March 11, 2015

Little sins and a limitless Savior

Numbers 11:1–12:16
John 18:1–24
Psalm 11:1–12:8

Traditional quilts are made up of many small pieces, which means many seams. The seam allowance is ¼ inch. If each seam is a tiny bit off, the quilt will not fit together. In fact, I discovered today that if the weight of thread changes, even if the seam allowance stays at ¼ inch, then the sewn together pieces will also change in size and not fit together properly. Hold that thought . . .

In the journey in the wilderness, the people of God complained a lot. They complained about their misfortunes and the Lord heard it and became angry. He sent fire and burned some outlying parts of the camp. The people cried out to Moses, he prayed, and the fire died down. (Numbers 11:1–2)

A few verses later, the rabble among them craved meat, and soon the people were crying about no meat to eat. They lamented over the fish they ate in Egypt, the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions, and garlic, and expressed their displeasure with the manna God gave them where they were. Moses heard them, and so did God. He was angry with their attitude. (Numbers 11:4-6, 10)

His solution? He gave them meat and said, “You shall not eat just one day, or two days, or five days, or ten days, or twenty days, but a whole month, until it comes out at your nostrils and becomes loathsome to you, because you have rejected the Lord who is among you and have wept before him, saying, ‘Why did we come out of Egypt?’” (Numbers 11:19–20)

It worked, but the people were never happy. They complained about Moses, they complained when God divided this godly man’s load among others. Even his brother Aaron and sister Miriam complained. God called Moses “my servant” and said to them, “. . . He is faithful in all my house. With him I speak mouth to mouth, clearly, and not in riddles, and he beholds the form of the Lord. Why then were you not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?”

The Lord was angry and departed, removing the cloud from over the tent, and Aaron turned toward Miriam, and she was leprous. (Numbers 12:7–10) She was then shut outside the camp seven days, and the people did not set out on the march till Miriam was brought in again. (Numbers 12:15)

The people grumbled. Aaron and Miriam grumbled. And God’s people were not moving forward because of this sin. One sin or many, it didn’t matter. Sin kept them from setting out until the sin was punished. One stitch too wide, one thread too big?
In the NT, we know that Jesus died for our sin. We are forgiven. No fire, no getting what we complain for until we hate it, no leprosy, but does the sin of one person (or many people) still hold back the advancement of the people of God?

Do the “rabble” among us who like to complain still have the potential to drag us all into a grumbling spirit? Do we complain that we don’t have the “good stuff” we used to enjoy when in the bondage of sin? Do we still reject the Lord by wishing we were back there? Do the small sins of each of us mean that the entire Body of Christ will not fit together properly? Just asking, just asking.

The second reading brings us to Jesus in the garden before His arrest. The soldiers arrive, and I’ve been told that a legion was at least 600 of them. “Then Jesus, knowing all that would happen to him, came forward and said to them, ‘Whom do you seek?’” He knew, but He asked and they answered him, “Jesus of Nazareth.”

“Jesus said to them, ‘I am he.’ Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them. When Jesus said to them, ‘I am he,’ they drew back and fell to the ground.” (John 18:4–6)

The Jews in this group would know that Jesus was saying “I AM” (the ‘he’ is not in the original), which was what the LORD said to Moses at the burning bush when Moses asked for His name. The Roman soldiers would not know that, yet they fell on the ground anyway — at the name, the amazing name, of God Almighty. His name has power. What’s with Judas betraying this man who claimed to be God? Judas didn’t like serving Jesus, so he sold his soul and Satan took charge of him. I wonder what Judas complained about? Cucumbers and melons?

The last reading asks a different question, this time a big broad one: “If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?” (Psalm 11:3)

What is my foundation? Who is my God? People often say that the OT God is violent, but the NT God is loving. I don’t see two different gods. The Bible says He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. What I do see is that “The Lord is in his holy temple; the Lord’s throne is in heaven; his eyes see, his eyelids test the children of man. The Lord tests the righteous, but his soul hates the wicked and the one who loves violence.” (Psalm 11:4–5)

Yes, God shows mercy on some and not on others. I cannot figure out all of it, but I do know that all sin deserves wrath, whether it is the sin of rejecting God’s care for me because I’ve no onions to eat, or grumbling about those God puts in authority over me, or being a whiner who says ‘I don’t like it’ without any real reasons. Do I know the consequences of even those “little sins” as well as I know the results of sewing the wrong size seam, or using the wrong size thread?

The amazing thing is that all my foolishness is forgiven in Christ. The only sin that God will not forgive is the sin of rejecting the One He sent to mercifully forgive all those other sins.  

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