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happy9

 

“How much stuff do you need to be happy?

“I don’t know.  How much stuff is there?

(From VeggieTales – Madame Blueberry)

 

I have been reading Timothy Keller’s new book, Making Sense of God: An Invitation to the Skeptical.  Here are some quotes from him and others about happiness.

“Studies find a very weak correlation between wealth and contentment, and the more prosperous a society grows the more common is depression.  The things that human beings think will bring fulfillment and contentment don’t.  What should we do then, to be happy?”

 

‘Wealth, power, and security – the external goods of the world – can lead only to a momentary satisfaction, which fades away, leaving you more empty than if you had never tasted the joy.”

“Philosopher Alain de Botton says that loving relationships are fundamental to happiness.”

“People find more pleasure in working toward a goal than they experience when they actually attain it.” (Haidt – Progress Principle)

“The functional cause of our discontent is that our loves are out of order.”

“Augustine believed all sin was ultimately a lack of love.”

“The unhappiness and disorder of our lives are caused by the disorder of our loves.”

“The ultimate disordered love, however, and the ultimate source of our discontent, is failure to love the first thing first, the failure to love God supremely.  In his Confessions, Augustine prays to God: ‘For there is a joy that is not given to those who do not love you for your own sake ….This is happiness and there is no other.  Those who think that there is another kind of happiness look for joy elsewhere, but theirs is not true joy.  Nevertheless their will remains drawn towards some image of the true joy.’ ”

“We were created to know this joy by loving and glorifying God preeminently.”

“You stir man to take pleasure in praising you, because you have made us for yourself, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.”  Augustine

“If you love anything more than God, you harm the object of your love, you harm yourself, you harm the world around you, and you end up deeply dissatisfied and discontent.”

“Of course, not even the strongest believers love God perfectly, nor does anyone get close to doing so  Yet to the degree you move toward loving him supremely, things begin to fall into order, into their proper places in your life.”

“What matters most for pleasure is not the simple impact on our senses but what it means in relationship to other persons who matter to us.”  Paul Bloom – How Pleasure Works

“Attachment to God amplifies and deepens enjoyment of the world.”  It does not diminish it.     Miroslav Volf

“Don’t love anything less; instead learn to love God more, and you will love other things with far more satisfaction.”

There was a big crowd gathered around Joshua, waiting anxiously.  They had been waiting for this moment for a long, long, time.  The lots were cast, and the tribe of Judah was first.  Shouts went up from those tribe members, and then Joshua and the high priest, Eleazar, told them what their territory would be.  The land you will call home will extend down south to Edom, to the desert of Zin, to the bay of the Dead sea.  Your southern boundary will start from the bay at the southern end of the Dead Sea, cross south of Scorpion Pass, past Hezron and curve around to Karka, ending at the Mediterranean Sea.  The northern boundary will start at the mouth of the Jordan where it enters the Dead Sea, go up to Beth Hoglah and then to Beth Arabah ….  When the boundary lines were finished being given, the people of Judah were well pleased, especially Caleb, who was singled out to receive the town and hill country of Hebron.

Caleb remembered back to the first time he had ventured into that territory, as a spy, over forty years ago.  He

Caleb and Joshua with grapes from the promised land

Caleb and Joshua with grapes from the promised land

thought about the vineyard covered hills that produced incredibly huge clusters of the sweetest grapes that he had ever tasted.  He remembered the olive groves with branches bowing almost to the ground, heavy laden with large, ripe olives.  He thought of the lush, green pastures full of fat sheep and goats.  Those same pastures would surely  fatten up his large flocks with plenty of space left over for his children’s livestock and their children’s animals as well.  It was a dream come true.  Caleb would finally be happy in Hebron.

Caleb was 85 years old.  Joshua was about the same age.  They were the only two people of their generation that escaped the slavery and oppression of Pharaoh in Egypt and crossed the Jordan river into the Promised Land.  God had heard the cries of the Hebrews who were suffering in that land along the Nile, had compassion on them and chose Moses to be his instrument of delivering the chosen people from bondage.  At first the people rejoiced when they heard the message that God loved them and wanted them to be happy and was going to deliver them from the harsh Egyptian taskmasters.    But then they complained, because things got worse before they got better.

Caleb and Joshua were puzzled by the sad state of affairs and wondered how the God of their ancestors, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob would save them.  They were suffering under the slave drivers and also felt the ill effects of some of the plagues that God was sending on the Egyptians.  They suffered and wondered what was going on.  They also must have thought of the stories of Joseph, who also suffered unjustly at the hand of Egyptians almost 400 years earlier.  They took comfort in the fact that God was with him, and ultimately exalted him to enjoy freedom, privilege and power, second only to the great Pharaoh himself.

Our day will come, they thought, if we believe and don’t give up hope.

They continued to believe. Hope ran strong in their hearts. The day came when they found themselves spreading lambs blood on their door posts.  Later that night the killing angel paid every family in the land a visit.  Those homes covered by the blood were spared death.  Those without suffered the death of their firstborn sons.  Egyptian families wailed in grief, begging the Hebrews to leave, and loaded them down with silver, gold and jewelry.  The first fruits of anticipated good things that were to come.

Pharaoh, too, had experienced loss, and knew when he was licked.  Finally, he let God’s people go.

The chosen people of God left at once, heading toward their new home.  Caleb rejoiced, but within two short years his joy was replaced by great disappointment.  Even though the Israelites had experienced a miraculous delivery from slavery by the mighty hand and outstretched arm of their loving God, they quickly turned their backs on Him by worshiping a golden calf, complaining about God’s plan, and then disbelieving that God would go before them and give them  a land flowing with milk and honey.

After spying out the Canaanite country of promise, Caleb and Joshua were fired up and excited to march in behind the great I AM and posses the fruitful land.  A land not just promised to Moses but also to the patriarch Abraham centuries before.  God had told Abraham that his descendants would be as numerous as the stars in the sky and the sand on the beach.  And now was the time for the stars to shine and take the land.  But they failed to believe that God loved them and wanted them to be happy.  They chose to focus on “the giants in the land” rather then their Giant God.

God was furious with them and condemned them to wander in the wilderness until they were dead and there was a new generation that would trust him.  Caleb and Joshua were fiercely  disappointed, but were promised that one day they would take up residence in the territory beyond the Jordan.   Caleb remembered the words spoken to him by Moses, “The land on which your feet have walked will be your inheritance and that of your children forever, because you have followed the LORD my God wholeheartedly.”

A new day finally dawned forty years later.  Forty years of waiting, of watching parents and siblings die in the desert.  Forty years of watching the people rebel and complain and succumb to the punishment of God.  The day finally came when a new set of spies were sent across the Jordan.  These spies came back with a report that the heathen people’s hearts were melting in fear of what would happen to them when the Mighty YHWH would lead His people in battle against them.  The day came when the “giants” of Canaan were routed by the Hebrews Giant God  and their land was free for the taking by the people of Israel.  The beautiful day came at last, when Caleb received his promised piece of the Promised Land and was happy in Hebron.

*****          *****          *****          *****

Just as Noah had to tolerate the minority opinion of his day, so did Caleb and Joshua.  The respective faith of each in the integrity of the promise of God gives Noah victory over sarcasm and Caleb and Joshua victory over hostility.  The taunters and the incredulous, on the other hand, are denied the ark and the land.     Victor P. Hamilton in Handbook on the Pentateuch