From Slavery to Worship

The exodus of the Israelites is the great defining display of God’s (YaHWeH’s) power, love, and faithfulness. In the exodus, we learn more about God’s character and present and future plans than most stories throughout Scripture.

The song (or poem) found in Exodus 15, immediately after God delivered the Israelites from being crushed by Pharaoh’s army at the edge of the great sea, is acknowledged by most scholars to be one of the earliest poetic texts in the Old Testament. It celebrates YHWH bringing his people out of slavery and freeing them through the waters of the sea (a form of baptism if you will). This Song of Moses, and Miriam’s song at the end, show us YHWH’s character and mission that speak to the actual realities of the exodus, and foretell in a cryptic kind of way, the justice of YHWH in the end:

YHWH’s character and mission revealed through worship (Ex. 15:1-21):
YHWH is a warrior God (1-10; 14-16a) He exacts justice. He does not let the wicked go without punishment. He fights for the oppressed. He makes a mockery of world powers. He’s fierce towards his enemies, and gentle towards his people.

YHWH is an incomparable God (11-12) He keeps his promises. He has supreme power and wisdom. He leads the heavenly assemblies. He rules over the nations. He forgives sin and sets free sinners. There are no gods who oppose him.

YHWH is a redeeming God (13, 16b-17) His love (hesed) sacrificially buys his people back. YHWH is a redeemer: go’el; a Hb. word that refers to any member within a wider family who had the responsibility to protect the interests of the family or a specific member of the family who was in particular need. What’s unique about YHWH being referred at the go’el of his people, was that the go’el had the role to: 1) Avenge shed blood of family members (Numbers 35:12), 2) Buy back any land or slaves to keep them in the family (Leviticus 25), and 3) Provide an heir to preserve each family’s name (Story of Ruth and Boaz). Notice that YHWH as go’el is concerned with a home for his people.

v. 13b: you have guided them by your strength to your holy abode.
v. 17: You will bring them in and plant them on your own mountain, the place, O Lord, which you have made for your abode, the sanctuary, O Lord, which your hands have established.

The holy abode (sanctuary) and the mountain. The tabernacle and the promised land. The temple and Jerusalem. Jesus and the holy city. This is the progressive importance of the holy abode and the mountain. YHWH makes a home for his people where he is present with them, and he is preparing a home that will one day get rid of all that opposes him.

YHWH sees the homelessness of his people. Their ecological homelessness. Their social homelessness. Their physical homelessness. Their spiritual homelessness. He sees all the forms of homelessness, and through the exodus is shouting out loud to us, I’m bringing you HOME!!!

YHWH is the king (18) His throne, his kingdom, his home, will be the only ones that last forever. YHWH is king, and his rule will never end, which means what he builds will never end either.

YHWH is to be worshipped (21) The glory and beauty of his acts of redemption demand worship to him alone. He is the only one who can bear the glorious weight of worship. This is why man or other created things are not to be worshipped… they weren’t created to bear the weight of glory that comes with worship. We fold under the pressure of worship, YHWH shines!

As we have seen, the unique element about this story of the exodus is that it shows us God’s mission through his righteous character. Our mission as followers of Jesus is first God’s mission that he has invited us into, and the exodus depicts God’s mission in a way that makes our gospel much bigger and comprehensive than we could ever imagine.

But something else this song portrays is the justice that is to come. The question that rings in my ears and many other people’s ears as we read this is, “Does this kind of justice really exist? And if it did, maybe I should be the one who is drowned.”

The great exodus and the crushing of the mightiest nation in the ancient days (Egypt) is a depiction and a promissory note to all of us who are longing for justice, that there will be a day, with no more tears, no more pain, where evil will no longer be at work, and we will be at home with the Ancient of Days.

This great baptism in Exodus is a promise to you and I that evil and injustice never gets the last word. Take heart today in the midst of injustices everywhere, that your fight for justice today is not in vain, and is never going to go unnoticed, ultimately. In a day where systems are protected over people, governments oppress the masses, and terrorists threaten peace and safety, don’t forget that love alone is worth the fight.

Israel went from slavery to worship as justice rolled down like water, and righteousness like a mighty stream. This day is fully coming, but it has also already come in Christ. Jesus took what we deserved and gave us what he deserved. Today, justice in the courts of heaven can be a reality for you if you have eyes to see it, as we wait for and fight for complete justice on earth.

So what does it mean for us today? It may mean something different for each of us, but I want to close with an excerpt from two friends who I am in fellowship with and do life with. I emailed them and asked them to give me their insight into the Song of Moses in Exodus 15, and here’s what they said this text means to them (us) today:

Philip: “I think it is a picture of how we should praise Jesus for his sacrifice. For his winning the fight for us, it means we no longer need to battle, if we lean on Jesus and put our faith in him the battle has already been won. The only thing left for us to do is to take out our tambourines and sing his praise and do this in a manner that everybody will join us. This seems so simple, too simple, but if we show our joy it will become infectious and others will want to know what is so awesome. This gives us the chance to share the good news.”

Annette: “We are to tell stories where we’ve doubted God and where we know He has rescued us.  We are to sing songs and dance all over the head of evil as we sing of God’s loving, victorious salvation.  We are to tell the stories we so often avoid telling because they are bloody and ugly and because there is no victory without loss.  War leaves behind causalities which breaks the heart of God and too ought to break our hearts.  We have to wear clothes of sorrow and desire for justice as we put on our dancing shoes and play our tambourines as we sing songs that tell the stories where even though we deserved death we have been given the gift of life.”

Praise Jesus.

Sing with tambourines.

Tell stories of our rescue.

Sing and dance over evils head.

Wear clothes of sorrow (don’t brush over our pain and loss in the midst of the battle)

Desire and fight for justice, because it’s coming, it will not delay.

Hating God

The book of 1 John is a book written not from the hand of a systematic theologian, but from a seeming creative artist with words who knew Jesus intimately and lived out his passion to teach others to encounter the same Lord he did. One verse in particular sticks out to me in 1 John that always ruffles my feathers is 4:20-21:

20 If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21 And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.

What is Johnny saying here? This is a strong sentence. At first glance I sense that Johnny is saying, “Love for your brother has no bounds because it is not driven or tainted by fear of man, or what man thinks. It is a pure love that can’t be contained… love unleashed… explosive love!”

So I ask myself, “How do we get to that place of unleashed, explosive love?” Many of us have experienced the new birth in Christ and yet we are struggling to love one another (we are not doing justice, loving mercy, walking humbly among our enemies). We are often times fake, we gossip, we hold grudges, we judge, we build up walls to dodge, we dismiss, and we elevate ourselves over each other and over other beliefs, we fear being found out, we run from intimacy and protect ourselves from good people.

Dan Allender in his book Bold Love (1992) writes this: “Is it possible to love and hate at the same moment? Even more important, is it possible to hate someone so deeply that love is obscured–to a point of being a functional non-entity (existence)? If that is possible in our relationships with one another, could a regenerate heart have even love for God crowded out by self-interest, fear of others, anger, rebellion, and hatred? I believe that it is not only possible, but the very reason why most of us love so poorly.”

Allender is leading us to think more deeply and critically of ourselves and stop defending our goodness. Believer, Jesus defends your goodness! We must ask ourselves questions like this: Why am I an amateur lover? Why does forgiveness at times mean so little to me? Why do I harbor negative feelings towards someone and never seek reconciliation with them? How can I see brokenness and not give my life to helping those I know who are broken?

This hatred in our hearts is often quiet, dormant, and masked. “How could I hate God? I mean come on, I love and follow Jesus!” But what we neglect to see at times because of our fear of judgement, is that we make decisions daily that show our neglect of God, and if we treated a friend that way, it would be hateful behavior, rude at best.

We must be honest with where and who we are and allow the new birth to take it’s full effect. And this honesty begins with being silenced by the gravity of our condition. God is love, we are not! Silence, not defense, is required for deep change to occur. Contemplate the reality of God’s love next to your love. When we become silent, when we stop defending and fighting for our own goodness, we can look God in His eyes and discover His response, which 1 John 4:20-21 teaches us, that God’s response to His honest children is one of love, acceptance, and presence; not fear, torment and loneliness. It is at this place of brokenness and honesty where we catch a glimpse of the love that the Father has for us. It is great, it is extravagant, it is mysterious.

You were made to love and to be loved; to know and to be known. This is how haters become lovers.

The Best Walk Ever (Luke 24:13-27)

The road to Emmaus is a wonderful passage that has a profound impact on the entire story of God. This is because it’s a type of interpretive key, meaning this passage, gives us insight to the OT more than most other passages. Let’s open it up and dig in:

To get caught up in the story up to this point, Easter has already happened, Jesus has conquered the grip and tragedy of death, and now, three days after His resurrection, He is showing Himself to His disciples and many others (1 Cor. 15:6). It’s here that He catches up with two disciples (Cleopas and one unnamed) who are discouraged, while they’re walking northwest to Emmaus.

The disciples had hoped that Jesus would redeem Israel (Luke 24:21)… their way, the victorious way, by coming into town on a white war horse and crush the big mouth (Rome). Have you ever had an expectation that fell far short of what you were expecting? It’s a human emotion.

The gap between what you expected (your dreams, your desires, your plan) and reality (what actually happened), represents loss, disappointment, grief, whether real or perceived. Their expectations allowed them to see the glory of God’s kingdom (Jesus’ life), but they failed to understand the suffering (His necessary death).

Read Luke 24:13-14:
I can imagine their conversation going all over the OT, quoting various passages, wondering what that meant if Jesus isn’t the Messiah, yet did all that He did? What about the prophecies of old, of the Messiah restoring Israel, crushing the serpent (Rome, who was Satan of course)? How does this all make sense?

I would’ve loved to hear this conversation. It’s the type of conversation we all would say, “I give anything to be a fly on the wall for that conversation”, and since Jesus is the sovereign king, He can make those crazy wished a reality. So He pops into their conversation, but He doesn’t allow them to recognize Him.

Read Luke 24:15-19a:
In Christ-like humor, Jesus engages these men, and desires to look into their hearts, which looks like them opening their hearts to Him. Sometimes we think, God knows everything, and He does, but all throughout Scripture God, who knows everything, ask questions to invite the person into intimacy with Him; a conversation.

Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us. Selah. Psalm 62:8

This is prayer. Talking to God. Jesus longs for us to share with him our deepest desires, our letdowns, disappointments, pain, etc. He’ll even act ignorant about things to get us to open up! I imagine the brief conversation sounding something like this:

Jesus: What are you guys talking about?

Disciples: Jesus of Nazareth’s death. Where’ve you been? Everyone knows this.

Jesus: Who’s this Jesus of Nazareth and what happened to him?

I love it. We could imagine more of this conversation, but that’s for another day. So the disciples begin telling ‘Jesus’ all about what happened to ‘Jesus’ in Jerusalem.

Read Luke 24:19b-24:
Who else in the universe could brag that they preached the gospel to God in the flesh?! Well… half of it at least. They retell the story of events to Jesus, maybe in tears, but definitely with passion and sadness. At the end of it all, Jesus is dead and now His body is missing. Could it be that Jesus was cursed? After all, He dies on a tree (cursed is anyone who hangs on a tree), and now His body was dug up and stolen (a body that was crucified and didn’t have a proper burial was considered double cursed):

22 “And if a man has committed a crime punishable by death and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree, 23 his body shall not remain all night on the tree, but you shall bury him the same day, for a hanged man is cursed by God. You shall not defile your land that the Lord your God is giving you for an inheritance. Deuteronomy 21:22-23

An unburied body was a defilement to the land and would represent a curse to the body (Ezekiel 37 – valley of dry, unburied bones representing cursed Israel for their disobedience). It is at this point that Jesus has heard their hearts, has compassion on them, and begins to let them in on the “BIG SECRET” of the OT.

Are you ready for the big secret to be revealed? It’s Jesus! Jesus is the interpretive key to all of Scripture and all of Scripture was always pointing to Him. Telling the story of Israel, yes, but only because it was through Israel that all the other families of the earth will be grafted into to God’s family and be blessed. It was never about Israel. It was and is all about Jesus being the way for all.

Let me indulge with you for a moment as we reflect on the OT, and my desire in doing this is in hopes of your reading for yourself later, and being able to see Christ, or at least “echoes” and “shadows” of Christ. Maybe you will even see those who “represent” a type of Christ, a savior. The OT is filled with types, shadows, and echoes of Jesus being the Christ, our savior:

Adam was given all he needed for life and godliness, walked with God in perfect fellowship, and still wanted more… Jesus entered into life on the other side of human history, full of pain and trial, was in the wilderness with nothing he humanly needed, and was satisfied in God.

Adam was given garments of skin to cover up the shame of his nakedness… Jesus became the slain creature who covered up the shame of our nakedness.

Adam represents the old man, sin, and death, the old mode of existence, living in the past… Jesus represents the new man, righteousness and life, the new mode of existence, living in the future.

Abel was innocently slain by a jealous brother who’s blood is crying out for justice… Jesus was innocently slain by all of our rebellion, and his blood is the justice that now cries out on our behalf, not our condemnation, even though we were the jealous brother who murdered the innocent (Hebrews 12:24).

Noah built an ark out of trees and got on it, to save his family and the animal kingdom from judgement and certain death… Jesus had a cross built out of trees and got on it, to save not just one family, but all the families of the earth, indeed all of creation.

Noah represents one family’s trek to salvation… Jesus represents everyone’s trek to salvation.

Abraham obeyed God, left his family, his land, and all that was comfortable and familiar to be a new people of God in a new nation… Jesus answered the call of God to leave all the comfortableness of divine worship and go out into the void of broken humanity to create a new people of God, and establish a new nation, a new family, a new way to be human.

Abraham was declared righteous through His faith… Jesus is the righteous One in whom Abraham placed His faith.

Abraham was circumcised to represent a new family that is pure and fertile and would circumcise all the males of Israel from that day forward… Jesus was also circumcised outwardly, but died and rose again to circumcise hearts so that all may be transformed from the inside out.

Abraham trusted God for a different sacrifice when his son Isaac was on the alter about to be slain… Jesus became the sacrifice that preserved Isaac’s life, and desires that all lives may be preserved.

Jacob wrestled with God and was struck in the hip to be reminded the God is with him… Jesus wrestled with God in Gethsemane and was struck on the heel, so we, like Jacob, would only receive the wounds of grace to wake us up and discipline us, not destroy us.

Joseph was exalted to the right hand of Pharaoh and saved the nations from famine… Jesus is at the right hand of God the Father who forgives those who betrayed and sold him and uses his new power make new hearts.

Moses stood in the gap between the people and God as a mediator for a generation… Jesus eternally stands in the gap as the One who cuts a new covenant for people to come to/experience God (Hebrews 3).

Job suffered innocently so God could show forth His power and redeeming grace even though he was condemned by his foolish friends… Jesus was the truly innocent sufferer, who is the power of God to redeem foolish friends (Job 42).

David fought the battle against Goliath because Israel was too scared and lacked faith in God… Jesus, who is the true and better David, allowed the Goliath of sin that we have created, to kill and consume Him so we wouldn’t be killed and consumed (the story of David and Goliath isn’t a story telling us that if only we had enough faith then we could slay the giant like David did; David represents Christ, Israel represents us)

Esther risked her life and the comfort of a palace to save her people from a wicked edict… Jesus willingly gave up his life and the comforts of heaven to make the evil edict take His life so that His people would be set free.

Jonah was cast into the storm to save the sailors… Jesus was cast into the storm to save the nations.

Hosea married a whore to represent God’s love and pursuit of His people… Jesus married the church who continually cheats on Him and acts as if He doesn’t really exist sometimes, yet he loves, pursues and ultimately redeems her back to Himself over and over again.

Jesus is the Rock of Moses.

Jesus is the Bread from Heaven

Jesus is the Water of Life.

Jesus is the Light of the World.

Jesus is the eternal Passover Lamb of God.

Jesus is the true Temple where worship happens in Spirit and Truth.

Jesus is the ultimate sacrifice for fallen creation.

Jesus is the divine gladiator.

Jesus is the true prophet, priest, and king.

Jesus is the Alpha and Omega.

Jesus is the Lord who heals.

Jesus is the Great I AM.

Jesus is the All-Powerful One.

Jesus is the God who sees.

Jesus is God with us.

Jesus is the Lord of all creation.

Jesus is the Good Shepherd.

Jesus is the Lord of Righteousness.

Jesus is the King of kings.

Jesus is the Lord of lords.

Jesus is the Prince of Peace

Jesus is the power of God unto salvation.

All of Scripture testifies to Christ!

He loves us! He is pursuing us! He’s present right now. He’s in our story today more than we could ever imagine. He is there in the pain and loss. He is there in the earthquakes and storms. He is there in the famine and death. He is there in the daily grind of living paycheck to paycheck. He is there in the celebrations and joys. He is here, right now, beckoning our hearts to worship Him, as one people of God, acknowledging Him as the rightful king of the universe, and inviting us to trust Him afresh today, so that the world might see and experience life.

Redeeming the Graveyard

At the end of the Old Testament, the prophets of Israel were saying that God is going to send a savior, a Messiah to redeem Israel and restore Jerusalem… then God remains silent for 400 years. When the silence breaks… at least in our canon of Scripture, we are given the book of Matthew, and as he begins to tell the good news about Jesus, he starts with dead people. As Ray Bakke says, “he takes us on a cemetery tour.”

You ever noticed that? The beginning of the gospel of Jesus according to Matthew starts with a genealogy… a remembrance of those who are in Jesus’ family tree. What in the world is Matthew doing by doing with this? Well for starters, the first century church sure did celebrate the resurrection well, but totally missed the birth of Jesus. They celebrated Jesus’ death and resurrection (rightly so!), and celebrated the fact that Jesus is the King of kings, and Lord of Lords, but in many ways neglected to celebrate His birth, the moment this great King became one of us pitiful humans, left glory and became a helpless (may I say powerless) baby totally dependent on adult care. Matthew here is reminding us of the importance of the birth of Jesus, and seems to be exposing the “skeletons in the closet” of Jesus’ family tree.

As one would read Matthew 1:1-16, you would realize many things, one being, this seems totally boring! But if you were forced to study this passage (as I was) because you went to school to study Scripture, you spend a little more time pondering the names in this genealogy of Jesus. The first thing that stood out was that there were five women referenced in this list. Why are they there?

The fourth century theologian Jerome say that these women are all here to show that sinners are a part of Jesus’ genealogy, but that interpretation immediately breaks down, because all of the men in the genealogy were sinners too. According to Ray Bakke, Martin Luther was the first theologian to notice that they were all foreigners, except for Mary. This is a significant thought. Let’s try to unpack that a little bot more.

The four moms (not counting Mary) in Jesus’ genealogy appear in verse 3-6: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and Bathsheba. What’s Matthew doing by putting these women in this genealogy? What do all these ladies have in common? Here’s a brief summary of these ladies lives as is found in the Old Testament:

Tamar: a Canaanite (Gen. 38); married to a son of Judah named Er, who died because he was wicked. Judah’s second son was supposed to take his brothers wife to give her a heritage (children), but on his way to take care of business, Onan spilled his sperm on the road before he went to “lay” with Tamar. Judah’s third son, Shelah, was not given to her because he was too young, but was promised to Tamar once he grew up. When Tamar realized Shelah had grown up and was not given to her, she took matters into her own hands (remember, no sons for a woman in these days meant there was no inheritance in heaven for her; this was equal to salvation in their minds).

So she went into town after Judah’s wife had died, took off her widow clothes and put on prostitute clothes, and sat at the entrance of the town. When Judah arrived, she welcomed his “business” and she asked him for his credit card (his signet ring, a bracelet, and his staff) to “make sure he comes back to pay”. She gets pregnant that day, and when Judah finds out a few months later that she’s pregnant, the hypocrite Judah said, bring her forth, she must be burned. “As she was being brought out, she sent word to her father-in-law, ‘By the man to whom these belong (the credit card!), I am pregnant.’ And she said, ‘Please identify whose these are, the signet and the cord and the staff.’ Then Judah identified them and said, ‘She is more righteous than I, since I did not give her to my son Shelah.’ ” (Gen. 38:25-26).

Rahab: a Canaanite as well (Josh. 2); Again, according to Bakke, she ran a hotel where the lights were dim and the charge was by the hour, not the night. She lived on the wall of Jericho. Her name means “wide”; she didn’t miss a man who came into town. So when the spies from Israel came to scout out the city, she brought them in and hid the Israelite spies because she feared the Israelites God. Her and her family were the only ones spared in the battle of Jericho. She ended up marrying a good Jewish man named Salmon, in the line of Judah, and they bore a son together, and named him Boaz.

Ruth: a Moabite (Ruth 1; Gen. 19), from the country of Moab which was started by an incestuous relationship. Lot (Abraham’s nephew) was spared from Sodom, his wife died, and Lot left the city life and ran to the suburbs, but in doing so, he neglected to find husbands for his daughters, which again, was a duty of a father. So the daughters, seeing that their dad had brought them to the suburbs where there was no hubby to be found, had a plan to gain an inheritance of children from their dad. On two consecutive nights, they got their dad drunk and each slept with him, each conceiving and eventually gave birth to two sons, Moab (father of the Moabites) and Ben-ammi (father of the Ammonites).

So here’s the Moabite Ruth, meets the family of Elimelech (names means “My God is King”) in Moab, because he took his family and left Bethlehem (name means “city of bread”) because there was “no bread” in Bethlehem (oh the irony!). His wife Naomi (name means “pleasant”) and their two sons Mahlon (names means “sick”) and Chilion (name means “dying”) arrive in Moab, and “My God is King” dies. So “Pleasant” has her two sons, “sick” and “dying” take Moabite wives. “Sick” marries Ruth (name means “friendship”) and “Dying” marries Orpah (name means “gazelle” or “fleeing”). To no ones surprise, “Sick” and “Dying” die, and “Pleasant”, “Friendship”, and “Fleeing” are left in Moab, during the time of the judges (everyone did what was right in their own eyes; wicked days) with no men, no hope, no safety.

You can tell by the daughters-in-law names what happens next: “Friendship” stays with Ruth to return to “The City of Bread” because bread is there once again, and “Fleeing goes back home to her family in Moab. Long story short, Ruth becomes noticed by the most eligible bachelor Boaz (son of the prostitute Rahab), who’s wealthy and next in line to redeem (marry) Ruth as her kinsman redeemer (giving Naomi’s family a heritage). Naomi spices Ruth up one night, tells her to shower, shave and put on some perfume and go down and sleep next to Boaz in the middle of the night (as if that’s not creepy or anything!). She obviously does a great job, and the story ends with Boaz marrying Ruth, redeems Naomi’s family, and they had a son named Obed. Obed had a son named Jesse. Jesse had a son named David (later to become the “King David”).

Bathsheba: a Hittite from the region of modern day Turkey (2 Sam. 11). Bathsheba was the wife of Uriah, the best soldier for king David. Uriah is out at war in the spring and David should have been with his soldiers, but he’s wasn’t, he stayed back at home, hadn’t written any poetry in a while nor killed any men, so on a leisurely afternoon in the palace he sees Bathsheba bathing because she’s menstruating, and sees that she’s beautiful and calls her into his palace and has an affair with her. Lo and behold, she gets pregnant (surprise, surprise!), so David calls Uriah home to cover this terrible thing up. Uriah, being a good dude that he is, denies to sleep with his wife because his men were in the battle field fighting. Even after Uriah gets drunk by David’s decree and still honors his troops, so David sends Uriah to the front lines of the war to die. Then David conveniently marries the grieving widow, and the whole kingdom sees David as a hero. Bathsheba’s son dies, but then gives birth to King Solomon.

Mary: a Jew (Matthew 1) and a teenage girl who is engaged, but gets pregnant by the Holy Spirit and carries the Savior of the world, a story everyone would believe, right? Teen mom, is supported only by her soon to be husband who was persuaded to stay with her because an angel visited him and told him the whole story. They had to leave their home town before she gives birth to Jesus and are on the road as refugees as she gives birth to Jesus, the King of the world, in the line of David.

What’s similar with all of these women? First of all, all of them had question marks and irregularities in their marriages or in the way they conceived a child, or struggled to conceive a child, which could be a way that Matthew is making room for the irregularity of Jesus’ virgin birth that is unique in and of itself, from an unmarried mother. Maybe Matthew is saying, “Mary, I know you’ve struggled with your role in carrying the Christ and being blamed and accused of many horrible things, so here’s some history for you and some mentors who can bring you comfort in your distress.”

We see that four out of five of these moms were foreigners from a Jewish point of view, as Luther has pointed out. Maybe in our context it would be right to call them immigrants. All the nations that these women were from could very well represent all the major regions of the known world at that time. Either way, we know Jesus’ family tree has international blood. Jesus is born with the blood of all the nations, not just Jewish blood. Jesus the Jew, and the Jewish Messiah, had Gentile blood from every part of the world! His plan for all time was all nations (Gen. 12:1-3), after all, they were all created by Him.

This is an urban text that ought to speak to the urban realities that we all face in our city, Christ our savior not only has Gentile blood, but he came out of a dysfunctional family, and he made sure these women who have suffered were honored and remembered, and he died to redeem their pain and loss.

Jesus is the mixed-racial (mestizo) Savior of the world! Jesus’ family is Middle Eastern, Asian, European, and African (and likely more), nations that many Americans love to hate, but the gospel won’t allow this. This genealogy of Jesus crushes racism. It wasn’t only my sin that was atoned for, but the sins of every ethnic and racial class in the world.

Jesus’ arrival marks a new beginning with the very reason of His existence to restore shalom (the way things were supposed to be). Matt. 1:1 says: “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ” The word “genealogy” in Greek is the word “genéseōs” (genesis; beginnings, origin) which the reader would have been immediately reminded of Gen. 2:4 and 5:1, where the exact same expression was used in the Greek Old Testament (the Septuagint; LXX). With this echo from the book of Genesis we were meant to hear and realize that the arrival of Jesus as the Messiah marks a new beginning, a new creation, a new way to be human. This is good news indeed, especially coming from a cemetery tour.

And finally, at the end of this genealogy, we learn that Jesus is the end of the time of preparation (Israel waited and prepared for the Messiah to come, and Jesus fulfills the end of their wait). Here’s verse 17: “So all the generations from Abraham to David were fourteen generations, and from David to the deportation to Babylon fourteen generations, and from the deportation to Babylon to the Christ fourteen generations.”

Let me explain this to you. 3’s and 7’s were considered to be marks of completion and perfection in Hebrew and Greek cultures. 7 days of creation (complete creation); Jesus died and rose again 3 days later (perfect Savior), etc…

When you double three 3’s and seven 7’s, you make a statement of being “as perfect as you could ever get; the end of the line.” Matthew gives us three spans of time, and then he tells us there are 14 generations in between each span of time (in case Math isn’t your gift, that’s double three’s and double seven’s; pretty perfect and complete!).

Maybe Matthew is trying to tell us that “Jesus is the end of the line.” As far as the OT story goes, it has run its completed course in preparation, and now its goal and climax is found in Jesus. Jesus, the Savor with Gentile blood from all the nations, dies to give us His blood for all the nations. This is not just a good Christmas text, but an Easter one as well. And because this Jesus offered this for us, He has freed us to move into other people’s family trees (their pain and agony and loss) with equal intention and love, and be the presence of Jesus to those who are suffering and broken. And all this from a boring genealogy!

Stop Lying

Larry Walters had always dreamed of flying, but was unable to become a pilot in the US Air Force because of his poor eyesight. Walters had first thought of using weather balloons to fly around the age of 13, after seeing them hanging from the ceiling of a military surplus store. Twenty years later he decided to do so. His intention was to attach a few helium-filled weather balloons to his lawn chair, cut the anchor, and then float above the city at a height of about 30 feet for several hours. He planned to use a BB gun to burst balloons to float gently to the ground.

So this retired Vietnam vet, Larry Walters, and his girlfriend, Carol Van Deusen, purchased 45 eight-foot weather balloons and obtained helium tanks from California Toy Time Balloons. They used a forged signature from his employer at FilmFair Studios, saying the balloons were for a television commercial. On July 2, 1982, Walters attached the balloons to his lawn chair, filled them with helium, put on a parachute, and strapped himself into the chair in the backyard of a home in San Pedro. He named his ride “Inspiration”. He took a BB gun, a CB radio, sandwiches, cold beer, and a camera.

When his friends prematurely cut the second cord that tied his lawn chair to his Jeep, he streaked out into the sky as if he was shot from a canon where he leveled off at a nice cruising altitude, not of 30 feet, but 16,000 feet. At first, he didn’t dare shoot any balloons, fearing that he might unbalance the load and cause himself to spill out. For several hours he drifted, cold and frightened. He slowly drifted over the primary approach corridor for LAX airport. A TWA pilot first spotted Larry. The pilot radioed to the tower and described passing a guy in a lawn chair… with a gun! Radar confirmed the existence of an object floating at 16,000 feet above the airport. LAX emergency procedures went into full alert. Larry finally shot enough balloons to lower himself down safely into some power lines in a nearby neighborhood.

He was immediately arrested upon landing; when asked by a reporter why he had done it, Walters replied, “A man can’t just sit around.” After his flight, he was in brief demand as a motivational speaker and he quit his job as a truck driver. He was featured in a Timex print ad in the early ’90s.

Good ole Larry Walters needed a good friend to be honest with him: “Bro, I know you can’t just sit around and you’re going stir crazy inside, but come on dude, drop that idea and let’s rent some Harley’s, drive up the cost, and have a beer on the beach.”

Apparently his girlfriend Carol didn’t love him enough to be honest with him. “Yeh baby, okay… sounds like a great idea! Let’s forge your bosses signature, buy some weather balloons and lie about what we are using them for! Excellent idea!” That’s the kind of idea my 3 year old, not a middle aged man and his adult girlfriend.

Honesty! This is a big topic, isn’t it. Many of us have been that friend who should’ve said what was truthful and we didn’t because we loved ourselves more than our friends. Being honest with one another these days seems to be optional.

You know those hidden camera shows where they stage actors and actresses who are picking on an overweight lady, totally humiliating and tormenting her with words and laughs… in public. Over the period of 4 hours, they only have a handful of people (out of thousand passer-by’s) stand up to these actors and actresses and confront their unjust behavior.

Where has our honesty and character gone? Where has our regard for others, and for our own behavior gone. Where’s the love man? We need a revolution of honesty and truthfulness. We need this because the central defect of evil isn’t necessarily sin, but the refusal to acknowledge it.

The passage that I was given to teach on tonight, deals exactly with this honesty problem, but we are going to have to do some work to figure out how we can be freed up to have the character and courage to be honest people. Turn with me to Colossians 3:9: Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices. “Now that’s a strong statement Paul…are you assuming I’m lying to people? Why do you have to assume things? But whatPaul’s doing, is he’s making a comment on the heels of an unfolding letter that we must briefly unpack. Let’s look at Col. 3:5-8:

5 Put to death therefore what is earthly in you:
sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.
6 On account of these the wrath of God is coming. 7 In these you too once walked, when you were living in them.

8 But now you must put them all away:
anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth.

Paul is hammering Christian living in light of Christ being all and in all (Col. 1:15-23; 2:6-15). Thus, these commands and urgings (or we can call them imperatives) from Paul are not legalistic nor meant for you to “obey or else”, rather they are an urgent call for the Colossians to live in light of who they are in Christ (remember the indicatives). If we had the time, (I encourage you to do this yourself later tonight), I could slowly walk through Col. 1-2 and teach on all that is already true for believers:

-Reconciled to God through His death and resurrection.
-Christ in you.
-Established in faith.
-Your faith in Him has joined you in His death, thus receiving the reward of His death and resurrection which will be a glorified body that will appear with Christ in glory!
-You were made you alive when you were dead.
-Your sins were forgiven.
-You were given the power of God over the authorities that once condemned and damned you.

Because of this O’ Colossians, seek the things that are above (Col. 3:1). Set your mind on the things Christ has made you. Christ is coming back and you will appear with Him; not only appear with Him, but will be with Him in all His glory. This is your inheritance. This is what Christ has done for you. You are free not because you are righteous, but because Jesus is righteous. Stop pretending to be holier than thou, admit your sin, and be honest with one another. Plead the case for the widow, orphan, oppressed, stand up for those who can’t stand by themselves, don’t pretend you don’t see the injustice, etc…

This is why I believe Paul says at the end of these two lists above:
v. 9: Do not lie to one another. Don’t lie about your sin, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices… The old self is not only these actions, but the denial of you being in need of help from Jesus… 10 …put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator… This happens through on going confession and repentance of these sins that you must learn to put away, sins that you commit, but also, like those who over look injustice, sins you commit through inaction. You will never learn or change in a healthy way as long as you are not honest with yourself and others. In other words…

Be honest with each other. Quit pretending to like someone and then insult them all the more by talking about them behind their back. If your homeboy talks too much and doesn’t get the hints that everyone else is giving him, honor the dude and be honest with him. If his zipper is down or he has food n between his teeth, tell him! Don’t act all cool with him then go to another group of friends and talk about how much he annoys you. That’s not what Christ saved you into…

There is a false unspoken rule among many believers that if you don’t have it together, then you’ve got to claim it, and stop acting like you don’t have it together, because you are new in Christ. Well let me blow up a myth for you tonight: being reborn and made new in Christ doesn’t undo the past and doesn’t take away the pain and dysfunction you have because of your past or current situation. No, there is a real thing that theologians call sanctification (becoming more like Christ).

We are not redeemed and made perfect and skip the whole “being made like Jesus” part. No, the struggles, the pain, the failures, the confessions, the forgiveness that is granted, all of that is what is used to make you like Jesus and that process doesn’t stop until you die or Jesus returns. So stop lying to each other. The Christian gospel is about truth, and there is no place for false truths in the Christian community.

How do we do that? Maybe you’re hearing me tonight and you are all in, you want to be done pretending. You want to grow up into your salvation and have real deep abiding friendships, ones that matter and bring joy into your life. Here’s how you begin to grow up emotionally and stop lying to one another:

1) If you haven’t already, trust in Jesus today. Be honest with Him. Allow Him to be the One you trust and worship, not yourself, not your boyfriend or girlfriend, not your family, only Jesus. This happens by confessing your sin, that starts like this: I’m a sinner. I need help. Help me Jesus.

2) Ask for forgiveness from those you know you have either outwardly or secretly wronged. Make things right. Confess to them that you were a fraud and that you thought you could be more acceptable by dissing them, etc.

3) Be honest with yourself. If you take the time to think about how you really feel, what you really think, and how often you stuff feelings, emotions, griefs, etc… You will be able to come up with a long list of areas where you haven’t been honest.

For example:
-Have you ever had a problem arise and you ignored it and hoped it went away?
-Have you ever went somewhere that you didn’t feel safe and pretended to be okay and never tell anybody, and now you live in fear and anxiety about going back to that person/place?
-Have you ever lied about how you are feeling (whether good, bad or indifferent)?
-Have you ever been full of fear all night and went on your next day without telling a soul?
-Have you ever put on a smile, when inside you were raging with anger?
-Have you ever seen someone wrong another person (in any way) and act like noting happened or didn’t see it?
-Have you ever said yes to someone that would’ve made you feel bad if you said no and became resentful and bitter toward that person, but never told them?
-Have you ever ignored a glaring weakness in a friend just because you wanted to date them or be associated with someone of their social status?
-Have you ever been manipulated by a friend and never confronted their manipulation?
-Have you ever put on certain outfits to make people think you were wealthier or happier than you were?

All of these questions are just to get you thinking about how much we are not honest with each other. We’re like those on the hidden camera show where someone is needing help by a bully and 99% of the people just walk by & pretend they didn’t see it.
You see, we are all really good at pointing our fingers at others, our leaders, our parents, our friends, the Republicans or Democrats, our professors… but if we were to be honest with ourselves, we know we are the same frauds we think they are.

We must be honest with ourselves and admit that our way of looking at ourselves and glossing over our own actions while we secretly judge others is a terrible way to live. We need a truthful revolution because:

-We can be a dynamic, gifted speaker for God in public and be an unloving child, spouse, or parent at home.
-We can function as a worship band member or church leader and be unteachable, insecure, defensive, and sleeping around.
-We can memorize books of the Bible and still be unaware of our depression and anger, even transferring it on to other people who don’t deserve it.
-We can fast and pray one day a week for years as a spiritual discipline and constantly be critical of others, justifying it as discernment, and pretending you’re more mature.
-We can lead hundreds of people in a Christian ministry while driven by a deep personal need to prove ourselves because we are plague by a sense of failure.
-We can pray for deliverance from the demonic realm when in reality we are simply avoiding conflict, and repeating an unhealthy pattern of behavior traced back to the home in which you grew up.
-We can be outwardly cooperative at work, but unconsciously try to undercut or defeat our supervisor by coming habitually late, constantly forgetting tasks, withdrawing and becoming apathetic, or ignoring the real issue behind why we are hurt and angry.1

Are you tracking with me? We need not lie to one another. Why? How can we feel so safe to let our guard down and be honest about ourselves, our pain, and why we are struggling to love people and be honest with them? Here’s how:

Jesus wants the honest one who’s been broken. Jesus didn’t come for those who are not sick and broken. He came for the sick, the broken, the truthful ones about their wretchedness. He tells us this Himself. Jesus Christ lived the obedient life you and I couldn’t live, and died the death that you and I deserved to die, and conquered death that was going to crush us, SO THAT, you and I could be reconciled to the true Father, the good Daddy, who loves us and only wants us to be honest with Him and trust Him.

This is where Paul is going in Colossians. O’ Colossians, you can jump into this radical new way of living that is terribly dangerous and could seem like relational suicide to some of you, but it is the only way to live. You were created to live in the light, for Jesus is light and has brought you into it by grace through faith in Him.

Will you take Jesus at His word tonight and be honest with Him and others, and receive what you were created to receive? Be honest with one another, and start by being honest with yourself.

Let’s Pray!