Daily thoughts during this worldwide crisis.
“And he called. . .” So begins the third book of the Bible. From a tent in the wilderness, God called Moses to him and gave instructions on how and in what state of holiness (separateness) the people were to approach their God.
What follows are details of sacrifice (seven chapters!), cleansing of priests (immediately followed by the catastrophic failure of Nadab and Abihu), rules concerning sexual and ritual purity, and how a holy people are to treat others. Leviticus is a rarely read book, but that does not prevent it from being used to hammer our opponents concerning issues like immigration, abortion, tattoos, and sexuality.
What is happening in Leviticus is a holy God calling his people to him through Moses and telling them what it means to be holy.
In the first four chapters of the first Gospel we have a detailed description (using the Old Testament) of the promised king. Interspersed in these descriptions is evidence that it is Jesus of Nazareth who is that king. It is not clear this early in Matthew (as it is in John) that he is indeed “God in the flesh”, but we will learn that soon enough.
The last thing Jesus does after we are convinced that he is indeed the king whom we should listen to is to say to Peter and Andrew, “Follow me.” And immediately after that we read concerning James and John, “And he called them.”
What a fantastic difference! “And he called. . .” What a difference in being told how to be holy and being shown. The rest of the Gospel of Matthew alternates between Jesus teaching (he ascends a “mountain” in chapters 5-8, as did Moses) and showing.
The truth is that it is no easier now to be called by God than it was millennia ago in the wilderness. It is just that now we have witnesses who showed us looks like (the New Testament).
From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon who is called Peter and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. And he said to them, "Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men." Immediately they left their nets and followed him. And going on from there he saw two other brothers, James the son of Zeb'edee and John his brother, in the boat with Zeb'edee their father, mending their nets, and he called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed him. And he went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and preaching the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every infirmity among the people.
“These Are the Names” is the title of the book we know as Exodus in the Bible. What follows is the most incredible rescue story the world has ever known. There are two other verses that are worth mentioning near the beginning of this story.
Just a few lines down we read, “Now there arose a new king over Egypt, who did not know Joseph.” With that we see what happens when there is a focus on “us” and “them.” It did not matter how long the Israelites stayed in Egypt – they were still Israelites. It was forgotten that it was they who saved Egypt from disaster during an epic famine. The story that the Egyptians told to their children taught them to look down on the foreigners and they used them to build their empire.
The important thing here is “these are the names.” Look at that list and then review the stories about them in Genesis. They did not always get along. They were flawed. They made mistakes – at least one of which God used to save them all. Read the blessings laid on them by their father which range from “your descendants will be king” to “you will be scattered in Israel.”
When, centuries later, they inhabited the Land of Promise, the stayed in their tribes, they fought with each other – sometimes over not being asked to fight together. They remained united only for a few decades under David and Solomon (sort of under Saul). But they were ALWAYS God’s people.
Pharaoh may not have known them. The nations around may not have known them. Empires tread on their land and carted them off, but God never quit on them. “These are the names.”
And God always heard their pleas, laments, and anguish (even if the rhetoric of the prophets say otherwise). We are still in tribes that do not get along very well – but we must not cut off the story of any of the names (as a faith and in principle as a nation).
Egypt did not know who they were dealing with when God said to Moses as he stood in his bare feet before a bush in flames that was not consumed, “I have seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt, and have heard their cry. . .” (Exod. 3:7) – He knew their names.
Did you hear what happened in Portland last night?! I cannot believe what those idiots in Chicago are doing to each other. Biden is challenged. Trump is an idiot. Are you telling me it is ok to protest, but not go to church! You can’t make me wear a mask! Do it for the common good. Don’t judge me! I am too busy pointing out your flaws – you hater, liberal, communist, crony capitalist! AAAAAGGH!
Doesn’t really matter if something really happened as reported. Makes no difference which side science actually supports (here is a secret: honest scientists know that what they offer is very good educated guesses and they are willing to change their minds). What matters is whether or not – 1. It fits my view of the world, or more importantly 2. It absolves me of responsibility and places it on someone or something else.
The goal is shaming the other side into compliance. The goal is to make “them” feel guilty. The goal is to put the burden and risk onto others (also a great financial business strategy), especially if they have little power.
Confused? Good. And little has changed over the past six thousand years (if you are of a young earth persuasion) or millions of years (if you are a theistic evolutionist – or however you’ve worked it out).
The one thing that we all have in common is that our first impulse is “they need to change,” or “they need to repent.” While that may be true (and it is), it is not the first thing that needs to happen. Nor do we have any control over whether it ever does. The first thing that needs to happen is I need to bear fruit – specifically the fruit of repentance.
Some spend a lot of energy trying to figure out what “fruit” Jesus talks about and what their role is in the kingdom. I think the suggestion here in Luke 13 is this – “You are no better than anyone else, so repent. I will give you time to do it and I will see the fruit.” Want to bear fruit for God? Repent and be at peace.
There were some present at that very time who told him of the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And he answered them, "Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered thus? I tell you, No; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen upon whom the tower in Silo'am fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, No; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish."
And he told this parable: "A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. And he said to the vinedresser, `Lo, these three years I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and I find none. Cut it down; why should it use up the ground?' And he answered him, `Let it alone, sir, this year also, till I dig about it and put on manure. And if it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.'"