The Parable of the Great Banquet: April 12th 2021

Deuteronomy 16:21-18:22

The Israelites were told not to erect any sacred stones, ‘for these the Lord your God hates’ (v.22). Here in Wales, they always used to erect a permanent circle of standing stones whenever they held a National Eisteddfod – a annual gathering for Welsh poetry, prose and music. We have one down the road, a Gorsedd circle. I can see it down in a field as I walk my dog. It is a dodgy looking structure with a flat altar in the middle, just right for blood sacrifices. I avoid getting in close proximity to it. The ancient druids sacrificed thousands of innocent children to placate the demonic spirits they revered. A according to the Roman writer Tacitus: ‘they considered it a pious duty to slake the altars with captive blood and to consult their deities by means of human entrails‘, https://resourcesforhistory.com/celtic_druids.htm. When the Romans invaded a territory, they added the local native gods into their assortment (pantheon) of deities that it was permissible for Roman citizens to worship. The Romans only deemed it necessary to ban two religions: druidic practices and Christianity as both were considered too powerful – even if located at the opposite end of the holiness spectrum. Nowadays, the ‘druids’ of the modern Eisteddfod have toned down the heathen roots of their celebration so much that a former Archbishop of Canterbury allowed himself to be sworn in as a bard. They only set up fake stones today. Presumably, real stones are too expensive.

The Israelites were told to be zealous in purging evil from among them, putting to death anyone found worshipping other gods or celestial bodies (17:1-7). They were also instructed to have respect for the verdicts of judges and priests (17:8-13).

Moses predicts that the Israelites will appoint a king when they eventually settle in the promised land. He must be chosen by God and not obsessed with horses, women or wealth. Several of our modern royal family seem pretty keen on collecting horses. He predicts the fall of Solomon who took on too many wives, who lured him to worship other Gods,. ‘He must not take many wives, or his heart will be led astray (v.17). Kings are called to humility and must read the law of God all the days of his life.

The whole tribe of Levi, which includes all the priests, were to live on offerings from the other Israelites. Moses listed detestable practices that the Israelites must not inherit from the tribes they conquered such as child sacrifice. The list includes divination, sorcery, interpreting omens, witchcraft, casting spells and consulting the dead. When Harry Potter came out, the local children in our small Welsh village used to ride up and down our street shouting spells from the books at the top of their voices. ‘While he was still a cardinal in 2003, the future Pope Benedict XVI described the books as “subtle seductions which act unnoticed and by this deeply distort Christianity in the soul before it can grow properly”’, https://www.theguardian.com/books/2019/sep/02/harry-potter-books-removed-from-catholic-school-on-exorcists-advice

Instead of listening to sorcery or divination which comes from the evil one, the Israelites must only listen to a prophet, like Moses, who God will raise up from among their own brothers. Jesus was the new Moses. All of his prophecies came true such as the Jerusalem temple being destroyed (by the Romans) with no stone left on top of another.

Luke 14:15-35

Jesus told ‘the Parable of the Great Banquet’. The Jews are all invited to God’s banquet of forgiveness and eternal life but they all make poor excuses for not attending. I once heard someone say they couldn’t possibly get to Sunday worship because it would interfere with them cooking the lunch! The people making the excuses have all been highly blessed by God. God has given them abundant wealth so that one man can buy a field and another one five young of oxen. He has provided a wife to another man. They still won’t take time to join in a communal celebration, witness to how blessed they were and give thanks to God.

The poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame were all welcomed instead – the people considered ‘unclean’ by the Pharisees – but there was still room. Finally, all the Gentiles were brought in to be with God. It is a tragedy to turn down God’s priceless invitation due to the cares of the world.

The danger is that if we refuse God’s invitation when we are thoroughly blessed. If we refuse to acknowledge him and give him an offering in return, He might have no alternative other than to take the shackles off the devil and allow him to make us poor, crippled, blind or lame. It might only be when we are brought down to a desperate state that we will respond to God’s invitation. That is why God still allows suffering, disease and death in the world. How else can He get some people’s attention? God will only allow suffering if a greater good will come out of it. The Lord will give us a way out of any affliction if we turn to him.

There is a real cost to being a disciple of Jesus – but it’s a cost worth paying. We might be abused by our family, ignored by the public and have to give up well-paid secular professions. If we work in a secular workplace, everyone around us may be living lives completely opposed to gospel principles. It can be terribly draining to be constantly surrounded by non-belief. It is wonderful to regularly attend a church with a supportive and loving congregation and charge up each other’s batteries and hope for humanity with our shared faith.

Psalm 44:13-26

Sometimes, we can be the only practicing Christian on our street. We are meant to share the gospel with our neighbours. This might intrigue some of them but others will hate us for it, ‘you have made us a reproach to our neighbours (v.13).

Many Christians around the world are still being persecuted and murdered for their faith. We suffer more from mental abuse in the West. Most of society try to side-line us, revile us or, more commonly, ignore us and try to pretend we don’t exist. If I type any Christian sentiment on my brother’s Facebook page, he simply deletes it. We can expect regular scorn and derision from our family, friends and neighbours.

King David called on God to rouse himself and not to reject the Jews for ever. God roused himself in spectacular fashion by sending his only son to die for our sins. God rose up and redeemed the entire world because of his unfailing love (v.26).

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.

Up ↑