January 26, 2011: Exodus 19:3-6; 1 Peter 2:4-10 Devotional Sharing

Submitted by David Wu, Gracepoint Berkeley

Exodus 19:4-6
“God has chosen a people to be separate from the rest of the world, not just so that they can ‘belong’ to him in some private sense, but in order that they be used by him for a special purpose. […] Israel’s obedience or disobedience to God’s covenant stipulations has implications beyond simply that of Israel’s relationship to God. …  It has ramifications for the outworking of God’s redemptive plan for the world.”[1]

It was probably very surprising for the Israelites, a newly freed slave population, to be called God’s “treasured possession” and “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” In what way is this a privilege and a burden? Being called God’s “treasured possession” and “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” is a privilege in the sense that there was nothing in particular that gave these people this distinction, nothing that they did, no special skills, abilities, or competencies, not something that they earned or deserved.  Nonetheless, this is what God calls them and sees them as.  Not just anyone, but God, the only God, the Creator, a being that we cannot fully comprehend and that is so far above us.  However, it is a burden in the sense that it is a calling that they would need to live up to.  They were to be a kingdom of priests, God’s people, God’s priests, to be available and to be used by God for His purposes among all people, for the world.  A priest was to represent the people to God, and they were to be a kingdom of them, pointers to God.  To be holy was to be set apart.  They are not to be like the rest of the world, the rest of the nations.  They are not supposed to do what they do, chase what they chase after, value what they value.  Instead, they are to be different, to stand apart, to be set apart, to be an example that other nations can look to, that can properly represent God.  That is a heavy and difficult responsibility and burden to live up to. As Christians, we are likewise called God’s treasured possession, and we are to be God’s kingdom of priests and a holy nation.  God is giving us this privilege and this burden in our time, our generation.  I pray that I can accept and live up to that identity and that calling that God gives me – to be holy, to be set apart, to be different from the rest of the world, to not value what the world values, to not chase after what the world chases after – money, career, fame, success, comfort, pleasure, and so on – to not do what they do, but to embody the values and character of God and to represent God and honor God properly.

1 Peter 2:5-9
Reflect on the corporate nature of the new identity given to all believers – a “living stone” in a larger building, “people, “ “priesthood,” and “nation.”  How does this square with my view of myself?  My view of my fellow brothers and sisters?
Apostle Peter writes that believers, Christians, are living stones of a larger spiritual house, a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation.  He does not say we are the house itself, a chosen person, a royal priest, or a holy person.  Together we make up all of these things – not by ourselves, not as individuals.  It is a different view from what the world and culture and society tells us.  Their focus is on the individual – who you are, how you feel, looking out for yourself, being true to yourself, to pull yourself up by your own bootstraps, etc.  This corporate nature of the new identity given to all believers doesn’t match up all that well with my own view of myself.  I have grown up being indoctrinated by the world, society and culture, and have become quite individualistic, and as a result, quite selfish as well.  At most, the world tells us to only include our immediate, nuclear family.  As a Christian though, I have been challenged with my individualism and to see myself as something larger, something greater than myself, and to see how I can affect others, my brothers and sisters, the body of Christ.  Before, I viewed them as people who didn’t really have anything to do with me, but after becoming Christian and more and more I am growing to see how what they do affects me and what I do affects them, and that we are to go through ups and downs, joys and pains, celebration and mourning together, to face challenges together, and to live out God’s calling together.

The modern person is thoroughly individualistic, and finds the corporate emphasis in the Bible foreign. What aspects of the scriptural vision of Christian life, and how to live out our call from God would be missed by such an approach?
The aspects of the scriptural vision of Christian life, and how to live out our call from God that would be missed by an individualistic approach are many.  Much of what God calls us to and how God calls us to live cannot be done individually or in isolation, because much of who we are, how we sin, is relationally, what we do to other people, how we treat other people, and sins of omission, what we fail to do for others.  The scriptural vision of Christian life calls us to love one another, to pray for one another, to be a neighbor to one another, to sharpen one another, to show mercy and compassion to one another, to honor one another, to encourage one another and build each other up, to bear with each other and forgive one another, and so much more.  We cannot do this if we are individualistic, isolated, alone, separated, on our own.  We are to be mirrors for one another, to keep each other accountable, to help one another.  We are to represent Christ together, through our lives, through how we love one another.  In the vision of the first church in Acts 2, we are to devote ourselves to the apostle’s teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer, where all the believers are together and had everything in common, selling their possession and goods and giving to anyone as they had need, meeting together everyday, breaking bread in each others’ homes, eating together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people.  All of these things and more would be missed by an individualistic approach, an individualistic Christianity, if there was such a thing.

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Submitted by Myra Chen, Gracepoint Berkeley

It was probably very surprising for the Israelites, a newly freed slave population, to be called God’s “treasured possession” and “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” In what way is this a privilege and a burden?
For a newly freed slave population to be called God’s treasured possession and a kingdom of priests and a holy nation, the Israelites must have felt a deep sense of privilege and awe at God’s mercy on them, that the great and awesome God would not only save them, but also give them such a lofty identity. They are a new spiritual nation based on their allegiance to God rather than based other identities such as ethnicity or ability. He calls them what they are not. It was nothing they did nor anything they deserve but merely because God says so and gives them this new identity as a kingdom of priests and holy nation. It is a high privilege in this calling and yet also a burden because there is a feeling of insecurity and inadequacy that they don’t match up to this calling. It means they need to be separate and different from the rest of the nations and this might not be what the Israelites necessarily wanted for themselves. Moreover, not only has God chosen them but the Israelites need to be obedient to God’s covenant.

1 Peter 2:5-9

Reflect on the corporate nature of the new identity given to all believers – a “living stone” in a larger building, “people, “ “priesthood,” and “nation.”  How does this square with my view of myself?  my view of my fellow brothers and sisters? In light of this new identity for all believers to be a living stone in a larger building, people, priesthood, people, and nation, I cannot see myself as merely my own but in the context of the church. There is no such thing as a lone ranger Christian, in which you live Christian life on your own. Jesus never envisioned this kind of solitary life. This is so different from the western view of the self that is often individualistic and about being true to yourself and your feelings. I am not my own nor a mere individual with my own destiny. God loves relationships. Hence I view myself in the context of the church and as a Christian a part of the people of God. So my life, my behavior, my choices, my attitude, etc affects other. And as I relate with others in the church and learned to trust people, I was able to grow in my understanding of who I was, who God is, sin, and experience the love of God in very concrete ways through my peers, coworkers in Christ, and leaders. My view of my fellow brothers and sisters changed in the context of being that spiritual house together. We are being built into this spiritual house to carry out His purposes by declaring the praises of him who called us out of darkness and into his light. We have a mission. As I view my brothers and sister, they aren’t merely people who I get along with, like, respect, and plan to grow old together, but we are bonded by common destiny. Each person is doing his/her part but contending as one man for the sake of the gospel. I am so thankful and feel privileged to be a part of God’s church and to witness His work through people who surrender their lives through small steps of obedience for God. This call to be a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation is not mere rhetoric but God is real and we see this through people’s lives and the church.

The modern person is thoroughly individualistic, and finds the corporate emphasis in the Bible foreign. What aspects of the scriptural vision of Christian life, and how to live out our call from God would be missed by such an approach? A modern person with an individualistic approach of Christian life misses out on the very basic of God’s desire for us to grow and be shaped. As I think about the scriptural vision of Christian life as a church, we grow in our knowledge of who we are, sin, who God is, and experience love and grace in concrete ways. Through getting close and actually rubbing lives with other Christians, I saw a clear picture of my pride, selfishness, apathy, deceit, etc as I lived with my peers and underwent that sandpapering process on my character. As we grew together, we also spurred one another on towards growing in passion and vision for God. I get so encouraged seeing my peers serve faithfully in different ministries. With leaders in my life, I was not merely taught the word of God but experienced God’s love for me through their concrete love and mercy. Their example of obedience and surrendered life to God is part of the spiritual heritage from the older sisters and brothers who blazed the trail before me. Younger sisters and brothers in my life forced me to grow up, grow in my desire to be stretched, and share the heritage that I received with them. And when others struggle or are hurt, I experience the burden of their hurt and struggle because of the connections and love for one another. Without the church, I would be missing on all these aspects of Christian life.

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