A New Creation

I remember standing in that hospital room, overwhelmed by the frail beauty of this baby girl in my arms. Never in my life had I laid eyes on anything so precious, so helpless and yet so magnificent. A new creation, entrusted to us to love, cherish, and raise. In some ways, I felt as helpless as my baby girl in that moment.

Though we may not believe it now, we all were that small once. We all were entrusted to the care of people who hopefully set out to raise us in love. And in spite of the love showered on us, none of us have lived our lives perfectly the way our Creator designed us to live. Romans 3:23 puts it this way:

“All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” NASB

Society offers a number of interesting answers to address the source of this sinful behavior. Psychology might point to our upbringing as the source of our brokenness; other sciences might alert us to the genetic foundations that prompt our decisions. Myriads of theories exist to explain who we are and why we do the things we do. As I think back to the hospital room and that helpless baby, though, the question rises up within me: when my little girl is all grown up, what will she point to as the source of her identity?

In 2 Corinthians 5:17, Paul says the following:

“Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” 2 Corinthians 5:17 NASB

Paul doesn’t seem to shy away from radical statements. Oftentimes, his words are so shocking that I have a hard time believing them. Here are those words, though, as plain as day:

“If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature…”

This is nothing short of radical. According to Paul, our past does not define us. Our parents and our upbringing do not define us. Yesterday’s sins, today’s fears, and tomorrows failures do not define us. Christ defines us. This is such a straight-forward truth that I have a hard time believing it. Paul would not have penned those words if he had known what I am capable of. He would have written a psychologically charged treatise if he had known my past when he wrote that!

And yet those words echo again:

“…the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.”

Somehow, I have a feeling that this goes much deeper than I realize. This is more than just a fancy theological statement that doesn’t touch the core of who I am or what I do.As I reach back to my past and define patterns and identify psychological sources, Paul points to Christ. I point to my peers, parents and pastors as the source of this kaleidoscope that is my identity; Paul points to Christ.

In the midst of the chaos of this internal identity crisis, I hear a voice calling:

“Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”

My response is almost immediate: “Me?!? But Lord…do you know who I am? Sure, I was a new creation. But I’ve messed that up, haven’t I? My identity is not at all in you! How could you want me to follow you?” 

I fiercely argue with and fight with the truth that resonates throughout the New Testament, namely that the very core of who I am is found in Christ. When all is said and done, however, this fight does not diminish the truth that continues to prevail. I am defined by the love of Christ, the grace of Christ, the victory of Christ, the truth that He has paid for all my sins, nailed them to the cross, and overcome sin itself in my stead.

I think it is high time I stop defining Christ and let Christ define me.

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No Ordinary Man

Most people will agree that no single person has had more impact on history than Jesus of Nazareth. What few of those people will agree on is who Jesus actually was. The Gospels present a very distinct perspective that takes the question of Jesus’ identity out of the theoretical realm and makes it intensely personal. Whatever one may think of Jesus, He cannot be ignored.

From the very beginning of the New Testament, the Bible makes it clear that Jesus is no ordinary human being. In Matthew 1, the angel Gabriel outlines Jesus’ unique mission:

21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

How stunned Joseph must have been to hear these words from the angel! To know that the baby in Mary’s womb was destined for such greatness must have filled him with awe. As we see the Gospels unfold, we find how extraordinary Jesus really is and discover that He truly is no ordinary man.

One of the first things I notice as I read through the Gospels is that Jesus is actually worshipped – and that He lets Himself be worshipped. Fast forward to Matthew 14 and we find Jesus and His disciples caught in a fierce storm. After Jesus calms the storm, the disciples are astonished:

33 And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

Reading this passage raises some serious questions. Any serious student of the Bible must ask himself who Jesus is that He would let others worship Him. After all, the Law of Moses is fairly clear on the issue. Look at Exodus 34:

14 (for you shall worship no other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God)

Since the Law indicates that God alone should be worshiped, what do we do with all those times in the New Testament that others worship Him? The wise men in Matthew 2, the leper in Matthew 8, Jairus in Matthew 9, the blind man in John 9, and His disciples in Luke 24 – they all worshipped Jesus and Jesus did not stop them from doing so. The significance of this must not be underestimated; C.S. Lewis expressed his thoughts on this much better than I ever could:

“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.’ That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.” -Mere Christianity-

I marvel when I think about the historical context of what is happening here. For centuries, the people of Israel have waited and longer for their Messiah. Throughout the Old Testament, we see the signs that point us forward to Jesus. And then, after a deafening prophetic silence of hundreds of years, a baby is born in Bethlehem whom Gabriel describes as the one who will save His people from their sins. Who is this baby for whom angels appear to shepherd, for whom a star appears in the sky? Who is this man that compels men and women to fall down before him and worship him? We must come to terms with the fact that Jesus is more than miracle worker or a great teacher. His very identity compels us join the wise men, the leper, the disciples, and Jairus, and fall down and worship Him as Lord and God. What will you do with that call – will you worship Him or call Him a lunatic?

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A True Prophet

What marks a true prophet? As I read through the second half of the Old Testament, this question looms larger and larger in my mind. Whether it be Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Amos, Obadiah, or one of the other prophets with a book named after them, their prophecies are all dominated by a message of destruction, punishment, and a revelation of sin. This should not surprise me, since I’ve known and read these books before, and yet it does. Perhaps it is because I have been conditioned to believe that prophets generally bring flowery, positive messages that encourage and build up the hearer. But what if this is not the case? What if the Biblical picture of a true prophet is entirely different?

Two Scriptures in particular alerted me and sparked this crucial question in my mind. Take a look at these words from the mouth of Jesus Himself:

Matthew 5:11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Luke 6:26 “Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets.”

Fascinatingly enough, Jesus associates true prophets with persecution and false prophets with lack of persecution. These verses give me the distinct impression that being a prophet is not a popular job. Looking at the prophets of the Old Testament, Jesus’ statement certainly seems to ring true. Time and time again, we see stories of prophets who proclaim unpopular messages to people who are in dire need of hearing them. On several occasions, Jeremiah speaks of false prophets who declare peace when there is no peace. When summoned by King Asa and King Jehoshaphat, Micah was the only prophet who spoke the truth concerning a looming defeat in the face of a host of false prophets proclaiming peace and victory and prosperity. The entire Old Testament testifies to the truth of Jesus words – true prophets are typically not popular people.

Has there been a change after the cross, then? Should we disregard the tone of Micah, Amos, and Obadiah because we are partakers of a new covenant and now under grace? I see no evidence in the New Testament that points in this direction. Jesus Himself was a prophet who preached a message that centered around repentance. Agabus in Acts 14:14 did not have much of flowery message either, and I cannot say that the Revelation of Jesus Christ to John is a particularly flowery one either. As far as I can tell, being a prophet in both the Old and the New Testament means speaking an unpopular message and facing persecution.

All of these thoughts overwhelm me as I bring this conclusion into our day and age. How many men are not announced as prophets, men who speak personal words over people that provide hope, encouragement, and a positive vision for the future? How can I reconcile such a perception of a prophet with what I see in the Bible? I proceed with caution for saying more than the Bible allows for. After all, Isaiah provides a whole section of hopeful words from the Lord and Micah declares some pretty positive truths. If prophecy today is to be Biblical, however, I do not see how such hopeful, nice messages can be the dominating sound in the realm of prophecy.

Most prophecy speaks forth the truth of God to bring people to repentance; any true prophet will have that kind of message at the forefront. No, being a true prophet is not a popular job – anybody aspiring to such a job should be ready for some serious persecution. From a Biblical point of view, I can come to no other conclusion.

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The Beauty of Gloomy Prophecy

Jeremiah and Ezekiel are fairly gloomy books that deal by and large with the wickedness of Israel, Judah, and the surrounding peoples. Prophecy after prophecy rails against the sins of God’s people and His impending judgments, potentially leaving the casual reader wondering whether God has now become a vengeful, angry God who is out to destruct and destroy. One particular verse in Ezekiel 33, however, sheds an entirely different light on these apparent prophecies of doom:

11 Say to them, As I live, declares the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways, for why will you die, O house of Israel?

God has no pleasure in the death of the wicked. Wait a minute. Is God seriously saying that all those prophecies of destruction, gloom, and peril are actually expressions of His heart of love for the wicked? What a different perspective on the prophecies of the Old Testament! I have heard countless times that the God of the Israelites is a harsh and vengeful God. But His heart is not bent on destruction at all – it is bent on salvation. His desire for repentance and salvation drive His messages to the people of Israel and the surrounding nations. He longs for even the most wicked of men and women to turn back from their evil ways and be saved. And how else can people turn back unless they are confronted with their deeds and the consequences of those deeds if they do not repent from them?

A message that reveals sin and calls to repentance is often seen as the antithesis of a message that expresses the grace and love of God for mankind. God’s call through Ezekiel here sheds an entirely different light, however, on that perspective. Throughout the Old Testament, God sends prophet after prophet to call the people of Israel back to Him, to see them change their hearts and their ways, to be reconciled with them. Ezekiel reveals to us that rather than being the antithesis of love and grace, the revelation of sin, its consequences, and the call to repentance are an integral part of God’s plan of love and salvation. God wants to let people know the consequences of their deeds not because He is harsh and vengeful but because He is loving and patient and compassionate! God’s call to repentance is really a call to love.

This pattern is not limited to the bookof Ezekiel alone. At the very birth of the Church, we see the same cry for repentance emerging:

36 Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” 37 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

After what some call ‘Peter’s first sermon,’ the people are cut to the heart. Peter boldly proclaims the truth of Christ crucified and points out that it was the people of Israel themselves that crucified them. The response was tremendous: people were cut to the heart and were asking Peter what they needed to do to be saved. The first word out of his mouth says it all: Repent. The very Church of the Living God was birthed upon the foundation of revelation of sin, repentance, and faith in God.

Matthew 4 confirms the same thing again, but this time from Jesus Christ Himself:

17 From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

The central message that Jesus Himself started his ministry with was unquestionably clear: Repent. The thread of the prophets runs past Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel through the entire Old and New Testament, reminding us that God does not take pleasure in the death of the wicked. Calling out sin and calling people to repentance need not be a vengeful, legalistic endeavour. No, it is a loving call from the heart of God to see people turn from their wicked ways to serve the Living God in truth and righteousness. The ministry of prophets such as Jeremiah and Ezekiel lives on through Jesus Himself, Peter, Paul, and people like you and me.

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A New Covenant?

The history of redemption is arguably the most beautiful story ever told. From the Garden of Eden to the final words of the book of Revelation, the Bible takes us on a captivating adventure of love, disappointment, hate, sin, and ultimately salvation. One of the deepest valleys of that journey is captured in the life and ministry of Jeremiah, who witnessed the destruction of Jerusalem and the exile of his people. In the middle of this most tragic chapter in the history of Israel, however, a glimmer of light and hope begins to appear as Jeremiah introduces something the people of Israel and Judah had not heard of before: a ‘new covenant’.

In an otherwise quite gloomy book, this phrase in Jeremiah 31 presents a hope to the people of Israel that they had previously not dared to dream of:

31 “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, 32 not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the Lord. 33 But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”

The calamity that Jeremiah prophesied about during his life was the direct result of the Israelites’ disobedience. They had transgressed the covenant God gave them through Moses so often that God was finally sending them away with a certificate of divorce. But at the lowest point of Israel’s history, God suddenly gives a tremendous promise with unprecedented repercussions. The book of Hebrews sheds a unique light on this ‘new covenant’ promise as it quotes this passage in Jeremiah:

6 But as it is, Christ has obtained a ministry that is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises. 7 For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion to look for a second.

Apparently, this new covenant offers better promises than the old covenant. This is where the majestic beauty of God’s great redemptive plan begins to unfold: the old covenant offered promises based on performance and keeping of Moses’ Law; the new covenant offers promises based on undeserved and unearned grace. Jeremiah shows us that whereas the old covenant gave us external laws we had to internalize, the new covenant writes those law on our hearts, so we can then externalize them and work them out. No more does man have to work in endless frustration to meet God’s standard! Now God has written that standard on our hearts so that we will love and serve God from the inside out rather than the outside in! What amazing grace!

Jesus makes it abundantly clear in the Gospels that it is, in fact, His blood that enacts this new covenant – it is through the shed blood of Jesus the Passover Lamb that we enter into the new covenant. The contrast between the old and the new could not be greater. Just look at what Paul has to say about this subject:

7 Now if the ministry of death, carved in letters on stone, came with such glory that the Israelites could not gaze at Moses’ face because of its glory, which was being brought to an end, 8 will not the ministry of the Spirit have even more glory? 9 For if there was glory in the ministry of condemnation, the ministry of righteousness must far exceed it in glory. 10 Indeed, in this case, what once had glory has come to have no glory at all, because of the glory that surpasses it. 11 For if what was being brought to an end came with glory, much more will what is permanent have glory.

The language Paul uses is fairly strong; he goes so far as to call the old covenant the ‘ministry of death’! The letter of the old covenant could only show us where we fell short and thus ultimately only produce death. An all-important truth is revealed here: letter and law that is imposed from the outside will never produce true life or true, lasting glory. But this new ministry, this new covenant is a ministry of righteousness and a covenant of true glory. Whereas the glory of Moses’ face faded with time, we have been endowed with and made partakers of an eternal glory! The glory we have in Christ will not fade, the righteousness we have been clothed with is unlimited, and God’s Law has been forever engrained upon our hearts!

The fullness of the magnificence of God’s redemptive plan was not yet known when Jeremiah penned those prophetic words in chapter 31, but they certainly did give the depairing Judeans a glimpse of a glorious future – a future of a new covenant, of the law written on the hearts of people. And now, centuries later, we have become the fulfillment of that prophecy. As Paul says in 2 Corinthians 3, we are now the letter that testifies of Christ and His glory – not written with ink or by the power of man but written with the Spirit of God by the blood of Christ:

3 And you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.

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High Treason Against God

Jeremiah is often called ‘the weeping prophet’ – and with good reason. No Old Testament book captures the jealous heart of God for His people as vividly as Jeremiah does. Having started his ministry during the reign of Josiah, who was one of the most righteous kings Judah had ever known, he proclaimed in no uncertain terms that God is looking for more than outward show – He is looking for the heart.

I must confess that I’ve always liked the Southern Kingdom of Judah more than the Northern Kingdom of Israel. While Israel structurally abandoned God, Judah had righteous kings like Hezekiah, Asa, and Josiah to show their people the way back to God. As I read Jeremiah, however, this perception begins to slowly unravel as the judgements of God surprisingly declare that Israel has been more righteous than Judah. Look at what God says in Jeremiah 3:

6 Then the LORD said to me in the days of Josiah the king, “Have you seen what faithless Israel did? She went up on every high hill and under every green tree, and she was a harlot there. 7 I thought, ‘After she has done all these things she will return to Me’; but she did not return, and her treacherous sister Judah saw it. 8 And I saw that for all the adulteries of faithless Israel, I had sent her away and given her a writ of divorce, yet her treacherous sister Judah did not fear; but she went and was a harlot also. 9 Because of the lightness of her harlotry, she polluted the land and committed adultery with stones and trees. 10 Yet in spite of all this her treacherous sister Judah did not return to Me with all her heart, but rather in deception,” declares the LORD. 11 And the LORD said to me, “Faithless Israel has proved herself more righteous than treacherous Judah.”

As I read this, I cannot hide my surprise. Wasn’t Israel the one that went after foreign gods and worshiped Jeroboam’s golden calfs? Didn’t Judah turn back to God multiple times under the leadership of righteous kings? I can recall a number of times that the people of Judah renewed their covenant with the Lord. Through Jeremiah, however, God makes it clear that faithlessness is better than treachery. The people of Judah may have professed to turn back to God, but Jeremiah indicates that it was only in pretense. Their service to God was one of falsehood and make-believe, their love of God no deeper than hollow words and pretending.

How widespread this attitude was in Judah can be seen throughout the writings of Jeremiah. The fact that God resided in the Temple in Jerusalem apparently gave the Judeans the feeling that nothing could touch or hurt them. God resided in Jerusalem and they were God’s chosen people; how could God ever let anything happen to them? What they failed to see is made evident in chapter 7, where Jeremiah stands in the gate of the Lord’s house to prophesy:

2 “Stand in the gate of the Lord’s house, and proclaim there this word, and say, Hear the word of the Lord, all you men of Judah who enter these gates to worship the Lord. 3 Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Amend your ways and your deeds, and I will let you dwell in this place. 4 Do not trust in these deceptive words: ‘This is the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord.’

Being the people of the Lord and coming into the Temple to worship God was obviously not sufficient in the eyes of the Lord. What God was looking for was not lip-service but truth and righteousness. Again, my mind goes back to that stunning declaration in Jeremiah 3:

“Faithless Israel has proved herself more righteous than treacherous Judah.”

God prefers honest faithlessness over feigned dedication. God would prefer it if I never prayed, never sang another worship song, and not called myself a believer if I am not living a life worthy of the Name of Jesus Christ. No amount of service to God is worth anything if I do not live my life surrendered to the will and purposes of God. I cannot point to my service in the Temple if the rest of my life doesn’t line up with God’s standards. The requirement of holiness has not changed from the old to the new covenant; only the means of acquiring that holiness has changed.

As I sit here pondering the contrast of faithlessness and treachery, I realize that I often don’t perceive treachery as actual treachery. I would rather provide excuses and reasons for sin such as ‘growth’ or ‘human nature’ than actual call habitual sin ‘treachery’. Be that as it may, direct disobedience to God is still just that: treachery, a willful betrayal of God under a pretense of loyalty. And while grace does cover a multitude of sins, you and I must be extremely careful that we do not take that grace for granted. Jeremiah and the history of Judah leave no question that willful betrayal of God under a pretense of loyalty leaves us with no protection, nothing to fall back on, and is worse than not serving God at all.

That is a hard and difficult reality, but a reality it is; serving and obeying God is not something to be taken lightly. May we be a people that live in truth, loyalty, righteousness, and holiness through the grace of Jesus Christ – as true children of the King.

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All Outcasts Welcome – Isaiah’s Revolution

“My house shall be called a house of prayer.” Many of us are familiar with these words that Jesus spoke when He cleansed the temple. I cherish these words because they remind me that God’s temple is not a house of praise or of preaching but primarily a house of prayer. Sermons have been preached frequently on this subject and this verse, but never have I heard a preacher speak on the actual Old Testament verses that originated Jesus’ passionate proclamation. As Jesus was driving out the moneychangers, He actually quoted Isaiah 56:

3  Let not the foreigner who has joined himself to the Lord say,
“The Lord will surely separate me from his people”;
and let not the eunuch say,
“Behold, I am a dry tree.”
4  For thus says the Lord:
“To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths,
who choose the things that please me
and hold fast my covenant,
5  I will give in my house and within my walls
a monument and a name
better than sons and daughters;
I will give them an everlasting name
that shall not be cut off.

6  “And the foreigners who join themselves to the Lord,
to minister to him, to love the name of the Lord,
and to be his servants,
everyone who keeps the Sabbath and does not profane it,
and holds fast my covenant—
7  these I will bring to my holy mountain,
and make them joyful in my house of prayer;
their burnt offerings and their sacrifices
will be accepted on my altar;
for my house shall be called a house of prayer
for all peoples.”
8  The Lord God,
who gathers the outcasts of Israel, declares,
“I will gather yet others to him
besides those already gathered.”

This passage presents one of the most radical concepts of the Old Testament: my house shall be a house of prayer for all peoples. Notice that the emphasis is not that God’s house shall be a house of prayer; the emphasis is that it shall be a house of prayer for all peoples. In the context of this passage, Isaiah indicates that this includes the foreigner and the eunuchs. To understand how revolutionary these words are, we must go back to Leviticus 21:

18 For no one who has a blemish shall draw near, a man blind or lame, or one who has a mutilated face or a limb too long, 19 or a man who has an injured foot or an injured hand, 20 or a hunchback or a dwarf or a man with a defect in his sight or an itching disease or scabs or crushed testicles. 21 No man of the offspring of Aaron the priest who has a blemish shall come near to offer the Lord’s food offerings; since he has a blemish, he shall not come near to offer the bread of his God.

Because of the holiness of God, the Law did not allow those with physical defects to come into the Presence of God. This means that eunuchs were doomed to not be allowed to draw near to the Almighty God, forever unable to experience intimacy with the Maker of heaven and earth. But then comes Isaiah, who proclaims that the house of God shall be a house of prayer for all people, including foreigners, eunuchs, and anybody else that was previously excluded! The significance of this must not be missed – Isaiah is flying in the face of the very thing the Holy Law of God has declared! How revolutionary! Even in this Old Testament book, we see a glimpse of a new covenant that radically alters how God interacts with mankind. Instead of exclusion we find inclusion and grace extended to those previously considered unfortunate, despised, and rejected.

As I marvel at the Biblical significance of what God is saying through Isaiah, I realize that this verse does not stand alone. Did not Samuel proclaim to Saul that God does not delight in sacrifice but in obedience? Does not David say in the Psalms that doing the will of God is greater than any amount of offerings? Those who hold fast God’s covenant are accepted by Him – whether they are Greek, Hebrew, blind, lame, or even a eunuch. Isaiah even proclaims that foreigners that obey God and keep His covenant will have a better name than sons and daughters. How stunning those thoughts must have sounded to Hebrew ears! And what a beautiful thought for us who were once far away and unable to draw near to God but can now enter into His Presence through the blood of Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God.

While this passage does not stand alone, it does present an entirely new thought that introduces us to the New Testament reality concerning the people of God: your race or place of birth does not qualify you to be accepted in God’s Presence. It doesn’t matter whether you are rich or poor, white or black, married or unmarried, Hebrew or non-Hebrew; none of those things give you any preference with God. What matters to God is reiterated so magnificently by Isaiah in this chapter:

6  “And the foreigners who join themselves to the Lord,
to minister to him, to love the name of the Lord,
and to be his servants,
everyone who keeps the Sabbath and does not profane it,
and holds fast my covenant—

God cares about people who join themselves to God to minister to Him, people who love His Name, who want to be His servants and keep His covenant – that is what God cares about. His house was never meant to be a house of exclusion for only Hebrews. His house is not only for the gifted, the eloquent, the successful, the rich, the secure, the pleasant, the saved, or the unmarred. His house is a house for the wounded, the marred, the struggling, the lonely, the excluded and rejected, those society regards as unlovable and those who do not ‘fit in’ – a house for the foreigners and eunuchs.

This radical gospel is difficult to comprehend, much less implement. We prefer our house clean, tidy, filled with like-minded people and those who understand. The Temple was not made, however, for only those the Law considers clean, pure, and accepted by God. The Temple was created for all who will come, join themselves to God, minister to Him, love His Name, and serve Him. May the temples of our hearts, our families, our theologies, and our churches reflect that glorious, revolutionary truth: My house shall be a house of prayer – for all peoples.

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