EXODUS 19:2-8a

THE BACKGROUND

Moses led the people of Israel out of Ramses, Egypt and onto the Sinai Peninsula.  They got down towards the bottom in an area called Rephidim.  (We don’t know exactly where it is.)  Moses’ father-in-law Jethro heard about their escape from slavery in Egypt, and met him in Rephidim.  He was from Midian (to the lower right on this map).  He brought Moses’ wife, his daughter, and their two sons.  Afterward, they proceeded to Mt. Horeb/Mt. Sinai (same mountain, two names) to meet with God.  In Old Testament times, people thought God dwelled in specific places, such as certain mountain tops, the temple, or in the Arc of the Covenant. This event occurred fifty days after their departure from Egypt.  On the fiftieth day, God made a covenant with his people on Mt. Sinai.  The celebration of Pentecost for the Jews is a celebration of the giving of the Law of Moses—the Ten Commandments. 

THE DETAIL

  • The Israelites leaving Rephidim, reaching Mt. Sinai after two months, literally “on the third moon”.  Two lunar cycles is 2 X 28=48 days, or about 50 days.  (v. 2)
  • Moses goes “up the mountain, and God speaks to him. (v. 3)
  • God reminds them that he has saved them, and brought them out of slavery.  He has chosen them above all peoples.  All God is looking for is a relationship.  He then lays down the details of that relationship in the form of a covenant. (vv. 4-6)
  • Moses presents God’s covenant to the people, and they agree, saying “We will do everything the Lord has commanded”.  The terms of the covenant are set.  (vv. 7-8a)

THE TAKEAWAY

Of all the peoples of the earth, God chose the Israelites to shower with his love.  Why was this? I’m sure that it had a lot to do with the faith of Abraham, way back when, and the promise he made to Abraham. I believe that God’s promises are eternal.  He promised to love the Israelites, then, and he loves them yet today.  Since we love his only Son, this love now extends to us. Let us all promise along with Israel to “do everything the Lord has commanded”.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT

There’s one glaring problem here.  In verse 5, God says “IF you obey my voice…”, then we may be in a loving relationship with Him. But we are anything but obedient to His voice!  We sin left and right.  How can we possibly justify having a relationship with God, when we do not obey His commandments?  Our second reading just might have an answer for us.

 

ROMANS 5:1-8

THE BACKGROUND

This reading is a continuation of last weeks’, where Paul explains that Abraham’s faith is the basis for his relationship with God, not his adherence to the law  Paul reminds the Christians in Rome of the love and grace that has been freely given to them from God.  They obtain this abundant love not by what they do.  The only way is by having faith in Jesus. 

 

THE DETAIL

  • This passage answers the question we had at the end of the first lesson.  The only way to be justified by God is through having faith in His son as our savior. It is God’s free gift to us, once we believe in Jesus.  (v. 1)
  • Because of this faith, we are in a relationship with our Lord.  We have direct access to him.  We don’t need to ask a priest, a preacher, a saint, or anybody else to pray for us. We have direct access to God’s loving grace.  So, if we want to brag about anything about our Christian walk, it should be about what God has done for us, not about anything we might have done.  (v. 2)
  • Paul outlines the process that can occur, when suffering one’s faith.  Suffering leads us to the hope of God’s love.  It is there where we may dwell, when suffering for our faith.  (vv. 3-5) 
  • Since he is talking about God’s love for us, he reminds us of God’s giving of His son on the cross for us.  There are very few people I’d sacrifice my life for.  It’s a pretty short list.  But Jesus sacrificed his life for you, me, and many others. This is how much God cares for us—that he sacrificed his only Son for our sins, regardless of our sinful nature. (vv. 6-8)

THE TAKEAWAY

We are richly blessed, aren’t we?  We have a God who loves us enough to sacrifice his Son for us.  We really don’t deserve this.  There is nothing we could do to earn this.  It is a free gift, requiring only faith in God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Thanks be to God!

 

MATTHEW 9:35 – 10:8

THE BACKGROUND

It is helpful to remember that Matthew’s gospel was first written for fellow Jews, to show them that Jesus truly was the Messiah.

 

THE DETAIL

  • This story is early in Jesus’ ministry.  He is travelling everywhere within Judea, healing and teaching.  (v. 35)
  • He sees how down-trodden the people are. According to Matthew, “they were harassed and helpless…”  Jesus’ heart goes out to them.  He loves them so much that he sends out his 12 apostles to do exactly what he has been doing. (vv. 36-38)
  • He delegates his authority and power to the 12, to cure physical and psychological ailments.  Their names appear here.  (vv. 10:1-4)
  • Jesus gives them some interesting instructions. They are to keep to the “lost sheep of the house of Israel”, and not minister to the needs of Gentiles or Samaritans. (vv. 5-6) 
  • This is what they are to do: proclaim the good news that the kingdom has come near, cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers and cast out demons.  (Wow! That’s a lot!)  (vv. 7-8a)
  • Finally, he tells them to do this for free!  (v. 8b)

 

THE TAKEAWAY

Why would Jesus tell his disciples to skip over the Gentiles and Samaritans?  Perhaps there was enough work for the 12 to do close at hand without spreading themselves too thin.  Maybe this wasn’t the time in Jesus’ ministry to expand to the outside world.  (See verses 7-8a)  Or maybe this is just Matthew being a little too Jewish, to the delight of his listeners.  I can only find one instance in Matthew where Jesus heals a non-Jew. 

Jesus has love and compassion for those in need. He can’t do it all by himself, so he sends out helpers.  All too often, I see people in need. But, I want to be like a turtle, pulling my head into my shell, hoping they disappear.  We should be like Jesus.  We should help.  After all, we are the helpers that he is sending out.