Monday, September 22, 2008

just passing through

Deuteronomy 29

As Moses winds down his address to the people of Israel chapter 29 talks a lot about the covenants. Several times in verses 9-14 Moses references "entering into a covenant" with God. For a Jewish person this imagery was literal. This was the method of those who made covenants: they would set up a demarcation on one side and a demarcation on the other side and those entering into the covenant would "pass through" between the partitions. Jeremiah 34:18 references this "passing through" in connection with a broken covenant in which the leaders of Judah, the priests, officials and people of the land passed between the parts of a slaughtered calf. Moses addresses the people of Israel standing before him and warned them about the covenant that they were about to enter into with God.

You see in just a few days God would part the Jordan river and the Israelites would pass through the Jordan in the same way that they had passed through the Red Sea as they had escaped Egypt. God had kept his promise that he established when they "passed through" the Red Sea and he would keep this covenant which he would establish when they "passed through" the Jordan River.

Jesus on the night he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, "This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me." In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying "This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me." For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes." (1 Corinthians 11)

The new covenant is established with Jesus sacrifice. Jesus sacrifice is validated at the resurrection. Romans 6 says that at baptism we are united with Christ's death, burial and resurrection. When you split the water and "pass through" you are entering into a covenant with God. One established by Jesus death, burial and resurrection. An agreement, a new covenant entered into by faith.

Back to Deuteronomy chapter 29. Verses 23 and following describe what happens to those who abandon the covenant; "The whole land will be a burning waste of salt and sulfur - nothing sprouting, no vegetation growing on it. It will be like the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, Adman and Zeboiim, which the Lord overthrew in fierce anger."

Sounds like another place that is described as one of torture, one of burning sulfur, a lake of fire. And who will experience this place? Those who abandon the new covenant.

May we be faithful and not abandon the new covenant which was established by God through Jesus death, burial and resurrection and into which we enter into when we pass through the waters of baptism.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

don't go back

Deuteronomy 17

Continuing in the directions that Moses is giving the people of Israel before they take possession of the promised land, Moses gives this instruction in chapter 17.

14 When you enter the land the LORD your God is giving you and have taken possession of it and settled in it, and you say, "Let us set a king over us like all the nations around us," 15 be sure to appoint over you the king the LORD your God chooses. He must be from among your own brothers. Do not place a foreigner over you, one who is not a brother Israelite. 16 The king, moreover, must not acquire great numbers of horses for himself or make the people return to Egypt to get more of them, for the LORD has told you, "You are not to go back that way again."

Moses instructions about having a king rule over Israel is interesting to me. First of all, it would be many generations before Samuel would anoint Saul as the first king to rule God's chosen people. But God knew what His people would want. He knew that they would want to be like the other nations around them. There is something about our nature that compels us to want to be like others. To fit in. To want to look like everyone else. That is still true today.

Our girls are headed out today for their first day of pre-school. So we stand on the cusp of a new chapter in their lives which includes education, socialization, personal growth, expanding their world, etc. It also includes the possibility of conformity. We don't know what kids will be in their class or what influence these kids will have on them, maybe not this year in pre-school, but soon. Sooner than we want to admit. Who will they choose as king? Will they want to be like other nations or will they choose Christ to be king in their lives?

I also like the admonition that the king should not return to Egypt, for the Lord says "You are not to go back that way again." How many of us, having been brought out of Egypt want to return. We don't remember the slavery. We don't remember the oppression. What we remember is the security and the things that the Egyptians have that we want. We have freedom but we want slavery. We have a new leader, we want to go back to that familiar Pharaoh.

May we all live as free men. May we not go back that way again.