21 May, 2024

Equal Before God

by | 13 May, 2024 | 0 comments

By Stuart Powell 

God has gifted each person differently. Some people have gifts that enable them to accumulate earthly possessions, while other people use their gifts for acts of service and mercy. Throughout the Bible God acknowledges differences among people, while also orchestrating circumstances that erase the evidence of those differences. We see this sort of “equalizing” frequently in the Law; 10 commands for all, a common set of sacrifices, and a Sabbath for everyone. Each of the three major feasts also leveled Jewish society.  

Consider this description about the Jewish feast of Shavuot (also known as the Feast of Weeks):  

[God speaking to Moses] “On the first day you are to take branches from luxuriant trees—from palms, willows and other leafy trees—and rejoice before the Lord your God for seven days. Celebrate this as a festival to the Lord for seven days each year. This is to be a lasting ordinance for the generations to come; celebrate it in the seventh month. Live in temporary shelters for seven days: All native-born Israelites are to live in such shelters so your descendants will know that I had the Israelites live in temporary shelters when I brought them out of Egypt. I am the Lord your God” (Leviticus 23:40-43). 

Moses’ generation grew up in slave houses in Egypt, but God promised that they would live in houses they did not build in the Promised Land. To reach Canaan, they spent time living in tents in the wilderness. While Israel was still at Mount Sinai building the tabernacle, God devised a way for one generation to teach their descendants to remember God’s provisions in the wilderness. God planned to have every future generation to look back and “relive” the wilderness time.  

After they were settled in those promised houses, God commanded them to remember his provision one week every year by living in temporary shelters like newly freed slaves. Why not tents? The booths were a reminder of God’s provision, yes, but not everyone in the generations to come could afford to keep a tent on hand. Everyone could venture into the forests and collect branches to build a simple shelter with their own hands. For one week, all the people would live as equals, just as those who came out of Egypt were equally sheltered. 

In the practices of the church, God has continued to erase differences when people come before him. All are commanded to deny self, to confess Jesus as Master, repent of rebellion, and be buried in baptism. And at this time of Communion, we are reminded we are equal before God.  

Every believer is invited to hold a similar piece of bread and eat it. It reminds us that we share equally in the punishment suffered by Jesus, our innocent Savior. All Christians are welcome to share in drinking from the cup of Thanksgiving, to recognize his atoning blood that made us acceptable in God’s sight. 

Stuart Powell lives outside of Terre Haute, Indiana, where he serves with the North Side Christian Church. 

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