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Archive for March, 2013

Covenant –Old and New

March 31st, 2013
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What is the real purpose of the Passover and the days of ULB in the book of Exodus? In fact when we look a the events at the end of the book of Genesis and the opening chapters of the book of Exodus we could view the deliverance through the Red Sea as the climax.

 We will be hearing form Professor Christine Hayes, Robert F. and Patricia Ross Weis Professor of Religious Studies at Yale.

 Christine Hayes:

 … but the physical redemption of the Israelites is not in fact the end of our story. It’s a dramatic way-station in a story that’s going to reach its climax in the covenant that will be concluded at Sinai, and as many sensitive readers of the Bible have noted, the road from Egypt leads not to the other side of the Reed Sea, but on to Sinai.

 God’s redemption of the Israelites is a redemption for a purpose, a purpose that doesn’t become clear until we get to Sinai, for at Sinai the Israelites will become God’s people, bound by a covenant. And so the story continues. In the third month, after the Exodus, the Israelites arrive at the wilderness of Sinai, and they encamp at the mountain where Moses was first called by God, the text says. The covenant concluded at Sinai is referred to as the Mosaic covenant. So this is now our third covenant that we have encountered; we will have one more coming.

 And the Mosaic covenant differs radically from the Noahide and the Abrahamic or patriarchal covenants that we’ve already seen, because here God makes no promises beyond being the patron or protector of Israel; and also, in this covenant, he sets terms that require obedience to a variety of laws and commandments.

 So the Mosaic covenant is neither unilateral — this is now a bilateral covenant, [involving] mutual, reciprocal obligations — nor is it unconditional like the other two. It is conditional. So this is our first bilateral, conditional covenant. If Israel doesn’t fulfill her obligations by obeying God’s Torah, his instructions, and living in accordance with his will, as expressed in the laws and instructions, then God will not fulfill his obligation of protection and blessing towards Israel.

 The covenant was expressed in a typical form of that period. God works with his people where they are in history and culture.

 This history with his people is expressed in the thought forms and language of that period.

There are Ancient Near Eastern parallels to the Sinai covenant of the Bible — especially Hittite treaties that date 1500 to 1200 BC, or so; also Assyrian treaties in about the eighth century, but they are in many ways continuous with what you find in the Hittite treaties — treaties between a suzerain or overlord and vassal. A King and his subjects.

 Suzerainty treaties are between a suzerain, who has a position obviously of power and authority, and a vassal who is unequal in this relationship.

 There are basically 6 elements. As we go through these see if you can rcognize their place in the Mt Sinai covenant:

 First there is a preamble. That’s found in every one. The suzerain identifies himself.

 Second of all, there’s generally an account of the historical circumstances that are leading to the treaty: so some kind of historical prologue.

 Thirdly we usually have some sort of set of stipulations and requirements, upon the vassal generally.

 Fourth, there’s generally some arrangement, either for the publication of the treaty, or its deposition, its safe-keeping in some sort of shrine.

 Fifthly there is generally a concluding invocation of witnesses, usually the gods are invoked as witnesses to a binding oath, some kind of covenantal oath that brings the treaty into effect, and it’s witnessed by gods.

 Lastly, there will be very often a list of blessings for the party who obeys, and curses for the party that violates the pact. The curses are particularly emphasized in the Assyrian treaties.

 We can identify many of these elements in Yahweh’s very first speech to Moses. Moses and the Israelites arrive at Sinai, in Exodus 19, and God says the following in verses 3b to 8:

 The Lord called to him from the mountain, saying, “Thus shall you say to the house of Jacob and declare to the children of Israel: ‘You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to Me.

 So verse 4, “You’ve seen what I did to the Egyptians, how I bore you on eagles’ wings,” is the historical prologue. That’s the reason that we’re in the situation we’re in now, and making this covenant.

 Now then, if you will obey Me faithfully and keep My covenant, you shall be My treasured possession among all the peoples.

 Verse 5 contains God’s stipulations. It’s a very general condition — “If you obey my laws.” Basically, keep my covenant, obey me faithfully, that’s the conditional. That’s going to be filled out and articulated at great length in the subsequent chapters when all the laws they have to obey are spelled out

 Indeed, all the earth is Mine, but you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’

 The second half of verse 5 and 6 gives the reward: God is conferring on the Israelites this elevated status of royalty, of priesthood; “You’ll be to me a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation.”

 These are the words that you shall speak to the children of Israel. Moses came and summoned the elders of the people and put before them all that the Lord had commanded him. All the people answered as one, saying, “All that the Lord has spoken we will do!” And Moses brought back the people’s words to the Lord.

 In verse 8, the people solemnly undertake to fulfill the terms of the covenant, so we have at least three of the steps that we find in the Hittite treaties, as well.

 If we take a broader view of the full biblical account of Israel’s covenant with God, all six elements can be identified in the biblical narrative. They’re scattered throughout the text, however. We have the preamble, and the historical background to the covenant in God’s summary introduction to the people in Exodus 20: “I am Yahweh who brought you out of the land of Egypt.” It sums it all up: introduction, who I am, and why we are historically connected.

 The terms of the treaty are then stipulated at great length in the instructions that are found in Exodus chapter 20 through chapter 23. Moses reads the book of the covenant — it’s called the Scroll of the Covenant — publicly: this is said in Exodus 24:7. In

 Deuteronomy we read that it will be deposited for safekeeping in a special ark.

 The Israelites vow that they’ll obey [in] Exodus 24:3, also 7b.

 The covenant is then sealed by a formal ritual. In this case it’s a sacrifice in Exodus 24:8. In a monotheistic system you can’t really call upon other gods to be witnesses to the sealing of the oath, so we have heaven and earth being invoked as witnesses — Deuteronomy 4:26; Deuteronomy 30:19; 31:28 — heaven and earth, the idea being perhaps the inhabitants thereof should witness.

 As for blessings and curses, we have a long list of each found in Leviticus 26, and Deuteronomy 28.

 So what’s the meaning of this? Why does it matter that Israel understands its relationship with God, and uses the covenant as a vehicle for expressing its relationship with God, the vehicle of the suzerainty treaty?

Read more…

Message for the Day

WEA Religious Liberty Prayer News 22nd March, 2013

March 22nd, 2013
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Mob led by Buddhist monks surrounds church, threatens pastor and his family in SRI-LANKA

 

Sri Lanka flag

18 March, It is reported that a mob of around 20 people including several Buddhist monks, surrounded a house of a Christian pastor and staged a demonstration in Weeraketiya, Sri Lanka.

 

According to media reports, the mob set fire to tyres placed around the house and threatened the pastor and his family. The mob also hurled stones at the house. As a result of this attack, the pastor’s wife was injured in the eye when a stone hurled by the mob shattered a church window.

 

The latest incident comes after a mob led by Buddhist monks stormed the church in December 2012, issuing an ultimatum to stop church activities or else face the destruction of the church.

 

The Police are presently carrying out investigations into the incident.

 

Prayer points:

  • Pray for the pastor and his family that God would heal them of this traumatic experience
  • Pray for the pastor, that he would continue to stand firm in the faith, being a faithful servant of the Gospel
  • Pray that the investigations will be carried out in a just and impartial manner
  • Pray for God’s protection over the Church in Sri Lanka

Christian colony attacked by Muslim extremists in PAKISTAN

 

Joseph Colony
Attack on Joseph Colony

March 9, Muslim mobs angered over a derogatory comment made by a Christian about the Prophet Mohamed, burnt down more than 180 Christian homes and shops in Lahore’s impoverished Joseph Colony.

According to reports 2 church buildings were also destroyed in the attacks. Furthermore, large groups of Christians who protested against the incident were attacked by the Police. It is reported that during the protests, around 150 Christians were detained by the Lahore Police.


Prayer points:

  • Pray for God’s healing mercy upon those injured in the attack
  • Pray for the Holy Spirit’s guidance upon the Christians so that they would respond in a Christ-like manner
  • Pray that God would provide shelter to all displaced families
  • Pray that those attacking Christians would experience a change in heart and would come to know the saving grace of God
More Christians arrested in ERITREA

Eritrea flag

5 March, According to reports, around 125 Christians worshipping outside state approved churches were beaten and detained in Eritrea.

 

It is believed that all of those arrested are members of an Evangelical denomination from the south western town of Barentu.

 

In 2002, the government of Ertirea, lead by President Afewerki banned all churches outside the Orthodox, Catholic and Lutheran denominations.

 

International rights groups say that there are at least 2000 Christians who remain imprisoned in Eritrea.

Prayer points:
  • Pray that those seized would continue to stand firm in the faith
  • Pray that every Christian detained in Eritrea would experience Jesus’ comforting and loving presence
  • Pray that the joy of the Lord would be the strength of all those imprisoned
  • Pray for the release of all Christians languishing in prisons in Eritrea
  • Pray that the government led President Afewerski would experience a change in heart and discontinue their restrictions on the Church

Prayers

World Day of Prayer

March 22nd, 2013
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From Randall Bourchier:

The World Day of Prayer took place this year on Friday March 1. Each year, the service is hosted by a local church congregation – and this year, Mooroolbark Christian Fellowship had the privilege of hosting the service and as we don’t have our own church premises, the local Anglicans generously allowed us to use their sanctuary and church hall for the occasion.

Marg Lewis and a group of ladies started working alongside members from other Mooroolbark churches in planning the service in which representatives from all participating congregations play a role.

The service commenced with the Leader proclaiming: Bonjour, bonjour, bonjour. We are happy to welcome you in the name of our sisters from France who have prepared this worship service for us all. We would like to tell you about them and about where they come from.

 The theme of the service was I was a stranger and you welcomed me, and readings, thumbnail sketches of refugees and immigrants, songs, prayers and responses revolved around the theme.

Our guest speaker was Dave Hernandez, the Pastor of Healesville Liberty Family church, who has become a good friend and colleague to several of us and meets with us regularly for prayer and fellowship.

Dave addressed the theme, emphasising the unconditional love and inclusiveness of the Father for humanity. Our mission and outreach should both picture and lead towards reconciliation with the Father. He spoke about the generous welcome he had experienced in moving from France to Australia as a child, returning to France in the years approaching adulthood and then settling in Melbourne with his wife and young boys several years ago.

MCF ladies cooked up a storm – with a luscious spread for morning tea. The decorations with a French theme were elegant and colourful – and Barry Austin performed a piece of special music beautifully!

At the close of the service we handed next years’ service to incoming hosts the Salvation Army through a commissioning prayer.

Many commented about how moving the service had been and the glimpse the service gives us of the Body of Christ at work together.

 

 

 

 

 

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