March 10, 2015

United we stand

Numbers 10:1–36
John 17:1–26
Psalm 10:1–18

The course I started this week is about preaching Christ from the Old Testament. No, I’ve no intention of becoming a preacher, but this topic interests me, not the preaching part but seeing how the OT and NT are part of the same story of redemption. I want to learn how to see Christ in the OT as well as the New. Also, I’d bought one of the textbooks several years ago and found it fascinating. So far, I’ve learned that I’m not doing very well with this devotional book called Connect the Testaments. At times, I’m forcing a link between them, mostly concerning application. I need to look deeper to see how the OT and the NT relate to each other, and to see how both speak of Jesus.

With that in mind, I’ve decided to stick to the pattern of hearing God’s Word to me in each of the three readings, and making comments. As the study commences over the next eight weeks, perhaps I’ll learn something more and it will be a blessing.

The first reading has the children of God still in the wilderness. They have been delivered from bondage in Egypt and are on their way to the land God promised them, but they need a lot of guidance. God gives them specific instructions and they carry them out.

“So they set out from the mount of the Lord three days’ journey. And the ark of the covenant of the Lord went before them three days’ journey, to seek out a resting place for them. And the cloud of the Lord was over them by day, whenever they set out from the camp. And whenever the ark set out, Moses said, ‘Arise, O Lord, and let your enemies be scattered, and let those who hate you flee before you.’ And when it rested, he said, ‘Return, O Lord, to the ten thousand thousands of Israel.’” (Numbers 10:33–36)

Here are thousands of people doing what God commands. That they have unity is amazing. That this unity is demonstrated in orderly procedure is also amazing. This is the grace of God. It does not happen without Him. These days, three people in a committee will argue over something. Only God can unify ten thousand thousands in mind and in action!

In the second reading, Jesus is praying. He says to His Father, “And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one . . . . The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.” (John 17:11, 22–23)

Again the topic is unity, a spirit of oneness, but NT unity is not a group of people doing everything uniformly. We are not like robots. Instead, our unity is build around the Holy Spirit living in us. Because of His guiding and keeping power, we are doing what God wants us to do. I am writing this. My pastor is preparing a sermon. A friend is praying for a sick relative. Our neighbor is making cookies for a shut-in. The list is long, multiples of ten thousand thousands, but that is still unity. Doing the will of God puts each of us (who are obedient) into His plan like threads in a tapestry. We cannot see the full picture, only our own threads and the few around us, yet God says we need to pray that His will be done – and we trust Him to weave the big picture.

The last reading is a Psalm in which the author questions the seeming success of evil. He pleads with God to take care of the afflicted, but also to deal with the wicked . . .

“Arise, O Lord; O God, lift up your hand; forget not the afflicted. Why does the wicked renounce God and say in his heart, ‘You will not call to account’? But you do see, for you note mischief and vexation, that you may take it into your hands; to you the helpless commits himself; you have been the helper of the fatherless. Break the arm of the wicked and evildoer; call his wickedness to account till you find none.” (Psalm 10:12–15)

Again, this is a matter of trust. It is also a matter of realizing that in many ways we are all helpless. As God’s people, some are poor, some are wealthy, some are involved in pastoral work, others are teachers, engineers, social workers, even politicians, but whatever our occupation or station in life, we are united in that we can call upon our God to make things right. We know He uses evil for good, so instead of questioning why, we can ask Him in the end to make things right, to deal with evil and the puzzles of life — until that grand day when all of it is gone.

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