Sunday, 5 July 2009

The Richmond Briefing

A weekly Bible reading for Bridge Builders

The Richmond Briefing has been a weekly feature of the Reachout web site for five years and is now available on the blog. To find out more and read earlier briefings go here

Reading – As With the Priest (Luke 7:24-35)

The Old Testament prophet Hosea ministered in the eighth century BC at a time when Israel was guilty of great sin and God, through the prophet, brought his charges against his rebellious people. They were guilty of spiritual adultery, of turning to idols and false gods, of using shrine prostitutes, of sacrificing to pagan deities, of rejecting the knowledge of God.

The priests excused themselves by insisting that they were ministering Israel’s religion and the people justified themselves by insisting they were following the priests but God made clear that the priests were simply going through the motions while worshipping foreign gods and the people were not guiltless but would be held to account and their religion would finally not satisfy or feed them. Because they had rejected true knowledge God would reject them and none would be left with excuse.

“And it will be: Like people, like priests. I will punish both of them for their ways and repay them for their ways.” (Hosea 4:9)

The greatest and clearest knowledge of God is found in Jesus Christ. John tells us:

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God...The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth” (Jn.1:1, 14)

The writer of Hebrews wrote:

“The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being...” (Heb.1:3)

And Jesus said of himself:

“Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (Jn.14:9)

Yet in this week’s passage we find that, while Jesus demonstrated his identity and authority, “[curing] many diseases, sicknesses, and evil spirits and [giving] sight to those who were blind” (Lk.7:21) nevertheless “The Pharisees and experts in the law rejected God’s purposes for themselves, because they had not been baptised by John”. Like the priests in Hosea’s day, they argued their case on a technicality, that is because they had not been baptised by John and therefore were not required to accept God’s purposes in John or Jesus (they were ‘experts in the law’ after all).

Jesus ridiculed these leaders because they rejected John on the basis that he was dangerously zealous and they accused him of being possessed of a demon and then rejected Jesus because he mixed with ordinary folk and looked like everyone else. They had so many rules and so many excuses for why they shouldn’t change. Many people believed Jesus but others rejected him because they saw their leaders reject him. The responsibilities of leaders are onerous and God will hold them to account for how they have handled their stewardship over God’s people. However, everyone will be held to account for how they respond to God and his messengers.

Are we clear and faithful in the way we share the message of salvation and are we honest and challenging in reminding people that each will be accountable for how they respond? Do we pray for our leaders that they will remain humble and faithful and do we encourage them in the ways of the Lord as they encourage us?

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