“I am somebody! I am somebody!” A number of years ago children were encouraged to chant these words in some of America’s classrooms.
“I a poor, miserable sinner, confess unto Thee all my sins…” For many years these were the words Lutheran Christians spoke at the beginning of a Communion Service.
The first set of words was spoken in an attempt to improve self-esteem. The second was prayed in repentance.
Self-esteem is an important part of a person’s makeup. Low self-esteem can result in low expectations and failure. But, bold words are empty if they do not rest upon reality. So, where does that leave us? Are we “somebody” or are we “poor and miserable”? Actually, what we decide does not determine the matter. What we need to know is: “What is God’s answer?” Our Creator and Redeemer says that we are both. We are poor, miserable sinners that he has lifted up to be people of awesome worth and ability.
Job was a happy man of great worth until a series of traumatic events stripped him of most everything he held dear. He tried in vain to find the cause of this disaster. He ended up wishing that he could haul God into court. In effect, he called out to the Lord: “I am somebody! At the least I deserve an explanation for your conduct!”
It takes four chapters in the Book of Job to record God’s answer. But, the reply provides no explanation for the way God works. It does not reveal how disaster fit into the overall plan for Job’s life. It simply demonstrates that the Lord is God. He created all things. He controls all things. He knows all things. Nothing and no one is like him. To challenge his decisions is to disrespect him. To disobey his orders is to invite his crushing judgment.
Faced with this reality, Job declares: “Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.”
These must also be the words of everyone who has ever doubted, challenged, and disobeyed the holy God. We are indeed poor, miserable sinners.
But, that same holy God is also the friend of sinners. If we ask how much we are worth, he points to a center cross and says, “I was willing to pay your ransom with the death of my only Son!” Talk about something precious! Talk about the basis for high self-esteem! Nothing exceeds this. God calls us his royal priests and kings. We can ask for nothing greater in time or in eternity.
It is the Season of Lent. We look again at the suffering and death of Jesus and we see what our sin cost him. We repent in humility and then our God lifts us up to honor and glory.
Thank you to Pastor Paul Ziemer for this week’s devotion.