January 26, 2010

Exo 22-24: A Community of Justice

Posted in Foundations, Historical, Israel, The Law tagged , , , , , , at 10:09 pm by Steve

Justice — conformity to truth, fact, or reason. Correctness / Righteousness / Equity

How do you define Justice? We’re pretty good at know when something wrong has been done to us, but less so when we’ve been accused of doing something wrong. When we’re accused we usually have a string of excuses as long as your arm ready for why the action was unavoidable. “I was in a hurry and didn’t mean it.” “After all that has been done to me I didn’t think anyone would notice.” And many more.

IN these passages from Exodus what is striking is the punitive damages that God requires for a crime. They require restitution but then the matter is settled. These laws, while sometimes laborious to get through, tell of a God who is involved in the simplest of details of human life and recognizes that if we cannot find a way to forgive each other, to offer mercy, then our existence will become simply “hell on earth.”

The details of these crimes deal with slaves, animals, the poor, rulers, and every once in awhile, the holiness of God’s name. The topics cover social, religious, economic, and political life. Everything is included. It may seem a bit bizarre to cover all these topics, but for the Hebrews coming out of Egypt, this was radical stuff. They were used to living as tribes under Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, and then Pharaoh. They were used to being ruled, now they would have to learn to live co-dependent and as one body.

Could they do it? Can we?

Exo 19-21: Freedom to Serve

Posted in Foundations, Israel, Moses, Redemption, The Law tagged , , , , , , at 9:38 pm by Steve

19:6 “Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.”

>> Believe it or not this verse is considered by many to be the central theme of the Exodus. We often think of the Exodus narrative as God’s freeing the slaves to live out their joyful happy lives to do whatever they want in the Promised Land. God defeats Pharaoh’s earthly rule and commands these Hebrews to follow Him to the land He promised Abraham. But God has a greater purpose for the Hebrews, just as He does for us. They are to be a people of priests before the Lord.

What does this mean to be a priesthood and holy nation? They are to be an example of a people wholly dedicated to serving God, loving one another, and living in justice, mercy, and love [see Micah 6:8].

What doe this mean for us as Christians? God did not save us through the blood of Jesus so that we could do whatever we wanted whenever we wanted. We are also called to be a Royal Priesthood [1 peter 2:5], Ambassadors [2 Corinthians 5:20], and the Body of Christ [1 Corinthians 12:27]. We are to live as Christ’s representatives that the world may know how good, loving, gracious, slow to anger, and merciful God really is.

So here’s the big question – how do you think you’re doing?

[19:16] “On the morning of the third day there was thunder and lightning, with a thick cloud over the mountain, and a very loud trumpet blast. Everyone in the camp trembled.”

>> Does this sound familiar to anyone? On the morning of the third day God comes to the mountain to give the Law. On the morning of the third day Jesus comes to give new life.

[21:1]  These are the laws you are to set before them:If you buy a Hebrew servant, he is to serve you for six years.’”

What should we make of this long list of laws from Exodus 21. What I noticed right away is their focus. Notice that the very first law laid down by God is for the proper care of slave. A SLAVE! The first thing God wants the Hebrews to be concerned about is how they care for one another and the slaves above all. In our culture the wealth are the ones we are most concerned about, but not God. God’s focus is on the poorest.

When we as a church try to decide who the church is suppose to serve, is it

(a)  The poorest in our community

(b)  The richest in our community

(c)   The silent majority who do most of the work?

Look over the rest of the laws in Chpt 21. Where is God drawing out attention? What kind of people and issues are being addressed and why?

January 18, 2010

Gen 48-50:The End of the Beginning

Posted in Anxiety, Israel tagged , , , , , at 11:19 pm by Steve

Have we come to the end of the beginning or the beginning of the end?

 Since Genesis 1, just think how far we’ve come. Here’s a short list of what we’ve learned, experienced and marveled at as its unfolded. We will have to contend with this list and its meaning for the rest of the year.

  •  God’s Sovereignty and purposeful design
  • Man’s propensity for self-delusion and self-aggrandizement
  • Sin’s consequences
  • God’s Covenant
  • Abraham’s faith
  • Human frailty, and
  • God Providence

 If you have other’s I’d love to hear what they are. Please add to this growing list.

 Christ is revealed in the following blessings of Jacob’s son Judah.

 “The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he comes to whom it belongs  and the obedience of the nations is his.” [Gen 49:10]

 The father blesses his sons, but the “blessing” is less of a look to the future as it is a reflection of the past. I can’t imagine Reuben being particularly thrilled when Jacob reads the family will and Reuben’s behavior is revealed.

 What legacy or blessing have you received from your parents and what blessing are you creating for your children?

 Faith is a tough for Jacob’s family. As soon as he dies the brother’s fear Joseph’s vengeance. Don’t they know him yet? Hasn’t his heart been revealed, or has their distrust said more about their hearts and than his?

Father God, You have blessed us when we were in rebellion. Through the example of your son Jesus Christ, we learn that we can trust Your heart. I pray for all those who still doubt, still wonder, and still wait. May we be your voice of hope. In Jesus’ Name we Pray, Amen.

Gen 46-47: The World is Not My Home

Posted in Historical, Israel tagged , , , , , , , , , at 7:33 pm by Steve

Jacob, the father of the Promise, meets Pharaoh the lord of the Empire. Through the work of Joseph, Pharaoh has become very rich indeed owning all the cattle, people and land in Egypt. The genealogy of the sons of Jacob is recorded so that the reader may know the size of the tribe entering Egypt. This genealogy will become important later when we see how many leave Egypt.

Pharaoh is gracious to Jacob because of Joseph and gives them the best land of Goshen to live in. But even now, at the end of his life and living in the best land in Egypt, Jacob makes Joseph swear to take his bones from Egypt and rest in land of the promise.

I think we all live in the land of Egypt from time to time, but this world is not my home. I have a tie my kids gave me years ago for Easter, appropriate timing, that has a sort of ancient map on it and the words “this world is not my home.” We are the children of the promise and we know that when that time comes our bones too will be taken to the Promised Land where they will be restored.

Thank you God for the legacy of Jacob, a man of passion and one in whom the covenant was lived out in a very human way. Through him we have all been blessed to know that Your love and compassion knows no bounds. We thank you for Joseph and pray that we can be a type of Joseph for those we love and in our own way, save lives through our integrity, honesty, and unfailing faith.

Amen

Miscellaneous Comment

I feel that when God calls out “Jacob, Jacob” He is calling out to the patriarch of the family and settling the covenant that God made with one family, Abraham. “I am God, the God of your father,” he said. [46:3]

This draws this family covenant into a wider national covenant through the blessings of the sons, the twelve tribes of Israel (Jacob). You can see the change in identity happening through the language which does a lot of flip-flops. “Jacob left Beersheba, and Israel’s sons took their father Jacob…” [46:5]

“We will be in bondage to Pharaoh.” 47:25

I often hear people complain that giving God a tithe or 10% is unreasonable and even impractical. Pharaoh does not save his people, but buys them and owns everything. Pharaoh is not a “living god” but a shrewd business man who cornered the market on grain in a famine. He owns his own people and demands 20% payment for the rest of their lives in order to live. Contrast that with God who generously gives us everything and asks that we return 10% to be used to feed the poor and those facing tragedy, like the recent earthquake in Haiti or the poverty in Honduras.  Are you surprised we take God’s grace and generosity for granted and often begrudgingly give as little as 1%.

Pharaoh owns people and demands a 20% tribute.

God give people life and commands we return 10% to help others. Which we then ignore.

Looking back on it, I wonder who is really in bondage here!

Gen 43-45: The Hidden Call of God

Posted in Israel, Redemption tagged , , , , , , , , at 4:54 pm by Steve

One of the first things I noticed about this passage was that the writer now almost exclusively refers to Jacob as Israel. The change has been made from just a family problem to a national identity.

The fact that Joseph is overcome with emotion and looks for a place to weep lets the reader know that Joseph is not just playing games but his heart is sincere. People may say many things and do things that on the outside look one way or another, but tears reveal what’s really in the heart.

The main point of the Joseph Story: Our Perspective is limited when God’s Grace is

“it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you” 45:5

Joseph finally shares with his brothers that Joseph’s life in Egypt, their evil [notice Joseph doesn’t hide this fact], and the sorrow they have experienced has had a divine purpose which none of them could have foreseen. Joseph’s dream has finally been realized but in way he could never have imagined.

Have you ever asked God for a blessing? Did you ever want to be in a position of power, authority, and prestige? Be careful, for the road to success, in God’s plans, is usually paved with sorrow and a new understanding of what it means to be great!

“The greatest among you must the be servant of all” Matthew 23:11

Father God, when we are troubled, anxious about tomorrow, or doubt whether You grace is sufficient to save us, help us to remember Joseph and that even in the midst of storms in our lives, You have never abandoned us, but have placed us where we can do the most good. Help to gain a new perspective, to serve where we can serve, to give what we can give, and wait for the revelation of Your plan in our lives. This in pray, humbly, in Jesus’ name. Amen