Today’s Bible reading: Deuteronomy 4:1-49; Luke 6:39-7:10; Psalm 68:1-18; Proverbs 11:28
In preparation for entering the Promised Land and fighting off an enemy who was larger than they were, Moses reminds Israel of their need to obey God and the past evidence of what happens when they don’t. God was going to lead them into battle and He promised them victory. But they had to follow His instruction. They were not to “add” or “subtract” from anything He told them to do. This had a spiritual implication for Israel and it has one or us as well. Many man-made religions “add” things, such as rituals, to God’s word or “subtract” things by ignoring passages in the Bible they don’t like (e.g. laws against homosexuality). By doing this they are attempting to make themselves equal to God.
By obeying God in battle as well in life, Israel would have demonstrated to surrounding nations just how great their God was (Deuteronomy 4:6). This would cause these nations to question the existence of their own gods. Again, this is something that God wants to accomplish today. The world’s gods are money, fame, sex, power, etc. These are false gods than can do nothing for a person. They cannot save a person from their sins which is the one thing we all need. Only God can do that. Christians are to live life in such a way that others question the way they are living their own lives.
God warns Israel against worshipping false gods (Deuteronomy 6:25) but, as we’ll see, this is exactly what they will do. In response God will remove them from the land He gave them (Deuteronomy 6:27). Existing as a nation is a privilege from God. It is not a right. We exist, both individually and corporately, to bring glory to God. If we reject that responsibility and decide to live for ourselves God will remove us from our land. As I read the Old Testament this year I see many parallels between Israel and the United States. Both were nations truly blessed beyond measure by God. But both turned their backs on Him. Israel was later conquered. I fear the fate of the United States will be the same. Although God promised to restore Israel He makes no such promise to other nations who ignore or mock Him. Israel is unique in human history as it is the only nation to be wiped off the earth and then come back into existence. This is more proof that the Bible is the word of the true God.
Jesus teaches us today that it is of no use to follow someone who knows no more than we do (Luke 6:39). He also warns against not seeing what is wrong with ourselves before concerning ourselves with what is wrong with others. Certainly we all are flawed. But it is easier to see the flaws in others and not so easy to see the flaws in ourselves. Its all well and good to help others overcome their sin – we are commanded to do that – but first we have to recognize our own sinfulness. Then we can help, but only through Jesus who has overcome all sin.
The status of our heart determines what kind of “fruit” we will produce in our lives (Luke 6:43-45). Our heart is the core of who we are which is why Jesus’s words aim right for our hearts. He wants to change us from being the evil, selfish people we are born as into new creatures with good hearts.
The only thing worth building our lives upon is Jesus. He is a solid foundation that is capable of withstanding any and all trouble in life. Anyone who builds their life on anything else will not be able to stand against the storms of life (Luke 6:47-49)
The Roman centurion in Luke 7 is an interesting person. Under Roman law a slave could be killed if he became too injured to work. Yet this centurion didn’t do this. He liked his slave and probably treated him well so instead he sought out Jesus. This man was not only a Gentile but a suppressor of Israel – God’s people. He perhaps thought Jesus would reject him and so he sends Jewish elders to find Jesus and ask Him to heal the slave. He seems to think that Jesus only allows certain people into his presence. Some religions teach this very same thing. Catholicism, for example, teaches that only priests can talk to God. That is why Catholics have “confession” where the people confess their sins to a priest who then takes them to God. Of course, all this is completely against what God says. Anyone can come to directly to Him. Everyone is welcome. Putting barriers between people and God is pure arrogance and sin. It is “adding” to God’s word and making human rules equal with God’s.
The centurion also knows that Jesus’s power to heal comes from God and is not some sort of magic ritual (Luke 7:7). This was more than the Jewish leaders knew.
In Luke 7:9 we read that Jesus was amazed. Jesus was God, who is all knowing. Yet Jesus was God in a human body which we know has limitations. We don’t know everything and can’t read each other’s minds. So when I read this verse today I wondered whether God allowed Jesus to “discover” things. We all know how much fun it is to be surprised and to find out something we didn’t know before. Perhaps at times He (God) withheld information from Jesus just so Jesus could have the fun of discovering it.
In Psalm 68 David praises the goodness of God and how glad and joyful we should be (Psalm 68:3). But those who reject God will not succeed in the long run (Psalm 68:1-2). God takes care of those in need (Psalm 68:5). In our society being fatherless or without a husband isn’t a burden. But back when these words were written it was very difficult for a woman to live without a husband as she had no means to support herself. Yet God will take care of those who follow Him. The world may make life difficult on us. But God never will. He is always near to overcome the pain of life.
Proverbs 11:28 is pretty direct. Trusting in money will never work. The only one we can trust in is God. If we trust in Him our lives will be as fresh and vibrant as new-born leaves in spring.
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