We’re thirty-seven days into this yearlong journey together. So far it’s been a fantastic trip. At times God has come alive for me in my daily Scripture reading or I have heard something new in the posts from many of you. How’s it going for you?
To be honest with you, though, I’ve missed a few steps. I’ve skipped a few readings, enough that catching up feels nigh impossible. In the old days I would have quit. You know what I mean? In the past, whenever I fell behind on my devotional study promises to God, guilt raised its ugly head and my stamina and discipline flagged, and I would slowly but surely turn back on the path and eventually quit.
A few years ago I poured my guilty heart out to a friend during one such failed devotional excursion. She smiled at me kindly and asked, “You’re supposed to eat everyday, right?”
Obviously,” I replied patting my protruding stomach. “What’s that got to do with anything?” She smiled again.
“Let’s say you happened to skip a meal or two, let’s say you get behind in your daily eating, would you quit eating?”
That night I picked my Bible back up and devoured that day’s reading. I’ve missed some Biblical meals since then, but I haven’t quit feasting. I hope you don’t either.
Today’s guest blogger is my co-pastor and good friend, Eugene Scott. Thanks Eugene for your thoughtful contribution to A Daily Bible Conversation. He writes a blog as well, entitled “God Sightings.” Read more by clicking here.
INSIGHTS AND EXPLANATIONS
Exodus 28:1-43. God’s ways are mysterious. This chapter is no exception, filled with its strange instructions that make little sense to us modern readers. Why would God be concerned with such things? Moses and his people had just escaped from Egypt, a very wealthy, ornate, religious culture. In part it seems God’s concern over these things is incarnational. God was entering what they knew and using it to reveal himself to them.
But there is obvious and new symbolism here, too. That the priests had to wear the names of the twelve tribes on their shoulders and hearts, symbolizes how God had laid the nation on the shoulders and hearts of the priests. God uses familiar concepts and clothing and then sets it apart with his meaning and revelation.
Matthew 25:31-26:13. To me this is one of the most difficult and disturbing of Jesus’ teachings. It calls for more than a conversation but rather deep study and discussion. But here are some tentative thoughts. First, this passage is disturbing because I’ve often acted like a goat and deserve God’s judgment. Second, it is not clear that this passage is a literal description of God’s judgment, since God’s favor here is based on our actions not his grace. Maybe this is one more way Jesus is trying to turn our thinking about God and life upside down. Jesus seems to be saying life here and life beyond is based on different values: the first are last and the last first.
Psalm 31:9-18. What a flip this is, too. The New Testament passage above seems to depict the stereo-typical angry God while this Psalm describes a God of mercy. God is not predictable.
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THE WORD MADE FRESH
In third grade I sat behind a cute brunette. I don’t remember her name. But I do remember the end of our romance. I hooked my foot on her chair and yanked it away from her as she sat down. She hit the tile schoolroom floor hard. We never spoke to one another again. I still wish I had apologized.
Guilt is often an overpowering emotion. Each of us carries guilty memories such as my third grade transgression—and worse. And as I described in the opening, my simple inability to keep a little promise to God often drove a stake into my spiritual heart. Our real guilt separates us from God, those we love, and even ourselves.
But as desperate as our guilt makes us feel, God is even more desperate to forgive. In Exodus, God devises an ornate and difficult priesthood and system of sacrifice that eventually points to Christ being not only the Priest but also the Sacrifice. Jesus, God Incarnate, then carried us and our sins on his heart and shoulders to the cross. And shortly before his death, Jesus hints in Matthew 25:31-26:13 that being religious while not having a forgiven and transformed heart that gives us hearts for the “least of these,” is simple denial of our guilt.
But a simple, though costly, word of mercy from God, like the one spoken by my wise friend, is all it takes to set us free and place us back in God’s presence. “Forgive them, Father. For they do not know what they do.”
- What did you see and hear in today’s reading?
- Did you see any links between these four readings?
- Do you think our guilt requires some kind of payment or justice? If so, what does that look like?
- What can you lay on the heart and shoulders of Christ that needs forgiven?
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Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, Colorado.