Listening and trusting God vs doing stuff

Hosea Ch 5

This chapter is subtitled “Judgment Against Israel” and it certainly is exactly that. Through the prophet Hosea, The Lord lambasts the various tribes, particularly Ephraim.

Jacob (that is Israel) had 12 sons and you might think that each of these sons gave rise to the 12 tribes of Israel. Not quite! Jacob elevated his grandsons, Mannasseh and Ephraim, to full tribe status alongside his other sons. “Why?, I hear you ask.

I’m no biblical scholar but I’ll take a punt. Jacob’s 12 sons were from 4 different “wives” – well 2 wives, Leah and Rachel, and one of each of their slaves (handmaidens, concubines or what you will.) The biblical account is clear that Rachel was Jacob’s favourite wife but she had trouble conceiving so Jacob explored several other possibilities. It is fairly obvious that Joseph, the first son to come eventually from Rachel would have been his favourite but certainly not the eldest. Hence, Jacob split what would have been the tribe descended from Joseph into two separate but fully accredited tribes descended from Joseph’s sons Ephraim and Mannasseh. Sort of doubled up on the inheritance for Joseph’s lot.

“A baker’s dozen”, I hear you cry. Doesn’t that make 13 tribes of Israel?

No! Well..er, yes.. maybe. The Bible is such an interesting book when you look into it. The tribe of Levi were assigned to the duties of priests to serve all of the other tribes and as such they were not allowed to own land. So, maybe yes, 13 tribes but only 12 nations were formed in the promised land.

Now if even the tribe of Ephraim, the favoured grandson from the favoured son of the favoured wife was getting mixed up in immorality, then things must have been pretty bad and God was not happy! Also, Ephraim seems to be a sort of nickname for the Northern Kingdom although Manasseh had a much bigger land holding. Similarly, Judah became symbolic of the Southern kingdom. The tribes are seen here forming various alliances with non-Jewish nations around them. Of course we see The Lord threatening his people with misery because of their lack of trust in Him, and history played out the destruction of the entire kingdom, taken away in slavery. Lesson#1: Pay attention to God and his laws rather than trying to shore up aspects of your life with reliance on your own plans.

Luke 10:38-42

“Martha my dear”, I can almost hear Jesus singing these words. Her sister, Mary chose to sit down and listen to Jesus rather than getting involved in the household chores. Martha called for Jesus to back her up and chide Mary for not helping but, perhaps surprisingly, he didn’t. I think there is a bit of a balancing act going on here because Jesus also urged us to have a servant mentality. However, busy work for God is not always what God wants, as in this case. Lesson#2: see lesson #1.

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Shaking Dust

Read Luke 10

There is a lot going on in this chapter of Luke, so I thought I’d just focus on one issue that came up for me while reading this chapter. In verse 11 Jesus tells his disciples to move on if people reject them and say something like ‘Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet we wipe off against you.’

What should we do with this? Does this mean I’m meant to shake the dust off my metaphorical feet (they’re actually quite clean most of the time honestly) and move on from my friends and family who don’t want to hear about Jesus?

I just want to share with you another passage that occurs later on in Luke which I think helps us see that this is probably not the application. In Luke 22:35-38, we read a discussion between Jesus and his disciples that occurred during the last supper

35 Then Jesus asked them, “When I sent you without purse, bag or sandals, did you lack anything?”

“Nothing,” they answered.

36 He said to them, “But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one. 37 It is written: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors’[b]; and I tell you that this must be fulfilled in me. Yes, what is written about me is reaching its fulfilment.”

38 The disciples said, “See, Lord, here are two swords.”

“That’s enough!” he replied.                                                                                                            

I think this second passage really helps us interpret and understand the first in Luke 10. Firstly, Jesus explicitly brings to fulfilment some of the commands he gave his disciples. I think this shows that the mission Jesus sent his disciples on in Luke 10 was a specific mission that was particularly designed to prepare the way for “where he himself was about to go”. In light of this, I think there are particular, unique, things about this mission that are no longer binding for Christian mission. For instance, Jesus clearly wants his disciples to take a bag with them now. And his harsh reply/rebuke of “that’s enough”, only makes sense if we understand his command to buy a sword and bring a bag, more generally as a command of being prepared.

In light of this, I think there is some aspects of the first mission that Jesus sent his disciples on that were fulfilled during the time of Jesus, and some that are timeless for us today.

Therefore, I for one am not going to give up on sharing my faith with those who don’t want to hear it. I would love to encourage you to do the same and to keep going even if sometimes you do feel discouraged, like moving on, or shaking off that dust off your feet.

Keen to hear you think are the timely and timeless principles of this mission for Jesus’ disciples today.

Peter Lenehan.

 

Hosea 2.2-23, Luke 10.1-24

The situation – V2-7a – these verses capture the unfaithfulness of Hosea’s wife as a metaphor for Israel. 

The selfish response –  V8-13 – these verses show the wife going back to her husband. She doesn’t do this out of respect or repentance but because she knows life was better with God. The husband, God, sees that the actions are from self preservation motives. There is no acknowledgement of past failings or even the need for punishment of past crimes. 

The redemptive response – V14-23 – the repeated phrase used in these words of “I will” highlights Gods initiative in redeeming his people. He is the one that will bring about change. He is the one that will bring the people back to him. He is the one who will, through Jesus, bring about the reconciliation of these broken parties. A sacrificial husband saving his wife. A sacrificial God saving his people. 

Certainty in spite of circumstances

Psalm 89 is listed as a A Maskil of Ethan the Ezrahite. Curious, I thought I’d search online for what a Maskil is. I am not much wiser for the experience, as it seems the scholars are not certain either.

maskil (Mas´kil)

A Hebrew word of uncertain significance that appears in the headings of some thirteen psalms, (Ps 32, Ps 42, Ps 44, Ps 45, Ps 52, Ps 53, Ps 54, Ps 55, Ps 74, Ps 78, Ps 88, Ps 89, and Ps 142). Some current versions of the Bible leave the word untranslated, while others, in accordance with its apparent root meaning of “understand” or “ponder,” translate it as “instruction” or the like. Scholars have suggested that maskil is possibly a technical term relating to the manner of a psalm’s performance or a class of composition. The latter hypothesis is supported by the Psalter’s use of other apparent class names in parallel fashion as well as by the appearance of the word in (Amos 5:13), where it may designate such a class.

Of Ethan the Ezrahite we know only a little more. He was of the tribe of Levi, and reputed to be wise, and in fact used as a benchmark to describe how wise King Solomon was, (he was wiser than all other men, wiser than Ethan the Ezrahite –1 kings 4:31)

Whoever he was, this is the only Psalm directly attributed to him*

What can we learn from wise Ethan’s Psalm?

This Psalm begins with extolling the steadfast love of the Lord.

I will sing of the steadfast love of the Lord, for ever;
    with my mouth I will make known your faithfulness to all generations.

For many verses Ethan talks about how unfailing God is, recounting God’s promises to David, as if to remind God that He made them, and declaring that God is faithful in keeping them.

Verse 30 is where we first begin to see that perhaps not everything is rosy for Ethan as he speaks of God’s blessing to David’s descendants in verse 29, but of consequences if they should stray from God.

29 I will establish his offspring for ever
    and his throne as the days of the heavens.
30 If his children forsake my law
    and do not walk according to my rules,
31 if they violate my statutes
    and do not keep my commandments,
32 then I will punish their transgression with the rod
    and their iniquity with stripes,
33 but I will not remove from him my steadfast love
    or be false to my faithfulness.

 

Then verses 33-37 affirm yet again God’s faithfulness and steadfastness and declaration to keep His promises.

So it is like a visceral blow when verse 38–45 cry out to God declaring God’s abandonment, perhaps of Ethan or perhaps of the current king or leader of Israel.

His grievance declared before God, he now pleads with the Lord in verses 46-48, reminding God that man’s days are short, and that he does not want to wait until he dies to feel the Lord’s steadfast love again.

Ethan’s plea goes right up to the second last verse and then in stark contrast or perhaps poignant climax, he abruptly concludes with Blessed be the Lord for ever! Amen and Amen.

As I read this Psalm I was struck by the contrast of Ethan’s certainty of how steadfast God’s love is, and yet the anguish of how distant God seems to Ethan the Ezrahite. But Ethan, in spite of his circumstances begins and ends this Psalm with bold, determined declarations. “I will sing of the steadfast love of the Lord, for ever” and “Blessed be the Lord for ever!”

Perhaps the events of the last few days have you identifying just a little with Ethan’s pain in verses 50-51:

50 Remember, O Lord, how your servants are mocked,
    and how I bear in my heart the insults of all the many nations,
51 with which your enemies mock, O Lord,
    with which they mock the footsteps of your anointed.

 

The enemies of God still mock his people today, as has been abundantly clear in the nastiness spewed forth even in victory of the “yes” campaign in the postal survey about changing what marriage means. Yet God’s love is just as steadfast today, and when we feel mockery and apparent triumph of a world that hates God, we would do well to remember to boldly follow Ethan’s example of absolute confidence and boldness:

I will sing of the steadfast love of the Lord, for ever;
    with my mouth I will make known your faithfulness to all generations.

 

How can I make God’s faithfulness known today?

*There is a possibility Ethan the Ezrahite might also be known as Jeduthun in which case there are two other psalms, 62 and 77.

Not just a Public Holiday

Esther 9:20-10:3

As we finish Esther as Australians we resonate with the establishment of this festival of Purim – a day off for feasting and remembering. Who doesn’t want that?

The meaning behind our public holidays in many instances has been forgotten – Labour Day, Queens Birthday (unless you’re a monarchist!) and for some Christmas and Easter. The 2 days that still seem to have significant meaning for many Australians are Anzac Day and Australia Day (notwithstanding the current debate)

Mordecai and Esther are very keen that Gods providence and sovereign power in preserving the Jews is remembered and celebrated annually. Mordecai with some prescriptive detail communicates this the Jews both near and far in Xerxes kingdom. In some ways this celebration sounds a lot lot like Christmas! – getting together, feasting, joy, giving presents, remembering the poor.

Mordecai is elevated in rank second only to the king. What Haman had planned and plotted – the destruction of the Jews has been over ruled by the Lords power.

God’s sovereignty is greater than the power of any human leader – King Xerxes, Donald Trump or Robert Mugabe. He even changes the hearts of leaders to achieve His will.

Lets pray He continues to do that in the world…………and as always including our own heart.

Who do you say that I am?

Luke 9: 18 – 36

“Who do the crowds say that I am?” Jesus asks Peter in a quiet moment. Something interesting to ponder this morning. The identity of Jesus has been a hotly contested topic, both in ancient Israel and throughout the past two thousand years.

Who do the crowds say Jesus is?

Crowds can include a wide cross section of humanity, including those who express faith, and those who are curious, and those who are actively hostile. Crowds can hold wisdom, and crowds can be manipulated and led astray. Certainly the crowd at church on a Sunday may have different responses to this question than the crowd cheering at the football in Sydney this evening as I write this reflection.

“Who do the crowds say that I am?” is a good discussion question. A question to provoke thought.

Jesus follows up on this question with, “But who do you say that I am?” And suddenly the ground shifts from safe intellectual, or even theological pondering, to a direct and personal enquiry. “Who do you say that I am?”

Peter has an answer, which Jesus takes and turns upside down. Peter says that Jesus is the Messiah of God. Jesus replies that being the Messiah of God means suffering, rejection, death and resurrection are Jesus’ pathway. The Messiah of God resists and exposes the values and the priorities of the world, and those in positions of privilege who have a vested interest in maintaining their power. Saying he believes Jesus is the Messiah of God, upends Peter onto the pathway and into the mission of Jesus. The repercussions are enormous. Suffering and rejection inflicted by worldly powers are naturally shared by those who say that Jesus is the Messiah and follow him. Jesus leads those who follow, however, into the freedom and reality of the very presence of God’s glorious reign and life!

Today, in a quiet moment away from the voices of the crowd, who do you say Jesus is?

Hanging Haman

Go on admit it – we all like to see an evil villain get their just deserts – whether that be in a novel, movie or in the annals of history.

More than any other book in the Bible, Esther reads like the script of a TV mini-series. Each chapter drawing to a climax to be resolved in the next.

In yesterday’s episode Haman is forced to eat humble pie, his enemy Mordecai is honoured in his place. The moment of triumph he had plotted had blown up in his face. Humiliated Haman rushes home with his tail between his legs to vent to his wife and friends the injustice of it all but finds no sympathy. Those who had proposed his victorious scenario (5:14) – now don’t want to know him (6:13).

Esther 7 is the point in the story where everything comes out in the open

Before the chilling reality of those prophetic words could set in, the Kings’ eunuchs arrive to take him to the feast that Queen Esther had prepared (6:14).

Exploiting the King’s partiality for food and wine, Ahasuerus (Xerxes) is favourably disposed to hear what Esther wishes to request of him. He is shocked when Esther reveals her ethnicity and pleads that her life and those of her people to be spared.

What?? How can this be?? Who is responsible for this act of evil???

Esther points the finger of blame squarely on the shoulders of the deceitful Haman who had coerced the King into unwittingly pronouncing an irreversible degree which would bring about the genocide of the Jewish people throughout the kingdom.

For Haman – a bad day could not possibly get any worse (or could it?)

While the enraged, humilated and slightly inebriated King storms out of the room to cool his head in serenity of the palace garden; Haman throws himself at the reclining Queen Esther in the vain hope that she might show him some mercy. The returning King catches Haman in a compromising position and his fate is sealed.

Palace security cover his face and he is hauled off to be hung on the very gallows he had prepared for Mordecai.

We see in this passage justice being served – the wicked punished and those with integrity and godly character triumph. But in our experience this is not always the case. Our motivation for doing what is right is in understanding that justice will ultimately prevail. We may not witness justice in our lifetime, but we know from scripture that justice will be done as Psalm 73 reminds us that when we are frustrated with the lack of justice, we must go to the sanctuary of God for His perspective. We must continue to do what is right whether or not justice happens now.

Some translations state that Haman was impaled rather than hung. If you would like to explore why this may be so – I commend to you the interesting posting “Was Haman Hanged or Impaled?” by Benjamin Shaw.