Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Day(s) of the Lord

Psalm 68:19-27
19 Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior,
who daily bears our burdens.
20 Our God is a God who saves;
from the Sovereign Lord comes escape from death.
21 Surely God will crush the heads of his enemies,
the hairy crowns of those who go on in their sins.
22 The Lord says, “I will bring them from Bashan;
I will bring them from the depths of the sea,
23 that your feet may wade in the blood of your foes,
while the tongues of your dogs have their share.”
24 Your procession, God, has come into view,
the procession of my God and King into the sanctuary.
25 In front are the singers, after them the musicians;
with them are the young women playing the timbrels.
26 Praise God in the great congregation;
praise the Lord in the assembly of Israel.
27 There is the little tribe of Benjamin, leading them,
there the great throng of Judah’s princes,
and there the princes of Zebulun and of Naphtali.

Reflections: This psalm is a hymn reflecting the triumphal march from Mount Sinai, where God appeared powerfully and revealed the law, to Mount Zion where David led Israel to become the holy city of Jerusalem and eventual site of the Temple. It has the theme of a procession of God and his people that will one day extend God’s kingdom to all people on the earth. It includes all people: men and women, and all tribes great (Judah) and small (Benjamin). It looks forward to the day when the King of kings, Jesus, will come to bring salvation and deliverance to all people starting in Jerusalem and moving out to Judea, Samaria and the ends of the earth.

Numbers 13:17-33
17 When Moses sent them to explore Canaan, he said, “Go up through the Negev and on into the hill country. 18 See what the land is like and whether the people who live there are strong or weak, few or many. 19 What kind of land do they live in? Is it good or bad? What kind of towns do they live in? Are they unwalled or fortified? 20 How is the soil? Is it fertile or poor? Are there trees in it or not? Do your best to bring back some of the fruit of the land. ” (It was the season for the first ripe grapes.) 21 So they went up and explored the land from the Desert of Zin as far as Rehob, toward Lebo Hamath. 22 They went up through the Negev and came to Hebron, where Ahiman, Sheshai and Talmai, the descendants of Anak, lived. (Hebron had been built seven years before Zoan in Egypt.) 23 When they reached the Valley of Eshkol, they cut off a branch bearing a single cluster of grapes. Two of them carried it on a pole between them, along with some pomegranates and figs. 24 That place was called the Valley of Eshkol because of the cluster of grapes the Israelites cut off there. 25 At the end of forty days they returned from exploring the land.

Report on the Exploration

26 They came back to Moses and Aaron and the whole Israelite community at Kadesh in the Desert of Paran. There they reported to them and to the whole assembly and showed them the fruit of the land. 27 They gave Moses this account: “We went into the land to which you sent us, and it does flow with milk and honey! Here is its fruit. 28 But the people who live there are powerful, and the cities are fortified and very large. We even saw descendants of Anak there. 29 The Amalekites live in the Negev; the Hittites, Jebusites and Amorites live in the hill country; and the Canaanites live near the sea and along the Jordan. ”30 Then Caleb silenced the people before Moses and said, “We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it.”31 But the men who had gone up with him said, “We can’t attack those people; they are stronger than we are.” 32 And they spread among the Israelites a bad report about the land they had explored. They said, “The land we explored devours those living in it. All the people we saw there are of great size. 33 We saw the Nephilim there (the descendants of Anak come from the Nephilim). We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them.”
Reflections: As the spies come back, this initial report is in keeping with what was promised all the way back in Exodus 3, a land flowing with milk and honey. But at this point, there are two very different reactions to the next steps they must take to trust in God’s promises. Some of the men exaggerate the size of the men comparing them to the giants “Nephilim” from Genesis 6:4. This was intended to evoke fear and the result was looking at it from man’s eye, versus God’s. The counter to this report was Caleb as he exclaimed, “We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it.” This is met but further protests and further spreading of fear in the camp. The question for us today is: what are the giants you face in your life as you seek to find the Promised Land God has for you? Any time we seek to move out in faith for God’s preferred future for us individually and as a church; there will be challenges/giants. May we have an attitude like Caleb, who trusts in God’s provision to take hold of that which God has already taken hold for us.

Mark 13:28-37
28 “Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. 29 Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that it is near, right at the door. 30 Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. 31 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.

The Day and Hour Unknown

32 “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 33 Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come. 34 It’s like a man going away: He leaves his house and puts his servants in charge, each with their assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep watch.35 “Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back—whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn. 36 If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping. 37 What I say to you, I say to everyone: ‘Watch!’”

Reflections: Again, we hold in tension two major events in the life of Israel and God’s dealing with mankind throughout history. One is the eventual destruction of the temple in AD 70, which in effect is a “Day of the Lord”, in the sense that God’s judgment is coming on the people of Israel. But also by the language and the drama of the passage, we can see He is also pointing to the ultimate judgment day and Jesus’ return. Importantly though it is meaningless to try and make predictions of when this will happen, our focus is on being ready at any time for Jesus to return. So the natural question for us today is are we ready? If Jesus came back today would you be ready? Of course it is natural to think in regard to this, Am I doing enough stuff etc…? But the real question is more about what are you putting your trust in? And, of course, what we are trusting in is reflected in how we live our lives and what we choose to pursue each day with our time, talents and treasures. Take a moment to think about this and ask the Holy Spirit to lead you in what God might be saying to you.

Is my hand shortened, that it cannot redeem? Isaiah 50:2

The Lord is not slow about his promise, as some think of slowness, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance. 2 Peter 3:9

Holy One, you are hidden and mysterious, beyond our knowledge. But we see Jesus, and it is enough. We wait for those special moments in our lives -glimpses of eternity - when we know you more clearly. Amen.

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