The Pharisee and the Tax Collector: April 17th 2021

Deuteronomy 28:15-68

Moses decreed that the Lord would inflict on the Israelites a comprehensive list of terrifying curses and diseases if they failed to obey him and follow his commands / decrees. I have heard some pastors say that the Lord does not have ‘a cupboard of diseases’ to inflict on people but this passage clearly contradicts that, ‘The Lord will plague you with diseases until he has destroyed you from the land you are entering to possess. The Lord will strike you with wasting disease, with fever and inflammation, with scorching heat and drought, with blight and mildew, which will plague you until you perish (v.21-22)’. ‘Wasting disease’ could mean cancer, ‘fever’ reminds me of Covid and scorching heat and drought, climate change. The Lord can bring disease but only if a greater good can come out of it. He is God, he can do what he wants to do. We all belong to him.

‘The sky over your head will be bronze, the ground beneath you iron (v.23)’. Even if we prayed to God and begged forgiveness, our prayers might not penetrate through the bronze sky. These curses are not to be ignored: ‘You will become a thing of horror to all the kingdoms of the earth’ (v.25).

We must serve God ‘joyfully and gladly in the time of prosperity’ (v.47). Moses predicts that the Israelites would be conquered by a ‘fierce-looking nation without respect of the old or pity for the young’ (v.50).

The Lord would scatter the Israelites among the nations. ‘There the Lord will give you an anxious mind, eyes weary with longing, and a despairing heart’ (v.65). We know that this took place until the miraculous refounding of Israel after the Second World War.

Obedience would have been a lot less stressful.

Let us not forget that God subjected the Lord Jesus to crucifixion on Good Friday. God is in charge and knows exactly what he is doing. He loves us with an everlasting, all encompassing love but, because of our sin, life can temporarily get very difficult. Illness and suffering is a divine mystery but God will steer us through to greater glory. Jesus became a curse for us on the cross, to redeem us from all curses.

Luke 18:1-30

Jesus taught us to ‘always pray and not give up’ (v.1). If we continue to pray to God about a particular injustice, he will intervene. God loves justice. However, we do not always have enough faith in him to continue praying fervently day after day, ‘ when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?’ (v.8). Praying in Tongues is an ideal way to pray throughout the day at any spare moment – when washing the dishes, walking the dog. If we pray in the Spirit as much as we can on a daily basis, our lives will radically change. The Spirit will pray through us and for us when we can’t put out desires into our own words. He offers the perfect prayer.

Fasting and tithing alone will not make us right with God. He looks at our hearts. We must not compare ourselves with others. We can only be saved through a contrite heart renouncing and repenting of sin, becoming baptized and accepting Jesus fully into our lives as our saviour. Our daily prayer should be, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner’ (v.13). Many people, when they feel born again exhibit huge confidence that they are ‘saved’. But we can all fall away from grace and many ‘born again’ people live in persistent grave sin. We need to keep this same prayer on our lips all the way to our deathbed – ‘God have mercy on me, a sinner’. A presumption that we are saved is also a grave sin.

A hot topic at the moment is whether President Biden should be excommunicated from the church for his staunch support of abortion. We can thank God that we have senior priests who will wrestle with this decision. We can’t think like the Pharisee that we are in someway more of a favourite of God because we don’t support the killing of unborn children. God doesn’t have favourites. We just need to concentrate on our own relationship with God, not judge others and hand over our own complete sanctification to the Holy Spirit, as we won’t be able to do it by our own sinful efforts.

We should receive the kingdom of God like a little child. We are totally dependent on his grace. It is fantastic to maintain a childlike wonder for the gospel and a sense of awe at the miracles of the Holy Spirit he still performs today, through faithful believers. I love attending my local Pentecostal church because I never know what is going to happen next. A typical Sunday service can incorporate worship, praise, awe, prophecies, healing, miracles, power, deliverance, laughter, tears, love and joy. If we aren’t excited at the prospect of going to church, wondering what inspired stories, healing miracles and deliverances we are going to see today, we are attending the wrong church. Are you receptive to new worship experiences or do you want your church time to remain boringly predictable? Are you curious and receptive to new teaching? If children, particularly young adults, aren’t attending your church, there is something wrong with the worship.

Jesus cuts down the Ten Commandments to just five in verse 19, ‘Do not commit adultery, do not murder, do not steal, do not give false testimony, honour your father and mother.’ Adultery has moved up to the front of the list and in Biblical terms, this makes it the most important. Perhaps he means being adulterous to God as well as being unfaithful to your husband and wife.

If we sell everything and give to the poor, we ‘will have treasure in heaven’ (v.22). Our salvation will be individual. We will not die and be judged as a group or even as a couple. We might be the only one converted to Christianity in our household meaning we leave our unconverted wife, brothers or parents or children, possibly not physically but spiritually. Hopefully, by our example we can convert the rest of our relatives directing them to Jesus and eternal life. With God all things are possible.

Psalm 47:1-9

We should ‘shout to God with cries of joy’ at how awesome He is’ (v.2). If your church congregation doesn’t clap their hands with delight when worshipping God, maybe you should show them how to do it. Compare the worship at your local Pentecostal church with an Anglican or Catholic church. Which one conforms to this Psalm? Which one is showing God more gratitude and enthusiasm. Nicky Gumbel (p.224) points out that people can show more enthusiasm when watching sport that they do when praising God, Do you shout at the TV when watching football or rugby? How often do you shout praises to God?

Gid is the ruler over all the earth.

Jesus ascended to heaven after his time on earth to sit at the right hand of his Father. He ‘is seated on his holy throne’ (v.8).

Jews, Christians and Muslims are ‘people of the God of Abraham’. The ‘kings (and queens) of the earth belong to God’ (v.9).

We pray for Queen Elizabeth today at the funeral of her beloved husband of 73 years, Prince Phillip. Even in her sorrow, the Queen will continue to greatly exalt God and sing praises to him. She knows that death has lost its sting, due to the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, so that she will be reunited with her loved ones in heaven.

Image: https://www.flickr.com/photos/jimmiehomeschoolmom/4221519061

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