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Acts 7:37-43 // Jesus and the story of redemption (pt 4)

“37 This is the Moses who said to the Israelites, “God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from among your brothers.” 38 He is the one who was in the congregation in the wilderness together with the angel who spoke to him on Mount Sinai, and with our ancestors. He received living oracles to give to us. 39 Our ancestors were unwilling to obey him, but pushed him away, and in their hearts turned back to Egypt. 40 They told Aaron:

“Make us gods who will go before us. As for this Moses who brought us out of the land of Egypt, we don’t know what’s happened to him.”

41 They even made a calf in those days, offered sacrifice to the idol, and were celebrating what their hands had made. 42 Then God turned away and gave them up to worship the host of heaven, as it is written in the book of the prophets:

“House of Israel, did you bring Me offerings and sacrifices

40 years in the wilderness?

43 No, you took up the tent of Moloch

and the star of your god Rephan,

the images that you made to worship.

So I will deport you beyond Babylon!”

Acts 7:37-43

Stephen is really on fire here at this point in his sermon. He is opening old cultural wounds and identifying embarassing things feom their collective history. Some of the religious leaders were behaving as if they had never done anything wrong in their service to God, and they turned a blind eye to the faults and patterns of their ancestors that they themselves were engaged in currently. 

Just like the Israelites rebelled and rejected God in the wilderness, they were now rebelling and rejecting Jesus in exchange for what they wanted to do and how they wanted to worship. They ignored the obvious signs and wonders and truths that He taught and performed and so they remained in their religion that they had crafted for themselves. It had become their idol, just like Molech & Rephan. They hadn’t been worshipping God, but their own system of belief. There may not have been a physical idol, but there doesn’t have to be one. It was simply a rejection of the truth for something homemade & ‘comfortable.’

As we walk with Jesus, we must be mindful to keep our worship focused on Him, on God, and not on a system or a religion that we craft for ourselves. It’s tempting to have a self-crafted religion, pulling bits and pieces from wherever we choose. But we must have our foundation in the truth, being held accountable by the Word of God, not by society or by some personal expectation or desire. Worship that is made for anything other than God Himself, as HE has revelaed Himself, is idolatry and we cannot pretend otherwise. 

We all have patterns of behavior that we fall back into, old comfortable sins, foibles and lies that we hae either scultped on our own or adopted from somewhere else, and we cannot pretend that God is pleased when we slip back into those old ways and habits. We must abide in Him, living & dwelling in His truth & presence. Again, to do otherwise is a misrepresentation of Him to others, and He will not honor those efforts or the lives behinds them. And So, as we GoLove others, we must do so in spirit and in truth, wholly worshipping God, properly, reverently and not in any way that we have devised for ourselves, spiritually compromised and corrupted by sin. 

I’m so thankful for the grace that God offers to us in Christ, because we are incapable of doing everything right all the time. So, even when we do slip up, even when we do begin to sculpt our own little idols, God is always there whispering in our ear, speaking to our hearts, communicating through His Word, ready to bring us back as we humbly repent. A daily dying to self and taking up of our cross is the best way to point our hearts in the right direction as we read His Word, seek Him out in prayer and follow in the rhythms of grace that Jesus taught us.
  

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Psalm 106 // There are not two ways

“1 Hallelujah!

Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good;

His faithful love endures forever.

2 Who can declare the Lord’s mighty acts

or proclaim all the praise due Him?

3 How happy are those who uphold justice,

who practice righteousness at all times.

4 Remember me, Lord,

when You show favor to Your people.

Come to me with Your salvation

5 so that I may enjoy the prosperity

of Your chosen ones,

rejoice in the joy of Your nation,

and boast about Your heritage.
6 Both we and our fathers have sinned;

we have done wrong and have acted wickedly.

7 Our fathers in Egypt did not grasp

the significance of Your wonderful works

or remember Your many acts of faithful love;

instead, they rebelled by the sea — the Red Sea.

8 Yet He saved them because of His name,

to make His power known.

9 He rebuked the Red Sea, and it dried up;

He led them through the depths as through a desert.

10 He saved them from the hand of the adversary;

He redeemed them from the hand of the enemy.

11 Water covered their foes;

not one of them remained.

12 Then they believed His promises

and sang His praise.
13 They soon forgot His works

and would not wait for His counsel.

14 They were seized with craving in the wilderness

and tested God in the desert.

15 He gave them what they asked for,

but sent a wasting disease among them.

16 In the camp they were envious of Moses

and of Aaron, the Lords holy one.

17 The earth opened up and swallowed Dathan;

it covered the assembly of Abiram.

18 Fire blazed throughout their assembly;

flames consumed the wicked.

19 At Horeb they made a calf

and worshiped the cast metal image.

20 They exchanged their glory

for the image of a grass- eating ox.

21 They forgot God their Savior,

who did great things in Egypt,

22 wonderful works in the land of Ham,

awe- inspiring acts at the Red Sea.

23 So He said He would have destroyed them —

if Moses His chosen one

had not stood before Him in the breach

to turn His wrath away from destroying them.

24 They despised the pleasant land

and did not believe His promise.

25 They grumbled in their tents

and did not listen to the Lord’s voice.

26 So He raised His hand against them with an oath

that He would make them fall in the desert

27 and would disperse their descendants

among the nations,

scattering them throughout the lands.

28 They aligned themselves with Baal of Peor

and ate sacrifices offered to lifeless gods.

29 They provoked the Lord with their deeds,

and a plague broke out against them.

30 But Phinehas stood up and intervened,

and the plague was stopped.

31 It was credited to him as righteousness

throughout all generations to come.

32 They angered the Lord at the waters of Meribah,

and Moses suffered because of them;

33 for they embittered his spirit,

and he spoke rashly with his lips.

34 They did not destroy the peoples

as the Lord had commanded them

35 but mingled with the nations

and adopted their ways.

36 They served their idols,

which became a snare to them.

37 They sacrificed their sons and daughters to demons.

38 They shed innocent blood —

the blood of their sons and daughters

whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan;

so the land became polluted with blood.

39 They defiled themselves by their actions

and prostituted themselves by their deeds.

40 Therefore the Lord’s anger burned against His people,

and He abhorred His own inheritance.

41 He handed them over to the nations;

those who hated them ruled them.

42 Their enemies oppressed them,

and they were subdued under their power.

43 He rescued them many times,

but they continued to rebel deliberately

and were beaten down by their sin.
44 When He heard their cry,

He took note of their distress,

45 remembered His covenant with them,

and relented according to the riches

of His faithful love.

46 He caused them to be pitied

before all their captors.

47 Save us, Yahweh our God,

and gather us from the nations,

so that we may give thanks to Your holy name

and rejoice in Your praise.

48 May Yahweh, the God of Israel, be praised

from everlasting to everlasting.

Let all the people say, “Amen!

Hallelujah!””

Psalm 78:1-8 // Never forget what God has done

Lessons from Israels Past
A Maskil of Asaph.
“1 My people, hear my instruction;
listen to what I say.
2 I will declare wise sayings;
I will speak mysteries from the past —
3 things we have heard and known
and that our fathers have passed down to us.
4 We must not hide them from their children,
but must tell a future generation
the praises of the Lord,
His might, and the wonderful works
He has performed.
5 He established a testimony in Jacob
and set up a law in Israel,
which He commanded our fathers
to teach to their children
6 so that a future generation —
children yet to be born — might know.
They were to rise and tell their children
7 so that they might put their confidence in God
and not forget Gods works,
but keep His commands.
8 Then they would not be like their fathers,
a stubborn and rebellious generation,
a generation whose heart was not loyal
and whose spirit was not faithful to God.”
Psalm 78:1-8

In the remaining 64 verses, Asaph recalls God’s faithfulness and judgment, both for and against Israel. They were clearly His chosen ones, but they fought back against Him and rejected His leading so many times. Asaph reminds the people what happened to Egypt and how God’s judgment lashed out against them. He reminds them about what happens to those who stand against God, not because He is angry at them, but so that they may never forget.

This telling and re-telling of their history was mandated by God. He commanded each generation to tell the next over and over again why things were the way they were, How God had helped them, saved them, and why they should be faithful to the One who has defined faithfulness. And so Asaph is a continuing partner in that act of remembrance and obedience. And as it was good for Israel to remember what God had done, it is still good for us today.

He is our Faithful One, our Lord and our Liege. He is our Rescuer and our Salvation. His mighty works have saved us from death itself and the least that we can do is to thank Him through remembering what He has done. Remembering, both in this way and when we take communion, is an act of worship. It is a recalling and a thanaksgiving. It is a proclamation of the goodness of God, and that recalling worships Him because it draws hearts & minds to Him, it gives Him glory and it stands as a testimony.

As we GoLove others for His sake, we need to recall to them what He has done, not only for Israel, but in our own lives. Our testimony of His faithfulness stands as a witness to them as we share the good news of the Gospel of Christ. There is no retelling of God’s faithfulness that is not worship and a joy to the hearts of those who still live in darkness.

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