‘Leave the dead to bury the dead’ and ‘Satan Shoes’: April 4th 2021

Deuteronomy 1:1-2:23

Moses commanded the Israelites to break camp, move from Horeb and take possession of the promised land; over forty years after leaving Egypt.

Moses recalled how he had appointed leaders and judges to help him govern over the two million Israelites. The judges had been instructed to be impartial and not to be intimidated, ‘for justice belongs to God (v.17). Moses was always there to support his assistants, ‘Bring me any case too hard for you, and I will hear it’ (v.17). Moses was happy to admit when decisions were too hard even for him and referred them up to God. Moses was an excellent leader and excelled in humility.

The Israelites failed to trust that God would fight for them in the promised land. Their rebellion even damaged Moses, ‘Because of you the Lord became angry with me’ (v.37). The Israelites were terrified they would be defeated by the resident tribes and their children would be captured. God decided that only these innocent children who did not ‘yet know good from bad‘ (v.39) would grow up to eventually inherit the land. Their disbelieving parents would die in the desert.

The Israelites were told not to provoke the descendants of Esau (their ancestor Jacob’s twin brother) to war (2:5). Even though God had favoured Jacob over Esau, he had still richly blessed Esau and was preserving his territory for ever. Similarly, the Lord had given Ar to the descendants of Abraham’s nephew, Lot, as their possession (v.9). God remained faithful to his historical promises made to his servants.

Luke 9:57-10:24

Jesus was by now an itinerant preacher with no fixed abode, ‘Foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head’ (v.58). It is striking how mobile modern preachers of the gospel can be. Our local Pastor can be in Burundi one week and then think nothing of flying out to Indonesia the next. I flew to Lourdes on a Catholic pilgrimage and was amazed at how slick elderly Catholic priests were at getting through customs. They were seasoned travellers and skipped through the airport with hand luggage. Covid lockdown has scuppered a lot of travelling and so we need to pray that the world will open up again soon. In the meantime, the internet will have to suffice.

One potential disciple wanted to bury his father first. ‘Let the dead bury their own dead’ (v.60), said Jesus. He could see a spark of life in this man. The man had recognised that Jesus was the source of eternal life and that by following him, he would be truly alive. Once we have found Jesus, we can leave secular tasks to people who haven’t yet found faith – the spiritually dead. We should critically analyse our secular jobs. If they are filled with ‘dead tasks’ such as completing useless forms or spreadsheets or attending worthless meetings, leave the dead people to carry out the dead tasks.

Jesus sent out the ‘seventy-two others’ (10:1) to heal the sick and to proclaim that the kingdom of God was near. It’s fantastic that the power and authority he had previously just given to his 12 apostles were now being distributed to an even larger group. His group of spiritually empowered assistants was expanding at an exponential rate.

It shouldn’t cost much to be a travelling evangelist as people should be eager to feed and shelter you, ‘for the worker deserves his wages’ (v.7).

It is amazing how many people won’t listen to or even acknowledge the gospel message. Many people actively avoid it and become angry when confronted by it. If I uploaded a cute picture to Facebook of my dog cavorting in Spring flowers, I would probably get dozens of ‘likes’. People feel unthreatened by such a post. A cute dog picture is acceptable in modern culture as people don’t like to be confronted by the uncomfortable truth, that they have to critically look at their own lives and their personal relationship with God, realise if they are heading in the wrong direction, turn and be healed. If I wrote a short, inspiring post about Easter – I might not get any ‘likes’, even from my Christian friends. In not responding to the gospel, people reject God himself, ‘He who listens to you listens to me; he who rejects you rejects me; but he who rejects me rejects him who sent me’. (v.16).

Luke 10:18 is referenced on the side of the ‘Satan shoes’ that have recently been on sale, ‘I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven’. Consulting Twitter, it’s amazing to see how many people think these shoes are desirable. Many teenagers seem to have a secret, secondary Twitter account, that their family members do not know about, which allows them to support unsavoury projects from the privacy of their dark bedrooms. Some young people have bought the shoes as they are fans of the ‘art collective’ who made them and also cynically think they are making an investment. The obvious controversy over such objects will push the price up. Other people feel marginalised by society / religion due to their lifestyle choices and rush to sign up to other alternative cultures. However, this unsavoury commercial stunt reminds me of the punk rock movement in the Seventies. People were duped into following an alternative to the mainstream, thinking they were being individualistic, but the punk music scene was manipulated / controlled by marketing men making punks more in bondage to commercialism than everybody else.

Luke 10:18 is a strange verse to adorn the side of the Satan shoes as it is about the first defeat of Satan – when the army of loyal angels under the command of Saint Michael fought the rebelling angels (the demons) and kicked them out of heaven. Eventually Satan and the demons were totally defeated by Jesus’s death on the cross and so the shoes could simply have had ‘Loser’ inscribed on them. Tradition is that Satan fell from lightning out of heaven on the 29th September (Michaelmas) and landed in a blackberry bush. In the UK, we don’t eat blackberries after the 29th September because they become bitter after this date (allegedly because the devil has urinated on them in revenge). So we can imagine the purchaser of these shoes falling headfirst into a blackberry bush and getting stuck in the brambles with their little Satan Shoes kicking about in the air. It is hard to find a complementary passage in the Bible to adorn such shoes. They could have used John 8:44, ‘You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies’.

I fully support Nike bringing a copyright infringement against the Satan shoes creators. Ironically, Nike is itself named after a demonic entity – the winged Greek Goddess of Victory.

Jesus gave us the true reason for rejoicing on a daily basis, ‘Rejoice that your names are written in heaven’ (v.20).

Jesus gave us authority. How much of the power of the enemy can we overcome? All the power of the enemy (v.19).

Jesus was overjoyed that his plan to send disciples throughout the world was working. He was learning both from experience and by revelation from the Holy Spirit on the daily basis. I love reading the gospel because I have never grown up, nor do I plan to. I still feel like a little child and take a childish delight in wonderful stories and legends. This attitude is a tremendous blessing because God has ‘hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children’ (v.21). I pray that I keep my childlike enthusiasm and delight in God forever.

We are blessed by the fact we can go to church, read the Bible ourselves and read commentaries on the gospel. Prophets and kings wanted to ‘hear what you hear’ and ‘see what you see’ (v.24).

Psalm 41:1-6

Those who have regard for the weak are ‘blessed’ (v.1). Mary, Mother of God, had regard for the child she was carrying, Jesus. She is the most blessed of all women because she nurtured God, when he was at his most vulnerable as a tiny unborn child in her womb.

There is an enormous list of benefits if we care for the weak. We will be delivered from trouble (v.1), our life will be protected and preserved, we will be blessed and not surrendered to our foes (v.2). We will be sustained on our sick bed and healed from illnesses.

Our enemies will speak nicely to us, while gathering evidence to malign our name (v.6). Tabloid newspapers are full of political gossip. People falsely gain the confidence of world leaders, just to slander them.

King David’s enemies wanted to know when he would die and his name perish (v.5). However, because David was a man after God’s heart and cared for the poor, his name will live forever thanks to his descendant, Jesus.

Picture: Phillip Medhurst, CC BY-SA 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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