If you’re as old as me, and let’s face it most of us are, you may remember the Christian singer/ songwriter Keith Green. The above is title track from his album released in 1980. It’s a song based on the moaning of the Tribes of Israel whilst in the desert wilderness. They had rebelled against God, the God that had delivered them from captivity and slavery and brought them out of the land of Egypt. They wanted to return to their old life in bondage once again. In their rebellion they were to wander for 40 years, whilst that faithless generation perished and the next one grew up and were able to enter the land that God had promised then in Covenant.
A survey this week, that hit the headlines, stated that only six percent of us want to return to pre-pandemic times. The survey questioned religious and political leaders and concluded that the only way to make an economic comeback is for it to be stronger, fairer and greener. A politician stated that recovery “must be built on solid foundations. It has to work for the whole country and end the deep injustices across the country.”
Our world is currently being shaken, its systems and structures are coming under scrutiny, with its very foundations and values being questioned and examined. Likewise, as a church body and as individuals, this time has caused us to examine our foundations.
Do you love Justice? This might seem like a strange question, especially at the moment. Over the last few months we have been held in lockdown by our Government, for the good of the Nation and for the sake of each other. We are conscious of our lack mobility and the loss of liberties that hinder our ability to fellowship together.
We are beginning to study the book of Deuteronomy on Wednesday evenings. We read how Moses instructs a new generation, of the Tribes of Israel, on how they are to live and behave. He tells them the what, why and how they are to worship, and accordingly, make God’s kingdoms known to the nations that surround them. They are to be God’s people, living examples, displaying God’s ways. Showing the nations how his Kingdom is to work. A key theme throughout Deuteronomy is God’s love of justice.
Knowing that God himself will act justly is a great encouragement to the Christian. That those who have pursued injustice and seemingly gotten away with it, will, one day, be brought for righteous judgement. No one will get away with anything. There will be justice and this will be administered by a righteous God.
Jesus’ earthly ministry is marked out by incidences of not only compassion but also highlighting the call for justice. The world likes deeds of love, and compassion, whereas demands for justice can incur its anger and is potentially dangerous, as one commentator notes that;
Compassion, no matter how immediately necessary or profoundly human, cannot substitute for justice, for the right of all to equal dignity and integrity of life. Those who live by compassion are often canonized. Those who live by justice are often crucified.
Compassion and love automatically springs to mind when we think of the Churches mission; but we too are called to follow after justice, indeed the prophet Amos reminds us in 5:24 “But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.”
When we love God, we love his ways. We love what he loves and hate what he hates. When we love others, we share God’s heart with the world and speak to those individuals, systems
and strongholds that oppose his will and his ways. In loving God and loving others, it is not just about love and compassion it also involves the active pursuit of justice. This will cause us to run against the grain of this world. It may well be uncomfortable and perilous and lead to suffering. But it will be rewarding and God-honouring. Anything we face will be temporary as we are merely “passing through” as sojourners and exiles, bound for an eternal hope as we are reminded in 1 Peter 5:10 “And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore confirm, strengthen, and establish you.”
We are blessed with faithful gospel proclamation over the wonders of modern technology. It even reaches Invergordon! But this gospel has also been presented by acts of kindness and engagement with those outside of the four walls of our church and of our homes. It’s gospel proclamation and gospel perspiration, it works, it does something, it’s the mark of a living faith; a faith that has a heartbeat.
What we may have held as important once, before the pandemic, has now moved further down our priority lists. It is, I hope, the desire to see an increase in the Kingdom of God, with the Word of God faithfully proclaimed and affirmed by the Holy Spirit. That builds his Church, the Bride of Christ. This uses us as individuals and as a community. It moulds us into his family throughout this nation and the world.
We need to examine ourselves both individually and collectively with what is now important. We need to ask what needs to remain in Egypt? Because we’re not going back! What of our ideas and plans need to be allowed perish in the wilderness of the pandemic? Those things that won’t help us as we enter the promised land of a post-lockdown world. Do some traditions and activities need to be laid down and other giftings and callings acted upon? I pray that we will see the fruit of this time
and we will know those things that will last and endure and have eternal, Kingdom significance.
As we ask these things we too need to remind ourselves that we are a “chosen race a royal priesthood a holy nation a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.”(1 Peter 2:9). As we have seen in our studies in 1 Peter God can use all of us. Peter’s testimony illustrates to us on how his life, and our lives, were, and can be transformed by knowing, trusting and following Jesus, being filled with God’s Spirit that will enable us to live, really live! Peter’s heart is changed and renewed, and so is ours. It won’t make us immune against mistakes and failures but provides us with immediate access to the Throne of Grace where we can confess our sins.
When we are together again as a community, we will weep with those that weep and rejoice with those that rejoice. We will mourn those we have lost and welcome with glad heart those that will join us in the journey.
Our focus and hope are founded in the Gospel message that we proclaim. Displayed in the lives of each other. As we endeavour to love God and love others, we will find our own hearts changed. Justice will be important to us as it is to God. We, as a people, do not want to go back to Egypt. We want to enter into the promised land with all that that may entail. This will involve proclamation and perspiration, as our faith is lived out in front of each other and outwards towards those placed around us that are desperate for some Good News. I hope we are expectant as to what the Lord will do through us all. Like the children of Israel on the brink of going into their land of promise. Knowing God is for them and faithful to his promise.
I used to sing an old chorus (don’t look at YouTube their versions are pretty poor!) that went;
The Lord has given a land of good things, I will press in and make them mine. I’ll know His power, I’ll know His glory, And in His kingdom I will shine.1 I pray that we will Love God, Love Others and Save Lives.