Social transformation is often a long and painful process. Think about efforts at equality within the United States. The founders’ vision was for a society where everyone had the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The Declaration of Independence expressed this in 1776. Yet it took nearly a century and a Civil War to bring an end to slavery. It took nearly 150 years for women to be able to vote and it nearly 200 years and a lot of blood, sweat and tears to make significant strides toward racial equality.
How does one take a community that has been enslaved for over 400 years and transform them into a nation that shines a beacon of light to all other nations in the world pointing them to the true God. How does an entire nation become holy, set apart for God’s service and God’s glory?
This is the challenge that was before God, Moses and the nation of Israel. They were leaving behind one type of structure, slavery, to enter into a new way of living. They needed a new structure to help them know how to live. They had to be taught how to live in community. They had to be taught how to work, and how to rest, how to care for their neighbors, and how to punish wrongdoing that threatened to destroy their community.
In today’s reading we see how God begins to organize and structure the transforming community of Israel. He teaches them how they are to live and become a holy nation and a royal priesthood. This transformation would not come quickly or easily.
They had to be taught how to show respect for personal property: “Whoever steals an ox or a sheep and slaughters it or sells it must pay back five head of cattle for the ox and four sheep for the sheep.” (22:1) Those who steal must give restitution.
They had to be taught to respect the family structure and to place their sexuality within proper boundaries: “If a man seduces a virgin who is not pledged to be married and sleeps with her, he must pay the bride-price, and she shall be his wife. If her father absolutely refuses to give her to him, he must still pay the bride-price for virgins.” (22:16-17)
They had to be taught that there were severe consequences for failing to follow appropriate sexual boundaries: “Anyone who has sexual relations with an animal is to be put to death.” (22:19).
They had to be taught to have empathy and to show kindness to strangers and people who were different: “Do not mistreat or oppress a foreigner, for you were foreigners in Egypt.” (22:21).
They had to be taught to have compassion for people in the community who had suffered major losses: “Do not take advantage of the widow or the fatherless. (22:22).
They had to be taught to show respect both to God and to their earthly leaders: “ Do not blaspheme God or curse the ruler of your people.” (22:28)
They had to be taught how to live as a just community by not giving false testimony, and by neither showing favoritism toward the poor nor withholding justice from the poor (23:1-6).
They had to be taught to care for their bodies and minds by getting appropriate rest. (23:12).
It was also important that everyone be taught these and other guidelines for how to live in community as God’s people and that they verbally acknowledge that they understand and intend to follow “Everything the Lord has said we will do.” (24:3)
Israel’s transformation from slavery to covenant people of God living a set apart life as the community of God’s people was a slow and challenging process. It was painfully difficult, but necessary. In the end, people failed more often than they succeeded to carrying out their assignments. And yet, somehow, despite tremendous opposition from aggressive and hate filled neighbors, the Nation of Israel survived.
As Christians, we can learn much from studying how God worked with His people Israel to bring about their transformation. It is important to note that they were God’s people first, and then they were given this particular set of laws. In the same way, as Christians, we become God’s people first, through faith in Jesus Christ, and then we commit to following Jesus and obeying Jesus’ commands. We do not become God’s people by following laws, but by following Jesus Christ. However, when we follow Jesus Christ, we do not descend into lawlessness. Structure is still required. So Jesus spends three years teaching his disciples how to live as the people of God who are called to be holy, set apart to be a light to all nations. We complete the mission that the nation of Israel began, and we do so following the yoke or community guidelines as laid down by Jesus Christ. The foundational teaching of Jesus is to Love God and Love our Neighbors. That is a good place for each of us to start each day.
Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=exodus+22-24&version=NIV
Tomorrow’s Bible reading will be Exodus 25-27 as we continue on the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan
What is peace? We often define it in terms of what it isn’t—as in, it’s the absence of conflict or distraction or anything that makes us feel uncomfortable or disturbed. A nation is at peace when they’re not involved in any wars; a person is at peace when they feel relaxed and comfortable. But what if I told you that the biblical idea of peace sometimes means diving into conflict, choosing discomfort, and being disturbed?
“For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.” (Ephesians 2:14-16)
According to Ephesians, Jesus is our peace, and Jesus came to reconcile us both to God and to each other. And the biblical idea of peace is much broader than our modern understanding; it is not simply the absence of conflict but also the presence of harmony. It’s not ceasefire; it’s community. Sometimes, we get so caught up in seeking peace for ourselves that we create discord for others. Or we isolate ourselves from the problem, so that we can pretend like it doesn’t exist or isn’t relevant to us. But conflict avoidance is not peace.
We can trust Jesus to provide miracles, because Jesus is our peace. And while pursuing perfect harmony and reconciliation may be hard, it is far from hopeless. In fact the truth is just the opposite: peace is promised to us from God.
Missions Spotlight: Nicaragua
Alex Davila leads a small group Bible study in Nicaragua. He also maintains a public YouTube channel and radio broadcast, sharing the Good News. If you would like to check his website out (La Biblia y las religions: The Bible and religion), you can visit http://labibliaylasreligiones.com. He is also a perfect Spanish-English bilingual and would love to hear an encouraging message from you!
Pictured above is Alex preaching at the Lima Church in Peru. We love it when Alex accompanies us when we travel to Peru.
Community is a compound word: common and unity. This means that we are a group of people unified by what we have in common. This is a perfect example of the Body of Christ: unity through common beliefs. Just like our human bodies are unified by the drive to survive, the body of believers are unified by Christ.
Sometimes, as Christians, we can get caught up in our differences. Quarrels over wine vs. grape juice for communion, tattoos vs. no tattoos as a Christian, and Sunday school before or after the church service take place all over the nation. Now, some of these quarrels seem silly, but you know as well as I do that feelings are hurt over simple differences in ideas. In Galatians 5:6, Paul reminds us “for in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but faith working through love”. It is our faith, exemplified by our love, that counts, not the small differences (or similarities) we may have.
Today, I want to remind you that we have more in common with one another than we have differences. The Church should be the tightest-knit group of people in the universe. We should have the highest sense of morale and comradery. Watching the Olympics gets me hyped as I see hockey teams, and ice skating duos, curling teams (yes, even curling can be exciting) accomplish big things together. Their sense of togetherness and years of hard work to achieve a common goal awakens my drive to seize the day. Guess what, we have GOD and His son, JESUS CHRIST living in US!!! Imagine the radical acts of love we can achieve with divine power, strength and grace living in us. Jesus says that the world should be able to know who we are by how we love one another. What are you doing to show your neighbor your radial love?
You have probably heard this verse before, but I want to take it back to its original Greek. 1 Corinthians 6:19 – “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own..”. All of the times that you and your are mentioned in this verse they are actually plural which translates from the Greek into English as ‘you all’. Grammatically, this is known as the second person plural, and something our English Bibles hide from us sometimes because we do not have a direct translation for the second person plural that sounds nice in English. The closet thing we have in English is ‘you all’ or if you are in the south then ‘y’all’. Can you imagine your Bible saying “do you not know that y’all’s bodies are a temple of the Holy spirit”? Due to the mistranslation of this verse into English people usually take this verse on an individual level. The meaning of this text then becomes a verse used to support exercise to keep your “temple” nice however what the author originally intended was to mean the body of Christ is the temple. This means that how we treat each other as the body directly correlates to what the temple is like. That is a very important statement! When we are angry with or hate our fellow believers, we are desecrating the new temple that God has set up.
If you look at how the temple was treated in the Old Testament we see how holy and sacred it was. We need to translate the holy aspect of the Old Testament temple to the body of Christ today. So what exactly does it look like to be holy to each other? It is patience, kindness, forgiveness, and love. Next time you want to be angry at someone remember that how you treat them affects the holiness of the temple, the place that God dwells. Reading the passage for its original meaning is much more difficult than a simple command to exercise and eat well. It is a command on how we should be as a community. Try reading the passage in this way, “Do you not know that your community is a temple of the Holy spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God”. This is Paul lifting the community of believers to a higher level. I encourage you to take up that call and to bring even more glory to God’s community of believers.
The latter half of Acts 2 describes a true community of Christ. The Church devoted themselves to teaching, to fellowship, to breaking bread together, to giving to the needy, and all the while with glad and sincere hearts (Acts 2:42-47). Let’s reach out to each other. Let’s strive to love each other in a radical way that makes the world hunger for what we have.
Reaching out is exactly what Alex is doing in Nicaragua with his radio ministry. Our love doesn’t stop within our culture, or backyard or our nation; we are an international community. Although we can’t break bread with our brothers and sisters in Nicaragua, we can encourage them even from afar. Alex would love to hear from you! Just a simple message saying hi, the church you attend, and that you are thinking of him can go a long way. You can find him on Facebook under the name ‘Alexander Davila’. Remember, he is a perfect bilingual, so no need to use a translator. Radical love awaits us ❤
Josiah & Amber Cain
I used to own a pair of fish that my best friend gave me. I thought I was a decent fish owner. But then I went off to Australia for three weeks and when I returned, I came home to find that the slow-release food supply that I put into the tank, didn’t dissolve. My poor fish starved to death. Oops.
So your reservation to take seriously any of my mentioning of fish, fishing, or fishermen would totally be understandable.
But I ask that you hear me out, just this once, for this particular topic. Afterall, I did my due diligence and Googled some information.
Mark 1:17 says, “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.”
Being a fisherman was way back then and continues even today to be a daily job. Likewise, as we follow Jesus daily, our casting of nets should happen every day we are around others. If we are called to be fishers of men, all of our interactions need to be with the purpose of building relationships and showing others, verbally and nonverbally, what life with Jesus as our Lord looks like.
Peter and Andrew knew when the best time to go fishing was. According to www.takemefishing.org (I’m totally serious… ) the best time to fish is usually later on in the day. I know that there are probably a gazillion other variables that should be considered, so don’t go dismissing the bigger picture here. Later in the day, the fish are primed for feeding because their metabolism and digestion are roaring. There is a lesson for us here – in order for people to win others to Christ, they need to be primed. In God’s own timing, a person’s heart will be open to receive the Gospel. As fishers of men, we need to be praying for those opportunities to present themselves so we are able to discern what to say and when to say it.
We know from verse 16, that Simon (later called Peter) and his brother Andrew used nets for fishing. Not a pole, line and lure, but nets. They caught hundreds of fish at a time. When Jesus says that he will make us fishers of men, I think His intention is that we not just teach a few people about Jesus, but that we influence hundreds of people, over our lifetime, to consider what life as a follower of Jesus would look like.
We also know from verse 16, that fishing was not a solo effort. It demanded at least a pair to get the job done. Our faith is meant to be in a community. Yes, Jesus goes off to a solitary place in verse 35 of Chapter 1, but that doesn’t mean we live in a vacuum. Working and serving with other believers is how our faith is supposed to be carried out.
I fully admit that sharing the Gospel is not my strength. But as I read this verse, I became convicted that this is something that I need to take more seriously. That’s partly why I chose it to be the verse to memorize for the week. So even though it is a short verse and easy to commit to memory, it’s potential to change my life and the lives of those around me, is significant.
Wanna go fishin’?