Monday, December 5, 2016

Between Revelations

Bedouin Camp in the Negev

“Shalom (peace) is not the absence of conflict, but the presence of righteousness.”
Daoud, Tent of Nations

Throughout the Bible God and His angelic messengers spoke to God’s people. You might recognize some of these quotes from God or his angels:  “Do not eat from this tree...Where are you?” (Adam) “Why are you angry? Do what is right.”  (Cain) “Make an ark...Go into the ark, you and your whole family, because I have found you righteous...Come out of the ark.” (Noah) “Go from your country to the land that I will show you...Your offspring shall be as the stars...I am El Shaddai, walk before me faithfully and be blameless...Take your son, your only son, whom you love...Sacrifice him.” (Abraham) “Where have you come from and where are you going?” (Hagar) “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you. Do not be afraid, you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus.” (Mary) “Today in the town of David a Savior has been born...Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” (Shepherds)  “Peace be with you. I am sending you.” (Disciples)

So God appeared and spoke specific words to His people. I have been thinking of these words from God as revelations--facts revealed in a dramatic way, or a previously unknown truth that surprises the hearer, or even divine disclosure to humans. In some of the stories, after God reveals or speaks, we are told that he “leaves."
  • Gen. 17:22 "When he had finished speaking with Abraham, God went up from him."
  • Gen. 18:33 “When the LORD had finished speaking with Abraham, he left.”  
  • Luke 1:38 “The angel left Mary.”
  • Luke 2:15 “The angels left the shepherds and went into heaven.”
  • Luke 24:51 “While Jesus was blessing [the Eleven and those gathered with them], he left them and was taken up into heaven.”

This makes me wonder, what did God’s faithful people do between revelations, or words, from God? Although some made choices against what God revealed or directed (I am thinking of Adam and Cain, for example), let's look at those who showed themselves to have a “going forward in faith-ness” quality; narratives where someone heard what God said, and chose, in faith, to walk forward in obedience. In Genesis 7:5 “Noah did what the LORD commanded Him.” Genesis 15:6 records “Abram believed God’s words, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” In Genesis 16 Hagar GOES BACK to Abraham and Sarah, knowing the difficult place she will be in when she gets there. And in complete obedience Genesis 22:3 tells us that Abraham obeyed God whole-heartedly by leaving “early the next morning” with Isaac. In this light, the everyday ordinary becomes extraordinary.

Perhaps some of these other “between revelations activities” recorded in the Bible sound like what we anticipate for our Christmas break? After God speaks, Abraham returns home; Mary takes a trip; Noah builds; Isaac chooses not to move. Others settle disputes, work the land, live God’s way among the ungodly, help troubled family members, call on the name of the Lord, worship, travel to see family, and entertain guests.

Christians believe God speaks to us today. Consider God speaking to us. When God speaks to me, do I take time to listen? Do I accept God’s words? Do I respond in obedience between revelations? Do I walk forward in faith?

When we obey God as He reveals Himself to us, we are part of God’s kingdom here on earth. It is in the midst of walking in faith that we find shalom, right-living, peace on earth. And, as in the biblical narrative, right living happens even while difficult situations surround us--hard calls that require trust in a loving God despite setbacks, rejection, family tension, temptation, or the ungodly choices of others.

Let's take a short detour to Luke 22:39-44. "Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him. On reaching the place, he said to them, “Pray that you will not fall into temptation.” He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground."

God sends an angel to strengthen Jesus. God “SPEAKS LIFE” if you will, through a celestial being. Although we are not told what the angel said or did, we are told in that as Jesus, God Himself, prays for the Father to remove His suffering, the angel appears and then strengthens Jesus. Afterward Jesus’ prayer is so intense that the Son of God profusely sweats as the Son of Man. Jesus, God himself, the Prince of Peace, submits to God’s righteousness (right-living). John tells us in chapter 20:19-23 that three days later “the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you!’ After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. Again Jesus said, ‘Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.’ And with that He breathed on them [the very breath of life from the creation of the world!] and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you are forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.’” When Jesus chose to submit to God’s righteousness (remember, God’s angel strengthened Jesus for this task), Jesus brought peace to our world.

This month's theme, SPEAK SHALOM, reminds us to live righteously amid difficulty. As God, the Prince of Peace, SPEAKS LIFE to us, we have what we need to make right choices and bring shalom. Let us keep our eyes and hearts on what God has revealed to us. Let us embrace the quality we see in the Bible of “going forward in faith-ness."

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart." Hebrews 12:1-3