Be Generous and Gather God’s Chicks: April 11th 2021

Deuteronomy 15:1 – 16:20

The Israelites were instructed to cancel debts to each other every 7 years (v.1). A commendable system, which would make many people’s lives much better if we applied it today to mortgages. The promised land was going to be so productive, God expected there to be no poor among them ‘if only you fully obey the Lord your God and are careful to follow all these commands I am giving you today. (v.4).’

By the time Jesus arrived, there were many poor people indicating how far away from God’s intentions the people had come. Jesus said, ‘the poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me (Matthew 26:11).

God decreed how financially secure the Jews would become, ‘you will lend to many nations but will borrow from none (v.6).

God called the Israelites to be generous to their less fortunate brothers and ‘freely lend him whatever he needs (v.8)’. They should do so ‘without a grudging heart’ (v.10) then God would bless them in everything they did. God states there will ‘always be poor people in the land’ (v.11). He may have been predicting the Israelites would not carefully follow all his commands or He was referring to widows, orphans and newly-arrived migrants who would rely on the charity of others.

Hebrew servants had to be freed in the seventh year (v.12) and supplied liberally with provisions. The Israelites must remember how they were liberated from Egypt and were given riches by the Egyptian on departure. Slaves could chose to stay with their master if they loved them and were well treated.

The Jews were to eat the firstborn of their herds and flocks in the presence of the Lord (v.20). At Passover, they were to eat unleavened bread – because they had to leave Egypt in haste. No yeast must be found in their possession for seven days (v.4). Yeast also represents sin. It starts as just a tiny amount, grows its tentacles into everything, making problems rise and grow. I read an article in which people complained that supermarkets had run out of yeast in lockdown. This amused microbiologists who pointed out the world can never run out of yeast. To get some, you just have to leave out an uncovered bowl of flour and water and the yeast will find you. The Israelites would have been eating sourdough, with natural yeast cultures blown to them by the desert winds. If we leave ourselves uncovered by the blood of Jesus, sin will also infect and start to grow in us.

‘No man should appear before the Lord empty-handed’ (16:16). We should all give to the Lord in proportion to the way we have prospered.

Justice must be a top priority. Officials must judge fairly with no partiality and must not accept bribes. The kingdom of heaven has the the most honest courts in creation. We would have been condemned for all eternity as sinners if Jesus’ death had not justified us in the sight of God.

Luke 13:31-14:14

Some Pharisees still had enough respect for Jesus that they warned him about Herod. Jesus was not intimidated by Herod wanting to kill him (v.32), even though he knew he was a cunning adversary. Jesus was used to people trying to kill him. Herod’s father had plotted to kill Jesus as soon as he was born. Jesus knew his Father would protect him until exactly the right moment he chose to lay down his life.

Jesus mourned over the spiritual state of Jerusalem. Its people had long rebelled, killing all God’s messenger sent to gather them back to him. Jesus longed to tenderly gather its children together ‘as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings’ (v.34). However, God does not make it compulsory for us to love Him. He gave us free will so that we can freely choose to love, because He loved us first. A hen will give up her life for her chicks and defend them against danger, but it can’t run after each chick. They have to be aware of where she is and run to her at the slightest hint of trouble. It is heart-breaking that churches can offer such a wonderful place of refuge for people, but the great majority chose not to go. We should give the warmest, genuine welcome to both old and new visitors to our church to make them feel they have been gathered under the protective and living wings of God.

Jesus would make a glorious entrance to the city on Palm Sunday, prior to Calvary. The people of Jerusalem would praise him for a day, before turning on him.

Jesus healed on the Sabbath again. He pointed out that the Pharisees would always rescue one of their children or animals on a Sabbath. Why shouldn’t Jesus rescue the people he created if they were in distress? The Pharisees were using the Sabbath regulations as a way to trap and criticise people rather than following the spirit of this day of rest.

We should always take a seat of low importance at a function. We can always be moved to a more prestigious one. Jesus came to serve, not to be served and we should emulate his humility.

We will be blessed if we host people who have no means of paying us back. If we just provide hospitality to our prosperous neighbours and they host us in return, we have given nothing. We need to help the poor and the needy in imitation of Jesus.

Psalm 44:1-12

King David recalled how God helped the Israelites conquer the promised land. The stories had been faithfully handed down by previous generations. God helped them because He loved them (v.3).

David did not trust his own strength or weapons to win battles (v.6). He relied on God.

All victories are due to God’s assistance and for the glory of God. Thanks be to God.

Parable of the Mustard Seed: April 10th 2021

Deuteronomy 13:1-14:29

We must not listen to any ‘prophet’ or ‘dreamer’ who suggests following other Gods. God can allow the devil to tempt us to see whether we love him with all our heart and soul (v.3).

It could be our closest friend who tries to entice us to accompany them to a yoga class with them or visit a non-Christian temple while on holiday, We should just say ‘no’!

Moses listed which meats the Israelites could eat and which types were banned. Rabbit and pork are strictly off the Jewish menu. It is sensible from a public health point of view to ban pork, because pig metabolism is so close to humans that living closely to domesticated pigs could enable one of their animal viruses to jump over to us and cause another deadly pandemic.

Moses reminded the Israelites to tithe – to give a tenth of their wealth every year to the Lord. This is Old Testament and does not apply to Christians. However, it is a very worthwhile practice. It breaks an unholy love of money and engenders a spirit of generosity within us. Pastors need a salary and church buildings need to be maintained. If everyone tithed, think what a difference this could make to the environment where you worship. A church should be full of life, beautiful, warm and welcoming to non-believers and some of this requires adequate funding.

The Jews were instructed to provide tithes (every three years) to the Levites, migrants, orphans and widows (v.29). Generosity gives us many spiritual benefits. The Lord promised to those who tithed that He would, ‘Bless you in all the work of your hands’ (v.29).

Luke 13:1-30

In the Easter readings, Pontius Pilate was desperate to release Jesus as he knew he was innocent. However, he succumbed to constant pressure and permitted Jesus to be executed. He was a weak judge, prepared to sacrifice the sinless to placate a hostile crowd. Here we see that Pilate had a fearsome reputation. Any Roman Commander would have been responsible for the deaths of many people. People told Jesus about ‘the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices (V.1). Jesus knew he would have to face this formidable man in the end. Jesus’ perfect blood was the ultimate once and for all sacrifice.

Jesus told us to repent so we would not perish (v.3). God spares us year after year hoping we will repent / convert and bear fruit. Eventually, time will run out for us. It could be today, so we need to make sure we are right with God through repentance, baptism and fully accepting Jesus into our lives. We can follow God’s example in being patient with people as we help them and pray for them to bear fruit.

We can allow the word of God to ‘fertilise’ us so that we will begin to blossom and bear fruit.

Jesus healed a woman on the Sabbath (v.13). Jesus points out the hypocrisy of the rulers in that they deliberately untied their domestic animals on the Sabbath to allow them to drink (v.15), but they disapproved of humans being unbound from their illnesses. Jesus showed he was the Lord of the Sabbath. It is perfectly permissible to spend the day looking after people or even catering, if we do it in love for other people. We shouldn’t spend it in a selfish secular pursuit of money.

The crippled woman had been crippled by a spirit (v.11) that was working for Satan (v.16).

Christianity has grown to be the world’s most followed religion and is spreading through virtually every nation. However, this has taken over two thousand years. Just like a tiny amount of yeast can change a whole bowl of flour to risen dough if we place it in the correct environment and wait patiently, it only takes one effective missionary to eventually change a whole country. Early missionaries would always try to convert rulers first, who could then lead their subjects to faith. Just one tiny seed of faith, can grow into an enormous living church where every believer can find their home.

Jesus confirmed that not all people will be saved. We need to enter heaven through the narrow door – which is Jesus. In the West, many people suffer from complacency. We can think we live in a vaguely Christian city and that possibly might be enough so save us. Just being in the same town as some Christians isn’t going to save us, ‘you taught in our streets (v.26), ‘Away from me, all your evildoers (v.27). We all need to work out our own individual salvation with fear, trembling and positive action. We each need to make a decisive decision to repent, become baptized and personally ask Jesus fully into our own lives as our Lord and Saviour, accepting his priceless gift of salvation.

Proverbs 9:1-12

Wisdom calls out to us that we should leave our ‘simple ways and you will live’ (v.6).

Correcting people who mock Christianity is a painful process as they will insult and hate us. However, we will receive a reward in heaven for putting up with this type of abuse. It isn’t worth getting into a Twitter or Facebook war with mockers, we must always reply calmly and with love.

Instructing, correcting and teaching wise and righteous people is a much more pleasant process.

As mockers do not fear the Lord, they lack wisdom for ‘The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding (v.10).

Wisdom will add years to our life (v.11) and reward us (v.12).

Sarcasm and mockery only harms the person who engages in it (v.12).

Once we have asked the Holy Spirit for wisdom, we should thirst for knowledge of God to increase our learning and make us even wiser. Wise Christian teachers deserve our love and gratitude for their efforts.

Picture:

Sheila Sund from Salem, United States, CC BY 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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