I have no particular verse to talk about this week, but events have conspired to make me consider a very important element of Torah and how it relates to Christians. First, I want to note that according to Exodus 12:38, that (37) “The Israelites left…and with them came many people of all classes as well as many sheep and cattle.” We see then that the Hebrews (Habiru) included not only the descendents of Jacob, but many other peoples as well who were incorporated into the twelve tribes of Israel. God had to take these people then and form once nation, so that they would be united. We need to mention as well that many of these people were slaves, just as many as us were slaves to sin. The story of how God used the Exodus to transform divers peoples into a nation, and slaves into freemen is also paradigm or maybe better a type of how God works with us.
First, God does not throw us into a situation without preparing us for it. In Exodus, we are told that the people of Israel do not take a certain route because they are not ready to fight. They wonder the desert for quite a while before it is necessary for them to fight. At the same time God puts them through various trials, relating to food and water, and safety. Trials are to build character and to teach the people to trust in God. Help does not come from the people. It always comes from God, from the plagues, to the dividing of the Red Sea to the Manna, to the water, God responds to the people’s needs in miraculous ways, so that they will learn to depend on him and him alone. Yeshua reminds us, we are not to worry about food or clothing, just as the Hebrews were to depend on God, so are we to depend on him. This of course does not relieve us from work, for even the Hebrews had to gather the manna, to gather the water, and for that matter take the first step into the Red Sea (wasn’t that a brave person to trust that the waters would not close back over him.) We also know that during all the time in the desert, their clothes did not wear out, and neither did their shoes.
God too, puts us in situations. They may look tough, but in the long run, they are for our benefit, building character and teaching us to trust in God. When I left for Honduras as a missionary, I did not follow the usual pattern. In the Episcopal Church, at the time, you usually became a missionary through SAMS or VFM. I for various reasons decided to become an independent missionary. The custom of SAMS and VFM was to arrange for the missionary to go on deputation for how ever many years it would take to raise money to live in Honduras for three years. I made a number of fund raising trips to the US, but never stayed long enough to raise money. One reason I did not do this, was it would have involved too much time, and I did not want to leave my churches without a pastor for that time. In fact, that is ultimately why I returned to the US, because I did not want to have to go fundraising without my family. Anyway, for the fourteen years that I lived in Honduras, I always had the money I needed, food and transportation. I was never rich, and some might have considered me poor, but I had what I needed. My first year or so, I lived in a house belonging to the church. One gentleman was sending me $80.00 per month. Doesn’t sound like much, and I don’t suppose many Americans would have liked to live on that huge amount, but I was happy with it. That covered gas, food, clothes etc. I taught school, visited ships, helped start a mission, and worked with street kids. After a year or so, I got a letter from my one pledge, that due to financial situations in the oil patch that he could no longer sustain me, and the next day another gentleman, unknown to the first sends me a letter that he will begin sending me $80.00 a month. Isn’t God good?
My entire life in Honduras was like that. I was never rich, but when I was truly in need, the money was there, or the tyres, or the motor part. There was even a gentleman keeping me supplied with Dr. Peppers and Tex Mex food on the Miskito Coast. It continues to be that way. I am not rich by any means, but I have what I need. I have only been in the US eight years. Upon returning I discovered that my credit rating had vanished. Today some eight years later, I find myself the owner of a house several cars, and a fat cat. My bank account is virtually nill, which worries my wife. I am self employed, with a very small income, and no immediate prospects, my wife and kids are worried about perceived needs, but I know one thing, God will provide and in his time.
In addition to teaching us that God will provide, he wants us to become one people. For the Hebrews He did this by giving them rules of Kosher, to keep them separated from the nations. Even thought Kosher does not apply to Christians, the same principles apply. We are not to be contaminated by the word (James). Unlike the Jews, we are to be in the world, but we are not to be contaminated by it. Unfortunately, the church in the west is more contaminated by the world day by day. It no longer preaches holiness in any form. Abstinence even for Lent is a dirty word. The moral laws are forgotten, or assumed not to be for us. Note that churches which do teach these things are growing. I see that Orthodox more united than many other Christians, because they still maintain the traditional fasts and feasts, which are done together so as to reinforce each other. Roman Catholics used to do the same for Lent, finishing off all meat in the house the Tuesday before Lent. Meat wasn’t even sold. But even this solidarity in fasting has vanished in the Last fifty years.
It is definitely time for Christians to put aside their differences and work together. Each week I work together with Christians of several denominations to visit ships. We do not do the Divine Liturgy together, but we work and pray together to be Christ to the men who come to the Port of Houston. There is no reason why churches cannot get together to witness in other areas. We might even find that some of our differences are unimportant.
What is your situation this week? Is God putting you through a situation to prepare you to serve him in some way? Are you part of a church which truly teaches the Bible? Does your church work with others to build the Kingdom? If not, look to God. Walk by faith, not by site, not by feelings, but learn God’s word and allow his Spirit to guide you.
+Mar Michael Abportus
Bishop of La Porte, TX