Monday, October 28, 2013

We Want to be Just Like Everyone Else! -I Samuel 8

Sometimes we get what we want.  Other times, we don’t.  There are times and situations when we get what we want, but the consequences for getting what we want is nothing like what we expected.  We have a tendency to be rather shortsighted when it comes to our desires.  Most of the time, we believe that getting what we want will bring us happiness, fulfillment, and contentment.  That is, to a certain extent anyway, the nature of a desire, to fulfill a perceived need.  “Perceived” being the operative word here.

Israel, as we move through the Story of God’s good creation, has a perceived need.  Israel thinks she needs a king.  To this point in the story, from Abraham to the taking of the Promised Land, God has been Israel’s true King.  Or, at least, that has been the plan.  God has created for himself a people, a royal priesthood and a holy nation, through which God planned to bless the whole world, bringing about peace, reconciliation, and wholeness.  For her part, Israel has not lived up to the expectations.  Several times already, God has almost destroyed Israel so that God could begin again with a new set of characters. 

Israel’s continual testimony about God, though, is that God is steadfastly loyal and loving.  God is faithful even to the unfaithful.  God will not start new with another people, even when Israel rejects God.  No, God is faithful. 

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

And There Was No King In Israel... -Judges

The Book of Judges is just weird.  There is lots of violence, deceit, and idolatry.  And that’s just from the main characters and heroes in the story!  But, we cannot deny that the story that Judges tells is a part of our Story, the Story we’ve been looking at for the last few weeks. 

We last left Israel, God’s chosen people, his “holy nation” and “royal priesthood,” as they departed Mt. Sinai.  The people who had seen God’s mighty hand working to free them from Pharaoh in Egypt begins to forget who their God is and what God can do.  The story between Judges and Mt. Sinai is not an uneventful one.  Israel indeed reaches the Promised Land, only to refuse to enter because the inhabitants were big.  For their lack of trust, Israel ends up wandering in the desert for 40 years.  All of the individuals who experienced God’s mighty salvation in the Exodus are now dead, even Moses.  They will not get to enter the Promised Land.

One of the commands that God gave to Israel, as they were about to enter into the Promised Land, was to completely destroy the inhabitants of the land.  They were not to leave any of them or else those native people might become a snare to Israel, enticing them to worship gods who were not the God who had brought them up out of Egypt.  We don’t get one chapter into the book before we are told that this is not what Israel does.  We hear a line like this several times, “Asher did not drive out the inhabitants of….” Israel utterly fails to drive out the inhabitants of the land but made use of them as slave labor. 

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

After Exodus -The Law

Moses and Israel are safe on the other side of the Red Sea.  Pharaoh and his hoard of chariots have
been swallowed up by the sea and are no more.  As the story reads, Moses offers a song to God.  Songs, such as the one that Moses offers in chapter 15, are the most appropriate response to mighty saving acts such as Israel has just witnessed.  It is a song of praise.  At the same time, it is a song that retells the story of God’s mighty acts and a song that offers up a confession of who this God who has just acted really is.  The confession that Moses makes is that it is out of God’s steadfast love that he brought Israel up out of Egypt.  This phrase, “steadfast love” (ḥesed in Hebrew), will constantly be on the lips of Israel as Israel confesses what they believe about this God who has just acted so mightily.  God made a promise to Abraham and his descendants, and God intends to keep that promise.  The promise isn’t made in a vacuum.  It is made in the context of a loving and faithful relationship.  It is made in the context of this Story we have been telling.  God is now bound to Israel in covenant love.  God will continue to show this kind of steadfast and faithful love even in the face of outright unfaithfulness.

After the spectacle of the Red Sea crossing, Moses and the people of God set out to begin their long journey to their new home.  This journey will not be an easy one.  Israel, for their part, has a short memory.  They are quickly confronted with hardships and begin to question the goodness of God’s plan and provision.  In the face of hunger and thirst, Israel declares that it would be much preferable to be in Egypt where at least they wouldn’t have starved to death.  In God’s steadfast love, God provides water from a rock, bread from the sky, and meat in the desert.