Saturday, November 19, 2016

With God in Spirit

Today's reflection on the Daily Texts:

When they say to you, "Consult the mediums and the spiritists," should not a people consult their God? - Isaiah 8:19 (NASB)

Whoever is united with the Lord is one with him in spirit. - 1 Corinthians 6:17 (NIV)

Two-year reading texts: Psalm 130; 1 Kings 12:25-13:22; John 16:17-33

Today is another day where the theme that stands out for me is the call to trust and focus on God alone. In Psalm 130, it's God who hears and redeems, and the people are called to wait for God, and hope in God and God's word. A good Advent connection!

In 1 Kings 13, we have the story of a prophet sent to proclaim against Jeroboam's altar. The prophet was deceived and convinced to disobey God, which led to his death. A memorable reminder to stick to God, and make sure every word comes from God.

In John 16, Jesus speaks again (for the 5th, 6th, and 7th times in this night of his betrayal and arrest) about "asking in his name," giving an invitation to stay connected to God's will through him. His final word to his disciples, before beginning his long prayer of chapter 17, is again about peace: "I have said this to you, so that in me you may have peace. In the world you face persecution. But take courage; I have conquered the world!" An assurance that Jesus' power is greater than any threats or temptations.

1 Corinthians 6 is another conversation about choosing God and not worldly priorities. Along with today's verse about being united to God in one spirit, Paul writes that "All things are lawful ... but not all things are beneficial," and "I will not be dominated by anything." Food, sex, whatever the world offers, is to be secondary to being united with God. "Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God ... You are not your own ... You were bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body." A vivid illustration of the blessings of God's guidance in the Spirit.

But of all these rich passages, the one that resonates most with me today is Isaiah 8. I noticed that verse 19 as listed in the Daily Texts is translated very differently in NRSV: 
Now if people say to you, "Consult the ghosts and the familiar spirits that chirp and mutter; should not a people consult their gods, the dead on behalf of the living, for teaching and for instruction?" Surely, those who speak like this will have no dawn!
The whole section is a criticism of the unfaithfulness of God's people. This difference made me go back and review what came before, and I kept finding passages that were later interpreted as prophecies about Jesus or the fulfillment of his kingdom: Isaiah 2:2-4, 4:2-6, 7:14-16, 9:2-7, 11:1-10, 12:1-6, and more. Some of these are very well known! Two sections struck me as key to understanding God's call to faith and trust:
If you do not stand firm in faith, you shall not stand at all. - Isaiah 7:9
Do not call conspiracy all that this people calls conspiracy, and do not fear what it fears, or be in dread. But the LORD of hosts, him you shall regard as holy; let him be your fear, and let him be your dread. He will become a sanctuary, a stone one strikes against... - Isaiah 8:12-14
Sorry to say, my heart is still coming to grips with the results of the presidential election and its aftermath of animosity. But over the last week and a half, I know God's Spirit is working on me for redirecting and refocusing. There are a lot of questions about how things will play out in our federal government, and what effect there will be on people I know and love and serve and live near and pray for. I don't know exactly how I'll be moved to respond or speak or act. But it's clear where my priorities need to be. I need to be proclaiming Christ, not anything political or personal. My words and deeds need to be less about parties or heroes or villains than about God and God's ways. My heart needs to be filled by the Spirit with love of God and love of neighbor. My aim should always be toward God.

I'm grateful today for a gentle but strong nudge from all five of today's texts. I'm not sure I could be very proactive and effective at "consulting God," but God graciously speaks through the scriptures.

Lord God, I pray - in Jesus' name - for myself and for all believers, that our eyes and hearts will be first set on you; that we will wait for your action and hope in your word; that we and the world may have your peace; that your spirit may keep us united with you and one another; that our faith in you will keep us standing; that everything we do and say will be rooted in your holiness and righteousness.

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