Friday, May 27, 2011

EMMDEV 2011-05-27 [Moses Meditations] Perspective

1 And God spoke all these words:
2 "I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery." Exodus20:1-2

When we started our subsection on the commandments we said that the commandments are not rungs in a ladder of piety that we have to climb ourselves.

Instead we noted that, more than anything, the commands are part of God's CV: They reveal His character and nature and the way His creation "works".

No matter how hard we try not to, any prolonged exposure to the Ten Commandments tempts us to fall back into legalism. Mentally we pull out the red pen and score ourselves on each of the commands...
- Did I kill anyone today? Nope (thank goodness)
- Did I rob a bank today? Nope...

We need to go back to the introduction."I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery."

The commandments are not shackles - they are not our jailers.
When we are filled with His Spirit, when the power of the Risen Christ is unleashed in us, when His life flows through us, when we are wearing His yoke then these commands are true of us:

- Not only do we have no other gods, but we honour Him
- Not only do we have no idols, but we have a clear picture of Him
- Not only do we avoid blasphemy, but our speaking makes His name appealing.
- Not only do we do no work on the Sabbath, but we recreate!
- Not only do we obey our parents, we celebrate them.
- Not only do we not murder, we protect life.
- Not only do we not steal or pilfer, but we are faithful stewards of people's things and time
- Not only do we not gossip and malign, we speak lovingly and truthfully
- Not only do we avoid coveteousness, but we are content.

These "positive spins" on the commandments are not things that we pursue in themselves, we find that as we draw closer to God, these qualities emerge. The commandments are the fruit of our freedom in Christ.

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Thursday, May 26, 2011

EMMDEV 2011-05-26 [Moses Meditations] 10. Wanting

You shall not covet your neighbour's house. You shall not covet your neighbour's wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbour. Exodus20:17

This commandment takes us all the way back to the Garden of Eden where the serpent makes Eve focus on the only thing she couldn't have. They had access and freedom to everything in the garden but the fruit of one single tree.

Learning to want germinates in a lack of gratitude that grows into chronic dissatisfaction. When we look past all that we have and fixate on what we don't have (and our neighbour does have) we enter into the dangerous country of coveting.

The problem with coveting is that it robs us of joy. It diminishes our quality of life. It depletes our ability to enjoy what we have.

Bruce Carroll, in his song "Jealousy", writes this:
|A neighbour came home with another new car [a new donkey!]
|I couldn't say what was in my heart
|(So) I said, "Good for you"
|I paused to smile but the feeling came:
|God you missed me again by one driveway!
|Jealousy is killing me
|Jealousy is killing me
|It takes a toll on my gratitude - moves me farther away from You
|How many times do I have to learn that I have more than I deserve??
|More than I deserve?

At the heart of it, wanting is a vote of no confidence in the Love and Providence of God and this is a serious state to find ourselves in.

When you find yourself in the grip of wanting, the old advice of counting your blessings is very useful!

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

EMMDEV 2011-05-25 [Moses Meditations] 9.False Testimony

You shall not give false testimony against your neighbour. Exodus20:16

There are two key issues here:
1. We are created in the image of God.
2. Others are created in the image of God.

When we speak falsely of others, we devalue the image of God in them. We obscure it, taint it, deny it and misrepresent it. Whether it is by repeating gossip, by innuendo, by half-truths or by blatant lie the bottom line is that we are devaluing a human being created in God's image and for whom Christ went to the cross.

Furthermore, each one of us are created in the image of God and are to reflect His nature and character. Truthfulness is at the core of who God is. When we lie, especially about others, we are violating the reflection of God's image in us. We have become a distorting mirror.

Not many of us could be found guilty of full-blown perjury, but we have all been tempted to tell a story about someone else leaving out certain facts and emphasising others so that they look bad or so that we look good.

God is utterly truthful.
Our relationships with people matter because He made them and died for them.

The ninth commandment is about betraying God's reflection in us and about desecrating His reflection in others.

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

EMMDEV 2011-05-24 [Moses Meditations] 8. Stealing

You shall not steal.

When David took Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah and had him killed for his indiscretion, the prophet Nathan came to see him:

"The LORD sent Nathan to David. When he came to him, he said, "There were two men in a certain town, one rich and the other poor. 2 The rich man had a very large number of sheep and cattle, 3 but the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb he had bought. He raised it, and it grew up with him and his children. It shared his food, drank from his cup and even slept in his arms. It was like a daughter to him.
4 "Now a traveler came to the rich man, but the rich man refrained from taking one of his own sheep or cattle to prepare a meal for the traveler who had come to him. Instead, he took the ewe lamb that belonged to the poor man and prepared it for the one who had come to him."
5 David burned with anger against the man and said to Nathan, "As surely as the LORD lives, the man who did this deserves to die! 6 He must pay for that lamb four times over, because he did such a thing and had no pity."
7 Then Nathan said to David, "You are the man!" (2 Samuel 12:1-7)

This story really highlights heart of the issue around stealing.
To steal is to devalue the person from whom you steal and to consider yourself to "have the right" to take from someone else.

It is a form of playing God.
- It is the strong victimising the weak
- It is the violent terrorising the peaceful
- It is a self-serving scorning of the trust created in a company/group/society.

Whether we rob a bank or make private photocopies at work, we are scorning the trust of society and considering ourselves worthy of the right to do something that, if everyone else did it, would plunge us into chaos.

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Friday, May 20, 2011

EMMDEV 2011-05-20 [Moses Meditations] 7.Adultery

You shall not commit adultery. Exodus20:14

I would be hard-pressed to think of any institution that has been more devalued in modern society than the institution of marriage.
Contrary to popular opinion, marriage is not merely a social-societal arrangement.

Good Marriage (as God intended) is a signpost.
It points us on a road of trust, faithfulness, commitment and love and leads toward intimacy. Ultimately it points beyond our human relationships toward God.

Initially when Adam and Eve were in the Garden, they were "naked and felt no shame. (Gen2:25)" They were close to each other and to God and they felt safe. This is true intimacy. After sin entered the world, they did not feel safe, were insecure in who they were and were separated from each other and God.

Throughout the Old Testament God uses marriage and unfaithfulness to point out the relationship between Himself and Israel. He asks Hosea to marry an unfaithful prostitute to illustrate what Israel was doing to God. In the book of Revelation, the Church is described as the Bride and Christ as the Groom. Jesus also makes it clear that we will not be married in heaven.

Human marriage should be a place of faithfulness, trust, love, companionship and intimacy. When it is good, marriage helps us understand how God feels about us and we understand a little bit of what heaven is like.

When marriage is unpleasant or wrecked by adultery, there is serious damage. Not only to the couple's ability to trust and love again, but also to the signpost that points toward God and His plan for us.

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

EMMDEV 2011-05-17 [Moses Meditations] 5. Honour

Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you.

The commandments shift in focus from God, to our fellow human being. One might argue that we therefore move from Spirituality to Ethics, but Paul's list of the Fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5 really goes to show that how we treat others is a character and therefore a spiritual issue.

The bottom-line is that God is gracious in His dealings with us and so, if we are in His image, we will reflect that same graciousness.

It is fitting that the first of the commandments that point toward others is about parents:
- Our parents give us all we need while we are helpless.
- God reveals Himself as our Heavenly Parent (The OT uses images of Father and Mother)

We love applying this commandment to kids and teens, but it is very interesting that Jesus rebukes the Pharisees for using religious excuses to neglect the needs of their elderly parents. (See passage below)

Paul also sees a bigger picture:
He talks about the fifth commandment being the first one with a promise - a long life. There is a spiritual sense in which this is true: God will bless those who honour their parents. But it is also true in a practical sense: Our children will look at how we treat our parents and treat us the same!

It's very tempting to neglect, disregard and dishonour our parents because they will always love us.

So, the bottom-line is: As the commandments begin to deal with our horizontal relationships, honouring our parents is not only for rebellious teens, but the children and grand-children of parents of any age.

Ephesians 6:1 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2 "Honor your father and mother"--which is the first commandment with a promise-- 3 "that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth."

Mark 7:10 For Moses said, `Honor your father and your mother,' and, `Anyone who curses his father or mother must be put to death.' 11 But you say that if a man says to his father or mother: `Whatever help you might otherwise have received from me is Corban' (that is, a gift devoted to God), 12 then you no longer let him do anything for his father or mother.

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Thursday, May 12, 2011

EMMDEV 2011-05-12 [Moses Meditations] 4b What the Sabbath says about God

8 "Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates. 11 For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. Exodus20:8-11

Yesterday I spoke about how we understand and observe the Sabbath, but our approach to the Ten Commandments in this series has been to see what the Commandments teach us about God...

As we saw yesterday the Sabbath is good for us, but it also tells us some important things about God:

1. He is not a "driven" God. He creates and then He rests, not because He is exhausted, but because He is at peace.

2. He is not a slave-driver. He is a Liberator and a Saviour. Remember the Deuteronomy motive for the Sabbath: "Because I brought you out of Bondage."

3. He is a God who calls us to serve Him with excellence (as creation is excellent) but also to rest. In Matthew 11:28 "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."

4. The book of Hebrews repeatedly refers to Salvation and Eternal Life as our "Sabbath Rest." So being with God brings us to the place of rest. It was Augustine who said "Our hearts are restless till they find rest in Thee." This restfulness can begin as soon as we come to Salvation in Christ.

So, God is not an "A-Type" personality, He is not driven but full of rest and if the images in Hebrews are taken seriously then every "Sabbath" we have is a prophetic foretaste of heaven!

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

EMMDEV 2011-05-11 [Moses Meditations] 4. Work and Rest

8 "Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates. 11 For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. Exodus20:8-11

The most interesting thing about the fourth command is that when the ten commandments are repeated in Deuteronomy 5, there is a different reason given for observing the Sabbath:
"15 Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the LORD your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the LORD your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day."

I think this gives us some very helpful guidance:

1. Rest is part of our created ideal. God institutes rest as part of the cycle of life. Our bodies grow through work AND rest. When I exercise, I am actually causing micro-tears in my muscles. When I rest, the body repairs the tears by growing the muscle bigger. Is not exercise that grows the muscle, but rest! We can cope with stress if we have cycles of rest. The created order reflects this in day&night and in the seasons. And the cycle of six days work and one day recovery is part of the created order. Jesus summed this up when He said that the Sabbath was made for us and not us for the Sabbath.

2. Rest affirms that we are not slaves. Not to our jobs or the rat race. The Sabbath is a reset-switch where I can affirm that my identity comes from Christ and not my effort. I can connect to my family and break the relentless cycle of work. It is an opportunity to celebrate our blessings. It is an opportunity to worship the God who freed us. This is why the Church moved our Sabbath from the Jewish Seventh day to Sunday, the Day that Jesus rose from the dead, setting us free from sin, death and Satan.

So what does a good Sabbath look like??
1. Change the pace
2. Worship
3. Family
4. It's ok to get the sheep out of the well (emergencies)
5. Re-creation

The bottom line: Take rest seriously! It is part of the created order and you are not a slave!

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

EMMDEV 2011-05-10 [Moses Meditations] 3. What's in a name?

"You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name." Exodus20:7

Blasphemy has become commonplace today. Today we have the deplorable situation that movies are age-restricted for bad language, but kids cartoons, like the recent "Megamind" has repeated "Oh my God" exclamations. And in sms speak it is a standardised abbreviation: OMG.

I often am tempted to turn to people who are always saying "Oh my God" and ask them "Oh wow! Please tell me about YOUR God..."

But before we get too carried away about the complexities of the use of "(G)god" by people who are often functional and even practical atheists, it may be helpful to consider the deeper issues:
In Hebrew thinking, a name was a powerful thing - it encapsulated who you were. This is why it is important that Jacob (which means "deceiver" and "manipulator") is renamed Israel (which means "he struggles with God")

When God revealed Himself to Moses at the burning bush with a name that our scholars best represent as "Yahweh" (Old translations used "Jehovah" while modern translations use "LORD" (all capitals)) It was a significant moment. Yahweh means "I am" - eternal, eternally the same, eternally present, all powerful, all present and all knowing.

The commandment to use His name with care is about ensuring that we don't lose sight of who He is. The commandment is to protect us:
  • If we repeat His name endlessly and thoughtlessly we lose respect for Him.
  • If we say His name in ways that associate Him with things that are not His nature. For example, when we use His name in anger, we connect our picture of Him with petty human rage instead of divine justice.
  • If we thank "the big guy upstairs" for helping us win the tennis game or the soccer match, we may well be creating the impression that He has been reduced to being a "divine vending machine" that dishes out blessings on demand.
  • Even wearing a Christian T-shirt or having a bumper sticker on the car and then setting a bad example boils down to bringing God's name into disrepute.
  • So, in summary, many people are concerned about blasphemy "out there" amongst those who don't really believe. I am much more concerned about the blasphemy of Christians who don't use God's name well.
Here's one last thought - because it takes us all the way to Sunday School. I cringe when I hear adult teachers who shape their lessons so that the name of God loses connection with the God-Man who came all the way from heaven to earth to die for us. We ask our children questions again and again and they learn that the standard answer is "Jeeeeeeeesusssss."

So a pastor was doing children's story and he asked them: "I'm thinking about something small and brown that stores up nuts for the winter.... what is it?"
A little boy answered "Pastor, I know the answer is Jeeesus, but it sure sounds like a squirrel to me!"
May we portray Him better than that!

Friday, May 6, 2011

EMMDEV 2011-05-06 [Moses Meditations] 2b. Jealous God?

Firstly: Let me apologise for the long gap in eDevs - Easter was a busy time and in the middle of Holy Week I got hit with a tummy bug that stayed with me for six days and left me four kilograms lighter. (Thankfully I could afford to lose the weight! :-) I was also given grace and strength to fulfill all my preaching and service duties although I was a bit "pale and interesting")

It has taken me a long time to get back into routine again...

We're continuing with "God's CV in the Ten Commandments." We're still busy with the second commandment.
4 "You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. 5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments. Exodus20:4-5

When we dealt with the first commandment, I pointed out that God is not insecure, narcissistic or full of petty jealousies, but here in the second commandment there seems to be a contradiction.

But it comes back to the analogy I used about the Law of Gravity: If you ignore it, you will get hurt. Here in the second commandment, knowing human-nature's tendency to try to have a "designer god", we are warned that God is jealous for His own glory.

It really means He is jealous for the truth.
The truth is this: There is no true God but Him.
When we deny this, we live a lie and because He is truth, He cannot tolerate a lie.

This is not petty jealousy but holy jealousy. It is about being consistent. Consistency requires that lies are not tolerated.

How do we deal with the idea of future generations being punished for the failures of their parents? This is a complex issue and I handled it in detail when we worked through Jeremiah and Ezekiel. (I have given links and the old devs below....)

The key to understanding this is that evil is often systemic. Evil becomes greater than a person, but part of a system. Evil practices make their way into the legacies of families and nations. This was particularly true with idolatry. Children worshipped the idols their grandparents had made.

We know that our early years are formative for the development of faith. The spiritual patterns we keep in our early years stay with us for life. With this rider to the second commandment, God is warning parents of the legacy of bad spiritual patterns.

What spiritual patterns and habits are we showing our children?
God warns us that this is serious business!
Two links for a discussion on "Generational Curses"
Two eDevs on "Generational Curses"

Ezekiel 18:2-4
What do you people mean by quoting this proverb about the land of Israel:
`The Fathers have eaten sour grapes and the children's teeth are set on edge`?
As surely as I live declares the Sovereign Lord, you will no longer quote this proverb in Israel. For every living soul belongs to me, the father as well as the son - both alike belong to me. The soul who sins is the one who will die.

I started this devotion last week and realised that I had bitten off more than I could chew! This will now be in two parts...

These days there is a lot of talk about `generational curses.` Today many attribute physical illnesses like arthiritis, asthma and migraines to the fact that a grandparent was involved in spiritualism or something like that. Today many blame sin in their parents and grandparents for their own lack of spiritual growth or their ill physical health.

Even in `pop psychology` there has been a trend toward laying the blame for our neuroses and problems at the door of our parents who were too strict or too lax, or too protective, or too busy, or whatever.

The problem is that the Scriptures do indicate that the consequences of sin _can_ bridge generations. Part of the second commandment says: `For I the Lord Your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me.` (Ex.20:5)

From this has evolved a whole theology that desperately tries to blame something or someone for the bad things that happen to us. When we can't cope with the sadness and grief that sometimes befalls us or those we love, the result is often a scapegoat theology.

There are two important balancing issues when we look at the second commandment: The first is that the particular sin that God singles out here is idolatry and the worship of other gods. The second is even more significant. Who does God say are the ones on whom the sin of the parents and grandparents and great-grandparents is poured out?? Read carefully and say it with me. `Those ... who.... hate.... God.....`

Who are the hateful ones? The folk who originally are sinful, or the third or fourth generation? Ezekiel's audience said it was their ancestors who were guilty! It was those who had gone before (and weren't there to defend themselves!) who were the ones who hated God, and the exiles were the `innocent` victims! They therefore held out the idea that they (the `faithful`) were being punished by God for the sins of the `hateful`!

Ezekiel's response is typical of the fine balance we find in Scripture where difficult issues are held in creative tension. If the 2nd commandment is one side of the tension, then Ezekiel's response to the Exiles is the other tug-of-war team... There is a balance to be kept.

We may be a composite of our genes, our history, and our upbringing, but we also exercise our own unique choices. This play has a script that allows us to ad-lib and Ezekiel points out to the Exiles that their own ad-libbing was just as, if not more serious, than their ancestral legacy.

What is Scripture's response to those who would take the 2nd commandment and the issue of `generational curses` too far???
No longer will it be said: `The Fathers have eaten sour grapes and the children's teeth are set on edge`

More on this tomorrow...
Yesterday we started looking at difficult issue of `generational curses.`

There are those who would hold that I may suffer from an ailment that doesn't want to get better because it is the consequence of something evil that my ancestors up to a fourth generation had done. In the view of extreme forms of this kind of teaching, I may suffer for things I might not even know my ancestors did! Even prayer for healing cannot help because these ailments have a `legal right` to be there and until I renounce the failings of my predecessors, I cannot experience relief.

This is a picture painted from only one of the many perspectives that the OT offers. When we were at school we did technical drawings and we had to do various kinds of drawings. One was called an Orthographic Projection. In this kind of represention you draw three views of the object and each view is in 2D: front, left, and top. If one were to draw a plain round pillar in orthographic representation then the top view is a circle and the front and left views are rectangles! The round column is not a rectangle or a circle, if we keep to only one perspective, an incomplete picture is formed!

Why do things (especially bad things) happen to us? Are we the victims of fate, or are we completely free of the past? Scripture's answer is a balanced one. We cannot ignore the legacy of brokenness that comes through our ancestry, culture, and structure, but there is also the reality of the darkness in us.

But there are _other_ perspectives too... There is the perspective of national sin: that an individual may experience the brokeness that is the result of the nation's sin. War is a good example. Pain can also be a warning and a wake-up call. Heartache can be the lifeboat that takes us to repentance and new faith. Suffering can build our faith, sharpen our focus, and refine our commitment.

I am very concerned that modern society is stuck in the `scapegoat theology` I mentioned yesterday. Today we continually blame to the legacy of the `old dispensation` in this country as the cause of all ills. I am not denying the horrors and inequalities of the apartheid legacy, but is our myopic insistence that the problem is `back there` not the very thing that is blinding us to the fact that we are going to repeat that history in another form?

Even individuals are in total denial about their own contribution to their difficulties. I met a smoker who with a shrug said that he could not give up, and that this must be a demon of nicotine that kept him bound. He simply refused to admit that he lacked the courage and discipline to do what he had to do.

Ezekiel's stance is that if our teeth are set on edge, we should not start with teeth that are furthest away when we look for traces of sour grapes. Rather than beginning with the past, let us look to the present first.

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at