Wes and I were recently blessed to be able to attend two local concerts. The first one was the Gaithers, a Southern Gospel vocal group named for the founder, Bill Gaither, performing at LeTourneau University in Longview. The other was Yo-Yo Ma, the world famous cellist, performing with the East Texas Symphony Orchestra at the University of Texas at Tyler. And the experiences couldn’t have been any different!

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What they had in common: great music and great performances by musicians well trained in their craft and devoted to presenting quality work. However, the performances asked quite different things from their audiences.

The audience for the Gaither concert was dressed in mostly casual wear – even jeans or shorts. The performers encouraged audience participation, even handing out little lights, which they asked us to use at certain times. They also encouraged clapping and singing along. Some lifted hands in praise. Others even stood and sort of danced along at their seats. 

The audience for the Yo-Yo Ma concert were dressed mainly in formal attire – suits and ties for the men, with some women even in ball gowns. The performers expected total silence. Once, someone in the audience started applause at the wrong time (a pause that was not the end of the movement) and the conductor turned and glared. Yikes. The audience was completely still for the two 40-minute performances. Someone opened a cough drop wrapper and I was afraid he’d get the glare from the conductor, it was such a significant disturbance in the silent crowd.  (That might have been Wes, but I’ll neither confirm nor deny.)

God is like that. Sometimes He is the Maestro and sometimes He is the Praise Leader. 

God as the Maestro doesn’t need, seek or allow our participation. For example, when Israel stood at the Red Sea, hemmed in and hopeless to escape, God ask nothing but for them to stand back and watch. Exodus 14:13 [NIV] Moses answered the people, "Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the LORD will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The sea opened, they walked through, and then the sea closed and killed all the Egyptians. 

When the Moabites and Ammonites with some of the Meunites came to wage war against Jehoshaphat, the king petitioned God, and here was God’s response was this: You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the LORD will give you, Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Go out to face them tomorrow, and the LORD will be with you.' [2Ch 20:17 NIV] Jehoshaphat’s army showed up to face this army only to find “only dead bodies lying on the ground; no one had escaped." [v. 24] God had lead Moabites and Ammonites and Meunites to fight among themselves and they all died as a result. 

God reminded Job, very dramatically, that he had nothing to do with and was nowhere around when God created all the great and wonderful things upon this earth. Job 38:4 [NIV] "Where were you when I laid the earth's foundation? … God goes on with this through several chapters of the book of Job. 

Many, many times in the New Testament, we read that Jesus cast out demons and healed the sick, simply because they came and asked. Matthew 14:14 [NIV] When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick. [See also Mat 12:15; 15:30; 19:2; 21:14, to name just a few}

Then there are the times when God does the work, but asks us to participate in some way too. In 2 Kings 5, we read about Naaman coming to Elisha to be healed of leprosy. Elisha tells Naaman to bathe seven times in the Jordan River – a task that Naaman was not too happy about. But until he did it, he was not healed.

God sent prophets to preach repentance to Israel and Judah – and some of them had a pretty tough go of it. For example: Jeremiah ended up stuck in mud at the bottom of a well. They participated in God’s work. Jesus sent His disciples out to preach and teach. They participated in His work and mostly were martyred for it. God was acting as the Praise Leader here, asking average humans to walk dusty roads, risk death and deliver His message. But the greatest work – that of the ultimate sacrificial Lamb in payment for our sins was something that the Divine could only do alone.  

God is orchestrating a work on this earth and in each of us. Some of it requires nothing more than the faith to stand back and see what God does. Some of it requires active participation, with money, talents, blood, sweat and tears. God chooses the music that underscores the symphony of our lives. We must be willing to sing along or sit in silence to watch it play out – depending on the performance at work. 

Sometimes, God is the Maestro. Sometimes, He is the Praise Leader. 

I welcome your thoughts, comments and questions. You can write me at