To Whom We Draw Near

Scripture Focus: James 4.7-8
7…Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Come near to God and he will come near to you…

Reflection: To Whom We Draw Near
By John Tillman

The writing in James is tight, terse, and tense. Its short, pithy quotables, at first glance, seem disconnected from one another. But, just like in the book of Proverbs it is sometimes compared to, larger thoughts are developing and each thought shines a light on the next.

James copies the style of Proverbs often—writing a balanced statement of a good on one side, contrasted with its opposite. In James 4, his balanced statements help to contrast living as a “friend of the world” rather than a “friend of God.”

We want to be a friend of God and of the world too but James reminds us that is impossible. We are called to have a single love and to be faithful to God alone, satisfying ourselves in God and clinging to him to the exclusion of all others. If we maintain a polyamorous relationship that includes our worldly, fleshly desires, God, in response, will distance himself from us.

James calls this being double-minded rather than single-minded. Our conflicts, struggles, anger, and rage come from attempts to achieve our worldly desires—seeking wealth, seeking power, seeking pleasures. We want God’s blessings to spend on devilish pursuits. When we choose this, we are choosing enmity rather than friendship with God, war rather than peace.

We live on Earth which rightfully belongs to God, but  “the world” is the powers, systems, and spiritual forces that usurp God’s rule and authority. We are aliens and strangers in the world, not citizens. God does not acknowledge dual citizenship with a rebellious world. We cannot keep one foot in two kingdoms that are at war.

James recommends that we choose our enemies carefully, for when we choose our enemies, we are also choosing our friends. Choosing to be near to the world is choosing to be far from God. Resisting the devil will cause him to flee from us. Coming near to God will cause him to come near to us. The distance of the devil and the nearness of God are affected by our responses.

We must choose whom to resist and whom to draw close to. May we draw close to God and be safely kept in his hand. We need not fear having the world as an enemy when we have God as a friend.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Call to Prayer
Come and listen, all you who fear God, and I will tell you what he has done for me. — Psalm 66.14

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
Numbers 9 (Listen 3:20)
James 4 (Listen 2:25)

Read more about Perishable and Imperishable Kingdoms
There are kingdoms of this world that are passing away. These earthly kings…ask us to shed others’ blood by endorsing, normalizing, or embracing violence.

Read more about Humble in Suffering
Keep our minds sharp and aware—awake to the dangers and threats of our enemy the devil. 

Becoming Firstborns

Scripture Focus: Numbers 8.16
16 They are the Israelites who are to be given wholly to me. I have taken them as my own in place of the firstborn, the first male offspring from every Israelite woman.

Reflection: Becoming Firstborns
By John Tillman

Levites were set apart among those set apart. God makes covenants, within covenants, within covenants.

God promised Eve, and all humanity, that her son, the snake-crushing savior, would come. (Genesis 3.13-15) Within that covenant, God promised Abraham that his children, the Israelites, would bless the entire world, (Genesis 12.2-3) becoming a priestly nation. (Exodus 19.5-6) Within that covenant, God set apart the Levites.

God chose the entire tribe of Levi as the “firstborn” of Israel to be dedicated to him. Dedicating the firstborn to the Lord was common. Usually, an animal was sacrificed and the family would take the child home as normal. But two things are unusual. Levi was not Israel’s firstborn—Reuben was. Also, life for the tribe of Levi does not go on as normal. They serve and are set apart in a unique way. 

God routinely calls those born out of order or in the wrong family to be his and act as his firstborn. Hannah’s firstborn son, Samuel, was not a Levite (1 Samuel 1.24-28) but he served in the Tabernacle for life and God called him by name. (1 Samuel 3.10) Mary’s firstborn son, Jesus, was not a Levite but he was God’s son (Luke 9.35) and was made a priest for eternity. (Hebrews 6.19-20) Jesus sacrificed himself to create a new Tabernacle into which all of us are called. (John 2.19-22; 1 Peter 2.4-5)

Jesus, our high priest, is the “firstborn” of creation and from among the dead. (Colossians 1.15-18) He is the one at the center of all of the covenants. God’s covenants narrowed, becoming more and more exclusive, until Jesus. Then the covenant exploded in exponential expansion.

In Jesus, we join a ministry greater than the Tabernacle of Moses or the Temple of Solomon, or the Temple of Jesus’ day. All can now enter because the way has been opened. Despite being born in the wrong order and the wrong family, we are adopted through Jesus. Despite being unworthy, we are judged by the worth of Jesus. Despite being sinful, we are seen as sinless in Jesus. 

Jesus makes us his Levites—his priests and ministers. We are set apart in a unique way. Life does not go on as normal for us.

As servants of the snake-crushing priest, we have no battle to fight. Only a victory to announce.  We have no enemies to defeat. Only conscripted soldiers to set free.

We are set apart to proclaim that outsiders can become insiders and orphans can become firstborns.

Video:The Last Will Be First” — The Bible Project

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
God looks down from heaven upon us all, to see if there is any who is wise, if there is one who seeks after God. — Psalm 53.2

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
Numbers 8 (Listen 3:37)
James 3 (Listen 2:38)

Read more about If You Can’t Say Anything Good
When we learn to control our tongues, we can bring great teaching, healing and joy to many.

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