Bread – Missed

August 24, 2016


Psalm 32

Blessed is the one … whose sin is covered.”  Ps. 32:1

In the first Bread this week, we looked at God’s forgiving our transgression, our disobedience.

In this Bread, we look at the type of sin which is “missing the mark” (which is why this Bread is called “Missed”), or falling short of expectations.  In the first, we know God’s command for our lives and we deliberately or negligently disobey it.  In this one, we look at actions taken in obedience which fall short of God’s standards set forth in His Word.  And, of course, this means that we look at everything we do, because we all fall short.

So that you know that I am not making this up, the word translated “sin” in the quote above is the Hebrew word for falling short or missing the mark.  The idea is our actions being like an arrow which is aimed at the center of God’s law, the bullseye, but always drops off before it gets there or goes to the left or the right.  There is only one person who hit the bullseye all the time and that Jesus Christ.

This idea of sin is critical to understanding the reason why salvation is through faith alone in Christ alone.  We cannot get there by good works, because we all miss the mark.  Even if you assume that the law of Moses is completely superseded by the New Testament, the truth is who among us has followed Jesus’ law of treating your neighbor as yourself, to perfection?  No one.

And how does God treat the sin of missing the mark; He “covers” it.  What does cover mean?  Throw a blanket over it?  No, actually, the answer lies in both the Old Testament and in the New Testament.  In the Old Testament, our sin of missing the mark (Israel’s sin) was atoned for by the killing of an innocent animal and the sprinkling of its blood on the mercy seat of God, on top of the Ark of the Covenant.  Inside the Ark was the broken law of God.  The lamb’s blood was shed as a covering, shielding God who lived above the Ark and the broken law inside the Ark, which represents sinners.  We were protected by the blood of the lamb which stood between what we deserve for our sin (the wrath of God) and us.

In the New Testament the covering is the blood of the Lamb, Jesus Christ, which because He was God was a sufficient sacrifice for all time for all people whom God has chosen and have believed in Him.  The temple sacrifice of the lamb to atone for sins had to happen over and over again; because Jesus is God, His sacrifice for us on the cross, His shedding of blood, only needed to occur once for all time for all sins of those who believe.  The shorthand for this is that we are “covered in the blood of Christ.”  We are covered by God in His sovereign mercy to protect us from our sin of failure to meet God’s standards.

Amazing, isn’t it, that all this is contained in the simple phrase “Blessed is the one ….whose sin is covered.”  Whose sin is covered by the lamb of God, His Son, Jesus Christ.

Give thanks in all things, because while even in our obedience we fall short of the mark, God makes up the difference through the blood shed by Jesus Christ which covers us.  Amen.

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© 2016 GBF   All Scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version (2001), unless otherwise indicated.

 

 

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Bread – Dagon

June 24, 2013


Readings for Monday, June 24, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: 1 Sam. 5:1-12; Acts 5:12-26; Luke 21:29-36; Psalm 89

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“Then the Philistines took the ark of God and brought it into the house of Dagon and set it up beside Dagon. And when the people of Ashdod rose early the next day, behold Dagon had fallen face down on the ground before the ark of the Lord. So they took Dagon and put him back in his place. But when they rose early on the next morning, behold, …the head of Dagon and both his hands were lying cut off on the threshold. Only the trunk of Dagon was left to him…they [men of Ashdod] said “The ark of the God of Israel must not remain with us, for his hand is hard against us and against Dagon our god.’” 1 Sam. 5:2-7

The ark of God has been stolen and removed to a place where God, the god of Israel, and Dagon, the god of the Philistines, sat across from each other. And Dagon loses the fight.

Now, you would think that the Philistines, seeing this, would have taken Dagon out of the temple, admitted that their “god” was totally inferior to the “God,” and begun to worship the true God. However, faced with a choice, the Philistines chose a more comfortable path. They got rid of God and kept Dagon, “their” god.

Every time I think about Dagon I think about evolution and science. I might also now think of global warming and science. Once science has locked onto a theory that is “true,” it is amazing the way that theory becomes their Dagon, their “god,” which they will hold onto through thick and thin no matter what the evidence is before them. Their religion is science, their temple is the university, and their god of the day is whatever theory they want to promote. The facts are irrelevant, the results are irrelevant, the thinking process is irrelevant. Given enough structure and time around their Dagon (evolution, global warming), they will always choose their Dagon over the truth.

But before we become critical of the evolution or global warming believers, don’t we set up and hold onto our own Dagons? Is the behavior of the Philistines any different from our behavior?

We go to church and bring back home God’s ark, His Word in Scripture melded into our heart by the power of the Holy Spirit. We set this ark of God up in the same room in our mind as our favorite addiction. The next morning we wake up, and our Dagon, our desire to have a drink let’s say, is on the ground prostrate before the Word which says in today’s readings “But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life…” Lk. 21:34. We then dust off our Dagon and set him back up again and maybe that afternoon have a drink with our friends at “happy” hour. We then wake up the next morning and our Dagon is smashed by the Word of God, leaving only a piece of him. Isn’t it true that our reaction is the same as the Philistines most of the time, if not all of the time – “They [the men of Ashdod] said ‘The ark of God must not remain with us, for his hand is against us and against Dagon our god.’“ Rather than get rid of our worthless idol, we get rid of the truth, we get rid of God.

God’s truth is a battering ram which destroys all strongholds and all false gods. If we are intent on holding onto our Dagons, then we cannot let God’s Word reside in the same place for very long or, if we see what God does to our false gods, we must get Him out of our hair as fast as possible.

Why do we do this? Why did the men of Ashdod not bow down before the superior force, God in His ark? Why did they not reject their idol and chase after truth?

I think the answer to this question dwells in the phrase “Dagon our god.” And actually, not in the phrase but in a word – “our.” I cannot release Dagon because he is mine. I invented him, I built him, I have paid attention to him for a long time, and I like him. This other god, this true god, the one God, now He is not my creation; instead I am His creation. This other god, this true God, now He is not the one who I am comfortable with; instead, He is the one who makes me uncomfortable, who calls me out into a place beyond myself, where I have to love others and believe in Him.

We have willingly invited the ark of God into our heart and mind, but we have not willingly let alone His work in our lives. His work is to destroy our Dagons. But those idols are hard to part with, so we are constantly trying to put them back together. His work is to bring life into our lives; our work is to try to figure out how we can bring death back in.

So what do we do about this? I think a little prayer is in order – “God, when I see you destroying my Dagons, let me walk away and do nothing except thank you for doing something I cannot do and keeping from doing something I should not do. Let me suffer the brief loss of my close friend Dagon, the false god, so that I might spend more time with you, the true God.”

O God, help me to say of my broken Dagon, “Good riddance to bad rubbish.”

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© 2013 GBF

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