Posts Tagged ‘Moses’

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Blame and Excuse – © Ross Cochrane

Genesis 34 – IF ONLY …

Genesis 34:1 says, “One day Dinah, the daughter of Jacob and Leah, went to visit some of the young women who lived in the area.” 

Only one of Jacob’s daughters is ever mentioned in the Bible. Tracing the years from her birth, evidence suggests that Dinah is young, perhaps as young as 7-12 years old.

There is nothing to indicate that she is rebellious, naïve or ignorant as some have suggested. She is a normal little girl who obviously wanted to make friends. Did she leave her home that day without permission from her Mum or Dad? Why didn’t her brothers accompany her? Whatever the reason was for her to be alone that day in the neighborhood, she could not have foreseen what would happen.

It was a dangerous neighborhood. The Hivites were known historically for social and religious customs which cut across God’s purposes. Their cultural norms made them so detestable to God that later he would tell Moses to conquer them and destroy them completely. Racial cleansing? Nothing would cleanse the extent of their sin. This was a people group who were so wicked the wages of their sin was war. Nothing has changed.

MOSES, you should have…

If only Moses had been around. Moses would later say to the Hebrew tribes, You must completely destroy the Hittites, …, just as the Lord your God has commanded you. This will prevent the people of the land from teaching you to imitate their detestable customs in the worship of their gods, which would cause you to sin deeply against the Lord your God.” (Deuteronomy 20:17-18).

The Hivites were to be judged for the nature of their depravity, such was their evil influence. Moses can’t be held to blame for what happened to Dinah. There are certainly consequences for such blatant wickedness, but this evil rears it’s ugly head long before Moses appears on the scene.

Genesis 34:2 speaks of a sexual predator, a pedophile, parading as a prince. “But when the local prince, Shechem son of Hamor the Hivite, saw Dinah, he seized her and raped her.”

This is the first recorded rape in the Bible, the first example of pedophilia, carried out by a man with social standing, the local prince of the Hivites.

Yet, strange attitudes of blame and excuse have persisted concerning this event. Calvin, the great theologian intimates that Dinah is the one responsible for her own rape. He writes, “…not less danger hangs over weak virgins at this day, if they go too boldly and eagerly into public assemblies, and excite the passions of youth towards themselves.”

DINAH, you should have…

Many people suggest a cautious approach when it comes to women walking alone, and suggest that if Dinah ignored the danger of walking alone, she was asking for it. It becomes the victims’ responsibility entirely and so to Dinah, they shout…

“Stay safe! – Don’t walk alone, especially at night, ask someone to accompany you, work out the safest route to where you want to go, keep to well-lit streets, avoid parks, be hyper-aware of your environment; all escape routes, all doorways and obstacles. Better still – take a cab, don’t travel on the train, wear clothes to run in, dress as a man, don’t wear flimsy clothing, short skirts or anything that exposes the breasts. Scream “Fire!” if you are attacked.” If only Dinah had been more careful …

Others intimate that Dinah should have carried a sword, responding to violence with violence – “buy a gun or pepper spray, take self-defense classes and walk where you want.” If only Dinah was taught to fight …

Feminists would talk to Dinah about a rape culture. They would say it is not a matter of teaching young women how to avoid rape by not going anywhere on their own. They would declare to educators and parents, “Don’t tell us to restrict our freedom. Tell them not to rape!” N Fitzsimmons says, “The safety of women is not just about women having to always be fearful, and it’s not her fault if she’s attacked. It’s about teaching children from an early age to be respectful of all people. And that means the adults setting an example by always being respectful of all people.” If only Shechem had been taught not to rape Dinah …

Even in between all these views there is no real answer and these are not the insights that can adequately be directed towards a little girl. Was Dinah responsible for being raped? Obviously not! Was she able to defend herself? No! Did she live in a lawless culture who regarded women as commodities for sexual exploitation? Yes! Was she too young to really appreciate the danger? Yes.

IF ONLY…

If only her parents or brothers had been aware of her wandering away that day. If only Moses had been on the scene long before this had happened. If only Jacob and Leah had shown a little more foresight and care for a little girl in the family. If only her brothers had accompanied her that day.

If only, if only, if only! … then this tragic situation could have been averted. Living in regret for what we could have done is living in the “If only’s” and “What if’s”. Who’s to blame? Moses, Dinah, her parents or her brothers? Or all of the above? Who will take responsibility for Shechem’s behavior and shield the perpetrator from blame?

Should we lobby governments for better lighting in the parks, security cameras everywhere, laws to make parents transport their children everywhere, curfews at nightclubs, mass rallies to protest against rapists? Longer jail sentences? Less personal rights?

Should we bubble wrap our children? Cocoon them in cotton wool? Shield them from any of the harsher edges of reality? Never let them walk in the park in case something will happen? Even Jesus said to His disciples, Look, I am sending you out as sheep among wolves. So be as shrewd as snakes and innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:16).

Fear of harm and “If only…” and “What if…” mentalities will never be enough to solve the real problem of sin in our world. Oh, yes, let’s do what we can to protect our children, but let’s be aware that they are at best band-aid solutions.

Not legislation or even education could ever be enough to deal with the problem of sin. Yes, I will take measures to protect our children and grandchildren, but I hope not to forget or fail to include the only real answer for this world – the life-changing transformation only Christ can make in a person’s life. Only the message of Christ has the capability to adequately solve the problem of sin. In Romans 1:16 (NLT) Paul says, “For I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ. It is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes …”

Ephesians 2:1-22 (NLT) says, “Once you were dead because of your disobedience and your many sins. You used to live in sin, just like the rest of the world, … All of us used to live that way, following the passionate desires and inclinations of our sinful nature. By our very nature we were subject to God’s anger, just like everyone else. … God saved you by His grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. … For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things He planned for us long ago. … In those days you were living apart from Christ…. You lived in this world without God and without hope. But now you have been united with Christ Jesus. Once you were far away from God, but now you have been brought near to Him through the blood of Christ. For Christ Himself has brought peace to us. …You are members of God’s family.”  

Genesis 34 invites us not to whitewash the tombstone, but know Christ and make Him known, so that resurrection life will arise and true love for God and each other can be extended.

And by the way, when it all comes down to it, only Shechem himself can bear the blame for his perverted and abusive actions.

Something to think about.

Pastor Ross

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Genesis 32:26 – HOW TO HANDLE THE GREATEST CONFLICT OF ALL

Instructions in Diplomatic Integrity – Part 13

God appears in human form. He strikes Jacob, as well as blessing him, so that he limps forever after. Jacob recognises this “man” as one who could bless him, and as God. He holds onto God until the blessing comes. It demands faith. (See Parts 1-12). But I also need to …

  1. REALISE THAT THERE MAY BE BIGGER ISSUES AT STAKE

Love this video as an illustration of a Bigger Picture

Jacob could never have known but the blessing he received reached down through the ages and was realised in its fullness through what Christ accomplished for us on the Cross.

So often we have to wrestle with God before we can face up to our circumstances. Our struggles spiritually determine our struggles naturally. Jacob’s struggle was spiritual and natural. And much bigger issues were at stake.

How is it that God becomes a man and struggles with Jacob? We could equally ask, “How does God become a man in the form of Jesus?” We don’t know specific answers but marvel at the miracle we receive by faith.

When God became a man, in the form of Jesus, He struggled with our sin and won the victory. When God became a man and struggles with Jacob, He allowed Jacob the opportunity to win a blessing while barely able to walk away at all. This was a worship experience like nothing experienced before but Jacob must be wondering, “What now, Lord? How can I meet Esau in this broken state?”

  1. USE YOUR PREPARATION IN MOVING FORWARD

Prepared for the journey.jpg

 

“Then the man said, “Let me go, for the dawn is breaking!” (Genesis 32:26 NLT). Why is this wrestling champion concerned about the sun rising? He’s not afraid to be seen in the light, is He? Hardly. 1 John 1:5 (NLT) says “God is light, and there is no darkness in Him at all.” 

But Jacob refuses to let him go. Does He want to go before the dawn because He wants anonymity? Too late. Jacob knows that He is God and quite capable of releasing Himself from Jacob’s grip. More likely it is something a lot simpler. God wants Jacob to get on with his meeting with Esau. It was important that Jacob meet up with his wives and children and continue on their way to fulfil God’s promises.

Many suggest that since this figure is God Himself, a Theophany, then He wants to use night to veil His appearance to protect Jacob from dying in His presence? Moses had a similar experience.

Moses in Exodus 33:18-23 (NLT) says to God,

“Then show me Your glorious presence.” The Lord replied, “I will make all My goodness pass before you, and I will call out My name, Yahweh, before you. For I will show mercy to anyone I choose, and I will show compassion to anyone I choose. BUT YOU MAY NOT LOOK DIRECTLY AT MY FACE, FOR NO ONE MAY SEE ME AND LIVE.” The Lord continued, “Look, stand near Me on this rock. As My glorious presence passes by, I will hide you in the crevice of the rock and cover you with My hand until I have passed by. Then I will remove My hand and let you see Me from behind. But My face will not be seen.”  

Sometimes our real conflict is not the natural one but the spiritual one that wages war on our souls. Jacob has been wrestling with God. Have you? Are you prepared to keep moving forward with the changes God has made in your life? How can you do this? (Find out by reading Part 14. Coming Soon).

Pastor Ross

Genesis 31:1-21 – EXODUS, GODS AND KINGS

Exodus. © Ross Cochrane using Paint.net, FilterForge and Powerpoint.

Exodus. © Ross Cochrane using Paint.net, FilterForge and Powerpoint.

When my wife, Julie, mentioned to a lady that we have been married for 40 years, she was so amazed and happy for us. She was horrified, however, when she discovered that we had seen “The Exodus” on our Anniversary. She said “Didn’t you find it a bit dark?” It took Julie a while to realise that she was thinking of “the Exorcist”, a very different genre.

I’m old enough to remember the version with Charles Heston as Moses and Yul Brunner as Rameses, so Christian Bale and Joel Edgerton came as quite a surprise when we saw “Exodus, gods and kings.”

Great movie and I liked the twist when God turns up as a child, although as the story progressed it was clear that this was not the God of the Exodus. God is central to the story of the Exodus in the Bible, but this thundercloud child only turns up at odd times throughout Ridley’s story, and like many slighted children he wants to hit back. The difference is that he has unfettered power to back up his cruel outbursts. Is this the Exodus or the Exorcist?

Since no-one but Moses can see him, there is speculation that the boy is probably the result of an hallucination. Did Moses sustain a brain injury when a rock hit him during a landslide on God’s mountain? We are left wondering. Is this really the way Ridley Scott sees followers of Christ?

A shadow of Exodus turns up in Jacob’s flight from Laban.

“I am the God who appeared to you at Bethel, the place where you anointed the pillar of stone and made your vow to me. Now get ready and leave this country and return to the land of your birth’” (Genesis 31:13 NLT).

Jacob has signed the contract, agreed to the value statement, not at the burning bush but at the pillar of stone where he saw a stairway to heaven. He had slept on a stone but just in case you were wondering, was not hit by one coming down the steps (Genesis 28:10-22).

So Jacob puts his wives and children on camels, and he drives all his livestock in front of him. He packs all the belongings he has acquired in Paddan-aram and sets out for the land of Canaan, where his father, Isaac, lives … they set out secretly and never told Laban they were leaving … heading for the hill country of Gilead.” (Genesis 31:16-21 NLT). Laban had no idea. Once again Jacob employs trickery to get out of town. God had told him to go but what was Jacob thinking by not telling Laban?

Jacob gives precedent to his descendant Moses. This journey proves to be the beginning of the great escape, a mini Exodus. He’s on trend, but Jacob, unlike Moses, refuses to go face to face with his Pharaoh. The Exodus will take place big time down the track with millions of people, but here is a model of it, a preview, a taste, the rough sketches of it in the life of Jacob. He is to escape into the Promised Land with a mini Pharaoh hot on his tail (Genesis 15:13-16).

In Jacob’s exodus God doesn’t appear as a precocious child dictating his anger in ugly ways. Instead it is Laban who plays the part of a childish brat who wants revenge for being tricked. In Jacob’s exodus, a loving God bids Jacob to appropriate His promises and come under his protection (Genesis 28:15).

Of course, 1,300 years after the Exodus with Moses, God does become a boy, born in a manger, sent as an initiative of God’s love (Matthew 2:1). Ridley Scott’s boy god is far from the image of Christ and filled with spiteful vengeance. 

In His love God sends a Saviour, who invites us throughout the Bible to respond to Him. The same God who saves a baby in a boat basket of papyrus reeds (Exodus 2:3), sends a baby born in a remote manger to bring salvation to His people (John 3:16). He offers escape from the slavery of a sin ravaged world to find freedom in the promise of forgiveness to those who believe and trust in Christ. 

Pastor Ross

Matthew 17:4-5 – THE RIGHT TO SPEAK AND THE CHOICE TO LISTEN 

Listening Button, by Ross Cochrane

Listening Button, by Ross Cochrane

He is always getting into trouble. He opens his mouth and it ends up being offensive and someone goes away upset or embarrassed. It’s not that he doesn’t think or listen. It’s just that he interprets things through the eyes of impetuosity, chauvinism or even racism. As a follower of Jesus he is maturing but he still has a way to go.

Because he thinks that he has something worthwhile to contribute he blurts out ideas and suggestions and that’s what usually gets him into trouble. I shouldn’t talk. Most of the time I am thinking the same thing, but don’t say anything.

I learn a lot from Peter’s impulsiveness although he embarrasses me and himself in the process. He speaks openly when he should listen. He is insensitive and tactless and later regrets saying anything at all. He is spontaneous but borders on recklessness. It’s not as if he doesn’t know others are listening. Classic foot-in-mouth. Unprompted theatre.

Benjamin Franklin said “Remember not only to say the right thing in the right place, but far more difficult still, to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment.” Peter maybe impetuous but his suggestion in this case is not stupid, just wrong. He may misunderstand the significance of what is happening but he is actively seeking to piece it all together. He will always remember that although he had the right to speak, he also had the choice to listen.

Having little experience of Jewish culture Peter’s suggestion seems odd to me, but apparently far away in Jerusalem there are many at present who are commemorating the Feast of Tabernacles. They build and live in make-shift shelters for a week to remember the Exodus when Moses led the Hebrews from Egypt; camping out in the wilderness before entering the promised land.

Shelters in the Exodus of Moses were necessary because although Israel was free from oppression, they were not free from their sin. They wandered in the wilderness for 40 years before they entered into the promised land because of their disobedience; their mistrust of God’s appointed leaders and their lack of trust in God’s provision. Their make-shift shelters spoke of their sin. 

Peter blurts out, “Lord, it’s wonderful for us to be here! If you want, I’ll make three shelters as memorials—one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah” (Matthew 17:4 NLT). But associating Jesus and these returned saints with Israel’s sin isn’t a good idea. On the contrary, Jesus death will lead people directly into the freedom of forgiveness and the promises of God. Milk, honey and grapes would have been better memorial symbols. 

“But even as Peter spoke, a bright cloud came over them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is My dearly loved Son, who brings Me great joy. Listen to Him” (Matthew 17:5 NLT).

Sometimes my words are the sound of a broken window and unfamiliar footsteps creeping through God’s truth like unwelcome guests. When such words presumptuously seek to break and enter into God’s territory, then He invites me to listen and obey Jesus. I have the right to speak but more importantly the choice to listen to His voice. I can receive the light of forgiveness rather than dwell in the shadows of the make-shift shelters of my sin. I can give voice to my shame and regrets, or choose to listen to the voice of His mercy. Lord, I’m listening. 

Pastor Ross

Matthew 17:2-3 – WHAT IS THE TRANSFIGURATION OF JESUS ABOUT?

Supermoon. Photo image by Ross Cochrane.

Supermoon. Photo image by Ross Cochrane.

Matthew 17:2-3 – WHAT IS THE TRANSFIGURATION OF JESUS ABOUT? 

I struggle to get a number of photographs. Clouds are in the way but the light of the moon is spectacular at this time. A supermoon looks so much bigger and brighter because the moon’s elliptical path brings it closest to Earth. Of course the moon has no light of its own but reflects the light of the sun. It gets me thinking about that mountain miracle where Jesus is transformed into a searchlight of the soul and shines like the sun. Suddenly, Moses and Elijah appear with Jesus and the disciples and they are all bathed in a magnificent array of the visible spectrum, as earth echoes the colours of heaven’s grace. 

The scene is reminiscent of “when Moses came down Mount Sinai carrying the two stone tablets inscribed with the terms of the covenant. He wasn’t aware that his face had become radiant because he had spoken to the Lord” (Exodus 34:29 NLT). It’s a little disconcerting when the acting prophet, priest and king is glowing like a lightbulb; the people were so afraid he had to cover his face with a veil. 

Now, over 1000 years later Moses once again stands in the presence of the Lord on a mountain. Why is it that Moses suddenly appears? Deuteronomy 34:5-6 (NLT) says Moses is dead and gone! “…Moses, the servant of the Lord, died there in the land of Moab, just as the Lord had said. The Lord buried him in a valley near Beth-peor in Moab, but to this day no one knows the exact place.” 

What is going on here? Is he here in spirit form? An animated hologram? A collective dream of the disciples? Does he have a resurrection body designed just for this occasion and if so where does he go after this conversation with Jesus? How did they know it was Moses? Nametag? Was he introduced. Were the disciples cowering in the cleft of some rock like the historical paintings of this scene or did they get to shake hands and say hello to Moses and Elijah? I have so many questions that the book of Matthew leaves unanswered, or is it that God didn’t think that these questions were the main focus? 

I’ve got a feeling the disciples were meant to be in on this conversation with Jesus, Moses and Elijah, not simply witnesses of this miraculous event. They were there as part of the miracle as so often we are meant to be participants in the miracles God works in our lives. 

In whatever form Moses appears, I can’t help thinking there is unfinished business with which Christ is dealing. Jesus is trying to tie up loose ends before He dies. Over a 1000 years ago, before Moses died God spoke to him “This is the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob when I said, ‘I will give it to your descendants.’ I have now allowed you to see it with your own eyes, but you will not enter the land.” (Deuteronomy 34:4 NLT) Was Jesus bringing him in now? Is this meant to be a happy ending for Moses? A postponed blessing, a thousand years hence? 

Elijah also appears. Matthew says “Suddenly, Moses and Elijah appear and begin talking with Jesus (Matthew 17:3 NLT). Luke 9:30-31 (NLT) adds “…They are glorious to see. And they are speaking about His exodus from this world, which is about to be fulfilled in Jerusalem.”  

In 2 Kings 2:11 (NLT) Elijah makes a dramatic exodus from the earth. “…Elijah was carried by a whirlwind into heaven.” It is said that he never experienced death. If so, by the time of the transfiguration Elijah is over 900 years old. Is this meant to be a happy ending for Elijah too? A postponed blessing? Does he finally get to die after this or is he going to turn up again sometime? 

Jesus was gathering up the past with Moses and Elijah, the law and the prophets, before embracing the future with the Cross. Did the law giving and the prophecies about Israel finally all make sense to Moses and Elijah? Did they finally have closure to the story? Moses, who wrote of creation and led God’s people from Egypt in the Exodus, now hears about the salvation Christ would bring to the world through His exodus. Moses who held the law of God meets the Word of God Himself. Elijah the prophet stands in the presence of Him who fulfils all prophecy. 

Peter had already acknowledged that Jesus was the Messiah (Matthew 16:16). The disciples of the New Covenant now see Jesus who ushers in the new covenant in glorious light and He discusses His plans for the future with them all. 1 Peter 1:10-11 (NLT) says “This salvation was something even the prophets wanted to know more about when they prophesied about this gracious salvation prepared for you. They wondered what time or situation the Spirit of Christ within them was talking about when He told them in advance about Christ’s suffering and His great glory afterward.”  

Jesus face shines. This face that shines will soon become bloodied and beaten and eventually plunged into darkness. This sacred head of light will bear a crown of thorns. He will be spit upon and His white garments that ripple with light will soon be stripped off and divided among soldiers who gamble for them. The Word of God that is spoken on this mountain will soon end with the words He cries out on the Cross on Calvary’s mountain, “It is finished!” (John 19:30 NLT). 

The Mount of Transfiguration is the place where the past, present and future are sealed with the presence of God; a beacon on a hill announcing salvation to the world; a lighthouse of testimony and an invitation to us and all generations to place our faith in Christ. 

Pastor Ross

Supermoon. Image by Ross Cochrane using Depthy for 3D

Supermoon. Image by Ross Cochrane using Depthy for 3D

Matthew 17:1 – HOW TO ASCEND THE GREATEST MOUNTAIN OF ALL

How to Climb the Greatest Mountain of All. Image created from Morguefile free photos, Paint.net and ForgeFilter.org

How to Climb the Greatest Mountain of All. Image created from Morguefile free photos, Paint.net and ForgeFilter.org

I was so intrigued by the fact that he had named himself. His father neglected to name him and so in his early teenage years he chose his own name; the name of a mountain. Mt Taraksh means Great One, and in keeping with his name, Taraksh wanted to achieve great things. As well as becoming a great father to his children, Taraksh overcame the stigma of moving away from the caste system of his culture, and became one of an elite group of theoretical scientists during the period of the second world war.

The legacy Taraksh leaves is the legacy of the mountain. Mountains are often symbols of our lives. Mountains inspire us and demand respect, test our strength and expose our weaknesses. We are humbled in the shadow of the immensity of a mountain, and it’s stability and strength inspires us to rise beyond the mundane and to achieve our goals and dreams. As we raise our eyes to the peak of a mountain we are reminded that life’s journey requires perseverance and faith. From it’s heady vantage points we are called to reflection and encouraged to look beyond ourselves.

Mountains call us to sacred acts of contemplation and spiritual challenge; a place where we receive perspective for life; a place to be open to spiritual truth. It is not surprising then that “…Jesus takes Peter and the two brothers, James and John, and leads them up a high mountain to be alone” (Matthew 17:1 NLT). He is here to pray in the quiet hours of the night, and as so often is the case, it is on a mountain where His interaction with God causes a magnificent collision of heaven with earth.

Such a collision had once stirred up a demonic squall on a lake. Frightened disciples saw Him walk on water that night and exercise authority over the natural and spiritual elements to bring calm (Matthew 14:22-33). It was on the side of a mountain such as this where Moses received the call of God when God spoke to him from the middle of a burning bush (Exodus 3:1-4). It was on that same mountain that he received the Law written by the finger of God in stone (Exodus 24:12). It was on a mountain that Elijah challenged the 450 prophets of Baal and called down fire from heaven to consume the offering on their altar (1 Kings 18:19-40). It was on a mountain where Elijah, fleeing from Jezebel, heard the gentle whisper of God that called him to get back in harm’s way and stand up and be counted (1 Kings 19:12).

Prayer and a mountain are a powerful combination. It is after praying on a mountain that Jesus chose His disciples (Luke 6:12). And now on this mountain where Jesus prays with His disciples; a mountain that looked out over Galilee and out towards Calvary’s distant mountain, a transaction takes place that will bring the past, present and future into perspective; a transaction that would need to be examined with wonder and fear by Jesus’ closest disciples (Mark 5:37, Matthew 26:37). 2 Corinthians 13:1 (NLT) says “The facts of every case must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses”. There would be no doubt as to what would transpire here.

What happened on this mountain? You’ll have to wait and see. But for now Jesus is inviting you to come with Him to the mountain to pray and receive forgiveness for the past, sustaining grace for the present and a destiny to fulfil in the future. In fact Jesus is our Rock, our Refuge, our Foundation, our Strength and Stability, the One from whom we gain perspective for our lives, the One who overcomes the obstacles of sin and death, the greatest of all mountains. 

As we kneel before the Cross on Calvary’s mountain, where Jesus died for our sins, we are confronted with the vastness of eternity, and tremble with reverent fear in the presence of God. It is in the great expanse of this mountain refuge; this solid Rock on which we stand, that we hear the gentle whispers of God.

Pastor Ross

Gif using Parallax images

Gif using Parallax images