Psalm 144:4 Man is like a breath; his days are like a fleeting shadow.

Monthly Archives: January 2010

Sacrifice (part 2) – Christ’s Sacrifice

(Part one is here)

The first part dealt with the God who calls an end to human sacrifice. Which sparks the question: “then why did he ‘sacrifice‘ his son on the cross?”

Here is one possible way to understand this seeming paradox.

As a parent, how can you expect your children to obey you if you don’t show them an example?
How can you possibly expect your children to have good manners and be polite if you yourself are not well mannered and polite?
How many children do you know that at a young age did not imitate their parents to a degree?
As a parent, how can you possibly expect your children, when they grow up, to go out and work in a job to earn a living, or to be hard-working housekeeping parents themselves if you have never lifted a finger to do housework or gone out to be a breadwinner?

It’s to do with good stewardship – using the God-given talent you have to the best of your abilities and taking responsibility for your life. Children who see their parents behave in this way are much more likely to grow into adults that act responsibly and pull their weight appropriately.

So what does that have to do with God ‘sacrificing’ Jesus on the cross?

Admittedly, there are lots more layers to this act, but this particular layer, I believe is about setting an example.

Jesus says in Luke 9:23-24

“If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it.”

This is not a small thing to ask, it is actually a very big thing to ask.
So that God is prepared to give up to death on a cross his only son who is the most loved and dearest in all the world is God setting us an example.

God is saying “anything I ask you to do I am prepared to do myself first.” Jesus ‘sacrifice’ is not to do with human sacrifice, and God is not ‘inconsistent’ in the act of Christ’s death as ‘a sacrifice of atonement’ (Romans 2:25-26).

God is showing us a divine principle of parenting – an example.

God says, in the death of Jesus “I am prepared to sacrifice my son for you, will you be prepared to sacrifice anything for me?”

What does he want us to sacrifice? Something of ourselves, possibly the something that we hold most dearly and love the most that is getting in the way of a deeper relationship with him.

Romans 12:1 (The Message)
So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him.

Part 3

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The parable in Matthew 13:24-29 of ‘the wheat and the tares’ is perhaps one of the most simple and easy to understand metaphors that Jesus uses.
There is, it seems, little below the surface, especially after Jesus explains it in verses 36-43.

The weight of it only really just struck me recently, and following on from my post “Love and Approval”, the message is once again consistent.

We are the wheat and the tares. ‘We’ being anyone living the world in any era or age. ‘We’ being anyone of any age, gender, size, colour, religious persuasion, sexual orientation, any one with past, present or future sins, any state of mind, health, finances or socio-economic standing.

So, ‘we’ are not the workers or the farmer in this parable.

What does that really mean on the deepest level?

To me, it is about accepting the God is and will be the judge. Not us.

Our Job is to get growing, together with everyone else, and maybe (to bend and twist the parable into places where it is not leading at all) we might be able to influence a tare to mutate into wheat.

In the end though, we don’t know who is ‘wheat’ and who is ‘tare’ which is fortunate really because I don’t feel equipped to make that judgement call!

Psalm 98:9
let them sing before the LORD, for he comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness and the peoples with equity.

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God’s Hands are Tied

In the beginning, God gave human kind one rule:

Genesis 2:17
“you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil”

and fairly soon after that, humankind broke the one rule.

So, to make it ‘easier’ or maybe clearer?, God introduced the Ten Commandments, of which there were actually 613 rules.(google it)

Lets face it, that’s a pretty tall order and there wasn’t likely to be anyone that could keep them all, so then God introduced Jesus to us – His way of showing Himself to us in a way we would understand (thank you Mike Foster). Jesus condensed the 613 down to two rules:

Luke 10:27
He answered: ” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’ ; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ “

(we won’t get distracted by the fact that he added ‘mind’ to the quote from Deuteronomy 6:5)

And we still find it pretty much impossible to do that.

“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart…”

Put your hand up if you can say you do that all the time.

However few or however many rules we are given, we find it very hard to follow them for whatever reason. God’s hands are tied, we are failures at following even the simplest of rules or commands. Sometimes I feel (especially when looking at the 613 of the Torah) that we are supposed to be overwhelmed by the impossibility of it all and thus surrender to God and his invitation to provide a saviour who will do the work for us and live the life we could never manage.
David captures this so graphically in a kind of beautiful and yet tragic and very bleak way in Psalm 109, most notably in verses 26 & 27

Help me, O LORD my God;
save me in accordance with your love.

Let them know that it is your hand,
that you, O LORD, have done it.

Perhaps its time we held our hands up and surrendered our inability to follow God’s rules, and let him do the work in us and through us instead of struggling on in our own strength / weakness (depending on how you look at it).

Romans 8:26
In certain ways we are weak, but the Spirit is here to help us. For example, when we don’t know what to pray for, the Spirit prays for us in ways that cannot be put into words.

Sacrifice (part 1) – Ending Sacrifice

Genesis 22:1-18 is, on the surface, a startling, disturbing and somewhat confusing story.
In short, after God gives Abraham and Sarah a son in their old age, God tells Abraham to go to a certain mountain and offer Isaac (their son) as a burnt offering. Abraham goes and just as he lifts the knife, God says “stop, there’s a ram caught in the thicket behind you, use that instead.” So the Ram gets offered, Isaac is spared and God praises Abraham for his obedience and faith.

Yes, it is a weird story and one that has made a lot of people question the whole “God thing”, in as much as “if this God is so Loving why would he put someone through that, why would he ask that of someone” etc. etc.

To understand this passage properly, we must look at the cultural context. Abraham lived as a nomad in lands that were full of other people that worshipped other gods. A number of these gods, notably Molech required child sacrifices as part of worshipping them. Abraham would have been very familiar with this concept, very knowledgeable about the practices of these gods and their followers. Therefore, when God asks Abraham to take Isaac to the mountain and offer him as a sacrifice, it is likely that he wasn’t shocked or surprised, he probably thought: “well, all the other gods ask it of their followers, why not this one?”

What would have been surprising for Abraham was the moment when the angel of the Lord called out to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham… Do not lay a hand on the boy. Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.”

Abraham was just about to kill Isaac and he gets told to stop just at the last moment, leaving him probably temporarily confused.

God was not playing a mean trick on Abraham, he was not messing with his head, and he was not just testing his faith and obedience.

God was making an announcement to Abraham and to the rest of ‘future history’ from that point onwards. The announcement was of two things:

Firstly that “Child sacrifice stops here with this God, he is not interested in ‘consuming your children’ this God does not want human sacrifice.”
Secondly that “This God is the provider and redeemer, he is the one who provides for all the needs of his followers, even though the journey may be sometimes painful and hard”.

When we grasp the historical and cultural context of this story, we can see much more of what is being done in the life of Abraham and Isaac (who was probably a strong man in his 20s by then).

God proclaims an end to human sacrifice and the continual provision to all that rely on him, and incidentally, many that try to rely on themselves.

(Part 2 Here)

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