We Heard the Voice

 

Exodus 24:12-18

2 Peter 1:16-21

Matthew 17:1-9

Psalm 2

 

This lesson covers a beautiful sequence of scriptures, starting with Psalm 2.

Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion.

I will declare the decree: the Lord hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten theeKJV

 

Let’s take care of the matter of Zion first because we will see three of them in these passages. The citation above regards Jerusalem, a city built near Zion, the peak west of the old city. Mount Moriah is the site of the city. However, the Mount Zion title is loosely associated with the city. In fact, there are passages which speak of both Zion and Moriah as though they are interchangeable.

The account of Moses on Mount Sinai gives us a second high place which serves as a Zion, a holy Mountain where God speaks to His people. We see all the godly trappings of the cloud and what appeared to be fire on the top. The voice of God was heard to come from the cloud.

The Matthew and Peter readings deal with the same event, but on an unnamed mountain. Mt. Tabor is the traditional site, but there was a Roman fort on top of the mountain, so not a likely site for the transfiguration.

It is not important that we know which mountain was involved, only that what happened there was a reproduction of what happened to Moses. Therefore, it is also a kind of Zion.

What happened?

Moses went into the cloud when called in by God where he received the entire set of commandments for how the Chosen People of God were to live their lives. It took a month for Moses to get it all down.

Jesus began to glow and then Moses and Elijah appeared beside him. Only after that did the Holy cloud appear and the voice of God came from the cloud.

There should be no doubt in our minds that God handpicked Moses and Jesus in much the same way.

Add to the case of Jesus the words, “This is my dearly loved Son in whom I am well pleased. Listen to him!” Phillips Peter quoted most of it: “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” NIV

 

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence

Judge Your Neighbor Fairly

 

Leviticus 19:1-2,9-18

1 Corinthians 3:10-11,16-23

Matthew 5:38-48

Psalm 119:33-40

 

The Leviticus reading for today is typically passed over by Christians. We enjoy reading top 10 lists of ways to deep fat fry turkeys or who were the best-dressed celebs at the Tony Awards. We do not want to read the full 613 ways to either please or displease God.

For example, rules 41-50 (as composed by Tracey Rich on http://www.jewfaq.org/613.htm):

41 Do not reap the entire field.

42 Do leave the unreaped corner of the field or orchard for the poor.

43 Do not gather gleanings.

44 Do leave the gleanings for the poor.

45 Do not gather imperfect clusters of the vineyard.

46 Do leave imperfect clusters of the vineyard for the poor.

47 Do not gather the grapes that have fallen to the ground.

48 Do leave the fallen grapes of the vineyard for the poor.

49 Do not return to take a forgotten sheaf.

50 Do leave the forgotten sheaves for the poor.

 

I think we can safely sum up these ten rules as: leave some of the harvests for the poor. Jesus summed up all 613 rules with: love God and love your neighbor.

That does not mean we can ignore the 613. Take Lev 19:19 for example. What could possibly be wrong with cross breeding animals, sowing seeds together, and blending fabric?

In ancient times, mixed animals represented gods in most religions, so God told Israel never to be attracted to anything to do with the un-Godly.

Mixed plantings, however, caused the land to become sacred, which meant it was God’s. If you want to keep your fields, don’t mix plants.

The mixing of fabrics is also a case of making the fabric holy. Actually, this rule applies only to weaving with wool and linen to make clothing for use in the Temple and to be worn by priests outside the Temple. Others were not to wear such fabric.

All three of these ancient rules apply to us today in a more general sense. We should not use symbols of false gods or do any of the actions of such. For example: using an Ouija board or sticking pins a Trump doll.

As for planting our gardens or fields, consider with reverence that it belongs to God and comes from God; we do not own the plants.

Mixed weaves of cloth are common today, and if you don’t wear wool-linen, it’s not an issue. If you do, wear it for God.

Leviticus 19:18 is the key verse, and is the verse that Jesus expanded on several times, including in today’s reading in Matthew.

For if you love only those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even tax-collectors do that! And if you exchange greetings only with your own circle, are you doing anything exceptional? Even the pagans do that much. No, you are to be perfect, like your Heavenly FatherPhillips

Jesus makes it clear here that we are expected to love every single one of the 7.5 billion people on earth and to love them equally. No one is inferior, and no one is superior. There are about 4,200 religions in the world plus various shades of non-religion. We are to love them as we do our fellowship of Christians. They are our equals.

As followers of Jesus, we cannot be happy to watch our country’s government impose restrictions on groups of people simply because some members of those groups have attacked us. We have been attacked more often by our own citizens. As the great Pogo said, We have met the enemy and they is us.

Consider this: how do we love while protecting ourselves?

 

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence

The Lord is Your Life

 

Deuteronomy 30:15-20

1 Corinthians 3:1-9

Matthew 5:21-37

Psalm 119:1-8

 

Something unique happens in the Matthew reading: Jesus tells us that kindness to other people is the way of life. We cannot hurt others without suffering the consequences. Is this Biblical? That is, can we find it in the Old Testament?

I’m glad you asked. For I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, and to keep his commands, decrees and lawsNIV

How do we love God? By obeying him. What does he ask us to do?

Honor your father and your mother, as the Lord your God commanded you, that your days may be long, and that it may go well with you in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.

You shall not murder.

And you shall not commit adultery.

And you shall not steal. And you shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

And you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife.

And you shall not desire your neighbor’s house, his field, or his male servant, or his female servant, his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s. Deut. 5:16-21 ESV

Jesus said, “Love the other person so much that, not only do you not kill him, you do not even say anything bad about him.” Be sure you understand; Jesus criticized the Pharisees, but only by pointing out where they were wrong.

As a follower of the Messiah, I expect to criticize any President who attacks people unjustly, including President Trump for making fun of individual reporters, lumping thousands of Mexican-Americans into the murder-rapist category, and calling for a ban on immigration based on religion.

I believe, in this context, that many American Christians have forgotten the message of Jesus. He did not come to be a political leader. Jesus ignored governments. He did not even bother to criticize the priests of the Temple for their corruption.

Jesus was and is all about personal relationships. Love God by loving your brothers and sisters. Heal the sick, visit those in prison, feed the hungry, care for those who cannot take care of themselves. Those are things the government should do as well, but that does not absolve us of our duty to obey God’s commands to Love.

 

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence

A Nation That Does What is Right

 

Isaiah 58:1-12

1 Corinthians 2:1-16

Matthew 5:13-20

Psalm 112:1-10

 

In the words of Jesus: For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heavenESV

The Pharisees were closer to being proper Jews than any other major group. Forget about individuals for a moment, many of whom were close to God. There was no group other than the Pharisees who even attempted to live a life as prescribed by God. Jesus recognized them as an important example to the people. That is why he so often pointed out their weaknesses. In effect, Jesus told people to follow them, but do it the way I do it.

The Pharisees developed a list of 365 negatives (do not look at a woman’s face) and 248 positives (pay a full tenth of the value of every piece of property you own) for a total of 613 rules. Most Pharisees kept every rule.

Did Jesus mean that we must do 700 things? A thousand?

NO

The Laws (actually, TEACHINGS) of Moses are all about how we relate to God and each other. Jesus told us over and over that we must love one another. If someone calls me a knuckle-dragging dimwit, I should not retaliate. I should move on from there to accomplish whatever needs doing. Or, at least say, “Have a nice day,” and mean it.

Isaiah struggled with the stubborn people who misunderstood the Teachings. “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? NIV

Yes, if I give money to a panhandler, he might be lying, cheating, and scamming the system. But that is God’s call. Mine is to respond with love.

 

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence