The following is a Bible passage that’s unlikely to be anyone’s favorite; it’s unlikely that anyone even slows down here to see what it’s saying. But let’s slow down in the conviction that God’s Word does not return void (Isaiah 55):
Hebrews 7:14-19: For it is evident that our Lord was descended from Judah, and in connection with that tribe Moses said nothing about priests. This becomes even more evident when another priest arises in the likeness of Melchiz’edek, who has become a priest, not according to a legal requirement concerning bodily descent but by the power of an indestructible life. For it is witnessed of him, “Thou art a priest forever, after the order of Melchiz’edek.” On the one hand, a former commandment is set aside because of its weakness and uselessness (for the law made nothing perfect); on the other hand, a better hope is introduced, through which we draw near to God.
This text is comparing Jesus with the mysterious “Melchizedek” of Genesis and contrasting them with the Levitical priesthood of Exodus and following. The Levitical priesthood, all according to the law, never helped anyone live; rather, as is the case with the law, it only reveals more powerfully why we die.
From a different tribe, not from Levi, came Jesus—not according to the law but according to God’s eternal promise to redeem us from the curse of the law. In Jesus the promises of God are all fulfilled: “Yes!” and “Amen!” Our Lord Jesus has become our Redeemer, Advocate, and Intercessor by the power of His indestructible life. He, Himself, always lives to bring us near to God, now by His Word and sacraments; sooner or later, by actually taking us to Himself in paradise.
Maybe slowing down to read texts that look too hard is just when we discover a Word of God to us that we would hardly want to miss?
Leviticus 19:17-18 is a neat literary package with a profoundly powerful message:
“You shall not hate your neighbor in your heart.
You shall surely rebuke your neighbor and not bear sin because of him [= share in his guilt b/c you haven’t tried to keep him from it].
You shall not take revenge or bear a grudge against the children of your people.
You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
Notice how it is hateful to know our neighbor is practicing something destructive, contrary to God’s design for life, and not try to help. Loving our neighbor, even our enemy, in this way is not easy. Therefore Jesus reminds us in the gospel from Mark 8:34-35, “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me FOR whoever desires to save his life [physical, ego-driven] will lose it but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it [will discover and realize the regenerate soul + infinite life].”
Solomon wrote “Words of the wise, spoken quietly, should be heard rather than the shout of a ruler of fools [unbelievers = people dishonest about what their lives depend on]” (Ecclesiastes 9:17).
Recently the governors of New York and Illinois made loud boasts about leading the way in expanding the legality of abortion. God bless us to quietly, lovingly, and persistently share His wisdom for the life of the world, especially for the world of unborn and little children.
In the reading from Exodus 34 God tells Moses to cut two tablets of stone on which God will write the Ten Commandments. If we are determined to oppose God, the law becomes a ceiling too heavy for us to bear, and we get mad about it. But when God’s grace regenerates our soul to seek God and His design for us, then the law is the floor that supports us and the life He gives us.
Yesterday’s One Year Bible readings included Exodus 8—9, a record of the contest between God and Pharaoh. God commanded Pharaoh to let Israel go free; Pharaoh refused. In this way, Pharaoh is like the devil, who refuses to free humanity so we might serve God. Pharaoh is also indicative of our own human nature: stubborn, proud, repentant, and fearful for a moment but then repenting of its fear and repentance, climaxing in a hardened heart.
Contrast that with the Gospel lesson from Matthew 19:13-15, describing how little children were being brought to Jesus. These little children and the mothers who brought them are like the body of Christ, the Church, which brings us into the Living Water of God’s Word that blesses us with a regenerate soul, a new heart (Ezek. 36:24ff), and baptism to seal all the promises of God to us (2 Cor. 1:21ff).
Today’s Old Testament reading from Genesis 44:16-34 reports Judah’s confession of wrongdoing in regard to Joseph. Judah admits that God has caught up with the brothers of Joseph and then he offers to exchange places. Here is a powerful witness to the corruption of human nature and God’s remedy for that when Jesus, a descendant of Judah, exchanges places with us.
In Matthew 10:39 Jesus says, “He who finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.” These words are nonsense to a twenty-first century world convinced that the only real world is physical and bound in time. But what if God’s creation reflects His image, in part, by being three dimensional? What if our essence is an eternal soul that was given a body with which to learn what life is all about—a soul and body animated by the Spirit of God through His Word? Suddenly the Word of the Lord makes perfect sense and we possess an invitation to life beyond our wildest dreams!
The reading from Matthew for January 8 records many imperatives for us; all of them are based on God’s gracious and abundant providence for our lives. Jesus commanded, “Stop worrying.” How is that possible? Consider the birds and flowers; look at how God provides for them and they are of small value compared to you. Jesus commanded, “Stop judging.” God has the ability to rightly judge; our place is to study and learn.
Can we train our eyes to be more observant and studious? If so, we will find ourselves surrounded by God’s constant witnesses to His love and care for us.
Christmas depends on Jesus. Now that I think of it, so does everything: “. . . He upholds all things by the Word of His power . . .” (Hebrews 1:3).
Many people make New Year’s resolutions—promises to others or oneself to do better this year. What if we concentrated on the promises of Jesus to us? “For all the promises of God find their Yes in Him ” (2 Corinthians 1:20). If we remain in His Word, then it is God’s Own Spirit, rather than our ego, at work for good.