Thursday, January 25, 2024

Being Pure In Heart


It's a quality that we desire when something when we are looking at something of value.  If a piece of jewelry says "pure gold," and we paid serious money for it, and come to find out it's mixed with lead (which mimics the weight of gold, because it's almost as dense) we will feel deceived.

It's a quality that we desire if we are consuming something.  If the bread says, "100% whole wheat" and we find it has white flour in it, we feel that we paid for something we did not get.  If it says, "gluten free" and has wheat flour in it, I personally will get sick and if someone has celiac disease, they could end up in the hospital.

We want the label, "pure," to be accurate as consumers. Governments passed all sorts of laws in the last few centuries to ensure that labels matched the contents. 

But if you look up the word, "pure," in Strong's Concordance, you find it applied to the furniture and religious items that God commanded to be made by His hand-picked craftsmen in Exodus 31.  Then you see an immediate counterfeit of that in Exodus 32, where gold is used to craft an idol: the golden calf. 

The world always counterfeits the things of God.  Satan counterfeited true wisdom by insinuating to Eve that God was holding out on her, so she needed to grab the apple and get "real" wisdom.  Satan will take the gold of God--His love, wisdom, provision, and instruction--and add impurities to it (sin, pride, arrogance, deception) and try to pass it off to us as real. 

We may not discover how impure Satan's counterfeits are until the consequences come at us--for Adam and Eve it was expulsion from the Garden into a world where the first act outside of it was the murder of one son by the other son.

Once again, Jesus is distilling the Kingdom of God's charter with what we call the Beatitudes, or what someone once called, the "beautiful attitudes."  This one is Matthew 5:8:

"Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God."

According to Strong's, the word "pure" here carries with it an ethical component: 
  • Free from corrupt desire, from sin and guilt
  • Free from every admixture of what is false, sincere genuine
  • Blameless, innocent
  • Unstained with the guilt of anything [1]
Wow. That is a tall order, isn't it?  But, stop for a moment and consider what kind of person would you trust: Someone who has no hidden motives, is genuine, isn't filled with deceit and has made amends for any wrongs they did. 

But if Jesus is outlining a new way of living, and you would like to be a card-carrying member of this new Kingdom, aren't those the kind of people you would like to be around?  Those around you would feel the same way.

Think about it:  The Kingdom of God is a reversal of what happened to this planet after the Fall.  It's a kind of restoration of how we were created to be and then lost because of Adam's disobedience. It's a reversal of sin's devastation: corruption, lies, debauchery and a marred conscience.  

Do you remember how Adam and Eve intimately fellowshipped with God in the Garden?  We learn of God's intimate presence after it had been disrupted by Adam's disobedience: 

"Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, 'Where are you?'" (Gen. 3: 8-9)

I think the saddest words God ever uttered were these: "Where are you?" God knew where Adam was; He knew that shame had swept Adam into the shadows, away from Him, away from the friendship that they both enjoyed and away from Him because of the stench of sin. 

But Adam had seen God.

So will the pure of heart. David gives us a beautiful prayer to utter as we seek God: 

Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
blot out my transgressions.
Wash away all my iniquity
and cleanse me from my sin.

For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is always before me.
Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight;
so you are right in your verdict
and justified when you judge.
Surely I was sinful at birth,
sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb;
you taught me wisdom in that secret place.

Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones you have crushed rejoice.
Hide your face from my sins
and blot out all my iniquity.

Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me from your presence
or take your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me...

My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart
you, God, will not despise.  (Psalm 51:1-12 & 17)

This psalm was written after David committed adultery with Bathsheba.  So, David was not on the "Oh, I have overcome this!" side of this!  But this psalm is a reminder of how God can cleanse, renew and transform a heart.  Even if that heart fails time and time again. 

What is then for us to do?  

We must want it.  Pure (pun intended) and simple.  

The Kingdom of God is about realigning our priorities and how we view things.  Do we use our flesh to evaluate the world?  Or do we seek the Kingdom of God above all else?  We must ask God to do what only He can do: conform us to the image of His Son.  Paul says, 

For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And having chosen them, he called them to come to him. And having called them, he gave them right standing with himself. And having given them right standing, he gave them his glory. (Romans 8:29-30)

God wants nothing more than to walk in the garden with us again, fellowshipping and enjoying His company.  Paul tells of the beauty of encountering God, with a heart that is open to all He would show us:  

But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord. (2 Cor. 3:18)



Thursday, January 18, 2024

Lord, Have Mercy!

It's a funny thing with us humans.  We want to mete out justice whenever we are wronged.  We want to let that person have it and feel satisfied when the person gets a comeuppance!  We decry when someone "gets away with it."  

We would cringe using the word, "revenge," but it has a sweet aroma to us and makes us contemplate how far we might go to enact it. 

If we are personally wronged, we are angered and question how and why this person could do such a thing.  Sometimes the wrongs are just having a really bad day:  Someone cuts you off on the freeway; someone is rude to you at the store; someone steals your purse you laid down on a chair for a moment or someone gets your job by creating lies that your boss believes. 

Sometimes the wrongs we suffer are truly shattering: A crime committed against us or a loved one; the destruction of our lives by someone's underhanded but effective machinations or you are betrayed beyond description by someone who you thought loved you.

There are degrees of offense and degrees of retribution.   

In fact, it was after watching a concentration camp movie in junior high, that I was thrown into the fiery furnace of doubt. I couldn't believe what these people had done and much to my utter dismay, most of the perpetrators had gotten away with their crimes. I decided then and there I was an atheist; if there was a God, how could He allow such a thing?

But eating your cosmic lunch alone, when the universe is empty, is truly depressing. I came finally to a place of faith, after much struggle and searching. I realized that if there is no God, then it is just us. If there is a God, then there is justice. 

Those people who snickered and went defiantly to their deaths, with no remorse, would face the ultimate Judge.  God would be both heart-broken at their unrepentance and wrathful at their utter lack of humanity. 

But to bring in the word, "mercy" when discussing serial killers, Nazis and child molesters seems like an affront to God and to us who long to see evil prosecuted, whether here or in eternity. 

But mercy is the other side of justice. But, it is not an excuse for injustice, that is, ignoring the seriousness of the offense and writing it off to some rationale that makes everyone feel better, except the victim. Our society sadly has so expanded what constitutes a felony, that is has lost its seriousness.

But, remember, Jesus is stating the ways of the Kingdom of God, a reversal of what the world is doing, what religion is doing and what we are personally doing. 

The Kingdom of God is not throwing away the law, the courts and justice--He is looking at how people in this Kingdom will act and how it is different from the world's expectations. 

Jesus says in Matthew 5:7: 

Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. 

Jesus later uses a parable to illustrate this truth, after Peter asks Him a very pointed question: 

Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”

Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times."

The Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) is Jesus's Bible and His response to Peter is a rich one.  The Kingdom of God is quite the opposite of Lamech (a evil descendant of Cain's) and his boast to his wives:

Adah and Zillah, listen to me;
wives of Lamech, hear my words.
"I have killed a man for wounding me,
a young man for injuring me.
If Cain is avenged seven times,
then Lamech seventy-seven times.” (Gen. 4:23-24) 

Lamech had a reasonable claim to avenge his injuries; and we would expect him to so do. But seventy-seven times over for each offense or for both offenses? I am sure Peter stood there perplexed, for Jesus reversed the sense of the Lamech's boast:  We are not avenge wrongs but forgive them as many times as the situation calls for. 

Wow. That is a bold statement, a bold reversal.  But Jesus gives this an application in this parable: 

Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt.

At this the servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’  The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.

But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded.

His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.’

But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt.  When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened.

Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.

This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.” (Matt. 18:21-35)

The king didn't give his servant an extension; knowing his servant would never be able to pay his debt, the king forgave it altogether. How did this servant get so into debt with this king?  Bad investments? Being too generous with others? Skullduggery? We don't know, but the king doesn't seem to weigh in the cause for the enormous debt when he cancels it. His largesse is breathtaking and I am sure the servant walked out of that meeting feeling a million pounds lighter. 

Instead of rejoicing and extending that mercy to his fellow servant, he would appear to be hunting him down(!)  Remember:  He doesn't need to collect any money, because he doesn't owe any money--the king cancelled his debt. He's scot-free.  But there is something more here: 

You owe me, buddy-boy!  No one gets away from paying me back!  I don't want to get a reputation of being soft on debts--you play then you pay.  Simple as that!  No one will think I am free and easy with my money. I am not a push-over. 

Instead of the focus being on the generosity of the king, the servant is now focused on himself. That is why mercy is important: It takes the focus off of you and enlarges your point of view, that includes the other person. Mercy humanizes the person, and makes us see them as one of us, not some alien creature that needs our heavy hand. I am sure when the servant originally went into the presence of the king, he wanted mercy:  

I can't even begin to pay this debt.  I could work for a thousand years and never pay it off. The king has lots of money--I am sure if truth be told, he doesn't need mine--I just hope and pray he sees me in my sorry state and has mercy on me. I can't demand mercy--I hope that he finds it in his heart to forgive me.  I will be eternally grateful and will be his best servant from this day forward. 

But no.  He went out of the king's presence and saw his fellow servant not as one equally needing mercy for his debt, but one who needed to feel the heavy hand of justice. The servant was all too happy to mete out justice and why not, that other guy owes him!  He even tries to choke him--he dehumanized the guy and saw only what was coming to him. 

But here's where the Kingdom of God is different:  Yes, you are owed.  Yes, justice is on your side.  Yes, you have a right to redress your grievance. 

But:  You do not have the right to dehumanize the other person.  You do not have the right to ignore that person's situation and act like you are the judge.  You need to forgive and have an attitude that reflects the heavenly King who not only forgives you, but does it on a daily basis.  He forgives.  He doesn't keep a record of wrongs.  You demonstrate mercy as you have seen mercy demonstrated to you. You don't ignore the plight of the other person; you don't assume that what you are owed is the most important thing in the world. 

Let me close with something I saw on the news many years ago.  The BTK serial killer was being sentenced for a heinous group of crimes.  The victims' families were allowed to talk to him before sentencing. Many of them cried, screamed and raged at this man; he just stood there, with no emotion on his face.  That made this confrontation even more awful--the anguish of his victims' families seem to have no impact on him, so they grew even more angry.  He stood there resolute.  Until an elderly man, with a long white beard, came before the court and faced the man.  He said that he wanted to hate him and every right to, but his faith taught him to forgive and that is what he would do. He told the man he forgive him.  The tears streamed down his face as he spoke these words in a calm and restrained voice. 

The camera quickly panned to the serial killer's face.  Tears were flowing down his face.

Mercy is never easy.  Every fiber in our being fights it, but our residency in the Kingdom requests that we rethink our need for justice and act with mercy as children of the King. 

Wednesday, January 10, 2024

It's Dinner Time!

Jesus is continuing to outline the commandments of the Kingdom of God, harkening back to Moses and the giving of the Ten Commandments.

Jesus is on a hill, and Moses was on a mountain. 

Mountains are places where you have to look up and acknowledge the height and glory of God.  The psalmist says, 

"I lift up my eyes to the hills—
from where will my help come?
My help comes from the Lord,
who made heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot be moved;
he who keeps you will not slumber.
He who keeps Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
The Lord is your keeper;
the Lord is your shade at your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day
nor the moon by night.
The Lord will keep you from all evil;
he will keep your life.
The Lord will keep
your going out and your coming in
from this time on and forevermore." (Psalm 121)

Moses' time on the mountain provoked fear in the people below; God was making sure that they had no doubt of the power and might of the God of Israel, who put "paid" to the account of the Egyptian gods. So, His display of thunder and lightning had its intended effect: The children of Israel were now in the loving possession of the Creator of the universe, and not the Pharaoh and his pantheon of stone monuments and they knew it. 

But, here on this mountain was the gentle Jesus.  No thunder.  No lightning.  Just the spoken word by the incarnate Word. God's very words came from the mouth of this man, for He was the Word:

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.  All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overtake it." (John 1: 1-5)

He is the gentle Guide, the Voice who whispers to our hearts: 

"And when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left, your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it.’" (Isaiah 30:21)

He is taking our heart of stone and turning it into flesh, and writing His law there:
"This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them..." (Heb. 10:16).

So, here sits the very Word, with His words bringing new life and a slow, gentle chiseling away of the stony hearts of His listeners. 

What makes our hearts stony? Life itself: disappointments, pain, suffering, rejection, trauma, fear, anger, sin, defeat, abuse, loneliness... I am sure we could construct a list a mile long. 

Why do tidal pool animals have shells?  They are immersed in the ocean's water or exposed to the hot sun.  A shell is a very reasonable response to such conditions.  Our conditions are no less chaotic and ever-changing. 

But then we cry, "There's got to be more!  Is this all there is?" 

Jesus is saying, "No!" and offers a way to seek the Kingdom:  hunger. 

We all know how hunger narrows our focus down to a search for satiation. The Cambridge Dictionary defines "satiation" as: "the act of completely  satisfying yourself or a need, especially with food or pleasure."   But food and pleasure have a temporary satiation effect; after a while, you are on a search once more.  Why?  Because satiation without God leads to a deeper hunger, one that gnaws at us and makes us wonder what is happening--why the world no longer satisfies. 

Blaise Pascal put it well:

"What else does this craving, and this helplessness, proclaim but that there was once in man a true happiness, of which all that now remains is the empty print and trace? This he tries in vain to fill with everything around him, seeking in things that are not there the help he cannot find in those that are, though none can help, since this infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and immutable object; in other words by God himself."

We are adopted by the world, as it were, and we are always seeking our Source, our true Parent. 

So, Jesus addresses this search for meaning and connection to His heavenly Father by saying: 

"Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled." (Matthew 5:6).  In order words, when we crave, to the very depths of our being, a right-standing with God, longing to be in His embrace, forgiven and set free, that will be true satiation, for that is why we were created in the first place: to walk in the Garden with God.

Jesus promises a place at the table.  He is telling His audience: I know you are hungry.  Life has left you that way.  I am here to show you that your search is not in vain. God is waiting. This is His kingdom, one where you live in fellowship with Him.  But there is one detail that I will share with you later:  The gates of the Kingdom will have My blood smeared over the lintel and on the sides.  I am the Passover Lamb: fragrant and sweet to the taste, but I must die so you may be satisfied.  My Father must be satisfied, too, for that is wage of your sin: death.

But have no fear:  I have, and I will, overcome the world.  

"Taste and see that the Lord is good;
blessed is the one who takes refuge in him." (Psalm 34:8)



Tuesday, January 2, 2024

The Light of a (New) Day

I bet, at this point, the crowd is utterly silent, with an occasional "hush!" from a mama to a wiggly child being the only other sound. He began with the "poor in spirit"--an acknowledgement that despite God having chosen His people out from among the nations, redeeming them from slavery and leading them into the Promised Land, despair, sadness and fear still permeates the Jewish people. Perhaps, like today, the lack of hope is palpable, and everyday, the people walk with their heads down.

So, Jesus zeroes in on their condition and to the human condition that plagues us all: we are poor, beggars at the gates of heaven, and we feel no one is there, and no one is listening to our pleas. We turn away and wander off, impoverished in spirit and wondering if there will be a day when hope presents itself.

It did that day.  Or should I say, He did that day. 

Then Jesus moves from poverty of spirit to its natural outcome: mourning in spirit.  How could it be otherwise? 

We want to hear what the solution is, Rabbi. Get rid of the Romans who offend us daily? Sounds good. Get rid of the burdensome rules imposed on us daily? Yes, please! Get rid of the religious leaders who scorn us daily? We all can agree on that. 

No.  Getting rid of all those people and things will not solve the heart problem. For a while, this imagined new order would be fine...until the deeper loneliness and the famished heart once again asserts themselves.  

Consider:  If money means happiness, and more of it means more happiness, then the wealthy, the Hollywood types and world leaders would be radiant with joy.  

No. Not even close. 

Consider:  If the current political scene is overturned, and people are now free to follow their hearts, then revolutions, elections and new governments would have a long history of benefitting mankind, but all to often, when the old order is replaced with a new order--the new older replicates the old order and the people are once again in bondage.  

Consider:  If religion(s) would go the way of the buffalo, then this world would be a freer, more inclusive place.  Think of all the religious wars that have horribly disfigured the face of God!  But in the 20th century, when religion was replaced with atheistic systems that elevated leaders to a divine status, more people died in genocides than in all the previous centuries' religious wars combined. An estimated 100 million people died in the 20th century under the guise of newly constructed societies.   

Jesus pierces through the haze of quick-fixes, what-ifs and sees what needs to truly change if a person were to be find healing: a deeper relationship with His Father.  This Kingdom of God, with its reversals of the world (not upgrades or enhancements of it), will provide the blueprint.

Now, Jesus lands on "Blessed are meek, for they will inherit the earth." (verse 5)

Huh?  The meek?  What a minute, Rabbi.  The meek?  Let me tell you about the meek. If we are humble --meek--with the Romans, we are abused. If we are meek with obeying the Torah, we feel inadequate.  If we are meek with the religious leaders, they see us as weak and judge us even more.  Meekness is not a ticket out of this mess we are in.  Oh. I remember.  Psalm 37 reminds me of what meekness is. 

Jesus never teaches in a vacuum. He reaches deeply into the Old Testament, and draws out its richness to remind His listeners of truths they may not have thought about in many years. 

Let's define "meek" first. The Blue Letter Bible has a mind-blowing definition:

"Meekness toward God is that disposition of spirit in which we accept His dealings with us as good, and therefore without disputing or resisting. In the OT, the meek are those wholly relying on God rather than their own strength to defend against injustice. Thus, meekness toward evil people means knowing God is permitting the injuries they inflict, that He is using them to purify His elect, and that He will deliver His elect in His time (Isa 41:17, Luke 18:1-8). Gentleness or meekness is the opposite to self-assertiveness and self-interest. It stems from trust in God's goodness and control over the situation. The gentle person is not occupied with self at all. This is a work of the Holy Spirit, not of the human will (Gal 5:23)."

Wow. Doesn't that show a reversal of epic proportions? Jesus is pushing back on what His listeners see as a system that is utterly powerful, implacable and dominant and reminds them that God is in control, not the societal elites. (Applicable to us today, yes?)

Let's walk through Psalm 37, and see how it relates to the Kingdom of God.

"Do not fret because of those who are evil
or be envious of those who do wrong;
for like the grass they will soon wither,
like green plants they will soon die away."

Really, Rabbi?  They seem awfully permanent to me. 

"Trust in the Lord and do good;
dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.
Take delight in the Lord,
and he will give you the desires of your heart."

Oh.  That is good to know. I haven't been delighting in Him but fretting over everything. 

"Commit your way to the Lord;
trust in him and he will do this:
He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn,
your vindication like the noonday sun."

My righteousness comes not from what I do, but from Him. I feel somewhat relieved.  The religious leaders make it so hard with all their rules to really enjoy God. 

"Be still before the Lord
and wait patiently for him;
do not fret when people succeed in their ways,
when they carry out their wicked schemes.
Refrain from anger and turn from wrath;
do not fret—it leads only to evil.
For those who are evil will be destroyed,
but those who hope in the Lord will inherit the land.
A little while, and the wicked will be no more;
though you look for them, they will not be found.
But the meek will inherit the land
and enjoy peace and prosperity."

Wow.  I am sorry, Rabbi. I do fret over how the powerful wear us down, and I ponder doing evil right back at them. But that means I will go deep into evil myself, and I am not trusting You to handle it. I do not want to become like them, relying on my own strength and using my own "wisdom" to solve this; only You alone are wise to do what needs to be done. 

"The wicked plot against the righteous
and gnash their teeth at them;
but the Lord laughs at the wicked,
for he knows their day is coming.
The wicked draw the sword
and bend the bow
to bring down the poor and needy,
to slay those whose ways are upright.
But their swords will pierce their own hearts,
and their bows will be broken.
Better the little that the righteous have
than the wealth of many wicked;
for the power of the wicked will be broken,
but the Lord upholds the righteous."

 I never thought that my "little" had any real value, meaning or purpose.  But in God's eyes, it is far better than what the wicked have; who knows how they got it? Their gain, though much, was obtained with much evil. 

"The blameless spend their days under the Lord’s care,
and their inheritance will endure forever.
In times of disaster they will not wither;
in days of famine they will enjoy plenty.
But the wicked will perish:
Though the Lord’s enemies are like the flowers of the field,
they will be consumed, they will go up in smoke.
The wicked borrow and do not repay,
but the righteous give generously;
those the Lord blesses will inherit the land,
but those he curses will be destroyed."

Oh, really, Rabbi?  I can be and should be generous to others?  All I have, really, comes from You--if You give me enough to be generous with, why wouldn't You continue to do that? But, it's not just a matter of being generous--we show our trust in You when we give, that's true, but we also show how the wicked are all about themselves and we, as Yours, should not be. We act as children of Your light and that shows just how dark the dark really is. No wonder they hate us and try to bring us down. 

"The Lord makes firm the steps
of the one who delights in him;
though he may stumble, he will not fall,
for the Lord upholds him with his hand.
I was young and now I am old,
yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken
or their children begging bread.
They are always generous and lend freely;
their children will be a blessing.
Turn from evil and do good;
then you will dwell in the land forever.
For the Lord loves the just
and will not forsake his faithful ones."

Really, Rabbi?  God loves me? God will not forsake me, even when I fail?  I stumble all the time, yet You catch me--I take great comfort in that truth. It is true that those who trust in You are not left as beggars in the streets; in fact, it's odd how the more we give, the more we acquire to give. That the difference with those who don't give: They hoard and hoard and feel they never have enough, because there is always someone who has more than they do. They're caught in a cycle of pursue, acquire and envy.  I am sorry, God, I have wanted to be like them at times. How utterly wrong to want that. 

"Wrongdoers will be completely destroyed;
the offspring of the wicked will perish.
The righteous will inherit the land
and dwell in it forever.
The mouths of the righteous utter wisdom,
and their tongues speak what is just.
The law of their God is in their hearts;
their feet do not slip.
The wicked lie in wait for the righteous,
intent on putting them to death;
but the Lord will not leave them in the power of the wicked
or let them be condemned when brought to trial."

I guess what is in your heart will come bursting forth from your mouth. This Rabbi seems steeped in our Scriptures, and He is giving them life and breath. I now see what the greatest sin of the wicked is:  They think that all of their abundance comes from themselves--their cleverness, their acumen, their theft. They ignore God, and use whatever means they deem necessary to carve out a life that does not acknowledge God in any way. They think, (oh, perish the thought!) that they are god. They worship the idol of money and then, because their thoughts are so darkened, they think they sit on the throne of the universe. 

"Hope in the Lord
and keep his way.
He will exalt you to inherit the land;
when the wicked are destroyed, you will see it.
I have seen a wicked and ruthless man
flourishing like a luxuriant native tree,
but he soon passed away and was no more;
though I looked for him, he could not be found.
Consider the blameless, observe the upright;
a future awaits those who seek peace.
But all sinners will be destroyed;
there will be no future for the wicked."

This Rabbi wants us to hope in the Lord and to keep His way. Maybe this Rabbi will make God's way much clearer than the leaders do.  They weigh us down with so much that we grow weary; their burden is heavy. I need to realize that God will destroy those who act contrary to His ways; I pray I am not one of them, by harboring hatred or by being darkened in my thoughts. I take comfort in knowing that God listens to us, hears our cries and knows us by name.  Maybe this Rabbi is here to remind us of these truths. Is this Man more than a rabbi? Maybe a prophet?  Maybe (dare I say it) the Messiah? Time will tell.  

"The salvation of the righteous comes from the Lord;
he is their stronghold in time of trouble.
The Lord helps them and delivers them;
he delivers them from the wicked and saves them,
because they take refuge in him."

Yes, Lord, You alone are my refuge!  How quickly we forget this!   Thank you, Rabbi, for reminding us! 

Jesus isn't just delivering a mighty sermon on that hillside that day: He is calling the people to return to the truths of God and to see this new kingdom swinging its doors wide open and His Father inviting them (and us!) in.  

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...