Psalm 37:23-26; Exodus 25:10-40; Matthew 24:45-51

Psalm 37:23-26   “By the LORD a man’s strides are made firm.” (23) Metaphorically, life is a journey; in this case a hike.  We walk; God makes us “firm,” which I take to mean purposeful.   Life is not an aimless wandering.  Even as we walk forward, the path will not be smooth and we will trip–over other people, over circumstances, over ourselves. Which as I age, I understand much more clearly than as a young man.

But God is holding our hand: “Though he fall, he will not be flung down, for the LORD sustains his hand.” (24) It has taken me longer to understand this than to know that life is hardly a smooth road.  As so many other psalms assert, even when it seems that God has deserted us, he is actually there, holding our hand.

I think it’s important to understand that our hand is “sustained” by God. He  is not leading us by the hand.  As we walk, we have a choice to follow a path of our own devising.  For good or bad.  I hear a lot about “God’s plan for our lives,” but I think it’s too easy–and yes, intellectually lazy–to  assume that life is about following some divinely programmed course that’s been laid out for us–and that when we deviate from that plan, bad things will happen.

 Exodus 25:10-40  Midway through chapter 24, Moses ascends Mt. Sinai and is with God in the cloud.  Here at 25 we read the detailed instructions about the composition and construction of the Ark of the Covenant, the Table, and the Lampstand.  This an intermezzo from the main drama–Moses receiving the tablets and what is going on in the camp below–or perhaps the editors of the book mixed up scrolls.  In any event, this lengthy description of the furnishings and construction of the Tabernacle seems to be something of a non-sequitur.

The materials are of the finest quality [“gold and silver and bronze, and indigo and purple 4 and crimson, and linen and goat hair, and reddened ram skins and ocher-dyed skins and acacia wood” (24:5)] and now I see why the fact that the Israelites were given all these things by the Egyptians as they departed was repeated a couple of times earlier in Exodus.

One aspect of this I had not appreciated before is that all these materials are a voluntary offering: “…that they take Me a donation from every man, as his heart may urge…” (25:2)  The message is clear.  God deserves the very best that we have to offer, and whatever we offer to God, whether our treasure or our talents, must be the very best we have to offer. Our “first fruits.”  But above all, it is offered willingly, joyfully “as our hearts may urge.”

Matthew 24:45-51  Jesus continues his theme of urgency and watchfulness for the Day of the Lord, focusing on what we are to do while waiting for that momentous event.  This passage is all about our responsibility to work–not laze–in the Kingdom: “Blessed is that slave whom his master will find at work when he arrives.” (24:46) 

Losing focus on why we are in the Kingdom in the first place leads too easily to lording it over others (“he begins to beat his fellow slaves”) and indolence (“eats and drinks with drunkards”).  

It’s interesting that Jesus ascribes this loss of purpose to the fact that we forget that the Master is away right now, but may return at any moment.  As we read in New Testament epistles, there was a much stronger expectation of the Master’s imminent return than there is today, 2000 years later. Yet, we need to be just as prepared and focused as those workers back then.

It’s also easy to see these metaphors at work in a “church setting.”  We become obsessed with worship form rather than function.  We undermine others in order to advance ourselves in the eyes of others.  We see church as an internal social event (the “Sunday country club”) where we are comfortable rather than a place where we equip ourselves for work in the Kingdom “right here, right now.”


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