Keep the feasts !! Abundant feasts !!

18 02 2011

DAY FORTY-NINE : Exodus 23 v. 1 – 24 v. 18; Mark 3 v. 31 – 4 v. 29; Psalm 22 v. 22 – 31

EXODUS 23 – great ‘laws’ about not spreading malicious untruths, about taking back an enemy’s stray donkey, or helping him with his sick ox; don’t get involved in false charges; don’t accept bribes; don’t oppress foreigners (aliens, again !).
Sabbath – leave the land (including vineyards and olive groves) unploughed in its seventh year (offer its produce to the poor). Rest on the seventh day (and your household). Be careful to keep these rules, and don’t entertain other ‘gods’.

FEAST OF UNLEAVENED BREAD – annual celebration remembering the exodus from Egypt, involving eating yeast-free bread for seven days.
FEAST OF HARVEST – when the firstfruits are presented to God.
FEAST OF INGATHERING – at the end of the year, when all is gathered.

everyone to celebrate these festivals, offering just what is prescribed, “the best of the firstfruits of your soil to the house of the Lord your God.”

(not sure about the need to implore people not to cook a young goat in its mother’s milk – who would do such a thing !!)

There is an angel provided by God to lead the way (‘my Name is in him’), and there will be signs (e.g. hornets) to show how God will remove, bit by bit, the Amorites, Hittites (etc. etc.) from the land, to fulfil His promise to let them dwell there. The Israelites are not form any pact or covenant with these peoples and are not to entertain their gods.

EXODUS 24 –  When Moses returns to the people, and tells them all God’s said, they proclaim their allegiance with one voice, “Everything the Lord has said we will do.” Hoorah !!
Moses builds an altar next morning at the foot of the mountain – and twelve stone pillars representing the twelve tribes.
Burnt offerings and fellowship offerings are sacrifices (bulls).
The Book of the Covenant is read and everyone says “Yes”!
The people are sprinkled with ‘the blood of the covenant’ (cp Jesus’ ‘blood of the new covenant’).
The leaders go up and ‘see God’ – standing on a pavement of sapphire, as clear as sky.
Moses and his assistant, Joshua, go up the mountain to collect the stone tablets with the law written on.
Moses is on the mountain for six days before he’s called into the cloud of God’s presence, where he stays for forty days and nights (took some time to sort the tablets of stone….think how much shorter time would have been had Moses had all the communication gadgets available to us today…emailed in a matter of seconds !!).

It is interesting to me to note the blood of the covenant sprinkled over the people after giving their wholehearted assent to the laws God’s giving, and the link to the new covenant in Jesus’s blood. The forty days and nights in God’s presence on the mountains, and Jesus’s forty day excursion into the wilderness. These are momentous events in the old testament.

MARK – Yesterday, Jesus’s family were concerned for His mental well-being; here, today, they are struggling to get to Him (maybe they still want to ‘control Him’). Jesus’ words sound harsh (especially for His family), but He is being radically inclusive here, inviting anyone who does the will of God to be family with Him.

Parable of the Sower – again, as in Matthew’s gospel, this fantastic story, drawing us into considering the lay of the land in our lives, to receive God’s word and bear fruit, is told on a boat to the crowds on the shore. Later, his disciples get His ‘meaning’.

I found myself reflecting on the Israelites’ unanimous “Yes” to God when presented with the commandments, but knowing that some will have ‘ears to hear’, and others will be like the path, others like the rocky soil, others like thorny ground. Not much has changed. Will the soil of our heart be clear enough for God’s word to take root, grow and bear fruit – and see what abundant fruit grows in the good soil.
Oh Lord, clear the ground. Give me ears to hear.

Don’t hide the light – let it shine – it’s there to expose darkness.
Be careful what you listen to.
You will get what you dish out.

The farmer sows the seed, but then waits for it to grow – stalk, ear, then grain – before taking up the sickle to harvest it.
In the Kingdom, God sows, and patiently waits. There will be a harvest !

PSALM – God is to be praised for His faithfulness to His people, descendants of Jacob, of Israel. He feeds the poor, those who seek Him will live for ever, all people will come to praise Him, He rules over every nation. The past and the future will be filled with praise, rich feasting, humble bowed-down worship. Hallelujah.

My recreated thoughts :

Lord of harvest, grant that we
Wholesome grain and pure may be!



18 02 2011

DAY FORTY-EIGHT : Exodus 21 v. 1 – 22 v. 31; Mark 2 v. 18 – 3 v. 30; Proverbs 5 v. 1 – 14

EXODUS 21 – Okay, now we’re into all sorts of ‘laws’.

Firstly around how to treat servants, setting them free in their seventh year, redeeming those who displease their master, making permanent servants of those who make their home (get a wife and have children) within the master’s household. There’s protection, too, for the servant who is married off to the master’s son, even if he marries someone else.

Secondly, ‘personal injuries’ (oh, how I detest those Personal Injury Claim adverts!!). Premeditated, planned murder is to lead to a death sentence (it’s for the judges to decide if it’s unintentional, in which case the murderer is banished).
Death sentence for : attacking parents, kidnapping, cursing parents.
Compensation for : injured person’s loss of time
Punishment for attacking a slave if he dies, but no punishment if he recovers (‘since the slave is his property’)
v. 23 : “life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot……” – there it is in print. I remember my Hebrew professor telling us that this was more to limit the punishment (i.e. you can’t inflict further injury on someone beyond what they’ve done to you). Of course, Jesus goes further in His teaching, using this verse to lead His disciples beyond it to a place of turning the other cheek (Matt. 5).
Freedom is the correct compensation for a servant who is wounded by her / his master.
A bull that attacks and kills a person is to be put to death. The owner might also be put to death if the animal has injured others and the owner has taken no steps to prevent it happening again.
30 shekels is the compensation price to the master of a slave who has been gored to death by a bull.
Compensation is to be paid if someone digs a pit and an animal owned by another falls into it – I loved the phrase, “he must pay (the animal owner) for the loss, but the dead animal will be his” – how to get your very own dead donkey!!

EXODUS 22 – Property is to be protected by laws. There’s a four (or five) fold payback for stealing a sheep (or ox); if a thief is hit and dies whilst breaking in, the defender is not guilty of murder, unless it’s in daylight (giving the defender some benefit of the doubt); a thief will be sold into slavery if he is unable to pay back what he’s stolen; payback if your animals graze on another person’s land; payback for arson attacks; the judges to decide on difficult cases of possessions which have been lent and lost or stolen, or of lost livestock turning up in someone else’s flocks; difficult cases, too, where an animal is placed in safekeeping with another and comes to harm; if an animal is hired, the cost of the hire should cover any loss.

Social responsibility – bride-price to be paid for sleeping with a virgin, unbetrothed, and she will become the man’s wife (unless her father forbids it); death penalty for sorceresses, for those who do ‘inappropriate things’ with animals, sacrificing to other gods; there’s protection, however, for the alien (from another region, not necessarily another planet….but who knows !), widows and orphans (severe punishment for those who take advantage of the vulnerable); lend without interest (don’t be like those nasty moneylenders); don’t blaspheme God, or your ruler; give to God; don’t eat bad meat!
“You are to be my holy people.”

There it is – all these rules are to establish the Israelites as God’s chosen, holy people. The significance of many of the laws is that there is limited ‘restitution’ (putting right the injury committed) rather than vengeance. There are severe consequences for doing what God has forbidden. Holiness is what sets God’s people apart.

MARK – Jesus tackles the issue of why His disciples aren’t fasting, like John’s. He says that His disciples will fast when He (the bridegroom) is no longer with them…
Something new is happening (new wine in new wine skins), and it won’t fit into the old skins.
When the Pharisees challenge Jesus on His picking of corn on the Sabbath, He reminds them that “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath….the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.”
When the Pharisees are ready to catch Jesus out as He heals on the Sabbath in the synagogue, Jesus asks them a catch-22 question, which traps them in their own trap, and they remain silent.
Jesus feels compassion for the man with the shrivelled hand, but anger at the stubborn hearts of the Pharisees.
And WOW, by the middle of chapter three they are planning how to kill Jesus.

However, He is drawing crowds wherever He goes, and He has a boat ready to get away from the many, many people who are crowding to be healed. Evil spirits react immediately when they come into Jesus’ presence, with a shout of “You are the Son of God” – I guess Jesus doesn’t want the word to be spreading through them, so he gives strict orders that they tell no-one.
(Note that Jesus doesn’t deny He is the Son of God – there are some who argue that He never said He was – but it does sound pretty emphatic here).

Jesus calls the twelve apostles – it is amazing to think that the Son of God chooses these twelve men to accompany Him, and to become His witnesses, learning from Him. They are a mixed bunch, including Judas, and a reminder that God calls all sorts, and sees potential in people beyond what is obvious to many. How awesome, though, to be called by name, to serve the King of kings.

On another occasion, when Jesus is surrounded by a large crowd, His family want to protect Him (‘to take charge of Him’), worrying for all that is happening, and worrying about His state of mind.
The Pharisees are spreading harmful stories about His being possessed by Beelzebub (prince of demons), because of all this demonic activity wherever Jesus goes. Jesus talks with them about a ‘kingdom divided against itself’ to show that He can’t be demon-possessed to be the one driving out demons. Also, that there is a blasphemy (He will be aware of their charges of blasphemy, claiming to be the Son of God) which denies the work of the Holy Spirit, one He calls an ‘eternal sin’.

It is fascinating for us to see how quickly Jesus has followers and opponents as one and the same time, and how He turns their charges against Him to put the spotlight on them. The Master at work.

PROVERBS – the reader is warned of the dangers of stepping towards adultery, sweet though it may seem initially, it’s the path to death, the grave…..there are choices and consequences, and the WISE ones heed God’s wisdom and insight to ‘maintain discretion’ and ‘preserve knowledge’.

My recreated thoughts :

As you called Your first disciples
In their boats on Galilee
See me standing here, before You,
Saying, “Here I am, send me.”