Wednesday, August 20, 2014

God’s Employment Standards Act: Part 2 -- Exodus 21:5-6


“‘But if the slave plainly says, “I love my master, my wife and my children; I will not go out as a free man,” then his master shall bring him to God, then he shall bring him to the door or the doorpost.  And his master shall pierce his ear with an awl; and he shall serve him permanently.’”
 
While God did not prescribe slavery, He still cares about those who are in slavery.  In the passage before this one, God stipulates that no one can be owned as a slave for longer than six years, at which point he becomes a free man, but has to leave his master only with what he came with.   That presented quite a dilemma for those slaves that married and/or perhaps had children while serving their masters as the new additions to the family (wife and/or children) had to be left behind.
I cannot help but think of the fact that leaving one’s master as a slave is akin to leaving this world the way Job described in the book about him (Job 1:21) where we read, “Naked I came from my mother's womb, And naked I shall return.”  That is the natural plight of man and woman.  We deserve nothing more.
But God once again provides a way out for the slave or the person who wants something more.  As part of his dignity, the slave has the option to save his family under certain conditions.  The first condition is that he loves his master as well as his wife and children.  The second condition is that he is prepared to give up his freedom permanently.
Once that is decided, and once the master agrees to keep him (and what master would not for had this been a bad slave, I am sure he would have been discarded of long ago), the master than takes “him to God”.  Most commentators take that to mean that somehow the arrangement that is about to be formalized be done so before the judges that had been appointed by Moses to rule the people (Exodus 18) or at the very least before witnesses, as representative of those holding us accountable before God (much like at a marriage ceremony today).
This arrangement was to be an everlasting commitment and thus there needed to be a sign that clearly denoted it as such.  In this case, the sign was a hole pierced through the ear of the slave.
The parallel aspects between this slave to physical bondage and us as slaves to sin are not too difficult to detect here.  Like the slave in this passage, we have a choice to make as to whether we want to go freely into the world and try to profit from it (much like the Prodigal Son parable we read about in the New Testament) or whether we want to remain in the household of our Master and in our case our Creator.  If we choose the latter, then we become His permanently and our confession of faith before others and God, along with how we live in service to Him, become the marks of commitment.
And Christ, the Son of God, is our ultimate role model in this.  He became as a servant who emptied Himself, gave up any personal status (became of no reputation), and humbled Himself to serve, not by law, but by willingness (Philippians 2:6-7).  Thus we can refer to Him as the ‘pierced ear servant’ who freely, by choice, submitted Himself to His Father’s will.
Yes, God provides a way out from our bondage to sin and in so doing we can be saved, provide for our loved ones, and serve our Master.   Are you there yet?
_____________________________________________________________________

[Are you looking for a speaker at your church, your club, school, or organization? Ken is available to preach, teach, challenge, and/or motivate. Please contact us.]

Thanks for dropping by. Sign up to receive free updates. We bring you relevant information from all sorts of sources. Subscribe for free to this blog or follow us by clicking on the appropriate link in the right side bar. And please share this blog with your friends. Ken Godevenos, Church and Management Consultant, Accord Consulting.  And while you’re here, why not check out some more of our recent blogs shown in the right hand column.  Ken.
________________________________________________________________________
 

Sign up (on the right) to receive free updates. We bring you relevant information from all sorts of sources. Subscribe for free to this blog or follow us by clicking on the appropriate link in the right side bar. And please share this blog with your friends and while you’re here, why not check out some more of our recent blogs shown in the right hand column.

Also, I’ve read some good books and make some great recommendations for you at http://astore.amazon.com/accorconsu-20 which you can purchase right from there.

Check our firm out at Accord Consulting.

Finally, if you like what you read here, you may want to donate to my favourite charity, SCA International, by clicking on the logo below. Ken.

Monday, August 18, 2014

God’s Employment Standards Act: Part 1 -- Exodus 21:1-4


“Now these are the ordinances which you are to set before them.  If you buy a Hebrew slave, he shall serve for six years; but on the seventh he shall go out as a free man without payment.  If he comes alone, he shall go out alone; if he is the husband of a wife, then his wife shall go out with him.  If his master gives him a wife, and she bears him sons or daughters, the wife and her children shall belong to her master, and he shall go out alone.”
 
The Ten Commandments have been shared with the people and now God continues with some other ordinances that Moses is to pass on to the Children of Israel.  Generally speaking an ordinance is a type of law, but in today’s application of the word, it usually refers to laws passed or enacted by municipal bodies as compared to national ones.  In God’s economy, Chuck Smith suggests that these ordinances are really “judgments for the appointed judges” to use in adjudicating matters that arise among the Israelites.  David Guzik says these are the laws “that establish precedent for the legal system of Israel”.  Matthew Henry suggested that these laws in Exodus chapter 21 relate to, and expound on, the fifth and sixth commandments.  He states they “are of great use for the explanation of the moral law, and the rules of natural justice.”
The first area covered is the legal relationships between slaves and masters.  In those days most of the labor that took place was indeed performed by slaves.  Today, that kind of exchange of work for some form of compensation (be it housing or food) has evolved to the modern relationship of employee and employer (work for pay and other benefits).  Nevertheless, it is important for us to note some of the principles that God had established in how work was to be undertaken.
To begin with, we should note that God, to our knowledge, did not establish the master-slave arrangement.  [Any more than He established polygamy.]  This arrangement was a man-conceived means of getting work done.  There may even have been some good intentions involved such as providing shelter and food and care for individuals in exchange for the work they did.  But as in most things that man construes to do on his own without taking God into consideration, his natural instincts of greed and taking advantage of others, especially those that are weaker, eventually come to the surface and bring about undesirable characteristics of the practice.  This was the case for much of the slavery that was in place, over time.  So much so, that it became unbearable for true followers of Christ to condone it in any way and it eventually was outlawed in the Western world.  But for our purposes, back in the days of Moses, God had to place some parameters around the conditions under which slaves were used and treated.
Two things we need to remember.  First, all Israelites were born as free men and women.  Second, as David Guzik points out, God brought these particular Israelites “out of slavery” – something they were to forget.  And so with that background, it is interesting to note that the very first area that ordinances dealt with was that of slavery.
It is also important to note how people became slaves in the Israelite society at the time.  Guzik suggests there were four basic ways a Hebrew might become a slave to another Hebrew as taken from later Scripture:
1.     In extreme poverty, they might sell their liberty (Leviticus 25:39).
2.     A father might sell his children into servitude (Exodus 21:7).
3.     In the case of bankruptcy, a man might become servant to his creditors (2 Kings 4:1).
4.     If a thief (or other criminal) had nothing with which to pay proper restitution (Exodus 22:3-4).
The first thing we note is that God never intended for any slave to be the property of any master forever.  A bought slave was only bought to work for six years and then the slave would be released as a free person and no payment would exchange hands.  Each of the above-mentioned four ways a person could become a slave would be subject to this principle.  No one owns another person for life.  We are God’s creations and only He can redeem us forever.  It is also of interest to note that God chose six as the number of years for which a slave was to serve.  This is in keeping with the pattern of His instruction to us to work six days and then rest.
And at the end of the six years, when the slave is let go, he only goes with what and with whom he came.  There is much to consider or ask ourselves here.  First, were female slaves ever bought on their own, or perhaps with their husband?  (We will see later that the answer to this question is yes, certainly for single female slaves.)  Second, if a young man was bought as single unmarried person, and then married during his six years of slavery, what are the implications for that marriage after that?  (That question is indeed answered below.)  And third, what happens to the children if they were born prior to a married person becoming a slave, or after he married during his term of service?  (This question too is left unanswered to this point in the Scriptures.)
The third part of this short passage does shed some more light on what happens when a slave marries during his six-year term of service as a slave.  If a slave marries during his term, and has children, then both the wife and children do not become free with him at the end of his term of service, for the wife and the children “belong to the master”.  What is not clear here is whether a slave can marry during his term via any other means other than “if his master gives him a wife”?  Can he find his own wife, as unlikely as that may be?  And if so, can that wife and any children that follow leave with him at the end of the six months?  We do not know but would suggest the answer is no.  It does seem rather a harsh ordinance to say that the wife and children that were joined to the man during his term of slavery could not leave with him.  On the other hand, if we follow this principle, we may have an answer to our question about what happens to the children born to a slave during his term of service but who had a wife when he became a slave?  Would they not belong “to him”?  Or because they were born “in the service of his master” would the children still belong to the master at the time of separation?  These are difficult questions for which there is no answer to this point in the Scriptures.
It is clear here that the slave had no rights at all to possess anything or to acquire anything while he was a slave – perhaps even his own children from a wife he brought to his term of slavery.  So, is there a way out to save one’s new wife and/or children?  The answer is yes and we will address it next.
_____________________________________________________________________

[Are you looking for a speaker at your church, your club, school, or organization? Ken is available to preach, teach, challenge, and/or motivate. Please contact us.]

Thanks for dropping by. Sign up to receive free updates. We bring you relevant information from all sorts of sources. Subscribe for free to this blog or follow us by clicking on the appropriate link in the right side bar. And please share this blog with your friends. Ken Godevenos, Church and Management Consultant, Accord Consulting.  And while you’re here, why not check out some more of our recent blogs shown in the right hand column.  Ken.
________________________________________________________________________
 

Sign up (on the right) to receive free updates. We bring you relevant information from all sorts of sources. Subscribe for free to this blog or follow us by clicking on the appropriate link in the right side bar. And please share this blog with your friends and while you’re here, why not check out some more of our recent blogs shown in the right hand column.

Also, I’ve read some good books and make some great recommendations for you at http://astore.amazon.com/accorconsu-20 which you can purchase right from there.

Check our firm out at Accord Consulting.

Finally, if you like what you read here, you may want to donate to my favourite charity, SCA International, by clicking on the logo below. Ken.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

God’s Blueprints For Worship -- Exodus 20:24-26

--> “‘You shall make an altar of earth for Me, and you shall sacrifice on it your burnt offerings and your peace offerings, your sheep and your oxen; in every place where I cause My name to be remembered, I will come to you and bless you. And if you make an altar of stone for Me, you shall not build it of cut stones, for if you wield your tool on it, you will profane it.  And you shall not go up by steps to My altar, that your nakedness may not be exposed on it.’” 
 
They are building new houses all around ours.  At various times, I see the foreperson pouring over a set of blueprints that need to be followed.  The construction team takes its directions via the person in charge from the blueprints drawn up by the architect.  Any variation requires architect agreement and then city council approval or the whole project could be shut down.
From this passage, we clearly see that God wants to be worshipped.  But that worship is to be undertaken in a prescribed way.  He gives us the parameters under which we are to worship.  To the Children of Israel in the Old Testament, God gave specific instructions of how to build an altar and what to do with it.
Most of us would agree that today we no longer have to make sacrifices on altars to worship God because His Only Begotten Son, Jesus Christ, was the ultimate sacrifice, and it was made on our behalf.  Fair enough.  However, sometimes in our rush to throw out sacrifices, altars, burnt offerings, and peace offerings, we discard some of the principles God attached to Old Testament worship – principles that were, I believe, intended to transcend the ages.  Let’s look at some of those.
First, there is the principle of parameters themselves.  All behavior may be called worship by the worshipper, but God does not view all behavior as worship.  We need look no further than Genesis 4 where God accepted Abel’s sacrifice, but not Cain’s, to support this thinking.  Here in Exodus 20, God tells the Israelites what kind of an altar He prefers and what they are to offer on it.  Today, under the guise of what we call ‘freedom in Christ’ we tend to worship Him in whatever way we feel like.  I am not speaking of modern music as compared to century old hymns.  That is not the point.  The point is that we need to consider how we worship God for while God is a God for all of time, He does not change.  There are things that He will not accept as He did not accept Cain’s worship.  And the Holy Spirit can and does speak to us as to what those things are, if we care to listen and obey.  Having said that, it is then also possible to accept the fact that what we all may not have arrived at the same point of hearing God on this matter, or some of us may well have misunderstood what He has told us when we hear Him with the filters of our own experiences and upbringings.  All that is possible and thus we should be careful not to criticize what others call ‘worship’ for them.  And I think that’s the secret – worship has to be ‘for us’ and it has to be truly perceived as, and believed to be acceptable to God, by the worshipper – no one else.
Second, we need to realize that God causes His “name to be remembered” in some very physical spots.  It may be a chapel pew for you.  It may be a gravesite of a loved one for me.  It may be someone else’s closet for them.  We would do well to keep an eye out for such places.  We would do well to listen to the rhythm of our heartbeats when we approach these special places in our lives.  Try visiting Israel and walk where Jesus walked or suffered, or performed miracles, and take your pulse.  I guarantee you it will be higher than normal.  We need to remember that one of God’s principles in our act of worship is that He causes His name to be remembered.  We may often call on the name of God and remember it, but we need to understand that it is He who brings it to our mind.  Even that we do not do ourselves.
Third, whenever we come across a place where God (not man) causes His name to be remembered, God says about that place, that He will come to us there and bless us.  That’s our God; we can count on that.  Want God to meet with you and bless you?  Make sure you are aware of where He causes you to remember His name; and visit there often.  When I think of what God is saying, promising, and doing here, I am reminded of the classic fast-food commercial that came out in 1978 that goes something like this – “at _________, we do it all for you!”  I’m sure you know the fast-food chain I’m talking about.  You may know them as the ones that build these large golden arches near their stores.  And if you’re still wondering who I’m talking about, check the commercial out here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GOMJ5nAaS08 .   Yes, God does it all for us – He reminds us of His name at various junctions in our lives; He visits us there; and He blesses us from there.  What more can we really ask for in response to our worship?
Fourth, while God has the right to be a “my way or the highway” God, there are aspects of our relationship with Him in which we are given choices.  Before I personally studied this passage, I would have been the first one to say, “Oh yeah, show me!”.  Well, Exodus 20:24-26 is one such example.  Here God clearly states His preference for an altar made of earth.  But then He goes on to say, “but if you make an altar of stone for Me, here are the specific directions for that.”  Our God is not the no-choice autocrat many of us have made Him out to be.  And of course, the fact that we do have acceptable choices in our positive relationship with Him (and not just with the negative choice to reject Him altogether) is complementary to the notion that we have been created with free will.
But no matter what our choice may be in some things, we still have to implement that choice within God’s parameters for that aspect of the relationship.  In the case of the Children of Israel, God did not want the Israelites to use cut stones that their implements had been applied to, if they were to build altars out of stone.  He wanted them, in that case, to use uncut natural stones.
Bible commentator Chuck Smith has much to say on this verse.  For starters he believes God did not want carved stones because He wanted nothing to distract the worshippers from worshipping Him.  He did not want anyone including those that built the altar to say or think, “my, isn’t that a great masonry job!”   Think for a moment of all the famous cathedrals or synagogues or temples you have visited.  What comes to mind first?  How awesomely you can worship God there or what a marvelous job the architect did?  Be honest.
Smith goes on to say we can glorify man’s handiwork any time we want, since he is using the abilities God Himself gave him, but we are never to regard it at all when we are in the process of worshipping God.  Many unbelievers hear a great preacher and marvel at his or her ability as an orator but they totally miss the point of what God has sent that individual to say to the world and to them.  Eloquent oratory can sometimes be a hindrance to the spreading of the Gospel.  Smith says “God help that man who seeks to bring glory and attention to himself while doing the service of God.
Robert Jamieson suggests that they were not to carve the stones because that may lead to carving images on them and those images may in turn lead to superstitious thinking and behavior.  Perhaps.
But what we do know for sure is that God said if they do use carved stone, they would “profane” the altar.  That is, the altar would become irreverent, disrespectful, wicked, and even sacrilegious.   Our failure to worship God in His way ruins the entire exercise of worship for us.
Finally principle number five from this passage is this: God is concerned about our own showiness or flashiness.  One could argue that He is concerned about that at the best of times, but He certainly does not want any of it during our worship of Him.  Matthew Henry suggests that the Israelites were to make their altars low to the ground so that they would not think that the higher up the altar was built and the closer to the heavens they were, the more acceptable any sacrifice made on it would be to God.  Chuck Smith, however, I believe has a much more relevant explanation for this verse.  He writes:
In other words, don't go up steps and high where people can look up and see your bare legs or something. God just doesn't want attention drawn to anything but Him when we are worshiping God. He wants your heart and your mind to be centered upon Him, not to be distracted.
Then Smith goes on to explain why at his church they try to keep distractions to a minimum and even when dealing with musicians, they discourage “little antics that draw attention to themselves, even a special movement as you're playing the bass, you know. It draws attention to you, and takes the attention of the people off of what you're saying, what you're singing.”  Need we say more about how we dress or how we stand or how we move?  Smith goes on, But the minute I draw attention to me, then the person's attention is taken off of God, and I am robbing God of that which is His. God will hold me accountable for it.”
So there we have it.  Keep the five simple principles for worship in mind, especially when you are leading it.  If you and I do that, then God readily accepts our worship.  And if He does, He will also bless it.  That’s all the success we need. 
-->
_____________________________________________________________________

[Are you looking for a speaker at your church, your club, school, or organization? Ken is available to preach, teach, challenge, and/or motivate. Please contact us.]

Thanks for dropping by. Sign up to receive free updates. We bring you relevant information from all sorts of sources. Subscribe for free to this blog or follow us by clicking on the appropriate link in the right side bar. And please share this blog with your friends. Ken Godevenos, Church and Management Consultant, Accord Consulting.  And while you’re here, why not check out some more of our recent blogs shown in the right hand column.  Ken.
________________________________________________________________________

Sign up (on the right) to receive free updates. We bring you relevant information from all sorts of sources. Subscribe for free to this blog or follow us by clicking on the appropriate link in the right side bar. And please share this blog with your friends and while you’re here, why not check out some more of our recent blogs shown in the right hand column.

Also, I’ve read some good books and make some great recommendations for you at http://astore.amazon.com/accorconsu-20 which you can purchase right from there.

Check our firm out at Accord Consulting.

Finally, if you like what you read here, you may want to donate to my favourite charity, SCA International, by clicking on the logo below. Ken.

Friday, August 15, 2014

God Repeats What He Is Most Interested In -- Exodus 20:22-23


Then the Lord said to Moses, “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘You yourselves have seen that I have spoken to you from heaven. You shall not make other gods besides Me; gods of silver or gods of gold, you shall not make for yourselves.’”
 
This is an interesting passage.  First of all God tells Moses to point out to the Children of Israel that He had already spoken to them directly.  This supports the argument that the Ten Commandments were indeed first given to the Israelites verbally, rather than to Moses.  And then, in this passage, God simply repeats His number one concern – that they do not make other gods besides Him.
Now whereas grammatically one can argue that this means we can “make images of Him” – it does not.  It simply says we cannot make any image of other gods.
God’s greatest desire for us is that He is our only God.  We are not to worship or love or desire any other god.  We are not to rely on any other god, as useless as it may be to do so.  When it comes to our spiritual devotion – it’s all God or nothing of God.  This is one of the most difficult lessons to learn in life.  Sometimes it comes easily, but more often it comes after decades of struggles in a person’s life.  God is not only to be first in our lives, but when it comes to worship and adoration, there is to be no one or no thing that comes second.
As much as He is a “jealous God”, our God does not require us to live a life of isolation with Him alone.  On the contrary, He wants us out in the world as His representatives.  But we do that always mindful of our relationship with Him and our dependence on Him.  The Christian pilgrim’s journey is primarily a voyage of discovery – the discovery of how best to accomplish just that.  It is a tough assignment.  But here’s the good news.  He does not want you to travel that journey of life alone.  He was willing to go with them and now for us, He has provided His Son, Jesus Christ, to travel it with you.
God told the Children of Israel that He was their God and they needed no one else.  He says the same thing to us today.
_____________________________________________________________________

[Are you looking for a speaker at your church, your club, school, or organization? Ken is available to preach, teach, challenge, and/or motivate. Please contact us.]

Thanks for dropping by. Sign up to receive free updates. We bring you relevant information from all sorts of sources. Subscribe for free to this blog or follow us by clicking on the appropriate link in the right side bar. And please share this blog with your friends. Ken Godevenos, Church and Management Consultant, Accord Consulting.  And while you’re here, why not check out some more of our recent blogs shown in the right hand column.  Ken.
________________________________________________________________________

Sign up (on the right) to receive free updates. We bring you relevant information from all sorts of sources. Subscribe for free to this blog or follow us by clicking on the appropriate link in the right side bar. And please share this blog with your friends and while you’re here, why not check out some more of our recent blogs shown in the right hand column.

Also, I’ve read some good books and make some great recommendations for you at http://astore.amazon.com/accorconsu-20 which you can purchase right from there.

Check our firm out at Accord Consulting.

Finally, if you like what you read here, you may want to donate to my favourite charity, SCA International, by clicking on the logo below. Ken.

Monday, August 11, 2014

The Difference Between Fearing God and Having a Fear of Him -- Exodus 20:20-21

--> And Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid; for God has come in order to test you, and in order that the fear of Him may remain within you, so that you may not sin.”  So the people stood at a distance, while Moses approached the thick cloud where God was.
 
One of the many legitimate roles for a priest is to reassure people that they need not be afraid of God.  And at this point in the story of the Children of Israel in the wilderness, Moses does just that.  Reassuring others with the Truth is a job given to all believers.  Each of us who has accepted Christ as Lord and Savior is a priest – I Peter 2:9 in the New Testament tells us that.
Here in this current passage in Exodus, Moses tells the people why God came down to them in this way.  It was, he said, “to test you”.  This is a common theme in Scripture and a reality in life that many do not like – God tests us.  We wish He did not.  Sometimes He tests us by allowing us to go through some very hard challenges – like the loss of our job, our spouse or child, news of a serious and potentially fatal illness, and so on.  Sometimes He tests us with opportunities that perhaps we should not take.  There is no limit to the extent of God’s ability to test us in ways we ourselves cannot image.  His way of thinking is not our way of thinking, nor His actual ways our ways (Isaiah 55:8).  When we accept God for Who He truly is, we accept His right to test us in any way He wants.  If we have trouble with that concept, then we will have trouble living a life in close relationship with Him.
In this case, God tested the people of Israel in order that “the fear of Him may remain in them”, not so they can fear Him – there is a difference.  Let me try and explain it to you in the following way.  I know some of you will disagree with my illustration given your thinking with respect to, and love for, animals, but let me take that risk anyway.
As a child, I feared pitbull dogs and I had the fear of my father in me.  It did not matter what I did or did not do, I was terrified of pitbull dogs.  The only thing that would save me from that fear was to remove myself from being anywhere near them.  With my father on the other hand, I knew that I did not need to fear him for if I obeyed his instructions, I was perfectly safe and sound, and even happy to experience the new adventures he could lead me through.  But if I went my own way, as a child, the fear of him that I had in me, would turn into real fear of him.  My dad did not change; I changed.  Through my disobedience I was actualizing “my fear of him in me” into straight “fear”.  The fear of himself that my father instilled “in me” was intended to keep me safe – from cars, accidents, etc.  When I disobeyed, his love for me turned into my real and very present fear “of him”.  When I decode that, I realize that this happened because my dad wanted me to stay alive and not get hurt.  And why was that?  I believe it was because he loved me.
And so it is with God and the Children of Israel here in this passage.  God wanted them to have “a fear of him in them” so that they would not sin.  And He wanted them not to sin so that they could have an eternal relationship with Him because He loved them.  It is as simple and as complex as that.  We may not like it, but that is how it is.
What remains is for us to ask, “Did the people hear Moses? Did they understand and accept what was happening?”  We do not know.  What is more important though is when we consider the ways and how often God tests us – sometimes for our own development in addition to the reason of wanting to instill some fear of Him “in us” – do we understand?  Do we accept it?  And do we act accordingly, or do we fight it with all we have?
The Bible says in this verse that the people continued to stand at a distance, while Moses went up to where God was.  Moses was able to go up closer to God.  He understood; he accepted.  I believe in the same way we can be closer to God if we accept His ways.  And if you think about it, it is in fact, “His way or the ‘low’-way.”
-->
_____________________________________________________________________

[Are you looking for a speaker at your church, your club, school, or organization? Ken is available to preach, teach, challenge, and/or motivate. Please contact us.]

Thanks for dropping by. Sign up to receive free updates. We bring you relevant information from all sorts of sources. Subscribe for free to this blog or follow us by clicking on the appropriate link in the right side bar. And please share this blog with your friends. Ken Godevenos, Church and Management Consultant, Accord Consulting.  And while you’re here, why not check out some more of our recent blogs shown in the right hand column.  Ken.
________________________________________________________________________


Sign up (on the right) to receive free updates. We bring you relevant information from all sorts of sources. Subscribe for free to this blog or follow us by clicking on the appropriate link in the right side bar. And please share this blog with your friends and while you’re here, why not check out some more of our recent blogs shown in the right hand column.

Also, I’ve read some good books and make some great recommendations for you at http://astore.amazon.com/accorconsu-20 which you can purchase right from there.

Check our firm out at Accord Consulting.

Finally, if you like what you read here, you may want to donate to my favourite charity, SCA International, by clicking on the logo below. Ken.

Saturday, August 09, 2014

Feeling We Can’t Approach God Ourselves -- Exodus 20:19


Then they said to Moses, “Speak to us yourself and we will listen; but let not God speak to us, lest we die.”
 
God puts on a spectacular ‘light and sound’ show, renders The Ten Commandments to the children of Israel, and they are awestruck, being left trembling.  And the first thing that comes out of their mouth is to tell Moses, “You talk to us; don’t let God do it because if He does, we’ll die.”  Amazing.  How do we get to this point based on what God did?
I remember Adam and Eve not clearing their actions with God but being satisfied with the Serpent’s statements on what God ‘had meant’ by His words.  I remember Pharaoh not wanting to talk to God directly and insisting on using Moses at the time that Egypt was going through the plagues.  And now an entire nation wants to do the same thing.  What drives people to want to avoid dealing with God directly?
I also watch my grandchildren growing up and often hear one of them saying to their mother, “No, you ask dad for me” or vice-versa.  Like the famous Cyrano de Bergerac, adults and youth too (just ask some teenagers who are in love with someone) all seem to want to rely on someone else to do their bidding for them when it comes to things of importance.  Television sitcoms rely heavily on this plot formula.  It is only when a person feels really comfortable with his/her ability to manage his or her own affairs (think of a CEO), that one says, “this is important enough, I’ll participate myself rather than send one of my people”.  [Of course, there are limits to this approach.  You cannot defend yourself before the Supreme Court unless you are qualified a) because they would not let you and b) because only ‘fools represent themselves in court’ as the saying goes.  Nor are you likely to make your own medical diagnosis and plan out your surgery unless you are qualified.  And hopefully you are astute enough to realize that unless it is an outer part of one of your limbs we’re talking about, it would be quite impossible for you to conduct your own operation with optimal precision and results.]
Still, for one reason or another, we tend to avoid God.  And we get to that point by often making some erroneous assumptions as the children of Israel did that day at the foot of Mount Sinai.  Here are just a few of those assumptions I came up with:
  1. They actually believed they would readily listen to Moses when their track records proved otherwise.
  2. They actually thought that Moses had the power to prevent God from speaking directly to the people.  [And by the way, this phrase in the verse, “do not let God speak to us” implies that God was speaking to them and they wanted it stopped based on their fear of what might be the outcome.  This in turn supports the position that God actually first gave The Ten Commandments to all the Israelites verbally and later to Moses on tablets.]
  3. The presupposed that death would be the outcome.
All of these assumptions were, at face value, false.  They would not listen to Moses, Moses could not cause God not to speak if He wanted to speak, and there was no reason to believe that they would die just for listening to God.  Yet these beliefs were so strongly imbedded in their minds that they acted on them.
And one wonders why this fear of death.  We do know from an earlier passage (Exodus 3) that Moses was afraid to look at God and later in the book of Exodus God says in chapter 33 that “no man can see His face and live”.  But we have nothing else that may even hint for us as to why the children of Israel felt that they would die if God simply spoke directly to them.  They felt this was something reserved for those in the priesthood.  And the belief has carried on through the millenniums for many.
God tried to speak with them directly but the people felt that His mighty power, demonstrated physically as it had been with thunder and lightening, could kill them.  And thus the request we have here of Moses to have God refrain from speaking to them but have Him speak only to and through Moses.  As Matthew Henry points out in his commentary, here God was reaching out to man and man’s fear rejects the closer relationship and access man could have to God.
There is no doubt we need a priest to approach God, but he/she is not the human kind of priest.  The Bible says our High Priest is the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God.  And He and the Father are One.  Thus we need have no fear in approaching God and certainly no fear is justified in hearing God’s voice and adhering to it.
My wife and I have both come across relatives and friends that fear they are too great a sinner for God not to punish them as they approach Him, and they are quite happy asking us to pray for them on their behalf.  My strong belief is that people like that need to be helped to understand that they can pray for themselves; they do not need us.  My pastor makes it a point of not praying for people along a particular line of request if they are not prepared to pray for those things themselves (unless of course they are incapacitated and cannot physically do so).  You need not fear the God whose whole purpose is to have a relationship with the sinners that His Son died for.  If we can get that through our head, we can approach God and live.  May it be so with you.
_____________________________________________________________________

[Are you looking for a speaker at your church, your club, school, or organization? Ken is available to preach, teach, challenge, and/or motivate. Please contact us.]

Thanks for dropping by. Sign up to receive free updates. We bring you relevant information from all sorts of sources. Subscribe for free to this blog or follow us by clicking on the appropriate link in the right side bar. And please share this blog with your friends. Ken Godevenos, Church and Management Consultant, Accord Consulting.  And while you’re here, why not check out some more of our recent blogs shown in the right hand column.  Ken.
________________________________________________________________________

Sign up (on the right) to receive free updates. We bring you relevant information from all sorts of sources. Subscribe for free to this blog or follow us by clicking on the appropriate link in the right side bar. And please share this blog with your friends and while you’re here, why not check out some more of our recent blogs shown in the right hand column.

Also, I’ve read some good books and make some great recommendations for you at http://astore.amazon.com/accorconsu-20 which you can purchase right from there.

Check our firm out at Accord Consulting.

Finally, if you like what you read here, you may want to donate to my favourite charity, SCA International, by clicking on the logo below. Ken.

Friday, August 08, 2014

One Reason There’s No More ‘Mount Sinai’ Experiences Anymore -- Exodus 20:18


“And all the people perceived the thunder and the lightning flashes and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking; and when the people saw it, they trembled and stood at a distance.”
 
God had just finished handing down The Ten Commandments to the people of Israel gathered at the foot of Mount Sinai.  [Note: There is still some question as to whether or not the people at the foot of the mountain could hear God give the commandments.  It is possible from the reading of the text to say only Moses and Aaron were able to do so.  But it is also possible to believe that when Exodus chapter 20 starts, with God speaking, all could hear Him.  There is no linguistic link to believing those words were uttered only to Moses and Aaron.  What matters, though, is that He did utter these commandments either to them directly or for their sake.]
And not only did He utter the commandments (I believe) to them, but He did it in the midst of the most spectacular heavenly fireworks display we can imagine, complete with thunder, lightning flashes, trumpet sound, and a smoking mountain, to boot.
Imagine yourself in that very situation looking up the mountain, having listened to all that God had to say or knowing at least that He was speaking to Moses and Aaron, and then suddenly silence.  How would you react?
The Bible says the people were trembling motionless at a distance.  We could say they were visibly shaken.  No one spoke.  No one knew what to expect next or what to do.  The almighty God had been among them yet maintained His majestic omnipotence and glory.  The people knew they had experienced an earth-shattering occurrence – God was among them and spoke to them.
There are those that say that God does not visit us or speak to us in the same way any more (or should I say, these days).  But here is what I know.  My Bible tells me God is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow.  He never changes.  Why would He stop visiting or speaking to us the way He did for Moses and Aaron and the children of Israel? If so, there is a reason for it and it does not have to do with Him.  I also know that God does not push His way into our lives.  So, if He is not speaking to us or visiting us collectively as He did back on Mount Sinai it is because He knows we would not listen; we would not even hear Him.   (Just over two thousand years ago, we did not listen to His Only Begotten Son who lived among us and performed incredible miracles.  Why would we listen to Him now?)  We may not even be amazed at His startling heavenly display of lights from flashing lightening – after all, we are no longer awestruck with fireworks, Disney World extravaganzas, Olympic Games opening or closing day ceremonies, or even the Northern Lights that He Himself created for us.  And as far as the noise of thunder and lightning goes, well, our ears have been deafened by the Rock Bands of our age.  And even if He were to get our attention, He knows the chances of us being visibly shaken or trembling, are slim.  There is nothing that can easily faze us nowadays.  We’ve seen it all on television thanks to Hollywood.  So God chooses instead to reach us individually, using His still, small voice, these days.  And it is still and small for a reason.  Not because He cannot repeat and excel His performance on Mount Sinai when anyone who was making any kind of noise immediately became quiet when God spoke, but because these days in order for us to hear Him, it is us who first have to become quiet and then invite Him to do direct us.
God has not changed.  He still very much wants to communicate with His people.  But I am sure He is tired and perhaps saddened of being ‘unheard’, so He changed His approach – and He did it because He loves us.  He is desperately trying to reach out to us, if we would only hear Him.
And while God does not give us ‘Mount Sinai’ experiences now, He still communicates to His people individually and sometimes in smaller groups that are seeking Him in unison.  But what has not changed at all is the fact that He still watches for our reaction to His communication.  Are we still awestruck?  Do we tremble at the fact that God has spoken to us directly and been present with us in a very real sense?  Are we silent with godly fear after He has spoken to us?  Were we silent enough to hear Him in the first place?
If you and I are missing out on communications from God, it is not because He has gone off the air.  No, it is because we do not expect it, we do not prepare for it, we do not seek it.  We’re too busy listening to other frequencies.  And when His message tries to break through the plethora of competitive airwaves, we miss it.
Recently I was challenged by something I read to do just that – to expect God to speak with me after I have sincerely sought Him and prepared myself for His doing so.  It occurred to me that I spend a lot of time in my car driving almost daily and as a big fan of keeping up with world news, my car radio tuner is set to one of my favorite networks on my Sirius radio all the time.  It struck me that a) some of this time could be well spent hearing from God, and b) that God may not want to compete with world-famous network personalities – not that He couldn’t, mind you.  So, I started leaving my car radio off each day until after my first full stop.  And no, I do not mean for a stop sign or a red light.  To qualify, the stop would require me to turn the engine off and get out of the car.  During those times in the last few weeks, God has spoken to me often and clearly as I offer to Him exclusively an average of 30 to 40 minutes each morning on my way to a client’s place.  And if one day, I get in my car again to take a longer trip – then I expect to sit quietly before Him for a long session.  Just God and me.
I encourage you identify what is blocking God’s communication with you in your life and to remove those obstacles if you are seriously seeking Him and His direction for you.  Then wait to tremble in awe before your God.  The children of Israel and many others throughout history to this very day will tell you it is well worth it.
_____________________________________________________________________

[Are you looking for a speaker at your church, your club, school, or organization? Ken is available to preach, teach, challenge, and/or motivate. Please contact us.]

Thanks for dropping by. Sign up to receive free updates. We bring you relevant information from all sorts of sources. Subscribe for free to this blog or follow us by clicking on the appropriate link in the right side bar. And please share this blog with your friends. Ken Godevenos, Church and Management Consultant, Accord Consulting.  And while you’re here, why not check out some more of our recent blogs shown in the right hand column.  Ken.
________________________________________________________________________
 

Sign up (on the right) to receive free updates. We bring you relevant information from all sorts of sources. Subscribe for free to this blog or follow us by clicking on the appropriate link in the right side bar. And please share this blog with your friends and while you’re here, why not check out some more of our recent blogs shown in the right hand column.

Also, I’ve read some good books and make some great recommendations for you at http://astore.amazon.com/accorconsu-20 which you can purchase right from there.

Check our firm out at Accord Consulting.

Finally, if you like what you read here, you may want to donate to my favourite charity, SCA International, by clicking on the logo below. Ken.