Todays readings.. Exodus 23, Psalm 77, Mark 9
“YOU SHALL NOT JOIN HANDS WITH … “
Shaking and joining hands is a physical sign of friendship, but Moses uses the term in an opposite context in today’s Exodus Ch. 23. We read his warnings about joining hands for bad reasons. He makes some down-to-earth statements of things that God sees as wrong. Many of these are part of life today as men and women act in devious ways to cheat and deceive one another or the Government.
”Now these are the rules you shall set before them,” God said to Moses [Ch.21 v.1], “You shall not join hands with a wicked man to be a malicious witness. You shall not fall in with the many to do evil, nor shall you bear witness in a lawsuit, siding with the many, so as to pervert justice” [23 v.1-2]. When Jesus said that we should love our enemies (Matt. 5 v.44), he had in mind things which Moses had said – as we also read today, “If you meet your enemies ox or his donkey going astray you shall bring it back to him” [v.4]
Today’s chapter in Mark finishes in a challenging way, “Salt is good, but if salt has lost its saltiness how will you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves …” [9 v.50] What did he mean?
On another occasion he told his disciples, “You are the salt of the earth” [Matt.5 v.13]. The point is this; those who follow Jesus are to be the “salt” that influences and gives flavour to all it comes in contact with. But what if the salt has lost its saltiness? What if those that should provide the influence of “salt” have ceased to have any influence or have even joined hands with those who ignore God, or at least, turn a blind eye to their ungodly ways of living? Jesus said that such useless salt “is thrown away” [Luke 14 v.35].
There is a really blunt message in Mark ch. 9 from v.42 onwards; but it is said in more complex language. The “hell” and “unquenchable fire” [v.44] are part of a mini-parable to convey the utter destruction of those found to be worthless. Here Gehenna is the Greek word for “hell”. It is the rubbish dump outside one part of the wall of Jerusalem where fires continually burn to consume the rubbish thrown over the wall.
The lesson of Jesus is that his hearers must get rid of all hindrances in their walk to the kingdom – with special words of condemnation to those who cause others, the “little ones”, to fail. [v.42] and who “join hands with” those who do not meaningfully have God and Jesus in their lives. Meditate on Colossians 4 v.5-6; what is your “speech” like?