by Jackie Houchin
Many things come to mind when we see the word PLAY. A person can play games, play instruments, act in a play, play the fool…play around.
I took piano lessons when I was a young mom. I had a wonderful patient teacher, and I’m sure I would have learned to play pretty well, if I would have committed myself to practicing diligently. But I didn’t. I tried to “practice up” on lesson day, but my teacher could tell. Finally, she asked if maybe I should stop the lessons. Our time, and my money were being wasted.
I stopped the lessons, relieved at the time, but now, oh, how I wish I’d kept on.
When I was much younger, I actually took lessons on an accordion, which is – to my mind – a portable piano of sorts, except there are buttons for you left hand, and you had to remember to squeeze and open the thing. Coordinated I am not. I begged to stop those lessons as well.
But the Bible speaks of glorious praise songs accompanied by musical many instruments.
Praise the LORD!
Praise God in his sanctuary;
praise him in his mighty heavens!
Praise him for his mighty deeds;
praise him according to his excellent greatness!
Praise him with trumpet sound;
praise him with lute and harp!
Praise him with tambourine and dance;
praise him with strings and pipe!
Praise him with sounding cymbals;
praise him with loud clashing cymbals!
Let everything that has breath praise the LORD!
Praise the LORD!
I can’t PLAY an instrument. But I CAN play games like, Solitaire, Checkers, Pictionary, Dominos, and Five Kings. I’m miserable at chess, and although I paid a friend to teach me, I still cannot totally understand Backgammon.
In the Bible, Paul briefly alludes to the Olympic games and compares training for them to living a pure, disciplined life for the Lord.
1 Corinthians 9: 24-27
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.
There is another use of the word PLAY in the Bible referenced in both Exodus and 1 Corinthians. Paul, warning against idolatry, says in –
1 Corinthians 10:6-7
Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did. Do not be idolaters as some of them were; as it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.”
The incident Paul was referring to took place just after God, by Moses, delivered the people of Israel out of slavery in Egypt. In a thundering voice from Mount Sinai, God gave his people the Ten Commandments and other rules. The terrified people promised, “All that the LORD has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient.” (Exodus 24:7)
Then Moses went up on the Mount to receive the entire law for Israel. He disappeared into a cloud and was gone for 40 days. Meanwhile, down below…
When the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people gathered themselves together to Aaron and said to him, “Up, make us gods who shall go before us. As for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.”
So Aaron said to them, “Take off the rings of gold that are in the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.” So all the people took off the rings of gold that were in their ears and brought them to Aaron. And he received the gold from their hand and fashioned it with a graving tool and made a golden calf.
And they said, “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!” When Aaron saw this, he built an altar before it. And Aaron made a proclamation and said, “Tomorrow shall be a feast to the LORD.” And they rose up early the next day and offered burnt offerings and brought peace offerings.
And the people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play*.
Note: play, a euphemism for gross sexual relations that followed the excessive feasting…drunken and immoral activities common to idolatrous fertility cults.
Of course, you know how that ended. God told Moses to go down for the people had corrupted themselves. Moses saw the scene of debauchery and threw down the stone tablets of Law that God had engraved, breaking them, just like the people had done.
Three thousand of the revelers that had “played” before the golden calf were killed that day, and Moses spent the next 40 days on the mountain on his face before God, interceding for his brother Aaron and the rest of Israel.
But there is one other mention of the word PLAY in the Bible. It is still future to us, but it will be glorious. It’s after Jesus returns in glory and sets up His Kingdom on earth for 1,000 years. Here’s a sweet picture, from the prophet Isaiah…
The wolf shall dwell with the lamb,
and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat,
and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together;
and a little child shall lead them.
The cow and the bear shall graze;
their young shall lie down together;
and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
The nursing child shall PLAY over the hole of the cobra,
and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder’s den.
They shall not hurt or destroy
in all my holy mountain;
for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD
as the waters cover the sea.
It will be a glorious time for all those who have put their trust in Jesus Christ, whom God has chosen to be his child for eternity.
Photo by Jordan Whitfield on Unsplash