Practical Proverbial, from Hebrews, 16 August 2017

By faith Moses’ parents hid him for three months after he was born, because they saw he was no ordinary child, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict.  Hebrews 11, verse 23.

“No ordinary child:” we like to think those words can describe any child, and indeed they do.   Yet another translation lists this phrase as “because they saw he was a fine child.”   Moses was a fine child.   From the start, he was unique, set aside for unique work, a unique life.  He was no ordinary child.

Something told Moses’ parents (Amram and Yochebed) that their boy was special.  It was something called faith in God.   They knew what was happening around them.   They knew the king’s decree, to kill every newborn boy because the Israelites had grown too numerous and were a threat to the security of the throne.   The family, descended from Jacob’s son, Levi, believed in El Shaddai, the great God Almighty.  They had come to believe He would deliver them from the slavery their Egyptian “hosts” had put them into.  Hadn’t Levi’s brother, Joseph, prophesied, many years before, that God would deliver the Israelites in their time of need?

Something told Amram and Yochebed that their son might just be the man to do that.   They had to save him because God had put it on their hearts that he was a fine child, no ordinary child, a unique child with a unique future ahead of him.   So they hid him.   Can you imagine doing that, let alone doing that for three months?  Here you are, a slave toiling in the most powerful nation on earth (ruled by a tyrannical, royal despot) and you consciously, secretly violate the edict of that king.   You know the penalty for disobedience is immediate death for you and everyone in your family, but you disobey anyway.  People had seen Yochebed pregnant; how would they explain her sudden weight loss without a baby (or even a body to bury)?   How did she feed young Moses?   How did she care for him when he cried and she was working, making bricks in the mud pits of Goshen?

How did all this happen?   Amram and Yochebed believed in God Almighty, and El Shaddai provided for them.  God provided calm for their hearts and food for their table.   God gave them peace deep inside to overcome the threat of violence against them.   And God provided cover for young Moses, keeping him safe until the time came for his mother to place him in a basket so he could be found by Pharaoh’s daughter.

I wonder what Amram called the young boy.   He wasn’t named “Moses” until the Princess of Egypt plucked him from the Nile.   His original name was is lost to history:  we know of him as Moses today, nearly four thousand years after he lived.   If you think about it, it’s a miracle we even know about him, or about his siblings, his parents, or even their parents before them.  Because of the Bible, we know the name of Moses’ ancestors going all the way back to Adam.  You can’t say that about most of the people who have ever lived; you can’t even say that about that Pharaoh.  We know what he ordered, but can’t tell you for sure which Pharaoh he actually was.   But we can give you hundreds of details about Moses.

Moses was born for a unique life.

My granddaughter spent a few days with us this week.   I got to hold her, and play with her, and have some Pops & Emma time together.   I love that little girl, just like I do all my kids and grandkids.  I think they’re extraordinary, and even fine.   Yet God has never put it on my heart that they will deliver their people from slavery.   God has never identified to me that one of them will do something that will be recorded for the rest of human history.   My grandkids are no ordinary kids, at least to me.   God provides for them, too, in ways they’re far too young to understand.  History has yet to be written about what lives they lead.   I simply pray they choose to know God because He already knows them in full.   And they are no ordinary people.  But they aren’t Moses.

For further reading:  Exodus 1:16-2:2

Lord, than You for your servant, Moses.   Thank You for recording things for us to know about him.

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Practical Proverbial, from Hebrews, 15 August 2017

By faith Joseph, when his end was near, spoke about the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and gave instructions concerning the burial of his bones.  Hebrews 11, verse 22.

I respect wisdom; I only wish I practiced more of it.   Like I said the last time, I’m Jacob.   I tend towards living out the unwise even as I crave to be wiser.  If I’m Jacob, that makes Joseph my son.  It’s as if my Dad and I had switched roles.   When I think of Joseph, I think of my Dad because I believe they shared a similar temperament.

If you don’t know the story, Joseph is Jacob’s favorite son.   He’s his son by Rachel, the beloved wife for whom Jacob had slaved seven years.   Joseph is animated, insightful, lively, and honest.   He’s also naïve and wise, and not very tactful.   Joseph alienated his older brothers so much that they wanted to murder him, but couldn’t bring themselves to do it.   So they sold him as a slave to passing travelers, who carried him away to Egypt.   There Joseph became a slave in a rich man’s house.   Over ups and downs, God provided for Joseph in everything, abiding with him when he was unjustly thrown in prison, and abiding with him when he rose to great power afterwards.   Second only to the king, Joseph worked miracles in using the knowledge and talents God gave him to prepare for seven years of famine.   Because of Joseph’s faith in God, all Egypt had food to eat during that famine, so much so that the extra was sold to foreigners…including Joseph’s family.   After some drama even Hollywood couldn’t imagine, Joseph is reunited with his family, and his father, Jacob, is able to die in peace.

Joseph was wise.   He recognized the hand of God in all good that had come his way.   When bad things happened, he thanked God for providing rescue and knowledge.   When good things happened, he gave all credit to God who had made it so.   Yet Joseph never underestimated the power of human depravity.   He understood the fickle nature of politics, and of being a foreigner serving a foreign king; Joseph believed there would be trouble after he died.   Thus, he prophesied that a time would come when his Israelite kinfolk would become a nation in need of deliverance.   “God will come to your aid” was what he told his children and grandchildren.  Joseph was a wise realist.   He ‘played long ball’ were good and when they weren’t.   He knew that, in both, God is still God and over it all.  His faith didn’t decrease even when he realized he was dying.   Indeed, he clung onto it steadily even when he knew God would see him die in a strange land.

My dad was a Kenneth, not a Joseph.   Yet I’m reminded of Joseph when I think of my dad.   Dad wasn’t a deeply religious man.   He went to church nearly all his life, yet it seemed like he taught my sister and I to be Sunday morning Christians.   It wasn’t that he was a bad man, or that he lived a moral life on Sunday and immoral otherwise; nothing could be farther from the truth.   Dad always believed in Jesus.  It’s just that his faith wasn’t something he practiced openly.   That is until he was dying.   Dad died of cancer in 1997.   The disease took him in a little over two years of up’s and down’s and painful treatments.   Through it, like Joseph, Dad learned to cling onto his faith.   Even up until the last time I talked with him, Dad was content with his life and realistic about his death.   “I know where I’m going.   I wish it wasn’t now, but that isn’t up to me.”   His words; not mine.

My Dad wasn’t a perfect man, and he didn’t try to be one.   He did his best.   His father did the same even as he, my grandfather, wasn’t a particularly strong example of the kind of man my father once wanted to be.  Dad worked to teach the people around him to have faith and be better.   He did his best to prepare us for hard times that would one day come.

If I as the son am more Jacob – an impetuous believer – then I remember my Dad as more Joseph:  a wise believer.   God took Joseph from obscurity to the depths to great fame.   God took my Dad from obscurity, through the hills, and to a quiet grave in a green field of white stones.  Yet I remember him as wise, and prospering, and usually laughing, and good.   I learned from my Dad to always try my hardest, and to ‘give it my all’ no matter what ‘it’ is.  And I learned from him the basics of believing, of learning how to trust God.   I’m betting Joseph could have said the same thing about his dad.

For further reading:  Genesis 50:24-25, Exodus 13:19, Joshua 24:32.

Lord, thank You for letting me be my Dad’s son, and Your created son.  Thank You for the example of Joseph, for all he did.

 

Practical Proverbial, from Mark, 3 February

On the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread, when it was customary to sacrifice the Passover lamb, Jesus’ disciples asked him, “Where do you want us to go and make preparations for you to eat the Passover?” So he sent two of his disciples, telling them, “Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him. Say to the owner of the house he enters, ‘The Teacher asks: Where is my guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ He will show you a large room upstairs, furnished and ready. Make preparations for us there.” The disciples left, went into the city and found things just as Jesus had told them. So they prepared the Passover. Mark 14, verses 12-16.

If you don’t know the story of the Last Supper, then my prayer for this is that you learn something about it.   I’m not yet going to dive into the deep spiritual meaning that Jesus’ Spirit imbues in each of us through His real presence in the elements of bread and wine; relax, peeps, we’ll get there.   Instead, let’s just focus a bit on the history of it.

You know what I think about coincidences (in case you’ve forgotten, it’s ‘there aren’t any’). It’s no coincidence that Jesus would use the ceremony of the Passover seder to give His gift of the Holy Supper. The rich symbolism of Passover was ancient even in Jesus’ day; to paraphrase C.S. Lewis, “this is deep, old magic.” BEFORE freeing the Israelites from slavery in Egypt, while they were watching the Egyptians suffer through the ten plagues (that were designed to inspire Pharaoh free God’s chosen people), God came to Moses and commanded him to paint lamb’s blood on the lintels and doorposts of every Hebrew home.   The Hebrews were to stay inside their homes and eat a meal of lamb, unleavened bread, and bitter herbs while God’s angel of death passed over each home where it saw the entryway blood.

Read that again and let it sink in, then consider the story with these words.

While they were still in their sins, God personally came to sinner slaves and, through the blood of an innocent lamb on the entrance to their hearts, purposefully forgot to kill those inside.   To commemorate this, the sinners followed God’s command to eat a meal that would remember this action of God’s holy grace. Lamb signifying the death of an innocent; unleavened bread to remember freeing them in haste from their sins; bitter herbs to remember the unsatisfying taste of their slavery to sin. Blood that God would see and remember their sins no more. The meal became a milestone in every believer’s life.

Sound familiar?

The first Passover happened over a thousand years before the life of Christ.   And every year since they had been delivered, even when in captivity in Babylon then dispersed in the diaspora, the Jewish descendants of those Hebrew slaves had eaten this meal in remembrance.   Jesus the man was a descendant of Israelites; so were His disciples.   So, on that Maundy Thursday, the night before He was murdered on Good Friday, Jesus used the ecclesiastical, spiritual, historical and personally emotional significance of the Passover meal to institute what we Christians know as Holy Communion. It’s not a coincidence.

Noodle that today, then give thanks and glory to God.

Lord Jesus, thank You for using the beauty of Passover for Your Last Supper and Your Holy Communion.

Read Mark 14, verses 12-26.