How many times must we be told?

Our faithful daily readings today are Jeremiah 17 and Matthew 28.

This last chapter of Matthew reminds me of the number of times I’ve read this passage in parts or whole and I am still amazed of the gracious love of our Almighty God to us and those involved on those days .

Looking backwards from The Great Commission (Matt 28:18-20) we see God’s gracious care for us as His ambassadors.  Not only are we to go into all the world leading others to Him but He will be with us always.

A few days before this He is hung on a cross and crucified.   Yet even here,  at a most difficult time, when The Messiah is unmercifully killed for our sins, God cares for His children.  An angel is sent to deliver the message of Christ’s resurrection to His followers ,  to calm them and reassure them.  Not only this act,  but also Jesus appears to these same followers and sets up an appointment to meet the group in a few days.

At this appointed time Jesus is present and is worshipped as is befitting our risen Saviour.  Although some doubt Jesus the passage records His clear direction in verses 18 to 20.

The book of Jeremiah,  particularly today’s chapter 17, reminds us of the divide between those who have faith and respect God and those who may or may not say the words but live lives that disown God.   Lives immersed in idolatry,  wealth creation by evil methods and disregard for God.   Disregard that is unrepentant and self-serving.  Jeremiah continues his difficult role of preaching to the unrepentant and threatening people.  He  too knows his strength and defence comes from the Lord and prays for this.  (v14 to 18)

Today,  after the resurection of our Lord,  we too have a role and the same strength and defence is with us ‘even to the ends of the earth’.

Two passages stand out for me here: Jeremiah  29:11 and Jude 1:17-23.

A prayer Almighty Father,  you gave your own Son,  our Lord Jesus,  as a sacrifice for our sin.  Thank you Father for this extraordinary gift  Your Holy Spirit is now part of our lives.  Grant Father that we will walk in your ways Lord accepting your commission for us to act as Your ambassadors,  to seek out and by your Holy Spirit allow Christ to be seen for those who do not know You.  Keep us strong in faith,  courageous and caring as we witness for you and as we walk with our brothers and sisters in faith.  We ask these things in the name of Jesus Christ.   Amen.

If you would like to read a little more on the missional church in the world and what parts of the Old Testament teach us can I recommend Mark Glanville’s post of 6/10/2015 at https://markrglanville.wordpress.com/2015/10/06/how-does-canaanite-destruction-relate-to-mission-and-justice/

Glenn

[Originally posted on 15/10/2015 by Glenn Murray]

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Matthew 27:27-56

Jeremiah 15, Matthew 27:27-56


 

Wollongong churches have recently printed T-shirts and badges and banners with the unfinished sentence “Jesus Is ___”. In Matthew 27:27-56, half a dozen opinions are given as to how to finish this thought.

  •  A whole company of the governor’s soldiers hail Jesus as “king of the Jews” – but they were mocking him.
  •  The written charge against Jesus used the same words: “THIS IS JESUS, THE KING OF THE JEWS”. This written charge explains why Jesus was crucified; he was seen to be a king, competing with the Roman Emperor for allegiance, committing treason.
  •  Passers-by hurled insults. They mockingly applied the title, “Son of God”.
  •  The chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders also mocked Jesus as “the king of Israel”.
  •  Jesus himself was reported as saying “I am the Son of God”.
  •  The centurion and those guarding Jesus exclaimed, “Surely he was the Son of God”.

There are six opinions. What’s yours?

GOD’S JUDGEMENT – frees or falls heavily

JEREMIAH 14

RK Harrison in his commentary on Jeremiah helpfully introduces our chapter for today this way:

‘Poetry and prose alternate in a dialogue between God and Jeremiah in which the prophet intercedes earnestly for Judah.’  P101

The scene is harsh – severe drought devastating the land and lifestyle of the people.                                             -dead bodies are not being buried.                                                                                                    -false prophets spreading lies

While Jeremiah is aware that these chosen people are again ignoring God, worshipping man-made gods and are pleasing themselves, he continues, in the tradition of Abraham – (Genesis 18:23-33) Moses –  (Exodus 32:11-13) and Samuel – (1Samuel7:5-9)  to vicariously confess their failure to follow God and to plead for their forgiveness.  He knows that confession leads to forgiveness and longs for God to have mercy and for the people to turn back to God.

However Jeremiah is forbidden to intercede on their behalf because judgement is set.

Our own society is God-forgetful and wilful so let us, like Jeremiah, pray for our people and seek God’s mercy for us all.

 

MATTHEW 27:11-36

Today’s passage from Matthew’s account of the high drama leading up to Jesus’ crucifixion has many challenges for us.  Personally we are finding it hard to read this momentous event in little snippets, though this way has enabled time to focus on each event leading to the ultimate crucifixion.

Today we we look in on Pilate, the Roman governor’s encounter with Jesus.  He is at a crossroad – does he free an inocent man?  He has plenty of support for this action

-his own ‘gut’ feeling

– the conflicting & false charges

– his wife’s warning

Pilate really has a  dilemma – to free Jesus, he will incur the wrath of the people whom he is in the land to govern OR

convict Jesus and betray himself.

He takes the way that I fear that I would also have taken and sadly may be tempted to do in similar situations today –

He washes his hands.  I am innocent.  You do it.  It is your fault.

Do we find it easy to speak up for Jesus and for people who have been wronged by others OR do we too leave it to others and keep ourselves safe?

The other dilema is that the purpose of Christ’s coming was to die to secure salvation.  So from our perspective 2000 years later and with the resource of the Bible freely available to us we know that this death was a deep love-act for humanity and was always God’s ancient purpose.  However, that does not excuse Pilate’s action but could strengthen our will to speak up for Jesus and also for people suffering injustice.

Peter and Elizabeth

[Originally posted on 12/10/2015 by pesmart]

Matthew 25:44

Judges 8; Matthew 25:31-46


Matthew 25:44 (New International Version)

44 “Lord, when did we see you?”


Here is separation and distinction. Here is contrast after contrast. The sheep contrasted with the goats. On his right contrasted with on his left. Blessed contrasted with cursed. The call to come contrasted with the command to depart. An inheritance, the kingdom prepared since the creation of the world, contrasted with the eternal fire, prepared for the devil and his angels. Eternal punishment contrasted with eternal life. And the key contrast is that one group did, and one group didn’t, offer food, drink, shelter, clothing, care, and compassion to those in need. The contrast between the actions and the contrast between the consequences could not be greater.

Yet despite the many contrasts, the two groups had one thing in common. Both were surprised. Life is full of surprises. So is death. A massive pleasant, or an unpleasant, surprise awaits us all.

 

More than transformed rubble

Nehemiah 12 commences with a generational roll call of eminent priests and Levites (v.1-26) among whom is Abijah (v.4) from whom Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist was descended (Luke 1:5).

Having shared his account of the building of the wall in chapters 1-7, Nehemiah now depicts for us the dedication day, with its twin processions and loud rejoicing for their restoration (v.27-43).

After an extensive rebuilding program that touched the lives of the entire community and brought security and pride to the people of Jersulem again. It was a time to celebrate the goodness of God and give thanks. There is no doubt that this would have been a spectacular event to behold, bringing together Levites, singers and musicians from the surrounding regions. But it was also a sacred event requiring the purification (v.30) of the Levites, the people and gates and wall itself.

Two impressive choirs led the processions which departed in different directions to circumnavigate the city, coming together at the house of the Lord (v.40) where great sacrifices and loud rejoicing was offereds because “God had given them great joy.”

In verses 44- 47, this show of joy and zeal is tapped into, to ensure that worship remains part of the fabric of society with key appointments made to collect and look after the tithes and offerings and lead worship.

While the story of Nehemiah teaches us that rubble can be transformed to restore pride and give security again, the Parable of the Tenants in Matthew 21:33-45 further educates us that more than physical walls can be built with that which has been rejected.

“‘The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone;
this was the Lord’s doing,
and it is marvellous in our eyes’?

Jesus prophecises of a time when those very walls that Nehemiah built up, were about to come tumbling down again, because the religious zeal for God had been lost (v.43-45).

A new book – Nehemiah

Today’s (Sa 05/08/2017) FDR is Nehemiah 1 and Matthew 18:10-20

Beginning a new book today we can take a brief but broad view of what we are about to read for the next few weeks.

Nehemiah is a book largely about renewal, in this case principally about the wall for the defence of Jerusalem.  The wall that is used to control and regulate the way of life inside the city by the use of its gates in accordance with ritual and commercial processes inside the city.

For us though, there is a strong reason to see this account as a broad euphemism for our own renewal and protection against being drawn into sin and keeping our walk with God righteous.  The image of the wall and the struggles of Nehemiah to establish a rebuilding operation are much like our own struggles to keep evil out of our lives and to walk in the paths of our God.  So too its possible to see in this record’s course our own use of defences and primarily the acts of relying on God for both guidance and sustenance for the whole journey.   For example, the acts of adding weapons to the work parties on the walls mimics our need and adoption of prayer, in faith, and actions that seek to keep us from falling into sin.  Yet there are plenty of distractions in our lives to sin and so too Nehemiah and the people are constantly buffeted by opponents.

Enjoy Nehemiah and encourage each other in our own lives before God and each other.

Glenn

 

 

But we have sinned!

Today’s (Fr 04/08/2017) FDR is Ezra 10 and Matthew 22:1-14

Ezra 10

As we open the last chapter of Ezra we are struck by Ezra being in a confessional mode.  For something serious enough to again remove the Israel nation from its earthly home and worship place.  Israel could again loose Jerusalem, Judah and the Temple!  Ezra 9 disclosed this sin.

The banishment to Babylon came after God’s judgement on a people who had filled their land with abhorrent practices.  Their guilt for accepting this judgement is finally accepted by Daniel. (See Daniel’s prayer at Dan 9:4-19.)

Like other Old Testament leaders such as Josiah, Mordecai and Esther and Jehoshaphat, Ezra adopts an attitude of confession and prayer while seeking to make right what is wrong.

Moses tells us in Deuteronomy 30:19 what use the Law is before God. “This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live.

Even today the law has the same purpose. Martin Luther too, gave this strong argument based on the same Deuteronomy passage: “… that by the words of the law, man is admonished and taught, not what he can do, but that what he ought to do; that is, that he may know his sin, not that he may believe that he has any strength.”

Then Ezra’s people, lead by their leaders, agree to a way to set themselves right before God and they spend a number of months carefully going about rectifying the abhorrent practices so that they may walk in God’s paths of righteousness.

Sending away their wives who were taken from other non-God fearing peoples and their children was a practice we would find very difficult in today’s post resurrection age.  Essentially, Ezra and his people are removing those who would not believe from among the tribes of Israel.  Here a cleansing of God’s people is being undertaken.

Matthew 22

This passage too is about conviction and choice.  Choice to obey or not.

As the King sends out his servants to bring in guests, each time he is refused.  Each time his royal invitation is disobeyed. So each time the King makes a more generous invitation to those less likely by earthly standards to be invited.

Jesus’ parable mimics His own work among us.  Even after the wedding celebration is filled the King finds those who did not respond correctly to his invitation and this person is bound and cast out of the wedding.  Here are echoes of Jesus’ parable about the sheep and the goats and the sorting out of the ‘faithful’ at judgement time by removing those who mimic the sheep of Jesus.  (see Matthew 25:31-46)

John 1:12-13 makes it clear why there is only one way to become and remain a sheep in Jesus’ flock, or a member of His church.

12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God – 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

May each one of us walk prayerfully and carefully in the paths of our Lord Jesus Christ and encourage and support our sisters and brothers to remain faithful.

Glenn