March 13, 2015

Deuteronomy 23-25 - No eunuch is to enter the congregation of God.  No bastard is to enter the congregation of God, even to the tenth generation, nor any of his children.  No Ammonite or Moabite is to enter the congregation of God, even to the tenth generation, nor any of his children, ever... But don’t spurn an Edomite; he’s your kin.  And don’t spurn an Egyptian; you were a foreigner in his land...

Don’t return a runaway slave to his master; he’s come to you for refuge. Let him live wherever he wishes within the protective gates of your city. Don’t take advantage of him.  No daughter of Israel is to become a sacred prostitute; and no son of Israel is to become a sacred prostitute... 

Don’t charge interest to your kinsmen on any loan: not for money or food or clothing or anything else that could earn interest. You may charge foreigners interest, but you may not charge your brothers interest; that way God, your God, will bless all the work that you take up and the land that you are entering to possess.
When you make a vow to God, your God, don’t put off keeping it; God, your God, expects you to keep it and if you don’t you’re guilty. But if you don’t make a vow in the first place, there’s no sin. If you say you’re going to do something, do it. Keep the vow you willingly vowed to God, your God. You promised it, so do it...

If a man marries a woman and then it happens that he no longer likes her because he has found something wrong with her, he may give her divorce papers, put them in her hand, and send her off....  When a man takes a new wife, he is not to go out with the army or be given any business or work duties. He gets one year off simply to be at home making his wife happy...

Warning! If a serious skin disease breaks out, follow exactly the rules set down by the Levitical priests. Follow them precisely as I commanded them. Don’t forget what God, your God, did to Miriam on your way out of Egypt...

Don’t abuse a laborer who is destitute and needy, whether he is a fellow Israelite living in your land and in your city... Make sure foreigners and orphans get their just rights. Don’t take the cloak of a widow as security for a loan. Don’t ever forget that you were once slaves in Egypt and God, your God, got you out of there. I command you: Do what I’m telling you.  

When you harvest your grain and forget a sheaf back in the field, don’t go back and get it; leave it for the foreigner, the orphan, and the widow so that God, your God, will bless you in all your work. When you shake the olives off your trees, don’t go back over the branches and strip them bare—what’s left is for the foreigner, the orphan, and the widow. And when you cut the grapes in your vineyard, don’t take every last grape—leave a few for the foreigner, the orphan, and the widow. Don’t ever forget that you were a slave in Egypt. I command you: Do what I’m telling you...

When brothers are living together and one of them dies without having had a son, the widow of the dead brother shall not marry a stranger from outside the family; her husband’s brother is to come to her and marry her and do the brother-in-law’s duty by her. The first son that she bears shall be named after her dead husband so his name won’t die out in Israel.
But if the brother doesn’t want to marry his sister-in-law, she is to go to the leaders at the city gate and say, “My brother-in-law refuses to keep his brother’s name alive in Israel; he won’t agree to do the brother-in-law’s duty by me.” Then the leaders will call for the brother and confront him. If he stands there defiant and says, “I don’t want her,” his sister-in-law is to pull his sandal off his foot, spit in his face, and say, “This is what happens to the man who refuses to build up the family of his brother—his name in Israel will be Family-No-Sandal.”...

Don’t forget what Amalek did to you on the road after you left Egypt, how he attacked you when you were tired, barely able to put one foot in front of another, mercilessly cut off your stragglers, and had no regard for God. When God, your God, gives you rest from all the enemies that surround you in the inheritance-land God, your God, is giving you to possess, you are to wipe the name of Amalek from off the Earth. Don’t forget!

Galatians 2 -  14 years after that first visit, Barnabas and I went up to Jerusalem  and took Titus with us.  I went there to clarify what had been revealed to me...I did this in private with the leaders, those held in esteem by the church, so that our concern would not become a controversial public issue....

Significantly, Titus, non-Jewish though he was, was not required to be circumcised.  While we were in conference we were infiltrated by spies pretending to be Christians who slipped in to find out just how free true Christians are....

As for those who were considered important in the church, their reputation doesn’t concern me.  God isn’t impressed with mere appearances and neither am I....

It was soon evident that God had entrusted me with the same message to nonJews as Peter had been preaching to the Jews...James, Peter and John --the pillars of the church-- shook hands with me and Barnabas, while they continued to be responsible for reaching out to the Jews.  The only additional thing they asked was that we remember the poor, and I eagerly agreed to that.

Later, when Peter came to Antioch, I had a face-to-face conversation with him because he was clearly out of line.  Earlier, before certain persons had come from James, Peter regularly ate with the non-Jews.  But when the conservative group came from Jerusalem, he cautiously pulled back and put as much distance as he could manage between himself and his non-Jewish friends.  That’s how fearful he was of the Jewish clique that’s been pushing the old system of circumcision.

 Unfortunately, the rest of the Jews in the Antioch church joined in that hypocrisy so that even Barnabas was swept along in the charade...I spoke up to Peter in front of them all...

We know that we have no advantage of birth over “non-Jewish sinners.”  We know very well that we are not set right with God by rule-keeping but only through personal faith in Jesus Christ.  How do we know?  We tried it---and we had the best system of rules the world has ever seen!  Convinced that no human being can please God by self-improvement, we believed in Jesus as the Messiah that we might be set right before God by trusting in the Messiah, not by trying to be good....

If I was “trying to be good,” I would be rebuilding the damn old barn that I tore down.  I would be acting like a charlatan.  What actually took place is this:  I tried keeping rules and working my head off to please God, and it didn’t work.  So I quit being a “law” man so that I could be God’s man.  Christ’s life showed me how, and enabled  me to do it...

Through Christ, my ego is no longer central.  It is no longer important that I appear righteous before you or have your good opinion, and I am no longer driven to impress God.  Christ lives in me.  The life you see me living is not “mine,” but it is lived by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me, I am not going back on that.     

Is it not clear to you that to go back to that old rule-keeping, peer pleasing religion would be an abandonment of everything personal and free in my relationship with God?...If a living relationship with God could come by rule keeping, then Christ died unnecessarily.