11 04 2011

DAY NINETY-SIX : Deuteronomy 4 v. 15 – 5 v. 33; Luke 11 v. 5 – 32; Proverbs 8 v. 32 – 36

On Saturday, just gone, I was honoured to be asked to conduct the blessing of a marriage begun 56 years ago. When Jack and May renewed their covenant of Christian marriage, it included the promise to ‘be faithful (to each other) as long as we both shall live’. I could see the faithfulness to each other in the devotion and love in their eyes. Today’s readings speak of a life of devotion and faithfulness to God, who is always faithful towards us….


Idolatry Forbidden – the Israelites are reminded to be careful not to bow down to false idols, not to worship the moon, sun or stars, because they are the Lord’s people, rescued from Egypt.
“Be careful not to forget the covenant of the Lord your God….do not make for yourselves an idol in the form of anything the Lord your God has forbidden. For the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.”
Future generations may fall away, drawn to worship the gods of stone and wood, but if they return to God, He will not forget His covenant.
“But if you seek the Lord your God, you will find Him if you look for Him with all your heart and with all your soul.”

God’s wish is for us to live lives of faithful obedience to Him, and we will be blessed if we do….

The Lord is God –
when the Israelites remember all that God has done for them – how they have heard His voice, been guided by His presence through fire and cloud, been freed from slavery in Egypt, been miraculously provided for through the wilderness – they can only marvel at God’s power and strength, majesty and might. They are encouraged to keep worshiping God as Lord, to know the blessings He will give in the Promised Land.

Cities of Refuge – Bezer, Ramoth and Golan are set aside as the three cities of refuge east of the Jordan, for the Reubenites, Gadites and Manassites respectively

Introducing the Law – a reminder that the laws were given at a specific place and a specific time which the Israelites would always be able to look back to.

The Ten Commandments – Moses reminds all the people of the covenant commandments, given at Horeb. It is a perpetual covenant (not just with our fathers…).
1. No other gods – again, God wants our faithful devotion (and not distraction or shared attention)
2. No idols – the consequences are serious for future generations, if the nation falls away and allows itself to become unfaithful
3. No misuse of God’s name
4. Observe the Sabbath – no work, but worship of God
5. Honour Mum and Dad
6. No murder
7. No adultery
8. No stealing
9. No lying
10. No coveting

The Israelites know this is a fearful, holy moment – God’s booming voice, fire from heaven, His glory and majesty – and they pledge to listen and obey all that God says.
“Oh, that their (the Israelites) hearts would be inclined to fear me and keep all my commands always, so that it might go well with them and their children for ever….be careful to do what the Lord your God has commanded you; do not turn aside to the right or the left. Walk in all the way that the Lord your God has commanded you, so that you may live and prosper and prolong your days in the land that you will possess.”


Prayer – Jesus continues His teaching on prayer, having given them the Lord’s Prayer as His model for praying. Jesus tells a story of a bold request granted, to illustrate His teaching : “ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you…”
God knows how to give good gifts to His children….
“How much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him ?”

Prayer is a GOOD thing – it opens the way for us to receive only the GOOD from God.
God delights to hear our prayers and answer, though His answer may not be what we’ve expected, of course….

Beelzebub – some of the crowd that witness Jesus drive out a demon from a man who had been mute question where this power is coming from. Some say it comes from Beelzebub (Satan), and others ask for a heavenly sign. Knowing what they are thinking, as ever, Jesus teaches that a kingdom divided against itself will fall (Satan cannot attack / drive out Satan).
Jesus challenges His hearers to either stand with Him or stand against Him. Those who do not help bring people to Him, risk scattering people here, there and everywhere.
The picture of an evil spirit fleeing someone, only to return later, stronger and more determined, and finding a ‘house swept clean and put in order’, is a powerful image promoting the need to keep vigilant and praying constantly for God’s protection.
As one woman calls out a blessing on Jesus’ mother for bringing Him into the world, Jesus adds a blessing upon all who hear and obey God’s word.

Sign of Jonah – returning to the request for a sign, Jesus describes this people as a wicked generation. He refers to the ‘sign of Jonah’, and equates Himself (Son of Man) as a similar sign for this generation. As the Ninevites repented and will stand at the judgement, so to will all who respond to ‘the one greater than Jonah’ who they hear today.

“Blessed are those who keep my ways…listen to my instruction and be wise….
Whoever finds me finds life and receives favour from the Lord…”




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