GOOD NEWS BROADCAST
July 17, 2022
TODAY’S SCRIPTURE REFERENCE:
“Day after day, from the first day to the last, Ezra read from the Book of the Law of God. The people celebrated the festival [as they were instructed by the Word] for seven days. On the eighth day [the Sabbath day], in accordance with the regulations set forth, there was an assembly.” (Nehemiah 8.18)
I love feasting on God’s word and being open to the suggestion of the Holy Spirit to experience it with vivid imagery. I suppose that is why I am a storyteller. Reading the story of the reconstruction of Jerusalem walls and the Temple under the leadership of Ezra and Nehemiah gave me one of those opportunities. It is the opportunity of “connections.” The call of Ezra for the people in Jerusalem and the near vicinity to come and listen to the Word of God is a powerful testimony for what I have called “Lawful assembly.” What Ezra read to the people was, in fact, the Law of God, His Word of instruction for the life of righteousness. It had become silent and dormant in their lives of survival. The leadership had been carried away into exile for seventy years. Who was going to “lead” them in remembering the Sabbath and keeping it holy? Who was going to “teach” them all that had been commanded and expected as the people of God. They were still His as the “sheep of His pasture and the people of His hand.” Hardship, futility and exile did not change this fact of culture and climate from God’s perspective. Nor did it change for those who remained faithful to it who would be known as the faithful remnant. Now it was the time for order to be restored in the midst of the chaos of their world. The ordering, the reordering, of their way of life was guided by the structure of God’s already established Word. It was not a new Word but a renewed Word. It was renewed in their hearing so that their minds would be transformed. The faith of Ezra and Nehemiah in God and His Word made it possible for the people to be renewed in the hearing of it. But, it wasn’t merely the hearing of it that made the transformation possible. It was putting the Word into action that allowed the people to experience it as the singular truth for their lives. Interesting enough was the call to action of eating and celebrating with what they had brought with them. Even a little became a great feast.
I suppose you hear a connection with the drawn image, right? I hope so. And whether you do or don’t, let me share the connection that was made for me with the Feeding of the “5000.” Now, I am not intending on retelling the story. I love that story and the fullness of it. It speaks volumes on the promotion of the gospel and the modelling of evangelism as a trademark of true discipleship. Rather, I want to reflect on the connectedness message it can speak to us as mighty ones of God and followers of the Way of Christ, Jesus of Nazareth. Here are some of the points of connection:
- Ezra and Nehemiah were called to rebuild Jerusalem. There was no hope for “Making Israel Great Again,” and I would say “Making Israel Godly Again,” until they had a central focus. The people were scattered like sheep without a shepherd. The “shepherd” had no sheep pen in which to house and protect the flock from man and beast who shared the intent of feasting on them for their own gain.
- Jesus went first, and often, to Jerusalem, to promote and proclaim the acceptable Word of the Lord to those who had first been invited to the table of the Lord. Whether it was the “eighth day” of His life to be consecrated in the Temple or when He was 12 and taken to the Temple for His confirmation, Bar mitzvah, or when He entered into the Temple courts and drove out the moneychangers and vendors who had turned the House of Prayer into a den of thieves, Jesus was faithful to the call to restore Israel first and then share the Good News with the rest of the world.
- Ezra and Nehemiah were never going to settle for just rebuilding Jerusalem beginning with the walls and then the place of worship. There had to be a central point of operations to run a nation and Jerusalem had always been that place even before the time of Abraham when he first approached Salem and met the priest and king of that region named Melchizadek. If Israel were to be described as a bicycle wheel, then Jerusalem would be the hub with twelve spokes spanning out to connect the rim of the kingdom with the hub.
- Jesus was about expanding the reach of the Kingdom of God. While He believed in the sanctity of the Temple as the focus of God’s claim in the world, He also proclaimed to the woman at the well that “the day is coming when we shall not worship on this mountain or that mountain; instead we will worship in spirit and in truth.” Jesus was the living evidence of that day. He was the “tabernacle of God,” synagogue and Temple of God’s Word. He was not locked down in place like a May pole with tethered participants revolving around Him like children at play. He was on the move, a “wheel” in motion that would turn other wheels. He set in motion what God had intended and Satan purposed to grind to a halt. Jesus Christ purposed to go into all the world just as Israel was called to be “a light to the world to bring all people into a relationship with God.”
- “Feeding” was the focus of rebuilding literally, allegorically, physically, sociologically and spiritually. Ingesting the Word of God fed the soul. Sitting down at table fed the body. Breaking bread with your name fed the community. They had to build up their strength in order to accomplish the work that was before them. God provided them with what was needed to be strong and to accomplish the good they were intended to do from the beginning.
- Ezra and Nehemiah “gave” the word to “eat and drink.” Their order reminded the people to eat and drink so they would not grow weary, so they would walk and not grow faint, so they could rise up as on wings of eagles and soar again in the heavens for the world to see what God can do.
- Jesus was the “given” word. His body was the bread of life. His blood the anointing and blessing of a new covenant. When Jesus told the disciples who asked Him to “give the people the word to go and eat and drink,” He responded “You give them something to eat.” They had none or more like they had a little to accompany the little faith they had to feed 20,000 people. What they offered was the borrowed meal from a family sitting near to them. They borrowed instead of sacrificed. Jesus would sacrifice because salvation could not be borrowed, rented or earned. It had to be given. Jesus “gave” thanks. By His faith in the works of God, He offered what was “given” and multiplied the blessing to accomplish a greater blessing. This was a sign to both Israel and the world of what was intended- physically and spiritually.
What is it that our “assemblies” feed the people? Most assemblies in today’s world beg and order. There is little intention to give, sacrificially give, in order for others to see and know the truth which is for all people. It is about human demands and fleshly commands. These are not the assemblies that we should be about as mighty ones of God and followers of the Way of Christ, Jesus of Nazareth. As a side note, when the feeding of the “multitude” was finished, the leftovers exceeded what had been procured or brought in. Whether it was the “five loaves and two fish” or what each family had brought themselves in expectation of staying all day or longer to hear the Word, literally or figuratively, there were twelve baskets of leftovers gathered in when the people left. Twelve! One for each disciple who had dared to tell Jesus, “We have nothing.” Now there was no excuse except for faithlessness. If Jesus could take five loaves and two fish by faith, then imagine what faith could do with a basket overflowing? Mighty ones of God and followers of the Way of Christ, our baskets are overflowing. Dare we say, “I have nothing to offer” in feeding the assembly gathered to pursue the truth and the way and the life?
Something to feast upon in further reflection, I would say.
OUR CALL TO PRAYER:
Father God, You in and through Jesus our Christ, have not only called us to gather, called us together but call us out so that Your will and not ours be done. How awesome is Your Word that it will provide a feast beyond measure for the heart, mind, body and soul of Your people. There is nothing You won’t do except to save those who refuse to marvel at Your love and revel in Your forgiveness and grow in Your Truth. We commit ourselves to the assembly of the faithful to go out into all the world and lawfully, by the law of faith and hope and love, assemble to build up the body of Christ who is House of the Lord we may dwell in forever. Let us feed the world until they want no more. AMEN.