Steadfast love

Judges 8:34: And the people of Israel did not remember the LORD their God, who had delivered them from the hand of all their enemies on every side,

siblings-532019_640The children of Israel did not have a steadfast love for God. If at a time they expressed love for God, soon after he had delivered them, because of their short memory, they usually turn away from him to give their allegiance to other gods.

This kind of yo-yo-ness in relating with God marked the history of biblical Israel, and it eventually culminated in the sacking of the nation from the land which God promised Abraham to give them. That was God’s judgment, which was very clear to all of them.

God’s faithfulness to their fathers gave them the land, but through their own unfaithfulness to God, they lost it. They had their own part of the bargain to uphold but they failed.

Later on they came back to the land of their inheritance, though without a king, but as subjects of different world powers. Certain prophets and teachers of the law came once and again to remind the people of the need to uphold the love of God. And that culminated in the setting up of synagogues which took care of the need of the people to be constantly reminded of the word and ways of God.

The synagogues served as the religious centres of that time. It was a place for the Jews to reaffirm their identity as the people of God, a place of constant reminder of their past, to gain lessons from it and prevent a relapse into unfaithfulness.

Jesus was a constant visitor to the synagogue. In his home town, after he had returned in the power of the Holy Spirit from the wilderness having fasted for forty days and fifty nights, he went to the synagogue and read publicly from the book of Isaiah (Luke 4:14-19).

In his ministerial movement around the towns and villages of Israel he visited the many synagogues in those places, to present his message to the people.

And when Paul went on the mission to reach the gentiles with the gospel, his first point of call in the many places he went were usually the synagogues where the Jews there congregate on the Sabbath Day (e.g. in Acts 14:1), and where proselytes also came, gentiles who showed interest in knowing about the God.

It was to these people that they went to prove that Jesus is the Messiah using the scriptures which they were familiar with, what they read and discussed weekly, and telling them story about the life and death and resurrection of Jesus and what they mean for his listeners. Being a Pharisee, Paul knew what to say to them. He had been groomed in the scriptures.

Right now we have the different churches set up everywhere. Following the example of the synagogues of old, people congregate to be taught and reminded of the ways and words of God, with Jesus at the centre.

In the synagogues of old and even now, Moses is the centre of things, but in the church Jesus is the centre and rightly so.

Peter heard a words from heaven saying to him together with James and John (Luke 9:28-36): this is my beloved son hear him. It happened on the mount of transfiguration where Elijah and Moses appears and stood with Jesus. That means: though Moses and Elijah were important, it is Jesus you should now listen to, he should be the centre.

The writer of the New Testament went a long way to show how the blood Jesus was not for himself, but for the cleansing of the sins of the world as the Lamb of God. And Paul the apostle (a famous convert from Judaism, who was met by the risen Jesus as he was going, bent on destroying the church [Acts 9:1-20]) became a leader of thought for the newly formed church.

He argued for the centrality of Jesus, saying he is both the wisdom and the power of God (1Corinthians 1:24), that everything was made by him and for him, and that in him everything consist (Colossians 1:16-17), i.e. everything find their rightful place.

The Israel that was at the time of Jesus was a prototype of the way the church is now. We do not live in societies where it is about theocracy. Israel was founded as that, but that was not the case at the time of Jesus. They were more or less subjects of Rome.

Paul wrote to the church said that it is right to be subject to the higher powers, for every power that be is ordained by God. He said what we owe the government respect and obedience (Romans 13, Titus 3:1).

When it comes to the issue of taxes, Jesus’s word was profound in his answer to the Pharisees who asked him if it was lawful to pay taxes to Caesar (Matthew 22:17-22).

Jesus asked for a coin and said: whose picture is this? They said that it is Caesar’s, the Emperor of the Roman Empire. Jesus then said: once you are spending Caesar’s money you should pay taxes to Caesar, give him what he wants you to give him out of it.

They existed in a world controlled by another group of people, who had a different perspective to God from what they have. But they know that their destiny was to be governed by the all-conquering Messiah in a theocracy, reminiscent of the time of King David who they read about in the synagogues as they reminded themselves of the word of God’s promise and keeping hope alive.  Therefore, they lived in a state of tension.

We also at this time in the church live in a tension, our destiny is to rule the earth under the leadership of our Lord Jesus, but we now live in a world with the devil is the god (2Corinthians 4:4). Jesus said he sends us out as sheep among wolves (Matthew 10:16). He therefore said we should be as wise as serpent and gentle as dove. We live in a conflict zone, but are destined is to be ruled by the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6) in an absolute sense.

But while the nation of Israel looked at the past for a return to how things were, we in the church look forward for the promise of how things will be, complete with new heavens and now earth, new bodies and the devil permanently thrown into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:10, 21:1, 1Corinthians 15:49-58).

We live in a state of hope. The bible says this hope is not something we hide or are ashamed of it gives us excitement because the love of God is made to bubble in our hearts by the Holy Spirit he has given to us (Romans 5:5).

With the Holy Spirit within and the constantly reminder of our gathering together around the word of God, we maintain steadfast love. The bible says that we should not forsake the gathering of ourselves together because that is how we stir up ourselves to love and good works (Hebrews 10:24-25). That means with constant gathering together we get to fan into flames the love in each other into active expression of God’s love in our lives. If that is not happening for you, maybe you should look for another church.

The church is the divine technology for helping you stay passionate about God. It provides the opportunity for us to horn your skills and talents, and live in obedience to God in their deployment in the service of the body of Christ. And that is the way God defines love; as service (Hebrews 6:10). Remember the story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:27-37).

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