Aug 12, 2019
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Thanks for joining me today for “A Little Walk with God.” I’m your host Richard Agee.
A few days ago, I visited Legoland in San Antonio with my grandchildren. First, I have to tell you how amazing to see some of the things you can build with Legos. Imagine a replica of downtown San Antonio, complete with the Tower of the Americas and boats on the Riverwalk. Truly amazing design.
Legos made a splash a long time ago as a fad for kids, kind of like Lincoln Logs when I was a kid. Lincoln Logs are pretty hard to find today. Legos are everywhere and look like they will be around for a long time. In fact, when asked his dream job if not in dental school at his entrance interview, my son’s answer, “I’d like to be a Lego designer.” What a job, spend all day playing with Legos. His now five-year-old builds better than me.
The two of them have dozens of kits and thousands of pieces that they will put together to make incredible things. Rockets, boats, buildings, animals, people, just name it and it seems to come alive in different colored bricks. My hobby at both their ages dealt with pencils, paper, canvas, and paint. Not such a great artist, but I painted and drew stuff. They do it in 3D.
Back to Legoland.
We thoroughly enjoyed our time there for the first couple of hours. After we’d been there a while, I started noticing the attitude of some of the kids and parents. First, you have to know if you’ve ever bought any Legos, they are not cheap. Those await special events and special occasions because of their popularity and price. Supply and demand economy makes it possible. In fact, a few of their classic Star Wars sets top $1000 each.
Well, I watched a few parents try to win their kids affection (or at least their better behavior) with Legos. The kid wanted this set or that kit, and the parent with creased forehead pulled out a credit card and slipped it into the machine to soothe the savage beast, an offering to appease the approaching storm.
As I watched, sometimes it was a toy. Sometimes food (make that candy) was the bribe of choice. Occasionally, the promise of more time in the playground or another ride on the spinning swing. Offerings to procure the favor of an out of control child.
In some ways, it reminded me of the words Isaiah heard from God in his earliest days as a prophet. In the first chapter of the book that bears his name, we read these words:
Listen to the word of the Eternal One,
you rulers of Sodom!
Attend to God’s instructions,
citizens of Gomorrah!
Eternal One: What do I care for all of your slaughter-gifts?
I have had enough of your burnt offerings.
I’m not interested in any more ram meat or fat from your well-fed cattle.
The blood of bulls, lambs, or goats does not please Me.
When you come into My presence,
who told you to trample down the courtyard of My temple bringing all of this?
Just stop giving Me worthless offerings;
your incense reeks and offends Me!
Your feasts and fasts, your new moons and Sabbaths—
I cannot stand any more of your wicked gatherings.
Likewise, I deplore your holidays,
those calendar days marked specially for Me;
They weigh Me down.
I am sick and tired of them!
When you summon Me with your hands in the air, I will ignore you.
Even when you pray your whole litany, I won’t be listening
Because your hands are full of blood and violence.
Wash yourselves, clean up your lives;
remove every speck of evil in what you do before Me.
Put an end to all your evil.
Learn to do good;
commit yourselves to seeking justice.
Make right for the world’s most vulnerable—
the oppressed, the orphaned, the widow.
Come on now, let’s walk and talk; let’s work this out.
Your wrongdoings are bloodred,
But they can turn as white as snow.
Your sins are red like crimson,
But they can be made clean again like new wool.
If you pay attention now and change your ways,
you can eat good things from a healthy earth.
But if you refuse to listen and stubbornly persist,
then, by violence and war, you will be the one devoured.
These things were spoken by the very mouth of the Eternal.¹
What does that have to do with the parents in Legoland?
I think we often give because we believe it will appease God. If we give enough or do enough, God will be happy with us, and all will be well with the world. But it doesn’t work that way. If it did, the wealthiest among us would drop a check in the offering occasionally guaranteeing themselves a seat on the heaven-bound bus.
Isaiah lived during a part of Israel’s most prosperous history. The nation’s economy was on fire. If they had had a stock market, it would have looked very much like our Wall Street numbers today, through the roof. Scary high. The country had some really rich people.
Israel also had a load of very poor people. Involved in several conflicts, young men died in battle, leaving widows and orphans behind. But they had no life insurance, no Social Security, no decent-paying jobs for women. In Isaiah’s day, unfortunately, women were of less value than a cow. They fell just below the rank of a slave. And the orphans in the caste system dropped a peg below women until old enough to work in the fields.
The Mosaic Law, which the Sadducees and Pharisees threw in Jesus’ face so often required the Jews to take care of widows and orphans. God condemned the nation for putting money into the temple but forgetting about the poor and destitute. They forgot the task he gave them. Show God to the rest of the world through their love.
So what does that mean? God told Abraham the whole world would be blessed through him. We most often interpret that as meaning Jesus came through his lineage. I know God includes that in the promise, but I’m not so sure that completes the two-part promise. I think the promise carries with it the task of actually blessing those with whom we come in contact every day.
Abraham’s offspring failed in that mission. They enjoyed the abundant crops, the remarkable economy, the riches that God allowed them to accumulate. God gave them those things to bless the world, though. God gave them the riches to take care of the needy and spread God’s love. He allowed them to become a powerful nation in that era to demonstrate the rules in God’s Kingdom rather than man’s.
They failed in their mission. So God sent his message through Isaiah. Time was running out. Change their ways fast. It’s not about outward behavior; it’s about inward transformation. It’s about God cleaning up the inside, so we behave on the outside with a heart of love. Because they failed, the nation crumbled.
Jesus came to show us what right looks like. He did a lot of good things. I’m pretty sure Jesus gave tithes and offerings to the temple. We know he paid the required temple tax every year by the story we find with Peter’s fishing expedition and finding the coins in the fish’s mouth.
I expect Jesus’ offerings were pretty meager, though. He understood poverty. He grew up in Nazareth, the “other side of the tracks.” We assume Joseph died when Jesus was a teen, and Jesus would have picked up the responsibility to provide for the rest of the family until his brothers were old enough to take over the carpentry business. He told some of his followers, “the son of man has no place to lay his head,” remember?
So what does God want? He wants us to let him make us new. He wants to transform our mind to begin thinking as he thinks. He makes the same promise through us he made with Abraham, “I will bless the world through you.” Jesus told his disciples they would do more wondrous things than he did. But that happens only when we let him transform us and make us his instrument of love.
You can find me at richardagee.com. I also invite you to join us at San Antonio First Church of the Nazarene on West Avenue in San Antonio to hear more Bible-based teaching. You can find out more about my church at SAF.church. Thanks for listening. If you enjoyed it, tell a friend. If you didn’t, send me an email and let me know how better to reach out to those around you. Until next week, may God richly bless you as you venture into His story each day.
¹ The Voice Bible Copyright © 2012 Thomas Nelson, Inc. The Voice™ translation © 2012 Ecclesia Bible Society All rights reserved.