Practical Proverbial, from Hebrews, 23 October 2017

See to it that you do not refuse him who speaks. If they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, how much less will we, if we turn away from him who warns us from heaven?  Hebrews 12, verse 25.

Now.   Because eternity matters most, the time is now to talk about it, to listen about it.  There is no tomorrow guaranteed for any of us, and yesterday is done.  Today is the day to listen to what God is saying to you.   Today is the ONLY time to listen.

I took off last week from writing these proverbials because my wife and I were moving.   We did “the big move” from our small farm in Paris to an apartment in McKinney.  There are a few reasons why, some good, some not so good.  In time, I’m sure I’ll talk about them here; for now, it’s just raw.  You’ve probably moved a few times in your own life, so you know it’s hard work; emotional and physical work.   We’re almost done with it, but it’s hard work all the way up to the end.   So I needed some time off.

I’ve spent that time wondering what Jesus is saying in all this.   We’re moving to make sure we don’t lose our livelihood, and to be closer to family that needs us.   Yet it hurts.   I’ve always felt we were led to Paris, to buy the farm and start a new life together.   Now I also feel we are being led elsewhere, to start another new life together in a different way.   We are both following God’s lead, and so we understand that, no matter what happens, it will all be ok.   One of my favorite movie lines is from “The Best New Marigold Hotel.”   Judy Densch:  “everything will be alright in the end.   If it’s not alright, then it isn’t the end.”   Very Indian; very Hindu; very apropos.   I know things will be alright because God ALWAYS works in our lives for good.   In the end, because of Him, it will be alright, all right, all the time.   If it isn’t yet alright, then it isn’t yet the end and He isn’t done leading us through better things.  If we don’t believe that, then don’t we simply bring on ourselves the consequences of not following God?   If we don’t follow God, don’t we get what we ask for?   The verse today implies this is so.

So we’re following Jesus yet it still hurts.   Now it’s tough.  Now I’m mourning what’s lost, ambivalent about today, unafraid of the future but also uncaring of it.   Even angry.  I suppose I’m actually numb because I’m having difficulty sorting out what I’m feeling and prioritizing what I can and can’t do about it.   What is God saying to me when I’m numb, when I don’t know where I fit in right now?   What’s He saying to my family when my wife and I are both working so hard to get set up to ‘be there’ for those who need us yet feeling distant and hurt?   What is the Lord saying when it’s the end of some things but it doesn’t really feel alright?

You know what He’s saying.   So do I, even when I don’t want to admit it.  He doesn’t promise the easy road:   He promises to walk it with us.   He promises to abide with us when His words say “I know the work is hard but you aren’t finished.   I’m with you, so keep it up.”  He’s calling me to submit to Him in all this, and He’s calling me to trust in Him even though that hurts.   He NEVER guarantees that things in life won’t hurt because, in a fallen world, we feel hurt when it stings into our lives.   He simply says “I’m with you.   Always.”   Why, Christ’s last words here were “lo I am with you even until the end of the age.”

That’s now.   That means He’s with me, with us, now.   Ages end every day; yes, I mean that.  Things begin and things end and through it all, like we talked about a few days back, these are the days of Elijah when we get to declare the word of the Lord.   We do that because we listen to Him when times are good and bad both and we declare that, in both, He’s with us.   He’s celebrating with us when we’re glad, and He’s holding us, mourning with us, hurting for us, when we’re hurting.  He meant what He said and He’s with us now.

Because now is the time.   Eternity does matter most so now is the time to listen and make ready for it.  No matter what happens today, He’s abiding with us, working with us to make things better.   He already did everything to make eternity matter most, to make it possible.  And He’s with us each day to make things alright in the meantime.   Right now, today, He’s talking to us and telling us what matters most.   That HE matters most because He is our everything and He makes all things all right, right up until the very end.

For further reading:  Hebrews 3:12, Hebrews 1:1, Hebrews 8:5, Hebrew 11:7, Deuteronomy 18:19, Hebrews 2:2-3, Hebrews 10:29, Matthew 28:20, Mark 8:36.

My Lord, abide with me these days.   I’m hurting and struggling.   Thank You for walking with me now.

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Practical Proverbial, from Hebrews, 12 October 2017

But you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the Judge of all, to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.  Hebrews 12, verses 22-24.

One of my favorite Christian songs is “Days of Elijah.”   There’s a particularly good version of it by Twila Paris that’s not saccharin, not too rock & roll, not too corny.   It’s just uplifting, and one of the verses in the song says “out of Zion’s hill salvation comes.”  Look up the geography of Jerusalem and you see that Zion is the hill on which the first and second temple’s were built.   It was literally God’s home address on terra firma.  It’s where the Temple was located, where King David reigned and is buried, where the Last Supper was held, and it’s not far from Calvary.   In contemporary usage, Zion refers to the land of Israel itself, and to the cause of establishing the modern nation of Israel.  Yet in days of old it was where God lived.

That’s a lot to draw from just a few verses.  Then again, Jerusalem has been ground zero for most of human history, and Zion is the spiritual heart of Jerusalem.   There’s a lot to consider with it.

The writer of Hebrews invoked Zion to symbolize heaven made possible by Jesus.   It is the new heaven, the new dwelling place of the living God.   You and I get to go there, to worship in His true temple, to make our home with Him (to tabernacle with Him).   Where Sinai symbolizes our need for Jesus before heaven, Zion symbolizes our heaven with Jesus both here in this world and in the next.  Sinai was a place of power and fear:   Zion is a place where the greatest power in the universe – God’s love – took root and grew.   Sinai was law:  Zion is love.   Sinai was remote:   Zion is connection.

I can hear Twila singing about “righteousness being restored.”

Read, too, about Abel.   The writer recalls Abel, invoking that the sacrifice of Christ means more than the sacrifice of Abel (both the blood of the animal Abel sacrificed as well as his own as the victim of history’s first murder).  Abel gave a representation of divine blood in a sacrifice about his personal faith; Jesus actually gave His own blood as the faith sacrifice for all persons.

Read, too (again) about the firstborn.   Recall the story of Esau and Jacob (or, for that matter, Cain and Abel, or any of the first-born sons of the patriarchs).   Jesus makes us all as if we are first-born.   We ALL get to inherit the best of the family.   We all get to be treated as special because of what Jesus did in dying on that rugged cross.

“These are the days of Elijah declaring the word of the Lord.”   Elijah declared God’s word to an unbelieving world.   You and I get to do the same, thousands of years after Elijah, thousands of years after the Word of the Lord Himself.

Finally, there is the new covenant.   We’ve discussed how a covenant is more than just a contract or an agreement.   It’s a blood oath, a God-affirming vow made in faith and justice.  God had made covenants with humanity all through the age of the patriarchs yet all of them were made to point us to our need for His redemption.   When Jesus came, He delivered that redemption and made it possible for men to speak directly with God.   He restored balance by making the perfect atonement.   He made a path for us to spend both now and eternity in God’s presence.  The Old Testament covenants pointed us to our need for God, yet the covenant made by Jesus points us to God in our lives.  God has always judged all people yet now we get to see His judgment more clearly, more as an act of loving justice instead of punishing vengeance.   We get to see that God’s holy law from Sinai was made perfect by His holy sacrifice from Zion.   That the covenant Jesus made by Zion is one to which we can still be bound today.

Go download Twila’s song.   I guarantee you’ll like it.

For further reading:  Isaiah 24:23, Revelation 14:1, Galatians 4:26, Exodus 4:22, Revelation 20:12, Genesis 18:25, Psalm 94:2, Philippians 3:12,Galatians 3:20, 1 Peter 1:2, Genesis 4:20, Hebrews 11:4.

Lord, thank You for so many messages in so few words.   In these days of Elijah, help me to declare Your Words to those around me.