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Posts Tagged ‘grace’

Is there grace for me here?

This is the singular question I asked upon joining the membership of a church five years ago.  This was my primary concern because, ultimately, a place where the gospel is preached must be a place where grace is extended to all people – not just some.  Not only that, but I know my own desperate need for grace.

After several months of feeling left completely out of the grace equation, I felt I had to ask.  When I looked around, I recognized that others were afforded love and grace that was continually, purposefully withheld from me personally.  Think junior high.  In junior high, one is very keen to the fact that they are not part of the accepted group.   It is an obvious observation because when the pariah walks in, she is avoided.  She sees them talking to everyone but her.  It doesn’t take too long to figure out that, no matter how many times she invites them, they are never coming over and that she will never be invited by them.  No matter what she does, she will never be good enough to meet their standards or be a part of whatever it is they are doing.

Still, we joined this particular church as members and continued to be avoided and accused by men who should have loved us; men who weekly claimed to offer grace, love, forgiveness, and mercy to all alike.

Finally, the initial red flag I had feared from the beginning was realized as right as rain.  I found that there was not grace for me or my family there.  Others, perhaps, but not us.  We were unmistakably avoided, repeatedly accused, and eventually slandered and excommunicated for reasons no one cared to discuss with us personally.

Sometimes people just don’t prefer you.  In these times, any offense will do.  Any irritation becomes criminal.  Every disagreement is grounds for nothing short of divorce.  When our hearts are hardened, whether our gracelessness is displayed toward a people group, a race, a religion, or an individual whom we simply do not prefer, the deceit within our hearts will justify almost anything including gossip, slander, maligning, misrepresenting, hatred, oppression, injury, and even murder.  Yes, this is the root of the transgression of the sixth commandment: You shall not murder. (Exodus 20:13)

(Read and watch more on that here: https://lorirodeheaver.wordpress.com/2017/05/25/command-number-six-you-shall-not-murder/  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2jjfBYaQjnQ)

Sometimes preachers get sent to preach to people they simply do not prefer.  Yesterday, I watched, in living color, the story of a man sent to preach to a group of people he hated.  When God called him to the task, he refused it.  He ran in the opposite direction as fast as he possibly could.  He got into some “deep” trouble and he ended up doing exactly what the Lord had told him to do in the first place…but he was NOT happy about it.  In fact, he was so angry when those no-gooders repented and believed the truth of God that he wanted to die.  His name was Jonah.

But what would cause a God-fearing, scripture-loving, truth-telling man of God to hate the very people he had been sent to preach to?

The Ninevites were not nice people.  They were cruel, ruthless, wrath-bearing killers.  They were all kinds of evil.  They were not part of God’s elect Jewish nation.  They did not follow the Law of Moses and the only sacrifices they made were men, women, and children from other people’s families.

Jonah, on the other hand, did all the right things.  From childhood, Jonah loved God and his people.  He prayed; he served; he did good works; he followed the law; he obeyed God.  Surely he was entitled to things those evil people were not – things like God’s love, grace, forgiveness, and mercy —right?

Wrong.  Funny thing about love, grace, forgiveness, and mercy – no one deserves them.  God gives them as he wills to whomever he wills.  It is not our call despite any position or privilege we may or may not have within God’s church.  Jonah was a prophet who heard the very voice of God for himself and even he did not have authority or preference when it came time for God to pass out his mercy, forgiveness, love, and grace.

(You can read more about Jonah here: https://lorirodeheaver.wordpress.com/2017/06/21/running-away-from-gods-will/ http://www.lulu.com/shop/lori-rodeheaver/tomato-sandwich-rebellion-one-little-girls-journey-through-the-book-of-jonah/paperback/product-21012747.html )

Yesterday I received a letter from the second church who chose to avoid, accuse, and condemn me personally for reasons I have yet to be told.  As I sit wondering what on earth I did to cause so many people to hate and exclude me, I can only think of Jonah.  Regardless of whether I am indeed the worst sinner in the world and deserving of this kind of dismissal, the question that begs an answer is why?  What is the reason and why won’t anyone show me that reason so I might be able to see it and repent?  Isn’t repentance always the goal of excommunication?  Where are my accusers and why are they not accusing me of that which I must repent lest I be lost and damned?  Better yet, why are they not preaching the gospel to me in truth and love?  Am I beyond help?  Is anyone?

Oh, don’t get me wrong.  I have been accused -always and ever accused.  Yet, none of the accusations made against me have been specific to any certain word or deed I have supposedly done.  All accusations and charges against me personally have been just that – personal attacks meant to injure and abuse.  No facts or specific situations wherein I have been found guilty have ever been brought up to me or discussed.  All accusations have been generalized, vague, broad-brush character assassinations.  No specifics; no examples.  And that’s how you falsely accuse someone without telling them why; without giving them an opportunity to reconcile, to be forgiven, to be restored, and to be a part of your fellowship.  That is how you exalt yourself to the position of judge, jury, executioner, and, yes, god himself.  That is how you rid your life of those you do not prefer.  I believe the Biblical term is “favoritism” and “partiality.”

Nevertheless, I know my own heart.  I know beyond the shadow of a doubt that I am not entitled to God’s favor.  I do not deserve grace or mercy or love or forgiveness.  The very nature of those gifts precludes merit altogether anyway.  So, if those who claim to be God’s people do not love and accept me, I have no grounds by which to argue for a seat at their lunch table.  I am a sinner and nothing more.  I am Nineveh and I deserve nothing but God’s wrath and judgment.

The truth is, the very men who tell me and my family that we are not welcome in God’s church must, in doing so, recognize that neither would they be if we use only the law to determine inclusion.

Thank God for His mercy!  Thank God for His love!  Thank God for His grace!  Thank God for His forgiveness! I may not ever be on the guest list at any church’s preferred people parties on Sunday mornings, but I know that my name is written in His Book of Life.  Thank God!

As for Redeeming Grace Fellowship, I have a few questions and a very few things I need you – and anyone unknowingly walking into your church – to know.

Dear Dana and members of Redeeming Grace Fellowship,

My family and I love you all very much.  We forgive you for all the things you have done to hurt us.  We ask that you would do the same for us.  We want only reconciliation and restoration. We don’t understand the reasons you have chosen to avoid us, abuse us, and remove us because you have not told us those reasons.  The silent treatment we have received and the absolute avoidance you all have conducted over the past year and even beforehand is not a Biblical method of dealing with erring brothers and sisters.  The Bible teaches us that if we have a grievance or if someone hurts or offends us, we are to go to that person individually, privately, and talk to them about how we feel we have been wronged or how we feel that person is sinning.  The goal of correction and discipline within the church is always repentance and reconciliation, not avoidance, exclusion, and exercising the silent treatment when asked for reasons for the avoidance and exclusion.

Telling your members they are not qualified to pray with other members is not a Biblical practice.  Telling your members they are not called to do ministry within the church to which they belong is not a Biblical practice.  Calling an emergency meeting of the entire church and having a session of gossip and slander about members who are not present is not a Biblical practice.  Avoiding accountability after doing such things is not a biblical practice.  Pretending nothing happened after doing these things and refusing to talk it over to find the root problem is not a Biblical practice.  Refusing to answer phone calls when questioned about why you feel the need to exclude, avoid, and remove members of your congregation is not a Biblical practice.  Speaking with the entire congregation about reasons why certain individuals are members of your church but are not welcome to attend any longer while simultaneously refusing to talk to the individuals themselves about these things is not a Biblical practice.  Failing to clearly address the sins of members and correct, pray with, and help them understand what they are doing wrong, your concern for them, and their need for repentance is the opposite of what the Bible teaches leaders in the church to do.  Telling your members it is inappropriate to pray with them about the unrest, injury, and overt division within your church is antithetical to what the Bible teaches. Telling a member that she is the problem when she is asking for clarity about why she is being removed is not a sufficient, helpful answer.  Telling her she is being divisive because she openly disagrees with a man who is telling the congregation that they cannot use Biblical methods is not a valid accusation.  Telling her she is divisive for attending a member meeting as a member is not a valid accusation.  Having the congregation vote to remove members after refusing to speak to those members for months – all after telling the congregation they are not welcome to attend despite their membership is not a Biblical practice.  Sending a letter informing individuals that they are no longer members without responding to their numerous, serious inquires asking why and when these matters could be discussed is not a Biblical practice.

These actions, and many other actions like them, which have all been practiced in your assembly are not Biblical, Redeeming Grace Fellowship.  Repent!  Please, please repent.  Please speak to us.  Please seek the Lord and the scriptures and see whether the things you have done to us and others in your assembly have been done according to the Scriptures.  The Lord is not pleased with leaders who abuse His people.  He will not bless your assembly unless you repent of these actions and attitudes.  He will not bless a church when they are running away from obedience to Him.

A church without grace, love, mercy, and forgiveness is not a church.  By definition, a place void of these essential elements is properly termed a club, not a church.

Lastly, if this excommunication were Biblical, would that not mean that we could not join any other church until the matter was reconciled with you and we repented of the grievous sin which caused it?  In your letter, you encourage us to go elsewhere and “peaceably get involved.”  There is no peace for an excommunicated member who refuses to repent to the point of being thrown out of a church.  That ex-member must make peace with God first, correct?  He or she must repent!  He cannot just go to a new church and “peaceably get involved” can he?  How?  He is at odds with God and man according to his spiritual authorities who have deemed him anathema!  Please, please explain this to us.  Either we need to reconcile with you all according to whatever charges you have against us and repent or we cannot go anywhere else to any other church and “peaceably get involved.”  Sinners must repent and be forgiven before peace can be made between they and God and others.

To that end I ask, why has not one single member or any leader contacted us after our many attempts to discuss these things and be reconciled?  (Save one couple who has since rescinded their own membership due to these numerous, unbiblical actions and practices.) Do not your own bylaws as well as the scripture text state that every effort must be made to bring a person to repentance before excommunication?  Why has that never once – not one single time! – been done by anyone?  Even criminals must be told what they are being charged with and why they are under arrest.  How can you claim to love Christ while hating your brother and sister? If the gospel is true, why can’t we be reconciled to one another as the gospel calls us to do?  And lastly, if you can do this to us – people who you have so many things in common with from skin color to theological understanding to socio-economic status to family dynamics – what will you do to those who are unlike you in many other ways and how will they feel when they come to your club?

In summation, we have but one single question for all of you individually and I do hope you will all come to us with an answer for yourselves.  It is this: WHERE IS THE LOVE?  This is God’s house!  These things ought not be so!

We love you no matter what you do or don’t do in regards to these injuries.  We forgive you and we pray for you daily.  We miss and love you.  We want only to be restored to all of you rightly.  Please consider your actions and do right by the Word and Our Savior, Jesus Christ.  Kyrie eleison.

In Christ,
Tim and Lori Rodeheaver

 

 

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 Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” ~John 3:1-2

We.  Nicodemus speaks in plural.  This religious leader is not just speaking for himself.  He says, “…we know…”  It is very likely he is speaking on behalf of himself and several, if not many, religious leaders of his day.  The Pharisees.  They knew.  They knew, at the very least, that Jesus was from God – yet – they still hated him.  They still sought ways to discredit and undermine him.  They still publicly challenged and slandered him.

This is amazing!  Jealousy makes power-hungry religious men do terrible things even though they know better.

Jesus takes Nicodemus immediately to the reason and the solution for why he doesn’t know him for who he actually is.  Jesus is not just from God – he is God.  The reason Nicodemus doesn’t know that is because he has not been regenerated by the power of God.  He is a just another guy who is interested in religion.  He lacks spiritual insight and wisdom precisely because he has not come to know Christ truly yet.  He knows all about religion.  He fails to know God.  This is tragic.

What does Jesus do?

He wastes no time explaining who he is or setting Nicodemus straight about his identity.  Jesus gives him the solution.  “You must be born again.”  He proceeds to preach the gospel to Nicodemus adding that it is quite peculiar that he is in a position and in fact is a teacher of God’s people and yet has no understanding of the things of God. (verse 10)

Nicodemus is bewildered.  He is confused.  He is astonished at what Jesus tells him saying, “How can these things be?” (verse 9)

After Jesus makes the point that a teacher of God’s people ought to know these things, he reveals the real issue in Nicodemus’s life.

 “Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you do not receive our testimony.12 If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things?”~ John 3:11-12

You don’t believe me, Nicodemus.  I have repeatedly told you and showed you the truth in simple, lisping lessons but you simply do not believe it.  If you don’t believe me about things on earth – things you can see – how will you believe about things in heaven – things you have not seen?!  He gives Nicodemus the gospel as well as the reason men just like Nicodemus do not believe it.

We tend to forget that this whole John 3:16 business is in the context of Jesus talking to one of the most religious men of his day.  Think about that.  Consider the implications of that truth.

So what does Jesus say to this very religious teacher guy?  Grace is here – but, as Jesus has already told this man, it is for those who believe.  You do not believe.  Light is here.  The problem is not that you do not have enough light.  You love darkness.  That is the problem.  And why do you love darkness?  Because you’re hiding.  You are afraid that your wrong deeds will be exposed.  You care more about how you look on the outside than you do about whether you are in God’s favor.  You would rather hide behind religion than come into the light and be made clean.

The main idea here is that Jesus is not the one hiding.  God is waiting and willing no matter how or when we come to inquire of him.  We are always the ones who hide from God.  Nicodemus comes at night because he is hiding.  Likely he fears his religious friends seeing him talk to Jesus – because God forbid one of them get to know Jesus rightly and for who he truly is.  They were much more content to make him who they needed him to be in order to keep their sin hidden and their people – their followers – deceived about who they really were.

Jesus is not the one hiding.  The religious men are hiding.  When asked indirectly who he really is, Jesus pulls no punches.  He tells the inquirer the solution and the problem for why he does not know the answer to his own question.  Jesus does not have to say, “I am God” because it is extremely clear that Nicodemus has already repeatedly refused to believe the truths that would lead to that conclusion.  Instead, Jesus mercifully gives him the solution.

Here’s your problem, Nicodemus.  Here’s what needs to happen in your own life, Nicodemus.  There’s grace, Nicodemus.  Believe and be saved, Nicodemus.  If you do not believe, you are already condemned despite all your religious work and knowledge, Nicodemus.

Have you ever had someone try to be your friend secretly?  Or treat you differently when others were around vs. when they were not around?  Religious people are infamous for this kind of behavior because they not only fail to recognize and believe who God is, they fail to know who they themselves are.  Therefore, they are not genuine in their dealings.  Jesus shows us how to deal with this kind of pretense.  Say this:

Here’s your problem, religious man.  Here’s what needs to happen in your own life, religious man.  There’s grace, religious man.  Believe and be saved, religious man.  If you do not believe, you are already condemned despite all your religious work and knowledge, religious man.

Jesus deals with pretense, fear, a religious spirit, and sin all in one blow.  He tells this spiritually impoverished soul the truth of the gospel and the solution to his sin problem.  He makes sure that guy knows exactly what is required of him and shows him that he has not yet been willing to do it.

God’s grace is waiting.  He wants people to come to the light.  We must believe, confess our sin in the light, and repent of our hiding it in the darkness.  God is faithful to meet us there and do a great work in our lives.  He will change us from religious pretenders – people who have (as the Bible says) a form of godliness but deny its power – and false friends to real sons and daughters; brothers and sisters of his very own.

Come to Jesus.  Confess your sin to him.  Ask forgiveness.  Allow his Holy Spirit to do his work in you and you will be a new creation.  You will be born again.  Amen.

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adultery

The seventh commandment that God gives to Moses on Mt. Sinai concerns purity and chastity within marriage.

Adultery is generally defined as a married man or woman being sexually unfaithful to their spouse.  So, infidelity.  Jesus, however, defines adultery with more detail.  He says that unfaithfulness is found even in adulterous thoughts and gazes.

 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell. ~Matthew 5:27-30

Jesus knows our hearts.  He knows what is in a man (and a woman).  He knows how easily we are enticed and entangled in sin.  Jesus knows that thoughts often lead to actions and small errors often lead to big problems.  Jesus cares enough about us and our purity to tell us the truth.

Flirting with adulterous thoughts, flirting with anyone other than our spouses, and flirting with temptation on any level in word, thought, or deed is more than enough reason to be alarmed, take heed, and repent.  These seemingly “smaller” offenses are – according to Jesus – not small.

To look is to commit adultery.  To lust is to commit adultery.

If we consider the other offenses that we commit in this kind of sin, it is not hard to see why the seeds of adultery are so important to both understand and avoid at all costs.  Jesus’ advice is to pluck out our eye or cut of our hand!  It is that dangerous.  It is that important to avoid.

When we cheat on our spouse, we steal.  We lie.  We covet.  We worship another in place of God – ourselves and our forbidden partner.  We dishonor our parents.  We break almost every commandment God set before us when we sin in this way.  Men and women in the Old Testament were stoned to death for this.

“If a man commits adultery with the wife of his neighbor, both the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death. ~ Leviticus 20:10

Death!  The penalty was death for both the man and the woman.  Now, the Pharisees tried to make it as though only the woman should be stoned but Jesus – what did he do?

but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him, and he sat down and taught them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the Law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground.But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. 10 Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11 She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.” ~John 8:1-11

We also have his example of the Samaritan woman, also known as the woman at the well, who had five husbands in John 4.  How did Jesus treat these women?  Or should I say, these kind of women?

In the first case he stood up to the bullies who hated her by stooping down in a public proclamation of his alliance with the sinner. In the second case he went the way everyone else always avoided and talked with a woman – a loose woman to boot – when it was taboo in order to teach her the truth and – get this – use her to save a whole town by her testimony!  Amazing!

Why?

Jesus knows that we are guilty of breaking this command.  The level of severity is the only difference between men.  Therefore, he does what God always does.  He gives grace to the humble and opposes the proud.  That’s why we see him siding with the adulterous women and making a point to go to the people and places others intentionally and painstakingly avoided out of superiority, pride, and religious condescension.

Yesterday my husband and I were talking about temptation.  We have both done our share of failing in this area.  Temptation is never going to go away until we die.  We talked about the verse in 1 Corinthians 10 about being careful when things seem calm and when we feel less tempted.  That’s when the enemy strikes.  But today the verse of the day on my Bible app was the following verse so I’ll just read them both.

Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. 13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. ~1 Corinthians 10:12-13

You know what this means?  It means God is faithful.  You can trust him!  Even though we will be tempted to look, to lust, to think impure thoughts, to flirt, to act scandalously – we will also be given a way out.  Every.  Single.  Time.  The way will not be some religious pretense that shuns and avoids “sinners” in order to look pious and holy on the outside and impress our religious friends.  The way will be grace for us and for the other sinners he allows in close proximity to us.

We need to get that.  We need to get it deep down in our hearts.  Jesus does not shun and avoid sinners out of pride, pretense, preference, superiority, or self-preservation EVER.  Jesus goes to them purposefully and offers grace to the humble.  It is those who think themselves too high and holy to even be in the same town with “sinners” that he deals harshly with.

So, don’t commit adultery in thought, word, or deed.  Use the escape routes God is faithful to provide when tempted.  But don’t put on a religious show just to make others think you’re not guilty of this sin.  Confess it.  Don’t hide and pretend.  We are all guilty.  There is grace for the repentant and humble in heart.

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A Poem

A Man and His Friend

Once I saw a man

I saw a man try

He tried to be wise

He tried to oblige

He tried to get the speck

right out of his eye

The man tried and he failed

The man could not fly

The man got so tired

That he started to cry

I saw a man learn

I saw him regret

I saw a man try again

to pay back his debt

Working and wearing

his body so hard

He barely had time

to look at his heart

Apologies seemed

too great a task

So penance he paid

When his accuser did ask

I got mad at the man

I hated his art

I wanted to see

Him make a new start

I hid from the man

I wished him no more

I covered my eyes

and I closed up the door

Day after day

I wondered again

Just where had he come from

and who was that man

He passed through my thoughts

Like a storm raging high

I wished he had never

wanted to fly

No more would I trust him

No more would I cry

No more would I wonder

why ever he tried

But I saw a man pray

I saw him alive

I saw a man live

When he learned how to dive

I saw and I hid and I wondered so long

I stopped trusting a moment

and proved myself wrong

I got to my senses

I laced up my boots

I prayed and I prayed

And I asked to bear fruit

I saw a man change

I saw him made new

I saw a man die

For me and for you

There is that man!

There is his friend!

I can see they met up

somewhere towards the end!

How much I do love them!

Both the man and his friend

I know my own heart

they surely can mend

I’ll wait and I’ll watch

I’ll lace up my boots

I’ll trust and I’ll seek

believing the truth

I want to remember

That man and his friend

For they are my fortress,

my Savior, my end

~Lori Rodeheaver

1/1/14

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perfection

God has just sent his people into a brand new wilderness.  He has told them two very important instructions: to remember his extreme grace and mercy toward them, and to obey Him.  He has promised that if they would but listen to Him, that he is ready and waiting to make them a kingdom of priests; a holy nation; his very own treasured possession.  Talk about making a deal they can’t refuse!  Of course, they agreed.

The next step in this “process of becoming” as we will call it, it for the prophet to instruct the people on how to prepare themselves for the coming of God Himself.

 And the Lord said to Moses, “Behold, I am coming to you in a thick cloud, that the people may hear when I speak with you, and may also believe you forever.”

When Moses told the words of the people to the Lord, 10 the Lord said to Moses, “Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow, and let them wash their garments 11 and be ready for the third day. For on the third day the Lord will come down on Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people. 12 And you shall set limits for the people all around, saying, ‘Take care not to go up into the mountain or touch the edge of it. Whoever touches the mountain shall be put to death. 13 No hand shall touch him, but he shall be stoned or shot;[a] whether beast or man, he shall not live.’ When the trumpet sounds a long blast, they shall come up to the mountain.” 14 So Moses went down from the mountain to the people and consecrated the people; and they washed their garments. 15 And he said to the people, “Be ready for the third day; do not go near a woman.” ~Exodus 19:9-15

God said that these people were to be consecrated.  The way in which God instructs this to be accomplished is that they:

1. Wash their garments.  Matthew Henry notes, “When we are to attend upon God in solemn ordinances it concerns us to sanctify ourselves, and to get ready beforehand.  Wandering thoughts must be gathered in, impure affections abandoned, disquieting passions suppressed, nay, and all cares about secular business, for the present, dismissed and laid by, that our hearts may be engaged to approach unto God…It becomes us to appear in clean clothes when we wait upon great men; so clean hearts are required in our attendance on the great God, who sees them as plainly as men see our clothes.  This is absolutely necessary to our acceptably worshiping God.”

2. Have established limits set.  They must be told with an extreme amount of clarity that these are the lines we do not cross lest we receive the severest of consequences.  No compromises will be made past these lines.  No blind eyes will be turned when any person – even any animal!!!- crosses.  No grace whatsoever will be given if there is injustice done to these unbreakable rules.  The message God was conveying here through the work of his prophet’s line drawing?  YOU DO NOT PRESUME UPON GOD’S MERCY – EVER. You want stoned?  Shot?  If you cross these lines that’s exactly what is going to happen.  Try me.

3.  Do not go near a woman.  This was a matter of purity of mind and heart.  Henry says, “In token of their devoting themselves entirely to religious exercises, upon this occasion, they must abstain even from lawful enjoyments during these three days, and not come at their wives.”

This was how they were to prepare for the coming of God.  These were the things necessary to truly “be ready” to meet him.  Here, before the law was given, God came down on the third day.  In the future, before grace was given, God was raised on the third day.  In the former, God came down to tell us what he expects of us – absolute perfection.  In the latter, God is raised up to tell us what we can expect from Him – unmitigated grace.

You simply cannot get the magnitude of that without falling down to worship Him.  WOW!!!  There are no words to aptly describe what a beautiful God we serve!

Hey world!!!  Look at HIM!!!  How awesome!  How amazing!  How merciful!  How good and great and strong and wise!  That’s MY Dad!!!

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family1

After Moses delegated responsibilities to the chosen men around him, the whole company of Israel came to a new part of the wilderness.  Just 50 days (think Pentecost) after their deliverance, God moves them from one wilderness (Sin, found on the west side of the Sinai peninsula) to another (Sinai, found on the east side of the Sinai peninsula).  Lives lived in God are lives lived one wilderness after another.  Ask John Bunyan.

Now, they had overcome enslavement (Exodus 12).  They had overcome thirst in the desert (Exodus 15:22-24).  They had overcome hunger (Exodus 16).  They had overcome fatigue by working together (Exodus 17:12).  They had overcome in battle against their enemies (Exodus 17:13).  They had overcome a poor model of leadership (Exodus 18).

They had fought with God and rebelled throughout all of those victories which were given solely by the gracious mercy of God alone.  God was faithful to these most unfaithful people.  God was acting, moving, and working mightily on behalf of his people.  Matthew Henry puts it this way, “Now observe, that the maker, the first mover, of the covenant, is God himself.  Nothing was said nor done by this stupid unthinking people themselves towards this settlement; no motion made, not petition put up for God’s favor, but this blessed charter was granted ex mero motu – purely out of God’s own good-will.  Note, in all our dealings with God, free grace anticipates us with the blessings of goodness, and all our comfort is owing, not to our knowing God, but rather to our being known of him.”

So.  They’re ready to live in the shade with their umbrella drinks, right?

Wrong.  Time to camp out in…the castle?…Beach house?…Vacation spot?….No.  Time to camp out in a brand new wilderness.  The new wilderness comes complete with instructions in preparation for the instructions.  Apparently the instructions that were being given in preparation for the instructions about to be given were both profoundly important.

So what were God’s plans for this perpetually proud and imperfect people of His?

Priesthood.

Priesthood!!! What?!  Hey, guys.  I know you don’t like to listen and you’ve grumbled and disobeyed me the whole way here but you’re all gonna be my priests.  Either God isn’t as smart as he’s made out to be or He loves us in ways we cannot even fathom.

All of them, from the least to the greatest were to become a kingdom of highly honored, holy hallelujah nation of card-carrying tangible treasures for none other than the Almighty Father of all the world.

The way that this was about to happen was by:

1. Remembering the amazing love, protections, deliverance, and providence God had shown to them, (Exodus 19:4)

and,

2. Obedience to Him (Exodus 19:5)

These are the profoundly important instructions which precede the profoundly important instructions, commonly known as the Ten Commandments.

Remember God’s un-stinking-believable grace.  Obey Him.

Henry says this: “Obey my voice.  This He is said to protest earnestly to them.  Only obey in deed, not in profession and promise only, not in pretense, but in sincerity.  God had shown them real favors, and therefore required real obedience.  He assures them of the honor he would put upon them, and the kindness he would show them, in case they did thus keep his covenant.  Then you shall be a peculiar treasure to me…he expresses it in that which was inclusive of all happiness, that he would be to them a God in covenant, and they should be to him a people.”

Plain and simple.  Do this and you will be my priests; my treasure; my glory; the apples of my very eye.

What grace!!!  Do you even know who these people are?  How they’ve sinned?  The faith they’ve lacked?  The complaining they’ve done?  The pain they’ve caused God’s prophet?  The miserable, many, misguided mistake-makers they really are?  These guys were just like us!  Still, God’s words for these particular preferred people is simply this:

“Now, therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.  These are the words that you shall speak to the people of Israel.” ~Exodus 19:5-6

WOW! WOW! WOW!

“They were brought not only into a state of liberty and honor, but into covenant and communion with God.  This, this was the glory of their deliverance, as it is of ours by Christ, that he died, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God.” (Henry)

Now that’s a God who redeems.  That’s a God of unmitigated grace.  That’s the God of Redeeming Grace.

So the prophet says those very words to the people and “all the people answered together and said, ‘All that the Lord has spoken we will do.’ And Moses reported the words of the people to the Lord.  And the Lord said to Moses, ‘Behold, I am coming to you in a thick cloud, that he people may hear when I speak with you, and may also believe you forever.'” ~Exodus 19:8-9

They listened.  They listened.  Of course we all know it didn’t last too very long but I’d say this is progress for a people ever arguing with God’s providence.

God is getting ready to do something absolutely incredible.  Buckle your seat belts, kids. It’s time to watch Daddy drive.

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