Jesus builds upon the old

Jesus came to uphold the words of God, not tear them down. His message was fresh but not new. The more you read of the Hebrew Bible, the more you’ll see it echoed in the words of Jesus.

Jesus says in Matthew 5:17-20
17 “Don’t assume that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. 18 For I assure you: Until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or one stroke of a letter will pass from the law until all things are accomplished. 19 Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commands and teaches people to do so will be called least in the kingdom of heaven. But whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

Here are some illustrations of this –

Consider his words in Luke 14:7-11
7 He told a parable to those who were invited, when He noticed how they would choose the best places for themselves: 8 “When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, don’t recline at the best place, because a more distinguished person than you may have been invited by your host. 9 The one who invited both of you may come and say to you, ‘Give your place to this man,’ and then in humiliation, you will proceed to take the lowest place. 10 “But when you are invited, go and recline in the lowest place, so that when the one who invited you comes, he will say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher.’ You will then be honored in the presence of all the other guests. 11 For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

This is an illustration of Proverbs 25:6-7
6 Don’t brag about yourself before the king,
and don’t stand in the place of the great;
7 for it is better for him to say to you, “Come up here!”
than to demote you in plain view of a noble.

Likewise, Proverbs 25:8-10 continues on, saying –
8 Don’t take a matter to court hastily.
Otherwise, what will you do afterward
if your opponent humiliates you?
9 Make your case with your opponent
without revealing another’s secret;
10 otherwise, the one who hears will disgrace you,
and you’ll never live it down.

These teachings are illustrated in various verses –
Matthew 5-21-26
21 “You have heard that it was said to our ancestors, Do not murder, and whoever murders will be subject to judgment. 22 But I tell you, everyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Fool!’ will be subject to the Sanhedrin. But whoever says, ‘You moron!’ will be subject to hellfire.23 So if you are offering your gift on the altar, and there you remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift. 25 Reach a settlement quickly with your adversary while you’re on the way with him, or your adversary will hand you over to the judge, the judge to the officer, and you will be thrown into prison. 26 I assure you: You will never get out of there until you have paid the last penny!

Matthew 18:15-20
15 “If your brother sins against you, go and rebuke him in private. If he listens to you, you have won your brother. 16 But if he won’t listen, take one or two more with you, so that by the testimony of two or three witnesses every fact may be established. 17 If he pays no attention to them, tell the church. But if he doesn’t pay attention even to the church, let him be like an unbeliever and a tax collector to you.18 I assure you: Whatever you bind on earth is already bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth is already loosed in heaven.19 Again, I assure you: If two of you on earth agree about any matter that you pray for, it will be done for you by My Father in heaven.20 For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there among them.”

Jesus expands and illustrates the lessons and teachings from the Scriptures he grew up with, and explains them in relatable ways to people. Instead of just repeating them, he made the teachings meaningful by telling them as stories. But he didn’t make up the original teaching. He built upon the old to create something new.

(all Bible translations are HCSB)


My way or the High Way

Remember the phrase “My way or the highway?” What if the “highway” is really the High Way – the way of God? Let us consider these words from King Solomon’s book of Proverbs.

Proverbs 19:21
Many plans are in a man’s heart,
but the Lord’s decree will prevail.

Proverbs 20:22
Don’t say, “I will avenge this evil!”
Wait on the Lord, and He will rescue you.

Proverbs 21:31
A horse is prepared for the day of battle,
but victory comes from the Lord.

It isn’t what we want, it isn’t what we do. God is in charge. We can plan and prepare, but it is the Lord who delivers.

In God we trust

This is been a crazy time, just like when everything broke a few years ago. In 2008 everything broke at our house. Everything that was really expensive broke. The water heater broke, then the battery died in my car, and then the air conditioning broke. I thought that was it. Then the roof needed to be replaced. Everything had to be replaced. We had to sell a lot of things and go without. We cut out cable TV and got rid of the home phone. I sold my car and got a cheaper one. And then we had to get a second mortgage on the house.

I didn’t have anybody who could help me. I couldn’t call on my parents and my relatives were of no help. But somehow we made it through. And we learned how to take care of ourselves. It’s nice not having to rely on other people especially when money is concerned. That can ruin friendships and strain families.

Now is a very similar time. My car had to be paid off a few months sooner than I planned. And then there was an unexpected repair expense on it. Sometimes the check engine light is something simple. And sometimes it is something that costs a lot of money. This was one of the latter times. And now the washing machine has broken. That was another three hundred dollars.

I’m thinking of the serenity prayer – that if it is something I can control, I should. If it isn’t something I can control – trust that God has got it under control.

Because all of this was out of my hands, I trust that God is behind all of this. But it is still one of those times where I don’t want to have to trust. Since we are refinancing the house we will have a little extra money in our account very soon. And since the cars are paid off we will have a little more. But we don’t have it yet.

I was looking forward to saving up that money, or even using it on a home repair project. There are a number of projects that have had to wait because we haven’t had the money to do them. Sure, I’ve had some money saved up, but savings is really for emergencies.

We certainly have had our fair share of emergencies recently.

It feels like I never am able to save up extra money for us – that a windfall will happen but then an unexpected expense will happen. We always seem to stay even. I’m grateful for that, but I’d like to not cut it so tight.

Jesus tells us to not worry about anything – about our clothing or our food or where we live. He points to the lilies-of-the-valley. But then he also tells a story about the handmaidens who were waiting. The ones who have oil in their lamps and have their wicks trimmed are the ones who succeed.

He also tells the story about the talents. There are three people who were given money and they have to take good care of it. They have to be good stewards. If they don’t do anything they fail and they get cast out.

So are we supposed to worry or not? Are we supposed to exert ourselves or not? This doesn’t make any sense. Surely we have to take care of ourselves and look out for ourselves, but we’re also supposed to trust. How much is our responsibility and how much is God’s responsibility?

God tells us that God’s ways are not our ways. Why am I trying to make any of this make sense? It won’t add up, because I can’t see things the way God sees them.

So meanwhile, I’ll pray through everything and feel it out – do this, or not?

The prophet Isaiah says –
21 And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left. (Isaiah 30:21 RSV)

No matter where we go, God is there with us.