Joseph

I’ve always loved the glimpses of Joseph, the earthly father of Jesus, that we see in Scripture. He is only mentioned or described in a few places, but I like what I read when I read about Joseph. I like this man. Joseph is my kind of saint. I have little of Peter or Paul in me; no one has ever said “Bill reminds me of John the Baptist”. I’m not a son of thunder, I’m not a zealot, I don’t much resemble James, Philip or Stephen.

But I can aspire to be a Barnabas, or a Silas, or a Joseph.

Scott McKnight over at Jesus Creed is doing a great series on Joseph right now for Advent. This post is so good I’m going to quote it almost in its entirety:

Christmas meant that Joseph practiced a rare combination: both righteousness and mercifulness (1:19)

The text says Joseph was “righteous.” Now this translates a Greek term (dikaios) which translates a Hebrew term (tsadiq) — and all these terms point to one thing: Joseph was known for doing whatever the Torah said. To do it, he had to know it. So, he was a man who had studied the Torah — either by listening and memorizing or by reading and memorizing. But, he knew it.

And that means he knew that he could take Mary to court for what was now known: she was pregnant, and Joseph knows that he is not the father. He immediately thought of the laws in Deuteronomy 22 — stone both the seducer and the one seduced or stone the rapist — the laws are clear and they are unavoidably clear. Here’s the text and its rulings that he would have known – and I’m asking that you read this carefully because following this text is exactly what Joseph would have equated with doing God’s will.

[Scott here quotes Deuteronomy 22:23-30]

Joseph is a tsadiq (I make much of this in Jesus Creed). This means his reputation is at stake: if he follows the Torah, and puts Mary away, he will uphold his reputation. If he does not, he will lose his reputation. (I like to say that the claims of the Cross were faced by Joseph [and Mary] before Jesus was born.)

Joseph, however, chooses another option — an option that must have set the agenda for Jesus learning how to respond to those stuck on the horns of a legal ruling that called for mercy. Joseph decides to put her away quietly — that is, instead of disgracing her (which he could have done) he chooses to be kind to her by divorcing her without publicly disgracing her.

Joseph must have impressed the same upon Jesus and the rest of his family: act in mercy; avoid humiliating others; you never know, you may be wrong in your discernments and judgments.

Scott writes “I like to say that the claims of the Cross were faced by Joseph [and Mary] before Jesus was born”. I hadn’t ever considered that and I think that’s a great point.

And his last statement is wonderful: “. . . act in mercy; avoid humiliating others; you never know, you may be wrong in your discernments and judgments.”

So true. May I live that out.

Sigh

Our iMac G5, which we’ve had just under a year, died tonight. If you turn it on, it runs for a few minutes and then, poof, it croaks.

I’m pretty sure it’s just the power supply.

We’ll find out tomorrow when we take it to the Apple store. I *think* it’s covered under the one year limited warranty.

Not complaining, just reporting :-)

Tolkien and the Great War

For you Tolkien-ophiles:

I’m currently reading Tolkien and the Great War by John Garth. It’s stellar.

Below is an excerpt; a glimpse of an act of creative genius in its nonage:

At Phoenix Farm, on 24 September 1914, [Tolkien] began, with startling éclat:

Éarendel sprang up from the Ocean’s cup

In the gloom of the mid-world’s rim;

From the door of Night as a ray of light

Leapt over the twilight brim,

And launching his bark like a silver spark

From the golden-fading sand

Down the sunlit breath of Day’s fiery Death

He sped from Westerland

I will probably be posting on other passages from this book as I read it. It’s a very enjoyable and fascinating read.

“. . . pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace . . .”

So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.

– 2 Timothy 2:22-26 (ESV)

I was reminded of this passage by someone who providentially, I believe, posted it on another blog.

My first thought was to say that this would make a great manifesto for the God-blogosphere!

But, on second thought, perhaps this should be something that I start with in my own life first. I haven’t always lived up to this. I’ve lost my temper online (even recently) and have said things that either I shouldn’t have said or that I should have said but perhaps in a more kindly way. Kindness, patience and gentleness are not feminine traits that we men should be ashamed of. They are part of the very character of God. They are a high standard. They are traits of great power! They communicate the revolutionary love of Christ and they infiltrate the world’s jungle with light and grace.

May I pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace.

Burden-casting

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.

– 1 Peter 5:6-7 (ESV)

Thank God!

Today in church we sang songs about the faithfulness of God. I was immediately convicted of anxieties and burdens that I have been carrying around that I need to trust to His very capable hands. So I did some burden-casting this morning.

It is humbling. Casting a burden on God says “I am not the right person to carry this. It is beyond me, but, Lord, you are more than capable!”. How true. God’s hand is mighty. My hands are weak.

And he truly does care for me. And he invites you and me to cast our burdens, anxieties, and cares on him.

What an invitation!

His name is Ransom

And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you.

But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

– Mark 10:42-45 (ESV)

In Mark 10, Jesus spelled out his mission plainly, didn’t he? His disciples had been busy jockeying for their positions of greatness in the Kingdom, without understanding what greatness really is. Perhaps by now they had gotten used to being caught sideways by Jesus’ teaching, but I have to believe that his corrective words had them scratching their heads:

“But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

The next statement in Mark 10 is the simple narrative “and they came to Jericho”, so we don’t get to see the reaction of the disciples to Jesus’ teaching on servanthood, or their reaction to the frightening statement “to give his life as a ransom for many”. Though confused, they would soon learn what Jesus meant by this, and in graphic detail.

Think of the greatness of our God for just a moment. If, hypothetically speaking, you or I were God, how would we have saved the world? I’m pretty sure that one of the last options on my list of ideas would have been to come down as a servant and as a ransom. But that is exactly what our Lord decided to do. And, for those of you who have tasted his salvation, aren’t you glad? God’s way is always simultaneously best and not what we would have chosen.

The word “ransom” is a beautiful word to me. The greek word that translates as “ransom” in this passage is the word lutron. It literally means “a means of loosing” and is derived from the verb that every student learns on their first day of studying greek: luo, which means “to loose, to destroy”.

Jesus saw us lost, in bondage to sin, and chose himself to be our ransom, our redemption, the price to secure our freedom from slavery. He is the “means of loosing” us. That was his purpose, simply put: to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many. He is my Rescuer and my Hero, and I hope he is yours too!

I leave you with a beautiful passage from C.S. Lewis’ Perelandra. In this passage the protagonist, Elwin Ransom, hears from God. This never fails to send chills up my spine:

“It is not for nothing that you are named Ransom,” said the Voice.

And he knew that this was no fancy of his own. He knew it for a very curious reason – because he had known for many years that his surname was derived not from ransom but from Ranolf’s son. It would never have occurred to him thus to associate the two words. To connect the name Ransom with the act of ransoming would have been for him a mere pun. But even his voluble self did not now dare to suggest that the Voice was making a play upon words. All in a moment of time he perceived that what was, to human philologists, a merely accidental resemblance of two sounds, was in truth no accident.

The whole distinction between things accidental and things designed, like the distinction between fact and myth, was purely terrestrial. The pattern is so large that within the little frame of earthly experience there appear pieces of it between which we can see no connection, and other pieces between which we can. Hence we rightly, for our use, distinguish the accidental from the essential. But step outside that frame and the distinction drops down into the void, fluttering useless wings. He had been forced out of the frame, caught up into the larger pattern…

“My name also is Ransom,” said the Voice.

An Old Testament Thanksgiving

And they brought in the ark of God and set it inside the tent that David had pitched for it, and they offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before God. And when David had finished offering the burnt offerings and the peace offerings, he blessed the people in the name of the Lord and distributed to all Israel, both men and women, to each a loaf of bread, a portion of meat, and a cake of raisins.

1 Chronicles 16:1-3 (ESV)

While a loaf of bread, a portion of meat, and a cake of raisins may not compare to the feast many of us will consume today (and regret tonight!), this was a most holy thanksgiving meal, given to the people to celebrate the coming of the ark of God to Jerusalem. It was a meal to celebrate God’s presence, represented by the ark of God.

May your thanksgiving be blessed, and may you rejoice in God’s presence today. For He is with us on this thanksgiving day, here on the eve of the season of Immanuel.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Oh give thanks to the Lord; call upon his name;
make known his deeds among the peoples!
Sing to him; sing praises to him;
tell of all his wondrous works!
Glory in his holy name;

let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice!
Seek the Lord and his strength;
seek his presence continually!

Remember the wondrous works that he has done,
his miracles and the judgments he uttered,
O offspring of Israel his servant,
sons of Jacob, his chosen ones!

1 Chronicles 16:8-13 (ESV)

The blessing of unity

Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!

– Psalms 133:1 (ESV)

Yes!

Unity is a beautiful thing; good and pleasant. And so badly needed.

And hard to maintain. Even a short jaunt through the God-blogosphere will prove that we Christians are not always unified. I find this sad.

But there is a path to unity. Peter spells it out very clearly:

Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.

– 1 Peter 3:8-9 (ESV)

It involves sympathy, love for the brothers, a tender heart, and – something rarer than the most precious jewel – a humble mind. And it involves the ability, which can only come from the Lord, to bless when cursed, to refrain from reviling when reviled. This goes against the grain of our flesh and is one of the biggest struggles we sincere, passionate, thinking Christians face. It is not by accident that Peter writes “but on the contrary”. For the ability to bless when cursed is completely contrary to our flesh. Our old nature cannot bless when cursed.

But Jesus can. Jesus did. And He can do that through a heart tendered and a mind humbled and filled with love by His Holy Spirit. This is the way to unity, and to blessings we can’t imagine.

” . . . of whom the world was not worthy . . .”

Women received back their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated – of whom the world was not worthy – wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.

– Hebrews 11:35-38 (ESV)

I’ve been a bit speechless lately. Not uninspired, just having trouble stringing words together. But I read this passage today and feel a need to, if nothing else, just lay it out there.

”. . . of whom the world was not worthy . . .”

Don’t you love that line? The writer of Hebrews stands with us in wonder at the faith of the saints of old. Though they were mocked, beaten, and killed, they were not defeated. The world just wasn’t worthy of them.

I wonder if that could ever be said of me. No, it couldn’t. Not yet.

But perhaps someday.

Oh, to be one of whom the world was not worthy!

Update 3:00pm: I just realized that that last line should more truthfully be “Oh, to want to be one of whom the world was not worthy!

Our hobbit-like peril

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.

– Galatians 1:3-5 (ESV)

Eucatastrophe references this passage as he considers our Hobbit-like Peril:

“Well its none of our concern what goes on beyond our borders. Keep your nose out of trouble and no trouble will come to you.”

That is in my mind one of the most significant statements in giving us insight into the people of the Shire. They are a peace-loving, comfort-enjoying people who care very little at all about the outside world. They enjoy their simple life and see no reason to be concerned with what happens in the land of the “big folk.” What they didn’t realize was that Trouble with a capital “T” was coming to them and unless there was decisive intervention the Shire and their happy culture would perish. What they failed to see was that they were in dire need of decisive rescue from the growing evil shadow of the East. The hobbits were completely ignorant of their impending doom and their desperate need for rescue.

. . .

Christianity is the only religion that recognizes our hobbit like peril. Founders of other religions came primarily to teach. They came with a set of doctrines and an example to be followed. Though Jesus was a great teacher, the greatest teacher mankind has ever known, Paul makes no mention of this when he gives us this nutshell version of the Gospel in Galatians 1. What we see here is what is at the very heart of the Gospel, namely, that mankind was in desperate need of rescue. Jesus came to rescue first and then to be an example second.

The uniqueness of Christianity is that it comes to us and informs us of our absolutely helpless and perilous state. The Gospel does not first reveal Christ to us as a guide and example. No, it first reveals Christ as our Deliverer, our Rescuer. Christ came to earth and before most people knew what was really happening He had already accomplished every thing needed for the deliverance of his hobbit like people. He accomplished our redemption before we even knew we were perishing and unable to recover ourselves. This is the Good News of the Gospel.

“He accomplished our redemption before we even knew we were perishing and unable to recover ourselves. This is the Good News of the Gospel.”

Well said.

[Hat tip: Transforming Sermons]