Practical Proverbial, from Hebrews, 17 August 2017

By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. He chose to be mis-treated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward.  Hebrews 11, verses 24-26.

Moses isn’t Charlton Heston.   Remember “The Ten Commandments?”   Cecil B. DeMille’s last picture, which is one of the most famous movies of all time?   It’s a tradition in America to show it every year around Easter, and it’s one of the movies I don’t (yet) have on DVD (or should I do Blu-Ray?   Get all 2010…).   Here’s a true confession:   most of what I know about Moses, I learned from watching Charlton Heston.   He was manly, gutsy, stoic; if you wanted a statue of Moses, you’d want it to look like Chuck Heston.  But Moses isn’t (as my father called him) “the blue eyed Jew.”  Or Christian Bale (in the not-as-good re-telling from a few years ago).  The movie took a great many liberties with Biblical history, so much so that, when I actually read through Exodus through Deuteronomy, I felt let down.   Only after doing further study did I feel impressed, again, by the story of this great man.   The mis-understanding was mine, not Moses’.

However, make no mistake about it:   no movie star I know of – not even Charlton Heston – would choose to give up Hollywood to be treated like a slave.  Moses was brought up in the palace of Pharaoh.   He was treated like a grandson, even a son, even though he was the known child of Hebrew slaves.   His mother, Pharaoh’s daughter, lavished him in luxury.  She raised him to educate him, to teach him how to rule a nation, master a court, prepare for royalty.  Born a pauper, Moses grew up into a prince, a prince of Egypt:   the heir apparent to rule wealthiest, most splendid and powerful nation on Earth.  It wouldn’t have been unprecedented for a Hebrew, a foreigner, to rule as the power behind a throne.   After all, Joseph had done so.

Yet when Moses came to a crossroads in his life, he unwittingly chose God.   One day, he saw an Egyptian mistreat a Hebrew and he killed the Egyptian.   Long before God forbade it, Pharaoh forbade killing as a way to preserve order in society.   Moses hid the body, until the next day.  He saw two Hebrew men fighting and, when questioning one of them, learned that his crime had become known.   The brave prince of Egypt turned quickly into a coward on the run.   He fled Egypt and didn’t return for forty years.

During that time, Moses went from prince back to pauper.   He became a shepherd in what is possibly now western Saudi Arabia.  He actively shunned his past, perhaps out of fear, but perhaps out of humility.  Moses fled Egypt at about age forty and he lived in the desert another forty years.   He raised a family, worked from his in-laws, and disappeared from public life.   What did he do during that time?  What did he think?   What visions filled his dreams?  Surely Moses must have used much of that time to wonder why his life had gone off track.   I wonder if he had a crisis of faith, perhaps wrestling with faith for the first time in his life.  Eventually, he accepted that his life wasn’t off track but had, instead, traveled on to a different one.  He who had been born no ordinary child now lived the most ordinary, unrecognized of lives and what had it all been for?

But God recognized him, and Moses chose to accept the invitation.  He saw the burning bush on the mountain and hiked up to see it.   From then on, all history changed.   Moses definitely did.   God shook Moses out of his navel-gazing rural complacence and called him to the task God had prepared for him (and prepared him for).  He knew that the generation which had wanted him called to Egyptian justice was dead, but that the mission God had called him to perform might also get him killed.   Yet He went.   After some grumbling and stalling (in front of God Himself; can you imagine?), Moses went.   And then everything changed.

All because Moses looked heavenward.  All because Moses believed.   Charlton Heston couldn’t have done any better.

For further reading:  Acts 7:22, Exodus 2:10-Luke 14:33, Hebrews 10:35, 1 Kings 4:30, Isaiah 19:11.

Lord, thank You for the example of Moses.   Thank You for guiding Him, and for delivering Him from the slavery to his past while You delivered Your people from the injustice of real slavery.

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Practical Proverbial, from Mark, 16 March 2016

They brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha (which means “the place of the skull”). Then they offered him wine mixed with myrrh, but he did not take it. And they crucified him. Mark 15, verses 22-24.

Sometimes the Bible is overly dramatic. Sometimes the verses are so descriptive that it’s almost too much, almost melodramatic, like watching a Cecil B. DeMille movie.  The imagery ‘goes there,’ doesn’t leave much to the imagination.   Worldwide flood, ten plagues, talking donkey, humiliating the prophets of Baal, Philip disappearing from the eunuch, the Revelation:   name all you want, they’re sometimes a lot to swallow because, in some ways, it seems over the top.

And sometimes, as in verse 24, it’s powerfully under-played.   Consider these for words:  “and they crucified him.”   Consider those words closely because everything you know, everything on this planet, hinges on the powerful understatement they convey.

There is no salvation without the crucifixion.   You’re eternally dead in your sins, and the holy triune God of eternity doesn’t know you, can’t acknowledge you, hates your sin, and damns you forever.   There is no forgiveness, there is no happiness, there is no satisfaction, there is no love without Jesus dying on that horrible cross.   What’s more, everything you know about the world is changed.  There is no western culture without the crucifixion.   There is no church, no Protestant Reformation, no brilliant Renaissance, no Enlightenment ideals, no Declaration of Independence, no industrial revolution and western prosperity, no Western laws and traditions that support the rights of man.   Everything we know politically, economically, militarily, socially, culturally, artistically, ecclesiastically, and even physically changes, morphs into something unrecognizable, without Jesus’ death on the cross.

“And they crucified him.”   Four pretty powerful words, don’t you think?

“Oh come on, Dave.   Now you’re the one being overly dramatic!”   Really?   The crucifixion is the central event in human history; we measure culture, law and most of our activities today from it.   The events that descended from it permanently dispersed ancient Judaism, brought about the demise of the Roman Empire that crucified Him, and inspired the rise of the Western society that recognizes Him.  The systems of justice, economy and society on all seven continents are measured against the life and legacy of Jesus, culminating in His selfless sacrifice of Himself.  Everything we judge to be decent and pure, we do so because of what we know of Jesus Christ.

And in just four words, Mark describes what humanity did to its creator.   “And they crucified him,” as if is the subdued ending to a vast saga, which it was.   Those simple words are the four-word coda on the music of our soul, as if a great fugue had concluded with a still whimper, then dying notes fading into silence.

Consider the agony of being crucified, of being tortured for hours, dragged through the street in humiliation, subjected to persecution no innocent man should conceive, then having thick spikes driven repeatedly through your body. On the cross, you don’t die of blood loss, you die agonizing in asphyxiation:  you heave your body up on the spikes holding your feet to the cross, gasping just to draw a breath.  And that’s what’s up ahead.

And it changed everything.   The Romans, Jewish priests, and bystanders there at Calvary didn’t know that “and they crucified him” would soon come to mean “and it changed everything.”

It’s not a four-word coda:   it’s a symphony..

Lord Jesus, thank You for being crucified so that my soul wouldn’t be.   Thank You for doing what I can’t.   Thank You for the cross.

Read Mark 15, verses 16-47.