Daily Readings and Thought for February 13th. DO NOT JOIN HANDS
Joining hands is a physical sign of friendship, but Moses uses the term in a metaphysical sense in our Exodus reading (Chapter 23). This contains warnings about joining hands for bad reasons. Moses makes some down-to-earth statements of things that God sees as wrong. But sadly in all too many parts of life today men and women “join hands” to act in devious ways to cheat and deceive one another – or the law.
”Now these are the rules you shall set before them,” God said to Moses [Ch.21 v.1] and today we read, “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 surely had in mind things which Moses had said – as we read today, “If you meet your enemies’ ox or his donkey going astray you shall bring it back to him” [v.4]
Our chapter (9) in Mark’s Gospel finishes in an interesting way, “Salt is good, but if salt has lost its saltiness how will you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves …” [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, those who follow Jesus are to be the “salt” that influences and gives flavour to all that in which it is mixed. But what if the salt has lost its saltiness? What if those who had provided the influence of “salt” no longer do so? Maybe some even join hands with those who ignore God, or at least, turn a blind eye to their ungodly ways? Jesus said that such useless salt “is thrown away” (Luke 14 v.35)
That is really the blunt message in today’s’ chapter 9 from v.42 onwards; but it is said in more complex language. The hell or hellfire mentioned there is Gehenna; that word in the Greek refers to the rubbish dump just outside one part of the wall of Jerusalem where fires continually burnt to consume the cities’ rubbish that was thrown over the wall. Jesus means that you should get rid of all activities and things that cause you to sin. Let’s make sure we do not join hands in any way to condone these attitudes in our world today.