Set Apart

Exodus 19-21

Exodus 19 5 6a NIV

Today’s reading is probably one of the most familiar passages in the whole Bible for it includes the Ten Commandments.  It is important to understand the context of these commandments.  God entered into a covenantal relationship with Abraham and Abraham’s descendants through Isaac and Jacob and Jacob’s sons who became the twelve tribes of Israel.  God promised to bless and provide for his people and in exchange His people promised to be faithful and obedient to God and worship God alone.

After 400 years of slavery, Israel has grown from 12 sons and their immediate family to millions of people.  These people, God’s covenant people, will be settling in a land where they will need to live in community.  They are no longer slaves.  They are now responsible to live in that community in peace and productivity.   They need help to know how to live together.  God provides His people with the structure of how to live together as God’s people.  The Ten Commandments and subsequently nearly 600 additional laws were all designed to help them be healthy and blessed representatives of God to the rest of the world.

God loves all people.  We must never falsely believe that God only loves certain people.  God considers all human beings His children and loves them all.  God wants to be in a right relationship with all of his children; however, many are disobedient and have no willingness to be in a relationship with God and many deny that God even exists.

So God needed to start with one group of people and prepare them to be a special, chosen people who would bring the knowledge of God to others.  Exodus 19:5-6 says, “Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’

Israel was to be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.  A priest is one who helps connect people and God.  God would go on to designate priests in Israel to help the people connect with God, but His expectation for Israel was that the whole nation serve as priests to help other nations connect with God.  Because the who nation was being set apart by God to be priests for the world, they needed to live holy or set apart lives.  There were behavioral expectations that they were to follow.  They had to  be exclusively loyal to God, they could not murder, steal, lie, cheat, they were to be respectful and honoring of parents and not misuse God’s name.

Now we are completing what God began in Israel.  Through Christ we have entered into a covenant with God.  We are now the covenant people, we are called to be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.  That is the Church’s role.  And God expects us to live lives of holiness as we are set apart to serve God.  As you read through the many laws in the Old Testament, recognize that some applied very narrowly to the Nation of Israel and do not necessarily apply to us.  Dietary laws and sanitary laws were important in Israel at the time they were given but are no longer applicable.  However, some of the laws which pertain to morality have been reaffirmed by Jesus Christ for the Church.  In other words, as Christians we are free to eat pork and worship on Sundays, but we are not free to practice polygamy or murder.

God is truly a God of grace and mercy, but God is also a God who hates sin and punishes sin.  In this way we are still to live in fear of the Lord: Exodus 20:20 “the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning.”

Jeff Fletcher

 

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=exodus+19-21&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be Exodus 22-24 as we continue on the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Holy and Honorable and Radically Counter Cultural

1 Thess 4 4.png

I Thessalonians 4:3-8

3 It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; 4 that each of you should learn to control your own body[a] in a way that is holy and honorable, 5 not in passionate lust like the pagans, who do not know God; 6 and that in this matter no one should wrong or take advantage of a brother or sister. The Lord will punish all those who commit such sins, as we told you and warned you before. 7 For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. 8 Therefore, anyone who rejects this instruction does not reject a human being but God, the very God who gives you his Holy Spirit.

Paul was writing this to Christians in the first century. He was calling them to live holy lives (set apart for God) in a culture where there was a great deal of immoral behavior that was accepted by society, but which went against God’s standards. Paul contrasts the believers call to live a holy and honorable life that is vastly different from the “passionate lust” that marked the life of the pagan. He warned that God would punish sexual sin and that to reject Paul’s teaching on this was to reject God.

I can’t imagine how difficult it must be for a young person or a new believer to navigate sexual morality in this age today. It’s gotta be tough. It was tough enough for me as I was a child of the 60’s and 70’s and there was plenty of confusion in society then, but at least the Church still gave a clear and for the most part unified message of what right and wrong was all about. But today, young adults are bombarded with images and messages about sexuality that are far different. So much that the Bible clearly speaks of as a departure from God’s path is considered normal by today’s society. To even question such things as premarital sex, homosexual activity, homosexual marriage, serial monogamy etc… is to be considered narrow, judgmental, or even a hate monger. So young people and those who become followers of Jesus Christ later in life face challenges in understanding and adapting to a Biblical world-view regarding sexuality. Exactly the way it was in the first century when Paul wrote this letter.

I note that Paul says that each of us must “learn to control [our] own body”. It’s a process of learning. There are difficult lessons to be learned. As most of us who have had to learn something new realize, learning is a process which takes time and seldom happens without mistakes. Those believers who are more seasoned in their walk with the Lord should remember this, and while teaching faithfulness to God to young and new believers should remember that is it is a process and be patient with those who are still learning. And even be patient with ourselves, for learning something so radically counter cultural is never easy and we are all capable of making mistakes. Truth must always be mixed with grace.

-Pastor Jeff Fletcher