For the Sake of Your Name Lead Me and Guide Me

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EZRA 8:21-9:15 | 1 CORINTHIANS 5:1-13 | PSALM 31:1-8 | PROVERBS 21:1-2

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Ezra continues his account in the first person of making the long journey back to Jerusalem, and there is a detailed account of the gold and silver that he carries back and entrusts to the priests for use in the Temple.  Furthermore, there is the account of a grand celebration within the Temple, most likely a reference to the observance of Passover.

The next chapter is devoted to Ezra’s great prayer and lament concerning the intermarriage of the Jewish people with the many natives.  It seems like Ezra is making too much of a big deal of this, but that is how the Jewish people were expected to practice their faith in that day.  It was the old covenant that God had made with Moses that included the stipulation that intermarriage was prohibited. 

All this will soon change, as we well know.  Another devout Jew by the name of Paul will come along in the next six hundred years or so, and will point to another Jew by the name of Jesus who defied every possible commandment of the old covenant, and it this Jew’s doings that Paul will reference in advocating that a separation between Jew and non-Jew was no longer necessary.

And speaking of Paul, we turn now to our reading in I Corinthians, and find Paul offering some very specific advice to the early Christians in Corinth:  get your house in order, he is saying, i.e., the church being the house.  While Paul is not advocating judging anyone outside the church for deviant behaviors, he is quite clear about judging and uprooting those within the church who are engaged in such behaviors. 

Paul does not mince words in identifying these behaviors, and in instructing them to take the necessary action.  He says, 6 Don’t you know that a little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough? 7 Get rid of the old yeast, so that you may be a new unleavened batch—as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. 8 Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old bread leavened with malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. 

And in case this was still not sufficiently clear, he goes on to say this:  12 What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? 13 God will judge those outside. “Expel the wicked person from among you.”

Turning now to our reading in the psalms, we find David, the psalmist, crying out to God for help.  There is a total and utter trust in God’s provision and deliverance.  David says,

3 Since you are my rock and my fortress,
for the sake of your name lead and guide me.
4 Keep me free from the trap that is set for me,
for you are my refuge.
5 Into your hands I commit my spirit;
deliver me, LORD, my faithful God.

Finally, a verse from the book of Proverbs in which Solomon, the wise king of Israel, offers some food for thought:

2 A person may think their own ways are right,
   but the LORD weighs the heart.

May God bless the reading and reflection of His Word.

5 thoughts on “For the Sake of Your Name Lead Me and Guide Me

  1. This passage in I Corinthians seems unprecedented in the Christian scriptures (at least what we’ve been reading in your devotional so far): Paul is telling the people to expel a person from their midst because that person’s actions are so contrary to what is acceptable within the community. Is this the first time we’ve seen this? There is no call to conversion for the person, no focus on the person’s faith or belief. So if anyone watching the early Christian movement and Paul’s emphasis on faith not works was wondering if this was a free-for-all, that one could do anything as long as one had faith in Jesus, Paul would be answering their questions right here: behavior does matter.

  2. I think Paul’s position is one that must be viewed in the context of the early church where at least in Corinth, the believers were being influenced by several preachers such as Apollos, Barnabas, and Paul himself, and the people being preached to were non-Jewish people, Greeks mostly, who were bringing along with them their old pagan beliefs, customs, traditions. There was evidently a tendency to stretch this newly preached concept of grace in faith in Jesus Christ to such a degree that even an act of incest within the church was not only being tolerated but perhaps even being celebrated. All in the name of grace?

    And Paul says to them, look, I’m not saying you ought to judge those who are outside the church, but for those who are within the church, let it be known that sexual immorality must not be condoned; if anything it must be criticized openly, and the person must be asked to leave physically. Is this what is called excommunication in the Catholic tradition? His words, “…5 hand this man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord.”

    Earlier he has asked the question already: shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? No! That would be mocking grace. Grace becomes a cheap, invaluable thing, perhaps not so different from the many other concepts of Greek life. It might be fine in your old traditions, you see, but sleeping with one’s mother or mother-in-law is just not what a Christ-follower does. And since you seem to be actively influencing the rest of the group, you are like a yeast that is fast-spreading and contaminating the whole body of believers. So, in case you can’t stop your despicable behavior, you must go. And God will deal with your spirit, that is not for us to judge anyway.

    There is mercy and forgiveness for every person and for every despicable behavior, including one like this. That IS the beauty of the work accomplished by Christ on the cross. Even the dying thief on the cross next to Jesus received pardon. But that is given to those who ask for it, and it is given only by God, not man. For the immediate time being, if a supposed Christ-follower is committing such egregious acts so as to negatively influence the whole church and become a stumbling-block to those outside the church – who may be looking in from the outside and wondering how if anything is different with this group of people – then, it is best to part company. Is that sufficiently clear, is what Paul seems to be saying. 🙂

    Thank you again, for your thoughtful responses, as always. God bless you.

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