Posts Tagged ‘Peter’

The Church and The Bible

When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, “Ask what I shall do for you, before I am taken from you.” And Elisha said, “Please let there be a double portion of your spirit on me.” And he said, “You have asked a hard thing; yet, if you see me as I am being taken from you, it shall be so for you, but if you do not see me, it shall not be so.” – 2 Kings 2:9-10

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. – Acts 1:8-9

I don’t want to make too much about this but I find it interesting that Elisha received a portion of the Spirit that was on Elijah as he watched Elijah be taken into heaven and in Acts there is an emphasis put on the coming of the Holy Spirit and Luke clearly points out that the disciples watched as Jesus ascended. Then the Spirit comes upon them at Pentecost.

To be fair, I think Luke’s point is clear in the next verse: “This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” It just seems that the parallel is kind of obvious.

The other thing I noticed in reading the first three chapters of Acts is how the very early church relied upon and interpreted scripture. The book begins with the disciples asking if Jesus will now restore the kingdom to Israel. That’s a biblical question since the the idea that the Son of David will restore the kingdom is a matter of biblical exegesis.

Then there is the apparent parallel to Elijah. Next the disciples gather and Peter interprets Psalm 69 and 101 to mean that they should replace Judas as an Apostle.

Then Pentecost comes and the Spirit fills the disciples so that they start preaching in various languages. When the disciples are accused of being drunk (because, you know, drunk folks can speak other languages fluently) Peter again interprets scripture. He cites the book of Joel to explain what the crowd is seeing and then returns to the book of Psalms citing Psalm 16 and 110 to explain who Jesus is.

The Church has relied on the scriptures from the very beginning of her existence. And the Church relied on scriptures to inform how she should conduct her business, to explain her methods and in evangelism. We’re missing a lot if we think that we don’t need to follow what the scriptures say or if get the idea that they don’t speak to the situation of the church today. David wrote the Psalms about 900 years before Peter applied them so it isn’t like they have a limited shelf life.

No Nepotism In Play

These are the inheritances that the people of Israel received in the land of Canaan, which Eleazar the priest and Joshua the son of Nun and the heads of the fathers’ houses of the tribes of the people of Israel gave them to inherit. Their inheritance was by lot, just as the Lord had commanded by the hand of Moses for the nine and one-half tribes. For Moses had given an inheritance to the two and one-half tribes beyond the Jordan, but to the Levites he gave no inheritance among them. For the people of Joseph were two tribes, Manasseh and Ephraim. And no portion was given to the Levites in the land, but only cities to dwell in, with their pasturelands for their livestock and their substance. – Joshua 14:1-4

Israel’s leaders divided up the land of Canaan amongst the tribes. Eight and a half tribes got the land of Canaan, two and a half tribes got land across the Jordan river. But the tribe of Levi didn’t get any land, just a few cities. If this allocation was purely political, Moses could have given Levi land equally amongst the other tribes. But instead, “To the tribe of Levi alone Moses gave no inheritance. The offerings by fire to the Lord God of Israel are their inheritance, as he said to him.” (Joshua 13:14)

Can you imagine how unfair it would have been had the Lord given Levi both the burnt offerings and land? They wouldn’t need to survive on the food they raised because they’d have the offerings from the tabernacle/temple coming in to them. The tribe of Levi would soon have become the most wealthy and powerful tribe in the nation. And this was Moses’ tribe don’t forget. If nepotism was in play in the division of the land, the Levites would have made out.

I was reminded this morning to not look on what God has given my neighbor or fellow church member and think they got a better deal. The Levites could have looked at the great pasture lands the other tribes got and felt like they got ripped off. The other tribes could have looked at the Levites and been jealous that they got to eat from the offerings they gave to God; the best of their labors! In the end, all of the land was the Lord’s and all his people enjoyed it. Some by laboring in the land and some by laboring in the tabernacle/temple. They all worked together and benefited.

When I graduated from seminary, I envisioned myself pastoring a church somewhere. It wasn’t like I had radical ideas of what church could be like and how I was going to win the world to Jesus. I just hoped to lead a church to moderate growth and to have an impact in the community God had called us to. That didn’t work out. Turned out that I’m not a church planter and no existing churches needed me to be their pastor. It was a confusing time for me. What was this whole seminary thing about then? To speak metaphorically, I was trying to figure out what tribe I was in: Levi or one of the others? Did I work the land or the offerings? And to be honest, for a while I was envious of the Levites.

While that metaphor works to a certain point, things are different in the New Covenant. We all are, after all “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession”. The calling of each member of the New Covenant is “that [we] may proclaim the excellencies of him who called [us] out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once [we] were not a people, but now [we] are God’s people; once [we] had not received mercy, but now [we] have received mercy.” (1 Peter 2:9-10). My role, whether I’m in full time ministry or not is to be a Levite according to the gifts and abilities God has given me. Seminary was not a mistake nor is it wasted, I’m being used in a role I had not anticipated. And that’s okay. I didn’t miss out on any inheritance even if what I got doesn’t look like what my classmates got.