Posts tagged ‘Destruction’

Don’t Destroy Yourself!

Credit: Bartolomeo Biscaino (1629-1657) / Wikimedia

In the book of Exodus, the Pharaoh of Egypt seeks the destruction of the Israelites because they “have become far too numerous for us” (Exodus 1:9), and he is worried that “they will become even more numerous and, if war breaks out, will join our enemies, fight against us and leave the country” (Exodus 1:10). In response, Pharaoh issues an edict: “Every Hebrew boy that is born you must throw into the Nile, but let every girl live” (Exodus 1:22).

It is at this time a Levite woman gives birth to a son and, at first, attempts to hide him so he might not drown in the Nile:

But when she could hide him no longer, she got a papyrus basket for him and coated it with tar and pitch. Then she placed the child in it and put it among the reeds along the bank of the Nile. (Exodus 2:3)

This brave mother follows the letter of Pharaoh’s edict to throw her son into the Nile, but with a twist. She places her son into a basket, and then places the basket with her son into the Nile. Famously, this basket boy survives and grows up to become Moses – the one who rescues the Israelites out of their slavery in Egypt.

In a showdown with another Pharaoh of Egypt that takes place some 80 years after Moses was first placed into a basket as a baby in the reeds of the Nile, Moses and the Israelites find themselves backed up against a sea called the Sea of Reeds, which we know today as the Red Sea (Exodus 13:18), with Pharaoh and his army coming to destroy them. But just like God protects Moses from the waters of the Nile when he is placed among the reeds, God protects Israel from the waters of the Sea of Reeds by splitting them into two, so the Israelites can pass “through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left” (Exodus 14:23). But when Pharaoh and his army try to pursue them, “the water flowed back and covered the chariots and horsemen – the entire army of Pharaoh that had followed the Israelites into the sea. Not one of them survived” (Exodus 14:28).

Pharaoh sought the destruction of the Israelites by declaring that they must be drowned among the reeds of the Nile. But instead, he himself is destroyed by being drowned in the Sea of Reeds. Pharaoh’s berserk desire for destruction only destroyed him.

When we are slighted or hurt by someone, it can be easy for us to wish for – and, perhaps, even work for – their destruction – the destruction of their job, their reputation, or our friendship with them. But our desire for destruction – our desire for vengeance – more often than not, only destroys us. The bitterness and anger we harbor toward someone drowns our souls. This is why Jesus says, “If you hold anything against anyone, forgive them” (Mark 11:25). Jesus does not just say call for forgiveness in an effort to let someone who has upset us or hurt us off the hook. He calls for forgiveness to let us off the hooks of our own dangerous desires for destruction that will, if left unchecked, only destroy us. God doesn’t want our souls to get trapped in a vengeful Sea of Reeds.

So, who is God calling you to forgive today? Remember, forgiveness not only helps someone else; it rescues you.

And you’re worth rescuing.

April 25, 2022 at 5:15 am 2 comments

The Rebuilding of Notre Dame and the Resurrection of Jesus Christ

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The world watched in horror as a medieval Gothic treasure was wrecked last Monday when flames ripped through Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris.  Parts of the building, the construction of which began in 1163, still stand.  But much of the roof, which was made out of timber and original to the structure, along with the cathedral’s grand spire, also made out of wood and iron and rebuilt in 1844, is no more.

Reports indicate that many of the cathedral’s priceless relics, including what is claimed to have been the crown of thorns Jesus wore during His crucifixion, were rescued from the blaze.  Other relics, like a supposed piece of Jesus’ cross, may not have been so fortunate.  Its status is still unknown.  Parisians, Catholics, Protestants, and countless others across the world are still coming to terms with how a landmark as staid and majestic as Notre Dame – which withstood everything from the French Revolution and its virulently anti-Theist cult of reason to Hitler’s invasion of Paris and his order, thankfully disobeyed by one of his generals, to trigger explosives placed inside the grand façade – could come crashing down due to an accidental fire, likely triggered by an electrical short circuit.

The French president, Emmanuel Macron, vowed to rebuild the cathedral under an ambitious timeline. “We will rebuild Notre Dame even more beautifully and I want it to be completed in five years,” the president said in an address last Tuesday.  This is indeed a highly aggressive timeline and one of which many experts are skeptical, suspecting that the rebuilding may take decades instead of years.  When the structure was first built, it took 182 years to complete.

Jesus, as He began His public ministry, gazed upon the temple in Jerusalem, which would have been the ancient Jewish version of Notre Dame, and declared, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days” (John 2:19).  Apparently, President Macron’s ambitious building timeline has nothing on Jesus.  The temple had already been rebuilt once after being destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 BC.  Herod the Great had begun a restoration and expansion of the temple in 20 BC, which continued into Jesus’ day.  So, you can imagine the incredulity of those listening when Jesus declared that He could rebuild the temple from the ground up in three days.  This is why the people responded, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and You are going to raise it in three days” (John 2:20)?  But, of course, there’s a secret that the people listening to Jesus do not yet know or understand that John happily lets us in on: “The temple He had spoken about was His body” (John 2:21).

Yesterday, Christians all over the world celebrated the truth that Jesus’ building project was a stunning success.  He did at the end of His public ministry precisely what He said He would do at the beginning of His public ministry.  His body was crushed on a cross.  But in three days, He was not only rebuilt, He was resurrected.  Because of Him, even as the storied nave of Notre Dame sat sadly empty yesterday as a house of worship, hearts across the world were full of joy in celebration of the One who is to be worshiped.

When Notre Dame burned, the world lost a precious space.  But Christians did not lose their Christ.  And Christ did not lose His Church.  In the words of the old hymn:

Built on the Rock the Church doth stand,
Even when steeples are falling;
Crumbled have spires in every land,
Bells still are chiming and calling,
Calling the young and old to rest,
But above all the soul distressed,
Longing for rest everlasting.

Work on Notre Dame began 856 years ago because of this promise.  May work begin again on this grand old lady for this same reason.

April 22, 2019 at 5:15 am 1 comment

ABC Extra – Shattered

Last Sunday, I was pulling out of my garage to come to church.  As I was backing out, still half asleep, I all of a sudden heard this loud “CRACK!”  My head snapped to attention and I looked to my right to realize my driver’s side mirror had scraped up against the garage door frame.  My garage frame was fine.  My mirror was not.  Half of it got shattered by the encounter.  Apparently, the warning, “Objects in the mirror are closer than they appear” really is true.  I had misjudged just how close my side view mirror and my garage frame really were…and it cost me.

This past weekend in worship and ABC, we tackled the topic of pride.  As I mentioned in ABC, there are two different kinds of pride.  On the one hand, there is positive pride.  This pride flows from our creation in God’s image.  Because we are created in God’s image, we owe each other respect and dignity.  Such human dignity is positive pride.  But then, on the other hand, there is also negative pride.  And negative pride is when human dignity gives way to human arrogance.  It is when the insistence that all human beings ought to be treated with respect and dignity gives way to the insistence that some human beings ought to have their egos stroked and their self-images inflated.

Because the Scriptural authors are keenly aware that humans tend toward arrogance rather than dignity, the vast preponderance of biblical references to pride are in its negative sense.  This is certainly true when Solomon writes, “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18).  “Negative pride,” Solomon warns, “comes with a high price – destruction.”  The Hebrew word for “destruction” is shabar which, as I discussed last Sunday, describes a “complete collapse” or a “shattering.”  Pride eventually and inevitably leads to a shattered life.

It is important to note the preposition Solomon uses to link pride with destruction:  “Pride goes before destruction.”  The Hebrew word for “before” is lipne which can be used in both a temporal as well as a spatial sense.  In other words, if a person is prideful, destruction can and does indeed catch up with them chronologically.  A person is prideful, and destruction then ensues.  But pride and destruction are also close spatially.  Indeed, the preposition lipne is often translated as the phrase, “in the face of.”  Thus, prideful people stare destruction right in the face.  They are closer than they might think to having their lives shattered.

Just like a side view mirror can be shattered in a close encounter with a garage frame, a person can be shattered in a close encounter with pride.  This is why we are called to flee from it – because pride destroys.  So you don’t want to get too close to it.  You don’t want to stare it right in the face.  Just verses before Solomon’s famous words concerning pride and destruction, he offers this sharp warning: “The LORD detests all the proud of heart.  Be sure of this:  They will not go unpunished” (Proverbs 16:5).  When we insist on living proudly, God will not let us stand.  He will humble us in our sin.

The Hebrew word for “pride” is ga’on, referring to someone who is “exalted” or “lifted up.”  This is why Solomon writes, “A haughty spirit goes before a fall.”  For a person who ga’ons himself will not be able to maintain his position of exaltation.  He will fall.  Conversely, God’s promise to those who humble themselves is that He will do the ga’oning for them – He will “lift them up” (James 4:10).  And being lifted up by God is a much more secure position than doing the lifting up yourself.  So wait for God to lift you.  For when He does, it will be unto eternal life.  And that’s enough to lift even a troubled soul in a humble – and sometimes humiliating – life.

Want to learn more? Go to
www.ConcordiaLutheranChurch.com
and check out audio and video from Pastor Prieto’s
message or Pastor Zach’s ABC!

August 29, 2011 at 5:15 am Leave a comment


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