Tag Archives: Disobedience

Micro Aggressions; Macro Issues

The Lord said to Moses, “Take the staff, and you and your brother Aaron gather the assembly together. Speak to that rock before their eyes and it will pour out its water. You will bring water out of the rock for the community so they and their livestock can drink.”

 Then Moses raised his arm and struck the rock twice with his staff.
Numbers 20:7-8, 11a (NIV)

I’m currently doing character study for a play my friend and I are producing next year entitled Freud’s Last Session. The script is a “What if?” play that imagines an ailing Sigmund Freud inviting a young C.S. Lewis for a visit in his study in London. Freud escaped Nazi Germany to England where he worked and lived out the end of his life. The play is set on the day Britain entered war with Germany. The two intellectuals match wits for an hour on matters of life, death, faith, and the impending war.

In the play Freud makes an argument against Hitler’s use of Christianity and religion to support his fascist regime. Lewis concedes that the institutional church is an easy target. History is filled with evil done in the name of God.

The truth is, however, that what is true on a macro level (e.g. the institutional church in Germany supporting Hitler’s evil regime) can also exist on the micro level (e.g. me doing the wrong thing and cloaking it in spiritual motives). I have no control over the macro level concerns of the institutional church, but I do control my own thoughts, words, and actions.

In today’s chapter, the Hebrew tribes are once again in grumbling mode. The wayfaring nation is camped in the desert and there is no good water source. A couple million people wandering in the desert require a lot of water to survive. Let the rebellion commence.

Per the systemic pattern that’s been well established at this point, the people’s grumbling complaints prompt Moses and Aaron to go before God and throw themselves on the ground in exasperation. Also well established by this point is the fact that God has proven to come through with provision when the survival of the people is at stake. God tells Moses to “speak” to a rock there in the camp and it will miraculously produce flowing water.

Moses, however, goes on a bit of a rant against his grumbling people and “raises his hand” to strike the rock. In his rage Moses strikes the rock not once, but twice.

Moses actions are a micro level spiritual problem with macro implications. God was very specific about speaking to the rock. Moses lost his temper and went postal on the thing. My first impression is that it seems a small matter for God to get upset about, but as every psychologist knows micro aggressions hide macro issues. As Freud explains to Lewis in Freud’s Last Session, what his patients tell him is not as important as what they don’t.

This morning I’m doing a little spiritual inventory. Are there places in my life where I’m striking when God has directed me to speak? Are there places in life in which I’m speaking or acting for my own self-centered motives and cloaking under a guise of “doing it for the Lord”?

Sacrifice and At-one-ment

You shall lay your hand on the head of the burnt-offering, and it shall be acceptable in your behalf as atonement for you.
Leviticus 1:4 (NRSV)

I have blogged through the book of Leviticus only once since starting this chapter-a-day blogging journey ten years ago. That compares to the 2-3 times I’ve blogged through most of the other books in God’s Message. The reason for this is not a mystery. Leviticus is not an easy read and it’s even more difficult for most people to understand in a 21st century western culture. And yet, it’s part of the Great Story. Without it, our understanding of the story God is telling through history is incomplete.

Leviticus is ancient legal text. It’s part of what’s known as “The Law of Moses” (a.k.a. “The Books of Law” and “The Torah”) which is the first five books of what we commonly know as the Old Testament. Leviticus is a rule book and an instruction manual for the people of Israel regarding the system of sacrifices and offerings they were to make to God. As we see in today’s opening chapter, it’s a bloody affair.

The underlying reason for this gory, intricate system of sacrifices is given. If you blink you might miss it:

“…and it shall be acceptable in your behalf as atonement for you.”

The word “atonement” is not one we use much anymore. It’s a medieval word and the meaning is simple if you just break the word apart: at-one-ment. It’s to make two things one or to bring two dissonant parts into harmony.

We have to think about it in context of the story. The Great Story begins with creation, and with God placing Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve disobey God. They committed a sin by knowingly doing what they had been commanded not to do. God banishes them from the Garden. They are told that the punishment for their sin was that they would be separated from God and they would have to die a physical death. The punishment of sin was death.

In the Book of Leviticus, God is providing a prescriptive remedy for this situation. The appropriate animal, without defect, sacrificed on the altar would make temporary at-one-ment for that person and God. The person bringing the animal would place their hand on the animal and the animal became a substitutionary, sacrificial death for their sin. The death sentence God place on all of us in the Garden of Eden was transferred to the sacrifice.

This is a foreshadowing of the story. Leviticus sets the theme. The temporary sacrifices which the people of Israel made over and over again would one day be replaced by a permanent solution. The sacrifice of God’s own Son. The Lamb of God, without defect, sacrificed once for all.

This morning I’m thinking about foreshadows. I’m thinking how glad I am to have been born in the 20th century A.D. and not the 20th century B.C. I’m thinking about the long list of my own sins and acts of willful disobedience. I’m thinking about the physical death that I will eventually experience. I’m thinking about the nagging sense of loneliness, confusion, and spiritual isolation I felt before experiencing at-one-ment when I entered into relationship with Jesus and followed.

 

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featured photo: Mate Marschalko via Flickr

I am Achan

And Achan answered Joshua, “It is true; I am the one who sinned against the Lord God of Israel. This is what I did: when I saw among the spoil a beautiful mantle from Shinar, and two hundred shekels of silver, and a bar of gold weighing fifty shekels, then I coveted them and took them. They now lie hidden in the ground inside my tent, with the silver underneath.”
Joshua 7:20-21 (NRSV)

The story of Achan is fascinating. God miraculously delivers the city of Jericho to Joshua and his big band of trumpet players. The walls of the city come tumbling down and the nation of Israel plunders the city with one simple rule: don’t take any of the pagan idols or things used in the worship of the idols and false gods of the people of Jericho. Does this remind you of anything? (Hint: “You can eat of any tree of the garden except for that one in the middle.”)

Sure enough, a man name Achan takes some forbidden spoil for himself in direct disobedience to the order (that would be calls sin) and then hides it by burying it in his tent (that would be called shame). God clues Joshua in that someone has disobeyed and, eventually, Achan is confronted and confesses his sin. Achan and his entire family are stoned to death to rid the nation of sin (that would be called a “scapegoat”).

When I was younger, I always saw the story of Achan from the idealistic view of the majority. “Achan, how could you ruin it for the whole nation? Dude, you knew the rules! How simple was it just to do the right thing? What an idiot!

As I have progressed in my life journey I have increasingly come to terms with a simple fact: I am Achan. I am the child who, at the age of five, stole all the envelopes with money in them off my grandparent’s Christmas tree and buried them in my suitcase. I am the one who is guilty of lying, and cheating, and stealing, and breaking my word, and being disobedient to God and my loved ones. Not just once, mind you, but over and over and over again. If I point the finger at Achan, there are three pointing back at me.

In the context of the Great Story, Achan serves as a thematic waypoint. Achan hearkens us back to Eden and reminds us that the problem of sin has not been dealt with.  Achan reminds us, in the moment, of one of the meta-themes of God’s great story: one little sin taints the whole. As Jesus put it, one smidgen of yeast affects the whole loaf. Achan reflects our fallen human nature’s penchant to blame one for the failure of the whole, and a Cubs fan need only to hear the name Bartman to realize that human nature has not changed across time. Finally, the story of Achan is a foreshadow of the solution God will provide when He will send His one and only Son to be the One who will die the death that idol stealing and  Christmas money stealing criminals deserve. Jesus will be the sacrificial lamb and make atonement for the whole.

This morning I am once again humbled by an honest reflection of my own shortcomings. I am thinking about Achan and accepting that I am him. Throw the rocks, man. I deserve it. I am once again grateful for that which we have just celebrated: God becoming man to die for my sin, to take my shame on His shoulders, and then to rise from the grave to give grace, hope, forgiveness, and redemption to one such as me.

 

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Judgement and Grace

source: aclamp via Flickr
source: aclamp via Flickr

The word of the Lord came to me: “Son of man, set your face against the mountains of Israel; prophesy against them….”
Ezekiel 6:1 (NIV)

At the time of Ezekiel’s prophetic messages (c. 590 B.C.), the nation of Israel had been split for over three centuries by civil war. Like the U.S. civil war, the nation had been divided north and south. Ezekiel came from the southern kingdom, called Judah because it was primarily made up of that particular tribe and Judah was the tribe from which King David had come. The southern kingdom followed the royal line of David and kept the capitol in Jerusalem.

The northern kingdom was called Israel and consisted of 10 of the other 12 Israeli tribes. Because the northern kingdom did not follow a particular royal lineage, the throne of Israel was continually up for grabs. The northern kingdom’s history is marked by political intrigue and bloody power struggles. Cut off from Solomon’s temple in Jerusalem, the northern kingdom had its religious center in the town of Bethel. Israel largely abandoned the religious law of Moses and generally worshipped the popular Canaanite gods of the day whose worship included sexual fertility rituals and, in some instances, child sacrifice.

In the previous chapters, Ezekiel’s prophecy has focused on God’s judgement on the southern kingdom of Judah and its capitol, Jerusalem. In today’s chapter, God’s message through Ezekiel takes an abrupt turn to the north. The earthly kingdoms may have been divided, but in God’s economy all 12 tribes of Israel were still His people. Just because Judah was going to face God’s judgement for their unfaithfulness did not mean Israel was going to escape His wrath.

There was an interesting parallel to the prophetic messages to both kingdoms. Amidst the messages of doom there was a measure of grace. A remnant would escape the judgement and be scattered, leaving hope of the nation’s ultimate survival.

Today, my mind is making parallels between God’s punishment of Israel and Judah, and the judgement I faced many times as a child. Like all children, I dreaded the judgement and wrath of my parents. The sting of corporal punishment and “time out” exile to my room was no joy to endure even when deserved. But amidst the punishment there was always a seed of grace. I was loved. Blessing and restoration would return with my repentance and obedience.

Parental Observation from a Child’s Perspective

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But you, Belshazzar, his son, have not humbled yourself, though you knew all this.
Daniel 5:22 (NIV)

As a parent, there is a big difference between a child who acts (or omits) out of ignorance and the child who acts (or omits) with the full knowledge that they are doing what they should not do, or not doing what they should do. Ignorance can be understood and the offense can be chalked up to a lesson that needed to be learned. When a child acts with the full knowledge that what they are doing is improper it is a very different situation. The action, or refusal to act, becomes a willing act of disobedience.

Today’s chapter fast forwards in Daniel’s story. Nebuchadnezzar is dead and Belshazzar has taken the throne. Belshazzar had witnessed all that his predecessor had gone through with the statute, his dreams, and his madness. He had heard Nebuchadnezzar acknowledge God and humble himself. Now that he is on the throne, Belshazzar throws an drunken feast and brings in the stolen gold cups from Solomon’s temple to drink from. If dishonoring the temple vessels wasn’t enough, B-Shaz and his homeys begin to honor the idols of gold, silver and wood. The lesson is clear, B-Shaz had witnessed all that Nebuchadnezzar had experienced and learned, but he didn’t learn the lesson himself.

This morning, to be honest, my heart is sober. As a parent it is easy for me to see and apply these simple lines of behavioral delineation, but then I think of myself as a child of God. I think of lessons I have learned along the journey that still have not translated into life change. There are things I know I shouldn’t do that I do, and things I should do that I don’t. Like a child caught red-handed, I am in continuous need of my Father’s grace and mercy.

[Side note: I love when I realize, discover, or rediscover the source of a common phrase. We forget how many every day sayings come from Shakespeare and from the Bible. “Weighed on the scales and found wanting” is a phrase I’ve heard referenced in books, plays, movies and conversation my entire life. Its source is today’s chapter!]

Chapter-a-Day Jeremiah 25

The verdict of God-of-the-Angel-Armies on all this: “Because you have refused to listen to what I’ve said, I’m stepping in. Jeremiah 25:8 (MSG)

My experience: Whenever a person of authority has had to “step in” because those under his or her authority has not done what they are supposed to do, it’s not a good thing.

When mom or dad “step in” because their child refused to do what he was told. [not that I would know anything about that]

When a teacher “steps in” because the class willingly refused to follow directions.

When a coach “steps in” because the team did not follow his or her clear instructions.

When a boss “steps in” because the employee(s) refused to do what was expected.

It’s never a pretty picture when the authorities “step in.” All the more reason to take it seriously when it’s God who’s threatening to step in.

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and 1uk3

Capter-a-Day Romans 7

Cheetos are commonly considered a junk food.
Image via Wikipedia

 The very command that was supposed to guide me into life was cleverly used to trip me up, throwing me headlong. Romans 7:10-11 (MSG)

There was a drawer in the kitchen when I was a kid. It was a big drawer. The bottom drawer of the pennensuila to the left of the stove. It was the drawer. In that drawer were potato chips, Oreo cookies, Little Debbie snack cakes, and the occasional gold mine of cream-filled Hostess treats. To a young kid, it was junk food Nirvana.

When I got home from school, it was snack time. A Coke and a snack. One snack. Only one snack. That was the law. Thus speaketh almighty mom. “You don’t want to ruin supper,” she said.

So, I would wolf down my coke and cookies before heading downstairs to turn on after-school television: The Brady Bunch followed by Hogan’s Heroes. It always happened somewhere half-way through the Brady Bunch, right when Peter or Jan found themselves in the midst of a polyester, bell-bottomed predicament.

I really wanted another snack.

But mom said, “It would ruin my supper.”

“So what,” I said to myself. “It’s chicken and noodles. I hate chicken and noodles.”

Listen for the footsteps upstairs. Mom’s in the living room. Quietly make your way up stairs. Watch that third step; It creaks. Tip-toe down the hallway. Peek around the corner. Where’s mom sitting? Good! She’s on the couch facing the other way. Just a few more quiet steps to the drawer of forbidden fruit pies! You gotta love that dad made these drawers so quiet. Grab the stash, then quietly dash back downstairs.

I don’t know how many times I successfully made a sneaky snack run.  Sure, I got caught a few times, just like the Brady kids. But I was successful more often than not, which prompted me to do it again and again.

I thought about the snack drawer when I read today’s chapter. It perfectly illustrates for me the sin nature that Romans explains. That sinful nature in me takes the command that was meant for my good, and turns it into a lustful desire to disobediently appease my out-of-control appetites.

Unfortunately, the older you get, the commands are more important and the disobedience yields more disastrous consequences.

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