For the Son of Man came, not to serve but to give His life as a ransom for many” (Mk10:45).
If you are not a Christian here today, then God is actively pursuing you. I of course don’t know the circumstances in which He is, but I do know that He is. He wants all people to be followers of Him. Hear some of the final words in the Song of Solomon. It is God speaking: “Let me hear your voice from the garden, my love; I am waiting to hear you speak”(SoS 8:13).
Originally preached by D Roberts at Balham Baptist Church 9th March 2006