Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Therefore the Son of Man is also Lord of the Sabbath

But He said to them, “Have you never read what David did when he was in need and hungry, he and those with him: how he went into the house of God in the days of Abiathar the high priest, and ate the shewbread, which is not lawful to eat, except for the priests, and also gave some to those who were with him?” And He said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath. Therefore the Son of Man is also Lord of the Sabbath.”
Mark 2: 25-28

Critics. We all have to deal with them. But it isn't often that the critics you and I have to deal with are out to trap us and do us harm. But that is exactly what is going on here.

Consider this story in light of much of the debate going on in society and in the evangelical church about the Emergent movement and social justice as it relates to theology.  And Jesus gives us a little insight into how He views the topic of being a Christian and social responsibilities.

Jesus is being criticized for allowing his disciples to pluck a little corn or grain as they walk through a field.  Oh, and by the way, it is on the Jewish Sabbath.  Oh my!

There was nothing wrong with what the disciples did, because their gleaning was not considered stealing according to Deuteronomy 23:25. The issue was only the day on which they did it. The Rabbis made an elaborate list of “do” and “don’t” items relevant to the Sabbath, and this violated one of the items on this list.

When the disciples began to pluck the heads of grain, in the eyes of the religious leaders they were guilty of:
  • Reaping.
  • Threshing.
  • Winnowing.
  • Preparing food.
Four violations of the Sabbath in one swift motion of the hand to mouth!

Jesus responds with 2 principles.

He says, "Have you never read what David did?": In referring to David’s use of the “holy bread” in 1 Samuel 21:1-6, Jesus shows an important principle - Human need is more important than religious ritual. And the second principle is that the Sabbath was meant to serve man and not the other way around.

This is exactly what many people, steeped in tradition, simply cannot comprehend. They cannot comprehend that what God really wants is mercy before sacrifice (Go look up Hosea 6:6) and that love to others is more important than religious rituals. And that the sacrifices that God is really looking for is a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart. 

Contrast these principle with the Old Testament principle that God prohibited work on the Sabbath day so that servants would not be oppressed by their masters, and that the laboring beasts of burden might have necessary rest, and that men might have proper opportunity to attend to their own Spiritual rest and growth. Clearly this was not the situation at hand.

So, what is it there for?

I think it is there for the the second principle. The second principle is even more dramatic - Jesus declares that He is the Lord of the Sabbath. And, if He, the very Lord of the Sabbath, was not offended by His disciple’s actions, then these sideline critics should not have been either.

And out of a truly broken and contrite will come all the stuff that the Emergents and social justice crowd is looking to see manifested in the church today.

So take that, critics!

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Saturday, April 3, 2010

Therefore it shall come to pass . . .

Therefore it shall come to pass, when the Egyptians shall see thee, that they shall say, This [is] his wife: and they will kill me, but they will save thee alive.
Genesis 12:12 KJV

Lying. Never a good idea. No matter how justified it seems at the time. But here is Abram, soon to be renamed Abraham, and the guy mentioned so prominently in Hebrews 11's Hall of Faith, talking his beloved wife into lying on his behalf.

Of course we would never do such a thing. But, consider this. I am at first struck at Abram’s concern over his 60-year-old wife’s attractiveness to the Egyptians. This shows Sarai was not only a woman of particular beauty, but also that not every culture worships youthful and the ultra underweight appearance the way our own modern day culture seems to.

As an aside, there is an interesting Jewish legend about Abram and Sarai's travels into Egypt. It goes like this:

The ancient Jewish legend tells that when Abram went down into Egypt, he tried to hide Sarai in a casket. When the Egyptian customs officials asked what he had in the casket, he said, “barley.”

“No,” they said, “it contains wheat.”

“Very well,” answered Abram. “I’ll pay the custom on wheat.”

Then the officers said it contained pepper. Abram said he would pay the custom charges on pepper. Then the officers said it contained gold. Abram said he would pay the custom charges on gold. Then the officers said it contained precious stones. Abram said he would pay the custom charges on precious stones.

By this time, the officers suspicions were aroused beyond control and they insisted on opening the casket. When they did, all of Egypt shined with the beauty of Sarai. Other similar legends say that in comparison to Sarai, all other women looked like monkeys. And some say that she was even more beautiful than Eve.

Now, all of that is the stuff of legends. But, I think it demonstrates that Abram had a good reason to be concerned for her safety and certainly his!

So, Abram asks her to say that she is his sister. Now, this was actually a half-truth. Sarai was Abram’s half sister (see Genesis 20:12). But here is the spiritual principle.

A half-truth is a whole lie.

Abram’s intent here was clearly to deceive the Egyptians and protect his own life and Sarai's. He trusted in his clever deception to protect him instead of trusting in the Lord who had made a covenant with him.

So, what is it there for?

It is there to point out two potential ways of dealing with a situation that is beyond our own understanding or control.

First, if you lack faith or you want to do something to advance your own cause, you can almost always find plenty of good reasons to do it or say it. If you can’t think of the reasons yourself, the devil is happy to suggest them.

Second, Abram would say, “God has made a covenant with me about my descendants and He has promised me children, and I don’t have them yet; therefore, I know that I am 10 feet tall and bulletproof until the time that God’s promise is fulfilled, because God’s promises are always true.”

Fortunately for Abram, his life was not permanently marred by this decision.  After all, he is mentioned prominently throughout the Bible and is the Father of the Jewish nation.

Where do you stand today?  Are you in fear because God has not delivered on His promises to you yet?  Or are walking in faith as someone who is 10 feet tall and bullet proof?

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Monday, March 1, 2010

Therefore, the Kingdom of God shall be taken from you

Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof.
Matthew 21:43 KJV

Rejection.  We have all faced it at one time or another.  And Jesus was certainly no exception.  And that is the substance of the passage found in this verse and the previous verse.

In these verses Jesus warns the listener of the dangers and consequences of rejecting Him.

So what are the warnings and what are the consequences?

The warning is this.  Do not reject what others have rejected.  The builders in this passage are not meant to be real stone masons and craftsman.  Instead, they are a thinly veiled description of the religious leaders of the day.  They had rejected Jesus.  They refused to see Him for who he was.  He was the Son of God.  Not the son of a simple carpenter.

The consequence is this.  Those who reject Jesus will be broken if not completely crushed.  Again the imagery is vivid.  Just like those around could envision a capstone or cornerstone.  So too, they could also envision a millstone.  As stone so big that if you fell on it, you would likely brake a limb.  And also so large and heavy, that if it fell on you, you would be crushed beneath the weight of it.

So, what is it there for?

Jesus reminds them that their rejection of Him says a whole lot more about their choices, their guilt and their coming judgment than it says about Jesus Himself. Though they reject Him, He is still the chief cornerstone, fulfilling the great Messianic Psalm 118.

It has been said and I believe it is true.  We do not break God's laws.  God's laws cannot be broken.  Instead, we brake ourselves upon God's laws.

The same is true in this passage.  What we think about who Jesus is does not change anything at all.  He is still God.  And we must come to grips with that fact and realize that we will come face to face with Him some day.

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Saturday, January 30, 2010

Therefore is the name of it called Babel

Therefore is the name of it called Babel; because the LORD did there confound the language of all the earth: and from thence did the LORD scatter them abroad upon the face of all the earth.
Genesis 11:9 KJV

It is amazing what we can do if we put our minds to it. That goes for both good and evil. Fallen mankind has shown an incredible capacity for evil. Just look at history -- Sodom, Jesus' crucifixion, the Holocaust, the killing fields of Cambodia, just to name a few.

Nothing we do is beyond the view of God. This is clearly demonstrated in the story of the Tower of Babel. Mankind was cooperating. And that's a good thing, right? I mean, could we all "just get along" as someone once said in the midst of a terrible riot. But, I guess that depends on what we are trying to accomplish.

In this story man is trying to build a tower that reaches all the way to the heavens. I am not even going to ask why if you want to build a tower to the heavens you would build it on the Plains of Shinar instead of the nearby mountains. I mean, wouldn't the mountains sort of give you a head start height wise?

Apparently man was succeeding in his efforts. So much that God decided to take a closer look. And what he saw showed that man had already forgotten the miracle of God's protection for Noah and his family on the Ark.

The heart of Noah's descendants and the bricks and asphalt used to build the tower of Babel show that it was not only disobedient to God’s command to fill the earth as God commanded in Genesis 9:1, but it also shows they did not believe God’s promise to never again flood the earth. A waterproof tower was being made to “protect” man against some potential future deluge.

So, what is it there for?

This story is there to remind us that God's promises are true and they are never ending. man has always gotten into trouble when we have lost sight of that. And it is there to demonstrate more of God's mercy than God's judgment. God, in separating man linguistically and geographically, put a check on the power of his fallen nature. In actuality, God was reaching out in grace and was trying to keep man from further damaging the relationship between God and man.

The whole account of what happened at Babel with its organized rebellion against God, and its direct distrust of God’s promise shows man hasn’t gotten any better since the flood. Time, progress, government, and organization have made man better off, but definitely not any better.

But from this point forward God will begin to make man better, and He will start as He always starts: with a man who will do His will, even if he does not do His will perfectly. The story of the Tower of Babel moves quickly from this point and begins to tell the story of Abram. Abram, who would some day become Abraham, the father of the Jewish nation.

But that's another story . . .

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Monday, January 11, 2010

Therefore, whoever hears and does

Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.
Matthew 7:24 NIV

"I know you can hear me. But are you listening to me?"

If I had a nickel for every time I heard that growing up, I would be a wealthy man today. My mother must have said that to me a bazillion times when I was growing up. (And probably a few times once I was grown!)

She, like every other mother understood that there is a fundamental difference between hearing and listening. One is passive - hearing. And one is active - listening. And active listening usually requires some form of response. Mine was, "Yes ma'am." Followed by hastily doing what I was told. The problem was, I didn't always DO. And I wasn't always quick about it either. And that was usually where the trouble came.

So, what is it there for?

It is there to teach us an important lesson about our relationship with Jesus. That lesson is that an outward conformity to Jesus’ teaching is not enough; Jesus demands that we be doers of His word, not just hearers.

Merely hearing God’s word isn’t enough to provide a secure foundation for our lives. It is necessary that we are also active doers of His word. If we are not, we commit the sin that will surely find us out, the sin of doing nothing. Go check out Numbers 32:23 in the Old Testament and see if that verse is familiar to you. I bet it will be and I bet you will understand that great will be our fall if we are just passive hearers.

Now don't make me sing that old Sunday school song that you remember as a kid!

You know which one I mean!

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Saturday, December 26, 2009

Therefore, the Lord God sent them forth

Therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken. So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.
Genesis 3:23-24 KJV

Oh, so you mean there is a penalty for sin?  But that is not the way the world seems to operate today.  Many seem to operate today in a "consequence free" zone.

These are my thoughts as I take a little longer look at the passage that I addressed a little while ago.

In one sense, God divorced Adam and Eve.  He turned them out of the Garden, and further,  He kept them  out.  God turned him out from the sublime to the common. This is mentioned twice: He sent him forth (v. 23), and then He drove him out, v. 24. In today's parlance that would sound like this; "Get out and stay out!"

God told them get out, told them that that was no place for them, and they would no longer occupy and enjoy that garden. But they liked the place too well to be willing to leave, and therefore God drove them out.  God made them go out, whether they wanted to or not.

This signified an exclusion or separation for them, and all future mankind, from that communion with God and from walking with God in the cool of the day that defined the paradise that was the garden of Eden. The tokens of God’s grace and favor to them were now suspended. And Adam became weak and mortal in that very moment.  He became like other men, such as Samson when the Spirit of the Lord had departed from him.

But where did God send them when He turned them out of Eden?

He might justly have chased him out of the world (see Job 18:18), but God only chased them out of the garden.

He might justly have banished them down to hell, as He did the angels that sinned when He cast them out from Heaven (see 2nd Peter 2:4). But man was only sent to work the very ground out of which they were taken. He was sent to a place of toil, not to a place of eternal torment.

He was sent to the ground, not to the grave.  He was sent to the daily grind, not to the dungeon.

He was sent to hold the plow, not to the pinion.

So, what is it there for?

By working the land man would be rewarded by his eating of its fruits.  And this would serve to keep man humble. Observe, then, that though our first parents were banished from the Garden and its privileges by their sin, they were not abandoned to despair.  God already had a plan.  God’s thoughts of love were already designing them for a way of salvation with new terms. God was looking down the long road of history and looking at a manger and at a cruel cross. 

I think it is appropriate to end with Romans 5:8.  It says;

But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.

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Sunday, November 8, 2009

Therefore, take no thought for your life

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?
Matthew 6:25 NIV

Wow! That definitely goes counter to our culture today, doesn't it?

There is hardly any one sin that our Lord Jesus Christ offers more warnings to his disciples than the sin of disquieting, distracting, distrustful cares about the things of life. Consider that it is indeed an indicator that both the treasure and the heart are here on the earth; and therefore not in Heaven where we are directed us to store it.

But that is the very thing that we tend to think about. We think about our health, our wealth, our position in society. And what good does all of that "thinking" do? None of those thoughts can change one iota.

So what is it there for?

It is a not so subtle reminder that God is in control. And we are to rest comfortably and confidently in that knowledge.

My mind goes back to the A cappella choir at Eastern Nazarene College many years ago. One of their signature songs was taken from Psalm 31:15. The chorus says, "My times are in Thy hand, my God I wish them there."

That song will run through my head all day today. I hope it does for you as well.