Fallen is Virgin Israel
The opening words of this chapter are dramatic.
Israel (the Northern Kingdom) had ascended to its greatest national achievement in the initial half of the 8th century BC. The mood was confident but the foundations were crumbling. “There are those who turn justice into bitterness, and cast righteousness to the ground”, consequently God warms that He will judge the nation.
Right living and caring for those in need were part of the calling that God had given to His people. Their failure to practise genuine loving concern for others would bring God’s judgement.
The command to love others as we love ourselves is a call from God to emulate His love for us in caring for others. Let’s seek to do it in the situation in which we live.
“Remember that when you leave this earth you can take with you nothing that you have received – only what you have given: a full heart, enriched by honest service, love, sacrifice, and courage” Francis of Assisi
God the Seeker
Jesus welcomed sinners then and welcomes now. I both parables God is the seeker. This is both our greatest personal encouragement and our calling to follow His example.
The Earth is the Lord’s
God is the Creator King. Majesty and strength are His. Earth is the product of His creative will and power. It will continue as long as He determines.
We were given the task of caring for this part of His creation. Our record is not good and large numbers own no loyalty to the Creator King.
There are at least three things that we who seek to honour the Creator King can do.
1. We can acknowledge daily that we live in an environment that He has provided for us
2. We can do what we can to seek the good of the creation and act as faithful stewards.
3. We can acknowledge God our Creator King, trust in the provision He has made for our redemption in the Lord Jesus, and seek by His Holy Spirit to live in obedience to his commands the principal one being to love one another.
God at Work
Two characters figure in this chapter: Esther and Haman.
Haman is motivated by pride and hatred, and plots evil. Esther, stirred by her uncle to courage and action, risks all in an approach to the king.
In these events God is at work to deliver his people.
The Book of Revelation is an extended exposition of the reality of evil and the unseen powers that promote its operation in our world. It is also the most powerful expression of the action of God and His Christ that finally defeats every form of evil and ends with the vision of the City of God: God with His people.
Faithfulness and courageous action for God and His people will finally triumph.
Of Believing and Confessing
In his explanation of the parable in yesterday’s reading the Lord Jesus “lit a light in his disciples. This light, he now teaches, must not be hidden by them.”
Trust and obedience are the DNA of those who are true brothers and sisters of our Lord.
Who, indeed, was able to to quieten the foaming lake? None other than the Lord of heaven and earth. Do we trust Him in the storms of life?
Moments of Decision
From time to time there come moments when one must stand up and be counted. Moments when loyalty to God demands courage and action. This was such a moment for Esther.
Do we have such a moment now in our society when the legalisation of both same-sex marriage and euthanasia are being promoted? Will these practices be added to the widespread use of abortion for cases other than those relatively rare situations where it is not possible for both mother and child to survive?
People and Parables
It is a fascinating company that travels with Jesus. The presence of the women recorded was not altogether unusual. Apparently a rabbi might travel with a mixed group appropriately divided. The presumption is that in each case Jesus had, in a particular way, touched the lives of those who are named. The “many others” who helped support Jesus and his disciples indicates the sweep and impact of his ministry.
The “soils” change little over the centuries. The devil, the rocky ground, and the thorns are still present. Let us pray that our hearts may be “good soil” and produce a good harvest.
The Sabbath Year and The Year of Jubilee
The Sabbatical Year – verses 1-7
This is an expansion of Exodus 23:10-11 which itself is expanded in Deuteronomy 15:1-2. Such stipulations allowed for faith in God’s sovereignty and his capacity to provide.
The Jubilee Year – verses 8-55
“… the two main thrusts of the jubilee, liberty and restoration, were both easily transferred from the strictly economic provision of the jubilee itself to a wider metaphorical application. The idea of redemption and return are combined in the future vision of Isaiah 35.”
“The jubilee still remains as a powerful model in formulating Christian biblical ethics. Its primary assumptions and objectives can be used as a guide and critique for our own ethical agenda in the modern world”.
A Final Word from Paul Before He Visits Corinth Again
2 Corinthians 13
This is the conclusion of a letter written by a true pastor. His deepest concern was for the spiritual welfare of all those who professed faith in Christ in Corinth. Some have a need to repent and he will seek to bring them to that position. In Christ’s Name and in his power he will act to correct what is wrong. We writes however, that those who need to change will change before he arrives.
We too need to be open to correction and, with the greatest humility possible, be prepared to offer correction where it might be needed.
His closing words seek to encourage joy, maturity, harmony and peace.
Verse 14 is a prayer we can each pray for ourselves and for our fellow believers.
An Ordered Life of Worship and Witness
Chapter 23 outlines the seven Festivals that marked the Israel year. These Festivals were an expression of devotion to the God who had rescued them and part of the means whereby they kept their unique character constantly before them.
The Festivals were:
The Weekly Sabbath vv. 1-3
The Spring Festivals 4-22
Passover and Unleavened Bread vv. 4-8
Firstfruits vv. 9-14
Weeks vv. 15-21
A requirement to meet the needs of the poor v.22
The Autumn Festivals
Trumpets vv. 23-26
The Day of Atonement vv. 26-32
The Festival of Shelters of Booths vv. 33-43
These Festivals are amongst those elements of Torah that have passed away. Christians have one specific act of remembrance which is the Lord’s Supper. However, what are sometimes called the liturgical churches (like Anglicans) have adopted a ‘church year’ that celebrates parts of the gospel story as a teaching tool and an aid to sustained and biblically focused worship.
Chapter 24 deals with the care of the Temple (verses 1-9) and the punishment of a blasphemer and other penalties for wrongdoing.
All life to to be dedicated to God in loving obedience and prayerful worship.
God’s Power in Paul’s Weakness
2 Corinthians 12
Paul’s experience has a lesson for each of us: God is our Enabler. We can do whatever He calls us to be and do because He is able.
Paul’s actions were dictated by his love for those to whom he ministered. He sought to serve the Corinthians in sincerity. Even his severity was an expression of genuine concern. He cared enough to challenge. Do we?
“All is a Chasing After Wind”
Pleasures, Wisdom, Folly and Toil, are all judged to be without meaning when life is placed in its larger context. So the writer came to hate life (v.17) which he judged finally to be meaningless.
We all know that what we are, what we have, and what we achieve will, one day, mean nothing. These are words to be read and pondered by all.
Though his meditations are sound and sober good sense (especially verses 24-26) yet there is something further to be considered in the purposes of God.
Where Meaninglessness is Swallowed Up in Praise and Purpose
In this passage there is revealed the blessings with which those who belong to Christ have been blessed by God.
The Father has lavishly purposed from before time to have son and daughters to share eternity with Him, including children from his ancient people as well as people from every tribe and tongue. To make this possible for sinful human beings He, in the person of the Son, and through the latter’s death upon the cross, brought about the forgiveness of sins. Those who have heard and received God’s good news have received as a seal that they are His, the indwelling presence of His own Holy Spirit.
How wonderfully God has dealt with Solomon’s vexations as he long ago pondered the meaningless of so much that lay before him.
What answers to asked but unanswered questions will we, one day, receive in God’s new creation?