Posts Tagged ‘Leadership’

Genesis 37:1-14 DIARY OF DREAMER  

I imagine that this is the extended diary Jacob kept about the story of his son, Joseph, extrapolated from the Biblical narrative with my reflections. 

Favouritism or Favour? 

Diary of Joseph: I am here for a higher purpose. A calling. My destiny. I had my 17th birthday yesterday but the atmosphere at the special meal that was prepared with the family was strained.  

Leadership 

My father insists on thrusting me into leadership positions with my brothers and they resent it. He presented me with a coat of many colours recently, indicating that he has chosen me to bear the family blessing before he dies. This means – a double portion of the inheritance, management of the family business and spiritual leadership in carrying forward the promises God has given our family. Quite an honour which I will carry willingly and with a sense of responsibility. 

Is this favouritism from my father or favour from God? I am the firstborn son of Rachel but not the oldest son of our family.  

My brothers say my father shows me favouritism. Does life favour those with beautiful coats? Do the sons of Rachel get an unfair advantage in life because of the family line?   

My family carries the promises of God for blessing. We are the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and my father Jacob, but still we are terribly dysfunctional, stumbling over our faith and relationships with eachother, morally questionable, and in need of saving. We have no unfair advantages because of the family tree. We don’t have exclusive rights to achieving anything of worth. 

I refuse to live below my potential. My brothers may think it is because I am the favourite son but I can choose to be squashed by their negativity or stand firm on my beliefs. I choose to embrace the favour of God, even above the favour of my family. 

Contrasts 

Strange. I am loved and favoured by my father, but hated and dishonoured by my brothers to the point where of late, they refuse to even greet me. When they do speak, they remind me that I am only 17 years old. They are all adults, rough men with little faith in God and they do not respect my father for his lack of leadership back in Shechem. They are consumed with what has happened in the past. 

Shechem  

Yes, my sister was raped and my father did nothing. He even managed to entertain the idea of marrying her off to the perpetrator. Yes, my brothers stepped in and overreacted dreadfully, murdering every man in the town of Shechem, and then looting and enslaving every woman and child.  

My father was shocked and bitterly disappointed by their actions. I think they were too. They really needed and wanted some form of discipline for their criminal activity and to be encouraged to repent. Their guilt tracks them like a hungry bear and they long to get it off their trail. Their corrupted past pollutes their present and ultimately their future. 

Elusive Forgiveness 

Sin eats away at my brothers from the inside and they have not been encouraged to repent. They have become lawless with a gang mentally. I have become a target of their inward hostility. They are so continually looking for circumstances and other people to blame for life that they have no time to pursue God’s purposes. 

With my older brothers becoming too unpredictable and untrustworthy, my father insists on reports of their activities every day. No wonder I am regarded as a spy. 

My Dream 

In the middle of all this tension, during the last few nights I have had a dream from God and then another to confirm it. It was a remarkable dream: me and my brothers were out in a field binding sheaves of grain. Suddenly my sheaf stood up and the sheaves of my brothers gathered around my sheaf and bowed down to it. Then the Sun and Moon and 11 stars bowed low before me (Genesis 37:7,9). Leadership is obviously my inheritance. I claim it. I will not surrender to the negativity of my family’s dysfunctional attitudes. 

Life is not dependant on a father’s favouritism or a fancy coat but on the favour I already have with God. I will co-operate with the dreams I have from Him. Here I stand.  

Surprisingly, when I shared my dreams with my brothers, they did not see that God was speaking at all, but somehow thought I had concocted a story to rub salt into their wounds. Such bitterness. 

I expected my father to confirm my dreams speaking about leadership in the family. Instead, he rebuked me strongly, much to the delight of my brothers. This only caters to my brother’s animosity.  

Serving My Brothers

This is obviously not going to be easy. It seems that I may need to approach this in another way. I know that the greatest leaders are there not to serve themselves but to be a servant to others.  It seems that those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted (Matthew 23:11-12).  

I guess if God wants me to lead, then I will lead in His time and in His way and with a desire to serve my brothers. But I refuse to bring my belief in the favour of God down to the level of the negativity of my brothers. I choose to lift my experiences to the level of my belief in the dreams God has given to me. 

Diary of Jacob: I have pondered on Joseph’s dreams ever since he left to find my other sons. He was so willing to go to his brothers and serve them despite their dislike of him. Have I done the right thing in sending him? 

TO BE CONTINUED …

Pastor Ross  

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Joseph © Image by Ross Cochrane

Genesis 37:1-13 – DIARY OF A DYSFUNCTIONAL FATHER – Part 2 

I imagine that this is the extended diary Jacob kept about the story of his son, Joseph, extrapolated from the Biblical narrative. 

Jacob: I love who Joseph is becoming. He has already grown to be a young man of bearing, wise in his decisions and honest, often blatantly honest. I can’t say that this has come from me.  

Needless to say, I have chosen this firstborn son of Rachel to lead the family business. I know that Rachel would have been proud of him. I can honour her memory in this way. He is the child Rachel and I longed for and had almost given up hoping for. He has her eyes, her poise but most of all, he honours God. 

O Lord, how I miss Rachel. I loved her so much. Leah and my other wives may not be pleased with Joseph leading the family business, but their sons are wild and undisciplined. They love me, but I fear they do not respect me.  

I know I have not been the best of Fathers. They can see how I showed very little fatherly love and protection for Dinah, my daughter. I have not held them accountable for their violence in Shechem so I can hardly reward them by giving them leadership positions. I can tell that they do not like the way I treat Joseph and resent his natural talents and his trust in God.  

Surely, I can give the first-born rights to any son I want.  Perhaps they think I am showing too much love and protection for Joseph. Joseph keeps an eye on everything that is happening with my flocks, servants and property and he reports back to me about anything that is not going well. His intuitive ability for business has made him invaluable, but his brothers think he is spying on them. They are feeding the flocks in pastures much farther away to avoid interaction with Joseph. 

Joseph says his brothers hate him. I’m sure this is an exaggeration. Hate is a strong emotion for brothers to feel. But today they refused to even greet him with the traditional greeting of blessing, “Shalom”.  

I must speak to my sons about how they are treating Joseph. Not greeting a person is not only discourteous, but it is also a sign of hostility, not only a proof that they do not wish him well, but they give the impression that if they have an opportunity, they will do him an injury. I will not tolerate such lack of good manners and implied malice to the one who will eventually take over the family business. 

I could not attend the morning meeting today, so I gave Joseph the responsibility to hand out the tasks for the day, mainly binding the corn in sheaves. I gave him a gift, the coat of many colours, the coat that signifies leadership and distinction, to make it clear that he was in charge.  

His brothers gave him a hard time. Reuben came to complain later and told me that Joseph shared a dream. Apparently Joseph had said,   

“Listen to this dream, we were out in the field, tying up bundles of grain. Suddenly my bundle stood up, and your bundles all gathered around and bowed low before mine!”  

His brothers responded badly to this dream, “So you think you will be our king, do you? Do you actually think you will reign over us?”  

I was a little embarrassed by this dream. Was he trying to assert his leadership ambitions? Was this dream from God? To soften the blatant message of the dream a little, the next day, I spoke to my sons of my intentions to give the firstborn rights to Joseph but that it would not happen until I died. In the meantime, he would be learning the ropes. I could tell that Joseph’s dream and my announcement did not go down all that well. 

To make things worse, Joseph blurted out another dream. I suppose he thought he was helping. He said, 

 “Listen, I have had another dreamThe sun, moon, and eleven stars bowed low before me!”  

I could see his brothers were jealous of Joseph, so I scolded him this time. “What kind of dream is that?” I said, “Will your mother and I and your brothers actually come and bow to the ground before you?”  

His brothers were grateful for my words, but I have wondered since what these dreams mean. Strange that the dream should be about sheaves which speak of God’s promise of provision and stars when God has promised that my family will one day be numerous like the stars of heaven.  

I don’t want Joseph to think of himself more highly than he should think. It is only by grace that God gives leadership. I want him to think sensibly, as God has distributed a measure of gifting and faith to each one. 

I am a bit concerned. My 11 other sons told me they would be pasturing the flocks on our land near Shechem. This doesn’t seem to be a good idea, given that our family is not well-liked in that area. They have been gone sometime now and I am sending Joseph to see how things are going and he can come back with a report. No doubt time away from him has mended their jealousy of him.  

TO BE CONTINUED 

Pastor Ross 

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Unbelievable! © by Ross Cochrane

Genesis 34:7-10 – UNBELIEVABLE!

Was it while they were on their way, that anger erupted, and they plotted their plan for vengeance?

“Jacob’s sons had come in from the field as soon as they heard what had happened. They were shocked and furious that their sister had been raped. Shechem had done a disgraceful thing against Jacob’s family, something that should never be done” (Genesis 34:7 NLT).

Jacob sends a messenger to his sons and they come immediately. Shocked and angry, at least they recognize that pedophilia and rape was something that should never be done; a disgrace! Finally, someone actually cares about what happened to Dinah and they are concerned for her personal well-being. Taking it as an offense to them as a family, they identify with her. Where is Jacob in all this?

JACOB, where is your leadership?

Jacob doesn’t say anything! Not a word. He doesn’t seem to take part in any of the proceedings until later, when murder gets in the way of his reputation and standing in the community.

“Hamor tried to speak with Jacob and his sons. “My son Shechem is truly in love with your daughter,” he said. “Please let him marry her” (Genesis 34:8 NLT).

Why is Dinah still at Shechem’s house? Perhaps if Hamor had brought Dinah back to Jacob, humbly apologized for his son’s criminal actions, spelling out an agreement for terms of discipline, offered a huge amount of compensation and an assurance that he would not tolerate such actions in his community, it might have gone down a little better. Hamor, if only…

HAMOR, what are you thinking?

Hamor speaks nothing of his son’s behavior and instead points to the economic and community benefits of intermarriage. Unbelievable!

A child marriage is Hamor’s way of turning an awkward situation into an equitable arrangement. Wanting to put the whole incident behind him, Hamor just wants to carry out the wishes of his son and get a good trade deal along the way. Win-win, … except for Dinah.

It annoys me that some commentaries actually agree with Hamor’s suggestion! What kind of planet are they on?

Hamor is on-a-roll. He says, “In fact, let’s arrange other marriages, too. You give us your daughters for our sons, and we will give you our daughters for your sons. And you may live among us; the land is open to you! Settle here and trade with us. And feel free to buy property in the area.”  (Genesis 34:9-10)

The economic advantages are significant. But still, not once is any consideration for Dinah taken into account. He wants friendly relations with Jacob, but Dinah’s rape is just a catalyst for his business transactions.

Settle down, trade, be partners with us, assimilate.

Abraham and Isaac had encouraged their children not to intermarry with the Canaanites. Xenophobia? Obviously not. Jacob had settled in the area, bought land, traded. He had set up an altar as a witness to his faith in God. It was not a hatred of other people groups, but a healthy disgust of their wicked cultural and religious influences which would put them in danger of compromising and defiling the heritage of their faith in God.

This story is so unsettling and so is the Christian commentary I have been reading on this chapter of the Bible.

I am left with so many questions. How do I show leadership when I am needed the most? What kind of compromises to my faith am I willing to make that may put the Christian heritage of my family at risk? How much do I water down my sinful attitudes and actions? Am I willing to call out evil for what it is? When it comes to the crunch, do I treasure the welfare of those around me or my own interests?

There is no wisdom here with Jacob, with Hamor and certainly not Shechem. Where is justice, leadership, wisdom and compassion when it is needed? The anger of Jacob’s sons proves later to have no God-given boundaries. 

Perhaps the author paints with a palette of black in Genesis 34 but the canvas is primed with light and gives me opportunity to clearly perceive the contrasts. Genesis 34 invites me to show compassion and love, especially to my own family, to apply wisdom, leadership and responsibility when I see evil, to treat people with respect and show repentance when I have wronged them, to be willing to pay the consequences and make reparation when needed, and not to compromise my faith. Most of all it invites me to ask for God’s wisdom, to include Him in my responses when confronted by those who accept the defiling influences of the world in which we live. Some serious things to think about here.

James 1:21 (NLT) says So get rid of all the filth and evil in your lives, and humbly accept the word God has planted in your hearts, for it has the power to save your souls.”

Pastor Ross

Genesis 33:1-20 – HOW TO HANDLE THE GREATEST CONFLICT OF ALL

Instructions in Diplomatic Integrity – Part 15

“Then Jacob looked up and saw Esau coming with his 400 men” (Genesis 33:1 NLT).

This is a showdown. The gunfight at OK Corral. Jacob has seen a host of angelic warriors and then he has seen God face to face, and but now he must come face to face with Esau. This is tense and who knows, He may soon see God face to face again, depending on the outcome.

One way or another Esau is looking forward to a reunion with his brother, either for vengeance or reconciliation. Ringing in Jacob’s ears is a threat from 20 years earlier by Esau who wanted him dead.

So Jacob doesn’t immediately think that Esau is coming with 400 men to have a party and celebrate their reunion. Would you?

He has prepared well for this standoff, but still, it must have felt like he was bringing a knife to a gunfight. He could do with a bit of angelic assistance right now (Genesis 32:1-2) but he wasn’t about to procrastinate any longer in meeting Esau (Genesis 32:3).

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No gun, no bullets, just respect and humility. Photo manipulation by Ross Cochrane

Crafted with respect and humility (Genesis 32:4 NLT), Jacob’s message to Esau had focused on a friendly outcome (Genesis 32:5,6 NLT). He had mastered his emotions (Genesis 32:7 NLT) but this would still be a standoff.

Having a personal relationship with God means that you are open to the impossible, which is why he is choosing not to run. Instead, he shows care for all those who were with him (Genesis 32:7-8 NLT); people are always more important than the conflict.

Talking to the only One he could really trust, he prays up a storm (Genesis 32:9 NLT). Prayer is always a good strategy in times of conflict. In prayer, he reminds God of His past faithfulness but in doing so reminds Himself of a bigger picture (Genesis 32:9 NLT). When all we can see are the difficult circumstances, we miss out on seeing God’s purposes. Jacob is real with God, admitting he is not perfect (Genesis 32:10 NLT). Recognising that we have a responsibility in owning our part in the conflict will always test faith and character.

He is specific in his prayer, outlining what he desires to take place (Genesis 32:11-12 NLT). And then, after prayer, he seems to get further revelation. He makes it easy for Esau to come to the table by giving a peace offering rather than give him an itchy trigger finger (Genesis 32:13 NLT) by reaching for his gun. It’s always good to find a way to avoid triggering further conflict. Taking every possibility into account, Jacob anticipates Esau’s questions (Genesis 32:17-20 NLT).

He realises that the stress of conflict can have a big impact on family (Genesis 32:21-23 NLT) and so Jacob seeks to minimise this as much as possible. Family is more important than our personal battles.

Inward battles of character and faith are worth fighting. Jacob will face off with Esau because he is willing to stand for what he believes in (Genesis 32:24 NLT). But he wrestles with God first and discovers that if he is willing to hold on, there will be pain as well as blessing. (Genesis 32:25,26 NLT). Even when things are painful and difficult and overwhelming in the conflict, it’s always too soon to give up. When life strikes a blow that crushes me, am I willing to hold on?

Am I prepared to allow God to confront my past in order to move on into the future with His purposes for my life? Wrestling with God will change me forever as it did with Jacob (Genesis 32:27-28 NLT).

Not all of my questions will be answered but if I am persistent in finding the right outcome, there will be breakthrough and blessing (Genesis 32:29 NLT). Don’t give up on the struggle. Don’t give up because you go through painful times that humble you into the place of complete trust. Hold on to God until the blessing comes. It will demand faith. But it’s worth it.

So often we have to wrestle with God before we can face up to our circumstances. Our struggles spiritually determine our struggles naturally. And much bigger issues are at stake.

I can use my circumstances to move forward (Genesis 32:26 NLT). Are you prepared to keep moving forward with the changes God has made in your life?

The faith journey is not always easy. Like Jacob, all I can do is acknowledge the setbacks and expect the blessings. Both are life-changing experiences that God will use for the journey ahead (Genesis 32:29,30 NLT).

When I have done all that there is to do, what next?

  1. LEAD THE WAY (Genesis 33:3). Lead by example with courage and humility.

“So he divided the children among Leah, Rachel, and his two servant wives. He put the servant wives and their children at the front, Leah and her children next, and Rachel and Joseph last …

Then Jacob went on ahead.” (Genesis 33:1-3 NLT). What happens as Jacob meets Esau? Find out in the final episode of this series, Part 15, coming soon.

Pastor Ross

 

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Matthew 18:1-2 – I AM THE GREATEST – part 2

“Perhaps it will be Peter? He has the greatest leadership skills of us all. He was on the mountain.”

“No, I don’t think so. Peter is too unpredictable. One minute Jesus is pleased with him for seeing things from heaven’s perspective and gives him the keys to the authority of heaven (Matthew 16:18) and then the next He rebukes him for seeing things from a human point of view and says ‘Get away from Me, Satan! You are a dangerous trap to Me’ (Matthew 16:23). He’s not the greatest leader. He’s too unstable. Better James or John. They were on the mountain too.”  

“Why ask?” My voice startles them in the shadows of the morning. They didn’t see me here, reading.

“What do you mean?” Who is this guy?

“Why would you ask this question about who is greatest and why argue over it? What prompts you to be talking about being great? Is it your pride or is it your interest in what will happen when Jesus dies or leaves? Are you wondering who will lead you?”

“Who are you?”

“I am just a curious onlooker. But tell me, is your argument about being the greatest prompted by who is spiritual enough to perform miracles or by who would best lead you in overthrowing the Roman government?”

“What are you talking about? Why are you so interested?” Is this guy a Roman spy?

“I’m sitting here reading about your conversation and I’ve got to tell you, it seems a little out there, guys. Random. What’s going on with this ‘Who is the greatest?’ thing? It’s obviously important to you. It’s just that you come across as being so competitive? You seem to raise this topic time and time again” (Matthew 18:3-4; 20:20-28; 23:8-11; Mark. 9:34-37; Luke 9:46-48; 22:24-27).

“You’ve read about us? Where?”

“I’m reading about you now and I need to know if there are degrees of greatness in God’s kingdom? Are you speaking about greatness in the kingdom of God, like having great authority here and now or do you want it in heaven? You seem to assume that there are degrees of greatness (Matthew 18:1). It seems Jesus does too but He looks at it differently.”

“How do you know what Jesus thinks?”

“I’ve been reading ahead, but what I would really like to know is, are you preparing for a takeover of the Roman empire? Do you expect the Messiah to lead you in a revolt? Are you are looking for positions of authority in the new government? Is that the sort of greatness you are after?”

Stunned silence. He must be a Roman spy.

“Do you know what I mean, like who is going to be the commander of His army, who will have the authority to order all the rest around? I’m just saying this because you need to know that it doesn’t work out like that. The Bible maps it out differently.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Well, Romans 12:10 (NLT) says ‘Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honouring each other.’ You don’t exactly appear to be honouring each other by arguing over who will be greatest. A lot of people have judged you over this, and I can’t help defend you if I can’t figure you out. I need to know.”

“I’m sorry but what makes you think that our conversation is any of your business.”

“Of course it’s my business. You see, I know that you will turn the world upside down with your influence. What I read about you today helps to change my life. The Lord is continuing to change me as I am open to what He is saying through you. You really are great, but is it your influence that is the greatness you have in mind or do you just come to understand that later?”

“I’m sorry, but we don’t understand anything you are saying.”

“No, it’s me that doesn’t understand you. It’s this argument you were having just now. Are you genuinely inquiring, and putting forth your preferences about who should succeed Jesus, and getting ready to vote, like a democracy? Are you looking to the frontrunners in a presidential race like Peter, James and John or are you all planning to run for office as well?”

“Democracy? Voting? Frontrunners? Presidential race?”

“You do get it that Jesus is going to die, right? You seem reluctant to talk about it, but are you arguing about who will lead you when this happens? (Matthew 17:22). So tell me, is that what this argument is all about or what?”

Bewilderment. Is he going to murder Jesus?

“Come on guys. Don’t go all quiet on me. I know that Jesus told you that He is going to die. I read it in Mark 9:31-32 (NLT). Jesus told you that ‘The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of His enemies. He will be killed, but three days later He will rise from the dead.’ You remember. You didn’t understand what He was saying, and were afraid to ask Him what He meant.”

“How do you know these things?”

“I’ve been reading about you up until now and also a little ahead. By the way, later, James and John, you are going to request that you have the two highest places in the kingdom, using your Mum as a go-between (Matthew 20:20) and the rest of you will get a little annoyed.”

They look at James and John who look embarrassed. James thinks It sounds like a good idea.

“Come on guys. I just want to know. Be fair. I don’t have a lot of time. I’ve got to go to work, soon. Are you concerned about approval; being acknowledged and admired? Or is it about position, status, prominence, authority and power? Or perhaps it’s wealth?”

“You can’t just presume to read our minds and judge us.”

“I’ve got to tell you, a lot of people think that you are just being selfish and ambitious, proud and competitive and even jealous of each other. In my time, we had this guy called Mohammed Ali. He was a boxer. He used to say, ‘I am the greatest’ and some people pulled him up for bragging and his lack of humility. He would say, ‘It’s not bragging when you can back it up. It’s hard to be humble when you’re this great.”

“Mohammed Ali? I’m sorry, sir, we’ve got to go. The Master is calling us.”

“So He is. Can I catch up with you later?” They do not reply.

Jesus sits down (Mark 9:35 NLT), calls the twelve disciples over to Him, and just as I get ready to close the pages, He invites me as well (and you).

“Before you face the traffic on the way to work,” He says, “I want you to consider something. You have been asking all the wrong questions this morning.”

“But Lord, there is so much speculation about this passage. I just want to get to the facts about what your disciples are thinking when they argue about greatness.”

“None of that is important. Their thoughts are not yours to know. What you need to know is that I have destined you for greatness.”

My heart misses a beat. “Me, Lord. You have got to be kidding?”

“There’s something I want you to think about today, and we will talk more about it when next we meet.”

“Yes, Lord?”

“It is this.” He looks around the whole group. “Whoever wants to be first must take last place and be the servant of everyone else.” 

As I head towards the door, I know that the traffic will be building up and I need to get going or I’ll be late to work.

“Yes Lord, I will think about this. Thanks. I love You. See you soon.” Giving Him a wave, I look back one last time. He is calling a child into their midst, and then I am immersed into the day.

WHEN THE WOLF HOWLS

Dagger for When the Wolf Howls

© by Ross Cochrane

Chapter 19

The lesson the next day held particular fascination for Absalom and Uzzah.

“Why are the angels on the top of the Ark?” said Uzzah before anyone had a chance to ask any other questions.

“The angels on the top of the Ark of the Covenant carry God’s righteousness and justice to us,” said Zadok, “Although we can’t see them, I am sure that God has designated real angels to be at His side as He makes His presence known to us on top of the Ark of the Covenant. These two angels have a special name. They are known as Cherubim. They sit on top of the Ark of the Covenant with their wings outstretched and look down at the Mercy Seat. Cherubim are God’s warrior angels. Do you remember me telling you how God placed Cherubim with a flaming sword east of the Garden of Eden to stop Adam and Eve from eating from the Tree of Life after they had sinned?”

“Yes, Rabbi, but why would God want His warrior angels on top of the place where He wants us to know His presence? He doesn’t want to make war with us, with these …” Uzzah repeated the new word that described them, “… Cherubim, does He?” The other children laughed, but it was a nervous laugh.

“God’s warrior angels are not to be trifled with.” said Zadok, his deep voice cutting across their laughter. “They represent two of the most magnificent creatures ever created from the hand of God. They defend the justice and righteousness of God and that’s why they are depicted on the Ark of the Covenant.”

“What would happen if you touched the Ark? asked Absalom.

“The angels would draw their swords and kill you!” said Ahio. Uzzah and Absalom laughed but it was laughter peppered with apprehension. It’s ridiculous that two golden angels could draw their swords and kill us. They were both aware of the serious look on Zadok’s face and equally surprised and disturbed by his answer. It seemed that he agreed with Ahio.

“Yes!” said Zadok, “The only way you can approach the Ark is with blood from a sacrifice. If you touch the Ark of the Covenant without the blood of a sacrifice then you become the sacrifice, yourself.” Absalom and Uzzah looked at each other. It all seemed to have become a little far-fetched but they were still not quite sure.

“Is there anything inside the Ark?” Uzzah said suddenly to change the subject.

“Ah, It seems that I have missed out a very important part of my story. Yes, there is something inside the Ark. In fact it is what is inside that is important to our people because it contains objects from our history.” Absalom and Uzzah were once again fascinated. “Inside the box are three objects that all have a special meaning.” said Zadok, “These three objects represent the sin of our people, yours and mine included.”

“But what are these objects, Rabbi?” asked Uzzah.

“The first objects deep inside this box are broken. Originally they were the stone tablets containing the 10 commands that God gave to Moses. Why were they broken?” asked Zadok. Uzzah knew this well.

“They were broken because our people began to worship an idol.” he said.

“Yes, and when Moses saw them worshipping a golden calf, he smashed the tablets of the law on the ground. The pieces were collected and eventually put into the Ark of the Covenant as a picture of their sin against the Law of God. These broken tablets speak of our sin against the law of God.”

“Will they show us these tablets of the law that Moses tomorrow?” Absalom asked.

“The Ark hasn’t been opened since the days of Moses.” said Zadok. Uzzah and Absalom were obviously curious.

“What was the second object in the Ark?” Absalom was fascinated with what Zadok was teaching him. He loved to hear about the history of his people. Why do I feel afraid of Zadok? Sometimes he makes me feels so uneasy? He commands such authority, but he’s just a priest. One day, people will listen to me. Absalom wanted to learn how to wield such authority himself. He felt the same way in the presence of his father. Zadok answered him,

“The second object that was placed into the Ark was Aaron’s rod that budded. This spoke of how our people rebelled against God’s appointed leaders. You know this story. Our people had rebelled against Moses and Aaron, and God told them to choose rods for each of the twelve leaders of Israel and write their names on the rods. They were then to be placed in the Tent of Meeting in front of the Ark of the Testimony. The rod that sprouted would indicate to the people God’s appointed priest. What happened? Do you remember?”

“Only Aaron’s rod had sprouted by the following day.” said Absalom.

“Yes.” said Zadok, looking directly into Absalom’s eyes, “Unfortunately many of our people in Israel have rejected the priests and prophets of God and they have even rebelled against king David.”

“Yes”, said Absalom. Again he felt uncomfortable.

“Now let me tell you about the third object. The third object that was placed in the Ark was a pot of Manna. This pot of manna speaks of how our people complained and sinned against the provision of God. During the time of their wandering through the desert, God provided them with manna from heaven to eat each morning, but once again they complained, and God had to deal with them.

These three objects speak together about our people’s sin. But let me see if you have been listening. What are the three ways in which our people have sinned against God?”

Ahimaaz answered. “We have sinned against the Law of God, against his appointed leaders and against his provision for us.” He had listened carefully. He could always recite the correct answers.

“Very good! You have been listening well, my son.” Zadok was delighted with his son’s progress spiritually. One day he would be a fine priest. Absalom returned to the subject of his real interest.

“But why can’t we look at these holy objects that our father Moses once held?” he said.

“The angels who guard the throne on top of the Ark are the only ones who look down upon Israel’s sin and they don’t need to have the box opened to see how badly we have offended the holiness of God. God has made it very clear that the Ark of the Covenant is to be touched and carried only by the Priests.”

“You’re a priest. Would you be able to open it up for us to see Aaron’s rod?” asked Absalom.

“No! The Ark is only to be touched when it is carried. Two poles are to be placed through rings in the side of the ark and the Priests are then able to carry it around.” Absalom thought he might find a way one day to open the Ark.

Zadok’s voice became lower and, with shining eyes that expressed his love for these children, in almost a whisper he said, “The Lord of hosts is there with the Ark of the Covenant. Once a year, on the day of Atonement the priest brings the blood from the sacrifice and sprinkles it over the mercy seat and instead of seeing Israel’s sin, the angel’s see that a sacrifice has been made. The angels that carry God’s righteousness and justice are satisfied.

That’s why your father has decided to bring up the ark to Jerusalem, that it might be near him, and that it might focus attention upon God’s presence and His rulership in Israel. It has remained in the house of Abinadab, your uncle for some time now, but finally we are to see it come to it’s rightful place. Can you see now why your father wants to have it near us?”

“Yes,” said Absalom. “Yes, I think I do. Thankyou Rabbi.” The Ark is a great symbol of power. That’s the main reason why my father wants it with him. He would love to see the objects inside, but for now, he would be content to watch it come into Jerusalem tomorrow.

Matthew 7:13 – 14 – DESERT DIARY – A Parable

U-Turn permitted.

DIARY ENTRY – MONDAY – DAY 1: It is all a MIRAGE! I can see that now. Up until now I have been travelling with this huge throng of people without even considering the inhospitable wasteland around us. We are in a DESERT! Unless we reach a waterhole soon, all of us will die!

TUESDAY – DAY 2: I know that we have plenty of provisions but our water supplies will not last forever and I am surprised that even our leaders don’t seem to know where we are going. When I ask one of them about what lies ahead, he says “Eat, drink and enjoy life while you have the opportunity and don’t think about tomorrow.” Another took me aside today and assured me that he knows what is best for us. He placed his hand on my shoulder and in a rather autocratic, controlling, patronising tone of voice said “Don’t cause any trouble or you may regret it!”

Fortunately most of our community leaders are more democratic and inclusive. I am drawn to a man who has a very charismatic, inspirational and likeable character. He is studying the mirages and has written a book on how they relate to our lives. It’s a fascinating book, but somehow I doubt that this will get us very far.

WEDNESDAY – DAY 3: We eat, sleep and travel in community and over time all kinds of leaders are emerging. I met a man today who is very task oriented, and he has achieved great success and fame by his accomplishments. Others have set the culture of our community by focusing on our values, building our worldviews through consensus over time. But still, there are no ABSOLUTES. No real direction! We are still living in this desolate place.

THURSDAY – DAY 4: At School today I was taught survival techniques for desert life, and how to be cross-culturally relevant and politically correct because all of us are on the same road. That is true. We never deviate from highway 666. The direction is set and no one questions where we are headed. Perhaps it’s because life is tough enough to bear without asking the big questions.

FRIDAY – DAY 5: No-one really wants to CHANGE! We have gifted leaders who are creative, problem solving, improvement oriented, innovative change agents, but we are still in the desert and our resources are running out. No matter how visionary they are, none of them have any really clear view of what is happening and how to get to a waterhole. We are on a highway to hell, abandoned by common sense in this austere environment. Today I saw some vultures circling above.

SATURDAY – DAY 6: I am feeling so INSECURE today. Not that we don’t have people who are here to serve and protect us. We have our own security force, armed men and women who are always planning strategies to keep wild animals away and how to deal with the riots of those who are running out of provisions.

SUNDAY – DAY 7: Some religious leaders practise meditation to empty their minds, others pray. Some organise provisions, buying and selling. Some help the poor and do good works. But it is all a MIRAGE! I have never really seen this before and I am secretly looking for a way to escape. I think about it all the time.

I think about the big picture. What will happen to us? We need to find an oasis, a way to life. Maybe if I can find it then I can show others the way. What are the signs? Is it only me that sees that we are lost in this forsaken place, travelling down a road leading to nowhere but destruction? I am so motivated to find a way out, but so few people are convinced and they think I’m strange. I met a leader today who said that if I continue to speak like I do I will be rejected and ostracised as a fanatic. I am in the minority.

MONDAY – DAY 8: Today it happened! I found the pages of an ancient book beside a creosote bush on the side of the road. I read from a book called Matthew 7:13-14 (NLT) which says “You can enter God’s Kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose that way. “But the gateway to life is very narrow and the road is difficult, and only a few ever find it.”

Just there, where I found the book, I also found footprints leading away from the road we are travelling on, indications of another path. It is barren and difficult, narrow and dangerous, but perhaps this is what I have been looking for and I have decided to leave the community and set off, following the footprints of whoever it is who has travelled the path before me. Today is the day! I am intent on my quest. Today I begin my journey.

TUESDAY – DAY 9: It involved persistence to find the trail, but leaving everything behind me today I entered a difficult narrow gorge and into the whistling canyons of the way. Somehow I know that this path will lead to life. It’s not something I would normally do. It’s just that I finally see the truth that I have been lost in the crowd, going nowhere fast. I had to do something. There is always a choice and I have found the way of life and I have chosen to take it!

WEDNESDAY – DAY 10: Today I found other pages from the ancient book as I travelled. They tell me that the footprints I follow belong to a man called Jesus. His words in John 14:6 (NLT) call to me as He says “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through Me.” In Luke 9:23 (NLT) Jesus says, “If any of you wants to be My follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow Me” Acts 4:12 (NLT) speaks into my heart and tells me that “There is salvation in NO ONE else! God has given no other Name under heaven by which we must be saved.”

THURSDAY – DAY 11: What have I learned so far? I have discovered that to be a follower of Christ involves turning around and going against the flow. I need to follow His footprints in the sand and His Word. It doesn’t necessarily make sense to anyone else (Mark 10:15; Luke 18:17). And yes it involves discipline, commitment, determination, self-control, and self-denial. It’s not always an easy road, but today it led me to an oasis! I drank for the first time the water of life, living water (John 4:10) and this wonderful adventure in life will last forever. In John 10:10 (NIV) Jesus says “… I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”

FRIDAY – DAY 12: My community continues to choose the wide road where there are no obstacles, plain path, easy going. The freeway is wide, many lanes, no potholes. The highway to hell is not a bumpy road, but smooth sailing. It’s easy, level ground, great to travel on. Easy to get caught in the traffic and enjoy the trip. No toll-ways, no price to pay. All traffic accepted (all philosophies, beliefs, lifestyles, all accepted). But today I am putting up SIGNS along this road. U-turns and warning signs. One sign I got from Proverbs 14:12 (NLT). It says “There is a path before each person that seems right, but it ends in death.”

I still carry that ancient book with me. I have all the pages now. Listen to the words of Moses in Deuteronomy 30:19 (NLT), “Today I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses. Now I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Oh, that you would choose life, so that you and your descendants might live!” Jesus is giving the same invitation to you today.

Pastor Ross