Bread – Unsafe

July 23, 2014


Readings for Wednesday, July 23, 2014, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Joshua 8:30-35; Rom. 14:13-23; Matt. 26:57-68; Psalms 49,53,119:49-72

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In today’s reading from Joshua, there is the historical recounting of a covenant renewal ceremony between Israel and God, where Israel set up an altar, wrote the Law on the altar, and then had the Book of the Law read to them by Joshua. This occurred with the entirety of Israel (a very large number of people, “half of them in front of Mount Gerizim and half of them in front of Mount Ebal.” Joshua 8:33. Considering that the mountains are twenty miles apart, this shows how many people we are talking about.

In and of itself, the description is impressive but conveyed no apparent great theological message (to me)…until I read the ESV study notes which commented “…the curious fact that Israel is able to hold a covenant renewal in Shechem, apparently without having to capture it first.” The place where this great event occurred was not under Israel’s control and was in fact potentially hostile territory. The place they were exercising their obedience to God was in an unsafe place. Even though they were in an unsafe place, they obeyed and worshiped.

As a bookend to this reading, we see Jesus in Matthew before the Sanhedrin, being accused. Peter is watching, sitting with the guards where he can be identified with the crowd rather than his Lord. Although not in today’s reading, we know the very next episode, where Peter is accosted and denies Jesus three times. Peter is in an unsafe place and acts like it; he hides among the unbelievers rather than be identified as Jesus’ follower.

The simple fact is that we, as Christians, live every day in an unsafe place, in the world. When we demonstrate our obedience to Christ, depending upon where we are we may be subject to strange stares, outright questioning and ridicule, loss of promotion at work or loss of the actual job itself, shunning by family and friends, imprisonment (in many places) and injury or death (Iraq and Nigeria come to immediate mind).

So what do we do as Christians when we find ourselves in an unsafe place? Are we bold in our proclamation of who we are in Christ and whose we are? Or are we timid, treating others as more important than we treat God Himself?

If I am honest with this answer, I have to truly say that I am timid more often than bold. Perhaps you find yourself in the same boat.

Why is this? Do we not believe that God is God and has control over the unsafe places as well as the safe? Do we not believe that God can, if He will, save us from the fires of adversity? Do we not believe the promise of eternal salvation, whether we are impoverished, ridiculed, imprisoned, hurt, or murdered?,

The answer is that we, as fallen people saved by grace, do and don’t believe. We are often double-minded, unsure, doubtful.

How do we overcome this? Part of the answer is to understand what Israel was doing between the mountains. They were hearing God’s Word to them, Scripture. We have that opportunity every day to read, study, digest, eat, and understand the reality of God’s involvement in the entirety of history and in our lives. Through this, we can grow in our reliance upon Him and can slowly release our reliance on ourselves and others.

But a major part of the answer is to realize that we had nothing to do with our salvation; God chose us for salvation and He saved us when we could not save ourselves.

I think that when I doubt Christ in an unsafe place, it is because I know myself and I doubt myself … and I know that if my eternity is somehow based upon me, then it rests on a weak foundation. However, when I remember that God saved me in His sovereign will, then there truly is no unsafe place. Why should I be afraid of circumstances or others when I realize that the only person with power in the room is God, and He has already declared me to be His adopted child through Christ?

Now this is truly easy to say and hard to do in specific, unsafe circumstances.

But isn’t it amazing that Christians in many countries will die by the sword rather than renounce Christ? How do they get such strength?

They get such strength because they realize they have none but for what God gives them.

When will we stop being timid in unsafe places? When we stop resting in ourselves and, instead, rest in God. When we stop asking ourselves how we will respond and instead ask ourselves how He will respond. When we take away the words “we” and “I” and substitute the word “Him.”

You will find yourself in an unsafe place today. Will you be timid or bold?

You know, the wonderful truth of the gospel is that, whether we are timid or bold today, God has still saved us. Because He first loved us, we can grow in love of Him. Because He sends us His Holy Spirit, we can stand in the evil day. Because He sends us His Word, we can learn to lean on Him, rest in Him, believe His promises, and grow in strength and maturity.

The fact that we may be timid is no proof that we are not a Christian; it just means that we are learning to walk and talk as a Christian. We are toddlers in the faith. But with the good food of Scripture, relationship with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit strengthened through prayer, and the training of the Holy Spirit, we will grow into the understanding that there are no unsafe places anywhere, anymore.

In Christ, there are no unsafe places, anywhere, anymore. Think about it. And then live like it.

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© 2014 GBF

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