Many, many years ago I worked as an activity director at an assisted living facility. We had an amazing collection of folks living there. Some were Christians and others Jewish. Some didn't have faith of any kind. Some had been housewives, raising kids and supporting their husbands. Others had fascinating careers. One was a painter, and I called her Rembrandt. She was a very accomplished painter, and we are fortunate enough to have one of her paintings in our home. Another was a seamstress and yet another was a commercial pilot. She was way ahead of her time. One man had driven a taxi in New York City. He had many stories of people he carried in his taxi, including some about Babe Ruth. And then there was Helen. She had been a concert pianist and she could still play. I called her Beethoven. Helen was Jewish, but she played for our Sunday morning church services. She knew all the old hymns and was proud of that. Not only did I provide a church service every Sunday as part of my work, but I also taught a Bible study as well. Helen came to that too!
As many of you know, I like to tie the Old Testament to the New. That helps us see how the Old Testament points towards Jesus. One day after our Bible study Helen hung around until everyone else had left and then she came over to where I was sitting. She reached her hand into her pocket and handed me a gift. It was the mezuzah that had hung outside of her front door for decades. As staff we were not allowed to accept gifts from residents, so I thanked her and declined. But she insisted that I needed to have it. I gave it back to her again and she walked away. But that night as I took my coat off, there was the mezuzah in the pocket. For those of you who are not familiar, a mezuzah is a small piece of parchment paper with Hebrew scripture written on it. This paper is rolled and placed in a decorative case and hung by the front door. As faithful Jews come and go from their houses, they touch this case and the parchment in it to remind them of God's Word and His provision. They also serve as a reminder that our homes are holy places, and we should act accordingly, both when we are inside and when we go out into the world. The word mezuzah means doorpost. Sometimes there is a mezuzah outside every room inside the home as well, except the bathroom.
The scripture written on the parchment is from Deuteronomy 6:4-9. And in verse 9 of that reading the Lord’s command is to write His commands on the door posts of your house. This scripture is called the Shema which is the first word of the scripture verse. It means hear! Or listen! “Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might.” This scripture goes on to remind God’s people that they are to teach others, “Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise. Bind them as a sign on your hand, fix them as an emblem on your forehead, and write them on the door posts of your house and gate.”
This scripture may be found in the Old Testament, but these words are just as important to us today as they were when they were written. It is so very important we teach God's Word to our kids, grandkids, nieces and nephews. Because it is in His word that we encounter God. It is there we find words that bring hope, comfort, peace and reassurance. But we are not called to ever keep Gods word to ourselves. At a time when the west coast is on fire, the southeast is being battered by hurricanes and we are still baking with the heat of summer...people are weary, burdened and afraid. Now more than ever we need God's Words of reassurance. We need to find something sturdy and steady to hang onto, and we need to share it with others.
As I watch what is going on right now the verse that comes to mind is from Isaiah 43:1-3. I have used this verse before I am sure but sometimes this is how we hang on. “But now thus says the Lord, He who created you O Jacob, He who formed you O Israel: do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name and you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they will not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you will not be burned, and the flame will not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.”
You and I have been named and claimed by the one true and Sovereign God of the universe. He will not let go of us. He will not let the evil one prevail. Yes, the evil one seems to be running rampant in the world right now. Some days it feels like God has moved and left no forwarding address. But He is here. Evil may win a skirmish or two, but Jesus has already defeated the evil one and there will be a day when he is tossed into the lake of fire...for all of eternity. In the meantime, we hang onto each other and to the Lord.
Find a scripture that you can hang onto, good friends to talk to and something that reminds you every day that God is good...that He is present and that we are called to act different because of Him.
In His grip
Pastor Matt W