My pastor, Jeff Ling, is preaching through the book of Luke. On Sunday, April 6th, Jeff began to open up and explore Luke chapter six. He was only able to get through the first two verses. But when early on in his message, Jeff proffered the word “boundaries,” my ears perked up and my cognitive wheels began to spin. I was also simultaneously reminded of a conversation I had last week with my boss. I will get to that conversation in a moment, but first, let’s look at Luke six, verses one and two, from the English Standard Version (ESV):
“On a Sabbath, while he was going through the grainfields, his disciples plucked and ate some heads of grain, rubbing them in their hands. But some of the Pharisees said, “Why are you doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath?”
Jeff reminded us that historically, the Sabbath day has been reserved for rest. The Sabbath, to the Jews, is the seventh day of the week, or Saturday. We Christians take our rest day on Sunday, the first day of the week, or resurrection day. We set it aside not only for rest, but also to acknowledge God’s mercies displayed in Christ, and to worship and glorify Him.
The word “rest” in Hebrew, as Jeff explained, is shabath שאבאט which literally means “cease.”
“And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done.” Genesis 2:2 ESV
Literally, God ceased His creation work after six days. Another way of looking at this passage is to say that God set a self-imposed “boundary” for Himself. “I will work for only six days. I will cease working on the seventh day.”
Boundaries can be found everywhere in our world. A door for example represents a simple and universally-understood boundary, while a door with a lock and a key represents a more serious boundary. A fence represents a boundary. And a fence with a gate represents a boundary that is meant to be crossed under certain conditions.
After God created mankind, he laid out certain boundaries for the first man and woman:
"…’You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.’” Genesis 2: 16b-17 ESV
And when that boundary was breached, God set up another boundary.
“ … therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life.” Genesis 3:24b-24 ESV
Jeff read to us a few verses from Job, chapter 38, which tell us a great deal about God’s boundary-making ways:
“’Or who shut in the sea with doors when it burst out from the womb, when I made clouds its garment and thick darkness its swaddling band, and prescribed limits for it and set bars and doors, and said, ‘Thus far shall you come, and no farther, and here shall your proud waves be stayed’?” Job 38:8-11 ESV
We also learn from the book of Acts that God created the boundaries around the nations:
“And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place …” Acts 17: 26 ESV
I have provided but four examples of likely thousands of places in Scripture where boundaries can be found. For example, God’s Ten Commandments are certainly boundaries – not physical boundaries, but moral boundaries.
The Pharisees in Jesus’ time, with their pharisaical laws, created unnecessary boundaries – actually man-made add-ons to God’s laws. Theirs were burdensome and excessive boundaries, nearly crushing the Jews of their day, and that is why Jesus challenged them often.
But, I am drifting over into Jeff’s sermon now, and he is so much better at this than I.
So … on to my short story about the conversation I had with my boss last week. And for time’s sake, I won’t set the stage, I will just say that in the course of a conversation with another person in my office, I blurted out these words:
“It isn’t the government’s job to take care of the poor.”
Well, he heard this statement of mine and interjected from his office.
“Mark!? You don’t believe it’s the government’s job to take care of the poor?”
“No sir, I do not.”
After a few minutes of lively discussion, we mutually agreed to disagree.
Boundaries? Yes. A boundary has been crossed. It was actually crossed a while ago. Today, our civil government is now taking care of, not only the perpetually, multi-generational poor, but just about anyone who asks.
In February of 2012, I published a series of three short articles titled: The Government We Deserve. Here they are. Check them out and as you read, think about the theme of boundaries breached: