Crossing Over….

28 04 2011

DAY ONE HUNDRED AND THIRTEEN : Joshua 3 v. 1 – 5 v. 12; Luke 22 v. 1 – 38; Psalm 50 v. 1 – 15

JOSHUA
Crossing the Jordan – the Israelites camp by the Jordan, and Joshua give instructions for them to follow the Ark of the Covenant (at a healthy distance). The Israelites consecrate themselves, ‘for tomorrow the Lord will do amazing things among you.’
Joshua is given the promise that he will be exalted as leader among the people, and that God will prove He is with Joshua just as He was with Moses.
The priests are instructed to carry the Ark to the water’s edge and stand in the river.
The Israelites are told that, as a sign that they will inherit the land they are about to enter, the Ark of the Covenant out in front, the waters of the Jordan river will part, as the priests enter it.
The waters part, from a town called Adam (mmm, the first man), and stop the flow right down to the Dead Sea.
‘So the people crossed over opposite Jericho.’

The priests stand firm in the centre of the river Jordan, as the people passed by; so, all the nation of Israel cross the river.

Just as God had parted the Red Sea, now the Jordan is parted, so God’s people can cross – God is with Joshua ‘as He was’ with Moses.

One person from each tribe (twelve in total) is charged to bring a stone (from the middle of the Jordan), and lay them where all Israel then spend the night. These stones are to be a permanent reminder of God’s faithfulness and their crossing the Jordan.
‘The stones are there to this day…’
Around 40,00 men, ready for battle, crossed the Jordan that day.
As God had promised, Joshua is exalted as their leader, ‘and they revered him all the days of his life, just as they had revered Moses’.
As soon as the priests set foot on the other side of the Jordan, the waters return to their place.
The people walked up to Gilgal, on the eastern border of Jericho, camped there, and set the twelve stones in place – the permanent reminder of God’s faithfulness :
‘so that all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the Lord is powerful and so that you might always fear the Lord your God.’

Circumcision at Gilgal –
the generation of Israelites that entered the Promised Land had not been circumcised ‘on the way’; the previous generation, who were denied their Promised Land, had been circumcised in Egypt. So, once in the land, Joshua has all the men circumcised, and they stay in the camp at Gilgal (which means ‘ ‘until they were healed’.

Wow – what a painful start to life in the Promised Land.

Then the Israelites celebrate the Passover, and enjoy, for the first time, the produce of the land, and from that day, the manna stopped.
The manna has been a constant supply from the Lord throughout the forty years – time for a change of diet!

LUKE

Judas Agrees to Betray Jesus – The feast of unleavened bread is approaching….the temple leaders are looking for a way to ‘get rid of Jesus’….Judas is gripped by Satan who leads him to the chief priests and temple guards and he discusses with them ‘how he might betray Jesus’….there’s an exchange of money, and the stage is set for the ultimate betrayal….they look for a time when Jesus is away from the crowds, for they ‘fear the people’.

The Last Supper – it’s the day of the passover celebration, and Jesus sends Peter and John ahead of Him to ensure all is prepared. They are to follow a man carrying a water jar (pre-arranged sign, or prophetic God-incidence?) – and are led to a furnished upper room which is set aside for ‘the Teacher’ and His disciples.
Jesus reclines at the table with the apostles – He indicates this is His last supper (until ‘its fulfilment in the kingdom of God’).
Jesus takes the cup, gives thanks and shares it amongst them with the words ‘I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.’
Then Jesus takes the bread, gives thanks, and breaks it : ‘This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.’
Then Jesus takes the wine, and says : ‘This cup is the covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.’
Jesus also reveals He is about to be betrayed : ‘The hand of him who is going to betray me is with mine on the table.’
How inappropriate that around this table they argue amongst themselves about which of them is the greatest !!
Jesus’ response : ‘the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules likes the one who serves’, for Jesus Himself, The Greatest, is amongst them as a servant.
‘I confer on you a kingdom, just as my Father conferred one on me, so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.’ WOW !!
Then there’s an interesting little paragraph about Simon Peter – Jesus tells him that Satan has had his eye on him, but that Jesus is praying Peter’s faith will not fail him. Peter swears allegiance to Jesus : ‘I am ready to go with you to prison and to death’. Then he has to hear Jesus predict his three-times denial ‘before the cock crows’ (i.e. before this night is truly done).

The last section truly puzzles me – I’ve never really noticed what seems to be a ‘call to arms’ by Jesus, that they’ll need their swords with them as they leave. ‘If you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one’. The disciples count up and discover they’ve only got two swords between them, and Jesus says, ‘That’s enough’.

I find my study bible helpful here :
‘The situation of the disciples had completely changed from the days when Jesus sent them out in the flush of popular support (10 v. 1 – 7). Then they could expect hospitality. Now they must support themselves and face hostility. Jesus’ instruction to buy a sword was not to be taken literally. It was a grim way of emphasizing the opposition they would face. When the disciples misunderstood Him, Jesus did not try to correct them. He simply made the ironic statement, ‘It is enough’ (that’s how the KJV finishes this episode, rather than ‘That is enough.’), perhaps meaning ‘Enough talk about swords’!

PSALM
God is a mighty God, who owns the  every animal of the forest, and the cattle on a thousand hills…
‘Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honour me.’





Be strong and very courageous…

26 04 2011

DAY ONE HUNDRED AND TWELVE : Joshua 1 v. 1 – 2 v. 24; Luke 21 v. 5 – 38; Proverbs 10 v. 11 – 20

We begin the book of Joshua – the first book beyond the Pentateuch, belonging to the section categorised as ‘The Prophets’ (Joshua, Judges, 1 and 2 Samuel, and 1 and 2 Kings). In it, the writer records the faithfulness of Israel, God fulfilling the covenant promise, His people inheriting the Promised Land.
The first half of the book (1 – 12) relates to the conquests (which take many years) and the second half (13 – 24) about how the land is divided out and Joshua dispersing the tribes, with final instructions.

JOSHUA
The Lord Commands Joshua – God tells Joshua that, now Moses has died, he is the one to lead the people across the Jordan into the land to inherit it. God says several times, “Be strong and courageous….you will lead these people…”
He promises to be with Joshua, just as He was with Moses.
‘Be careful to obey all the law of Moses; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go.’
Do not be terrified or discouraged, but be strong and courageous, Joshua.

Joshua gives notice across the camp that in three days they will set off and cross the Jordan.
All the fighting men (including the Reubenites, Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh, who already have their portions of land east of the Jordan) pledge allegiance to Joshua : ‘Just as we fully obeyed Moses (did they really ??), so we will obey you……only be strong and courageous’.

Interesting to note that God has spoken those words several times to Joshua – ‘be strong and courageous’ – and now he hears them from his own people – a real confirmation to him, if ever he needed it, that God is at work !!

Rahab and the Spies – Joshua sends two spies into the city of Jericho, and they find themselves staying at the home of Rahab, a prostitute (the local brothel would have many visitors, I guess, therefore they might go relatively unnoticed). Ultimately, Rahab helps them escape, when the king of Jericho gets wind of their presence. She makes an agreement with them, that if she helps them escape, when the Israelites arrive and take over Jericho, she and her whole family will be spared. Rahab tells them of the fear that has grown in Jericho in face of the threat the Israelites pose :
‘I know that the Lord has give this land to you….everyone’s courage has failed because of you, for the Lord your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below…’
As she lets the two men escape down a scarlet rope from her window, right down the outer wall of the city, to freedom, the rope is placed in the window of the house as a sign that everyone in the house will be spared, when Israel attacks.

Of course, it is ‘shocking’ that it is Rahab, the prostitute, who has grasped the true nature of God in all this, and at great risk to her own life, first hides and then helps the spies escape…she shows herself to be ‘strong and very courageous’.

Forty years earlier, spies brough back a message which filled the Israelites with fear…this time, a wholly different message….the Lord will deliver this land into their hands.

LUKE
Signs of the End of the Age – these are the last days of Jesus’s ministry on earth, and He talks with His disciples about the ‘last days’, and the signs of the end of the age. The disciples had been marvelling at the beauty and majesty of the temple, when Jesus tells them it will be destroyed completely. They want to know when this will happen. Jesus lists the signs of the coming devastation and the end times :
– many false ‘Messiahs’ will come
– wars and revolutions will happen
– nation will rise against nation
– earthquakes, famines and plagues will abound
– fearful events and great signs from heaven
– disciples will be persecuted, and some put to death : ‘All men will hate you because of me…by standing firm you will gain life’, but don’t worry about what you will say (‘make up your mind not to worry’….I like that phrase), ‘for I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict’)
– Jerusalem will be surrounded by armies

Jesus speak of the desolation which will come to Jerusalem, and all the inhabitants of Judea will need to flee to the mountains.

– there will be signs in the sky (sun, moon and stars)
– the seas will roar and rage

Then the Son of Man will be seen ‘coming in a cloud with power and great glory’.
God’s people are to ‘stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.’

Just as a fig tree shows signs that the fruit is coming, by the leaves which appear at just the right time, so these signs (above) will indicate the timing and certainty that the kingdom of God is near.
So, Jesus encourages the disciples to be careful, be always watching and praying, so that when the time comes, they ‘may be able to stand before the Son of Man.’

Jesus is making daily trips into Jerusalem during the day, and returning to the Mount of Olives to rest through the night. The ‘end’ is nearing for Him.

PROVERBS
the power of words and whether they build up or destroy

‘the mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life’ – (life-giving, refreshing, blessing)
‘hatred stirs up dissension, but love covers over all wrongs’
‘he who heeds discipline shows the way to life – whoever ignores correction leads others astray’
‘when words are many, sin is not absent – but he who holds his tongue is wise’
‘the tongue of the righteous is choice silver….’





Moses dies….on the edge of the Promised Land.

25 04 2011

DAY ONE HUNDRED AND ELEVEN : Deuteronomy 33 v. 1 – 34 v. 12; Luke 20 v. 27 – 21 v. 4; Psalm 49 v. 1 – 20

DEUTERONOMY
Moses Blesses the Tribes – Moses’ final act is to pray a blessing on each of the tribes. God had blessed them from Sinai, and all instruction has been given by Him.
‘It is You who love the people; all the holy ones are in Your hand. At Your feet they all bow down, and from You receive instruction.’
Reuben – a prayer for God’ protection and blessing for many descendants
Judah – a prayer for God’s protection and provision against their enemies
Levi – a prayer for this tribe who ‘teach Your precepts and laws’, and who offer incense and burnt offerings, that all their skills will be blessed, and that they will be well defended from the enemy
Benjamin – a prayer for protection, a shielding…‘the one the Lord loves rests between His shoulders’
Joseph – a prayer for God’s blessing on the land with the best gifts of the earth;‘in majesty he is like a firstborn bull’.
Zebulun – a blessing for their going out and coming in (Issachar), and their call to others to offer sacrifices on the mountain
Gad – a blessing for the an enlarging territory, for them being a lead tribe, a good judge concerning Israel
Dan – a blessing of the ‘lion cub’ of a tribe
Naphtali – a prayer for God’s continued favour, blessing and inheritance (of land)
Asher – a blessing for Asher being favoured by the brothers, for strength and sure defence (iron bolts / gates)

Moses concludes that there is no-one like Israel’s God, ‘riding on the heavens to help you and on the clouds in his majesty’.
‘The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms.’
The Lord will protect and bless Israel – most blessed among nations – enjoying security, fruitfulness, a sense of being saved / rescued.

The Death of Moses – as God had previously instructed, Moses climbs Mt. Nebo, looks over the whole Promised Land, and God reminds Moses of the covenant given to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, about to be fulfilled by his descendants entering the land.
Moses dies on the mountain, and is buried in an unknown grave (it reads as if God, Himself, buries Moses). He died in good health, at 120 years old.
The Israelites mourned for Moses for thirty days.
‘Now Joshua, son of Nun, was filled with the Spirit of wisdom because Moses had laid his hands on him.’
The Israelites listened to him, and obeyed the Lord’s commands.

Moses will never be matched as a prophet – he knew God face to face; he did many miraculous signs (especially in Egypt).
‘For no-one has ever shown the mighty power or performed the awesome deeds that Moses did in the sight of all Israel.’

The end of Deuteronomy, and the end of the Pentateuch (first five books of the Bible). The book / series of books ends with blessings being pronounced across all Israel.
The death of Moses is a moving portion of scripture, especially as it reads as if he dies alone, with God, Himself, attending to the burial.
He will always be remembered as the greatest of all the prophets, bringing them to freedom from Egypt.

LUKE
Resurrection and Marriage – the question arises, from the Sadducees who don’t believe in a resurrection, if there is a resurrection and a woman has had several husbands, who will she be married to ‘at the resurrection’?
Jesus says there will be no marriage in heaven, for all will be like the angels, they are God’s children first and foremost.
He uses a story of Moses to illustrate the belief of the forefathers that the dead will rise.
‘He is not the God of the dead, but of the living.’ (I am reminded of the angel at the resurrection of Jesus, who said, “Why do you look for the living among the dead?).
Some accept His teaching and affirm Him (I guess others slope off quietly).

Whose Son is the Christ ? – Jesus argues that He is more than ‘just’ a Son of David (earthly descendant of David), but is Lord (David, himself, had called Him, Lord). It’s an audacious claim, followed by a warning to beware of the scribes….their motives are suspect – they like being seen in their long robes in the marketplace; they love the best seats; they like only the best feasts; they live off the diminishing estates of widows; they try to impress with their long prayers. They are going to experience God’s harshest condemnation…



The Widow’s Offering – observing those giving gifts, including the very rich and the very poor, Jesus commends to His disciples the two small copper coins the poor widow puts in – ‘All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.’

PSALM
The Psalmist sings of the wisdom and understanding which come from God…compared with the fear and deception around, the trust in wealth and riches.
‘The ransom for a life is costly, no payment is ever enough – that he should live on for ever…’
The wise and foolish, alike, will die, and we take nothing with us when we die.
‘A man who has riches without understanding is like the beasts that perish.’
‘God will redeem my life from the grave; He will surely take me to himself.’





The tables are turned….

25 04 2011

ONE HUNDRED AND TEN : Deuteronomy 31 v. 30 – 32 v. 52; Luke 19 v. 45 – 20 v. 26; Psalm 48 v. 9 – 14

DEUTERONOMY
The Song of Moses – Moses’ song is a very long song, all recorded as it was sung to the whole assembly.
It’s a song which proclaims to the heavens and the earth the name of the Lord, the greatness of God
“He is the Rock, His works are perfect, all His ways are just, a faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is He.”
The song tells of the failure of God’s people, acting corruptly and abandoning the ways of the Lord.
The song calls God’s people to remember who formed them, the generations long past, the promised land shared out.
The song speaks of how God had protected them and provided for them through the wilderness.
The song mentions Jeshurun (a poetic name for Israel, meaning ‘upright one’), filled with food, abandoning the God who had provided everything for him,‘rejecting the Rock his Saviour’, turning to foreign gods, sacrificing to gods they had not known.
“You deserted the Rock, who fathered you, you forgot the God who gave you birth.”
The song tells of God’s rejection of them, hiding His face from the wicked and perverse generation; His anger burns.
The song speaks of God bringing calamity upon them, famine, disease, plague; wild beasts, vipers; they will be scattered.
The song proclaims to all nations, that even if Israel falls, it is God’s doing (not proof that Israel’s God has failed).
“The Rock had sold them…the Lord had given them up”
The song reveals God’s compassion for a broken Israel, once she is humbled, and weakened, and the false gods proved to be…..false.
There is a way back to their God :
“See now that I myself am He! There is no god besides me. I put to death and I bring to life.”
The song concludes with God avenging the blood of His people, atoning for the land and people.

Moses finishes his song, and encourages all the people to take his words to heart – ‘they are not just idle words for you – they are your life.’

Moses to Die on Mt. Nebo  – God tells Moses to climb Mt. Nebo in Moab, and to view all of Canaan. Though he won’t enter the promised land because of his previous sin – ‘because you broke faith with Me…and because you did not uphold My holiness among the Israelites’ – Moses does get to see their final destination.

Both Aaron and Moses have final instructions to climb a mountain – at such an age – and expire there.
Does the mountain-top represent a ‘lifting up’, or a high point closer to God / heaven ?
For Moses, at least, it is a vantage point to see (and no doubt pray for) the land of their inheritance.

LUKE

Jesus at the Temple – okay, Jesus makes Himself immediately unpopular to the temple authorities by driving out the money-changers and merchants in the courtyard.
‘My house will be a house of prayer – but you have made it a ‘den of robbers’.’
Those who hoped His coming would lead to an overthrow of the Roman authorities may not have understood why He was targeting the temple – overthrowing tables, not the occupying force.
He returns every day to teach, whilst the chief priests, teachers and leaders tried to find a way to kill Him. It wasn’t easy for them, as Jesus’ teaching was always well respected and He had quite a following.

Authority of Jesus Questioned – as ever, trying to trap Jesus, the chief priests, teachers and elders come to Him in the temple and ask where His authority comes from. Jesus replies with a question about whether John’s baptism was of heaven or man. It is a trap for them. If they say ‘heaven’, then they are authenticating John’s ministry (which they had never, seemingly, accepted). If they say ‘man’, there will be a riot, because so many believed John to be a prophet-figure.
They wouldn’t be drawn to give an answer….so neither was Jesus.

Parable of the Tenants – Jesus tells the story of the landowner who rented his vineyard to farmers and went away. When he sent his servant(s) to collect ‘some of the fruit of the vineyard’ at harvest time, the tenants first beat, then beat and treated shamefully, then wounded each servant sent. Finally, the landowner sends his son, believing he will be respected. Rather, the heir is killed, with the thought that the inheritance might then pass to them.
The landowner will then come and take the vineyard from the tenants. Jesus further points to Himself, and the events about to unfold, when He quotes :
“The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone”.
The temple leaders are further infuriated, knowing this teaching is all targeted at them. They want to arrest Him immediately, but need to find the right time, when there are fewer people around Him.

Paying Taxes to Caesar – another trap set for Jesus, in the form of spies, cosying up to Jesus, appearing ‘honest’. Ironically, they speak the truth of Jesus, when they say that He teaches what is right, the ‘way of God in accordance with the truth’, though they don’t believe it. Their question is about whether it’s right for Jews to pay taxes to Caesar. If the Messiah to come is going to overthrow the occupying Romans, then surely He will have something to say about the unjust taxes they are paying ?
As ever, Jesus’ teaching asks a deeper question, ‘Okay, we give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar (as good citizens), but do we also (firstly) give to God what is God’s ?’
This silences the spies, and they go away astonished.
Clever answer.

It strikes me that although the temple is a very hostile place for Jesus to be present and teaching, He continues to show up there daily, and continues to have a following there, although He attracts His opponents too…..  

PSALM
‘Within Your temple, O God, we meditate on Your unfailing love…
For this God is our God for ever and ever; He will be our guide even to the end.’





CHOOSE LIFE…..

22 04 2011

DAY ONE HUNDRED AND NINE : Deuteronomy 30 v. 11 – 31 v. 29; Luke 19 v. 11 – 44; Psalm 48

DEUTERONOMY
Life or Death – God presents the people with a choice – not too difficult, not beyond them, not bound to heaven, nor across the sea –
‘No, the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so that you may obey it….I set before you today life and prosperity, death and desctruction’.
The path of obedience, devotion, walking in God’s ways leads to life, fruitfulness, blessing, promised land.
The path of disobedience, turning to other gods leads to destruction, loss of land, loss of life.
‘This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses.
Now choose life….for the Lord is your life.’

I’ve always loved these verses – choices and consequences – life or death, blessings or curses, fruitfulness or destruction.
God created us with freewill – He loves us too much to manipulate us or coerce us – He sets before us a choice.
As I write this, we’re coming to the end of Holy Week – Maundy Thursday, a day of stark choices;
Good Friday, a day of life through death, of blessings through a curse, of fruitfulness through destruction.
What will you choose today…..

Joshua to Succeed Moses – Moses tells the people, since He is now 120 years old, that he is unable to lead them further, and he will not cross over the Jordan into the Promised Land with them, but the Lord will lead them, and Joshua will be with them.
‘Be strong and courageous….for the Lord your God  goes with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you.’
And Joshua is summoned and blessed, praying strength and courage for him, as he is to take the people into the land to possess it, and divide it out.

Reading the Law – Moses wrote the law and handed it to the priests. At the end of every seven years, in the year for cancelling debts (Sabbath Year), during the Feast of Tabernacles, the law is to be read out to all the men, women and children (even foreigners). It’s all part of learning the law which will sustain them in the Promised Land.

Israel’s Rebellion – Nearing the time of Moses’ death, the Lord calls him and Joshua to the Tent of Meeting, to commission Joshua. The Lord appears at the Tent in a cloud, and speaks to them.
Moses will soon die. The Israelites will ‘prostitute themselves’, worshipping other gods, breaking the covenant. God foresees His anger and says He will ‘hide my face from them, and they will be destroyed’, disaster and difficulties will befall them.
God gives them instructions to write down a new song to teach the Israelites, as a reminder that He has predicted all that will happen for ‘I know what they are disposed to do, even before I bring them into the land I promised them on oath.’
God, once again, tells Joshua to ‘be strong and courageous, for you will bring the Israelites into the land…’ (think God’s’ trying to make a point to Joshua about his need for strength and courage!!)

Moses finishes writing the Book of Law, and has it placed alongside the Ark of the Covenant, ‘as a witness against you’. He condemns the Israelites for being stiff-necked and rebellious (how much more they will be so, when Moses is no longer around). He, too, predicts the disaster which will befall God’s people when they turn away from Him.

LUKE
The Parable of the Ten Minas – This story is told because Jesus is nearing Jerusalem, and some were anticipating the Kingdom of God would immediately be ushered in / established, in an instance.
A noble man goes on a long journey (to be appointed king), so gives a mina each to ten servants, with the instruction to put the money to work.
Although there was a protest by his subjects that he not become king, he was made king, nonetheless.
He newly appointed king calls back his servants to find out what they’d done with the money.
One had earned ten more minas – he is commended, ‘because you have been trustworthy in a very small matter, take charge of ten cities’; one had earned five more; another servant, though, had wrapped his mina in a piece of cloth, keeping it safe for fear of the master. There is a sort of bitterness towards the master who ‘takes what he’s not worked for, and reaps what he’s not sown’.
The master says it would have been better to have invested the money, benefiting at least from the interest (not in this day and age !!!).
This man’s mina is taken from him and given to the first, who already has much……and those who opposed the king are to be summoned and killed !!

No happy ending here – what a disappointing story for those who were expecting Jesus to be a very different type of King !

The Triumphal Entry – after that story, Jesus headed into Jerusalem. He sends two disciples ahead of Him, to find a colt, untie it and bring it to Him. The expectation is that someone will ask what they are doing, but they are simply to say, ‘The Lord needs it.’

Is this a pre-arranged sign, or simply something which will show the disciples how much Jesus is in control of events? Love the mystery in all this.

The disciples throw cloaks over the colt and ‘put Jesus on it’ (can’t He get on it Himself?).
People spread their cloaks on the road, and the whole crowd begin to joyfully praise God in loud voices
“Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord
Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”

When the Pharisees (in the crowd?) see and hear all this, they tell Jesus to stop them. Jesus says that even if they were silenced, ‘the stones will cry out’.

Jesus weeps over Jerusalem as He sees the city spread out before Him. He knows that Jerusalem is about to reject God’s ultimate offer of Peace, and that Jerusalem will be destroyed in the times to come.

PSALM
‘Great is the Lord, and most worthy of praise….’





“What do you want me to do for you?”….following Jesus, praising God.

21 04 2011

DAY ONE HUNDRED AND EIGHT : Deuteronomy 29 v. 1 – 30 v. 10; Luke 18 v. 31 – 19 v. 10; Proverbs 10 v. 1 – 10

DEUTERONOMY
Renewing the Covenant – so, the covenant established between God and the Israelites at Horeb is now renewed at Moab. The Israelites are reminded that they have witnessed God’s dealings with Pharaoh and the Egyptians; during 40 years in the wilderness, shoes did not wear out, there was no bread or wine; they had defeated the kings of Heshbon and Bashan; in light of all this, the covenant is presented for all the people (those present and those not present – i.e. future generations).
‘Make sure there is no man or woman, clan or tribe among you today whose heart turns away from the Lord our God to go and worship the gods of those nations (a root which would produce a bitter poison)’
There is a terrible life of unforgiveness and curses for those who wander from this commitment, and the whole land will experience destruction (a burning waste of salt and sulphur), and all nations will see that this has happened because Israel broke the covenant of allegiance and faithfulness to the Lord God.
They are a privileged, chosen people, because ‘the secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children for ever, that we may follow all the words of this law.’

Prosperity – Moses words have prophesied the time(s) when Israel will drift from God, be drawn towards other gods, be conquered and exiled, but then return to obedience and devotion to the Lord God, and experience His blessings and their well-being again.
‘when you and your children return to the Lord your God and obey Him with all your heart and with all your soul…then the Lord your God will restore your fortunes and have compassion on you and gather you again…’
Even from far-flung places, they will return, to the promised land, and be more prosperous and numerous than before.
Hearts will be circumcised, to love Him with all your heart and with all your soul, to live. Your enemies will suffer the curses.

The ‘circumcision of the heart’ suggests a work of God in a person’s inner being, inclining the person to love God wholeheartedly, to be surrendered completely to God’s will. God’s way.

LUKE
Jesus Predicts His Death – Jesus explains to the twelve that they are headed to Jerusalem, where all the prophetic words about the Son of Man / Messiah will be fulfilled. Arrest, mockery, insults, spitting, flogging and killing lie ahead, but they don’t really grasp what Jesus is telling them…how could they ? But they wouldn’t have to wait long, now, to understand all too painfully what was coming.

a reminder, continuing on from yesterday, that the next two stories complete the series of five which answer the earlier question about inheriting eternal life / entering God’s Kingdom…
(iv) those who cry out for mercy (God’s help) enter the Kingdom
(v) those who joyfully put things right inherit eternity

The Blind Beggar – So, on this route, and approaching Jericho, Jesus meets the blind beggar at the roadside. Aware from others that ‘Jesus of Nazareth’ is passing by, the man begins to call out for Him : “Son of David, have mercy on me!” (even though he was told to shut up, over and over again, he continued, acknowledging Jesus as ‘the Messiah’ by calling Him Son of David).
Jesus stopped ! He was open to being distracted by cries for mercy (help), and asks for the man to be brought to Him.
“What do you want me to do for you ?” asks Jesus…..what a wonderful question, tumbling down the years to us today…what is our heart’s desire, before Jesus ?
“Lord, I want to see” comes the reply….and our need today is to ‘see’ what God sees, to have our eyes opened to the Kingdom all around us.
The man receives his sight from Jesus, and is commended for his faith. His response is to ‘follow Jesus, praising God’.
And everyone around praised God too.
Hallelujah.

Zacchaeus – Fresh from this last encounter, Jesus gets into Jericho where there is such a crowd, and a little man, Zacchaeus (the unpopular town’s WEALTHY tax collector) has to climb a tree to see Jesus. Jesus spots him, calls him by name, gets him to come down, and invites himself to his house for tea!
Imaging the mutterings in the crowd!! ‘He’s eating with that low-life, traitor, sinner.’
Zacchaeus is a changed man, though. His greedy, hard heart becomes repentant, generous and caring. He gives away half of his possessions for the poor, and agrees to pay back four times what he has unlawfully taken from the people, beyond the call of restitution in Numbers / Leviticus (the value plus 1/5th more).
“Today salvation has come to this house…now, he too, is a son of Abraham. (as a Jew he already was, but has now ‘spiritually’ become a son of Abraham!)
The Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.”

stunning story about a life (and consequently a whole community) transformed, by the work of salvation, of Jesus’ presence in the life of Zacchaeus, and a chance to underline Christ Jesus’ mission on earth – to seek and to save what was lost.
Let it be so, Lord. Today.

PROVERBS (wise words from Solomon)
‘a wise son brings joy…ill-gotten treasures are of no value…
the righteous won’t go hungry…lazy hands create poverty / diligent hands create wealth
whoever sleeps during the harvest is disgraceful…
blessings crown the head of the righteous…
The wise in heart accept commands, a chattering fool comes to ruin.
The man of integrity walks securely…he who winks maliciously causes grief.’





All or nothing….it’s your choice.

20 04 2011

DAY ONE HUNDRED AND SEVEN : Deuteronomy 28 v. 15 – 68; Luke 18 v. 1 – 30; Psalm 47 v. 1 – 9

DEUTERONOMY
Curses for Disobedience – We had some of the blessings in yesterday’s readings, for obeying God’s commands – today, the opposite; the curses for not obeying. Cursed in the city and the country, cursed basket and kneading trough, cursed family, crops and livestock, cursed when you come in and go out. The Lord will send ‘curses, confusion and rebuke’ on every aspect of life. There will be plagues, diseases, destruction, drought, mildew. Your enemies will defeat you. You will get boils, tumours, sores and itches; madness and blindness;
‘You will be unsuccessful in all you do.’
Marriages will fail, building projects will collapse, livestock will be stolen, family will be taken, oppression will rule the land.
God’s people will be exiled, turning to other gods, and be scorned, ridiculed and hated.
Locusts and worms will destroy crops. Foreigners will take over.
They will become the tail, not the head; lent to, not lending (compare with yesterday’s blessings).
destruction will surely follow disobedience.
On overcoming nation will swoop like an eagle, fierce, showing no mercy / pity.
Family members will turn against one another (devouring the flesh of their children!!!).
God is offering the people a stark choice – obedience and blessing / life, or disobedience and curse / destruction.

Pretty grim reading today !
What is hard to read is :
“Just as it pleased the Lord to make you prosper and increase in number, so it will please Him to ruin and destroy you….”
Although these may be the inevitable consequences of choosing not to go God’s way, it’s a harsh view of God which sees Him delight in destruction, pain and death.
Thank God for the New Testament lens through which we view such passages.
God clearly does not WANT destruction and death – He has been at pains to show how much He desires obedience, devotion, holiness, justice.

LUKE
Parable of the Persistent Widow – this parable, we are told, is to encourage us to pray and never give up ! The persistent widow keeps on at the judge (who neither feared God nor cared about men), until he finally gives us, he grants her justice (against her adversary). It’s a ‘how much more’ parable – if this uncaring, godless judge will ‘honour’ persistence, how much more will God bring about justice for His chosen.
‘When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?’

the link to the previous verses is an encouragement to never give up, as we wait for the Lord’s return…
and encouraging our faith to grow as we wait for God’s response to our prayers…

******************

My study bible rather helpfully links the next five stories together :
‘Five examples show us how one enters God’s kingdom :
whoever admits he is a sinner (v9-14)
who comes in childlike faith (v15-17)
who gives up all (v18-30)
who cries out for help (v35 – 43)
who joyfully puts things right (ch.19 v1-10)’

Parable of the Pharisee and Tax Collector – Jesus speaks this parable to those who are ‘confident of their own righteousness and look down on everybody else’.
There are two men in the story – one a Pharisee, the other a tax collector.
The Pharisee is full of his own importance, looking down on the tax collector and others, promoting his righteous fasting (twice a week) and tithing.
The tax collector kept his distance, not even able to raise his eyes to heaven, beating his chest and simply asking God for mercy, knowing his sinfulness.
Surprisingly, and as a direct challenge to the Pharisees, Jesus pronounces the tax collector to be the one ‘justified’ / right with God.

If we exalt ourselves, we will be humbled.

If we humble ourselves, we will be exalted.

Little Children and Jesus – in an age when babies and small children were of little value within society, hence the disciples’ desire to push them away, Jesus reveals how important youngsters are to God. In fact they are set as an example to us of a faith-filled life.

We are to learn from little children the keys for entering the kingdom, and we won’t be able to enter without these keys…..

The Rich Ruler – Jesus first stretches this young ruler’s thinking about goodness. He’s described Jesus as a good teacher, and Jesus challenges him to think more deeply about what goodness is – that only God IS good.
Secondly, of course, the challenge is financial, material. This young man is doing his very best to keep the commandments, but knows himself there’s a sense of ‘something missing’, something incomplete. Jesus knows that this man is trapped by his wealth. The test is whether he would be willing to give up everything to follow Jesus. There’s no ‘half-hearted’ following, if you want to be a disciple, Jesus is saying.

Although we may not all be asked to sell everything and give to the poor, the principle holds that to be a follower, we must not depend upon wealth, money or possessions, but upon God. We cannot serve both.

The man goes away sad – Jesus lets him walk away, but knows it’s not the end of the story for this man…who knows what happens to him…
‘It’s harder for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven than for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle.’
Salvation is only made possible through God (no amount of riches or goodness can achieve it), because all things are possible for God.
Peter speaks of the disciples’ sacrifice of everything to follow Jesus, and He reassures them that they will receive many times more than what they have surrendered, in this age; and in the age to come receive ‘eternal life’.

PSALM
“Clap your hands…shout to God with cries of joy…
HOW AWESOME IS THE LORD MOST HIGH”
Sing praises to God, sing praises….
God reigns, He is seated on His Holy throne…
He is greatly exalted.”