Friday, August 5, 2016

5 August 2016
“So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them, male and female he created them.” Genesis 1:27 (NRSV).
“For you are a people holy to the Lord your God; the Lord your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on earth to be his people, his treasured possession.” Deuteronomy 7:6 (NRSV)
“Hear the word of the Lord, O people of Israel;
for the Lord has an indictment against the inhabitants of the land.
There is no faithfulness or loyalty,
and no knowledge of God in the land.” Hosea 4:1 (NRSV)

            Today we come to the final two beatitudes, and persecution. Before we consider these final blessings I want to review a little bit of our history. For the next couple days, without getting too theological, I hope to sort of lay some groundwork-maybe even make a case-for why we should, as God’s people, expect some persecution-or at least opposition-in our lives. We will be brief; Monday we return to Matthew.
            Beginning with Genesis 3 we sense the presence of someone or something or some force opposed to God. We are not told where it comes from; only that an attempt is made to create doubt, to sow the seeds of mistrust, to thwart God’s plan. The serpent makes its accusation-“did God really say…He knows you will be like Him…” Humankind betrays God for what looked like a better deal and the rest, as they say, is history. Opposition to God has been established; it will not be going away any time soon.
            But God does not give up on His creatures. Time after time He calls them out and makes His covenants with them: with Noah; with Abraham; with Israel; with David. Always the promise is the same-believe, obey and you will be blessed. “I will walk among you, and will be your God…”; “you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Leviticus 26:12, Exodus 19:6, NRSV). Note the language here. I will be with you. You will show the nations who I am. I will make you priests; set you apart-you will represent the nations before me; you will mediate my presence to them. Listen to me and I will bless you greatly. The idea was that the nations will see all this and say, “Wow, what a great God. What can we do to be blessed in that way? Compared to your God, our puny, lifeless gods of wood and stone are nothing”.
            Well, it didn’t quite work out that way. God promised blessings but He also promised curses for disobedience. The force opposed to God-the accuser, ever vigilant to expose our weaknesses, relentless in his efforts to subvert God’s good plan, ever desiring to see us miserable -had his way. Israel failed to demonstrate God. The promised blessings gave way to promised curses. God sent His prophets to remind His people of the covenant; to make God’s legal case before His rebellious people. All to no avail. The accuser accuses-“see, I told you they would reject you”. Finally the LORD leaves the Jerusalem temple (Ezekiel 10:18-19). It seems as though God no longer dwells with His people, as if He has finally given up.
            You see the conflict here-God creating a people who will show what He is really like by living according to His instruction; the opposition force doing everything in its power to ruin the plan. The stage is set. Tomorrow we will take a quick look God’s return; the opposition’s reaction and how the early church was affected. Monday we go back to Matthew.

May the Lord bless you and keep you this day. JRG

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