The Rich man and Lazarus: April 15th 2021

Deuteronomy 23:1-25:19

Today, there is a list of dozens of Old Testament laws.

The Lord would not let eunuchs (v.1) or people in incestuous relationships (v.2) enter the assembly of the Lord. In the New Testament, Philip baptized the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8:26-39, which demonstrates that anyone willing to repent, believe and be baptized can now enter the Kingdom of God.

There is a lasting prohibition ‘even down to the tenth generation’ (v.3) against the Ammonites and Moabites. No-one who plots against the Israelites prospers. In contrast, the Israelites are encouraged to coexist peacefully with Edomites and Egyptians.

The Israelites were given regulations on hygiene to keep their camp holy. Looking at these, the old fashioned arrangement of having a toilet at the end of the garden was a good idea. The Israelites had to give shelter to any escaped slaves – as they were escaped slaves themselves. We should always remember that we are escaped slaves too. We were in slavery to sin and death before Jesus’ death on the cross.

The Israelites were only allowed to charge foreigner’s interest on money they lend.

We must always be careful about what we say. As soon as we vocalise something it is binding on us and, if it is a sin, the devil will pick it up. ‘Whatever your lips utter you must be sure to do, because you made your vow freely to the Lord your God with your own mouth’ (v.22). The Israelites were allowed to pick and eat their neighbour’s produce with their hands, but they mustn’t harvest it methodically into a basket or use a sickle.

Moses temporarily allowed divorce until Jesus banned it in the New Testament (Luke 16:18). Newly wed men were allowed to stay with their wives for a year, rather than go to war (24:5).

The Israelites must not take away tools as security for a debt (v.6). People’s livelihoods have to be taken into consideration. Similarly, modern magistrates might not rush to ban someone from driving if they needed a car for their job.

Some pastors claim that God doesn’t cause us to be ill. Illness comes from the devil. However, God is omnipotent – he is in charge of everything. Of course, God does not want us to become ill. He wanted us to live with him in perfect health and happiness in the garden of Eden. Some illnesses are caused by mutations / pollution etc. because we are living in a fallen world degraded by our own sin and greed. However, sometimes, if a greater good will come out of it, God will take the shackles of the devil and allow us to become ill. We might need to learn to depend on him more, become more obedient or remember our normal good health with gratitude and appreciate it once we have recovered. Letting the devil make us ill is the same as God doing it himself and Deut. 24: 9 clearly shows that sometimes God brings disease: ‘Remember what the Lord your God did to Miriam long the way after you came out of Egypt’. Miriam was temporarily given leprosy as a punishment for challenging God’s friend, Moses (Numbers 12:10).

The Israelites were told to be generous to the poor and not to take advantage of them (v.14). Fathers were not accountable for the crimes of their children and vice versa (v.16). They were told not to harvest every last olive or grape but to leave some behind for the needy (v.19-22). A maximum punishment of 40 lashes was set (25:3). A man should marry his sister-in-law, should she become widowed, to preserve the family name (v.6). The Israelites were instructed to be honest in terms of weight and measures when trading (v.13-16). The Lord God detests anyone who deals dishonestly (v.16) and he also detested the Amalekites, who were to be annihilated because of their earlier merciless attacks on the Israelites.

Luke 16:19-17:10

Jesus told the story of the ‘Rich man and Lazurus’. Poor Lazurus, the beggar, died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side (v.22). This implies that the angels have a role in taking us up to heaven.

The rich man, in contrast, goes to hell. However, Abraham was very wealthy during his lifetime and so wealth in itself can’t have been the cause of the rich man going to hell. It must have been greed, love of money, lack of repentance and steadfastly refusing to share that sealed his fate. The beggar, Lazurus, was actually at the rich man’s gate. The rich man would have had to almost step over him to get into his luxurious house and he would have to remember this for all eternity. We might not have beggars living literally outside our door but there might be one just a couple of streets away, who would appreciate us speaking to them and giving them some food. All we have to do is to turn on the news or look at our phone to see people who are suffering. Many of us live relatively prosperous lives in the West. We need to make sure that our blessings from God are shared with people less fortunate than ourselves. A homeless charity like https://centrepoint.org.uk/ would appreciate your help. As James wrote, ‘faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead’. (James 2:17). As Christians, we can’t sit in a luxurious house and think we are right with God, if we don’t do anything for the needy: ‘You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone (James 2:24).

Jesus predicted that even after he died and was resurrected, many people would still not believe and be saved, ‘if they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead (v.31).

We must not provide things that cause people to sin (17:1-3). We need to critically assess our careers. If we work in the gambling, cigarette, alcohol or pornography industries these wouldn’t be compatible with Christianity.

We need to forgive everyone who sins against us, if they repent, even if they do it repeatedly (v.4). Forgiveness is a blessing both for them and us. Unforgiveness can cause a serious rift in our relationship both with others and with God.

We shouldn’t expect gratitude or thanks from God when we work for him. We are only doing our duty (v.10). Our body and our time are his anyway. We are simply doing what we were put on earth to do.

Psalm 45:10-17

Today in 2021 is Israel’s 73rd Independence day https://www.jpost.com/israel-news/happy-birthday-to-israel-a-celebration-in-pictures-665189. The Psalm today talks about remembrance: ‘I will perpetuate your memory through all generations (v.17).

As the living church on earth, we should approach Jesus, the bridegroom, with joy and gladness as we ‘enter the palace of the king’ (v.15). Jesus is enthralled with the beauty of his creation. We honour him because he is our Lord (v.11).

All nations should praise Jesus for ever. His name is above all others.

Image: Hans Leonhard Schäufelein, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

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