Thursday, June 13, 2013, 09:48 AMJune 13,2013
Posted by Kermit
Posted by Kermit
I have always had a fascination with Rocks. Probably stems from too many long, boring hours of hard labor picking rocks on our family farm. My dad was always fond of reminding me and my misbehaving brothers - "It's not to windy to pick rocks." Picking rocks served as punishment for various wrongdoings, a consequence for coming home to late, a reminder of who was in charge - and just about any other thing my dad needed to get our youthful and easily distracted attention.
More recently I've been looking at rocks differently. They are beautiful in their simple, majestic way. No two alike, different shapes, sizes, colors. Different substances but basically the same. Hard, but not unbreakable. Pliable, but not easily so. Sounds like some humans I know...(me). I'm going to spend some time considering rocks in the next few weeks. Not just the rocks ever present in our landscaping, or farm fields - but significant rocks in the Bible. Here is an interesting story that has been made into a famous old church song: "Rock of Ages".
But you may not look directly at my face, for no one may see me and live.” The Lord continued, “Look, stand near me on this rock. As my glorious presence passes by, I will hide you in the crevice of the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will remove my hand and let you see me from behind. But my face will not be seen.” Exodus 33: 20-23
The great Hebrew leader, Moses, is meeting with God on Mt. Sinai discussing the fate and future of God's chosen children, and Moses' vain attempts to lead them out of Egypt and into their Promised Land. It's been a long and frustrating journey - and its far from over. In his exasperation, Moses asks to see God face to face - and God says "No". Interesting. Most of the time we think that seeing God face to face might make God happy - that God might want that! But apparently not.
So God offers a compromise to Moses. God says - "I'll set you in this split in the rock, I'll shield you with my hand, and as I pass by - you can see me...but only my back side!" What an interesting dialogue.
The question I asked myself this morning as I read this - "Is seeing God's back-side enough for me"? I'd like to think I could handle seeing God face to face, but I'm certainly no Moses. I'd like to think I know God 'face to face', but I'm afraid I only know Him from the back side. His holiness, and my sinfulness make seeing God's face impractical - and I'm like Moses, left to see only God's backside. It is enough.
I'm grateful that God hides me in the cleft of the rock, and protects me with His gracious hand, and allows me the honor of catching a glimpse of His backside. Maybe someday...some day in some future...maybe I'll get to see Him face to face - but I'm good for now just seeing the backside once in awhile, while standing here in this safe rock crevice called life. It is enough.
add comment ( 1 view ) | ( 0 / 0 )
Saturday, May 25, 2013, 02:49 PMMay 24th, 2013
Posted by Kermit
Posted by Kermit
The Lord, the Mighty One, is God! The Lord, the Mighty One, is God! He knows the truth, and may Israel know it, too! We have not built the altar in treacherous rebellion against the Lord. If we have done so, do not spare our lives this day. If we have built an altar for ourselves to turn away from the Lord or to offer burnt offerings or grain offerings or peace offerings, may the Lord himself punish us. Joshua 22: 22-23
For the past 2 weeks I have been reading (and wanting to write) about this chapter. I have probably read it 8 times. I am fascinated about the dialogue and inter-action between the tribes of Reuben, Gad, Manasseh, and the rest of the Israelite tribes. Let me summarize what's going on, but I encourage you to read the chapter for yourself in its entirety.
At the end of the allotment of land process where each tribe is parceled a section of the now conquered holy land, these three, Reuben, Gad, and Manasseh are assigned their portions of land on the eastern side of the river Jordan. They will be separated from the main group of tribes by the river. On their trek to their new homeland, the 3 tribes decide to build a "large and imposing" altar. Their motives and it's purpose are not stated and unknown at this point.
Word is received back in Jerusalem that the 3 tribes have conspired to build this "alternative" altar to the one true, holy altar which resides in the temple, the only legitimate place for worship to be conducted. The immediate response from the main group in Jerusalem is to prepare for war against the 3 tribes standing beside Jordan. Cooler heads prevail, and an envoy is dispatched to check out the 3 tribes motivation for building this secondary altar. When confronted by the investigative envoy, the 3 tribes respond with the verses above.
Well, come to find out, the 3 tribes never intended to use this altar as an unworthy substitute for the real one, but rather as a memorial for their children, and the mainland tribe's children, to make sure the 3 tribes were never excluded from the real temple.
Ok, to now try and make a point - there are many. Isn't it interesting that the first reaction to the unwelcome news of a rogue report about a suspicious "altar" is to immediately prepare for war. How similar to how we too often react and respond to news or situations, or rumors...we immediately prepare for war!
How interesting that the accused abusers of alternative altar builders immediately agree with their accusers - "Yup, if we are building this altar for spurious purposes - then let God Himself kill us - we deserve to die!" How instructive might this response be for us when falsely accused by people who don't know or understand our motives: place ourselves in the hands, and at the mercy of God who does understand! Maybe instead of defensively fighting back against our accusers we appeal and submit to God who alone understands motives and intentions.
How fascinating that when provided the facts, the accusers, back down, accept the apology, agree to the reasons, reconcile with the accused - and move on with life. We so often instead, dig in our heals (sometimes even when we know we are wrong) - because it seems easier to defend our wrong position than admit we might have made a mistake. Stupid
I know there is so much more to this chapter, like digesting the meaning of this "witness" altar; but these interesting, personal, human interactions seem more instructive to me today as I wrestle with accusations and mockery from some who don't (want to) understand my motives or my actions. I need to be reminded it is not up to me to fix some situations beyond my control, but to submit to God who knows the deep inner motives and workings of ALL hearts - even those with whom I today disagree.
I hope this story, and these rambling thoughts might help you as they have helped me. God bless you my friends. Let's make sure all our "altars" are legitimate, and our motives for building them are pure. Let's make sure that our first reactions today are not to immediately prepare for war - but to seek deeper understanding. Let's make sure when we are confronted with the facts we don't dig in our wrong-headed heels, but admit we are wrong (maybe even ask for forgiveness) and pursue reconciliation. Let's make sure God alone is worshiped in ways that are worthy. AMEN
add comment | ( 3.3 / 6 )
Thursday, April 25, 2013, 08:36 AMApril 25th, 2013
Posted by Kermit
Posted by Kermit
So the Lord gave to Israel all the land he had sworn to give their ancestors, and they took possession of it and settled there. And the Lord gave them rest on every side, just as he had solemnly promised their ancestors. None of their enemies could stand against them, for the Lord helped them conquer all their enemies. Not a single one of all the good promises the Lord had given to the family of Israel was left unfulfilled; everything he had spoken came true. Joshua 21: 43-45
At the conclusion of another long chapter of allotments - this time, the cities and pastures that were to be designated for the various members of the clans of Levites. This paragraph seems like a conclusion of sorts, and makes us think (hope) this long book of killing and dividing the land might be coming to a close. We'll see. But today I was struck with the last verse: Not a single one of all the good promises the Lord had given to the family of Israel was left unfulfilled; everything he had spoken came true.
Well, good for them! But I wondered if the same is true today, true for me, us? Are all the promises of God - good - and does God fulfill all the promises He's made? Does everything He speak come true? I have to say yes - a resounding yes! I believe that God does indeed make good promises to us, His human creatures. I also believe that God is ultimately faithful, and does not leave any promise unfulfilled; everything God speaks ultimately comes true. We don't always see it, we often misinterpret it, and frankly, we just flatly don't know or care enough to really get it. We have so skewed what God has promised to fit with our selfishly defined and predetermined understanding of what God does, and how God is supposed to act, according to our preconceptions, that we fail to see the fulfillment of all God's promises
For example, we have come to believe that God has promised only to bless us, and give us good things and experiences in this life - so when something bad or negative happens to us, we automatically interpret that it's source is other than God, or that God has failed to keep His promise. What we miss is how we've messed up our understanding of God's promise to bless us. Sometimes those blessings come in ways that we can't imagine or accept. Sometimes those blessings aren't realized for years or decades. Sometimes those blessings aren't blessings at all, but warnings or corrections, or discipline. It is not that God's promises aren't all good; it's not that God has failed to fulfill his promise; it's that we have messed up what God's good promises really mean - and instead of doubting our misunderstanding, we take the easier path - we blame God for being less than we expected Him to be, or fault Him for failing to do what we'd predetermined He should do. We devalue who God is, by our own self-absorbed misunderstanding.
Please hear me: this is no attempt to "get God off the hook", for what we perceive to be a lack of concern or care for His creation - it is an honest attempt to remind us that our understanding of ALL THINGS GOD - has been compromised by our sinful humanness. Let's just acknowledge that, and admit we don't get it all, and agree to live and trust that God is Good, therefore His promises are all good. God is powerful, therefore He will fulfill all those promises in His Good time. We have some limitations - and we'll have to just live with them, but God is good, all the time; all the time, God is good! "True that", as the youngsters say today!
add comment | ( 3.2 / 26 )
Wednesday, April 17, 2013, 09:19 AMApril 17th, 2013
Posted by Kermit
Posted by Kermit
The Lord said to Joshua, “Now tell the Israelites to designate the cities of refuge, as I instructed Moses. Anyone who kills another person accidentally and unintentionally can run to one of these cities; they will be places of refuge from relatives seeking revenge for the person who was killed. Joshua 20:1-3
The first word of grace since the beginning of Joshua. Yeah!! Following chapters of merciless killing of seemingly innocent people - finally...a word of grace. Following chapters of allotments and divisions of property - finally...a command, that there be designated cities for people who unintentionally or accidentally kill another person. All the accidental killer has to do is run to one of these cities, plead his/her case before the judicial authorities, and if found not guilty; they must then live in that city until the reigning High Priest dies. Seems like a fairly "grace-full" option, in the middle of this book of rampant, almost ritual killing of innocent non-Hebrew people.
As I read this today, I thought ' "Where are the cities of Refugee today?" In the wake of the tragic terrorist attack in Boston this week, (and I know the perpetrator(s) are certainly not innocent of any accidental killing) - where do the unintentional killer (or other wayward sinners) run to for refugee today? Where do I go for refugee?
I suppose the easy and expected answer is "Jesus". Yes, we who are sinners (that'd be all of us) can find refugee no where else but in the grace-full arms of Jesus - but do we also need a physical place to run to? I think so, and I believe the church might be (should be) the modern version of Cities of Refugee. I know that many churches have been just the opposite - even killing their own wounded (abandoning the pregnant youth group teenager, rejecting the divorced mother, turning away the addicts, ignoring the struggling, despising the doubters), but I'm thankful today for the many churches that are getting it right - being honest, healthy cities of refugee. I know many are getting it wrong, but this city, this country, this world are filled with faith-communities that practice grace rather than condemnation, and love rather than law. I'm thankful to be part of such a church. God, please help us (me) to always have open arms to the unintentional (and willful) sinner running in our direction!
1 comment ( 6 views ) | ( 3.1 / 28 )
Friday, April 5, 2013, 10:31 AMApril 5th, 2013
Posted by Kermit
Posted by Kermit
These are the allotments Moses had made while he was on the plains of Moab, across the Jordan River, east of Jericho. 33 But Moses gave no allotment of land to the tribe of Levi, for the Lord, the God of Israel, had promised that he himself would be their allotment. Joshua 13: 32-33
The 13th chapter is the first of 7 chapters almost entirely dedicated to the division of land for the tribes of Israel. The conquering is largely over, the settlement of the land is next. Joshua employs numerous means to allocate the parcels of land to each of the tribes, and this allotting continues through the 19th chapter. There are a number of cute stories about Caleb making a special request to be given special favors in determining his portion, about Othniel begging for a water spring along with her tract of land, and of Joshua casting "sacred stones" (dice) to determine who gets the last 7 pieces of property. Besides those snippets of cuteness - there isn't much of spiritual significance, in my opinion.
But this allotment of land leaves out one tribe; Levi. The Levites are the designated tribe to serve God and the people as priests, and they receive no land, because The Lord, the God of Israel, had promised that he himself would be their allotment. On the surface this must have seemed like an insult to the Levites; not only did they not get any parcel of land with which they might make a living, or insure their children an inheritance; they were apparently bound for life to serving the people, and serving God. Their livelihood depended solely on the graciousness of God, and the generosity of the people. At face value, I wonder if they felt like they got the raw end of the deal?
I also wonder if we do too? We have become experts in the field of "wanting" our many "allotments". We have filled our lives with toys, and goodies, unnecessities, and stuff. We have learned to value our selves and others based largely on the amounts of our possessions and money. We have even come to define who we are based on what we do to earn a living to provide us more things. I believe we have tragically traded "God being our allotment", for a bunch of often unfulfilling stuff. I want to return today to living as if God were my only allotment - not relying on my job, my money, my retirement, my toys - even my friends and family - but God alone is my allotment. I'm guessing if I can in even a small way succeed at this task - I'll find myself much more content.
add comment ( 13 views ) | ( 3 / 42 )