January 22, 2015

Genealogies, Slippery Slopes, and Sad Places

Today’s reading is Genesis is mostly a genealogy. Many Christians scan or skip these, wondering why God put in the Bible these endless family trees with their hard-to-pronounce names. One popped out at me: “These are the sons of Zibeon: Aiah and Anah; he is the Anah who found the hot springs in the wilderness, as he pastured the donkeys of Zibeon his father.” (Genesis 36:24)

Such an ordinary event of a son finding a hot spring while taking care of his father’s donkeys. Then I remembered a story told by a friend who worked in the mission field. A tribe of people were resistant to the Gospel, but agreed to help with a translation of the Bible in their own language. When they worked through the genealogies, something amazing happened. They realized that this book was about real people, real and ordinary people just like them. They began to read it with deepening interest and as they did, the Holy Spirit opened their hearts and they became Christians. Lesson learned: never underestimate the power of God’s Word, including those long lists of names!

The second reading isn’t so happy. It reminds me of all those arrested for crimes and wait in remand for months before they go to trial. It also reminded me of parents and other authorities that hum and haw over punishment for disobedient children. When and if punishment happens, the immediate guilt of the child is gone. This verse describes the results: “Because the sentence against an evil deed is not executed speedily, the heart of the children of man is fully set to do evil.” (Ecclesiastes 8:11)

Lesson learned: ask God to convict me quickly when I sin, and if I need a good swat, don’t wait – do it right away lest I’m standing on a slippery slope and slide into decline because I think I ‘got away with it’ -- duh.

The last reading contains four situations that simply made me sad. The time of Jesus crucifixion is near. As they eat the Passover meal, Jesus says, “Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.”

I don’t know how He knew, but He did know, even which disciple would do it. They asking who and He said, “He who has dipped his hand in the dish with me will betray me. The Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.” Then Judas asked, “Is it I, Rabbi?” and Jesus said to him, “You have said so.” (Matthew 26:20–25) I can hear the pain in His voice.

Then they sung a hymn and went to the Mount of Olives where Jesus told them, “You will all fall away because of me this night. For it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’ But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.”

Peter answered that even if all fell away, he would not, but Jesus said to him, “Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.” Peter insisted not, as did the others, but Jesus knew what would happen. Again, I can hear the pain in His words. (Matthew 26:30–35)

The third sad conversation was in the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.” He wanted their support as he moved a little farther, fell on his face, and prayed: “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” But the disciples were sleeping. He said to Peter, “So, could you not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

He went for the second time to pray, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done” but when He came back, they slept on, so He left them, praying the third time the same way. (Matthew 26:38–44) The Bible says that He sweat blood, which happens to those in great stress. Such pain for this man of sorrows.

The last sad line is at the end, after “all this has taken place that the Scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled.” It says then “all the disciples left him and fled.” (Matthew 26:56) They abandoned Jesus, the One that they insisted they would never deny.

Lesson learned: Never think that I am invincible. Without the power of the Holy Spirit and the grace of God, I am just as susceptible to fleeing from Jesus. I may not have been there in the Garden, but my sin took Him to that place and I’ve slept while He suffered – I am no better than those disciples.  

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