Friday, January 9, 2009

40 Days of cHesed—Day 5

Day 5 Seeing Life from God’s View

One of the most important concepts in effective communication is perception. It is a common saying that there is no reality, only perception. And while we do believe that there is ultimate reality, for the moment let’s consider the point of this statement.

What does it mean to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes? What does it mean when someone says, “Well, from where I stand, it looks like…”? It means that the view you see depends on where you’re standing. The front row of a concert brings a totally different experience than the balcony.

So, if you want someone to understand what you’re trying to communicate, you must make the effort to bring that person into your shoes. And, they must be willing to leave their view to embrace yours.

That is exactly what God did when he came to earth as Jesus Christ: fully God and fully man. He brought us God’s point of view and experienced our point of view.

In order to communicate his love for us, and the terms and conditions for his covenant with us, Jesus Christ left his heavenly view and was born as a human baby. He lived his life as a human to show us what a life driven by God’s purpose is supposed to look like.

When God looks at man (male and female, remember), the crown of creation, what does he see? He sees potential. Relational potential. Covenant partner potential. So let’s take a closer look at this concept of covenant.

In Day 3 we introduced covenant as the primary context—the relational boundaries and expectations—necessary for understanding God and his purpose. We used images of family and chores to help explain the importance of keeping covenant once we enter covenant. We even offered an opportunity to express your desire to become part of God’s family.

So now we need to take a little more time to explain what covenant is and why God views everything from this perspective. We know that God is an eternal community with Jesus and the Holy Spirit. We know that he wants us to experience community, too. But you can only build community when you have a common understanding of how to act together. Humans, when they aren’t connected with God, don’t have much success with community building.

And so God had to show us how to build community. God uses covenant (a type of agreement or contract made between two or more individuals or groups) to give us that common understanding of how to act in harmony and unity.

Basic to God’s covenants is that everyone has something of value to contribute. It’s not just a one-way deal of what God does for us. In God’s eyes, we have partnership value. He offers us the privilege of relationship with a purpose – to assist him with the reconciliation of humanity.

God’s covenants, then, are based on the following three truths:

  1. God has unlimited power but has willingly chosen to restrain that power for the sake of relationship with man. He wants us to love him, but he doesn’t make us do it.

  2. God has given man free will, which includes the capability (as God’s Image Bearers) to make good choices—even if we don’t always use it.

  3. Both God and man have a mutual desire for reconciliation of the relationship between Creator and Image Bearer. Deep in each human heart is the echo of God’s voice—the God-shaped piece that is missing.

We’ve said earlier this week that people have trouble keeping their word and restraining their desires. Sometimes we need to put it in writing so that we can be reminded of our promises.

God understands the need for this kind of activity. But when God makes a promise, he doesn’t write it on a piece of paper and sign his name. He makes the kind of binding agreement called a blood covenant.

Sounds serious, doesn’t it? Well, it is serious! The Old Covenant God made with Abraham, and renewed with Moses, was a blood covenant. Why blood? Because blood symbolizes the preciousness of life, that’s why.

To make a blood oath, then, was to bind your life to another life. Whatever happened to one, happened to the other. If one needed protection, the other would die trying to save them. The possessions of one were available for use by the other. Selfish interest was set aside for the best interest of the other. To break a blood covenant was punished by death; and only death released you from its terms and conditions.

We do not really have a clear picture of what cutting a blood covenant is like today. Probably the closest image we have comes from the Native American ceremony for making blood brothers—especially to pledge peace between sworn enemies. Each man would cut his finger or wrist and then press it to the other’s so that their blood mixed together. They were now blood brothers—and the scars they carried were life-long reminders of their bond to each other.

When God made a covenant with someone, he required the touching of sacrificial blood to ratify the agreement. One might say he required the parties to sign their name, make their mark, in blood. This was a kind of oath to join the lives of the parties to each other and abide by the agreement, with a self-curse attached if one was unfaithful. Something like “may my fate be the same as this animal if I prove unfaithful.”

God made this kind of covenant with Abraham when he promised to make him the father of many nations. Abraham cut the prescribed animals (a costly sacrifice) and divided them so that one could walk between the pieces. In doing this, Abraham touched the sacrificial blood. Then, later, God passed between the pieces as a smoking fire pot with a blazing torch, symbolically touching the blood – ratifying the covenant. (See chapter 15 of Genesis.)

This is the picture God gives us of cutting a covenant. It is a powerful image. In the New Covenant, Jesus Christ, as the representative of God and as the representative of man, ratified our adoption, signing his name to our adoption papers with his own blood. That is why Jesus died on the cross—he was our covenant-making sacrifice.

So, did you see a glimpse of life from God’s view? It is an amazing sight, isn’t it? Amazing love and amazing grace effectively communicated to us by God through Jesus Christ.

Today’s Look at 1 John

Read 1 John 1:1 through 2:11 again. While you’re reading, think about the wonder of Christ Jesus becoming flesh that he could be the covenant-making sacrifice for our adoption.

Keep Breathing!

When you invite God to share your day today, thank him for his covenant. Thank him for sending Jesus to help us understand what our purpose is. Thank him for sending Jesus to die on the cross to pay the price for our adoption. Ask God to help you hear the echo of his voice in your heart—so that you’ll be more willing to listen and make good choices today. Ask God to help you see today from his view.

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