April 28, 2015

Some connections are more subtle than others . . .

Joshua 19:10–20:9, 2 Corinthians 12:11–21, Psalm 57:1–58:11

When I selected “Connect the Testaments” as a devotional guide for the year, I didn’t know I’d be taking a class that requires a thorough exegesis of Old Testament texts to discover what it meant to the original hearers, then show how it points ahead to Jesus Christ and the New Testament.

While this devotional book has prepped me for class assignments, there are some days that “Connect the Testaments” does not seem to connect. This is one of those days, at least it started out that way.

The OT reading for the past few days is about the allotment of land after the children of God entered the Promised Land. Today it finished those descriptions then goes into God’s provision for manslaughter. Instead of throwing that person in a prison, God provides a different and unusual arrangement.

Then the Lord said to Joshua, “Say to the people of Israel, ‘Appoint the cities of refuge, of which I spoke to you through Moses, that the manslayer who strikes any person without intent or unknowingly may flee there. They shall be for you a refuge from the avenger of blood. He shall flee to one of these cities and shall stand at the entrance of the gate of the city and explain his case to the elders of that city. Then they shall take him into the city and give him a place, and he shall remain with them. And if the avenger of blood pursues him, they shall not give up the manslayer into his hand, because he struck his neighbor unknowingly, and did not hate him in the past. And he shall remain in that city until he has stood before the congregation for judgment, until the death of him who is high priest at the time. Then the manslayer may return to his own town and his own home, to the town from which he fled.’” (Joshua 20:1–6)

While leaving home and family to live in another city could be considered a sort of ‘imprisonment,’ this is far better than having someone do the ‘eye for an eye’ thing and wind up dead because of an accidental death of a relative or friend. With this arrangement, a trial still happens, but more to establish innocence for the person who fled those who sought revenge.

Children and the occasional adult says, “But I didn’t mean to hurt anyone.” I’ve never liked that excuse. To me, whoever says it is at least guilty of thoughtlessness. However, reading God’s view of accidents has me rethinking my opinion. I should be more merciful.

The NT reading has nothing to do with accidents and escaping retaliation, but it does cause more rethinking, this time about actions that go against the will of God. Paul had been to Corinth and wrote letters rebuking the sins he found in the lives of God’s people in that city. He notes that this congregation is slow with repentance. He says, “For I fear that perhaps when I come I may find you not as I wish, and that you may find me not as you wish—that perhaps there may be quarreling, jealousy, anger, hostility, slander, gossip, conceit, and disorder. I fear that when I come again my God may humble me before you, and I may have to mourn over many of those who sinned earlier and have not repented of the impurity, sexual immorality, and sensuality that they have practiced.” (2 Corinthians 12:20–21)

These Christians didn’t easily change their ways. They didn’t like being corrected either and had to be rebuked for having too high a view of themselves. I can relate to those problems. I am proud, don’t like being corrected, and am often slow to repent. When in those states, I’m feisty, quarrelsome, and easily become angry.

But I can also relate to Paul. Even though I sin too, I want every sin, even the thought of sin, out of my life, even out of the lives of all Christians. God’s goal is that we are changed people, becoming more and more like Jesus Christ each day. However, I cannot make that happen. If I could, Jesus would not have had to come and die for me.

It is at this point where I can see a connection between these reading from both Testaments. I cannot change others. I cannot even change myself, but when we who are the people of God step into eternity, we will be like Jesus. He can make those changes happen. In fact, He began that work the moment that we put our faith in Him.

But in the meantime, and here is the connection, my daily prayer is like David’s prayer from Psalm 57:2: “I cry out to God Most High, to God who fulfills his purpose for me” and not only for me, but for all of His children.

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