In the absence of revelation rumours grow, and when we keep God at arm’s length, declining an active, living knowledge of him, we become vulnerable to rumours, according to Glenn Packiam in his book Secondhand Jesus: Trading Rumors of God for a First Hand Faith. Too often we walk through life with our hands fixed firmly over our eyes and ears, ignoring and avoiding the living presence of Christ with us.
The book goes on to draw parallels between the false rumours about God that we are tempted to believe and the manner in which the ark of the covenant was treated:
- God will give me what I want: The Israelites thought that the ark would make them win their battles until it was captured by the Philistines.
- God can be added to my list of loyalties: The Philistines thought that the ark could be added to their other gods until the chief god Dagon fell prostrate before it.
- God is pleased with my goodness: When the ark was returned, many Israelites were killed after disrespecting God’s holiness by looking inside it.
- God prefers specialists: Uzzah died after the cart was carried on a cart instead of being carried personally by priests; and in the same way God is not pleased when we delegate the work of “carrying” him to specialist priests and pastors, rather than relating to him personally.
It often takes a catastrophic event for us to stop believing the rumours and start believing God; for the author it was the very public moral failure of his senior pastor followed by a shooting at the church that caused him to re-evaluate his faith.
So what does the book urge us to do? Ironically, as the author acknowledges, our tendency as believers is to respond to God’s grace with our own work and effort, and so the reader will be working out how he or she can work harder, be better, read the Bible more, or do some other Christian duty that needs more attention. The only way to respond to God’s invitation is to draw near in worship. This is a well-written and engaging book, and I highly recommend it.