How does the Church deal with poverty? How do we understand what the Bible says about care for the poor and how it says, “If any will not work, neither let him eat”? As I conclude the second volume of Proverbially Speaking, we look at “Poor Excuses” and God’s Answers. Like so much in Scripture, we are called to a balance we struggle to achieve.
I continues the Little Hills series in Proverbs, considering what the Proverbs tell us about whom we should spend time around.
How important is our integrity in daily life to God? Is it really necessary? That’s my questions to consider for this week’s message.
Melanie takes on the next part of our this Week at Little Hills devotional series, this time turning us to Exodus for encouragement about the God who is there with us throughout life. Take a listen — you’ll be encouraged!
For Easter Sunday, I thought it would be good to turn to the Gospel of Mark’s ending (the shorter, ending — not the longer one we find in the manuscripts behind the KJV). The thing I love about this ending is that it fits with our own experience: we know the women overcome their fear, but Mark leaves us to dwell in it for awhile. I’ll share why I think he does that in the video. Happy Easter! He is Risen!
Jim Krenning continues our adventure through Scripture with a special Palm Sunday edition of #ThisWeekAtLittleHills, looking at 1 John. Please join us!
This week, I turned to Paul’s second letter to the Thessalonians as we continue our journey through 52 books of the Bible over the course of 2021!
The Prophet Haggai reminded the people about something important concerning the Lord’s calling to them. And that reminder is important for us, too!
The present quote, as I said yesterday, is one that has really struck me over the last couple of weeks.
“Amend your ways and your doings, and let me dwell with you in this place. Do not trust in these deceptive words: 'This is the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD.'” (NRSV)
It seems that what Jeremiah is saying is extremely applicable to our present time (and any time, for that matter). The people of Jerusalem at the time of this warning were feeling invincible against the Babylonians; they never could imagine that the city would be wiped out by those who did not know God, for how could the temple of YHWH fall to the Gentiles? Sure, they worshipped a few other gods on the side, visited the high places and so on — but they were in the city of the temple. “This is the temple of the LORD” so who can possibly destroy us?
Israel had been wiped out in 722 B.C., but that was something that could be understood. They did not have “the Temple of the LORD.” As the Deuteronomist likes to often remind us, the people of Israel did evil by following the example of Jeroboam, worshipping the golden calfs he fashioned as replacements for proper worship of YWHW in Jerusalem. If the fate of the Northern Kingdom was tied in part to the evil of Jeroboam, then so long as God's true temple was in Jerusalem, nothing could possibly go wrong, right?
They got their answer. It didn't matter even if they had not let their hearts stray to other gods, they didn't “get” the message of their God anyway. They thought that what God desired was sacrifices and worship. They had down the rituals — they did not see that rituals are empty.
Rituals are nothing in and of themselves. As Mircea Eliade noted, what a ritual does is symbolize — connect us with — “sacred time.” If we fail to focus on the deeper meaning of it, it is about as useful as a book of cuneiform writings is to someone like me that doesn't understand those symbols. It does not matter if the rituals are complex ones with hundreds of years of history or a contemporary worship service with its own set of informal rituals, rituals are all throughout the church. We naturally represent the Sacred through symbols, but our problem is that we often focus on the symbols and not what they point to.
It makes me think of a store selling large or expensive items. Usually, the displays have little tags you can take that allow you to purchase those items. Those tags symbolize the item you wish to purchase. Imagine if people went into the store and excitedly exited with those tags but never went to a clerk and traded the tag for the actual item it is intended to aid you in purchasing. That's basically the situation we often have with ritual.
The message of the Ethical Monotheism expounded by the great prophets is simple: having the right heart before God, not performing ritual, is at the heart of what God wants. While those in Jerusalem were busy chanting, “This is the Temple of the LORD,” one of Jeremiah's colleagues was busy expounding precisely how far off the mark the people were. In Micah 6:6-8 (ESV) it is written:
“With what shall I come before the LORD,
and bow myself before God on high?
Shall I come before him with burnt offerings,
with calves a year old?
Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams,
with ten thousands of rivers of oil?
Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression,
the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?”
He has told you, O man, what is good;
and what does the LORD require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God?” (Emphasis mine.)
Consider that if the heart of what God desired of those in the Old Covenant was this threefold command to act justly, to be kind and to be a humble follower of God's path for us, how much more this should be something we pay attention to as those in the New Covenant. Consider that the Old Covenant provided restoration from our sinful state through rituals, ours is provided completely by Grace bestowed on us at God's pleasure. If what mattered in a ritualistic setting was not really the rituals but a faithful heart toward God, we cannot overestimate the importance of such in Christianity when faith is at the core.
This seems to me just an ideal reminder on the theme of reform that I've talked about over the past week. We must always seek to cut through the popular religion, the temptation just to get lost in our own rituals, and remember what Matt Redmond referred to as “the heart of worship.”
“And [Jesus] said to him, 'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.'” (Matthew 22:37-40 ESV)
Credit where credit is due: I should acknowledge the deep influence of Dr. Alan Meyers throughout this meditation.
I've read the passage before, but for some reason, it is really striking me at the moment. Part of it may be that I'm reading it in a different translation (NRSV), but I think part of it is that it just happens to hit a chord at this time.
“Amend your ways and your doings, and let me dwell with you in this place. Do not trust in these deceptive words: 'This is the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD.'”
I feel led to write about this passage (Jeremiah 7:3-4), but that will not happen tonight. I'll try to post some thoughts on it, along with my previous quote of the month (from Doctor Faustus), in the coming days.