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

Archive for August, 2010

God of Covenant, Community of Covenant

John 8:48-59    2 Chronicles 5    Malachi 2:10-17

“Then the priests brought the ark of the covenant of the Lord to its place” (2 Chronicles 5:7). And the only contents of the ark? “The two tablets that Moses put there” (v.10), declaring the covenant the Lord made with the people of Israel after they came out of Egypt. And once the placing of the ark was completed, “the glory of the Lord filled the house of God” (v.14). The glory of the same God who made a covenant with Abraham, promising that “in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 12:1-3) and appeared to Moses saying, “I am who I am . . . the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob . . . This is my name forever”  (Exodus 3:14,15). The glory of the same God who showed up in Jesus, declaring, “before Abraham was, I am” (John 8:58). Covenant — made and kept — is proof of God’s presence, and the story of God is the story of covenant.

“Why then are we faithless to one another?” (Malachi 2:10). If  God is a God of covenant, then it follows that those created by God and called God’s children will be a people of covenant, living lives of faithfulness to God and one another. But we so often fail. And when we do, we dishonor God (Malachi 2:10-17; John 8:49). It is for this reason that God hates divorce and violence and grows weary of our excuses (Malachi 2:16,17). And it is for this reason that being related to Abraham isn’t enough (John 8). Faithfulness to one another is evidence of God’s presence in the midst of the community. And yet, if the story of God is the story of covenant made and kept, the human story apart from God is a narrative of covenant made and broken . . . And still God is faithful: 

“Before Abraham was, I am” (John 8:58). In Jesus, the God of Covenant invites us into the story of God’s faithfulness. Again. In Jesus, the same God who created us offers to re-create us and re-form our community. Again. In Jesus, we are empowered to be faithful. No matter our past. May we enter the story of God’s covenant love anew this day. And may we be faithful in love toward God and one another. Amen. 

“Very truly, I tell you,
before Abraham was, I am.”
     — John 8:58

If God Were Our Father . . .

John 8:21-47   2 Chronicles 3-4   Malachi 1:1-2:9

“If God were your Father, you would love me” (John 8:42). So spoke Jesus to the religious leaders who stood in opposition to him while claiming to be children of God (v.41). And long before, there was this word from God through the prophet: “If then I am a father, where is the honor due me?” (Malachi 1:6). And long before that, Solomon spared no expense in building the house of the Lord (2 Chronicles 3-4) . . . What might we learn from these texts about living as children of God? Well.

“A son honors his father” (Malachi 1:6). How? With loving obedience, as evidenced by Jesus, who said, “I do nothing on my own” (John 8:28) and “I always do what is pleasing to him” (v.29); with utmost priority and personal cost (Malachi 1:11-4; John 8:28); and by loving that which God loves, first and foremost among them being Jesus himself (John 8:42). That is, those who are truly children of God love Jesus and follow his example of obedience by doing what he says.

“So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36). Know the truth: In and through Jesus, we have a permanent place in the household of God (v.34-36). So let us live as children of God, showing honor to the Father by loving his Son Jesus Christ enough to “continue in his word” (v.31). Amen.

“If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples;
and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free”

     — John 8:31,32

Nothing Accidental

John 8:1-20   2 Chronicles 1-2   Zechariah 14

“Solomon decided to build a temple for the name of the Lord” (2 Chronicles 2:1). In today’s texts, Chronicles and Zechariah provide background for the actions and words of Jesus. In this way, the readings give us the opportunity to see that there was nothing accidental about the life and ministry of Jesus.

“Jesus went to the mount of Olives” (John 8:1).  And “early in the morning he came again to the temple” (v.2). Both locations play significant roles in the story of Jesus, and he is found praying and teaching in each often (see John 18:2). And, as the chronicler and the prophet record, both are central to the story of God with us, past, present, and future. Observe: “On that day he (the Lord) shall stand on the Mount of Olives” (Zechariah 14:4) and “there shall no longer be traders in the house of the Lord of hosts on that day” (v.21). The connections are not accidental. Jesus’ choice of the Mount of Olives and his activities in the temple (remember the temple cleansing, John 2:13-25) were intentional signs and claims, identifying him with the expected one. As were the settings he chose . . .

“I am the light of the world” (John 8:12).  Jesus’ words which, along with “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me (John 7:37), were spoken in the context of the festival of booths, in which rituals of water and light played significant roles. And it is this same festival that figures prominently in Zechariah’s vision of that time when all the earth will “worship the King, the Lord of hosts” (Zechariah 14:16-21). Accidental connections? I think not. And these intentional actions and words remind us to read the story with care, mindful of the fact that Jesus leaves nothing to chance.  Solomon’s temple . . .  Zechariah’s visions . . .   Jesus’ life and ministry . . .  His promised return . . .  there is nothing accidental in this story. And no promise that will remain unfulfilled. As Jesus said, “Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life” (John 8:12).   

“And the Lord will become king over all the earth;
on that day the Lord will be one and his name one.”
     — Zechariah 14:9

An Invitation.

John 7:25-52   1 Chronicles 29   Zechariah 13

Today you are invited to read and reflect upon the scriptures following a pattern known as “lectio divina.” May your soul be refreshed by this time of listening to God speaking. Amen. 

Yours, O Lord, are the greatness, the power, the glory, the victory, and the majesty; for all that is in the heavens and on the earth is yours.”  – 1 Chronicles 29:11 

On the last and most important day of the feast Jesus stood up and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. If anyone believes in me, rivers of living water will flow out from that person’s heart, as the Scripture says.” Jesus was talking about the Holy Spirit. The Spirit had not yet been given, because Jesus had not yet been raised to glory. But later, those who believed in Jesus would receive the Spirit.  — John 7:37-39, NCV  

Listen. Hear God Speaking. Prayerfully read 1 Chronicles 29:11 and John 7:37-39 three times, each time answering these questions:
What?  (What word or phrase strikes me most in the texts at this moment?)
So What?  (What is going on in my life that is influencing my hearing?)
Now What? (What is God encouraging me to be and do in my circumstance now?)
As this time of listening draws to a close, give yourself over to God in prayer. Allow the prayer of Samuel to guide you: “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening” (1 Samuel 3:9-10).     

Share The Word.  What spoke to you in these scriptures? What is God calling you to be and do now, in response to the word? Consider sharing with someone today any insights gained . . .  

“Obedience – the willingness to listen to the voice of God in life – is what will wrench us out of the limitations of our own landscape.”     
     –  The Rule of Benedict

About Time . . .

John 7:1-24    1 Chronicles 27-28    Zechariah 12

“On that day . . .” (Zechariah 12:8). Not today, perhaps, but on that day. And David, who “planned to build a house for the ark of the covenant of the Lord” (1 Chronicles 28:2), received this word from God: “You shall not . . . It is your son Solomon who shall build my house” (v.3,6). And Jesus? When challenged by his unbelieving brothers to show himself “to the world,” he replies, “My time has not yet come” (John 7:6). So it is that this day’s readings invite reflection on time and timing, and the spiritual practice of waiting upon God . . .

“My time has not fully come” (John 7:8). That is, the time of his revealing in suffering, death, and resurrection (see John 12:23,24; 17:1). There are two words for time in the Greek language: Chronos and Kairos. Chronos (think “chronology”) is time of the “tick, tick, tick” variety. Kairos is the “right,” or “opportune” time (as in Romans 5:6, “At the right time Christ died for the ungodly”). It is “kairos” that is used in John 7, for it is in kairos time that God operates. Thus David “gave his son Solomon the plan” (1 Chronicles 28:11), Zechariah’s people wait for “that day,” and Jesus proceeds to Jerusalem at his own pace, “in secret” (John 7:10). And then there is that other response . . .

“Are you angry with me because I healed a man’s whole body on the sabbath?” (John 7:23). Yes, some were. Why? Because his timing wasn’t theirs (tick, tick, tick). But it was the right time for that man and for the kingdom. Well. I’ve been there — out of sync with God’s timing. It isn’t a stretch to suppose that you have been there, too . . . and I’ve been impatient. And sometimes angry . . . Chronos vs kairos . . . clock and calendar vs the right time . . . The way of Jesus vs the way of his opponents . . . Are your plans on hold? No answer to your prayer? Perhaps the answer is “no.” Or “not yet.”  Enter the discipline of waiting. For the right time and God’s timing. Would we want it any other way? Really? Really.

” . . . for the Lord searches every mind,
and understands every thought and plan.
If you seek him, he will be found by you . . .”
     — 1 Chronicles 28:9

Gift and Response

John 6:60-71   1 Chronicles 25-26   Zechariah 11

“David… also set apart for the service…”  (1 Chronicles 25:1). And shepherds were chosen to lead Israel (Zechariah 11). And Jesus chose the twelve (John 6:70). And no one can come to Jesus “unless it is granted by the Father” (v.65). In today’s readings we see clearly that being set apart (or chosen) for service is a gift; as is faith itself. What is also clearly communicated in these texts is that such gifts given demand a response on the part of the recipient.

“Do you also wish to go away?” (John 6:67).  The invitation to come? Gift (v.65). To stay or go away? Response. Being set apart for service by the king? Gift (1 Chronicles 25:1). To be trained and skilled? Response (v.7,8). To be called as a shepherd of the flock? Gift (Zechariah 11). To be a good or worthless shepherd? Response (v.7,17).  And notice: response is always a choice. And an action. So we see that God offers faith, but believing is chosen and actively demonstrated (John 6:66-69). 

“We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God” (John 6:69). And so, says Peter, we choose to stay. What’s more, as Peter, Judas, and each of the twelve will continue to demonstrate, even the choice to stay must issue forth in daily decisions of belief and unbelief. So how is it with us? How are we choosing to respond to the gifts of God — faith, setting apart for service, call to leadership? Do our actions convey belief or unbelief? Do our lives demonstrate that we are choosing to stay or go away? May we be counted among those who receive the gift of faith in Jesus and respond with active and ongoing belief. Amen.      

“Lord, to whom can we go?
You have the words of eternal life.”
     — John 6:68 

What Are You Working For?

John 6:22-59   1 Chronicles 24   Zechariah 10

“Do not work for the food that perishes…”  (John 6:27). The word of Jesus to the crowds, who look for him because they “ate their fill of the loaves” (v.26). And beside this we read the names of those set apart for God’s service (1 Chronicles 24) and God’s promise to “gather,” in the redeemed and “make them strong” (Zechariah 10) . . . Today’s readings invite us to ponder questions of purpose and priority: What we are looking for in Jesus? What is worth working for in this life? And just what is the work of God? 

“This is the work of God . . .” (John 6:29). And the answer is? “That you believe in him whom God has sent.” This is the work to which Jesus gives himself; this is the primary work to which he called the crowds. And us. And “whoever” does this work of coming and believing (v.35,47).  Notice: The work of God is open to all, not only the descendants of Aaron (1 Chronicles 24:1). But it is a matter of decision. Will we give ourselves to this primary work of believing, and in so doing receive eternal life?

“I will make them strong in the Lord”  (Zechariah 10:12). The promise of God to the redeemed. Jesus said it this way: “I am the bread of life” (John 6:35,47). And whoever gives himself or herself to Jesus in faith, believing, will receive “the food that endures for eternal life” (v.27). So, to whom — and what — are we giving ourselves? What is our primary focus and work? Bread for our bellies? Dough in our pockets? Or the bread of life? May the work of God be our priority. May we come to Jesus, believing. And may we be alive and strong in the Lord. Forever. Amen.

“Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.'”
     — John 6:35

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