You Have a Calling

A priest is sometimes described as one who represents God to the earth and the earth to God. But the reality is that that was the original job description of the human race. We were made in God’s image to continue his work of making the earth to flourish and then, by our flourishing, to give voice for the whole earth to praise God. All work was designed by God to be priestly work. It is not just professional clergy or missionaries who are called by God.

The scholar N. T. Wright has a wonderful image of this: “Picture human beings as mirrors set at a forty-five degree angle between heaven and earth. We were created to reflect God’s care and dominion to the earth, and we were made to express the worship and gratitude of creation up to God. This is what we do when we work.” You have a calling. You have been gifted. You are a priest.

This is not just something that relates to volunteering at a church. Your work is a primary place — maybe the primary place — where your calling gets lived out. Maybe we should issue robes to electrical engineers, clerical collars to accountants, and vestments to auto mechanics every once in a while just to remind us of this.

In his book Habits of the Heart, sociologist Robert Bellah describes three orientations people take toward their work.

The first is to treat your work as a job. When you do this, you focus on it as a way to get money and pay bills. When asked, most people list money as the primary reason why they work. But if your focus is mainly on what you receive from your work, you will most likely come to resent it.

A second orientation is to approach your work as a career. Here your motivation will be higher, but your focus is on advancement and prestige. In a career orientation, your feelings about your work are based on how much success it is creating for you. If your career is not going well, it may feel to you as if your worth is on the line.

The third orientation is to look at your work as a calling. The language of vocation or calling is widespread, but it is rooted in the life of faith. If there is a “calling,” then there is someone making the call. That someone is God. That is why you cannot do just anything you want. You are not the call-er; you are the call-ee. Any work that has meaning, that can be a blessing to people and to the earth, can be a calling. A doctor or pastor might get sucked into viewing work as a means to get a good income, and therefore they only have a job. A garbage collector, however, may see what he does as part of making the world a cleaner and safer place and therefore have a calling.

Isaiah wrote, “When a farmer plows for planting, does he plow continually? . . . Does he not plant wheat in its place? . . . His God instructs him and teaches him the right way. . . All this also comes from the Lord Almighty, wonderful in counsel and magnificent in wisdom.” (Isaiah 28:24-26, 29, NIV) God wants to meet you in your work.

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[ Directly from the Biblegateway Devotion for August 25, 2016 ]

The Bronze Serpent

The message form this past Sunday, while long and detailed, was a great passage to study. I would have gone in a different direction, but hey, he was our guest preacher. The passage came from Numbers 21:4-9.

The people grumbled again, after 38 years of wandering, which only proved that they were still not ready to enter the promised land. God provided for them but they did not appreciate it (they actually loathed God’s provision of manna, Numbers 21:5).

There is something else about this manna: Wiersbe writes, “According to John 6, the manna was much more than daily food for Israel: it was a type of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the “Bread of Life” (John 6:32–40). The manna came only to Israel, but Jesus came to be the Savior of the world. All the manna could do was sustain life, but Jesus Christ gives life. When the Jews despised the manna, they were actually rejecting the Son of God. Once more, God had tested His people, and they had failed the test (Deuteronomy 8:15–16).”

Enter the fiery serpents, which bit people and they died (Numbers 21:6). So, what’s up with such a strange story?

God was teaching the people something about faith. It is fairly illogical to think that looking at a bronze image could heal anyone from a snakebite, but that is exactly what God told them to do. It took an act of faith in God’s plan for anyone to be healed, and the serpent on the pole was a reminder of their sin, which brought about their suffering.

Faith was also put into action because in such a large crowd, the whole camp of Israel, it likely took a huge amount of effort to position oneself to even SEE the serpent on the pole. I don’t imagine that it took a casual glance, but rather it took a lot of effort to be in the right position to see it.

While the people did get healed when they looked at the serpent, the serpent on the pole eventually became a problem. Who needs God when you can get healing with this magical serpent? The people kept it for many years and when the Israelites were in the Promised Land, the serpent became an object of worship that needed to be destroyed (2 Kings 18:4). The lesson here reminds us how easy it is for people to take the good things of God and twist them into something bad. Don’t be that guy who worships the creation rather than the creator.

This passage directly points toward John 3:14-15, where Jesus tells us that this bronze serpent was a foreshadowing of himself. It is actually an illustration of the vicarious death of Christ on the cross and the necessity of personal faith in him for salvation.

The serpent was a symbol of sin and judgment, and when it was lifted up and put on a pole (or tree), it became a symbol of a curse (Galatians 3:13). Paul is teaching the Galatian Christians that Jesus became a curse for us, even though he was a man without sin (the spotless Lamb of God). Paul clearly taught the Corinthians, “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21).

The observation that I have on this passage in Numbers 21:4-9 is that God did not remove the snakes, but provided a remedy; way of healing and life in the midst of the snakes. I imagine that the venom remained in their bodies but did not lead to death. Romans 6:23 tells us that “the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” We remain sinners but have received new life in Christ.

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