Week Six October 16, 2016
READ: Isaiah 43:18-25
Followers of Jesus and frankly many other simply secular people serve others because we care about other people. One sign of the movement to maturity is our growth in caring for other people who are not our family. Serving allows us to pass on what we have or have been given to others. This is a way we can express compassion and care in concrete ways that help and encourage people.
Another reason people generally serve is because we have discovered that serving others is fulfilling and it feels good! We receive energy by serving others. We crave the opportunity to stop focusing on ourselves and give our attention to another. New relationships may emerge and our appreciation of life may grow as we serve.
Christians serve because Jesus taught us to serve others. It is a natural outgrowth of the Great Commandment to love God with our whole being and to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. Secondly, because Jesus loves us and the whole world, he call us to love others. When we see a person in need we assist them as we enter into the situation and serve together. Service is clearly connected to our desire to give of ourselves to others. Service involves commitment whether it is a gift of our time, skills or our financial assets even for a brief, one time moment, to enter into the life of another.
A final thought on why serve: from individuals, or through service agencies like the Salvation Army or Rescue Mission, or as a result of a natural disaster like a hurricane, tornado or flood, people serving others makes a significant impact on improving life for others. Serving is mutually beneficial.
Here are a couple of thoughts on Christian service:
- Serve only out of your own desire not because of guilt or the demand of others
- Jesus said that when we serve others it is as if we are serving him. Ask God to open your eyes to see Jesus as you serve.
- A joyful heart makes serving a delight. Prayerfully get your heart in order as you begin to serve.
- Recognizing that it can be very hard to be served, pray for each person in your heart, and whatever you are doing, do it in humility and love.
As the old saying goes, Millie can swear like a sailor. We first met through my good friend Clarissa. While Millie has a low IQ and cannot read, she is a hundred times more street smart than I could ever hope to be. To add to the challenges in life for Millie, she was hit head on by a car while she was in a crosswalk. She nearly died. Following reconstructive surgery on her face, the accident left her with a speech problem making it even harder to understand Millie when she talked.
Millie walks or hitch-hikes everywhere she goes. She lives independently. One day I received a call from the police saying that Millie had turned up missing. They had gone to her apartment but found that if she was home, she was not responding. When I arrived and there was still no response, I was asked to kick the door open. When the door slammed open, Millie opened her mouth and the clearest f-bomb leapt off of her lips. I do not blame her! She was sick but other than that, ok.
In snow or rain, Millie would walk a mile or two to come and worship. There are times when people who take advantage of Millie persuade her to buy large volumes of alcohol, have wild parties with Millie which leaves her without money for food or rent. When this happens in the cold of winter, Millie has intentionally stolen so she get arrested and ends up with a warm place to sleep and food to eat in jail. While it is easy for many people to judge Millie and her life from a distance, underneath her thick street survival skin, there is a respect and reliance on the Lord. It takes time and persistence to find your way into Millie’s heart because she has learned to not trust people after a life time of being mocked and ridiculed. While not evident to many people, the flame of the Lord’s love still flickers in Millie’s heart.
One of the brilliant ideas of the founders of the United States government is the separation of power between the executive, legislative and judicial branches. When there is collaboration and cooperation between the branches of government, our democracy can be well led. Obviously, when party politics and lobbyists are too influential the whole system can get mucked up. Whatever happened to electing individuals who represent the people and not a political party or people, interests or business’s with big money? Greed!
The judicial system is designed to be a neutral court to hear cases and make just decisions on behalf of the county, state and federal government. Whether before a judge or a jury, the case is to be heard by an impartial court. The case is presented, the evidence examined and a fair and just decision is to be handed down.
Isaiah 43:22-28 is the case of Yahweh vs. Israel. This case together with 42:18-25 and 50:1-3 are the only three trail speeches where God makes a case against Jacob or Israel. While Jacob pleaded that God was wrong in ignoring and hiding from him (40:27), now Yahweh makes it clear why Israel finds herself in exile.
Yahweh also brings cases against the nations. He charges the coastlands (41:1-5), a case against idols (41:21-29), another against Babylon with Israel as the witness (43:8-15), another case against idolatry (44:6-20), and a final case against Babylon and idols (45:20-25). It is interesting to note that in each case God makes an appeal to the nature of the one, true God: “I am the first and the last” (41:1; 44:6); “I am the Creator and your King” (43:15); “there is no other righteous God nor rock beside me (44:8; 45:21).
In the case of Yahweh vs. Israel in Isaiah 43:22-28, it is presented in three sections: 22-24, 25, 26-28. In the first section (22-24) the case is craftily laid out. The whole case is about the futility of the worship life of Israel of Yahweh. Jacob has acted as if it were tired of God and as a result, they have worshiped nor prayed to Yahweh (v. 22). You have not brought sacrifices of sheep (v. 23) sweet cane nor fat (v. 24a-b) to me, says the Lord. While there is no burden coming from me about offerings nor have I tired you out about the gift of frankincense as a symbol of your prayers ascending to me (Psalm 141:2; 43:23), yet you have burdened and exhausted me with your sins (43:24c-d).
In the last section (43:26-28), Yahweh looks to provoke Israel saying: Accuse me, let us go to trial; set forth your case, (v. 26). God justifies the destruction of Jerusalem and the distaste for the priestly corruption (v. 28) because of the sin of the people, the worthless sacrifice of the priests and the words of the false prophets that gained a hearing among the Jews (43:27; Hosea 4:4-6; Jeremiah 23:9-15).
In spite of the unfaithful history of Israel and the justified judgement and action of God, Yahweh remains true to Yahweh. As a result, God forgives Israel of its sin only because of God’s true nature (43:25). This middle section is the story of God’s amazing grace.
In today’s reading of God’s case against Israel, it would be easy to see why God could justifiably turn away from Jacob and never look back. However, that is not how the story ends. Instead of pursuing the just decision of a divorce from Israel, God chooses to forgive and reconcile the relationship with Jacob. God honors the covenant. Many people have turned their back on Millie and justifiably so because her self-preserving, by some standards is quite immoral, and very coarse in lots of ways. Yet at a closer look, if you give her the attention she needs, get to know her and love her for who she is, she is loyal and loves in return as she is able. Millie has changed my life in an enlightened way!
- When it comes to our relationship with God, we have all messed up, made mistakes, and sinned. Call it what you want. How have you experienced the grace of God?
- Do you still hold on to any shame or guilt from your past? Why do you find it so hard to let go of these memories? Do you have any trouble believing that God does in fact forgive you?
- What steps have you taken to try and forgive yourself? If you have sinned against another person, what steps have you taken to confess and seek to reconcile? If it was not reciprocal, do you understand that this is their choice and you have done your part? It is time to let go and let God!
- What about Millie? How does she fit in God’s kingdom? Who are the Millie’s in your life? Keep your eyes and heart open and see what God does.