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Posts Tagged ‘redemption’

tax

In Exodus 30, Moses is instructed by God to impose a tax on God’s people.  Moses was commanded to take a census of every person twenty years and older.  Each person, regardless of wealth or poverty had to pay the same amount.  The cost was half a shekel, which compared today would have been about $10.

The reason God gave for this imposition is found in Exodus 30:12.

“When you take the census of the people of Israel, then each shall give a ransom for his life to the Lord when you number them, that there be no plague among them when you number them.”

The reason the people had to pay was that they needed redeemed.  This fee was  ransom they gave for their own lives.  The idea was to remind them of their need to be bought back and “counted” worthy.

This tax came with a warning.  Those who would not pay were in danger of being plagued.  Doubtless the illustration is the fact that we are plagued by sin when we’ll not acknowledge our need for redemption and obey God in all that he commands.

This small fee could never truly redeem them, but it pointed them to their need.  It pointed them back to Passover to the God who redeemed the from slavery and it pointed them forward to a Savior who would truly redeem them from sin.

Again, every one of God’s people – rich or poor – paid the same amount.   This makes it clear that all souls stand on level ground.  We all stand in need and the cost is uniform.

The atonement money collected was to be used to defray the expenses of God’s tabernacle and its operations.

When we take a step back and look at the big picture here, it is clear that, as all of these things were being done for God and his glory, they were simultaneously being done for God’s people and their good.  The tabernacle was built for God.  The tabernacle was built for God’s people.  The altar was built for God.  The altar was built for God’s people.  The Arc of the Covenant was built for God.  The Arc of the Covenant was built for God’s people.  The golden lamps were built for God.  The golden lamps were built for God’s people.  The priests were consecrated to serve God.  The priests were consecrated to serve God’s people.  The incense, the showbread, the tax, the veil, the oil – everything was for God, and everything was for God’s people.  God instructed all these things to show his people who he was.  God instructed all these things to show his people who they were. Amazing.

 

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water

God had been so faithful to his people.  He did many miracles, signs, and wonders.  He delivered them from their enemies.  He gave them a cloud and a fire.  He gave them an oasis.  He perpetually gave them daily bread to eat.  He gave them rest.  They fought and failed to trust him the whole way but God just keeps on blessing them anyway.

When they come to a place in the wilderness where there is no water once again, you would think they would be inclined to consider all of that goodness.  Matthew Henry reminds that, “Eaten bread must not be forgotten.”  But they do forget.  They were not inclined in the least to consider all the blessings they had been given and were continuing to receive on behalf of God himself.  Once again, the selfish desires and distrust of God and his prophet leads them into severe and serious sin.

When their need becomes great, their quarrels become evident once again.  They indict the prophet (Moses) God had given for their good.  They not only demand that he meet their needs, they malign and accuse him of ill-motives, they actually say, again – this is twice now that this crazy story is spewed from their mouths – that when he delivered them by the mighty hand of God that he did so with the singular intention of murdering them.  How absolutely absurd!

The truth is that that was precisely what they were doing to him.  Because he did not produce and provide what only God could for them, they falsely accused Moses as a result of their ill-motives.  They sought a trial and they wanted to kill him.  Essentially, they accused Moses (twice now) of doing the very (evil) things that they themselves were actually doing to him.

Isn’t it funny how that works?  The guilty turn the tables to make the innocent appear to be what they actually are.

“Many that have not only designed well, but done well, for their generation, have had their best services thus misconstrued, and their patience thereby tried, by unthinking unthankful people…Ungoverned passions, provoked by the crossing of unbridled appetites, sometimes make men guilty of the greatest absurdities, and act like madmen, that cast firebrands, arrows, and death, among their best friends.” Matthew Henry

These people question and accuse God’s prophet and that, in itself, proves that they are actually questioning and accusing God himself.  This was the man he’d given to them for blessing and intercession and deliverance and provision.  In questioning him, they question God, God’s providence, God’s provision, God’s presence, and God’s promises all at the same time.

The most amazing part of this story is not only what God does, but what the falsely accused prophet does.  Moses, who, by the way was a former murderer himself, does not argue with his accusers about their outrageous claims and charges.  Moses goes directly to God.  He cried to the Lord in his desperation and grief.  Moses seeks their good.  He does exactly what God commands and God shows up.  God puts himself on trial.  Instead of making the guilty murmurers stand before him, he stands before Moses!  He tells Moses to strike the rock.  In doing so, he is essentially taking the blow for their gross disobedience.  Not only does God put himself in the place of the guilty, he gives a blessing as he is struck.

 He is the rock.  The rock is Christ.  Christ is the rock upon whom God builds his church.  God builds his church on Christ and those who are willing to forgive when falsely accused, seek God on behalf of the guilty, absorb pain that they do not deserve, and bring a blessing afterward to the very people who sin against God and they.

 That is what God did here.  That is what Jesus did on the cross.  That is what we are called to do in his church.

Kyrie eleison

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murderer

Moses, a baby marked out for death, instead grew up as royalty under the care of those who once sought to kill him.  He was given a stellar education, position, power, and all the pleasures of Pharaoh’s house.  Still, Moses never forgot that he had been born a Hebrew.  Nothing he gained from his adoptive Egyptian family was enough to cause him to forget who he was, who they were, or where he came from.

One day, when Moses had grown up, he went out to his people and looked on their burdens, and he saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his people. 12 He looked this way and that, and seeing no one, he struck down the Egyptian and hid him in the sand. ~Exodus 2:11-12

Moses observes an act of injustice against a Hebrew slave.  All allegiance to Egypt disappears in an instant.  Moses chose to forsake all he’d been given by Egypt in order to side with his own people.  Hebrews 11:24 calls his alliance with God’s people “faith.”

Although Moses’ delivering his Hebrew brother from an abusive Egyptian foreshadows the great deliverance God would bring about through him later, it is clear that Moses’ impulsive act was actually a sinful result of righteous anger.  In an effort to stop abuse, Moses became an abuser – an not just an abuser, a murderous abuser.

It is  good that Moses grew up and matured.  It is good that Moses considered the burdens of God’s people.  It is good that Moses recognized evil and injustice.  It is good that Moses had righteous indignation over the mistreatment of his brother.  Moses likely had the right motives.  He had the right perspective.  He even had the right beliefs.  But Moses sinned.  He murdered a man.  He acted unjustly on his quest to bring about justice.  He is a prime example of doing the right thing in the wrong way.  His sin led to fear, hiding, forty years of delay, and isolation from the very purpose he was raised up to accomplish.

For a moment, let’s consider what might have been different if Moses hadn’t sinned in his anger on his mission for justice.  Is there anything Moses could have done aside from killing the abusive Egyptian man?

Perhaps he could have implored Pharaoh for justice on behalf of the Hebrews.  He could have had the abusive ruler dismissed.  Maybe he could have tried to use the position and power he had to bring about positive change in Egypt or prayed earnestly before taking such rash, irreversible action.  Would his innocence have stopped the mouth of his Hebrew accuser who asked, “Who made you a prince and a judge over us?…”  rather than repenting when Moses confronted him?  Surely he would have had more credibility in the eyes of both his Egyptian counterparts as well as his Hebrew brothers and sisters.

I digress.  Who really knows what atrocities could have been avoided if Moses hadn’t sinned so grievously in this case.  All we know is that he did – and we do, too, at times.  What we do know is that Moses’ sin delayed him.  He spent forty years in the desert.  It caused a long period of isolation from everyone and everything he knew.  That’s what sin does – even to those who begin with righteous anger, right beliefs, right perspective, and right motives.  It drives us away from the people and places we are called to love and serve.  We end up in the wilderness at the the mercy of God alone…

And maybe, just maybe, that’s not such a bad place to be when you’ve got some long, hard lessons to learn about doing things God’s way.

God redeemed Moses in that wilderness.  He gave him a family and some necessary training.  When the time came, God restored Moses and brought him back to Egypt for the very purpose he’d raised him up there for – deliverance.

When I think about Moses the murderer, I think about myself – a great sinner with a greater God.  There’s no telling what good purposes I’ve missed and delayed because of my sinful reactions to other people’s sinful actions, but I know that the God I know is the same God Moses knew.  The God who preserved baby Moses at birth preserved me at birth.  The God who gave Moses severe, unique, and serious life circumstances as prerequisites to his calling is the same God who gave me severe, unique, and serious life circumstances as prerequisites to my calling.  The one who allowed Moses to sin greatly, be restored fully, and become a real help and encouragement to his people is the same God who allowed me to sin greatly, be restored fully, and, I pray one day, will allow me to become a real help and encouragement to his people.  The same God who gave Moses a beautiful, undeserved family out of the blue clear sky gave me a beautiful, undeserved family out of the blue clear sky.

How unworthy we are!  Moses and I, that is.  How good our God is to save us, grow us, forgive us, teach us, redeem us, and use us despite our great folly and faulty foundations!

Seeing Moses as a murderer is what led me to choose to study Exodus.  There is hope in the ministry for people who fail royally – even if we’re not royal-ty like Moses.  When I see Moses, I see hope – and rightly so – Moses the deliverer is a picture of Christ our deliverer.

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george

Day 1.  Finally, it’s here.  I can hardly believe I made it.  2014 gave me tangible evidence that the valley of the shadow of death really does exist on this side of eternity.  My life has known no darkness like I experienced in the last collection of 365 days.  The lessons the Lord saw fit to teach me were more difficult and painful than I anticipated any experience to ever be.  Yet, He rescued me.  Miraculously, I live to tell about his grace from this day forward.

I’m not one much for New Year’s resolutions.  I’m more of a goal setter, I guess.  And goals are gradual steps towards an end – not usually found in laundry list form on the set “make a goal” duty day.  When I resolve to do something, it is usually more of a process which is dependent upon my circumstances and motivation on a random day of inspiration.

Nevertheless, given last year’s daunting failings, today just so happens to be that day.  Today is tangible grace.  Today proves that I serve a God of great mercy.  Today I want to celebrate his goodness and nail 2014 right up on the cross for good.  Because I have walked, ran, clawed, and cried through the valley of 2014, I know I have been remade.  I have been remade.  I am George Bailey the moment he realizes he has come back to life.  God has heard my desperate pleas to let me live again and he has saved me.  After several failed attempts by the Enemy to destroy me, I have run home safe with unmitigated gratitude.

No one and nothing can stop me from rejoicing in the God of my salvation now.  He has been so good to me even after I have been so bad to him.  I know the extent of his love and grace like never before.  Therefore, out of sheer disbelief and thanksgiving, I must resolve a few specific things today.  Ere goes my offering for 2015:

1.  Pray more.  The antecedent to my fall last year was doubtless the result of a severe lack of prayer.  I will not allow such complacent laziness to situate me in a place of spiritual vulnerability ever again.  Lack of prayer is extraordinarily dangerous.  Ask me how I know.  Prayer is the single most important activity on my agenda this year.

2.  Forgiveness.  When darkness fell upon me, the deeds that followed cut directly to my heart.  Without forgiveness, ill effects of my wrongs and the wrongs done against me will only bring more suffering.  That suffering is evidenced in bitterness, anger, jealousy, fear, anxiety, and vengeance – all of which I’ve either experienced or contemplated thus far.  I have (finally) chosen forgiveness in their stead.  I refuse to hate.  I will not retaliate.  I have been given tremendous grace and I seek to withdraw any right I thought I had to deny that same grace to even my fiercest enemies.  Forgiveness offers freedom from entrapment in the past’s pain.  Forgiveness is as much for me as it is for my enemies.

3.  Focus.  Getting caught up in the wrong things often results from a forsaken focus on the right things.  And I have so many right things in my wretchedly undeserved life.  I will pour into the beautiful people and purposes God has so generously given me.  My prayer is to stay the course diligently, with vigilance, and cease to allow distraction by the inessential.

4.  Share.  I have a story.  In fact, I have a few.  Before the year is over I will invest in the writing of the lessons the matter has brought with intent to offer hope to those whose valley is 2015, 16, or 17.  I am living proof that miracles still happen and the story of my life is surely evidence.  Restoration and redemption is possible even in the worst of circumstances.  I know because those two words are written all over my life.  Without them I would not be here writing this today.

I am praying much more.  Pray with me.

I am forgiven.  I have forgiven.  Forgive me.  Forgive with me.

I am stayed and focused on the race set before me.  Focus with me.

I have begun to share my story.  Share yours.

Welcome, 2015.  I resolve to fear no evil.

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inkeeper

As summer began to fade into fall, my familial expectations turned small.  After close to a year of three-a-days at the gym, a thirty-five pound loss, and a self-protective preoccupation, I had set my sights solely upon myself – as if they had ever been any place else, really.  After four years of marriage, at age 24, I had decided I did not want children – ever.

Somehow, the crisp air burned warm in my heart on a day where I proved as unsuspecting as I was unprepared.  A routine check offered a plain explanation for my constant fatigue and weakness with my ever-increasing high impact abdominal workouts.  The diagnosis was a consummation of all things unknown.

“You are pregnant.”

 I remember feeling out of sorts; awkward; indisposed.  Should I do something differently?  What if I fall and hurt “it?”  How do I tell my husband?  (Who, at the time, claimed to want “a whole baseball team.”)  I did not know how to act because I knew so certainly how very extraordinary that ordinary day had become.

The vulnerability I felt that night lying in bed was greater than I’d ever experienced.  I was no longer autonomous in any way.  I was someone’s mother.  The weight of that realization was overwhelming – not to mention inconvenient.  If we’re being honest, I would never have been found in any line to sign up for this job.

Still, God’s grace is immense.  His works are wonderfully wise.  My Father gave me that which I did not want in order to fill my life full of what I most needed.

More than ten years have passed since that fateful day.  I’ve been given three little girls, a live-in mother, a call to quit working outside my home and teach, two dogs, and three fish since then.  If someone had traveled back through time and told me this would be my life ten years ago, I never could have believed it.  In fact, I probably would have hit the ground running.

How wrong I was!  How blessed I am!  How thankful!  How undeserving!  How indescribably humbled!  God has made me the keeper of so many good things- even despite my utter foolishness!

These recollections bring me to my present state.  This Christmastime, I feel the anticipation of Mary.  I have news bursting at my seams just like those shepherds and angels did.  Wisdom has challenged me to offer up my very best gifts to a cause much greater than the I’ve ever expected.   I hear a distinct voice calling to me – the innkeeper.

The overcrowded innkeeper who had room – even ever so humble – for one or two more.

Several weeks ago we began a journey.  Redemption is written all over the road behind us and all I can do is hide my face and worship.  I have scarce few words proper enough to express the joy, the gratitude, and the all-consuming awe inside my heart.  Still, I must share my news.  Therefore, if you will, Hark!

Five years ago I was pregnant with my youngest child, Maylee.  My husband and I decided we did not want any more children.  I was eight months pregnant when he had a vasectomy.  I believed it was the right decision for the better part of a month.  But I knew the very moment I held Maylee in my arms that I wanted more children.  I was overjoyed with my brand-new, beautiful, healthy baby girl, but I felt the sting of regret simultaneously.

Over these five years, a day has scarcely gone by where I haven’t wished we’d not been so foolish.  I prayed. The Lord has been merciful to me.  A few weeks ago my husband scheduled for a consultation for a vasectomy reversal.  This Thursday we will go and talk to the doctor.  I know it is only a first step on the journey, but it is a testimony to God’s faithfulness to me.  This is truly a day I never thought I would see.

I am so thankful; so undeserving; so incredibly humbled.  I am Ebeneezer Scrooge the moment he awoke!  I am truly amazed.

Please pray with us for a safe, skilled, successful procedure.  Please pray that if it is the Lord’s will he would bless us with more children and help us to be found worthy of this call.  Thank you in advance.

“You own the inn?” the Lord inquired.  “On loan, you’d better say.  God owns the inn.”  At that the Lord knew they were kin, and ventured on: “Do you recall the tax when Caesar said to all the world that teach must be enrolled?”  Old Jacob winced, “Are north winds cold?  Are deserts dry?  Do fishes swim and ravens fly?  I do.  A grim and awful year it was for me….Do you know what it cost for me to house the Son of God?” ~John Piper, The Innkeeper

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churchmouse

I’ve been reading Aesop’s fables with my little girls and I thought it might be fun to make some adaptations.  The Country Mouse and the City Mouse was one of my all-time favorite childhood stories.   Maybe it’s because I’ve always been a country mouse afraid to venture into the unknown.  Anyway, here’s my story…

Once there lived two mice.  One was a poor, cursed mouse and the other was a rich, blessed mouse.  The mice were brothers, but they hadn’t seen each other in some time.  Church Mouse was always inviting Country Mouse to come over and meet all of his great friends, but Country Mouse felt poor and dirty.  He was afraid Church Mouse and his friends would laugh at him and make him feel bad for being so poor.

Finally one day Church Mouse dropped in to see Country Mouse.  “You look so shiny,” Country Mouse told his brother.  “Do tell me how you became so rich!”

“Thank you,” said Church Mouse.  “Do come and see!”

Country mouse thought for a while and finally decided to go to Church Mouse’s home.  He still felt quite backward and afraid, but he really wanted to be rich and clean like Church Mouse.

When Country Mouse arrived at Church Mouse’s home, he was met by many other rich mice.  One after another they greeted him, all in the same, almost rehearsed manner.

“Hmmmm,” Country Mouse thought.  “I wonder why these rich mice are so strange.  No one ever talks much to me except other dirty mice.  They seem nice, but I wonder if they’re just being polite.  I’m sure they don’t really want someone like me here in their perfect, shiny home.  I’m so dirty and ragged.  They probably want me to leave so I don’t ruin anything they’ve cleaned up so nicely.”

Country Mouse stayed a few days while Church Mouse and his friends served him hand and foot.  Country Mouse could hardly believe it!  He was being treated like a king by a bunch of mice he didn’t even know!

It soon came to an end, though.  Country Mouse had lice.  When all the church mice came down with church lice, they stopped being nice to Country Mouse.  They became angry at him.  The church mice didn’t like suffering.  They loved comfort.  Country Mouse’s poverty was ok as long as it didn’t affect them.  But now their shiny church was dirty and bug-infested.  The church mice wanted Country Mouse to leave.

Church Mouse was the leader of all the church mice, though.  He couldn’t send Country Mouse away after he’d invited him so many times.  He loved his brother despite his filth.  He wanted to make his brother clean.

Besides, now all the mice needed cleaned.  They were all dirty.  Somehow their riches and comfort couldn’t save them from being the rodents they really were underneath.

Church Mouse did not call a meeting.  He did not ask advice.  He saw the pain and suffering of his friends and he decided to do what only a very brave and noble mouse could do.  Church Mouse sat down at the front of the church and told all the mice to form a line.  One by one he sat with each mouse and he washed their fur.  He picked the nits out and he spoke softly into their ears about forgiveness and grace until they were only angry at themselves for how they’d treated Country Mouse.

Then the mice were finally actually clean.  They were truly shiny now – inside and out.  Church Mouse blessed them all individually and told them to play nice with the poor mice they were sure to meet outside.  “Invite them all,” Church Mouse instructed.  “Don’t be afraid.  I will clean them like I cleaned you.  I don’t want anyone to miss the feast I’m preparing!”

The church mice listened because they knew their leader loved them.  The poor mice became rich and the dirty mice became clean.  And they lived happily forever after.

Church Mouse’s name was Jesus.

The End

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