Luke 14 As a Master Teacher, Jesus never missed an opportunity to teach lessons we all need to learn. As an observer at a dinner party on the Sabbath, Jesus masterfully taught his host and the attendees as well as us some lessons in humility that we would be wise to emulate.
Consider the first guest who was perhaps considered the person least likely to receive an invite due to his physical condition called dropsy [edema due to congestive heart failure.]. We might call him the “town freak.” The Pharisees invited him not because they cared about him but to watch closely to see what Jesus would do. Consider the next set of guests who sought to sit in the seats of honor. We might call them the “town geeks” because of their self-inflated ego. They miscalculated how the host saw them and found themselves humiliated when asked to move. The third lesson is to the host himself; he is the “town seek” because he is always inviting prominent persons to receive invitations back. Jesus point-blank told him that this smacks of favoritism.
Consider all of these lessons in light of what Jesus might ask us. Who are we inviting to our homes, and why? At school or work, do we honor some and dishonor others? Do we find ourselves ignoring some while favoring others? Perhaps we can all begin to pray:
Luke 4&5 Are you satisfied with your life the way it is? It seems that those in Israel were, and when Jesus arrives on the scene, they are amazed, astonished, or filled with resentment. Returning to his hometown, he is selected to read from Isaiah in his Nazareth synagogue. The listeners were amazed at the gracious words coming from him—until He explained that God healed those who were Gentiles. In an instant, the listeners were transformed from meek and mild Dr. Jekyll to the evil Mr. Hyde and, in their rage, sought to kill him. Leaving Nazareth, he headed to Capernaum, where three events show he is empowered and anointed to heal by the Spirit. First, he heals a demon-possessed man, then heals Peter’s mother-in-law of a fever and lastly, he rebukes the unclean spirits. Many are astonished, but not all. Jesus encounters the religious leaders who call him a blasphemer because he forgave a paralytic of his sins. In fact, Luke sums up these amazing, astonishing encounters with this idea; the old is good enough, or as we say, don’t rock the boat.
Do we, too, respond, “The old is good enough;” when we are not ready for Jesus to change us or our situation? Do we feel comfortable with excuses like I am not prepared? Jesus is challenging us to be filled as He was with the Holy Spirit and alter our landscape with His power.
Matt 23 In the movie Snow White, the wicked queen stopped by her mirror each morning asking: Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of them all? The mirror replied that she was—until one day the mirror said it was not she, but Snow White. This a picture of what Jesus saw as he observed the self-righteous religious leaders.
The mirror of the Pharisees revealed knowledge but lacked understanding. When Jesus looked deeply into their mirror, he saw hypocrisy. Rather than seek to correct the flaws the mirror revealed, they just piled on more phylacteries and longer tassels. Inwardly, their mirror reflected a lack of compassion. These religious leaders, just like us, had blind spots. God has given us His mirror called His Word, which reveals who we truly are. But too often, like the man in James, when God reveals the truth, we walk away and forget what we saw or like the religious leaders, we heap on more and more “makeup” to cover our flaws.
What does your mirror reveal? If it is self-exaltation, God will humble you, and if the mirror reveals humility, He will exalt you. It is your choice.
Hosea 5 to 7 Hosea reminds the Israelites that God sees their unfaithfulness just like the morning mist which disappears with the sun. He reminded them that instead of seeking God they sought Assyria. Their sacrifices lay upon the altars but are not consumed because of their broken relationship. God is calling them, and us, to delight in Him alone! He delights in our faithfulness to Him that He might sanctify us. He is not interested in sacrifices. Instead He delights in our acknowledgment of Him.
The world is saying: God is archaic! God’s words do not bring hope! Hebrews reminds us that because God is omniscient we should be careful not to “be carried away by all sorts of strange teachings.” Instead, cling to this truth: “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” [Heb 13] because even if “Heaven and earth pass away, His words will never pass away.” [Mark 13]
Beloved, where have you fallen for the mantra of the idols of wood, stone, and that which perishes? God is saying I delight in faithfulness, not simply sacrifice. God says “return to me, and I will return to you.” [Mal 3]
Jeremiah 40 to 42 After the siege ended, Nebuchadnezzar had left a small contingent in the land to care for it. They came to Jeremiah, the prophet, seeking God’s counsel about what they should do. Standing before him, they said: “Please pray to the Lord “your” God that He will tell us where we should go and what we should do. We promise that whatever He says, we will do.” After ten days, Jeremiah emerges from his prayer closet with God’s counsel, which is resoundingly rejected. Jeremiah’s words and their promise to do whatever he said don’t match what they wanted to hear. How often do we make promises, but become impatient and decide to do what “we want” not what God says?
Instead of believing Jeremiah, they said: “God did not send you to tell us to stay here.” Out of the mouth, the heart speaketh. Their false piety is nothing more than hypocrisy. They said, we will not stay here because “our” God said for us to go. How like Saul when Samuel confronted him and like him, this contingent quickly forgot their promise because it didn’t fit with their plans. Now it is not “your” God but, “our” God and, “our” God said; go to Egypt.
Jeremiah reminded them and he is reminding us:
God would not send confusing messagesbecause He not a God of confusion
Are we wanting God’s permission to do what we have already decided OR do we wait and listen for His voice to say: “You will hear a word spoken behind you, saying, “This is the correct way, walk in it,” [Is 30:21]
Genesis 20 Abraham, what were you thinking when you told Abimelech that Sarah was your sister? Did you not learn from your foray into Egypt? How often do we find ourselves doing another lap around the wilderness like the Israelites because we fail to learn from the first mistake and just keep repeating it? It is no wonder unbelievers call us hypocrites. Our walk and talk do not match. Maybe that is why God had the Israelites come to the Tabernacle at least 3 times a year to offer sacrifices. Those were visual reminders of men’s failure to walk circumspectly. We too need constant reminding to keep short accounts with God.
Abraham surmised forgetting the foray into Egypt when he said: “surely I thought no one fears God in this place.” Without firsthand knowledge he presumed. Because David saw that as his weakness he wrote: “Also keep back Your servant from presumptuous sins; Let them not rule over me;” [Ps 19] There is a warning here that Abraham should have known; do not assume without facts.
Abraham said he believed God but his life revealed that he feared men more than God. Beware of this sin! The fear of man brings a snare, but he who trusts in the LORD will be exalted. [Prov 29:25]
God was gracious to both Abraham and Abimelech but think of what could have been avoided had Abraham just trusted God! Fear God and trust Him only.
Has someone ever called you a hypocrite? Maybe they, like Abimelech, feared God more than you? Is what others think about you more important than your relationship with God?
Obadiah/Jonah: We have heard: sticks and stones may hurt my bones but words will never hurt me. But, of course, we know that that is an untruth for we have been the recipient of hurtful words and they linger in our hearts. Both Obadiah and Jonah heard the words of hate but what they did with those words is a lesson for all of us. The prophets Obadiah and Jonah are sequestered between other books that we might stop and reflect: is my heart that of man or is my heart that of God.
Obadiah heard God speak and he recorded the gloating prideful words of Edom but he saw that if he left it at the feet of God, he could see hope when all seemed lost. Listen to his words: those who have been delivered will go up to Mt. Zion!
In sharp contrast is the prophet Jonah who wore his hatred on his sleeve. He hated the Ninevites and was angry that God would call him to go there and preach. In his mind, Jonah was asking; how could I, after all, they have done? And so Jonah found a berth in a ship to hide but soon God would hide him in the belly of a fish.
God’s question to Jonah is one that HE is asking us: Do you have a right to be angry? God is asking us that same question. God is asking us to see men through His eyes of compassion even-when-it-is-hard.
Ezekiel 33 We have become a culture in which blameshifting and judging is as commonplace as yesterday’s news.
The exiles come to hear Ezekiel’s preaching but then behind his back they gossip about his words—and who knows what else. Many go to “church” and say what a great message, but later tear the preacher apart. The preacher’s message was clear; “Turn back, turn back from your evil deeds!” Instead, they say, It’s not my fault we are in this fix! If it isn’t your fault, whose fault is it? Or, others say: God isn’t fair. Really? How about your fairness to God when you hear what to do and don’t do it? James says if you know what to do and don’t do it, it is sin.[James 4:17] And then there is this argument: See, I told you, there is no hope, what’s done is done. Are you deaf? God is not willing any should perish. The answer is to turn and repent of your sin!.
All of this sounds so familiar. What goes around comes around. Pilate heard Jesus say I am the truth and scoffed: what is truth? Instead of listening he turned and walked away thinking he could just wash his hands and all would be well. The exiles were like Pilate.
Dr. Constable is right: When we are fairly comfortable it is easy to listen to preaching and to critique the preacher but do nothing in response to what he has said.
People are waiting for the movie Downton Abbey to be released. People already have purchased tickets and are counting down the days. Why are people drawn to this fictitious story? One reason may be that one character, the stuffy butler, captures our heart. Like in feudal times the butler understood his role as servant and he obeyed. In the NT Peter has a vision in which he is told to rise up and kill but he responded: “Surely not, Lord!” How often are we like Peter and not like the butler when we say “but Lord?” or “why me Lord.” Could it be that we don’t understand our role as a servant?
The Lord prepared Ezekiel for the death of his wife. He told him:
“I am about to take the delight of your eyes away from you with a jolt, but you must not mourn or weep or shed tears.”
And it happened just as the Lord had said; in the evening his wife died and Ezekiel did just as the Lord commanded. Ezekiel did not question: “but why Lord?” or as Peter said, “Surely not, Lord!” Ezekiel, like the stuffy butler, obeyed without question because he knew his position as servant and he trusted the Lord to take care of the details.
How about us? Do we trust God enough to be obedient even when we don’t understand the reasons behind his request?
Job and his three “comforters” have been dialoguing back and forth on the points of wickedness and righteousness. The three, Bildad, Eliphaz and Zophar are sure Job is in the camp of the wicked. As their words show they believe the contrast to Romans 8:1!
Listen in to the dialog between Job and Eliphaz In Job 21 to 24 to get the whole story and then go and read Psalm 73 to see another person who faces this same conundrum.
Job responds to the next challenge by asking the same thought Asaph pondered. Why do the wicked seem to prosper and the righteous seem to falter and many times fade away. Asaph wondered if he, like Job, had remained faithful for no reason. We often say the same thing as we watch all of our life’s savings eaten by moths and our bodies suffer from disease and harm by others. God is not in a box, closed and secure from all of life; He is omniscient! So Job’s three friends and Asaph himself have to look at life from another viewpoint.
Asaph returns to the Temple where he says: I entered the precincts of God’s temple and then I understood the destiny of the wicked. But, Job has no temple yet to attend so he is left with his thoughts and trying to piece them together. He says the “counsel of the wicked is far from me!” I just don’t understand and if only God would come and we could talk about this it would all be made right. Eliphaz remains steadfast in his critical argument against Job but Job tells him: He knows the path I take and if he tested me I would come forth as gold. As we read those words we must decide if that is true for us. If God would come and stand in our presence would He say that? Job and Asaph looked at life without that confirmation but if you are a born-again believer you can attest to this truth because of Roman 8:1:
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.