Good morning. Today is Saturday, January 5, 2013. I like that I only had to work three days this week. Next Monday, it’s back to the full grind. I also like that we got to sleep in this morning, since setup for The Exchange Church is now moved to Sunday mornings. Other plans for today include grocery shopping, taking Christi’s books back to the library, putting Christmas decorations back in the attic, and practicing the songs for tomorrow’s worship celebration, because I’ll be playing keys tomorrow.
Today is “National Bird Day.” We’re not gonna have much luck with that in these parts. May have to go back to Cancun…
On this date in 1066, Edward the Confessor passed away. He was the only English king to become a saint. He was known to have spent hours in prayer, each day, and was even reputed to “have performed miracles of healing.” He reigned for 24 years. Two reminders of his reign still remain. One is the “St Edward’s Sapphire, a rose cut stone,” which is now in the “imperial state crown of England.” The other is Westminster Abbey, founded by Edward.
Today’s birthday is Constanze Mozart, wife of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, born on this date in 1762.
Oh sing to the LORD a new song; sing to the LORD, all the earth! Psalm 96:1
With my whole heart I cry; answer me, O LORD! I will keep your statutes. Psalm 119:145
Father, I pray that you show me something of yourself this morning as I look into your word. Give me grace for this day as I pray to you.
Today, I’m reading Isaiah 16:8-11.
8 For the fields of Heshbon languish, and the vine of Sibmah; the lords of the nations have struck down its branches, which reached to Jazer and strayed to the desert; its shoots spread abroad and passed over the sea.
9 Therefore I weep with the weeping of Jazer for the vine of Sibmah; I drench you with my tears, O Heshbon and Elealeh; for over your summer fruit and your harvest the shout has ceased.
10 And joy and gladness are taken away from the fruitful field, and in the vineyards no songs are sung, no cheers are raised; no treader treads out wine in the presses; I have put an end to the shouting.
11 Therefore my inner parts moan like a lyre for Moab, and my inmost self for Kir-hareseth.
As Isaiah continues his lament for Moab, he is moved to tears by the desolation of the vineyards of Moab, and he feels deep sorrow, shown in verse 11.
Today’s reading from A Year With God is called “I Am the Lord Your God.” The scripture reference is Exodus 19:3-6a; 20:1-3.
…while Moses went up to God. The LORD called to him out of the mountain, saying, “Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the people of Israel: You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.
And God spoke all these words, saying, “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. “You shall have no other gods before me.”
An ancient format is being followed here, one that followed ancient covenants made between overlords and vassals. The overlord begins by stating the “numerous and gracious things he has done for the vassals.” This is followed by the requirements of the covenant, the things the vassals will do in return. The Lord follows this by stating what he did for Israel, which, in this case, was to bring them out of the bondage of Egypt. The requirements of the covenant are what we call The Ten Commandments. One of the most important things to notice in this exchange is that, even in the Old Testament, grace preceded law. “God first acts in grace and mercy by delivering the people, and then the people respond in gratitude and thanksgiving by obeying the commandments.”
If we really stop and consider this fact, it can truly change our entire perspective on grace and Law. The law was never intended as a means to get to God. Paul has plenty of discussion on that in the New Testament. But when we realize that, even in the OT, grace comes before law, it changes everything. While it is true that the works that we do, the obedience that we do, are considered “fruit” of our relationship with Christ, they are also a measure of our gratitude for the grace that he has extended to us.
Father, I thank you for the many examples of grace that you have shown to your people over the course of history. The deliverances that are recorded in scripture are epic and mighty. Sometimes, I fall into the trap of thinking that my life pales in comparison to them. But, in truth, you have shown great grace in my life, right from the very beginning of it. You brought me into this world in a country of freedom, in a family of parents who were already believers in your grace and mercy. They brought me up, teaching me your word, teaching me to love you, and leading me to faith in Jesus Christ. You have provided for me through all of those years. There has never been a time when I have been in extreme need. Oh, sure, there have been some hard times, but you have always been there to see me through them, even when I was walking far off of your path! Even when I spent part of my life in extreme darkness, you were right there with me, never leaving me, never forsaking me, just like you promised. The beauty of this, the glory of it, is the fact that you keep your promises, even when we don’t! That is who you are; that is your nature. I will not sink into shame over those times. They are long past; part of what is almost a different life. I will, rather, celebrate the grace that you have shown me by continued obedience in my life. You have me on a path, at this point in my life, that is wide and firm. My footing is sure, thanks be to your grace and mercy. I will praise you and glorify you with all that I am, and will continue to strive to grow in this covenant relationship, both with you and with your Church, remembering at all times that I am not an island. I cannot survive alone. We, the Church, are a community of faith that desperately need each other to live and grow. Thank you, Father, for grace! And thank you that it comes before law, always.
I pray for this day. As we get ready to embark on the various activities of the day, I pray for safety as we roam around, and that we will always be good ambassadors of your grace, regardless of the circumstances we find ourselves in. May we always be kind to others, showing them grace in the same way that you have shown us grace. I pray that we will be able to get everything done today that needs to be done, and that, finally, we will enjoy some rest this evening, as we prepare ourselves for worshiping you tomorrow.
What a liberating truth: Grace precedes law. Always.
Grace and peace, friends.