Truth and simplicity
Zechariah 8: Keep your lives simple and honest.
They’ve been through a terribly hard time but now things are getting better. The 70 year exile is over and the new generation of exiles is returning to Jerusalem. When they arrive they’re overwhelmed by the devastation but the Lord sends leaders and laborers and things are coming together. Stones aren’t the only things being put back into place: the Lord is rebuilding a people to be his very own. Through his prophet, Zechariah, the Lord tells them that he wants them to be truthful people who do the right thing in every situation. His desire is for them to live simple and honest lives. If that’s what God wanted in the lives of these ancient Israelites, it’s most certainly what he wants in the lives of Christians today. I wonder if my life can be described as a “simple life?” What is it that dominates my time? In describing his life, the Apostle Paul begins, “This one thing I do….” Is that something I can honestly say? Even as the people of Israel rebuild their city and Temple, the Lord’s rebuilding a people who’ll live truthfully and simply. How can I better respond to this desire of God for his people?
Take Away: The Lord wants us to be people who live truthfully and simply.
Job 22: Give in to God…and everything will turn out just fine.
As I read Eliphaz’s third speech I see that he’s hardened during the exchanges with Job. Now, to justify his position he’s telling outright lies about Job. According to this latest version of Job’s life, he’s crushed orphans and exploited the homeless. If Job wasn’t in such misery this would be downright silly. Old Eliphaz isn’t above rewriting the facts if it helps him keep his religious views on track. He even goes so far as to suggest that if a person gives their life to God that everything will turn out just fine! How overboard is that! Wait a minute. I’ve heard people say that. Serve God and have faith and you’ll be healthy and wealthy. I know that if I skip over a few pages I’ll find that it turns out okay for Job, although he’ll live with the memory of his departed children the rest of his days. Since the book of Job is about asking big questions we might as well ask the one before us today. If a person “gives in to God” will “everything turn out just fine”? Since I believe in the existence of heaven, I can answer “yes” in the broadest of terms. However, I don’t think that’s what Eliphaz is thinking about. He says that people who give their lives to God will have a better life here and now. Is that always true? When I think of those who’ve been martyred for their faith, those who’ve been imprisoned and tortured, or those who suffered as Job did I know it isn’t necessarily true. Living for the Lord is a wonderful way to live and the benefits are, well, eternal. However, it’s false advertising to tell people that if they give their hearts to the Lord that everything will be fine this side of eternity.
Take Away: We shortchange the power of the gospel if we sell it as some kind of “get rich” scheme.
The Ten Commandments
Exodus 20: I am God, your God.
And so it begins. This God who spoke to Moses through the burning bush, this God who brought the plagues to Egypt in securing their freedom, this God who delivered them at the Red Sea now describes how they’re to live. He didn’t bring them up out of Egypt so they could do their own thing, living as they pleased. The Lord God brought them out of slavery to be his own people. Their relationship to their God is going to be very different than the Egyptian’s relationship with their gods. The very first thing their Redeemer does is state Ten Commandments to them. These Commandments are just as focused on how a man treats his neighbor as how a man relates to his God. In this new relationship with the Almighty they’ll treat the Lord with absolute reverence, but they’ll also treat one another with respect, honesty, and fairness. One doesn’t have to be Jewish or Christian to recognize the brilliance of the Ten Commandments. In just a few words the foundation is laid for a God-fearing and just society. To this day there’s no finer expression of how society can function at its best. This gift from God to his people is every bit as impressive as was his parting the Red Sea for them.
Take Away: We can find no better set of rules for living than what we find in the Ten Commandments.