Exodus 19:1 On the third new moon after the people of Israel had gone forth out of the land of Egypt, on that day they came into the wilderness of Sinai. 2 And when they set out from Rephidim and came into the wilderness of Sinai, they encamped in the wilderness; and there Israel encamped before the mountain. 3 And Moses went up to God, and the Lord called to him out of the mountain, saying, “Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the people of Israel: 4 You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. 5 Now therefore, if you will obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my own possession among all peoples; for all the earth is mine, 6 and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words which you shall speak to the children of Israel.”
This is my poetic representation of God’s word using verbatim phrases from this portion of Exodus 19 with the goal of seeing the place God is creating for Jesus. I have the advantage of hindsight and knowing the reality of God’s desire is to make a place for Himself within the people of His own heart. Moses hoped the Instructions God gave him to give to the people he’d led to this mountain would become a convenient working arrangement between them, but God had something greater in mind. He intended those Ten Words to become the promise of direct priestly access.
The third new moon after
the land of Egypt,
they came into the wilderness of Sinai.
There Israel encamped before the mountain.
Moses went up to God.
The Lord called to him
saying, Thus you shall say –
You have seen what I did
how I bore you on eagles’ wings
and brought you to myself.
if you will obey my voice
and keep my covenant,
you shall be my own possession among all peoples
you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. RSV
It’s taken three months to get to this place of wilderness at the foot of the Mountain of God. “The word conventionally translated ‘wilderness’ is not a sandy desert, but grazing country, not settled by man.”a Some scholars believe God has brought Moses back to the same place of the burning bush where He first spoke audibly to Moses. Now Moses has heard the voice of God for a second time and been given the Ten Commands from God that are meant to offer tired, hungry, irritable and lost people a place of worship where they will finally have direct access to God within their memory, their mind and their heart. Come, Lord Jesus!
aEnduring Word commentary
Psalm 119:153-160 ר Resh – Head
153 Look on my suffering and deliver me, for I have not forgotten your law.
154 Defend my cause and redeem me; preserve my life according to your promise.
155 Salvation is far from the wicked, for they do not seek out your decrees.
156 Your compassion, Lord, is great; preserve my life according to your laws.
157 Many are the foes who persecute me, but I have not turned from your statutes.
158 I look on the faithless with loathing, for they do not obey your word.
159 See how I love your precepts; preserve my life, Lord, in accordance with your love.
160 All your words are true; all your righteous laws are eternal.
Right >§§§> Left
I have not forgotten your law, look on my suffering and deliver me. Preserve my life according to your promise, defend my cause and redeem me. The wicked do not seek out your decrees, salvation is far from them. Preserve my life according to your laws, your compassion, Lord, is great. I have not turned from your statutes but many are the foes who persecute me. The faithless do not obey your word, I look on them with loathing. Preserve my life, Lord, in accordance with your love, see how I love your precepts. All your righteous laws are eternal, all your words are true.
Resh – Head might be the Psalmist’s acknowledgement that he knows God is his Head. He is confident God always acts in accordance with His character. He is truly certain of what his heart knows about God but his words show us that isn’t always what is in his head. God has chosen to show us the honest words of this man “after His own heart” because they clearly reveal a struggle between the faith of his heart and the words of his head. That is the struggle people of faith still confront today.
The Psalmist knows every circumstance of his life is exposed to God’s own heart. I think that’s what he wants us to learn too. “We [must] let our mind descend into our heart and there stand in the presence of God.a Standing in that presence our heart and head can finally recognize the gaps in our faith. That is the place God’s own heart transforms our faith from what our own heart and head know into faithfulness based on knowing God’s law is always balanced by His promises; His decrees by His compassion and His precepts by His love.
a Henri Nouwen in Spiritual Direction
Colossians 3:1 If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. 2 Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. 3 For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory. [NKJV]
We’ve been duped by our own wisdom to depend on personal strength of character and our “bootstrap” mentality as the secret to a successful life of faith…and everything else. Paul’s reality for us is very different from that human wisdom. I jotted sets of keywords as I often do and distilled them into this:
You were raised with Christ to seek those things where Christ is. Set your mind on things above with Christ in God who is your life. When He appears you also will appear with Him in glory.
The words I’d reassembled from Colossians became what reminded me of another variation of Paul’s wisdom from Henry Blackaby’s workbook “Experiencing God: Knowing and Doing the Will of God.” “Find out where God is at work and join Him there.”
“You were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is…” Join Him there!
John 15:17 I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another
Hebrews 8:10 This is the covenant I will establish with the people of Israel after that time, declares the Lord. I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.[NIV]
Trusting your heart and mind really are under God’s control has to become one of the main disciplines of experience for the believer. There are other experiences we have a better handle on: gathering information from the Bible, the Church, Godly people, prayer and service in the Lord’s name. OK, got it, now what?
That answer to “now what?” is so simple…and yet so much harder because the reality is even those disciplines are not our own. They certainly express our faith, but where did that faith come from? They’re certainly the evidence of experience that proves the reality of our desire to please God, but where did that come from? Faith and desire both came from the simple acceptance of what God promised at the day of our salvation. Simple right?
Just as faithfully as we practice those other disciplines of experience we need to learn to practice this simple truth…“I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.” Simple acceptance is what makes this discipline of trust so much harder. Can you believe God intends you to trust His presence in your mind and heart even when you fail, even when you don’t know which choice to make, or even worse, when you’ve made the wrong one?
Dare to trust living with God’s real promise for your life and believe: “I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts.” All it requires is simple acceptance…but it’s hard evidence of real trust in God.
I Peter 2
√ Re·new·al: the replacing or repair of something that is worn out, run-down, or broken
2 Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, 3 now that you have tasted that the Lord is good. 4 As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him— 5 you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house…9 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
God has designed our bodies from the inside out. It’s a good design. We have an internal structure that our entire body is built around. We are born the first time with everything in miniature, a tiny skeleton along with tiny muscles and organs that all need to grow in relationship with one another.
The second time we’re born it’s another version of miniature but still a new life. We’re still “newborn babies” and still based on God’s original design..but this time we’re aware of life in relationship to God and equipped with faith to “grow up in your salvation.” There’s a new structure that requires different muscles and organs; “your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength” that must grow in relationship with one another into the spiritual house God has designed you to be.
This is God’s truth: ”you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” Go big!
II Corinthians 7: 5 For when we came into Macedonia, we had no rest, but we were harassed at every turn—conflicts on the outside, fears within. 6 But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus, 7 and not only by his coming but also by the comfort you had given him. He told us about your longing for me, your deep sorrow, your ardent concern for me, so that my joy was greater than ever.
Today is the first Sunday of Advent, 2018. I have often used a list of Advent readings and explored this season through the eyes of those Scriptures other people chose. This year I’ve made the choice to look for Christmas preparation with my own eyes as I continue exercising my mind in II Corinthians and see where my heart takes me. Today it begins with Paul’s words “we had no rest, but we were harassed at every turn—conflicts on the outside, fears within. But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us…” That reality has made the Bible an enduring treasure that still comforts us in our response to the realities of life and provides transformation along with information. Experience has shown me every part of the Bible supports the choice God made on our behalf long ago: the birth of Jesus. Faith in God’s choice changes our choices.
Advent reminds us transformation came in a “small” package to provide a lifetime of therapeutic doses of comfort [grace] that will fill the gaps left by wrong choices and ultimately overcome the accumulation of fatigue, stress, conflict or fear, so our “joy” will be “greater than ever.” That’s my choice for this Advent season.
I hope it will be yours too. Read whatever Scripture you pick with your eyes, your mind, your heart AND your experience. Let’s take God at his Word that Christ is his choice made on our behalf for our transformation and choose to find our Christmas joy in His choice
-Mark 12:30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.
-Matthew 22:37 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.
-Luke 10:27…Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and, Love your neighbor as yourself.
These three New Testament Scripture passages all quote Jesus speaking words that would have been familiar to his Jewish hearers, the Shema. They’re words still used repeatedly in Jewish prayers. They all include loving God with your heart and soul which seems obvious. The inclusion of mind and/or strength is the variant that got my attention. I understand the access to mind and strength more than I do heart and soul.
This is the age-old debate: Is it strength of commitment or the exercise of the mind that fills the heart and soul? How do we figure out what’s required of us to prove our sincerity? It would seem even these Bible authors had their own opinion on that. Mind and strength? Mind? Strength? Do I have to choose one or the other?
Hillel was a famous religious leader in Jewish history. He was asked to recite the whole law for a dedicated student who would prove his sincerity and his physical strength by listening to it all while standing on one leg. That’s a funny mind picture isn’t it? Hillel’s short answer was probably pretty welcome to him; “What thou hatest for thyself, do not to thy neighbour. This is the whole law, the rest is commentary. Go and learn.”
This is the whole law…“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul…” Now go find a comfortable spot, read, study and think. God will begin to write his whole commentary in your mind and on your heart to strengthen your soul
“You who bring good news to Zion, go up on a high mountain. You who bring good news to Jerusalem, lift up your voice with a shout, lift it up, do not be afraid; say to the towns of Judah, “Here is your God!”
Today is the beginning of Advent, 2017. Advent may not be a familiar name to you. It’s really just a time set aside leading up to Christmas to acknowledge the fullness of what has become the “Big Event” of our life, the birth of Jesus. I’ve come to love the daily moments that catch my heart and focus my mind on the Who, What, Why, When and How the Bible records of that Big Event but the season is filled with many other things that catch my eyes and ears. It’s starting to sound like a whole body experience isn’t it…heart, mind, eyes and ears? That’s exactly what the purpose of the month-long celebration of the Big Event is about.
The words Isaiah spoke way back then have added one more facet to the fullness of this year’s celebration of the Big Event for me. This might be the best part. The weeks leading up to Christmas are one of those rare seasons when the hearts of complete strangers are softened by music, lights, food, parties, friends, family…and gifts. Softened enough that what Isaiah says to us may touch them as well. “You who bring good news…lift up your voice with a shout, lift it up, do not be afraid… Here is your God!”
We are what is popularly referred to as snowbirds. Around Thanksgiving each year we pack our 35’ RV and head for warmer climate for a few months. That’s where my celebration of the Big Event happens each morning. Instead of a Christmas tree I have a hanging tree branch, a Jesse Tree [see above] that I decorate. It’s very simple. Today I hung an origami star with some off Isaiah’s words folded into it. I need those words to challenge myself, and maybe you too, to experience the fullness of a whole body celebration in one more way…voice!
There will never be a better time to “lift up your voice”…and bless someone. I’m not talking about a soapbox in a park or snagging someone on a street corner or even quoting scripture to them [although that might be appropriate in the right situation]. I’m only asking you to notice and respond to the people that cross your path between now and Christmas with a gift from God; a blessing given with your own voice and from the fullness of your own heart to make this year’s Big Event a whole body experience for yourself and maybe them too.
This doesn’t come naturally to me so I’ve been sitting here jotting down ideas of ways to fearlessly speak a blessing to a complete stranger. Ten minutes have gone by and after a lot of typing and a visit to look up the definition of blessing, Isaiah’s timeless truth [this is the “do not be afraid” part] has finally dawned on me. There is only one way to begin this blessing…God bless you…
…for your kindness
…for your help
…for your cheerful greeting
…for ringing that bell
…for opening that door
…for caring to ask
…for doing your job well
You get the idea, right? Make it part of your preparation during the days leading up to the Big Event to watch for opportunities to let your voice be a blessing for others. It’s really true you are blessed to be a blessing. May God bless you with his own heart, mind, eyes and ears…may he bless you with the courage to speak…may he bless you for pondering my thoughts and then coming up with your own.
Posted in Isaiah, Sunday, The Big Event
Tagged Blessing, Ears, Eyes, Fullness, Gift, Heart, Mind, Simple, Voice