The Shape of the Kingdom

Day 29

Prayer for the day

Come, let us sing to the LORD; let us shout for joy to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving and raise a loud shout to him with psalms.

Scripture for the day

Exodus 21-22, Matthew 19

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The Law. I’ve said before that the law is a gift of grace to the people of Israel designed to make them into the people God designed them to be, to bear His name and character to the nations around them. This calling was accomplished through the giving of the law, which placed boundaries around the people of Israel in order to ensure that their life together was consistent with God’s design.

It’s easy to take the law and make it an oppressive thing. Paul discusses this in the New Testament a few times, but it bears remembering that the law was given, given by God, and was good for the people. It was the way they approached the law that was detrimental.

When Jesus starts talking law in the Second Testament, things really heat up. Jesus is confronted by a rich young man who is genuinely trying to follow God. He claims that he has followed the law. He wants to know what he’s missing. He believes he’s got it all together but checks with Jesus, just in case. Jesus asks if he’s followed the law, and the young man seems to be doing pretty well. He reminds me of me, so many days. You? How often do we think about the Kingdom of God and think “yeah, I’m doing pretty well. I’m not perfect…but I’m no Judas Iscariot.” We play little comparison games to convince ourselves we’ve got it all together.

Jesus throws the young man a curve ball. He tells the young man that he’s doing well, but that his riches are a hindrance. He needs to sell all he has and give it to the poor.

Jesus cuts straight to the issue with the young man. He has been attempting to follow the law, which is good, but in ticking off the boxes he has missed the spirit of the law as God intended it. Many of the laws in today’s passage deal with the equity of the people of God, with God’s special care for the poor and concern for the downtrodden. The young man had seen the boxes and the prize, and ticked the boxes to get the prize. He had missed the most important thing: the law was designed to form a people, to bind them together in mutual care, and to show the world the love of God for all of His people. The young man wanted the boxes ticked, but when it came to the spirit of the law, caring for his neighbour, he couldn’t handle it.

How difficult, says Jesus, for the rich to enter the kingdom. Couldn’t we add the rest of us to that list? How difficult for the rich, the prideful, the greedy, the self-righteous, the [fill-in-the-blank]…

May the Spirit guide us to the spirit of the law, and the grace therein.

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