Wednesday, July 27, 2011

This is what God wants of You

While we believe all the Bible (in my case the LXX) is divinely inspired, there are several places, such as the Ten Commandments and John 3:16 which focus on key truths.

Today we would like to look at Micah 6:8, "Has it not been told to you, O man, what is good? or what
the Yahweh requires of you, but to do justice, and love mercy, and be ready
to walk humbly with your God?

First, we need to look at "what is Good." If we want to think Hebraically, then we will realise that only God can really define what is good. Indeed in Genesis, when Havah and Adam eat the fruit of knowledge of good and evil, the point is being made that mankind wants to decide these questions instead of letting God settle them. We also see that Yahweh sees the creation of the first five days is good and the sixth day is very good. In other words, creation before the fall was good. In addition, Yeshua tells us that God alone is good. So to determine what is truly good, we must seek God's revelation, the Bible to discern what good is. We are given direct examples (marriage between one man and one women), the 10 commandments, and we are given historical stories that illustrate points that are not always explicitly stated. While polygamy is no ware specifically prohibited in the Old Testament, the life stories of the Patriarchs, of David and Shlomo (Solomon) make it obvious it is not a good idea, and David shows what can happen to a family if a father does not fulfil his role. So to be good is to follow fully the precepts of the Kingdom, as laid out in the Old and New Testaments.

"To do justice." The Torah lays out what justice is. The prophets' main complaint through many of the prophetic books is that justice is not done. To look at justice, we can look at some specific things stated. No-one was to have two measures or two weights, in other words, we begin with a sense of fairness and honesty. We are not to move the boundary mark, again honesty. We are not to set stumbling blocks in front of the blind, i.e. we do not take unfair advantage. We are not to treat the rich better because they are rich, and we are not to favour the poor because they are poor. This is where we as a country originally got equal rights under the law, it is a Biblical principle.

To do justice also goes back to crime and punishment. Gaol was not listed as one of the punishments commanded in the Torah. In fact there were only two penalties, death or restitution. The death penalty was for a fairly short number of crimes, murder, adultery, homosexuality, blasphemy, and rape. Everything else was covered by restitution. In restitution, if something was stolen, it had to be repaid, often with a fine as well. If the person could not pay it back, then they were sold into slavery (but note that slavery would never last more than 49 years) The point was to restore right relationship between people and between the criminal and God.

Of course society today is much too merciful than this. A child rapist might be back on the street in 20 years. In Honduras and Mexico, long gaol sentences are considered cruel and unusual, so twenty years is the max. Of course if we followed the Old Testament there were would be no gaol except to hold people in preparation for trial.

The question arises then, are we a just society? The Bible emphasises, a fair wage for a day's work. Today many people cannot support their family on what they are being paid. In addition by forcing many to work on Sunday, the poor are robbed of being able to spend time with their families or at worship. There are many employees who are very unfair with their workers. It is not a new problem, and not one that will disappear, but we need to push for true fairness in the workplace and every place. If all employers treated their workers fairly, there would never be call for unions.

Hesed, translated mercy here can refer to kindness, but more refers in this context to relationships, especially covenant relationships, between man and man and between man and God. Mercy in this context would be being faithful to ones wife, and to God. But it also has the characteristic of showing kindness to others. Remember in the Gospels, in almost every healing, Yeshua had compassion on the person who needed healing first. Are we so kind to others that we feel their pain with them? If not, we should.

"To walk humbly with God" sounds easy, but is hard for us. To do this, we need to remember where we come from. Humble comes from the Latin word "humus," dirt. To be humble is to remember that we came from the dirt, that is from the earth, and we receive a brief reminder, Man, or "Adam" is made from earth or dust, "Adamah." To be humble is to know where you come from, or to know your place. God has blessed me with skills in language. I can take credit for studying, but it is only God's gift that allows me to pick up a language in six months. Can I be proud of my green eyes? No! They too are a gift from God. To walk humbly with God, we need to know who we are (sinners, saved by grace) and who God is (our merciful and just king.) We need to quit trying to save ourselves, and we must learn to submit to Yeshua.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

6 March 2011: Transfiguration Sunday

As part of my Lenten Discipline, I am endeavouring to write more and respond less, which means this blog, as well as several others.

Instead of looking at the Tanach directly, we are going to look briefly at the New Testament, and the next few weeks, we will be centering on what it means to be a Christian.

Luke, Chapter 9 beginning at the 28th verse:
+About eight days after these sayings, Yeshuah took with him Peter, John, and James, and went up to the mountain to pray. As he was praying, the appearance of his face was altered, and his clothing became white and
dazzling. And behold, two men were talking with him, who were Moshe
and Eliayahu. They appeared in glory and spoke of his departure,
which he was about to accomplish in Jerusalem.
Now, Kefas and those who were with him were heavy with sleep, but when they were fully awake, they saw his glory and the two men who
stood with him. As Moshe and Eliyahu were departing from him, Kefas said to Yeshuah, “Master, it is good for us to be here! Let us make three tents: one for you, one for Moshe, and one for Eliayahu.” He did not know what he was saying. While Kephas was saying these things, a cloud came and overshadowed them, and they were afraid as they entered into the cloud.
A voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is my beloved Son. Listen to him!” And after the voice had spoken, Yeshuah was found alone. They kept silent and told no one in those days of what they had seen.

The key verse is here: “This is my beloved Son. Listen to him!”

What does a Father mean, when he tells his children to listen to him. Is it not a way of saying, pay attention, because you need to do what I am about to tell you.

The essence then of being a Christian is to listen to God and to obey him. This is how we can test whether or not we are Christian. Do people know we are Christians by our love for one another? Those are Messiah's words, not mine. Many times, in the Gospels, Yeshuah tells us, "If you love me, you will obey me." Do we believe this today? It seems today that there are increasingly flaws in the church, a church which is divided, a church which lacks love. To find the source of these problems, we need to go back to the beginning.

The essence of our faith, is that God is a holy, just loving Father, who created us to be in fellowship with him. Repeatedly we reject him and place our wants before him. He sent Yeshua into the world to take the death penalty for our sins upon himself. To receive the benefit of that sacrifice, we need to accept him as Lord and Saviour. To accept him only as Saviour is to mock him and to place ourselves more firmly in the pit of perdition. Yeshuah, when we accept him as Lord, not only reconciles us to God, one to another, and to nature, gives us the power to conquer sin in our own lives. If we allow that sin to continue in our lives, then we will be weak pitiful Christains, instead of being champions of the faith.

If you are not a champion of the faith, the first question you need to ask, "Have I truly accepted Yeshuah as my Lord and Saviour?" If you haven't, then you need to take this important first step. Next week, we examine Lordship.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Anskar, Apostle to the North: 3 February 2011

Anskar, a Saxon, was born in 801, in what would be Picardy today.In 826, when King Harald of Denmark asked for missionaries, Anskar, a Benedictine monk, was one of those who was sent out. Sadly, he was ridiculed by his peers for his missionary fervor. Later he also led a group to Sweden. He built school, and had dealings with the Vikings, who were a tough lot to evangelise, because they thought the breaking of oaths to be honourable. Because of the precariousness of the political situation, he returned to Hamburg, of which he became the first Archbishop. He helped consecrate Gotbert, the first Bishop of Sweden and is held to be the Apostle to the Swedish people. We remember Anskar most for being Apostle to the North, (Denmark, Sweden and Iceland) and because despite the fact he did not see the fruit of his works, he continued his labour. May we do likewise.

Collect: Lord Yeshua, your servant Anskar was called to Denmark and Sweden to proclaim the Gospel, and you gave him strength to continue despite disparagement and deterrence from those around him. Grant to us and our clergy like steadfastness of mind to obey your call, and trust in you for the seed planted to grow. This we ask through Yeshua haMoshiach, who lives and reins with you and the Ruach haKodesh, one God in glory everlasting.

Psalm 69:13-16
Zephaniah 3:9-12
Acts 1:1-9
Mark 6:7-13