Parents

Christian parents must demonstrate obedience and explain salvation

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Read: Deuteronomy 6

In the future, when your son asks you, “What is the meaning of the stipulations, decrees and laws the LORD our God has commanded you?” tell him: “We were slaves of Pharaoh in Egypt, but the LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand.” (Deuteronomy 6:20-21)

Reflect:

Deuteronomy 6 has several mentions of parents teaching their children. Parental teaching is to be two-fold: first they are to teach by example, then by explanation. Living their own lives in accordance with the law God has given them, parents will teach their children mimetically. Then their children will witness their law-keeping and ask questions about it. After that, the parents are to take the second step of explaining the salvation of God that predates and underpins the keeping of the law. For Christians, this means explaining the salvation that has been won for us through the life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ.

Demonstrate obedience to God and explain salvation by God – these are the two lessons parents are to teach throughout the everyday ordinary; at home and away, morning and evening.

Vitally, it is not enough to teach either of these lessons without the other. If we only demonstrate obedience to God, our children may grow up defeated and disheartened if they fail to be obedient, or self-righteous and proud if (they think) they are successful in their imitative obedience. Either way, the children will not be saved because they won’t know that it is God who saves them, not their obedience.

Likewise, if we only explain salvation to our children and do not model obedience, they will never learn to hate their sin, never learn to yearn for holiness, never appreciate righteousness, never be thankful for forgiveness. They need both lessons.

crux:

Christian parents must demonstrate obedience to God even as they explain salvation by God to their children.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

You are my heavenly Father. You adopted me through the work of your Son. You parented me perfectly and yet I still sinned, and needed (and still need) your forgiveness. Thank you for rescuing and redeeming me. Please help me to be obedient to all Jesus has commanded me to do.

Please help me and help Jeff as we parent our children in one flesh unity. Please help us to demonstrate obedience to you and to your will in ways our children will see, which will cause them to ask, “Why do you do that?” Please help us to (again and again) explain your salvation, your mighty hand, to our children so they may be drawn to you as their Saviour.

Please help our children to obey you and to love your Son as their Saviour, even as he is ours.

Amen.

Law

The LORD gave his people laws so they would live rightly

Read: Deuteronomy 5

Moses summoned all Israel and said:
Hear, Israel, the decrees and laws I declare in your hearing today, Learn them and be sure to follow them. The LORD our God made a covenant with us at Horeb. (Deuteronomy 5:1-2)

Reflect:

As Moses begins his second sermon, having described the events and the God which brought the people to the edge of the promised land, he turns to the topic of the Israelites’ lives and behaviour once they enter this promised land. The LORD had made a covenant with Israel at Horeb, and that covenant needed to be kept in the promised land as in the desert.

The law Moses now expounds (in very similar words to Exodus 20) can be divided into two categories: the peoples’ relationship with the LORD their God (5:6-15) and the peoples’ relationships with each other (5:16-21, with a small mention of relationships with servants in 5:14 with respect to the Sabbath observance).

Actually, this is an interesting difference, because here in 5:14 the law is explained. The Sabbath was given so that they and their servants might rest. This is why Jesus Christ maintained that it was lawful to do good on the Sabbath, even if that took effort (Matthew 12:12), because the Sabbath was made for man and not vice versa (Mark 2:27).

crux:

The LORD gave his people laws so they could live rightly with him and with each other in the promised land.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

You are God. By definition, by your very identify you are Creator and Controller, law maker and righteous law-keeper. You are just and merciful, holy and kind.

Thank you for giving your people rules to live by for a relationship with you. And than you for providing a way for us to be forgiven and reconciled to you when, inevitably, we broke your rules.

Thank you that these ten commandments still instruct us today. They may no longer demand obedience because Jesus fulfilled the law completely on our behalf. But they do tell me that you care about the way I pursue a relationship with you; you care about the way I treat other people. Thank you for showing me a better way to live my life, a way to love you and love others, by caring about your glory and their good.

Please help me to love you totally and to love my neighbours well. Thank you that I was able to love my son well today.

Amen.

LORD

The LORD alone is God, there is no other

Read: Deuteronomy 4

What other nation is so great as to have their gods near them the way the LORD our God is near us when we pray to him? (Deuteronomy 4:7)

You saw no form of any kind the day the LORD spoke to you out of the fire. Therefore watch yourselves very carefully, so that you do not become corrupt and make for yourselves an idol. (Deuteronomy 4:15-16a)

For the LORD your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God. (Deuteronomy 4:24)

For the LORD your God is a merciful God, he will not abandon or destroy you or forget the covenant with your ancestors, which he confirmed to them by oath. (Deuteronomy 4:31)

You were shown these things so that you may know that the LORD is God; besides him there is no other. (Deuteronomy4:35)

Acknowledge and take to heart this day that the LORD is God in heaven above and on the earth below. There is no other. (Deuteronomy4:39)

Reflect:

I don’t normally copy such an extensive collection of texts from the Bible, but today it was all so obviously about God. It seems as if Moses ended his first Deuteronomic sermon with a doctrinal, theological exposition of the first commandment, “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt. You shall have no other gods before me.” (Exodus 20:1-3).

This is God in his glory: near his people; spirit, formless; jealous for his people’s worship; merciful for his people’s relationship with him; the only true God, the God of heaven and earth, the LORD.

crux:

The LORD alone is God, there is no other.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

You alone are God. All other would-be gods are false, idols, cheats and lies. You alone are God: near to me when I pray, listening, responding, protecting, cherishing me because I belong to you.

You were formless in the desert at Horeb when you spoke from the mountain like thunder, yet you took on flesh and chose to become Immanuel, God with us. You took the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness, yet also are the image of the invisible God, Jesus Christ.

You are jealous, consuming as fire does, punishing all who reject you and choose to worship idols and false gods instead of turning to you, the Living God.

You are merciful: kind and gentle with your people who cannot save themselves.

Hallelujah! Praise the LORD!

Amen.

Blame

The only person to blame for my sin is me

Read: Deuteronomy 3

At that time I pleaded with the LORD: … “Let me go over and see the good land beyond the Jordan – that fine hill country and Lebanon.”
But because of you the LORD was angry with me and would not listen to me. “That is enough!” the LORD said. “Do not speak to me any more about this matter. … But commission Joshua, and encourage and strengthen him, for he will lead this people across and will cause them to inherit the land that you will see.” (Deuteronomy 3:23, 25-26, 28)

Reflect:

Moses has just reminded the Israelites of their crushing defeat of Og, king of Bashan, and all of his cities and towns. Moses has told how he has apportioned the land of these two conquered kings (Sihon and Og) to the tribes of Reuben and Gad and to the half-tribe of Manasseh. Yet the thing Moses keeps coming back to is the limit God has set upon him.

Moses blames the people of Israel again (cf 1:37), but it is his own sin that is keeping him out of the promised land. Moses needed to repent of his sin, not blame others for it. Moses, though a leader of God’s people, was far from perfect. He frequently got angry; and when angry, he made rash decisions.

Thrown down and break the stone tablets on which God had inscribed the ten commandments because the people were worshipping a golden calf? Yep, that was Moses. Burn that idol and make the people drink the ashes? Yep, that was Moses again. Hit a rock twice with his staff because he was frustrated with the people’s grumbling? Indeed Moses did that, and no one made him do it.

How many times do I do things in anger, frustration or just plan grumpiness that I will later regret? Many, too many. Thanks be to God for his provision of forgiveness!

crux:

The only person to blame for my sin is me… and God is always just in his judgements.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

You are a just judge, yet you are also merciful. You allowed Moses to see into the promised land even while you refused him entry. You did not leave your people leaderless but appointed a successor to Moses, the man Joshua.

Truly, I deserve life in prison – or rather, an eternity in hell – for all my sin of rebellion against you and your commands. Even when I try to keep you as first in my life, I find I am letting other concerns crowd you out. I am to blame. I am the one who is guilty.

Wash me whiter than snow, LORD. Forgive my sin and blot out my iniquities, cover over my transgressions and remember them no more.

Thanks be to you for your Son Jesus Christ and for all he has done for me.

Please help me to encourage and strengthen others around me for the good works you have set before them. Please do not let me be envious, especially when I see others doing tasks I would like to do myself, but make me glad that your people are being served and edified.

Amen.

Recount

The LORD’s plans prevail even when his people fail

Read: Deuteronomy 1

In the fortieth year, on the first day of the eleventh month, Moses proclaimed to the Israelites all that the LORD had commanded him concerning them. (Deuteronomy 1:3)

Because of you the LORD became angry with me also and said, “You shall not enter it, either.” (Deuteronomy 1:37)

Reflect:

In Deuteronomy, Moses is recorded giving a series of sermons. I think I’ve read that there are five, but there isn’t total agreement about where each sermon begins or ends. My Bible translation (NIV 2011) does not include speech marks because the quotations are too extensive, basically being the whole book. Instead, the beginning of Moses’ first sermon is delineated with a line break.

Moses preaches these sermons before the people enter the promised land. It seems Moses’s first sermon is not chronological, but categorical in its order. He begins by recounting the major events that have brought the people to this place:

  1. God told them to leave Mt Horeb (aka Mt Sinai) and go to the promised land.
  2. Moses decided the people were “too heavy a burden for me to carry alone” (1:9) so leaders of the twelve tribes were appointed. He apparently gave no thought to the fact that God was actually carrying the burden for him. This may relate to Exodus 18:25-26, which is recorded before Moses received the law and the people left Mt Horeb.
  3. The people reached the edge of the promised land.
  4. The people asked to send spies into the land so (in similar style to point 2) twelve spies were appointed by Moses, including Caleb.
  5. The people refused to go into the promised land, grumbling in fear, despite Moses’ reassurance.
  6. The LORD refused to let Israel into the promised land.
  7. Moses blames the people because the LORD won’t let him enter the Promised Land either (even though his own disobedience was to blame, Numbers 20:6-12; again, this event is out of chronological order, but fits with a prior category topic).
  8. The people are told by the LORD to wander for 40 years.
  9. The people unsuccessfully attempt to enter the promised land and weep before the LORD.
  10. The people wander for 40 years.

This story makes me think of God’s steadfast faithfulness as he patiently waits for me to repent and fall in with his plan.

crux:

The LORD’s plans prevail even when his people fail.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

Your people failed you when they refused to enter the Promised Land because they were afraid; but your plans to teach them to trust you prevailed as they wandered in the desert and ultimately as the disciples learned to trust Jesus.

Moses failed you when he struck the rock twice, dishonouring you and your miraculous provision; but your plan to be the only sovereign authority of your people prevailed with Moses’ death and ultimately with Jesus’ birth.

I have failed you many times; yet your plan to rescue me from my sins and reign as Lord over my life has prevailed with the resurrection of Jesus and the coming of your Holy Spirit.

Your plans prevail because you are in charge of the universe. Sometimes, this means your people face your judgement. Thank you for Jesus, who has faced your wrath for my sake.

Amen.

 

Worship

As a result of his resurrection, Jesus was worshipped

Read: Matthew 28

So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings,” he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshipped him. (Matthew 28:8-9)

Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshipped him, but some doubted. (Matthew 28:16-17)

Reflect:

“The worshipped him.” Worship. This is the first fundamental change in Jesus’ followers after his resurrection from the dead. As well as following him, listening to his teaching and trying to imitate his way of life, as any disciple did with their rabbi, now Jesus’ followers began to worship him.

According to my Oxford Dictionary of English, worship (as a verb) means “to show reverence and adoration of a deity.” As I followed the rabbit trail of words associated with worship in the Oxford Dictionary, I came across words like reverence and respect, adoration and admiration, veneration. These are deep, strong responses that are only appropriate in response to a divine being, a deity.

As a result of his resurrection, Jesus’ followers began to show reverence for him that was only appropriate for a divine being, for God. They hadn’t worshipped Jesus before his death. So, what changed?

Jesus had told his followers he would be put to death and three days later, rise. But now God had done it. Jesus had been dead and now he was alive again. Clearly this could only be the work of God. So the disciples realised, deep in their souls, that Jesus Christ truly was (as he still is!) God himself. So, naturally, they worshipped him.

Some doubted. That’s also natural… it’s not like this had ever happened before. The most similar incidents (such as the raising of Lazarus) were all deeds of Jesus as well. But through their doubt and confusion, the disciples realised that Jesus was different. Jesus was not merely a man, Jesus was also God.

crux:

As a result of his resurrection, Jesus was worshipped – reverenced and adored as God himself.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

I confess it is easy for me to slip into thinking of Jesus as only a man; a superior, marvellous man. I somehow forget that he is God. Or I say it, but somehow it doesn’t sink in deeply. So I think intellectually, academically, “Jesus is God” but I do not worship Jesus, I do not really respond to Jesus as divine.

Please help me to worship Jesus. May I adore Jesus, admiring all his lovely attributes and achievements. May I reverence Jesus, respecting him for his qualities and abilities. May I love him and enjoy him, tremble before him and fear him.

Amen.

Guilty

Every person is guilty – only some are forgiven

Read: Matthew 27

A:  But Jesus remained silent.
B:  The high priest said to him, “I charge you under oath by the Living God: Tell us if you are the Messiah, the Son of God.”
“You have said so,” Jesus replied. (Matthew 26:63-64a)

B’:  Meanwhile Jesus stood before the governor, and the governor asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”
“You have said so,” Jesus replied.
A’:  When he was accused by the chief priests and the elders, he gave no answer. (Matthew 27:11-12)

Reflect:

In the overlap of chapters here, Matthew has constructed a chiasmus*.

Remember, the chapter divisions and verse numbering system was added over a millennium later, so it makes no difference that this literary feature should occur over a chapter boundary. The beginning and end of the X crossover literary shape are 26:62 where the high priest asks Jesus, “Are you not going to answer? What is this testimony?” and 27:13 where Pilate asks Jesus, “Don’t you hear this testimony?”

Throughout the chiasmus, different responses to Jesus, particularly to the identity claims of Jesus, are highlighted. Jesus is identified as “the Messiah, the Son of God” at the beginning and as “the king of the Jews” at the end of the chiasmus. Then, after dual mentions of death (26:66) / burial (27:7) and prophecies (26:64 and 27:9), there is a major contrast set up in two passages. Peter disowns Jesus and repents of his sin with weeping; Judas, who has betrayed Jesus, regrets his sin and commits suicide.

Finally, there is the centre of the chiasmus where the main idea is revealed and the crux of the rhetorical form displayed. 27:1 reveals the guilt of those who planned to kill Jesus, the Jewish leadership: “Early in the morning, all the chief priests and the elders of the people made their plans how to have Jesus executed.” They planned, they plotted. They deliberately determined to put Jesus Christ to death.

This chiasmus reveals that Jesus was the only innocent person present on that day. Jesus was not guilty of blasphemy, because Jesus really was the Messiah, the Son of God. Jesus was not guilty of treason, because Jesus really was the king of the Jews. Jesus Christ was innocent, but those who put him to death were guilty of blasphemy and treason both.

crux:

Every person is guilty – only some are forgiven.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

Thank you for forgiving my sin and thank you for the surprising pleasures you have given me today.

Thank you for the opportunity to pray for my friend as she enters her 36th week of pregnancy, after I saw her at the shops during my lunch hour.

Thank you for the chance to talk to my students about who I believe you are, for the chance to tell them that all people are sinners, but those who submit to Jesus as Boss and trust in him as Rescuer are forgiven sinners. Thank you that they raised the questions, so I was free to answer.

Thank you for the time to hold my daughter’s hand as I drove her home from the bus.

Thank you for the quiet conversation with my son in the car as we drove to the city.

Please help me to keep honouring you in my everyday ordinary.

Amen.

* Rhetorical Ramble:

A chiasmus is my favourite literary structure. It is a rhetorical scheme “in which words, grammatical constructions, or concepts are repeated in reverse order.” It has its origin in the meaning “crosswise arrangement” from the Greek name of the letter chi, which looks a bit like the English letter X. (Oxford Dictionary of English)

John 1:1-2 is a short and sweet chiasmus :

A: In the beginning was the Word,
B: and the Word was with God
X: and the Word was God.
B’: He was with God
A’: in the beginning.

The centre of the chiasmus is the centre and most important point of the author’s argument. Hence, in John 1:1-2 above, John is using claims of Jesus’ eternal existence and presence with God to prove Jesus’ identity as God.

In the same way that a chiasmus is a crosswise arrangement of words or ideas used to highlight the central idea, this blog is about the crux: “the decisive or most important point at issue… the ‘cross’.” (Oxford Dictionary of English)

The crux of life at crux.live is Jesus Christ and the Cross, and the truths that I need Jesus, so I seek to know Jesus, so I may love Jesus and live in Jesus and live like Jesus.

(This rhetorical ramble was originally posted as part of Light.)