A Hedge of Protection?

Scripture Focus: Exodus 19:10-12
10 And the Lord said to Moses, “Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow. Have them wash their clothes 11 and be ready by the third day, because on that day the Lord will come down on Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people. 12 Put limits for the people around the mountain and tell them, ‘Be careful that you do not approach the mountain or touch the foot of it. Whoever touches the mountain is to be put to death.

Reflection: A Hedge of Protection?
By Erin Newton

We tend to think of rules as a means to kill joy. Limitations on our freedom are viewed negatively. So what does it mean when God puts a boundary around himself?

For three months, the Hebrews followed the cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night. God guided them, protected them.

At Sinai, the mountain was covered by the cloud. To prepare to meet God, the people consecrated themselves and a boundary was set. Their approach to God was limited, like God placing boundaries on the sea, “This far you may come and no farther” (Job 38.11).

Since the Fall of creation, the relationship between God and humanity has been fettered by restrictions. Every encounter required shielding and protection. Was this boundary and the command to kill anyone who crossed the line a reflection of an angry God? Was God trying to avoid contact with people he found so repulsive?

No, we find quite the opposite in the boundaries set by God. It is not from annoyance or repulsion or anger that God separated himself from them. It was out of love.

God asked Moses to create a boundary so no one would get too close to his presence. He threatened severe punishment to help them take this request seriously.

He yearns to be near them, so much so he will build a traveling abode for his presence. But when the people are going to be close to Him, precautions must be taken. He is holy and they are not. He is unblemished and they are covered in guilt. He is perfect and they are imperfect. The two entities cannot coexist. Out of love, God set boundaries to his presence.

I’m always awe-struck when I read about the presence of God in the Old Testament. The patience and diligence required to approach God is enough to frustrate our instant gratification. Through love, they approached God as he commanded—for their own sake.

With Jesus, everything changed. People could look into his face. Touch his robe. Feel his pierced hands. Lay their heads upon his chest. Listen to his voice. Watch him cry.
With Christ, there are no longer any limitations.

Today, we prepare our hearts and consecrate our lives as we approach God in prayer and worship. But we do not fear his wrath. Our access to God is without boundaries and without fear. Praise be to God!

Divine Hours Prayer: The Request for Presence
Our soul waits for the Lord; he is our help and our shield.
Indeed, our heart rejoices in him, for in his holy Name we put our trust.
Let your loving-kindness, O Lord, be upon us, as we have put our trust in you. — Psalm 33.20-22

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

Today’s Reading
Exodus 19 (Listen 4:04)
Luke 1.39-80 (Listen 9:26)

Read more about Prepared to Meet God
The ominous phrase, “Prepare to meet your God,” is meant to strike fear. Yet, this changed with the incarnation of Jesus.

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The Context of The Widow’s Mite

Luke 20.47; 21.2-4, 6
They devour widows’ houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. These men will be punished most severely…
He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. “Truly I tell you,” he said, “this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.””…
“As for what you see here, the time will come when not one stone will be left on another; every one of them will be thrown down.”…

Reflection: The Context of The Widow’s Mite
By John Tillman

Many lessons about the widow’s mite focus on how beautiful her faith is. 

The widow’s faith is beautiful because it is centered on God, not on an institution that is corrupted by sinful leadership. Her gift is beautiful because it shows how deep her faith goes—all the way down to her last pennies. Her gift is beautiful because it shows where her treasure truly lies.

We should praise the widow’s faith, as Jesus did, but taken in context, this scripture has more to say about unscrupulous religious leaders than about generous poor people. It tells us that judgment is coming on leaders who take advantage of the poor. 

In Luke and in Mark, the widow enters in the middle of a scene where Christ is confronting the religious leaders’ materialism and hypocrisy and, just afterward, tells his disciples that the Temple they value so much will be torn down and destroyed.

Luke includes the detail that Jesus “looked up” and saw the widow’s deed in the midst of his teaching. The words just off of his lips are ones of judgement on religious leaders who “devour widows’ houses.” When Jesus points out the widow, he is showing us that his meaning is not metaphorical. The widow’s story gives us someone to emulate in faith, but also points out someone we should serve with action.

Scripture doesn’t tell us what happened to the widow. Some propose that God would miraculously provide for her. If forced to conjecture, I pray that one of Christ’s disciples, being as concerned about the destruction of the widow’s life as about the destruction of the Temple, would take her in. Sometimes miracles are simply disciples taking practical action. (I like to imagine that perhaps it was Mark.)

The bright light of the widow’s faith shines within the darkness of hypocrisy and abuse. What does the Spirit of Christ speak to you in the light of her faith? 

Are we like the religious leaders? Are we projecting piety while living extravagantly?

Are we like the rich? Are we giving because it looks good or until we feel good?

Are we like the disciples? Are we over impressed with wealth and success, equating it with God’s favor?

Can we learn to live like the widow? Are we able to live in faith, despite our systematic victimization, despite our poverty, and despite the existence of corruption? 

Prayer: The Request for Presence
Let your loving-kindness be my comfort, as you have promised to your servant. Let your compassion come to me, that I may live, for your law is my delight. — Psalm 119.76-77

Today’s Readings
Exodus 19 (Listen – 4:04)
Luke 22 (Listen – 7:58)

This Weekend’s Readings
Exodus 20 (Listen – 3:21), Luke 23 (Listen – 6:39)
Exodus 21 (Listen – 4:44), Luke 24 (Listen – 6:16)

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Read more from A Cry to God for the Poor from Zimbabwe :: Worldwide Prayer
It grieves us and must grieve you that so many defenseless people live without shelter, clean water, primary healthcare, education, food. Help us, Lord Jesus, to care and share with the less privileged the material resources you have graciously blessed us with.

Read more about Good News to the Poor
Our manifestation of Christ will be in direct proportion to our acknowledgement of needing him more than we need our comforts, our possessions, our luxuries, or even our daily bread.