Covenant, Faith and Grace

God-provides

 

Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16
Psalm 22:22-30
Romans 4:13-25
Mark 8:31-38

 

God makes a covenant with Abram and changes his name as a sign of the covenant. God’s promise is that Abram, now Abraham, will father all nations. Abram is 100 years old and his wife Sarai, now Sarah, is 90.

Without getting bogged down in arguments about average life spans of ancient people, the passage in Genesis is clear that neither Abraham nor Sarah was of childbearing age. Hearing the promise, each of them laughs, so their son is named Isaac (Laughter).

The key to understanding that promise, while it is in Genesis, is clarified by Paul in today’s reading. The key is to look at Abram/Abraham. God asked him to leave his home and family and go to a strange land where God would provide for him. Abram did that, even though, his father worshiped other gods and did not even know this new God.

There were many trials and struggles, not the least the fight between Sarai and Hagar. The final conflict came after the birth of Isaac, indeed, probably after he reached adulthood. God instructed Abraham to take Isaac to the mountain and perform a sacrifice.

Abraham was given one promise, that he would be the father of nations. He had two sons, but Sarai sent one into the desert to die. Abraham took one to the mountain. Consider what Abraham faced.

Abraham tied his son and placed him on the altar. He raised the knife to kill the sacrifice for God. Why?

The promise. You, Abraham, will be the father of nations. That is the key.

As is often said today, God said it; it is true. We know the rest of the story, how God stopped Abraham and gave him a goat to sacrifice in Isaac’s place. We know that the Twelve Tribes came not long after.

But do we understand what happened at that moment when Abraham started to plunge the knife into his only son? What set Abraham apart from all other men? We say Faith as though that explains it, but does it really? What kind of faith would lead a man to kill his son?

What kind of Faith would allow a Father to sacrifice his Son?

There is one all-important word not yet mentioned: Grace. Abraham did nothing to deserve being selected as father of nations. In fact, his lineage was suspect, remember his father. He wandered around, living his life, following God’s directions, yet questioning Him from time to time.

God chose Abram and Abram responded. God made him a promise and Abram never gave up on that promise. God even asked him to kill his only son and Abraham lived his faith by raising the knife, probably blubbering and blinded by tears, but obeying God even when it made no sense to Abraham. If God said it, it is true.

There are no laws, rules, or customs that will save me; there is only faith that God’s Grace can make my messed up life whole again. Even if I steal a man’s wife and murder him, God can make it right if I, like David, never lose that trust. Grace alone can make it right. I will commit murder again tomorrow, but Grace will make it right and if I gain as much faith as Abraham, if I grow in faith as he did, perhaps I will not commit murder tomorrow.

 

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence

Repent And Believe

20121214

 

Used by permission of Dan Lietha

Genesis 9:8-17
Psalm 25:1-9
1 Peter 3:18-22
Mark 1:9-15

 

The first word in Mark is Archē, Greek for beginning, specifically the beginning of the Good News. In just 15 verses, Mark goes from Isaiah, to John the Baptizer, to the baptism of Jesus of Nazareth, to his temptation, ending with his opening words, The time has come and the kingdom of God is close at hand. Repent, and believe the Good NewsNJB

It is the same Good News God gave to Noah after the flood, I establish my Covenant with youNJB The Covenant was and still is a Good News Covenant. God for His part promises not to completely destroy mankind because of our sin and in return He asks that we believe in Him, that we repent daily and do our best to follow in His ways.

With King David we say,

All day long I hope in you                                                                                                                                           Because of your goodness, Yahweh.                                                                                                                   Remember your kindness, Yahweh,                                                                                                                               Your love, that you showed long ago.                                                                                                                             Do not remember the sins of my youth;                                                                                                                   But rather, with your love remember me. NJB

 

There is every reason to believe David composed the 25th Psalm years after his sin against both God and Uriah. David deserved utter destruction, but God placed a rainbow in the heavens to remind us (God needs no reminder) that He is a God of Mercy, that He is a God who will save mankind as He did through Noah.

The rainbow is a sign of salvation. Noah first received the sign that is repeated with every washing of the earth by the heavenly waters. John used the water to wash believers in a renewal of the Covenant of the Rainbow; God is a God of Mercy. Jesus who needed no repentance took that Covenant upon himself when he required John to baptism him.

Jesus became the Living Ark, the sole source of salvation in the final destruction of evil. As Peter has it, This also prefigures what delivers us now, the water of immersion, which is not the removal of dirt from the body, but one’s pledge to keep a good conscience toward GodCJB Or, in being baptized we are turning to God and asking him to cleanse our hearts from sinTLB

Jesus said it simply, Repent and believe.

 

Be righteous and do good.

I Will Not Leave You

Agnus Day appears with the permission of www.agnusday.org
Agnus Day appears with the permission of www.agnusday.org

 

Agnus Day appears with the permission of www.agnusday.org
Agnus Day appears with the permission of www.agnusday.org

2 Kings 2:1-12
Psalm 50:1-6
2 Corinthians 4:3-6
Mark 9:2-9 

 

Considered the greatest prophet of Israel, Elijah spoke the word of God about a century after King David, during the reigns of Ahab and Ahaziah. The Israelites never quite gave up worshipping the god of the weather, Baal, and Elijah did all he could to get them to do so. 1 Kings 18 records his most famous effort.

However, the lesson reading today surrounds the last days of Elijah on earth. God let Elijah know that it was time for him to return to Heaven, so Elijah told Elisha, prophet in training, to stay behind but Elisha would not leave him. God made it possible for Elijah and Elisha to cross the Jordan River on dry land in much the same fashion as Moses.

This connection to Moses became significant by the time of Jesus. At every Passover Feast a seat was left open for Elijah to come dine with them, as is still done today. Most believers of the first century accepted that either Elijah or Moses would return as the promised Messiah.

The passage in Mark brings Moses, Elijah and Jesus together. Mark describes Jesus’ clothes, which had been the ordinary dull colors of the day, as super white; not just white but radiating, nearly blinding. The brief session is also recorded in Matthew and Luke.

Why is the experience important to us today? It is proof that Jesus is the Messiah. The greater and more dramatic proof of his resurrection will come later, but this is proof enough for hundreds of followers. God delivered His people from bondage through his servant Moses. God delivered many more from the bondage of Baal through Elijah. And Jesus came to deliver all peoples from the bondage of Satan. There is only one Messiah but there have been many forerunners. Mark describes a short meeting of two of them with the True Messiah.

God spoke directly to Peter, James and John, saying, “This is my Son, the Beloved. Listen to him.” NJB If we listen to Jesus, then we must say with Elisha, “I will not leave you.” I will work to penetrate the veil, NJB as we read in the letter to Corinth. Jesus is the light of the world and I can do nothing less than share that light with those living in darkness.

 

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence

Like Chaff

photo credit: euphro via photopin cc
photo credit: euphro via photopin cc

 

Isaiah 40:21-31
Psalm 147:1-12, 21c
1 Corinthians 9:16-23 
Mark 1:29-39

 

Indeed, they shall not be planted; indeed, they shall not be sown; indeed, their stem shall not take root in the ground; and He shall also blow upon them, and they shall wither, and the storm shall take them away like the chaffOJB

If we all took a test with this question: Describe God with one word, we would end up with nearly as many different words as people who took the test.  Truthfully, there are not enough words on earth to describe God.  The verse above images a God who is so much greater than ourselves that we are like so much chaff blown away in a breeze.  Yet, as small as we are in the universe God wants us as his children.

He wants us so much that He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their woundsNIV  He came Himself in the form of a human to heal the brokenhearted and bind up their wounds.  We call Jesus the Son of Man and the Son of God for he was both.  The same God who created trillions of stars, a universe so vast that we are barely chaff, the God who promised the child would play with the poisonous snake and the lion would eat straw and lay down with the lamb, that God gave up the wonders of his throne to walk this tiny earth and say, “Let us go somewhere else—to the nearby villages—so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.” NIV  It is impossible to our minds but God became both Father and Son while being both God and man.  What we think of as impossible is a trifle for God.

If God went to so much trouble can we do less?  Paul speaks of preaching but we must remember that he preached action.  We preach by doing. With Paul we should be able to say, I take no special pride in the fact that I preach the Gospel. I feel compelled to do so; I should be utterly miserable if I failed to preach itPhillips

 

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence