Outsiders

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Outsiders

Acts 7:6-11

The Ascension of Jesus1

So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” He replied, “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. While he was going and they were gazing up toward heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. They said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”

1 Peter 4:12-14

Suffering as a Christian

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that is taking place among you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you are sharing Christ’s sufferings, so that you may also be glad and shout for joy when his glory is revealed. If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the spirit of glory, which is the Spirit of God, is resting on you.”

It makes a huge difference whether your Savior is standing right with you or not. We have some difficulty imagining just how the disciples felt when Jesus met them on that mountain one last time, gave them the Great Commission, and then disappeared into the heavens above them. Having been through the emotional rollercoaster of Holy Week, I suspect some were quite frustrated that, having not long receiver Jesus back from death, here they were losing him again. It wasn’t that they didn’t believe in the mission, it was that it made more sense when Jesus was there. Or at least they felt braver taking it on knowing Jesus had their backs.

Something else changed this moment as well …something absolutely fundamental to the faith. This moment changed the way we could determine who was inside and who was outside the faith.2 The subject was important enough to make it into Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount not just once, but twice3! You see, following Jesus teaching on insiders and outsiders was as simple as following His example when He was with them. How did you know who was considered part of the “in” crowd? It was whoever was physically close to Jesus. The disciples, the poor, the hurting always had front-row seats, while the Pharisees usually sat in the back and grumbled. Sure, their were moments during His arrest and crucifixion where the bad guys got closer, and perhaps that strange incident with the unnamed woman at the well in Samaria, but overall, Jesus tended to keep His friends closest to Him. Now that He was gone, how could they, and we, tell who was really part of the kingdom?

It is more than identifying who is different and who does not agree with us. It means discerning who does or does not follow Jesus. We look to real action, not just empty promises. We look for grace. We look for transformed lives. Where there are differences between us and Jesus, we seek understanding (although not always acceptance) and we look for ways to connect in Christ’s love and learn from one another. It is what Jesus did. He constantly brought the outsiders in. We ourselves were once outsiders, and sometimes we revert back to our outsider ways, but now we are His people.So what do we do with Outsiders? We learn to love them.

Who are the Outsiders in your life?

What are some heathy ways you can show Christ’s love to them today?


  1. (Mk 16:19–20; Lk 24:50–53)
  2. and for the connection between the insiders and outsiders, see: https://myabishai.blog/2017/01/page/2/
  3. Loving your enemies and refraining from judging others.

Expectations

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Expectations

2 Kings 2:13-15

Elisha Succeeds Elijah

He picked up the mantle of Elijah that had fallen from him, and went back and stood on the bank of the Jordan. He took the mantle of Elijah that had fallen from him, and struck the water, saying, “Where is the Lord, the God of Elijah?” When he had struck the water, the water was parted to the one side and to the other, and Elisha went over.

When the company of prophets who were at Jericho saw him at a distance, they declared, “The spirit of Elijah rests on Elisha.” They came to meet him and bowed to the ground before him.”

John 8:21-30

Jesus Foretells His Death

Again he said to them, “I am going away, and you will search for me, but you will die in your sin. Where I am going, you cannot come.” Then the Jews said, “Is he going to kill himself? Is that what he means by saying, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come’?” He said to them, “You are from below, I am from above; you are of this world, I am not of this world. I told you that you would die in your sins, for you will die in your sins unless you believe that I am he.” They said to him, “Who are you?” Jesus said to them, “Why do I speak to you at all? I have much to say about you and much to condemn; but the one who sent me is true, and I declare to the world what I have heard from him.” They did not understand that he was speaking to them about the Father. So Jesus said, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will realize that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own, but I speak these things as the Father instructed me. And the one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what is pleasing to him.” As he was saying these things, many believed in him.

Who are you and where is the One I am looking for?

God surprises us all. We often stumble across God in our individual search for help as we grow to recognize we are sadly ill-equipped to navigate the harsh landscape of life alone. We face disappointment from the people we surround ourselves with,not because they are all bad or incapable people, but simply because our needs extend beyond their abilities. We have a God-shaped hole in ourselves that nothing else can fill, as the popular saying goes. I take my image of need from one of my favorite Psalms, “Deep cries out to deep”a prayer-poem that compares the depths of our need with the depth of hope we can only find in God.

Yet even with thousands of years worth of evidence pointing to God’s unique provision in our lives we are still constantly surprised by when, where, and how God comes through for us. Why? Because we have mistaken expectations in our relationship with God. It is almost funny because the major purpose of a covenantthe term scripture uses as the type of relationship we have with God, is to spell out and clarify those expectations. Just look at these examples of expectations from traditional wedding vows:

“I, , take thee, , to be my wedded husband/wife,

to have and to hold,

from this day forward,

for better, for worse,

for richer, for poorer,

in sickness and in health,

to love and to cherish,

till death do us part,

according to God’s holy ordinance;

and thereto I pledge thee my faith [or] pledge myself to you.”

What are your expectations of God in your relationship with Him?

If you wrote your own vows what would they say?

What are God’s expectations of you?

When we have mistaken expectations of God, we, like the Jewish people before us, miss seeing Him, even when He is standing right in front of us. Most of the time this mistake is not due to a lack of knowledge, it is a lack of motivation. If I only want a God who gives me license to sin, I will never see God, because He will never be that for me. He will forgive,redeem, and transform me, but He will never change who He is to suit my desires – especially if my desires are ultimately harmful to myself and others. The way of sin leads to death and destruction and God will not help us down that road. Yet when we get lost on that road ourselves we can always look up and see Jesus lifted up, pointing the way back to life for us if only we will trust and follow Him.

Covenant Endings

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Covenant Endings

2 Kings 2:1-12

Elijah Ascends to Heaven

2 Now when the Lord was about to take Elijah up to heaven by a whirlwind, Elijah and Elisha were on their way from Gilgal. Elijah said to Elisha, “Stay here; for the Lord has sent me as far as Bethel.” But Elisha said, “As the Lord lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” So they went down to Bethel. The company of prophets who were in Bethel came out to Elisha, and said to him, “Do you know that today the Lord will take your master away from you?” And he said, “Yes, I know; keep silent.”

Elijah said to him, “Elisha, stay here; for the Lord has sent me to Jericho.” But he said, “As the Lord lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” So they came to Jericho. The company of prophets who were at Jericho drew near to Elisha, and said to him, “Do you know that today the Lord will take your master away from you?” And he answered, “Yes, I know; be silent.”

Then Elijah said to him, “Stay here; for the Lord has sent me to the Jordan.” But he said, “As the Lord lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” So the two of them went on. Fifty men of the company of prophets also went, and stood at some distance from them, as they both were standing by the Jordan. Then Elijah took his mantle and rolled it up, and struck the water; the water was parted to the one side and to the other, until the two of them crossed on dry ground.

When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, “Tell me what I may do for you, before I am taken from you.” Elisha said, “Please let me inherit a double share of your spirit.” He responded, “You have asked a hard thing; yet, if you see me as I am being taken from you, it will be granted you; if not, it will not.” As they continued walking and talking, a chariot of fire and horses of fire separated the two of them, and Elijah ascended in a whirlwind into heaven. Elisha kept watching and crying out, “Father, father! The chariots of Israel and its horsemen!” But when he could no longer see him, he grasped his own clothes and tore them in two pieces.

Ephesians 2:1-7

From Death to Life

You were dead through the trespasses and sins in which you once lived, following the course of this world, following the ruler of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work among those who are disobedient. All of us once lived among them in the passions of our flesh, following the desires of flesh and senses, and we were by nature children of wrath, like everyone else. But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.”

Men are sometimes (often rightfully) accused of having one-track minds. It is not that we only think about one thing. It is that we focus on one object at a time. There is something very intuitive about the work/play dichotomy in a man’s life, although the erosion of a cultural sabbath has played havok on this instinct. Today, we are taught to always be on the hunt for the next best thing. Our work never ends, and we are taught that the thrill of work is life.

Women, on the other hand, have always played multiple roles and move freely among them all. Just look to Proverbs 31 to compare the many roles a wife of noble character has in comparison with her husband. Women do not stop working, they just change their clothes into different uniforms. They too, perhaps even more than men have suffered from a lack of Sabbath rest, often to the point that many do not know how to rest without alcohol, pills, or simply having a breakdown.

Here is the lowdown On why Sabbath is important to our covenant relationship with God: Without endings, there can be no new beginnings.

We cannot serve two different masters. We are not Batman or Superman – mild- mannered businesspeople by day and crime fighters by night. Those two never sleep and would be fired or dead of exhaustion after three days in the real world. We cannot chase our careers and money for six days and expect to catch up with God on Sunday. The problem is not that God sees through our split motivations (which He does!). the problem is that we do not see our own split motivations. We become lovers having affairs and children under joint custody of many “parents’‘, none of which we can truly claim as our own. Both of these roads lead to emptiness and isolation and it all comes back to that same point: Without endings, there can be no new beginnings.

Elisha needed to grow up into the man God created him to be, but he was not able to do that while he continued to rely upon Elijah as his mediator between God and himself. Elijah had to go so Elisha could grow. Paul explained to the Ephesians that they (and we) cannot hold onto our old life and take hold of eternal life with both hands. One or the other will get away from us Or we will be torn apart and lose it all. God gives us all the same choice He gave Israel, through Joshua: Choose this day whom you will serve.

What do you need to let go of today?

What former way of life doy you need to put to death?

How can you live for Christ more fully today?

Witnesses

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Witnesses

Acts 1:1-11

The Promise of the Holy Spirit

In the first book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus did and taught from the beginning until the day when he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. After his suffering he presented himself alive to them by many convincing proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. While staying with them, he ordered them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for the promise of the Father. “This,” he said, “is what you have heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”

The Ascension of Jesus:1

So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” He replied, “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. While he was going and they were gazing up toward heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. They said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” “

Ephesians 1:15-23

Paul’s Prayer

I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, and for this reason I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers. I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power. God put this power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come. And he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.

Can I get a witness?

I know of only one story we have in the gospels where Jesus taught that it was better to sit and receive than to serve. [^1]. Almost everywhere else, His disciples were on the move. In fact, He sent them out specifically to do all the things He was doing Himself, even before His death. Ministry with Jesus involved a lot of hard work!

Jesus had an incredible way of allowing His disciples to serve in important ways that matched their gifting, without burning them out. You would think, after 3 years on the road, they would have been ready for a break. Instead, that day they all marched into Jerusalem was One of their most exciting days of all! In our society, where it is a major feat to keep employees who only work 40 hours a week, this feat seems miraculous. How did Jesus be the perfect boss to every single person that came to work for Him?

Wall, first of all, Jesus was not a boss, He was a king. More specifically, He was a shepherding king as opposed to a ruler in the worldly sense. He loved His people. They were not just workers to be used. But He did not confuse His love of people for His sense of mission. Instead, Jesus insisted on His mission because He knew inviting them into that mission was the best way to love them.

You see, that mission was more than just paying a debt for us. It was a restoration, or perhaps a redemption of covenant between us and God. The “Kingdom” Jesus was establishing was not about geographical boundaries, it was about relational ones. Jesus was putting the band back together because the world was missing the music we all make with God. Jesus knew what that could sound like, but He also knew fear would hold us back so long as He kept standing between us and God. His job as mediator of this covenant was to bring us together, not to stand between us. He knew, for the mission to succeed, He would have to leave.

Paul know that feeling too. Ephesus was one of the few places that really accepted and appreciated him. But he had heard that same music that Jesus heard and knew for the church to grow, he would have to move on. Like the conductor of an orchestra, Jesus and Paul knew they had the important role of leading the music without making a sound.

I believe it all comes down to this: We are witnesses before, and after, everything else we may do for God. Before we know how to preach and teach, serve and give, we show and tell others about our covenant relationship with God by our words and deeds.

How are you sharing a witness of God’s love today?

How are you helping others see the beauty of who they could be with God?


  1. I suspet this teaching may have been included in Luke in order to create a better sense of balance between serving and spending time with Jesus in ministry, not to exclude one or the other.

Tomorrow

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Tomorrow

Deuteronomy 31:1-13

Joshua Becomes Moses’ Successor1

When Moses had finished speaking all these words to all Israel, he said to them: “I am now one hundred twenty years old. I am no longer able to get about, and the Lord has told me, ‘You shall not cross over this Jordan.’ The Lord your God himself will cross over before you. He will destroy these nations before you, and you shall dispossess them. Joshua also will cross over before you, as the Lord promised. The Lord will do to them as he did to Sihon and Og, the kings of the Amorites, and to their land, when he destroyed them. The Lord will give them over to you and you shall deal with them in full accord with the command that I have given to you. Be strong and bold; have no fear or dread of them, because it is the Lord your God who goes with you; he will not fail you or forsake you.”

Then Moses summoned Joshua and said to him in the sight of all Israel: “Be strong and bold, for you are the one who will go with this people into the land that the Lord has sworn to their ancestors to give them; and you will put them in possession of it. It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.”

The Law to Be Read Every Seventh Year

Then Moses wrote down this law, and gave it to the priests, the sons of Levi, who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord, and to all the elders of Israel. Moses commanded them: “Every seventh year, in the scheduled year of remission, during the festival of booths, when all Israel comes to appear before the Lord your God at the place that he will choose, you shall read this law before all Israel in their hearing. Assemble the people—men, women, and children, as well as the aliens residing in your towns—so that they may hear and learn to fear the Lord your God and to observe diligently all the words of this law, and so that their children, who have not known it, may hear and learn to fear the Lord your God, as long as you live in the land that you are crossing over the Jordan to possess.”

John 16:16-25

Sorrow Will Turn into Joy

“A little while, and you will no longer see me, and again a little while, and you will see me.” Then some of his disciples said to one another, “What does he mean by saying to us, ‘A little while, and you will no longer see me, and again a little while, and you will see me’; and ‘Because I am going to the Father’?” They said, “What does he mean by this ‘a little while’? We do not know what he is talking about.”

Jesus knew that they wanted to ask him, so he said to them, “Are you discussing among yourselves what I meant when I said, ‘A little while, and you will no longer see me, and again a little while, and you will see me’? Very truly, I tell you, you will weep and mourn, but the world will rejoice; you will have pain, but your pain will turn into joy. When a woman is in labor, she has pain, because her hour has come. But when her child is born, she no longer remembers the anguish because of the joy of having brought a human being into the world. So you have pain now; but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you. On that day you will ask nothing of me. Very truly, I tell you, if you ask anything of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be complete.”

My dad used to obsess about the weather, as a hobby, I think. Sometimes it seemed a little more than a hobby. He bought several digital weather machines to hang on the roof of the house and measure wind speed, barometer, humidity, and temperature. The dog ate the first one, thinking it was a toy. Today we have phone apps that can tell you most of that stuff. But back then, as today, I always told him, the best way to determine what the weather was doing was to simply poke your head outside and see.

The problem with that method, despite its incredible accuracy for the present moment, is that it does not help you figure out what the weather will be like tomorrow. This is especially pertinent in places like the Midwest, where the weather can change pretty drastically within 30 minutes or so. It is not unheard of for a warm, sunny day to drop 20 degrees and begin pouring rain at the drop of a hat. Tomorrow is the mystery we continually seek to unravel.

If tomorrow is beyond our understanding, how can we make covenant promises that not only last for days, but lifetimes? How can we make promises to God that will affect the lives of those long after we are gone? Would it not be better to simply refuse to promise anything you cannot fulfill immediately?

That is not the Way of Love. Love is a covenant that embraces Hope which makes plans for tomorrow, even sacrificial plans. It is a commitment to choose to remain in relationship regardless of the given choices of any particular moment. It is not saying, “I know”, it is saying “I will”. that hope does not make everything work out, but it does affect everything. Where there is no hope, covenant ends… but where even the smallest glimmer of hope remains, covenant will always exist.

That is the power of the resurrection of Jesus Christ! It shows that no matter how badly we mess up in our covenant with God, no matter what few choices we have left to us… there is always hope. There is always hope. That covenant has the endurance to last for eternity. How do we embrace that hope? We ask God for help.

Up until Jesus died and was raised again, the disciples sought to maintain their place in God’s Kingdom by what they did for Jesus. After He left, they had no way of serving Him or even knowing what to do the way they had in the past. From that point on, they had a greater awareness of how dependent they were upon Him. They saw their unfaithfulness and had no way of remedying it. They needed help from the other side. That is what Jesus offers when He says, “Ask in my name.” When we cannot see tomorrow, we need only ask Him Who is already there.

Where do you need hope today?


  1. (Num 27:12–23)

The Way of Love

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The Way of Love

Deuteronomy 5:22-33

Moses the Mediator of God’s Will1

These words the Lord spoke with a loud voice to your whole assembly at the mountain, out of the fire, the cloud, and the thick darkness, and he added no more. He wrote them on two stone tablets, and gave them to me. When you heard the voice out of the darkness, while the mountain was burning with fire, you approached me, all the heads of your tribes and your elders; and you said, “Look, the Lord our God has shown us his glory and greatness, and we have heard his voice out of the fire. Today we have seen that God may speak to someone and the person may still live. So now why should we die? For this great fire will consume us; if we hear the voice of the Lord our God any longer, we shall die. For who is there of all flesh that has heard the voice of the living God speaking out of fire, as we have, and remained alive? Go near, you yourself, and hear all that the Lord our God will say. Then tell us everything that the Lord our God tells you, and we will listen and do it.”

The Lord heard your words when you spoke to me, and the Lord said to me: “I have heard the words of this people, which they have spoken to you; they are right in all that they have spoken. If only they had such a mind as this, to fear me and to keep all my commandments always, so that it might go well with them and with their children forever! Go say to them, ‘Return to your tents.’ But you, stand here by me, and I will tell you all the commandments, the statutes and the ordinances, that you shall teach them, so that they may do them in the land that I am giving them to possess.” You must therefore be careful to do as the Lord your God has commanded you; you shall not turn to the right or to the left. You must follow exactly the path that the Lord your God has commanded you, so that you may live, and that it may go well with you, and that you may live long in the land that you are to possess.

1 Peter 3:8-12

Suffering for Doing Right

Finally, all of you, have unity of spirit, sympathy, love for one another, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or abuse for abuse; but, on the contrary, repay with a blessing. It is for this that you were called—that you might inherit a blessing. For

“Those who desire life

and desire to see good days,

let them keep their tongues from evil

and their lips from speaking deceit;

let them turn away from evil and do good;

let them seek peace and pursue it.

For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous,

and his ears are open to their prayer.

But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”

Love and suffering go hand in hand. We preach it at weddings. We preach it at funerals. For some reason, all the great romance stories involve suffering and usually dying. I finally got around to watching Star Wars: Rogue One last night and that entire movie was focused around the concept of love and suffering together.. Alan Tudyk, one of my favorite actors played the robot “K-2SO”, and even he had a death scene as he gave his life for the “love” of his companions.

The Mosaic covenant began as God showed love for the Hebrew people by bringing them out of slavery in Egypt and setting them on a path to the Promised Land. Instead of gratitude, they were fearful of that love. While that might seem weird, think about it again. When has true, deep, life-changing love ever come “naturally”. Many guys know the sheer terror of asking out a girl they really care about – fearful of rejection. Many girls get butterflies in their stomach when those guys come near them. Putting on the act and going through the motions is so much easier when you don’t really have feelings for the person with whom you are entering the relationship.

By feelings, I don’t just mean physical attraction either. It is the deeper love that calls forth the willingness to sacrifice – often the kind of love parents feel the first time they meet their newborn baby. Sure, it comes and goes with diaper changes and other messes babies make, but there is a part of it that is truly covenantal, in that it lasts until they are parted by death.

God wanted to show this kind of love to the Hebrew people, and they were terrified of what it might cost them. So they chose to hide from God. Instead of chasing after them, God, did something strange. He used Moses as an intermediary, to go between Him and the people. In a sense, Moses was supposed to carry God’s love to the people. In order to do that, Moses had to act and talk a certain way. He could no longer just be himself, because He was always representing God to the people. Moses had to change. Moses had to learn and begin to love the Hebrew people the way God did.

It was like one of those crazy Shakespearean romances where the guy playing matchmaker falls for the girl he is supposed to win over for his friend. In those type of stories conflict ensues and it either ends as a comedy or tragedy – rarely anything in between. With God however, it is a different kind of story. God actually encourages us to fall in love with the people He loves. He commands it. In fact, He helps us do it.

Jesus came as another kind of mediator between us and God, and He explained that all the laws that Moses taught could be summed up in two simple rules: Love God and love your neighbor as yourself. All the rules simply help us know how to do those two things well in different situations. But it is more than just following rules. Rules help you stay on the path, but that does not mean you will go anywhere. Real love means walking the walk, and that is where the suffering comes in. Moses suffered for the Hebrew people. Jesus suffered for us all. God continues to choose to suffer as we give our love away to people and things that do not love us back, while we ignore Him Who is Always Faithful. He does it because that is the way of love.

How have you been called to the Way of Love?

Where does fear hold you back?


  1. (Ex 20:18–21)

Creation Redeemed

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Creation Redeemed

Psalm 93

The Majesty of God’s Rule

The Lord is king, he is robed in majesty;

the Lord is robed, he is girded with strength.

He has established the world; it shall never be moved;

your throne is established from of old;

you are from everlasting.

The floods have lifted up, O Lord,

the floods have lifted up their voice;

the floods lift up their roaring.

More majestic than the thunders of mighty waters,

more majestic than the waves of the sea,

majestic on high is the Lord!

Your decrees are very sure;

holiness befits your house,

O Lord, forevermore.

Genesis 9:8-17

Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him, “As for me, I am establishing my covenant with you and your descendants after you, and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the domestic animals, and every animal of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark. I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of a flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.” God said, “This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: I have set my bow in the clouds, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.” God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant that I have established between me and all flesh that is on the earth.”

Covenants are sacred promises. Most of the covenants we have in scripture are between God and people, but today we are probably most familiar with covenants in marriages. Unlike promises, most covenants are long-term commitments. Marriages are meant to last a lifetime. Some of the biblical covenants between families were made to last multiple generations. God’s covenants are made to last forever.

Some of our theological questions arise from the intersection between God’s promises of blessed provision and His judgment. Genesis 1-9 gives us an excellent picture of how those covenants weather the storms of time and unfaithfulness. The single solid point in these biblical covenants is, again like a marriage, “I am yours an you are mine.” It is not an issue of materialistic possession. It is more like the connection between a mother and child. We belong to each other. We belong together. In Exodus, it was “I will be your God and you will be my people.” This is not really any different from what was implied by the relationship between God and humanity in the Garden of Eden.

But humanity messed up and broke their part of the promise. We cheated on God. So how does God handle this? He judges us.

God sent a flood to wipe out all life living on the land. Everything but the fish (and possibly some birds) were eliminated. Sin has a kind of contagiousness about it, and when one part is affected, it takes everything around it down with it. Creation had been ruined by violence and God intended on starting over.

Yet He did not start from scratch. Just as sin corrupts us from the inside out, so God’s mark upon us as our creator remains upon us even in that corruption. That is likely the reason for the judgment. Unlike the animals, we, who were “made in God’s image” are walking advertisements of Who He is, and when we sin we become false advertisements that need to be torn down and replaced. God did not tear us all down though. He found one man in whom enough of His image remained clear that He thought He could work with.

That, in a nutshell, is what the 2nd covenant, the rainbow, is all about. God did His job well enough in creating us that there is always the potential for redemption. Our sin shows there is always a need for redemption. Redemption is the beautiful bridge that crosses that gap between our need and the potential God made and sees in us.

Where do you see your need today?

Where do you see God working redemption in you?