Bread – Images

February 25, 2015


Readings for Wednesday, February 25, 2015, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Deut. 9:13-21; Heb. 3:12-19; John 2:23-3:15; Psalms 49,53,119:49-72

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In today’s reading from Scripture, we have three images of our relationship to God – open rebellion, silent or secret rebellion, and submission.

In the open rebellion image, Moses has gone to the mountain to visit with God and receive the law. Upon his return down the mountain, he sees Israel worshiping the golden calf they have made with their hands. This is open rebellion against God because it is plain for all to see. Who cannot remember Cecil B. DeMille’s “The Ten Commandments,” when Moses flung the Ten Commandments into the midst of the golden calf, destroying it with the fire of the wrath of God? Who cannot remember from the same movie the demonstrations of sin and lust surrounding the worship of the golden calf.

What is remarkable about this scene and in fact the real reading from today in Deuteronomy is that God did not destroy these people, His people, but He did destroy their idols and reassert Himself as God. How many times have we been in open rebellion against God, raising up idols of our own making, and claiming allegiance to the world rather than to God, shaking our fist in His face, and laughing. God does not laugh at this, but neither does He destroy us. Instead, while we were still hostile to Him, He died for us so that whoever is empowered by Him to believe in Him should have eternal life and have it abundantly.

Then there are those in silent or secret rebellion. Their rebellion may not be as obvious, because they may have all the outward appearances of righteousness without the inner reality. They may claim to know Christ but then act as if they only know themselves. Our reading from Hebrews today presents the image of these people, in secret rebellion, as follows – “Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God…For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end…For who were those who heard and yet rebelled?…So we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief.” Heb. 3:12-19

It is not that we can “un-ring the bell” of salvation if we have been saved. However, just like the chosen people, Israel, turned away from God toward the golden calf, we too can turn away from our Savior and embrace the world, all the while maintaining an appearance of godliness. The writer of Hebrews does not warn us that secret rebellion may lead to losing our salvation; but he does warn us that secret rebellion may be evidence that we have not really shared in Christ. To quote the study notes to the ESV Study Bible, “This verse then provides a grave warning to everyone who claims to be saved – that is, to examine oneself carefully to be sure that one is in fact a genuine believer, because if there is no evidence of perseverance in faith and obedience, then there is real reason to doubt that such a person has ever been saved.”

Then there is the image of relationship to Christ described in our reading today from John, in which Jesus says to Nicodemus “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” John 3:3

This is the image of transformation, taken from the state of sinfulness into which we are born and translated into citizenship in the kingdom of God by the mercy of God, the act of God, and the love of God. The transformed man, with a heart turned to flesh, is the submitted man, obedient to the Creator, the King, the Redeemer, the Savior, God. This man runs away from temptation and not toward it, toward God and not away from Him. This man may suffer as we understand the term, but he is victorious in a way which we only vaguely understand from our human perspective. He is neither in open nor silent rebellion; he is in submission. The polarity of his heart is not toward himself but toward God.

Three images of ourselves. The golden calf, the clothing of belief covering the heart of unbelief, the transformed heart of submission to God. Three paintings, full of characters. Which painting are you in?

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© 2015 GBF

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