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Part of the FBCS 2010 Read Through the Bible Project: Enter the Story. Join the Song.

Archive for February, 2010

Strong Tower

Matthew 8:1-13   Exodus 39-40   Proverbs 18

“The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous run into it and are safe” (Proverbs 18:10). Today’s readings depict the Lord God as a strong tower, a present and guiding cloud/fire (Exodus 40), and Jesus, to whom people come seeking restoration (Matthew 8). With each depiction, the person of faith is reminded that God, who is salvation, does not leave us or remain at a distance, but comes to us, offering guidance, strength, and wholeness. Ultimately, this is most fully communicated and revealed in Jesus, our Savior.

“Go, let it be done for you according to your faith” (Matthew 8:13). The gifts are offered: Guidance. . . Strength. . . Salvation. . . Life. It is left for us to respond in faith. Trusting God’s word — written and living — enough to come, enter, follow, obey,  live . . . In this lies the challenge and opportunity of our lives. No matter the strength of the tower, or the clarity of the guidance, or the effectiveness of the word, only those who trust enough to “run into it” are “safe” (Proverbs 18:10). And — amazing grace — those who do act in faith (joining the leper and the centurion), enter the story and become part of what God is doing!

May we, this day, by faith, enter into the strong tower that is God. Amen.

Wisdom Is Doing

Matthew 7    Exodus 37-38   Proverbs 17

“Bezalel . . . made all that the Lord commanded Moses; and with him was Oholiab” (Exodus 38:22,23). So how is your follow-through? That is, how do you do? Today’s texts proclaim very practical wisdom: Take action. Who is wise? The one who moves beyond reading, hearing, and pondering the word of God, and “does the will of my Father in heaven” (Matthew 7:21).

Wisdom is doing. So it is that Proverbs advises taking action to foster friendship (17:9) and stop a quarrel before it breaks out (17:14) and practice silence (17:27,28). So, also, Jesus focuses on doing in Matthew 7: “Take the log out of your own eye” (7:5); “ask . . . search . . . knock” (7:7); “do to others as you would have them do to you” (7:12); “you will know them by their fruits” (7:16); the one who is wise “hears” AND “acts” (7:24-27). The message is consistent: wisdom is as wisdom does.

Let us take personal responsibility for our spiritual health this day. We are not called to focus our attention on the behavior of others; nor have we been given the task of force-feeding “pearls” of wisdom to those around us . . . We are, however, given this unambiguous instruction: Do the will of God. May it be so. Amen.

“Everyone who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock.”
— Matthew 7:24

A Willing Heart

A dominant thread linking today’s readings is the effect that how we view, value, and manage possessions and wealth has on the spiritual health of our hearts.  “Let whoever is of a generous heart bring the Lord’s offering . . .”  (Exodus 35:5). “Better is a little with righteousness than large income with injustice” (Proverbs 16:8). “”How much better to get wisdom than gold!”  (Proverbs 15:16).  And “where your treasure is, there will your heart be also”  (Matthew 6:21).  There is much here to challenge our relationship to our “stuff”  . . . 

Just how willing is my heart? To release? To give? To share? How much, honestly, do we worry about food and clothes and bills and bank accounts? In this time of recession, how often am I included in the number of “all who were of a willing heart” (Exodus 35:22)??? As you and I read these texts this day, let us engage in honest self-examination: Just how willing/generous/free of worry is my heart? And what is God’s word calling me to do differently?    

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, . . .
but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven.”

     — Matthew 6:29,20

Our Father . . .

Today’s texts are so rich! And so much could be written . . . There is the theme of sincerity of worship (Proverbs 15:8,29; Matthew 6:1-18). And the matter of who will do the “driving out” when the promised land is entered (Exodus 34:11). And the details of the covenant . . . But what speaks to me at this time is the contrast between how the Lord communicates to and through Moses in Exodus and Jesus’ teaching concerning prayer in Matthew 6.

“He put a veil on his face” (Exodus 34:29-35).  Moses had an amazing relationship with God. They knew each other by name and conversed as partners (Exodus 33:12-18); and spoke “as one speaks to a friend” (Exodus 33:11). It was a unique relationship, known by Moses alone, who then communicated the Lord’s words to the people. How the human heart longs for such a relationship!

“Pray then in this way: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.” (Matthew 6:9). In Jesus, we all have the amazing opportunity to know God intimately and deeply, no other mediator needed! As Jesus makes clear, we, too, can converse with God as friends and partners, entering into our own “tent of meeting” space and becoming part of what God is doing.  

I invite you to join me in reflecting this day on the amazing gift of personal relationship with God in Jesus. The deep relationship that existed between God and Moses is available to you and me! Believe it. Embrace it. Through the gift of prayer, let us enter into the presence of God and become partners and friends of the God who knows our names.

“The Lord is far from the wicked,
but he hears the prayer of the righteous.”

     — Proverbs 15:29

There Is A Way . . .

“There is a way that seems right to a person, but its end is the way of death” (Proverbs 14:12). “Make gods for us . . . we don’t know what has become of Moses.” “I threw the gold in the fire, and out came this calf!” (Exodus 32:1,24). . . “Words never killed anyone!” “I’m just looking.” “I haven’t broken any laws.” “I didn’t lie; I just didn’t tell you everything.” “Just who is my neighbor?” There is a way . . . to justify just about anything, isn’t there? But . . . to what end?

There is a way . . . that is right and true and holy. And life-giving. It is the way of patterning life after the character of God as revealed in Jesus. It is the way of heart righteousness, in which right actions flow from right hearts. Those who seek this mature, complete, perfect way (Matthew 5:48), embrace the way of love, not the way of legal loopholes. Those who choose this path stay faithful whether Moses shows up or not; they learn to love their neighbors and pray for their enemies . . . There is a way to live in partnership with God as God’s beloved children. It is the way of Jesus.

May we, this day, go deeper. Beyond self-justification. Beyond the letter of the law. Deeper. Ever deeper. Into the life-giving way. Amen.

“Be perfect, therefore,
as your heavenly Father is perfect.” 
     — Matthew 5:48

To Fill Full . . .

Matthew 5:1-20   Exodus 28-29   Proverbs 13

I find it valuable to read today’s texts through the lense of Jesus’ word as recorded in Matthew 5:17 — “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill.” What is Jesus communicating here? And how does it relate to the readings in Exodus? Proverbs? How do you understand “fulfill?”

Reflect on the meaning of Jesus’ words. The word “abolish” can also be “destroy, demolish, or overthrow.” The word translated “fulfill” carries the meaning of “cram full” (as in a fishing net), or “satisfy, finish, complete, or make full.” With this in mind, what might it mean that Jesus who, like Moses, goes up the mountain to bring the word of God to the people (Matthew 5:1), does not come to demolish that original word, but to complete it? And how might this influence my — our — approach to the reading of the Hebrew scriptures (or, as we say, the “Old Testament”)?

To fill full . . . “pictures” of a priesthood brought to life? “Symbols” crammed with meaning? Acts of “righteousness” internalized? The blessings of God’s kingdom poured out on those who embrace Jesus as the embodiment of God with us? These are questions well-worth pondering, for this much we know: In Jesus all that God has spoken is brought to completion. And more: those who believe this — and seek to live it out — discover that their names are written on the heart of Jesus himself (Exodus 28:29).

Amen. And Amen.

Patterns

In reading and reflecting upon the texts for this day, one thing is clear: those who choose to enter the story and live  life God’s way are not without guidance.  There is structure. There are examples and models. There are patterns. The wisdom in the book of Proverbs conveys this, as do the specific instructions for the place and symbols of worship. And the lives of people like Moses. And, ultimately, Jesus.   

“See that you make them according to the pattern . . .” (Exodus 25:40. With 25:9; 26:30; 27:8). There is a popular notion that spiritual life is a matter of personal preference; a kind of “whatever works for you” mentality. But the scriptures reveal that God doesn’t leave us to our own devices. God is with us, as we have seen, redeeming, guarding, providing . . . and guiding. And with the guidance comes an expectation of follow-through and, yes, obedience. “You shall make” is an oft-repeated phrase in Exodus 25-27.  Proverbs promotes “discipline” and a “better way.”   And Jesus (remember Hebrews 12:1-2), the “pioneer and perfecter of our faith,” issues the call, “follow me” (Matthew 4:19).

God’s Word provides patterns for the life of faith.  What are the implications, then? Of God’s call for beauty and care and investment in the place and symbols of worship? Of Moses and Jesus each fasting and practicing the disciplines of silence and solitude for 40 days and nights (Exodus 24:18; 34:28; Matthew 4)? Of the contrasting choices of the wise and the foolish? Of the example of those who “immediately” leave and follow (Matthew 4:18-22)? Am I — are we — simply engaged in reading interesting stories? Or are we discovering patterns for living and deciding to follow those patterns?

Let us thank God for the story and the patterns revealed in that story. May we enter the story more fully this day, learning from the examples provided, and following Jesus into life. 

“Fools think their own way is right,
but the wise listen to advice.”
     — Proverbs 12:15

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