Monday, September 28, 2009

Therefore the LORD God sent him out

"Then the LORD God said, "Behold, the man has become like one of Us, knowing good and evil; and now, he might stretch out his hand, and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever" -- Therefore the LORD God sent him out from the garden of Eden, to cultivate the ground from which he was taken. So He drove the man out; and at the east of the garden of Eden He stationed the cherubim and the flaming sword which turned every direction to guard the way to the tree of life."
Genesis 3:22-24 NASB

Ask anyone who knows me and they will quickly tell you that I am not the most well-read individual on the planet. I just figure that if a book is that good, then someone will surely make it into a movie.

To the best of my knowledge (and upon searching IMDB), I have determined that no one has made a movie based upon Paradise Lost, John Milton's epic poem of the opening events of man as recorded in the Book of Genesis.

The story is probably fairly familiar to many of you. But the root of all mankind's disruption of the Divine fellowship that was once shared with God Himself is found both the opening chapters of Genesis and is loosely paraphrased in Milton's story.

Early in the story of Paradise Lost, Satan asks Eve;
"Wherein lies th'offense, that man should thus attain to know?"
Book 9, lines 725-6

What a great question. Satan basically says, "What's the big deal?" or "What harm is there in knowing the difference between good and evil?"

The issue behind this question is difficult to understand. Perhaps there is a note of sarcasm by God here (as Elijah used in 1 Kings 18:27), regarding Satan’s empty promise that they (Adam and Eve) could become like gods. Or, maybe it is just the fact that now man has the experiential knowledge of evil.

So what is it there for?

It is there to demonstrate something about God? He does the merciful thing. That's right. God does the merciful thing. God drives Adam and Eve from the garden where the Tree of Life grew so that they could not eat of that tree as well. How terrible would it have been to have eaten of that tree and lived forever in sin? How awful would it have been to live forever without the hope of salvation?

You and I will face death. But you and I have the hope of Salvation that Jesus Christ offers.

Therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken.
Genesis 3:23

Friday, September 11, 2009

Therefore, if you are offering your gift

Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.
Matthew 5:23-24 -- NIV

So, I got the first "Therefore" used this way in the Old Testament in my last post. Now let's look at the first similar usage from the New Testament.

Back up a few verses.  What is Jesus talking about?

Jesus is in the midst of a sermon.  A very famous sermon.  It is called the Sermon on the Mount.  (But, you probably already knew that.)  He has just completed the Beatitudes.  He had described what the life of a true Disciple would be like.  And now He returns to laying down or reiterating these principles that Moses had given them  The prophets were still to be their rulers, but the scribes and Pharisees were no longer to be their rulers.  Jesus proceeds to expound on the law in some particular instances, and to vindicate it from the corrupt and self serving spin that those expositors of the law had put upon it.

He does not introduce any new laws.  There were certainly enough of them.  He only places some limits on or restrains some permissions that had been abused.  And speaking of those principles, Jesus also shows the breadth, strictness, and spiritual nature of them, adding explanatory notes and making them more clear and He gets to the "heart" of the matter. In these verses, Jesus explains what His Heavenly Father meant when he gave the sixth commandment to Moses back on another mount.  And He deals with it according to the true intent and full extent of what the commandment was all about.

Here are the two verses that precede verses 23 and 24.

"You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, 'Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.' But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, 'Raca, ' is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, 'You fool!' will be in danger of the fire of hell.  Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift."

What is it there for?

Here is the same principle expressed a different way.

When you come to worship God, first be reconciled. 

Be reconciled to God.  Make sure that you are able to stand before Him and worship.  The old timers used to say. "There is nothing between my soul and the Savior."  I think that speaks of our reconciliation to God.

Be reconciled to your brother.  Make sure that you are not harboring thoughts that are not pleasing to God.  My mother called those "ugly thoughts."  You see our relationships with our neighbor have a profound effect upon whether or not the worship is a pleasing incense or fragrance.

Here is another observation from Scripture.  Reconciliation with our neighbor takes precedence over religious activities.  Our relationship is so important that Jesus tells us to leave our sacrifice on the altar.  Get up immediately and go and find our brother.

Go look up Amos 5:21-27.  That passage ends with a pretty good "Therefore."  But I will get to that later.  In these verses, the prophet Amos condemns Israel's religious practices.  He tells them that God despises, yes, despises, worship that is not lived out in righteousness, justice and moral living.  Verse 24 is the thrust of his message.  Justice and righteousness in our daily relationships are more important to God than empty religious rituals.  Especially if that religious activity is tainted with idolatrous practices.

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