Exodus 34:15  “Be careful not to make a treaty with those who live in the land; for when they prostitute themselves to their gods and sacrifice to them, they will invite you and you will eat their sacrifices.”

Although we are not a nation of the LORD’s chosen people as Israel was, nevertheless there are important principles for us to learn from this command given to Moses by the LORD on Mount Sinai when he went back the second time, after smashing the first tablets of stone (see Ex.32:19).

In the New Testament, the Apostles treat the Church as the new ‘nation’ of Israel (cf Ephesians 1:11-14, 22-23; 1 Peter 2:9), and it is just as ‘tricky’ for us to be living among a people and a culture that denies/ignores God and ‘worships’ humankind and its icons and achievements, as it was for Israel living among the seven idol-worshipping nations that occupied the Promised Land to which they were heading.

Like the nation of Israel, the Church is to be IN the world, but not OF the world – and this is very tricky.  As one astute commentator said, ‘There is no problem with the ship being in the sea – it’s exactly where the ship ought to be.  The problem only arises when the sea starts getting into the ship!’  It seems to me that the Church today has not given sufficient attention to this warning/command.

We are so determined to be ‘relevant’ and acceptable to our culture that we have made a ‘treaty’ with it, and the distinctiveness of ‘God’s chosen people’ (the Church) is often very difficult to recognise.  When Jesus spelt out the distinctive characteristics of those who identified themselves as his chosen people  in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), he referred to us as ‘salt’ and ‘light’ and solemnly warned us: “But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again?  It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men. … Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:13b, 15-16).

As the Apostle Paul declares: “Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. … But everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for it is light that makes everything visible. … Be very careful, then, how you live – not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.  Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is” (Ephesians 5:11, 13-14a, 15-17).

Let us be on constant alert, and in prayer, looking out for leaks in the ship as we seek to be effective as ‘salt’ and ‘light’ (to mix the metaphors) in these challenging times.

– Bruce Christian