Sunday, January 14, 2024

 Parallel Stories

Isn't it comforting to know that we do not have to trust in our own righteousness, but can trust in His right hand holding us up and His indwelling Spirit strengthening us when we are weak? 

Parallel Stories in Contrast
in my mornings,  I have a habit of asking the Lord what I should read and into my mind will drop a scripture  - often one from the Old Testament and one from the New Testament. And I am delighted how most often they fit together or together confirm a teaching or word of God. 
I want to share one example of such a parallel here.... 

The old Testament chapter I read was  Numbers 32, and this is the story. 

The excited Israelites had finally completed their wilderness journey. Except for Moses, Joshua and Caleb all the Israelites at the end of the 40 years in the wilderness had either been under 20 years old leaving Egypt or were born in the wilderness. 
It is easy to imagine how excited they would have been. The thought of settling into their own homes and having land to grow crops and yards their children could play in would have been exhilarating. 
So now Moses is standing in front of the gathered people and informing them what part of the promised land is allotted to which tribe. 
It seems everyone was happy with what  their tribe was given,  except for the children of Gad, the children of Rueben and half the tribe of Manasseh. They were cattlemen and they had taken note of some prime land perfectly suited for them on the east side of the Jordan -- the other side from where Moses was settling the other tribes. 
When they presented their request for land on the other side of the Jordan, Moses reacted with anger. He rebuked them for plotting to separate from the rest of their brethren and refuse to fight with them to take possession of the land. Moses accused them of selfishness and rebellion against the commandments of God. 
 But they were quick to assure Moses that he had misunderstood !  They were not separating from their brethren.  They had full intentions of joining with them in battle to secure the land God had given them.  They just wanted to settle their wives and children  first and then they would cross the river to join the other tribes in battle.   
Moses'  anger was deflated and he assured them if that was their intent then all was well. God would not find fault with them.   BUT .. if they did not follow through on their promise then "their sin would find them out!"  (isn't it interesting that it is in this story that we find this familiar , oft quoted verse??) 
The children of Gad and Reuben and part of Manasseh were given the land they  desired and they were faithful to their promise to fight with the other tribes until they had secured the land. 

My other passage is found in Galatians 2:11-21 and we have a surprisingly similar story. 
It happened like this. 
Peter travelled to Antioch to fellowship with the believers there. Peter, after his vision, had accepted that God's salvation was not just for the Jews but was also intended for the Gentiles. He was happy to eat with the Gentiles and enjoyed the mutual fellowship.  
But .. then certain men from James also came to Antioch -  Jews who were "of the circumcision", meaning that they believed that you had to be circumcised to be accepted by God.  Peter was afraid of their judgment of him eating with the Gentiles, and so he took the coward's way out.  Wanting to avoid confrontation he withdrew from the Gentile believers and sat only with the Jews.  And he wasn't the only one, others followed his example including even Barnabas!  
Peter was shocked and did not mince his words in criticizing the Jews' action to separate from the Gentile believers. He said "they were carried away with their hypocrisy."  

It is rather humbling to recognize that the Old Testament people refused to 'play the hypocrite' and separate from their brothers,  but the New testament believers who should have supported their brethren even under duress or persecution, failed.  
My lesson last week stressed how 'love' is the motivation that keeps us from sinning.  We see that played out in these two stories. 
The half tribe of Manasseh, children of Gad and  Rueben loved their brethren and were not even tempted to withdraw from them, to protect their own interests. 
Peter and even Barnabas who was known as "the encourager",  were not motivated by love, but rather their own self-interest.  
To Peter and Barnabas's credit, I believe they deeply regretted their cowardly actions and were never guilty of it again.  
Sometimes God lets us fail, because our subsequent  regret/sorrow/shame is a strong deterrent, keeping us from falling into that same error again!