Today’s Bible reading: Deuteronomy 26-27:26; Luke 10:38-11:13; Psalm 76:1-12; Proverbs 12:15-17
In Deuteronomy 26 we read about the tithes and offerings from the first harvest that Israel was to offer God once in the Promised Land. This was a special offering of the firstfruits of this new home for Israel. This was a way of thanking God for bringing them safely into the land. Giving is a way of saying “thank you”, even today. We thank someone by giving them a gift or taking them out to dinner. God doesn’t need any of the things that we give to him. But I believe that we need to give them. Giving makes us humble as we realize that we can give back to God only because He gave to us first.
In the NASB translation Deuteronomy 26:5 says that Jacob went to Egypt and “sojourned” there. I like this translation of this verse. Even though Israel was in Egypt for 400 years, it was always meant to be a temporary location for Israel. So the question is why did God send Israel to Egypt when they were essentially already in the land that God was going to give them 400 years later?
At the time Israel was only about 70 people. If they had stayed where they were they would have intermingled with the other residents of the land and they would not have remained a distinctive people as they expanded. But while in Egypt Israel was oppressed and segregated from the Egyptians. This allowed them to grow from 70 people to thousands while developing and keeping their uniqueness. Isn’t it cool to look back and see what God was doing?
The Israelites were also slaves in Egypt and this harsh situation allowed them to learn to rely on God. God always has a plan. It may not make sense at the time. But looking back it often does. The same is true today. God may send us into difficult situations. But they are only sojourns. We may not see the big picture but God does. And during these times we need to learn to trust Him to look out for our best interests.
In Deuteronomy 27:5 God commands Israel to build an alter to Him once they cross the Jordan River. The stones were to be natural, uncut stones. God did not want the attention to be on the work of the craftsmen. He wanted people to come there to recognize Him and Him alone.
At the conclusion of Deuteronomy 27 God gives instructions for the declaration of curses once in the Promised Land. We’ll see this fulfilled in a few weeks in the book of Joshua. But notice that all the people were to respond with “Amen” after each curse was declared. “Amen” translates to “so be it”. When we say “Amen” we are saying that we agree with what God says.
We finish Luke 10 with the famous story of Mary and Martha. They were sisters. Their brother was Lazarus who Jesus brought back to life. In this passage Jesus comes to visit them, apparently at Martha’s invitation (Luke 10:39). She must have been so excited to have Jesus as her guest. Who wouldn’t be? Martha’s intentions and general behavior were honorable. It is right to want to serve Jesus and do things for Him. That is not a bad thing. But we should not become “distracted” from Jesus while doing so. It is very easy to get caught up in the actual serving and forget why and who we serve.
Martha’s sister, Mary, on the other hand understands that it is not necessary to worry about all the details (Luke 10:41). We don’t have to be perfect for Jesus. He already knows that we are not. We need serve from our heart, doing the best we can, while keeping our focus on Jesus, whom we serve.
In Luke 11 the disciples ask Jesus to teach them how to pray. I’m sure these men had prayed many times before. But there was something powerful about Jesus’s prayers and they wanted to learn more. This is a good example for us today. When we see someone doing something that we want to be able to do we should not be shy about asking for instruction.
This same story was recorded by Matthew (Matthew 6:9-13). Luke records the prayer a bit differently which tells us that the exact words were not meant to be repeated. It is not a magic formula as Catholicism believes. In the Catholic church the Our Father is repeated ad nauseum to the point of being meaningless.
Jesus calls God “Father” (Luke 11:2). This would have been a radical change from the prayers of the Jews. Jesus is telling us the we have a more intimate familial-type relationship with God that was unknown before this.
Notice what Jesus tells us to pray for. We should pray for God to be honored (not us). We should pray for for God’s kingdom to reign (not our own). We should admit our dependence on God for everyday things (Luke 11:3). We should ask to be forgiven of our sins and to be protected from temptation (Luke 11:4).
The exact words don’t matter. What matters is that we believe, in our hearts not just our heads, that what we are asking is right and good.
Jesus uses a parable in Luke 11:5-13 to teach more about prayer. In this parable a man goes to his neighbor in the middle of the night to borrow bread. Back then people lived in a single room house. Knocking on the door would bother the entire household. This man must have really wanted bread to be willing to disturb his entire neighbor’s household in the middle of the night. We all know how unpleasant it is to be woken up from a sound sleep.
Our prayers should be the same way. We should not ask timidly. We should pray boldly. God isn’t reluctant to give us what we need or want. But He wants us to be confident.
God also wants us to be persistant (Luke 11:9). This doesn’t mean that we will eventually wear God down and He will “cave” and give us what we ask for. Our persistence demonstrates that we truly want what we ask for as opposed to just “wishing” for things. If we truly ask, we will truly receive.
If sinful human beings know to give their children something good when they ask then how much more will God give to those who ask (Luke 11:11-13)? God is a giver. He loves to give. Love is demonstrated by giving. We need not have any doubt that God wants to give us good and great things.
God is willing and able to destroy the most difficult obstacles in our path (Psalms 76:5). Nothing is too strong for God. Any enemy we have, such as an addiction or emotion, can be conquered by God even though we may not think so.
Notice that when people defy God His glory is enhanced and deters others from being defiant (Psalm 76:10). God’s judgement of our sin causes others to sin less. I can only imagine what hell will be like. There will be incredible sin there and no one to judge it. Therefore, it will multiply without ceasing.
Our reading today in Proverbs 12 is pretty self-explanatory. It is foolish to think that we know everything. I used to think this way. I didn’t want to listen to anyone. But I was wrong. I now go through life thinking there is always something to learn from everyone in every situation. It is also foolish to be quick-tempered. Wise are the people who stay calm in the midst of adversity.
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