Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Stumbling Blocks...

Psalm 60
For the director of music. To the tune of “The Lily of the Covenant.” A miktam of David. For teaching. When he fought Aram Naharaim and Aram Zobah, and when Joab returned and struck down twelve thousand Edomites in the Valley of Salt.

1 You have rejected us, God, and burst upon us;
you have been angry—now restore us!
2 You have shaken the land and torn it open;
mend its fractures, for it is quaking.
3 You have shown your people desperate times;
you have given us wine that makes us stagger.
4 But for those who fear you, you have raised a banner
to be unfurled against the bow.
5 Save us and help us with your right hand,
that those you love may be delivered.
6 God has spoken from his sanctuary:
“In triumph I will parcel out Shechem
and measure off the Valley of Sukkoth.
7 Gilead is mine, and Manasseh is mine;
Ephraim is my helmet,
Judah is my scepter.
8 Moab is my washbasin,
on Edom I toss my sandal;
over Philistia I shout in triumph.”
9 Who will bring me to the fortified city?
Who will lead me to Edom?
10 Is it not you, God, you who have now rejected us
and no longer go out with our armies?
11 Give us aid against the enemy,
for human help is worthless.
12 With God we will gain the victory,
and he will trample down our enemies.

Numbers 2
17 Then the tent of meeting and the camp of the Levites will set out in the middle of the camps. They will set out in the same order as they encamp, each in their own place under their standard.

Mark 9:38-50
38 “Teacher,” said John, “we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us.”39 “Do not stop him,” Jesus said. “For no one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, 40 for whoever is not against us is for us. 41 Truly I tell you, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to the Messiah will certainly not lose their reward.

Causing to Stumble

42 “If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them if a large millstone were hung around their neck and they were thrown into the sea. 43 If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out. [44] 45 And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than to have two feet and be thrown into hell. [46] 47 And if your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell, 48 where“‘the worms that eat them do not die, and the fire is not quenched.’
49 Everyone will be salted with fire.50 “Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can you make it salty again? Have salt among yourselves, and be at peace with each other.”

Psalm 60 is a national prayer for God’s help for Israel, after suffering a severe blow by a foreign nation, presumably Edom. (NIV Study Bible, p.851) The momentary defeat by an enemy is seen as a sign of God’s anger, though no reason for that anger is given. And yet in the midst of their defeat, there is confidence expressed in God’s ability for them to claim the lands that He has given them in His power not in their own.

Numbers 2 goes back in history to a time when God was gathering the Israelites to take over the Promised Land. We see each tribe of Israel lined up in a specific order, and all of them are ordered around the tent of the meeting, a sign of God’s presence in the middle. Each of the tribes are in triads around the tabernacle, with leading tribes around each triad. (Reuben, Judah, Dan, Ephraim) Importantly it says in verse 34, the Israelites did everything the Lord commanded.

Jesus gives an interesting dichotomy to the disciples in chapter 9. On the one hand he is not very concerned about those driving out demons in his name that are not one of the disciples. But on the other hand he is very concerned about anyone who puts a stumbling block in the way of one of his little ones, if they are his disciples. In fact, he even goes as far as to say if your hand causes you to stumble, it is better to cut it off than for it to be stumbling block in your faith. Jesus is more concerned about Christians living out their calling, than non-Christians stumbling upon power by using His name.

Is there anything causing you to sin or compromise your relationship with God? Would you be willing to do anything to get rid of it? If not, why not? These are tough questions for all of us, but Jesus asks them of us, so we mustn’t neglect the application for today.

The Lord our God is merciful and forgiving. Daniel 9:9 (NIV)

But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of any works of righteousness that we had done, but according to his mercy.
Titus 3:4-5

Who are we? We are often loveless even to our friends, to say nothing of our foes. But you, O Friend, see in us - and in our friends and our foes- strength and beauty and possibility we do not see. Open our eyes. Amen.

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