In Time of Need…The Great High Priest

Hebrews 4:12-16

The word of God is living and active, and knows every inch of our bodies, all our cells, our spirit and souls, thoughts and intentions. Part of the problem with confession is that we believe something can or is hidden from God. Everything is exposed before the creator. We cannot hide from God, and we must all give an account for our actions. A confession is our acknowledgement of what God already knows to be true about us. We pull off the mask and agree with God about who we are and our condition.

The mere thought of us in all our sin standing before a holy God ought to scare us to death, to terrify us, but the evangelist paints a very different picture. He insists “we need to hold fast to our confession,” not because anyone of us is better than the others, but because of the Great High Priest. The Great High Priest passed through the heavens, Jesus, God’s Son. It is only the one with and for whom all is laid bare that we stand before. BUT…He is the Great High Priest, not judge. What difference does that make? What is the function of the High Priest?

Sanctity and Functions.

The distinguished rank of the high priest is apparent from the fact that his sins are regarded as  belonging also to the people (Lev. iv. 3, 22).

The sins of the high priest are regarded as belonging also to the people. SO if the perfect, sinless life of Jesus is the one who is the great high priest there is no adding to the burden of our sin.

On the Day of Atonement he alone entered the Holy of Holies, to make atonement for his house and for the people (Lev. xvi.); He alone could offer the sacrifices for the sins of the priests, or of the people, or of himself (Lev. iv.);

On the Day of Atonement he alone could enter the Holy of Holies, The high priest stood in the most holy place and offered sacrifice for himself and the people. The people themselves didn’t go to this Holiest of places. Only the High Priest and He ALONE could offer sacrifices here. Jesus as the Great High Priest made a perfect and holy sacrifice once and for all for the people, and in giving himself, stands as the great high priest between God and man. At his death is was said that the veil separating the Holy of Holies from the inner court was torn apart from the top to the bottom, Not the bottom to the top as a man would but that it was done so in the death of Christ by God from the top down.   Acknowledging the death of his perfect and sinless son was once and for all, abolishing the need of a Holy Place for a high priest to go to stand before God and offer sacrifices for the people it was paid for in His Ultimate (once and for all sacrifice).

There is even better news, the evangelist tells us. We first have a Great High Priest, a representative that made the great sacrifice on our behalf, and stands before God on our behalf, but He also is able to sympathize with us, and our weaknesses, but instead have one who in every respect has been tempted (as we are), yet he did not sin. He knows and understands our temptations, he understands our weaknesses, he understands our needs, he understands the sin we wish was hidden but made his body the sacrifice for our blackest sin, that we could hold fast to our confession and (Let us) draw near (as if Jesus is putting his arm around us, saying come on I will go with you) with confidence because the throne is the throne of grace. It is only there that we will find mercy, the world is merciless. It is there and only there that we find grace to help in time of need. What help do we need for our weary souls, what sin did Jesus not die for? Can you name me one? Then there is also this function of the High Priest…

He also offered a meal, offering every morning and evening for himself and the whole body of the priesthood (Lev. vi. 14-15, though the wording of the law is not altogether definite).

Jesus too offered a meal given for the whole body, and we are here to share that today as a reminder of where our help comes from. That we have a Great High Priest who is sympathetic and who made the sacrifice that we do not have to and we are reminded that he is the one who offers the meal and himself to us.   Would we come to the throne of grace?

 

 

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You Know Them by Name-February 8, 2015

You Know Them by Name

Isaiah 40:21-31

One argument for not believing God and following Jesus have been statements like these:

“Well I’ve prayed to God before and it didn’t make a difference.”

“I look around and I see all of the evil in the world and if God loves us, why do all these things still happen?”

Perhaps the misunderstanding here is that we often put our conditions on God and think if God doesn’t meet my preconditions or preconceived notions then God is not real, or that if God is real God is not able to do anything about what is going on in our lives, or even worse that God doesn’t care about us.

Often we have questions for God and have assumptions if we do not think things have worked out the way we think they should in our lives. Many want to look at God as a spiritual vending machine that we can pray to and expect to receive things from God that may be outside of God’s will. This does not mean however that God does not care or is unaware of our struggles or our pains. It also does not mean that God is powerless to do anything about our condition.

When life gets tough you may have wondered if God is real. Does God know what I am going through? Does God care about me? Does God have the power to do something extraordinary in my life or am I alone here in the world doing the best I can? God reveals himself in many different ways, and so Isaiah has some basic questions for us about God. Essentially, don’t you know, have you not heard, have you not been taught from your earliest days who created the earth?

It seems ironic that we might assume that if God does not fit my model of what I think about Him that somehow means God does not know or does not care? Isaiah’s first question implies that maybe we do not know rightly about God and who God is. In verse 22, He sits enthroned above the earth and we are so small compared to God much like grasshoppers. God stretches out the heavens like a canopy, and spreads them out like a tent to live in. God is the creator of the universe everything is here including us because of God’s great power, creativity, and love.

God loves us but God will not be mocked or His glory given to anyone else. So God brings the princes to naught and reduces the rules of this world to nothing. No sooner than they are planted, no sooner are they sown, no sooner do they take root in the ground, than he blows on them and they wither, and a whirlwind sweeps them away like chaff. Isaiah is telling the people who are in exile that things are not always as they seem. There is hope, that God is able to do something about it. These rulers are temporary and this is not a permanent condition but rather a temporary one in which we need to learn to trust God more than we trust our current condition. God knows what we are going through.

God is the great creator of the universe and topples the powers and rulers of this world. Who or what can you compare to God? Who is God’s equal? It is the same rational and questions presented to Job in Job 38, God reminds Job that he created everything and asks, can you tell me how it was done since you seem to know? You are so wise surely this question is not too hard for you to answer. It is here that we are reminded not to look down and feel down, or look around at each other for answers or our circumstances as proof, but rather look up.

Lift your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these? He (God) brings out the starry host one by one, and calls them each by name. Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing. The proof is all around us, God brings forth the stars and knows each of them by name and because of his great power and might not a one of them is missing.

Do we think that God does not know us? God knows our names and not one of us is forgotten. Verse 27 Why do you say, O Jacob, and complain, O Israel, “My way is hidden from the Lord; my cause is disregarded by my God”? The repeat of the initial questions don’t you know, have you not heard? Basically, have you not learned anything yet, God knows. The Lord is everlasting and created the ends of the earth and will not grow tired or weary. You are not hidden from God you are under his sight, care, and vision. His understanding no one can fathom, or his understanding is far beyond our understanding.

He brings low the powerful, he gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. You may say I am not sure I believe that. How do you make it through each day? The Lord gives you strength. Helps us to get through each day and gives us hope for today and the days ahead, and a promise that this life is not the end.

Everyone gets tired and struggles no matter who or how young or strong. We all have difficulty in life but that is not a reason to write God up but an opportunity to learn to trust God more and place our hope in him. Renewal will not happen because we work hard at it, but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. Not only will they feel renewed in these days but will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. It is not just that we are renewed to survive but rather that we thrive. We soar on wings like eagles.

Dear friends, things will not always go your way it is not a reason to doubt God. Just because something is beyond our vision or our understanding does not mean that the Lord is any less real, less powerful, or less compassionate. God is the creator of all. God calls forth everything. God calls forth the millions of stars in the sky and calls them by name. God also calls all of us by name. He knows our names, our worries, our troubles, our sins, our fears, and our hearts. He knows us personally and He loves us and is able to do something about our condition in this life. He did so by sending His Son Jesus to this world in a real and personal way, and allowing Him to die for our condition and in our place. He did so once and for all.

This table is not about a distance God that doesn’t notice or care, but is actually about personally connecting and personally giving us what we really need. Even if we do not know what we need the most, this table represents setting us free from the condition of life (sin) that we are both born into and continue to practice. It is freeing because we do not need to be in fear in this life or for our lives for the Lord holds all. He knows us all by name and died for us, will we live for Him?

 

Recognize, Respond, and Repeat-February 1, 2015

Recognize, Respond, and Repeat

Mark 1:21-28

Jesus just asked four men to follow him. He had Simon (Peter) and his brother Andrew with him. He also had with him John and James also brothers. These four were fisherman. The first place they follow Jesus was a synagogue meeting in Capernaum.

While they were in Capernaum, the Sabbath came and Jesus went to the synagogue (gathering) and began to teach. It is interesting to me that Jesus went to the synagogue first to teach. Some say well that’s not all that odd that he would go to a religious meeting and in one way I completely agree. In another way Jesus tells people that he came for the lost house of Israel. So is Jesus’ first act representative of that? If so, what does that mean for us today? He came to save religious people from religious legalism, themselves, and for his glory. He did not come to give them something to live by (laws) but someone to live for.

What a liberating way of looking at the freedom we are offered in Christ. What a condemning ways to look at faith as an institution and the religious legalism that goes along with it. If you have an institution you have rules. If you have faith you have someone to follow.

The equivalent today would be like saying “Jesus has come to save Christians before he can deal with the others.” Professing Christ without embodying Christ wrecks the gospel and does not offer true assurance. Instead it offers a convenient faith we can live with and little hope for ourselves and the world. A deep, abiding faith is one that comes from following Christ and it provides hope for each day, hope for tomorrow, hope for eternity, and has hope to offer the world.

The power of the gospel is more than just empty words, but it is the Word made flesh and living out God’s plan, God’s punishment, God’s love, God’s grace & mercy, and in doing so demonstrates true authority. God’s authority.

So Jesus’ first place to go with his four new disciples is to a religious meeting where he is teaching. Scripture records that “the people were amazed at his teaching.” I don’t recall it every being said that the people were “amazed” at the teaching of even the greatest Pharisees. What make Jesus’ teaching different? “He taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law.” The teachers of the law claimed a false authority as guardians of the law, but Jesus had or was the embodiment of authority. He wasn’t talking about it, he was it. He was the ultimate authority as the Son of God in the flesh.

This issue of authority is important because false authority may be honored or respected because it does have some power or control of our earthly lives. True authority on the other hand is not forced on us as it is recognized by us. Recognizing true authority can give confidence, comfort, and excitement. If you have a bad illness you would want medical advice from the leading authorities in that field. It would give you confidence that the diagnosis is accurate, comfort that the treatment will be successful, and excited that life will be better on the other side. If things go well you would be quick to tell others about this great doctor who was an authority in his or her field and would easily recommend them to others. What about the authority for our lives and our eternity?

Do you recognize his authority? When we recognize his true authority everything else pales and fades away. King Nebuchadnezzar thought he had authority over Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. The king tells them to bow and worship his image of gold, and says if you don’t I will throw you into the fire of this furnace, “then what god will be able to rescue you from my hand?” The king had a false sense of authority and a lifeless representation of himself in the gold statue. Whereas God is the true authority and His exact representative living in flesh and blood in the life of His Son Jesus Christ. “In him was life, and that life was the light of men.” John 1:4

“O Nebuchadnezzer, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want to you to know, O king, that we will not serve our gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” Daniel 3:16-18

Essential, we recognize a higher, true authority. Our appeal and worship is above your head, your pay grade, our your power upon my life. We choose the Lord. The Word incarnation literally means embodiment, Christ is the embodiment of the Word of God, power of God, the love of God, the mercy of God, the authority of God, in short…God. This was in contrast to the teachers of the law, who had the words of the law, but had not embodied them, and had no authority of their own.

Just then there was a man in the synagogue who was possessed by an evil spirit cried out, “what do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are-the Holy One of God? Jesus was not a pawn he is the main player.

A few thoughts, sometimes there are evil spirits in the church. We may not want to consider this but there are spirits within the church that both recognize Jesus and his authority over all. It is a threat to their existence and they work against Christ and work to destroy him. Today these spirits can be more subversive but are still embodied by people and their names are such as pride, jealousy, envy, covetous, and self-serving. These things are in opposition to what the embodiment of Christ looks like. Jesus did come to destroy those things that we might be set free from their bondage.

With the authority in him Jesus silences the spirit, and commands the spirit to leave the man. Who has this kind of authority? God certainly has the power and so does Satan. This would be the way others would attempt to discredit Jesus by saying that he was also an evil spirit, demon, or Satan himself. Interestingly, scripture tells us that it is Satan masquerade as an angel of light. Why, because he has no real authority Jesus never masquerades as anything. He is the Son of God Jesus later reminds them if I cast our demons by the power of Satan then he would be a house divided against itself and would be self-destructive and fail. Equally disturbing is how the spirits I mentioned above seem to align themselves against Christ and His work, which puts them in the same business as Satan himself.

The people where so amazed that they asked each other, “What is this? A new teaching-and with authority! He even gives orders to evil spirits and they obey him.” News about him spread quickly over the whole region of Galilee. Mark 1:27-28

First, the people recognized Jesus was different when in contrast to the teachers of the law. Not just by what he taught but by the authority with which he embodied those very teachings. They came from who he was.

Second, the people responded with amazement and wonder as they saw Jesus demonstrate that power in the silencing and sending out of the evil spirit. It is that same authority that Jesus calls people to “come, follow me” and later sends out his people into the world.

Lastly, the response was that people were talking about him. News about him spread quickly over the whole region of Galilee. Who was spreading the news? Presumably, the people who were there were sharing, but was everyone there pleased with Jesus? What seems to travel faster good news or bad news? The news of Jesus spread through the whole region.

What about you? What is your highest authority? Your government? Your family? Yourself? Your demanding schedule? Or does Jesus have full authority and power in your life? His teachings are radical, powerful, and full of authority. Do you recognize that authority?

Will you respond to the authority of Christ with amazement, wonder, and faithfulness? Will you embody the life and teachings of Christ?

If yes is the answer to these questions the word concerning Christ should spread throughout the region. We should be repeating and replicating the teaching and power of Christ in the world today. That is what it is to be a Christian, a “Christ-bearer.” We bear and embody Christ to the world today.

If you struggle to respond to these questions I invite you, not to sing but rather to pray about it. The altar is open if you need to come down having recognizing his authority. If you have a decision you need to share with me as your pastor or this church I will be here to receive you.

May you recognize his authority, in recognizing respond, and repeat with our words that find authority as we embody his spirit in our daily walk. Amen.

 

Our Great God-September 14, 2014

Our Great God

Psalm 103

Praise God for he is worthy and while doing so don’t forget his benefits. Those benefits are forgiving sins, healing diseases, redeems life from the pit, and crowns (tops is off) with love and compassion. God satisfies desires with his good, so that every day youth is renewed like the eagles.

The Lord works in the Lord’s way revealed in the Lord’s deeds. The Lord works righteousness and justice for all oppressed. The Lord’s ways he made known to Moses and to all people of faith. The Lord’s deeds are to his people.

The Lord is compassionate and gracious because it is God’s character. It is because of God’s gracious and compassionate character the God will not always accuse, or harbor anger forever. In other words God is just and has a right to be angry or disappointed about sin, but once the Lord has forgiven he does not hold a grudge. He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us like we have sinned against him. If we think we can be good enough without God’s grace then we are accepting that sin is good enough and the wages of which is death.

Think of the greatest distance you can imagine and then some and that is the greatness of our distance from God in our sin, but even greater is God’s love for those that fear him and call upon him. This is also the greatness of the distance of the removal of our sin as far as the east is from the west.

A loving parent once they have forgiven their child doesn’t want them burdened by the wrongdoing. That is what forgiveness is, if we have to hold the wrongdoing over them have we really forgiven them. Love doesn’t make lists or keep no records of wrongs (1 Corinthians 13) to hold over us. What if God did that to his children?

God knows how we are made (formed), and remembers that our bodies were not meant to last. Our days are but few and fleeting, beautiful and fruitful, but for a moment compared to eternity…so what will you do with your moment (life)? From everlasting to everlasting (eternity) the Lord’s love is with those who fear and love the Lord and his righteousness extends through the generations. God is great enough for us and all those coming after, he does not lack of resource, provision, grace, love, forgiveness, or mercy.

We should follow his commands and decrees because they are for our good and his glory. The Lord’s throne is in heaven, and his kingdom rules all. When Pontius Pilate interviewed Jesus he asked Jesus if he was a king. During the conversation Jesus tells Pilate that his kingdom is not of this world. At this point Pilate either believes Jesus to be crazy or at least no threat to either Rome or Herod. That was flawed thinking in Jesus’ time and now. The Psalmist reminds us that the one who rules on high rules all the same is true today. The kingdoms of this earth think they are in charge, but they are not. The one who rules on high rules all.

Praise the Lord, angels do his bedding and obey his word. Praise the Lord, for all his works his power is everywhere which means we are not subject to the sin that so easily entangles but he has the power to set us free. Every fiber in our being and our very soul should praise the Lord.

Praise God for he is worthy.

He forgives sins

He heals diseases

He redeems life

He is loving and compassionate

He satisfies with good

He renews strength

 

His works are righteousness and justice

His ways are limitless yet he makes them known

He is compassionate and gracious (it is his character)

He is righteous and just but doesn’t hold a grudge

He doesn’t treat us as our sins deserve but as his love demands

He doesn’t repay but he prepaid

He filled the distance of the great void with his greater love

He then took the personal transgression and made it to have no power, because it had no purpose

 

He is a compassionate father because he knows we are made fragile

We will only be children but a short while

He loves and keeps his promises now and always

His agreements are worth keeping, (because he will even if we don’t)

His words are worth remembering

His through is in heaven and his rule covers all below

Angels do his bidding, his servants do his will

Won’t you praise the Lord’s works and his rules?

My body and soul long to praise because he is our great God.

 

Which One?-September 7, 2014

Which One?

Matthew 18:21-35

What is the value of forgiveness? What is greater our sin against God or someone’s sin against me? When is enough, enough? When do we claim our rights over grace? How should we demonstrate grace and forgiveness in light of the great forgiveness offered through Jesus Christ?

I need to begin by saying that forgiveness always comes at a personal cost. The one offering forgiveness will have to find something of greater value than that cost. In our culture we are told that we are number one, we are independent, and we are entitled (have rights). To offer true forgiveness this sense of entitlement is what is sacrificed, so what is of greater value? We most often will truly forgive when we see the value of restoring a relationship over personal pride and entitlement to hold on to the hurts and the wrong doings. Holding on to these things will put us in a prison of its own kind. We too should forgive as we have been forgiven. We forgive as an act of grace and mercy, we forgive to restore, we forgive because we too have received mercy and grace from others, and we forgive because the King has forgiven us.

The story actually begins before today’s scripture. In the previous verses there is talk about steps to take in dealing with one who has hurt or offended us. We are told that if you are the offended person the other may not know, so you go to them privately first. If that doesn’t work go with one or two other trusted leaders, if there is still no resolution we are to take the matter to the church. After following all these steps if there is not resolution then treat them as like unbeliever and try to restore them.

Often this has been used by folks to look at this and this is what I should do so the other person will know I am right. The issue is not who is right, but how does this bring about restoration of a relationship within the body? The question then becomes are you ready as the offended party to accept an apology and restore the relationship. If “sorry” is not good enough for you, then first we need to talk to God about ourselves and our hearts first, then we need to talk to God about the other person, and then take the opportunity to confront them. In this sense it is not about who was right and wrong, but what will we do to restore this relationship and it will require sacrifice to bring restoration.

Peter understands that he should forgive, but how many times should we forgive? What a brave question. Basically at what point am I allowed to not forgive them, or hold this over their heads? Jesus responds to Peter’s question with a story that demonstrates there is more going on than just human relationships but also the relationship with the king. This story is about a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. Jesus says the kingdom of heaven is like this and in doing so reminds Peter that forgiveness is not just about us, but is about the kingdom of heaven and how we deal with forgiveness and our relationship with one another is significant.

The Kingdom of Heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. The king begins the settlement and a man who owed the king close to a million dollars in today’s money is brought before the king. What options do you think you would have if you were in debt like this?

The king decides how and when the debts are settled. Since the debt was too great and the man was unable to pay, the master ordered that the man, his wife, his children, and all that he had should be sold to pay the debt. What would you do? He did the only thing he could do. He fell on his knees and begged for mercy, for more time, he said that with more time I will pay it all back. How does one get in this type of debt, and who really believes he can pay it back? This is a clear indication that it could a million dollars or whatever it is, it is clearly impossible that he cannot repay the debt on his own.

We cannot repay the debt of our sin either. It would be like the average person trying to repay a debt of a million dollars. Sin puts us at such a distance that we cannot without the help of the King overcome it. We have been given a great gift of forgiveness through the blood of Jesus Christ. It is this forgiveness that brings the expectation that we should forgive others because of the great forgiveness we have been offered.

This servant went out and tried to hold someone else’s small debt although he had been given forgiveness of a great debt. When the king found out, he called him wicked and put him away. Which servant will you be? Will you be the one that recognizes the gift of forgiveness and offers it to others or will you be liked the wicked servant not offering forgiveness? Which one will you be?

 

Who Am I?-August 31, 2014

Who Am I?

Exodus 3:1-15

Moses was doing his job tending the flocks of his father-in-law Jethro who was a priest of Midian. That’s the way God seems to do things. We think we are going about our lives doing what we please and living in the mundane. From time to time we are thankful for what we have the opportunity to do, but mostly we just go do what we have to for a job. Some may feel more rewarded or settle in their jobs but just when we think we can get comfortable with our job and unexpected and sometimes uninvited guest shows up. It may not we should have known really, I mean after all is there really any place to far that this special guest cannot arrive there?

Moses, he was on the far side of the desert and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. Exactly how far away is the far side of the desert? Moses was a long way from home and meets an unexpected guest, in an unsuspecting place, in an extraordinary way. Maybe Moses knew or maybe he didn’t that he was very near the mountain of the Lord. When God shows up extraordinary things do happen. Moses looks and seems something way out of the ordinary even for the desert, a bush that was on fire but did not burn up. Moses may have thought he had been at this too long, or the sun had baked his brain but anything that burns gets crispy. Moses not having anyone else to ask if he is seeing things but the sheep decides to go over and investigate this “strange sight.” God can and often does use the out of the ordinary things to get our attention so that we may experience God. Has God ever used a “strange sight” to get your attention or to speak to you?

When the Lord noticed that He had Moses’ attention then God begins to speak to Moses directly by name. Moses had gone over to investigate an out-of-the-way, odd occurrence, then arriving there to find that this had all happened so that God could speak directly to him by name. Now if I am honest I am not so sure this would make me too comfortable. Think about it, you are out here alone, something happens that is completely unnatural (bush on fire, not burning) and then only to find out that it was a supernatural event and that God wanted our undivided attention. Hello God! You have my attention. God has a way of doing just that. When the Lord calls Moses’ name he responds “Here I am.”

Moses is told to keep his distance and take off his shoes. It is God’s invitation much like a guest in our home we invite them in but not to live there, they are guests and out of respect take off their shoes. Taking off the shoes or sandals is also a way of being able to feel and connect better. Things like sandals can cause us to not be as sensitive to what is around us. Now Moses is feeling every stick, twig, rock, and blade of grass. Also just because the bush was on fire but did not burn up did not mean that the fire was not hot. If Moses takes of his sandals then the ground would have likely been too hot for Moses to go much closer to the Lord. The ground is not holy in and of itself but the ground is holy because the Lord being there makes it so.

The Lord identifies Himself, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, God of Isaac, the God of Jacob.” God is personal and He lets Moses know who He is that He is the mighty God of his ancestors. This also demonstrates God’s great power, and at learning who God is Moses is no longer worried about his feet but his face, because he was afraid to look at God. Do we have that kind of respect for God today? Do we look over God, or past God, or worse do we look right at God and then say, “no big deal?” Moses knew who he was in the presence of God and would not even look upon God. As the years pass in Moses’ story he has several of these types of encounters with God. Amazingly Moses always honors God but also speaks to God in a very familial way. It would be the people of Israel who look right at God and God’s wonders and then after some time seem to say “no big deal” or “what have you done for me lately?”

Sometimes God causes or uses things to get our attention and help us to see. Things like burning bushes that are not consumed. God tells Moses that God has indeed has been watching, seen, and heard what is going on for the Hebrews. God tells Moses some great news, God is going to act on behalf of the people. That is truly great news, then Moses finds out the real plan is that God has heard, but is choosing to work by and through Moses. God’s action is to send Moses on God’s behalf.

Moses tries to back away from the situation. He asks, “Who Am I?” God tells Moses that he will be with him. Who is Moses, the one that God wants to use to demonstrate his power, might, glory, and to free his people. Who is Moses, he is the Lord’s. Who are we? We are ones that God wants to use to demonstrate God’s power, might, glory, and to set the people free from their sin through the sacrifice of his Son. Who are we, we are his and we are deeply loved.

What if they ask God who are you, can I give them a name? I am that I am. You don’t need to tell them my name, I am the God of your fathers and that is how I will be remembered forever. As important as Moses felt like God’s name was what God would do to demonstrate that he alone is God would be significant. God reminds Moses that he has always been their God, the God of their ancestors. Egypt used to understand and respect God in the time of Joseph but only a few generations later the Hebrews were slaves. The Egyptians would soon be reminded that there is a God and he is powerfully enough to set the captives free.

Will we see the things in our lives as opportunities to seek God, find our identity in him, be willing to be his agents in the world, and help set the captives free? Remember who you are. You are a deeply loved child of God, saved by his grace, and called to go to those who still remain in bondage. Will you go?

A Wrestling Night-August 24, 2014

A Wrestling Night

Scripture: Genesis 32:22-31

Jacob is afraid that all of his schemes are coming back to haunt him. He is on the move after reconciling with Laban but knowing he cannot go back that way receives the news that his twin brother Esau is on his way to meet Jacob. Esau has a group of 400 men with him, and Jacob does not know if Esau intends to harm him or welcome him. This is the same brother that Jacob bartered for his birthright and stole his blessing, and now Esau is coming toward Jacob with 400 men.

Jacob decides in this case that he will try to ease the tensions of the moment by sending gifts and sending his family ahead of him. He is hoping to pacify Esau and not have him be so angry with him. Jacob sends his family and gifts ahead hoping to be received well by Esau. Jacob did not go yet, but he himself spent the night in the camp.

We never really outrun our past and Jacob not only will have to deal with Esau but will also have to deal with God. We can never outrun God. Again Jacob attempted to spend the night but God had something else in mind.

That night Jacob sent his wives, family, servants, and possessions across the ford of the Jabbok. And so Jacob was left alone (or so he thought) and then wrestled with a man till daybreak. It is in this moment that Jacob is still struggling, sometimes our struggles are not so much with or against God but with ourselves. It’s as if we just can’t help ourselves. The answer is that we can try all we want but we just can’t help ourselves.

We struggle with our desires each day and we struggle often to do what we want rather than what God desires. We think we know what’s best and either God’s plans, or God’s methods, or God’s timing is not right. So struggling against God is really like struggling against what is really best for us. It is like trying to prove that the best blessings can come apart from God.

We want blessing, but too often we try to get them our own way. Often what we are given we do not appreciate, because we believe that we have to earn it. Jacob struggled with Esau in the womb, he has struggled his whole life. He goes into the night wrestling and comes out on the other side with a new name and a new identity.

The man who Jacob struggled with told Jacob to let go of him for it is nearly daybreak. Jacob responded that he would not let go unless he blessed him. There are times in our lives where we let go too soon to see the blessings, so hold on and trust God. Jacob wanted to know the name of the man, which the man does not give. To name something is to have power over it. In giving Jacob a new name Israel, the blessing was a new identity, a renewal of covenant promises, a reminder that God has power over his life, and that God also gives us freedom to begin again with a new name.