Thursday, April 11, 2013

The Riches of God's Glorious Inheritance in the Church

Reading: Micah 2
Covetousness (a.k.a. greed) is responsible for no small share of poverty in the world. It may be that the 10 commandments end with covetousness because that is the heart issue behind so many of the other commandments. Covetousness drove the wicked in Israel to move the ancient boundary stones (on a nice day), gradually encroaching on the helpless (Prov 23:10-11), or just outright seizing the when it is in their power to do so.
Woe to those who plan iniquity, to those who plot evil on their beds! At morning's light they carry it out because it is in their power to do it. 2They covet fields and seize them, and houses, and take them. They defraud people of their homes, they rob them of their inheritance.... 9You drive the women of my people from their pleasant homes. You take away my blessing from their children forever. (Micah 2:1-2, 9)
One's inheritance in Israel was central to their ability to sustain themselves. Here the inheritance is not merely referring to an estate received by a child from its parents, but also to the land received by the children of Israel as a gift from Yahweh (ISBE). Through God's rich inheritance given to His people, they would have land and sustaining provision through life. They had to work the land, but land they had.
However, orphan's and widows were easy targets for those who would confiscate their properties. The powerful have connections with other powerful people. The weak have no connections because people have nothing to gain by helping them. By the time Jesus came the rejection of God's law had become so deep that the Jewish teachers of the law were devouring the widows houses (Mark 12:40).
Jesus came announcing the year of the Lord's favor—“the year of jubilee” (Luke 4:17-21). In fact, the preaching of the Gospel is described as announcing this good news to the poor. This year of the Lord's favor was the year, every fiftieth year, when everyone in Israel was returned to their inheritance. If they had sold the land to pay their debts or survive, it would be returned. It was a year that meant loss for the powerful and gain for the weak. It was indeed “good news for the poor”.
Jesus proclaims the return of everyone to God's rich inheritance for them. How does He bring this about? The Gospel certainly hasn't brought every Israelite back to their land of original inheritance as distributed in the book of Joshua. In fact most of the tribes can't even be located today. So how does Jesus bring this about?
Christ's kingdom is a spiritual kingdom and we often have difficulty seeing things as they really are. Paul prayed that the church would see “the riches of God's glorious inheritance” ...and then he tells us where to look, where it is... “in his holy people” (Ephesians 1:18). Psalm 68:6 says, “God sets the lonely in families...” (Psalm 68:6 NIV). One translation says, “God provides homes for those who are deserted...” (Psalm 68:6 HCSB). Which is it? Both. God provides homes for those who are deserted by setting the lonely, the solitary, in families—the church of the Living God.
This family, this provision, this, God's inheritance for us in His holy people, is what Jesus was speaking of when He answered Peter's, “What's in it for us?” question.
28Peter said to him, "We have left everything to follow you!" 29"I tell you the truth," Jesus replied, "no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel 30will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age (homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—and with them, persecutions) and in the age to come, eternal life. (Mark 10:28-30)
The church is to be a community, a family, in which we recognize that God's provision for us is not just for us personally, but for us as the community of God's people. This is why being part of a church family in particular is so important. Particular families in Israel received an inheritance, not disconnected loan individuals. So God knits us into His family (Ephesians 2:19) and as members in a particular family where we know other and can be known by others. Where we meet the needs of other and have our needs met by others.
In order for this to happen, we must put greed (covetousness) to death (Colossians 3:5), so that it is never heard of in our midst (Ephesians 5:3). Sadly, all too often is it not only heard of, it is modeled by leaders and even preached on from pulpits... not against it, but how to effectively covet and get whatever you want!
This is a kingdom of righteousness and justice and peace. In order to be a part of this justice we have to live our lives free from the love of money (Hebrews 13:5). As we do, justice will unfold as we restore inheritance into each others' lives by loving our neighbor as ourselves.
Love the Gospel, Live the Gospel, Advance the Gospel,