February 9, 2010

Lev 24-25: Jubilee

Posted in The Law tagged , , , , at 8:34 pm by Steve

A young man who blasphemed God,  Leviticus 24:10-23.   [In Summary:  In the first test of the law against blaspheming God’s name, the Lord directed that the offender be indicted by those who heard the sin, then stoned by the Israelites.]

It is one thing to listen to the rules.  It is quite another thing to actually apply them – especially when it involves the death penalty.  Note carefully that those who made the accusations – who heard the man blaspheme – were required to be involved in the ritual of the stoning (v. 14).  This very practical part of the process made it difficult for individuals to accuse falsely.  They could not insulate themselves from the actual execution.

This incident underscored the holiness of God’s name.  It was not to be treated carelessly.  Jesus affirmed this principle in teaching the Lord’s Prayer (Matt 6:9).  Although the death penalty is not applied for this today, the affront to the living God is the same.  We should not forget that fact.

Does anyone else find it strange that God offers us a Jubilee? What other religion takes such details to have one day of rest each week. One year of rest in every seven and a year of Jubilee in every 50 years. It was a year to re-establish equity and to prevent the creation of classes. Today we have the super wealthy, Bill Gates is worth an estimated 86 billion, and the homeless and masses of those living on less than one dollar a day.

God asks us each 50 years to reassess where we are as a people and what life was meant to be. No longer would people be consumed with unimaginable wealth at the cost of the life of other.

There is a quote I have always like, “for every wealthy person, there is one in poverty.”

What would you consider to be the major problems we would encounter about going to a Jubilee in our time and culture?

What would be the benefits?


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?