In our old testament reading we see the repopulation of Jerusalem following renewal of the covenant in chapter 10. Ten percent of the population leave their properties and homes in the Judean countryside to take up residence in Jerusalem. I find it interesting that the decision for who will go to Jerusalem and who will stay is done by casting lots. The scripture does not tell us whether those who drew the lot to return to Jerusalem where happy or sad about leaving their homes. Perhaps we can presume a bit of both? However, what is clear is that the covenant renewal made in the preceding chapter required committment and action… and they dedicate themselves to this task. I wonder if I would have been obedient to the result of a lot draw if it meant giving up my home? I am encouraged by the obedience of these Israelites who not only proclaim the renewal of a covenant but also live it out. Jesus quotes Isaiah in Matthew 15:8 when he states ‘This people honours me with their lips, but their heart is far from me‘. I think these Israelites are a good example of people who honour God with their hearts, actions and lips. For me, this is a great encouragement for us today to be faithful in living our lives, not just willing but actually giving up whatever it takes to follow Christ.
Paul continues his treatise on marriage in our 1 Corinthians 7 reading today. Sometimes I struggle to understand the application of this part of God’s word in today’s world – stay single or get married – I would be very happy for others to comment on how they think this passage could be applied today. Certainly Paul starts by saying he has ‘no command from the Lord’ and then proceeds to launch into a significant amount of advice. Paul indicates there is some urgency regarding ‘the present crisis’ (likely famine) that ‘time is short’ and ‘the world is passing away’. His encouragement to the Corinithian church is to not waste time – whether you are married or single, or you want to get married or want to stay single then dedicate yourself to the task. I think it his helpful to read all of 1 Cor 7 as a whole to gain a proper perspective of the high regard Paul has for marriage. Paul makes no distinction in terms of sin between staying single or getting married (v36) and encourages individuals to make a decision freely but with due regard for the importance, gravity and responsibility of such a committment. I pray today that whether we are single or married we will all keep our focus first and fore mostly on Jesus and honour God where he has placed us.