Reading these genealogies, I thought about what they may have meant to their original audience. Maybe they made the original readers/hearers feel like they were part of a larger community, a larger family. Imagine seeing your grandfather’s name in the list of names and knowing that the history about to be recorded is your own. Each time God responds to His people in this history, He is responding to your ancestors. In the same way, He will respond to you. How thrilling it must have been for the original audience to realize their close connection to God through a specific family member.
For us today, maybe these genealogies can spur us to unity. Here we see the origins of the “tribes”, Israel and Judah, and also smaller subdivisions such as the Midionites and Tirathites. However, we also see they all came from Adam. We’re all the same tribe. We know not all of the original audience members realized this, as we read about many battles in their history, one tribe against another. Sometimes God used their enmity to bring about His will. No matter what we see happening around us today, we can know that 1. We’re all the same tribe and can love each other as family and 2. There are ugly battles with incomprehensible consequences, but ultimately God is in control. While He is not the cause of the evil that produces the ugliness and pain, we do know that His perfect rule will overcome all of it.
Do I see in another
But ignore in me?
Father, You are love. You made us in Your image, creative and able to love. Father, help us choose love. As we search for balance in the tension of all other areas of life, help us realize love never fails, is always in season, is always the correct response. Love is pure, love is truth. It does not shame or blame. It believes the best in people. It does not hide in the face of fear, but it casts out fear. Love is light and love is life. Love is a meaningful purpose for being. Love is the good news. That You, ruler of the universes, looked on us, Your creation, and said “you are my children”. You sent Yourself to save us, You give of Yourself to guide us. We can never understand this love. Our earthly version of love is so powerful already that we give our whole lives in pursuit of it. And this is just a glimpse of how You love us. Thank You. I love You. All in Your will. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Everything will pass away, but souls are eternal.
Souls are unique and to be treasured.
People are important.
You allow us to make our own choices.
You don’t force us, although you could.
Help us let others make their own choices.
Help us stop trying to force.
You loved Israel even when they were narrow-minded.
You loved us too.
Help us love those who seem narrow-minded.
Help us realize our own humanity.
Instead of condemning us straight to hell,
You said, “I’ll go to hell for you.”
Help us follow Moses, Paul, Jesus,
In this type of love, not swift condemnation.
Help us learn the kind of love from you,
that allows us to echo your words
and love so strongly that the hearer will know we mean them.
And through our love, they will more easily believe that you meant those words too.
That you did them.
That us going to hell for someone won’t really work, because none of us are perfect.
But it doesn’t need to work because it’s already been done.
For all of us.
Reading this psalm, I immediately remembered a time when I thought that I was so far from God, I didn’t know if He would ever take me back. Actually at the time, I thought God had left me, just like the psalmist states in vs. 7-9.
I eventually realized God had not left, and I hadn’t really left either. God was re-centering my faith and changing everything I thought I knew. It’s not that my faith before was wrong, it was very devoted and well-intentioned. But it was based on what I did, on checking off boxes that I thought God wanted me to check off. Over a few years, God showed me (and is still showing me) the difference between self-reliance and a faith that feels deeper, a faith which depends on Him by waking up each morning to His new mercies and realizing that He is always faithful, He is always near. The difference between the two perspectives for me was like the difference between standing on my feet with little struggle to balance and doing a handstand that requires constant attention and adjustment to stay balanced. Letting go of my check boxes was painful because I no longer had any answers, I needed to constantly pay attention to God and make adjustments in my heart to figure out what to do. For a time, I thought I was being a bad Christian. I knew many people I loved would consider me a bad Christian or not a Christian at all if I let go of those check boxes. I respect these people for their dedication and zeal to their beliefs. But my conscience would not let me follow the boxes anymore. I felt a need to repent from the black and white rules. Not because I decided to rebel, but because I kept having life experiences that did not fit inside the black and white lines. I slowly realized God was leading me out of the place where I stand on my own feet and into one that feels deeper for me. Maybe this place isn’t for everyone, but it is what I need and where I will stay, at least until God leads me to the next place.
While vs. 7-9 vividly bring back the pain in that experience, the rest of the psalm reminds me of the comfort God provided during that time and ever since. Starting in verse 10, “Then I thought, “To this I will appeal: the years of the right hand of the Most High.” I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago. I will meditate on all your works and consider all your mighty deeds…” No matter what place we’re in, we can always remember God’s works, whether it’s those recorded in the Bible or those from our own lives or the lives of others. We don’t need to have debates, try to sway people to our beliefs or try to get all the answers because God is mighty, faithful, just, loving and always here for us.
Reading chapters 9 & 10 together, there are a few repeating themes. Jesus tells his disciples3 times that they are not to worry about who is the greatest. He tells about his own death 3 times and he tells his disciples to be like children twice. He does 2 miracles and answers 2 questions about the law. This collection of stories seemed unrelated to me at first, but the end of chapter 9 helped provide a uniting theme. Jesus tells his disciples to “Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another”. Salt in this context is closely related to the idea of purity, which fits with vs. 49 (salted with fire/purified by fire). Verse 50 helps define what purity is– being purely one thing, not corrupted or diluted by anything else. The disciples had been corrupted by being concerned with who was the greatest or who is “with” them or not with them; the rich man diluted his love for God by loving his possessions; the father of the boy with a demon diluted his faith with unbelief; hardened hearts in Moses’ time diluted God’s purpose for marriage. All of this un-purity is contrasted with the purity of the transfiguration, the children Jesus welcomes, the blind man’s pure faith and belief, Jesus’s teaching to get rid of any corruption in ourselves (9:42-50) and finally his repeated explanation of his purpose and his sole focus on it, despite the physical pain and shame. “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (10:45) succinctly states Jesus’s mission and the context in which he states this implies that we are here to serve others too.
I want to get rid of anything that is corrupting me or diluting my faith. I want to have a pure focus on loving God and loving others by serving both. Anytime that I feel challenged to change my behavior, attitudes, perspectives, etc., I try to define why I want to change my behavior so that I do not start to think that I can save myself by my own deeds. Being pure will not save me or make God love me more, but it is a response to the love he has shown me. It is the best I can offer him. It will also cause others to see how great God is and bring unity among fellow purity seekers (“be at peace with one another”). And it will bring me closer to him and make me love him more.
When reading prophecy, I usually get distracted by the description of the visions and give up trying to gain any meaning from them because how can I ever actually know what they mean? But today when I started reading Ezekiel, I had the perspective that it is a memoir written by a regular person. Where does Ezekiel start his story? Not with his birth or a description of himself or his occupation. He starts with the major turning point of his life, with the beginning of the period of his life that matters the most to him. He starts with the day that he saw a vision from God.
The Bible is full of memoirs of people describing the most important points in their life to us. And through these stories we see various ways in which God reveals himself to us. We see different ways that these people serve him and follow his directions. It is comforting to me to see such variety. There is not one pattern we are all supposed to look like. Consider David and Solomon, father and son, whose writings are very different. David’s Psalms are saturated with spiritual language and experiences, while Solomon’s are very much concerned with what happens “under the sun” or delivering very practical advice through proverbs. And yet, David was proclaimed to be a man after God’s own heart and Solomon was the wisest man to ever be. This variety is comforting to me in seeking a church family because I am not afraid that there is something wrong with me if I don’t look like the other members of the church or if they don’t look like me. I don’t have to be distracted with how each of us live but can focus on the more important question of what we are pursuing. It is much easier to gain unity through a common goal than through common actions. Any classroom or team sport is an illustration of this. Some people learn by reading, some by seeing, some by moving, some by listening, yet they are all learning. In the New Testament, the analogy of a human body is used to illustrate this point. I’m excited to read the Bible again while looking for and admiring the different ways God reveals himself. And I’m excited to seek unity in the church without the pressure of having to come to agreements with the “how” questions and instead focus on the “what” questions.
In ch.11, the emphasis in Paul’s instructions on the Lord’s Supper are 1. unity and 2. individual reflection/evaluation. In ch. 12, the emphasis is again on unity and individual responsibility, this time concerning the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Everyone has a different role, but no one is better than another and all are necessary. Unity can be very tricky to achieve, but in this part of his letter, Paul instructs believers to judge themselves (not others), do the work they were given and not worry about who is greater or less than them and to remember that they are all serving the same Lord, the same Spirit. After reading about the Eastern Orthodox Church, I learned that the traditional belief in the Orthodox Church is that the Lord’s Supper is unity and communion with the Lord. In my protestant background, I was taught that the Lord’s Supper is a time for unity and communion with each other. I find the difference fascinating and I’ve found a whole new meaning to the Lord’s Supper with the Eastern Orthodox perspective in mind.
Focusing on God and our individual relationship with him will keep us too busy for creating divisions and will break down any existing ones. These two chapters remind me of a song from camp. After typing out the lyrics (which are in the paragraph below), I realized that the song, like chapters 11 & 12, build up to the topic of chapter 13– love. Love both follows unity and fuels it. If we’re loving, we’re not doing the things that cause division (like “keeping a record of wrongs”). I’ve been asking myself for a while what I think is essential in a church family. After this study, I have added three things to my list: 1. The purpose of everything is to focus on God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit, 2. The people, messages, culture, etc. challenge me to individually reflect and evaluate and not focus on what others are doing, 3. The family is full of love.
Here’s words from the song I mentioned:
“We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord. We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord. And we pray that our unity may one day be restored. And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love, and they’ll know we are Christians by our love.” By: Peter Scholtes (click on “See more” to read about the song’s author).