Follow by Email

What is it about nice people that attract total idiots?Nice people are martyrs. Idiots are evangelists.


Sunday, January 13, 2013

The overarching message- week one

I mentioned earlier that my daily readings had taken on an overarching message.  The message is both simple and comple


We started out, as you recall, with Monday's trip through Ezekiel 20, where we learned that, even for a Christian, continued sin leads to a separation from God.  This is a gap that we try to fill as best we can, but with our human perspective, we can only get so far.  That led us to the Tuesday reading in Acts 17, where we learn we cannot "art" our way or "imagine" our way to God.  So, in our study of why God is not what we imagine, we have the first two pillars- God is not what we imagine A) when we allow sin to put a distance between us, and B) when we try to fill that distance with our expectations.

Wednesday, I was taken to 2 Kings 5- the story of Naaman.  Basically, Naaman was a foreign dignitary who contracted leprosy, and was told that there was a prophet in Israel who could cure it.  He went to the king, who panicked- not being a man of faith himself, he thought Naaman was just setting up an excuse for Syria to attack Israel.  What followed is a microcosm of the beginning of a beliver's walk.  Elisha the Prophet commanded Naaman to come to him through his servant- just as God's people are commanded to bring those in need to the gospel.  When Naaman gets there, he is told his cure is a simple act of obedience- in this case, go in the Jordan and wash 7 times.  Now, Naaman has seen great rivers, and the Jordan ain't one of 'em, so he balks.  He expects this great miracle with fanfare and trumpets and a choir.  How many who look into Christ expect the same to be a part of their experience?  But sometimes, it just isn't.  The Jordan was the heart of Israel, and seven is the number of God- the whole idea was the simple concept of coming to God and doing an act of obedience.  Naaman's servant talked him into it ("If he had asked you to perform some great task, wouldn't you have done it?"), and sure enough, he was cured.

That brought us to two other expectations that Naaman (and we) have.  The first was, now, I'm expected to become this great evangelist, or I have to make this drastic change in how I live my secular life.  For Naaman, he promised to be faithful to the God of Israel- but if he changed where he worshipped, he'd be out of a job.  Would it be okay if he prayed in the temple of their god- but prayed to ours?  Elisha told him, "Go in peace."  In other words, you don't HAVE to go on a mission, or change to a job where nobody cusses and tells dirty jokes, or uproot your dealings with non-believers.  Like Paul told Onesimus, he didn't have to stop being Philemon's servant to be a Christian.  Be a Christian WHERE YOU ARE.  The second was when Elisha's idiot servant (after Elisha refused any payment) went and got reward from Naaman.  It didn't hurt Naaman any to give it; but the servant paid for his greed with Naaman's leprosy.  Lesson being, follow God, not the man.  The faithful who gave to Jim Bakker in faith didn't get hurt.  Bakker pays for his own sins.  And the overall message here, just as it was in Ezekiel- simple obedience is what God is after.

Thursday brought me to a passage so complex that it had to be read with a second one set 100 or so years later, with the key being one certain town.  Judges 20-21 tells the story of man's way to fix a problem.  Nutshelling it, a Levite blunders into a town of the Benjaminites that had a "Sodom" problem.  His concubine (who'd already ran off on him once) gets raped to death in his place, and he cuts her body up and sends it to the 12 tribes seeking vengeance.  After failing to convince Benjamin to clean up its own mess, they "consulted God"  (which actually amounted to throwing the priestly dice), and after two botched attempts, slaughtered the Benaminite tribe except for 600 men who fled.
Next, they start crying and blaming God for the fact that these six hundred are all that's left of the tribe, and they'll die out without wives (which they stupidly vowed not to supply them).  So they looked for a scapegoat, and that's where Jabesh-Gilead comes in, because they failed to show at the big meeting.  So they killed all of them, save for 400 virgins which they gave to the Benjaminites.  Of course, that left them 200 short, so they suggested they just steal wives from the neighboring town of Shiloh, and if anyone complains, just put it on our tabs.  Then they all went home, and the situation was summed up with the last verse of the book:  "In those days, there was no King in Israel; everyone did what was right in their own eyes."  And what a job they did.

The parallel came in I Samuel 11, just after Saul was made King.  Once again we find a repopulated Jabesh-Gilead, and this time they are about to play the part of the concubine.  They get surrounded by the Ammonites, and the Ammonites say, "Sure, we'll let you surrender, as soon as we poke out all your right eyes and chop off your beards to humiliate you."  The townsmen said, "We'll get back to you," and sent for help.  Saul found out, and full of the Holy Spirit, summoned the tribes (by cutting up something actually usefull- a yoke of oxen) and with God guiding them, the following changes come to the story:

-EVERYONE shows up for the meeting, and God speaks to them through Saul and Samuel;
-they whup the Ammonites the first try, and no 600 escape;
-when the people sought a scapegoat (they wanted to follow up the victory by killing all those who didn't want Saul as king before), Saul ordered forgiveness instead;
-the problem was solved completely, and the people gathered afterwards to give the glory to God.

You could read the chapters yourself to get some of the other parallels, but here's the gist of what we're getting at:

Man's way was motivated by revenge and not righteousness (the Levite would likely never said a word about the sins of Benjamin if they hadn't killed his prostitute), where God's way was motivated by the Spirit and righteousness.

Man's way "consulted God", while God's way was God-led.

Man's way led to a patchwork of wrong solutions and incomplete answers, and in the end they walked away once they'd done enough damage, while God's way was one correct solution, correctly done, and the people praised Him when it was done.

Man's way was over an unworthy goal ( a concubine, who'd left him to go back to her father, which took him four months of sitting around before he was so motivated to get her; then he fed her to "the dogs", after which he wanted revenge), while God's way was worthy (to save people who'd appealed to Him for help).

Man's way sought a scapegoat, God's way forgave.

That brought me to Friday's reading, in Isaiah 63.  So far we've seen sin as a cause of misconceiving God, trying to fit God into our expectations as the means by which we misconceive God, and seeking glory over simplicity, wrong motives, and wrong "consulting with God" as ways we accomplish it.  But here, we come to another misconception- that God will, in the end, let everyone off the hook.  The passage is an apocolyptic prophecy, that starts with a speaker who does not know Jesus questioning His actions at the Final Judgement.

Who is this coming from Edom,
from Bozrah, with his garments stained crimson?
Who is this, robed in splendor,
striding forward in the greatness of his strength?

“It is I, proclaiming victory,
mighty to save.”

2 Why are your garments red,
like those of one treading the winepress?

3 “I have trodden the winepress alone;
from the nations no one was with me.
I trampled them in my anger
and trod them down in my wrath;
their blood spattered my garments,
and I stained all my clothing.
4 It was for me the day of vengeance;
the year for me to redeem had come.
5 I looked, but there was no one to help,
I was appalled that no one gave support;
so my own arm achieved salvation for me,
and my own wrath sustained me.
6 I trampled the nations in my anger;
in my wrath I made them drunk
and poured their blood on the ground.”
Those who are ignorant of God will have no escape.  In our day of tolerance and touchy-feely "faith", this is the part everyone wants to cast aside, under the excuse that "a god of love wouldn't do such a thing."  But that concept isn't one of understanding God as love; it's a concept of Satan telling us "there are no consequences for sin."  The chapter goes on with prayer of thankfulness and pleas for redemption from the remnant, but the point lies in this and in this verse later on:
Like a horse in open country,
they did not stumble;
14 like cattle that go down to the plain,
they were given rest by the Spirit of the Lord.
This is how you guided your people
to make for yourself a glorious name.
The Spirit of God leads those who believe; the rest face judgement.  Period.  And if you are busy like Naaman making excuses (I'll have to change jobs, I'll look silly, etc.), you could lead yourself into this greatest misconcepiton of all.
And Saturday?  The week ends with a single verse that makes the end pieces to each side.  I could have easily started this whole thing with the first part of Mark 4:11:
11   (Jesus)told them, “The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you...

As Christians, the Secrets have been given to us.  And we can understand the parts we don't blind ourselves to with sin and false expectations.  But the rest of the verse (and the next) explain why there is still going to come the day of Isaiah 63:

...But to those on the outside all things come in parables 12 so that,
“‘they may be ever seeing but never perceiving,
and ever hearing but never understanding;
otherwise they might turn and be forgiven!’[a]

Did you get that- "all things come in parables"?  A parable is defined as:

a short allegorical story designed to illustrate or teach some truth, religious principle, or moral lesson.
a statement or comment that conveys a meaning indirectly by the use of comparison, analogy, or the like.

To those who do not believe, life is just a story that has an indirect meaning.  Our life on earth is a parable that illustrates heaven.  And if we don't set misconceptions aside and seek out God, we'll never get to the true meaning.

No comments:

Post a Comment