I’m not inspired to write about much else. I’m a sports fan. I enjoy movies and live performances, but seldom do these stir me to compose in written form an outline of what I felt or experienced in a theater or stadium or restaurant (I like to eat, too).
No, I’m moved to write about what I read or encountered from scripture or experiences of the ethereal kind in worship or meditation or dream states. So often, it begins in reading passages daily set in The Daily Office in The Book of Common Prayer. I need to begin somewhere.
This morning, I read from 2 Samuel 6. Uzzah dies by the hand of God in anger because he touched the Ark of the Covenant to steady it because the oxen stumbled. I’ve heard this preached it wasn’t his place to steady the ark, touch it, manage it. Everybody in Israel danced before the Lord with all their might. Uzzah was doing a good thing but not the necessary or acceptable thing before the eyes of the Lord at the moment. He wasn’t worshiping but managing the ark, and God killed him for it. That doesn’t satisfy me.
Stopping and considering (Selah), I thought, “What’s a parallel event in the New Testament?” Is there anyone God kills outright? The story of Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5 came to mind.
In Acts 4, Barnabas sold a field, brought the money to the apostles. In the next chapter, Ananias, in cahoots with Sapphira, sold property and brought a portion, only a portion, of the money to the apostles as Barnabas did. The implication was Ananias brought actually all the windfall from the sale to get coo-does and public affirmation from the apostles.
Peter discerned Ananias lied to the Holy Spirit. Ananias dropped like a tree dead. Sapphira did the same when she corroborated in the lie.
These two stories can be theologized to death, but they are still riddled with questions. Ultimately, if this legitimizes executing people because of corrupted theology or practice, we’re back in the civil wars in Europe between flavors of Protestants and Papists and monarchs abandoning Rome because beliefs and practices in the church. Nothing good ever comes out of this.
If these stories merely call Christians to stronger integrity or fervent worship, well, to what extent? What is acceptable to keep God happy, keep the Lord from killing us or empowering his earthly agents in the church from executing judgement on the misguided or misinformed?
This can’t be where we end up in these stories?
This leads me to ask, “What does the Lord require?” The answer from the prophet Micah is “Do justice, love mercy, walk humbly with your God.” The New Testament response is faith in God’s actions in Jesus and works in love.
I read in Acts 17 this morning of Paul telling the Athenians now God calls all people to repent because he’s now fixed a date he will judge the world in righteousness by a man he’s raised from the dead.
I’m currently not at a place to tell the world to repent because judgement in righteousness is coming with the return of Jesus, the resurrected one. That’s too heavy a message for me to convey, right now.
One reason is I’m wrestling off and on with the realities of my world. Regardless of my wife and I having full-time jobs, we come to the point about every month we lack enough money to have adequate groceries until one of us gets paid, or we lack enough data on our family’s phone plan until the next billing cycle, or we lack enough time to do what we promised some family member. We lack something necessary to make everyday life bearable.
Calling our world to repent ’cause Jesus is coming doesn’t fit in my schedule or my temperament, right now. Do I deserve death at the hands of an angry God?
I asked earlier what was a parallel in the New Testament? The answer wasn’t adequate for me. What about in the life and the words of Jesus?
This morning, I read from Mark 8. Jesus had compassion on the crowd assembled around him knowing they were hungry after being with him for three days. He gets in possession of some bread and fish, blesses it, distributes it. They’re bellies are filled with baskets of leftovers.
What about steadying the ark or lying to the Holy Spirit and dying? What about telling the pagan world repentance is called for because the righteous, resurrected judge is coming soon?
I don’t know this heavy stuff, right now.
I am certainly not ready to freely embrace a God who is justified in killing someone for maintaining the position of a religious artifact on a wagon after encountering a pothole or just wanting some attention from people greatly admired but lying to get close.
I’m caught in the heart by Jesus having compassion for followers and listeners who are hungry. That’s me. That’s us. The Word doesn’t fail to amaze or satisfy me.
I’m obviously loved by my Savior who wants me fed. Yes, he loves me! That may be all I really need. That’s where all this ends, and, perhaps where it needs to begin every time.