In this world connected by the Internet we have access to all religions, thoughts, opinions and philosophies that man has ever had through history. With some discipline those who walk with the Lord can easily dismiss all the other voices to follow only His voice, but we often do so without fully realizing how unique we and our faith is.
I shared last week how Abraham introduced the world to the one true God, the One who came out of eternity to be Abraham's friend. That was the first time anyone had said there is but 1 true God who you could actually know and carry on a relationship with, and the rest are imposters. It was the first time God was revealed to be God for everyone, and that He had created man in His image and likeness.
For us today, like Abraham in his day, at the point we come to know God personally, all religious ritual becomes obsolete. This is because we have Christ in us the hope of glory. We know Him. He knows us. Nothing we could ever do could improve on having our spirit born again, sealed by the Spirit of God. No giving, no fasting, no declarations or positive confessions, no tears, nor even a lifetime of work serving God can ever improve upon having Christ in us. So just stop. Rest. Walk and talk with Him conversationally.
Invest the time to get to know the Father. Talk to Him. Address the Father and find things to express thanks and gratitude for. Then listen to His quiet response in your spirit. That's what we have. That's what Abraham introduced into the world. It was revolutionary.
A little background
Other gods from the time of Abraham through Moses demanded harsh things of their followers. Human sacrifice including babies, were common among many religions. In part, to show He was different, God commanded Abraham to offer Isaac, then stopped him. Thus showing Abraham and the world that He would provide a sacrifice Himself, ending any suggestion ritual human sacrifice would ever be associated with the One True God. At every step of Abraham's life God countered the culture of gods with a revelation of who He is.
In the time of Moses God finally had a people by which He could share rules that would lead to a happy life. The Law of Moses had 613 laws (the most generally agreed upon number) and was divided into 3 sections: Moral law, sanitary law (food, cleanliness, health/healing), and religious law.
These laws were often rather vague for no single law could cover every situation that would ever happen to anyone in their life. So when you read Exodus, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy especially, you'll notice the Lord provided many examples and hypothetical situations when giving the law. The reason they were vague is so that man would have to walk with God so he would know how best to apply the principles of the law to a given situation.
For instance, when Joseph was told by Mary that she was pregnant, he could have had her stoned to death. But we are told 'he was a good (just) man', so he sought a quiet divorce. (Matthew 1:19) There was a lot of flexibility in the law.
The religious law described how a sinner might approach the holy and pure God without being killed in the process, providing in types and shadows a promise of a future when man and God would be one in Christ. The religious law was summed up by the first 4 commands of the 10 Commandments, which were then summed up in one: You will have no other gods but Me.
The moral and sanitary laws were summed up in last 6 commands of the 10 Commandments: Honor your parents, do no murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, lie, nor lust. These 6 are summed up in this: Love your neighbor as yourself. So the 613 are summed up by the 10, which are then summed up by the 2: Love the Lord your God will all your heart and soul, strength and mind, and love your neighbor as yourself. (See Mark 12:28-31)
As Paul would later write in Romans 13:9-10: "If there be any other saying, it is briefly summed up in 'love your neighbor as yourself'. Love works no ill toward its neighbor. Therefore love fulfills the law."
A day off? Vacation?
Within the first 4 of the 10 Commandments is the command to take a day off each week. What other god ever told its followers to take a weekly day of rest? None. False religion drives a person, but God leads by His voice. Take a day off kids, you need it, you work hard all week, take a break. That is a kind and compassionate God.
That command is a summary of other days off in the 613 laws . In Deuteronomy 16:16 among other places, the Lord tells them that adult males (and their families) must go yearly to Jerusalem for the week of Unleavened Bread/Passover, then 50 days later for the week of Pentecost, and then in the fall for the week of Tabernacles.
Considering that most participants lived outside Jerusalem, and the means of travel being on foot or riding an animal, it means that for every week of festival, there were several days or at least a week of preparation and travel before and after each festival. For Jews scattered around the Roman Empire, weeks of travel were required. Those are days off from work to attend what amounted to a giant family reunion in the Lord.
In Luke 2:41-49 we see Joseph and family returning from Jerusalem after Passover week, and losing track of 12 year old Jesus, assuming He was among the multitude of family, friends, neighbors and others traveling home.
With the 3 festivals and travel and preparation, we are talking about a total of at least 6 weeks off from work each year. Plus a mandatory day of rest weekly. Additionally, Deuteronomy 24:5 states that a man who was newly wed was exempt from military service and work for one year. A year of paid vacation for newlyweds. Wow.
What an amazing God! Today we can follow that pattern of days off, days to recharge, to worship, to fellowship with friends and relatives we may only see during special times. What we have in Him is special. Be thankful.
The contrast between the God of Abraham and other religions was as unique then as it is now. But wait, there's more...and we'll pick it up there next week. Until then, blessings,
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