“They say the Lord does not see”

Psalm94 is an appeal to the Lord, as Judge of the earth (v2), to redress the wrongs perpetrated against the weak by arrogant and wicked men who occupy the seats of power. – NIV text note.

At the moment I’m binge watching a Netflix miniseries Designated Survivor. It tells the story of a nobody politician who is thrust into the presidency of the USA after a calamitous terrorist event. He is a good man who wants to do good for the nation but his intentions are thwarted by those intent on evil even within his own government. As I watch I want good to prevail and opposition to the inexperienced new president to be crushed.

And so it is with the writer of this Psalm. He sees the evil of those in power and what they do to the powerless and he is perplexed. How long will God put up with these ignorant men and their actions he asks. “they say the Lord does not see” (V7). They can do what they like – God is impotent.

He reflects in Vs16 – 19 that the Lord is personal and that He has come to his aid and consoled him in his anxiety and brought joy.

As we see the evil around us let us pour out thoughts and voice to the Lord and long for justice and righteousness in leadership. At times we can be indifferent and shrug our shoulders – “that’s just the way it is” we say. We may sometimes even add to the perpetration of evil not just by indifference but action. To me the findings of the royal commission into child sexual abuse highlight this.

As we yearn for leaders to do what is “right” may we also always be eager to do what is good – Titus 2:14

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Begging for Mercy

Leviticus 13: 45-46

Luke 17: 11- 19

Jesus spent a great deal of time in the borderlands with people on the fringes of society. The story of his encounter with 10 lepers, or those who suffered from skin diseases, confronts us with multiple barriers which conspire to segregate, shame, and stigmatise fellow human beings. Jesus is in the midst of foreigners, in a village somewhere in the mixed-race lands between Samaria and Galilee. Samaritans were despised by their Hebrew neighbours as heretics. Ritual impurity and the fear of contagion condemned the sufferers of skin diseases to the lonely and destitute edges of society.

Keeping their distance, as prescribed by the Law, the sufferers call to Jesus, begging him for mercy. In response, Jesus instructs the lepers to act in faith, and present themselves to the priests who can declare them clean. They go, and miraculously are indeed healed.

One of them, a Samaritan, ‘sees’ he is healed. Here Luke is clearly noting the importance of both ‘sight’ and ‘insight’. The Samaritan is not only attentive to his cleansing, he is also aware of the identity of the source of his healing, and these open within him the floodgates of praise, thanksgiving and joy. The Samaritan recognized and was transformed by the presence and saving activity of a merciful God in Jesus.

Jesus comes to all of us where we are. I found particularly moving the utter humility of the fearfully distant and yet desperate begging call of the lepers to Jesus. The reality of Jesus’ healing mercy is always given in response to our deep need.

Mercy is given, but must be received. If we do not ‘see’ the goodness of God then how can we experience the freedom and joy which accompanies the gift of mercy. There were 10 sufferers, 10 healings, and yet only 1 transformation – a Samaritan from the margins.

Today’s invitation – Open your eyes and see.

A box of summer fruit

For me one of the biggest clues that it is summer is the appearance of roadside fruit stalls at either end of the Princes Motorway or along Appin Road. We have all seen the signs along the road alerting us to the truck ahead – Mangos (spelt incorrectly) $10 a box.

I love the summer stone fruits – peaches, mangoes, nectarines, apricots and cherries!!! It is something I look forward to tasting this time every year. But not so in our Old Testament reading from Amos 8, where in the vision the prophet is confronted with of ripe summer fruit – ordinarily associated with the joys and provision of the harvest becomes a sign of mourning and judgement.

The connection between summer fruit and judgement is not readily apparent as we miss the play on words in the original language where the word for summer fruit “qayis” is similar in sound to the word “qes” which means end – or as the NIV ominously puts it in verse 2 – “The time is ripe for my people”.

In this scene from God’s courtroom, the verdict is handed down. Just as the apparent promise of summer fruit was turned into the assurance of Israel’s destruction, so the joyous temple hymns would give way to the wailing when the wrath of God’s judgement fell on them (v3).

The nation has been charged with exploiting and mistreating the poor and vulnerable. Merchants could not wait for the holy days to be over and the Sabbath to end so they could resume dishonest trading with short measures and inflated prices. The Message paraphrase of verses 4-6 puts it a modern context:
Listen to this, you who walk all over the weak, you who treat poor people as less than nothing,
Who say, “When’s my next pay cheque coming so I can go out and live it up?
How long till the weekend when I can go out and have a good time?”
Who give little and take much, and never do an honest day’s work.
You exploit the poor, using them—and then, when they’re used up, you discard them.

The judgement to follow will surely come because God does not allow his glory to be sullied. The metaphor of an earthquake (v8) represents the calamity that Amos has referred to throughout the book. Such catastrophic language is used to foreshadow the fear and dread in the hearts and minds of the people. The destruction of Samaria (v10-12) will be the cause of bitter of bitter mourning. Amos describes the event in terms of a funeral for an only son. He then goes on to depict a coming famine – not starving people searching for food and water but for the word of the Lord. They had rejected the word, not realising its great value, and had lost it forever.

In case we are under some allusion that such scenarios are strictly “Old Testament” – our New Testament reading from Luke 16:16-31 contains the equally confronting vision of the Rich Man and Lazarus. Again neglecting the needs of the poor are met with judgement. From his place of torment, the rich man makes a desperate appeal that his family might warned and spared. But Abraham answers him –
‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’

Let us heed the warning signs – that we too hear the words of prophets like Amos.

You Cannot Serve Two Masters

Today’s reading is taken from Amos 7 & Luke 16:1-15.

James in chapter 3 asks his readers, what I think is, a rhetorical question – “can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring?” It doesn’t take a genius to answer this, only some primary school level science and perhaps some common sense… yes, definitely some common sense. Although the context here is of bridling the tongue, the core of the statement remains the issue and posture of the heart. The heart is what drives our motives and sets our course. Our hearts are either set on things of God and glorifying him or they are set on glorifying ourselves and our mortal flesh.

Luke in chapter 16 talks about a manager whose heart was deceitful. He was a child of the world in contrast to one of the light (v.8). Although on the surface he was serving his master, in his heart he was serving himself. His heart wasn’t set on service and honesty but was set on riches and selfish gain. When he started off he probably thought he could keep working for his master and perhaps have the occasional shoddy business on the side. But by the looks of things he’s gone too far. It’s come to a place where his greed and ambition are no longer subtle. It’s come to a place where his master has to end his tenure. He probably thought that he could serve two masters but as Luke clearly puts it in verse 13, that is not possible.

Amaziah in Amos 7, on the surface is an agent of God, a priest in the temple. His heart too was set on the wrong thing. When spoken to directly by a prophet of God, Amaziah wasn’t able to discern. Instead he tried to drive out Amos from Israel. He was busy serving the evil regime of King Jeroboam (2 Kings 14:24) instead of serving the God of Jacob. Here too, it is abundantly clear that Amaziah wasn’t able to serve two masters.

Both of these characters although may seem to be serving one master, were in essence serving another. Instead of serving the God who created them, they were in essence serving themselves, their own agenda, and their deceitfulness which would in both cases ultimately lead to their downfall. Salt water and fresh water cannot come from the same source. In the same way our hearts cannot be set on things of God as well as things of the world. We cannot serve God and serve our evil desires. We must make the conscious decision to submit our hearts to the things of God to acknowledge Him as our master and live to serve his cause.

Sam J.

KIC

Amos 6, Luke 15.11-32

God through Amos brings two accusations against his people in this passage. 

1. They are complacent – v1-7 – they are not following God, they are not loving what God loves, they are seeking to obey him, but potential worst of all is they think that is ok. They living it up and not seeing the danger of the situation they are in. It is the equivalent of being asked by your boss to get the job done and instead going and playing xbox for 6 hours.
2. He abhors their pride – v8-14 – the source of complacency is pride. When you think you are better then you are then you act better then you are. If you think you have no problems then you live as if you have none. 

God attacks the complacency and pride of the people of God. Both pride and complacency are reflections of their relationship with him. In Jesus our complacency and pride are undermined by needing someone else to do what we could not do ourselves. 

Fallen is Virgin Israel

Amos 5

The opening words of this chapter are dramatic.

Israel (the Northern Kingdom) had ascended to its greatest national achievement in the initial half of the 8th century BC. The mood was confident but the foundations were crumbling. “There are those who turn justice into bitterness, and cast righteousness to the ground”, consequently God warms that He will judge the nation.

Right living and caring for those in need were part of the calling that God had given to His people. Their failure to practise genuine loving concern for others would bring God’s judgement.

The command to love others as we love ourselves is a call from God to emulate His love for us in caring for others. Let’s seek to do it in the situation in which we live.

“Remember that when you leave this earth you can take with you nothing that you have received – only what you have given: a full heart, enriched by honest service, love, sacrifice, and courage” Francis of Assisi

God the Seeker

Luke 15:1-10

Jesus welcomed sinners then and welcomes now. I both parables God is the seeker. This is both our greatest personal encouragement and our calling to follow His example.

The Earth is the Lord’s

The Earth is the Lord’s

Psalm 93

God is the Creator King. Majesty and strength are His. Earth is the product of His creative will and power. It will continue as long as He determines.

We were given the task of caring for this part of His creation. Our record is not good and large numbers own no loyalty to the Creator King.

There are at least three things that we who seek to honour the Creator King can do.

1. We can acknowledge daily that we live in an environment that He has provided for us

2. We can do what we can to seek the good of the creation and act as faithful stewards.

3. We can acknowledge God our Creator King, trust in the provision He has made for our redemption in the Lord Jesus, and seek by His Holy Spirit to live in obedience to his commands the principal one being to love one another.