November 27, 2020

The Editor speaks: A message from over 2,00 years ago is still the same today

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I was invited to deliver a message in person this morning (Wed 8) based on three Biblical readings Psalm 72, Nehemiah 13: 4-22, and Matthew 13: 53-58.

I was struck just how pertinent the message from all three was just  the same then as it is today. And it even involves Fake News!  Please stay with me and don’t think this is going to be a very boring Biblical teaching to send you to sleep …..  I can promise you it won’t. One thing you can say about Fake News it is forever interesting.

It will make it even more interesting if you do read the Biblical references but that is not mandatory. Maybe it will nevertheless prompt you to do so.

Psalm 72

Psalm 72 is about Justice and righteousness. It might have been used at David’s coronation. All the verses are a prayer. They express the desire of the king that his reign will incorporate those two values. Justice. Righteousness. Sadly these two values seem to be absent in acceptance speeches today of our leaders. Yet that is the supreme virtue isn’t it of leadership?

If you look closely at the Psalm and re-read it a number of times I can see a description of Jesus.

The last two verses are in fact a doxology – to end Book Two of the Psalms. They are not really part of the Psalm but act as introduction to the Psalms in Book Three.

 

Nehemiah 13 4-22

Who was Nehemiah? He was a prophet and one of the last ones. In fact his book is regarded as the last book of the actually written. The order in the Old Testament did not follow written order.

He was actually brought up in the among idolaters. He was born in captivity just over 100 years after Jerusalem was captured. He had never seen the city but he hungered to go there even though he had no known relatives there.

He was in the court of Artaxerxes, a cupbearer to the king, and held a high position. Yet he longed to hear from his native land. When these men told him the condition of the city, that the people were in great want and distress and degradation, and that the walls of the city were still down, that the gates had been burned and never restored, his patriotic heart began to burn. We are told he fasted and prayed and wept, and not only did he pray for one week, or one month, but he kept on praying. He prayed “day and night.” Having many duties to perform, of course he was not always on his knees, but in heart he was ever before the throne of grace. It was not hard for him to understand and obey the precept, “Pray without ceasing.” He began the work in prayer, continued in prayer, and the last recorded words of Nehemiah are a prayer.

And he had a great desire to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem and the Lord told him what to say to Artaxerxes to give him permission to go and do this. Permission was granted.

If you have read the book you will know that despite great obstacles and temptations he did rebuild the walls and with the help of others it took 52 days. This was after the many obstacles he had before he even started.

He gave up his high position and wealth to do God’s work. Do you see what Jesus asked of his disciples?

And if Nehemiah had lived his life of luxury and not gone to Jerusalem his name would have gone forever, almost as if he had never been born. his man stepped out of that high position and took a low position, one that the world looked down upon and frowned upon, and his name has been associated with the walls of Jerusalem all these centuries.

And Jesus said the meek shall inherit the world.

Our reading today is right at the end of the book where he had already returned to the King and now asks to return to Jerusalem after learning of all the evil things that had been done in his absence.

You learn how he cleaned up the place. His anger at finding the sabbath not being kept holy and the temple being desecrated. His anger and his action in throwing out all of Tobiah’s household goods and purifying the room reminded me of Jesus when he overthrew the money changers.

Anger is good when it is channelled in the right direction. As is a lying tongue as Judith prayed God to give her and it helped her defeat the evil Holofernes.

My only slight negative response I have over Nehemiah’s praying is his willingness to keep reminding God of all the good things he has done. God does not forget.

 

Matthew 13 53-58

A Prophet Without Honour.

There is no mention of Joseph so we can reasonably assume he has died. “The Carpenter’s son” is used instead.

And he didn’t do many miracles in his hometown because of their lack of faith. The close relationship of faith and miracles is stressed in Matthew 8 10, 13 9 2, 22, 28 – 29.

Faith has to precede a miracle. It is a condition of its accomplishment. It was difficult for the people in his hometown to believe in Jesus as the Son of God. They saw him grow up as an ordinary child. The son of a carpenter. They were blinded as they had preconceived opinions. I suspect they had not heard of the virgin birth. Imagine someone you knew telling you they are a virgin but pregnant. In fact you would have had a better chance of believing as you know it had happened before.

And who showed the greatest faith? Mary and also Joseph. But Mary’s faith stayed with her even after her son’s death and before he was born. Her faith was confirmed by Elizabeth at the Visitation: “Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be accomplished” (Lk 1:45).

How many prophets before Jesus were honoured in their home towns? And it doesn’t only apply to prophets. Van Gogh managed to sell only one painting in his lifetime, yet his paintings now sell for millions of dollar. After I am dead perhaps all the plays I have written will be performed worldwide, turned into movies and my name will be revered forever…..

I think not.

And it matters not. All of us in our lives have accomplished something. If we have brought up a child we have accomplished something. There is more good in people than bad so don’t be fooled by the media. Bad news sells more than good news so they would have us believe and the one thing I can agree with in Donald Trump there is plenty of fake news. One only has to read the utter hypocrisy from the media who hack a personal computer and steal thousands of files that don’t belong to them and publicise them without a care of the criminal act they themselves did. And it was done not to publicise anything that was wrong but perceived wrong (tax evasion using offshore centres like the Cayman Islands) even though it is legal.

And Jesus suffered this same thing with his teachings. Everything that was said at his trial were lies – fake news – and these are the people who should have paid the price. Like our journalists today they perceive they did nothing wrong.

And this all goes back to where I started.

Psalm 72…….

Justice and righteousness.

 

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