Monday, October 27, 2008

Never since has there arisen anyone like you . . .

     This was a strange and busy week. It was strange in the sense that there were some unusual events occurring here. Among the most unusual were some of the conversations. Far too many people, I later reflected, wanted to argue with me whether they had been "stamped" like the denarius in God's image. To be sure, not everyone put it in those terms, but it was an attitude beneath the surface of a number of conversations this week. "I know God can use anybody, Father, but I have this particular sin. . ." "I know God can redeem all things, but you see, Father, I have done some really bad things in my life." Believe it or not, some of the stories were rather mundane. I know everyone thinks that their particular sin makes them particularly unlovable (and unique!), but the truth is that each one of us has more than a few sins of which we are ashamed. And, as God goes to great lengths to remind us, all sin, from white lie to murder to idolatry, makes us unlovable in His eyes. We are only made acceptable in His eyes through Christ's redemptive work.

     Our reading from Deuteronomy reminds of us of the significance of sin in our lives and the view with which God has of it and us and of the view with which we human beings should have of God and of themselves. Much of the book of Deuteronomy reminds us of our offenses against God. And much of the instruction (torah) even mitigates against the sin that God knows is present. For 33+ chapters of Deuteronomy, God reminds Israel (His people) and us (His people) that what makes them and us special is nothing intrinsic of ourselves. Rather, it is the One who has chosen each one of us that makes us (Israel) special. Yet, in the midst of this reminder we are also given an important teaching: God must remind us of the dignity of all human beings while guarding against the pride of human beings. We seem to understand the need for guarding against our pride, but often we seem to forget about the dignity with which we were created. God, I think drives home this point in our Old Testament reading this week.

     "Never since has there arisen a prophet in Israel like Moses." No one who follows in God's salvation history is like Moses. Moses is unique. Indeed, he will only be surpassed by the Son of God as a prophet for God's people. Similarly, though, you and I are unique! Never again will there be anyone like you or like me. Though the Scriptures spend a great deal of time reminding us of our sins, there are within its texts a number of reminders of the dignity with which He expects us to treat one another. Beginning with the book of Genesis, each one of us is reminded that we were created in His image. Our sins may blur the image a bit, but each of us was created in His image. And from that point forward, from time to time, God reminds us of that essential truth. Statements like "You were wondrously fashioned" and "Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you" are scattered throughout the Bible. Even Deuteronomy, throughout its instructions which deal with a number issues regarding the poor, reminds us of the dignity with which we are called to recognize in the weak, the victim, and the outcast.  And what a wonderful teaching! God knows each and every one of us by name. He knows the hairs on our heads. He knows our doubts, our fears, our needs. He knows things about us that even we do not know. That is how much He loves each one of us. He even knows how much we needed His Son to save us. Even during those last temptations on the cross, when we tempted Him to come down with the words "if You are the Son of God, save yourself," He chose to stay and make our salvation possible. Though the pain must have been unimaginable, and though He knew that you and I would come along later and act as if we did not believe in Him, still He loved each one of us enough to stay and make reconciliation with our Father in heaven possible. And now He is preparing that place for each one of us before He comes again! For all eternity, you will be you because you are unique in God's eyes.

     So often we think that we are not special, that we are ordinary, that we would not be missed. Others get more credit at work. Others are more famous athletes or students at school. Still others get to choose spouses from more prospective suitors. We see ourselves as bland and uninspiring. We forget that we were created in His image. Yet God sent someone on His behalf to call each one of us to Him. Perhaps it was a parent, a teacher, another loved one, a pastor, or a total stranger. The fact remains that He sent someone to teach us about His love for each one of us. You mattered that much to Him, the Creator of all that is, seen and unseen. And you and I no doubt think of that person or those persons as true princes or true princesses in His kingdom. Better still, He reminds you and me that we are unique in His salvation history. No one will ever arise in God's people who is like you! And just as He used ordinary people to reach you with His saving Gospel, He may well use you to reach someone else for His kingdom! God loves what we think of as ordinary. Remember, He came as a infant, not as a king! He came as a servant, not as a Lord. If ordinariness is good enough for Him, who are we that we should disperage how He has fashioned us?

     Yes, the Bible has a lot to say about sin. Yes, we should rightly be concerned about it and our attitudes towards it. But every so often, as we and He guard against our pride, we need to remember the value He places on human dignity and upon us. There are no ordinary sons and daughters of our Father in heaven. Each son and daughter is unique in His eyes. Never since has there arisen anyone in God's people who is like you! Thanks and glory be to God!


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