Sunday, April 15, 2012

Daily Devotional Sunday 15th April

“Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,” 1 Corinthians 15:1, 3-4 NIV
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Morning and Evening by Charles Spurgeon

Morning

"My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?"
Psalm 22:1

We here behold the Saviour in the depth of his sorrows. No other place so well shows the griefs of Christ as Calvary, and no other moment at Calvary is so full of agony as that in which his cry rends the air--"My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" At this moment physical weakness was united with acute mental torture from the shame and ignominy through which he had to pass; and to make his grief culminate with emphasis, he suffered spiritual agony surpassing all expression, resulting from the departure of his Father's presence. This was the black midnight of his horror; then it was that he descended the abyss of suffering. No man can enter into the full meaning of these words. Some of us think at times that we could cry, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" There are seasons when the brightness of our Father's smile is eclipsed by clouds and darkness; but let us remember that God never does really forsake us. It is only a seeming forsaking with us, but in Christ's case it was a real forsaking. We grieve at a little withdrawal of our Father's love; but the real turning away of God's face from his Son, who shall calculate how deep the agony which it caused him?

In our case, our cry is often dictated by unbelief: in his case, it was the utterance of a dreadful fact, for God had really turned away from him for a season. O thou poor, distressed soul, who once lived in the sunshine of God's face, but art now in darkness, remember that he has not really forsaken thee. God in the clouds is as much our God as when he shines forth in all the lustre of his grace; but since even the thought that he has forsaken us gives us agony, what must the woe of the Saviour have been when he exclaimed, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?"

Evening

"Lift them up forever."
Psalm 28:9

God's people need lifting up. They are very heavy by nature. They have no wings, or, if they have, they are like the dove of old which lay among the pots; and they need divine grace to make them mount on wings covered with silver, and with feathers of yellow gold. By nature sparks fly upward, but the sinful souls of men fall downward. O Lord, "lift them up forever!" David himself said, "Unto thee, O God, do I lift up my soul," and he here feels the necessity that other men's souls should be lifted up as well as his own. When you ask this blessing for yourself, forget not to seek it for others also. There are three ways in which God's people require to be lifted up. They require to be elevated in character. Lift them up, O Lord; do not suffer thy people to be like the world's people! The world lieth in the wicked one; lift them out of it! The world's people are looking after silver and gold, seeking their own pleasures, and the gratification of their lusts; but, Lord, lift thy people up above all this; keep them from being "muck-rakers," as John Bunyan calls the man who was always scraping after gold! Set thou their hearts upon their risen Lord and the heavenly heritage! Moreover, believers need to be prospered in conflict. In the battle, if they seem to fall, O Lord, be pleased to give them the victory. If the foot of the foe be upon their necks for a moment, help them to grasp the sword of the Spirit, and eventually to win the battle. Lord, lift up thy children's spirits in the day of conflict; let them not sit in the dust, mourning forever. Suffer not the adversary to vex them sore, and make them fret; but if they have been, like Hannah, persecuted, let them sing of the mercy of a delivering God.

We may also ask our Lord to lift them up at the last! Lift them up by taking them home, lift their bodies from the tomb, and raise their souls to thine eternal kingdom in glory.

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Today's reading: 1 Samuel 25-26, Luke 12:32-59 (NIV)

View today's reading on Bible Gateway
David, Nabal and Abigail

1 Now Samuel died, and all Israel assembled and mourned for him; and they buried him at his home in Ramah. Then David moved down into the Desert of Paran.

2 A certain man in Maon, who had property there at Carmel, was very wealthy. He had a thousand goats and three thousand sheep, which he was shearing in Carmel. 3 His name was Nabal and his wife’s name was Abigail. She was an intelligent and beautiful woman, but her husband was surly and mean in his dealings—he was a Calebite.

4 While David was in the wilderness, he heard that Nabal was shearing sheep. 5 So he sent ten young men and said to them, “Go up to Nabal at Carmel and greet him in my name. 6 Say to him: ‘Long life to you! Good health to you and your household! And good health to all that is yours!

7 “‘Now I hear that it is sheep-shearing time. When your shepherds were with us, we did not mistreat them, and the whole time they were at Carmel nothing of theirs was missing. 8Ask your own servants and they will tell you. Therefore be favorable toward my men, since we come at a festive time. Please give your servants and your son David whatever you can find for them.’”

9 When David’s men arrived, they gave Nabal this message in David’s name. Then they waited.

10 Nabal answered David’s servants, “Who is this David? Who is this son of Jesse? Many servants are breaking away from their masters these days. 11 Why should I take my bread and water, and the meat I have slaughtered for my shearers, and give it to men coming from who knows where?”

12 David’s men turned around and went back. When they arrived, they reported every word. 13 David said to his men, “Each of you strap on your sword!” So they did, and David strapped his on as well. About four hundred men went up with David, while two hundred stayed with the supplies.

14 One of the servants told Abigail, Nabal’s wife, “David sent messengers from the wilderness to give our master his greetings, but he hurled insults at them. 15 Yet these men were very good to us. They did not mistreat us, and the whole time we were out in the fields near them nothing was missing. 16Night and day they were a wall around us the whole time we were herding our sheep near them. 17 Now think it over and see what you can do, because disaster is hanging over our master and his whole household. He is such a wicked man that no one can talk to him.”

18 Abigail acted quickly. She took two hundred loaves of bread, two skins of wine, five dressed sheep, five seahs of roasted grain, a hundred cakes of raisins and two hundred cakes of pressed figs, and loaded them on donkeys. 19 Then she told her servants, “Go on ahead; I’ll follow you.” But she did not tell her husband Nabal.

20 As she came riding her donkey into a mountain ravine, there were David and his men descending toward her, and she met them. 21 David had just said, “It’s been useless—all my watching over this fellow’s property in the wilderness so that nothing of his was missing. He has paid me back evil for good.22 May God deal with David, be it ever so severely, if by morning I leave alive one male of all who belong to him!”

23 When Abigail saw David, she quickly got off her donkey and bowed down before David with her face to the ground. 24She fell at his feet and said: “Pardon your servant, my lord, and let me speak to you; hear what your servant has to say. 25Please pay no attention, my lord, to that wicked man Nabal. He is just like his name—his name means Fool, and folly goes with him. And as for me, your servant, I did not see the men my lord sent. 26 And now, my lord, as surely as the LORD your God lives and as you live, since the LORD has kept you from bloodshed and from avenging yourself with your own hands, may your enemies and all who are intent on harming my lord be like Nabal. 27 And let this gift, which your servant has brought to my lord, be given to the men who follow you.

28 “Please forgive your servant’s presumption. The LORD your God will certainly make a lasting dynasty for my lord, because you fight the LORD’s battles, and no wrongdoing will be found in you as long as you live. 29 Even though someone is pursuing you to take your life, the life of my lord will be bound securely in the bundle of the living by the LORD your God, but the lives of your enemies he will hurl away as from the pocket of a sling. 30 When the LORD has fulfilled for my lord every good thing he promised concerning him and has appointed him ruler over Israel, 31 my lord will not have on his conscience the staggering burden of needless bloodshed or of having avenged himself. And when the LORD your God has brought my lord success, remember your servant.”

32 David said to Abigail, “Praise be to the LORD, the God of Israel, who has sent you today to meet me. 33 May you be blessed for your good judgment and for keeping me from bloodshed this day and from avenging myself with my own hands. 34 Otherwise, as surely as the LORD, the God of Israel, lives, who has kept me from harming you, if you had not come quickly to meet me, not one male belonging to Nabal would have been left alive by daybreak.”

35 Then David accepted from her hand what she had brought him and said, “Go home in peace. I have heard your words and granted your request.”

36 When Abigail went to Nabal, he was in the house holding a banquet like that of a king. He was in high spirits and very drunk. So she told him nothing at all until daybreak. 37 Then in the morning, when Nabal was sober, his wife told him all these things, and his heart failed him and he became like a stone. 38About ten days later, the LORD struck Nabal and he died.

39 When David heard that Nabal was dead, he said, “Praise be to the LORD, who has upheld my cause against Nabal for treating me with contempt. He has kept his servant from doing wrong and has brought Nabal’s wrongdoing down on his own head.”

Then David sent word to Abigail, asking her to become his wife. 40 His servants went to Carmel and said to Abigail, “David has sent us to you to take you to become his wife.”

41 She bowed down with her face to the ground and said, “I am your servant and am ready to serve you and wash the feet of my lord’s servants.” 42 Abigail quickly got on a donkey and, attended by her five female servants, went with David’s messengers and became his wife. 43 David had also married Ahinoam of Jezreel, and they both were his wives. 44 But Saul had given his daughter Michal, David’s wife, to Paltiel son of Laish, who was from Gallim.

1 Samuel 26

David Again Spares Saul’s Life

1 The Ziphites went to Saul at Gibeah and said, “Is not David hiding on the hill of Hakilah, which faces Jeshimon?”

2 So Saul went down to the Desert of Ziph, with his three thousand select Israelite troops, to search there for David. 3Saul made his camp beside the road on the hill of Hakilah facing Jeshimon, but David stayed in the wilderness. When he saw that Saul had followed him there, 4 he sent out scouts and learned that Saul had definitely arrived.

5 Then David set out and went to the place where Saul had camped. He saw where Saul and Abner son of Ner, the commander of the army, had lain down. Saul was lying inside the camp, with the army encamped around him.

6 David then asked Ahimelek the Hittite and Abishai son of Zeruiah, Joab’s brother, “Who will go down into the camp with me to Saul?”

“I’ll go with you,” said Abishai.

7 So David and Abishai went to the army by night, and there was Saul, lying asleep inside the camp with his spear stuck in the ground near his head. Abner and the soldiers were lying around him.

8 Abishai said to David, “Today God has delivered your enemy into your hands. Now let me pin him to the ground with one thrust of the spear; I won’t strike him twice.”

9 But David said to Abishai, “Don’t destroy him! Who can lay a hand on the LORD’s anointed and be guiltless? 10 As surely as the LORD lives,” he said, “the LORD himself will strike him, or his time will come and he will die, or he will go into battle and perish. 11 But the LORD forbid that I should lay a hand on the LORD’s anointed. Now get the spear and water jug that are near his head, and let’s go.”

12 So David took the spear and water jug near Saul’s head, and they left. No one saw or knew about it, nor did anyone wake up. They were all sleeping, because the LORD had put them into a deep sleep.

13 Then David crossed over to the other side and stood on top of the hill some distance away; there was a wide space between them. 14 He called out to the army and to Abner son of Ner, “Aren’t you going to answer me, Abner?”

Abner replied, “Who are you who calls to the king?”

15 David said, “You’re a man, aren’t you? And who is like you in Israel? Why didn’t you guard your lord the king? Someone came to destroy your lord the king. 16 What you have done is not good. As surely as the LORD lives, you and your men must die, because you did not guard your master, the LORD’s anointed. Look around you. Where are the king’s spear and water jug that were near his head?”

17 Saul recognized David’s voice and said, “Is that your voice, David my son?”

David replied, “Yes it is, my lord the king.” 18 And he added, “Why is my lord pursuing his servant? What have I done, and what wrong am I guilty of? 19 Now let my lord the king listen to his servant’s words. If the LORD has incited you against me, then may he accept an offering. If, however, people have done it, may they be cursed before the LORD! They have driven me today from my share in the LORD’s inheritance and have said, ‘Go, serve other gods.’ 20 Now do not let my blood fall to the ground far from the presence of the LORD. The king of Israel has come out to look for a flea—as one hunts a partridge in the mountains.”

21 Then Saul said, “I have sinned. Come back, David my son. Because you considered my life precious today, I will not try to harm you again. Surely I have acted like a fool and have been terribly wrong.”

22 “Here is the king’s spear,” David answered. “Let one of your young men come over and get it. 23 The LORD rewards everyone for their righteousness and faithfulness. The LORD delivered you into my hands today, but I would not lay a hand on the LORD’s anointed. 24 As surely as I valued your life today, so may the LORD value my life and deliver me from all trouble.”

25 Then Saul said to David, “May you be blessed, David my son; you will do great things and surely triumph.”

So David went on his way, and Saul returned home.


Luke 12

32 “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. 33 Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Watchfulness

35 “Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning, 36 like servants waiting for their master to return from a wedding banquet, so that when he comes and knocks they can immediately open the door for him. 37 It will be good for those servants whose master finds them watching when he comes. Truly I tell you, he will dress himself to serve, will have them recline at the table and will come and wait on them. 38 It will be good for those servants whose master finds them ready, even if he comes in the middle of the night or toward daybreak. 39But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. 40 You also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.”

41 Peter asked, “Lord, are you telling this parable to us, or to everyone?”

42 The Lord answered, “Who then is the faithful and wise manager, whom the master puts in charge of his servants to give them their food allowance at the proper time? 43 It will be good for that servant whom the master finds doing so when he returns. 44 Truly I tell you, he will put him in charge of all his possessions. 45 But suppose the servant says to himself, ‘My master is taking a long time in coming,’ and he then begins to beat the other servants, both men and women, and to eat and drink and get drunk. 46 The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the unbelievers.

47 “The servant who knows the master’s will and does not get ready or does not do what the master wants will be beaten with many blows. 48 But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.

Not Peace but Division

49 “I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! 50 But I have a baptism to undergo, and what constraint I am under until it is completed! 51 Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division. 52From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, three against two and two against three. 53 They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”

Interpreting the Times

54 He said to the crowd: “When you see a cloud rising in the west, immediately you say, ‘It’s going to rain,’ and it does. 55And when the south wind blows, you say, ‘It’s going to be hot,’ and it is. 56 Hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of the earth and the sky. How is it that you don’t know how to interpret this present time?

57 “Why don’t you judge for yourselves what is right? 58 As you are going with your adversary to the magistrate, try hard to be reconciled on the way, or your adversary may drag you off to the judge, and the judge turn you over to the officer, and the officer throw you into prison. 59 I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.”

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Heedlessness in religion

‘But Jehu took no heed to walk in the law of the Lord God of Israel with all his heart: for he departed not from the sins of Jeroboam, which made Israel to sin.’ 2 Kings 10:31

Suggested Further Reading: Luke 6:37–42

Jehu was very angry at other people’s sins, and we may be without being delivered from our own. It is a very fine sight to see a man work himself up into a furore against drunkenness; he himself has never been guilty of it. It is true that all the indignation which he pours upon it, it well deserves; for is it not the great net of the devil, in which he catches multitudes? I may be very furious against adultery, or theft, or immorality of some other kind, which I do not happen to practise myself, yet my own sins may cry out against me; and it will not be possible to compound for my own sins by denouncing those of others. That is a very cheap sort of virtue; bullying other people’s vices. The easiest thing in all the world is to be constantly denouncing popular faults; but to wring the neck of one of my own bosom sins is a harder work by far, and a much better sign of conversion. To be earnest against the sin of others may be praiseworthy, but it is no sign of grace in the heart; for natural men have been some of the greatest leaders in this matter. To loathe my own sin, to humble myself on account of my own personal faults, and to endeavour in the sight of God to renounce every false way, is a work of something more than human nature. Will you also notice Jehu was very bitter against one sin. The very mention of the name of Baal brought the blood into his face, and there are persons in the world who cannot bear some one sin to which they have aversion; they love to hammer away against that; their whole soul takes fire at the mention of it. This is all very well; but, unless you hate all sin, unless you hate especially the besetting sin which is most congenial to your own nature, you need to be converted.

For meditation: The Lord Jesus Christ could rightly be described as ‘the friend of sinners’ (Luke 7:34; 15:2 ), but never as ‘the friend of fault-finders’ (Matthew 12:2,7; Mark 7:5–9;Luke 5:30–32; 7:39, 44–47; 11:38–40,42; John 8:3–7). What fault do you habitually find in others?

Sermon no. 685
15 April (1866)

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Jesus Commissions the Twelve

Matthew 10:1-15 "These twelve Jesus sent out, instructing them, 'Go...to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And proclaim as you go, saying, 'The kingdom of heaven is at hand'" ( vv. 5-7).

Before Matthew gives us the bulk of Christ's missionary discourse (10:5-42), he lists the twelve disciples who follow Jesus during His ministry in Israel. Scripture says little about most of these men, but what we do know explains Matthew's ordering of their names (vv. 1-4 ). Peter is listed first because he is the most prominent of the twelve, the first to preach the Gospel after Pentecost (Acts 2:1-41) and the first apostle to see Gentiles converted (chap. 10). Judas' later betrayal of the Lord earns him the last place in the group (Matt. 26:14-16).

These twelve are those to whom Jesus first directs His call to ministry in today's passage (10:5-15). This is important because the fact that the disciples are the ones specifically commissioned in these verses probably means that not everything in this passage is directly applicable to the post-apostolic era. For instance, we know that the command of Christ not to go the Gentiles (vv. 5-6 ) cannot still be in force, because after His resurrection our Savior tells His people to preach the Gospel to all nations (28:18-20). Similarly, Matthew 10:8a tells the disciples to perform various miracles, but most Reformed scholars understand that the gift of miracles ceased with the death of the last apostle, though God Himself does still heal people at times in answer to prayer.

However, Jesus teaches several principles in this text that are also reflected in passages dealing specifically with the church's ongoing work in the post-apostolic age. Matthew 10:9-10, for instance, tells the disciples to acquire no money and take with them only what is necessary for their task (verse 10 probably only forbids an extra pair of sandals and staff). Clearly, Jesus is commanding His ministers to live simply, a requirement found also in 1 Timothy 3:1-3, which limits the office of elder to those who do not love money. Of course, these passages do not tell us the church should not take good care of her pastors. It just says that ministers are not to be greedy or in it for the money. John Chrysostom comments that they are not to look "constantly for better fare, which would vex those who would be receiving [them] and give [them] the reputation of self-indulgence" (Homilies on the Gospel of Saint Matthew, 32.5).

Coram deo: Living before the face of God

Jesus' selection of twelve disciples is intentional and patterned on the twelve tribes of Israel. Just as God once formed His people from the twelve sons of Jacob, so too does Christ form a new people starting with the twelve apostles. These disciples, indeed, all Christians, are to be content with what is necessary to fulfill their vocations and are not to be greedy. Does your life reflect such simplicity, or are you consumed with the things of this world?

For further study:

Genesis 49:28

The Bible in a year:

1 Samuel 27-29

For the weekend:

1 Sam. 30-2 Sam. 3

INTO the WORD daily Bible studies from TableTalk Magazine, Matthew Studies. Copyright © 2008 by Ligonier Ministries.

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Fighting Over Nothing

Joel 2:1-32

Do not be afraid, land of Judah; be glad and rejoice. Surely the LORD has done great things!
Joel 2:21

In the midst of calamity, of living with the consequences of sin, the prophet Joel reminds us not to be afraid, but rather to be glad and rejoice, for "the LORD has done great things!" This is a great reminder for me in marriage.

Okay, my marriage doesn't usually feel like a calamity. But at times it has felt impossible . . . like a mistake... like a mess. It has felt, to borrow an image from Joel, like a horde of locusts has come in and taken over everything.

Our most recent rough patch was over nothing. I think the immediate cause was sleep deprivation and too many evening meetings at church and work. Griff and I just got stuck, like a needle on a broken record. For about three days, we couldn't exchange a pleasant word, let alone a loving one.

We had lost our sense of being a team. Each, I think, was thinking, "I'm contributing way more here." One of us was thinking, "I do way more housework," and the other was thinking, "I slog away at work for endless hours to pay the mortgage." And together we were concluding, "Why do I put up with this? I'm not getting anything out of it." There were moments in that three-day period when I seriously wondered if we would ever get through that horrible time. "This is how we'll be for the rest of forever," I thought.

Our dissatisfaction was not only superficial but also sinful. We were allowing ourselves to feel alienated from each other and to enjoy strangely delicious feelings of self-righteous annoyance. I felt a little superior; I'm sure Griff did too.

The prophet Joel told the people of Judah that unless they got their act together (that is, repented), God would destroy them just as locusts had destroyed their land.

At the time, I didn't think God was waiting around to unleash lightning bolts on our marriage. But unless Griff and I repented of our small sins-tetchiness, selfishness, anger-our small sins would quickly become large sins that could do serious harm to our marriage.

At times like that, I find it helpful to remember that the Lord has done great things. He has done great things in our marriage. He has gotten us through far worse patches than three days of clawing at each other. Remembering that I don't have to be in control and that I should cede that control to God, who has done great things, leads me to repent. After three days or three hours of tetchiness, repentance can be as simple and profound as acknowledging that if I let God into the situation, we won't feel so stuck.

For me, the beginning of repentance is as basic as picturing Jesus walking into the situation. Sometimes I do that when Griff and I are in the middle of a squabble. Sometimes, I can't get there until later, when I'm alone. Then I replay the scene, the tension and the annoyance, and I envision Jesus showing up. This is not just some imaginative exercise. It is a prayer, a plea for help. And the God who does great things answers.
Lauren Winner

Let's Talk

  • What are some of the great things God has done in our marriage?
  • What are some small sins in our marriage that sometimes threaten to turn into big, destructive sins?
  • How might inviting Jesus into our squabbles lead us to repentance? What might change as a result?
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The parable of the sower

“A sower went out to sow his seed: and as he sowed, some fell by the wayside; and it was trodden down, and the fowls of the air devoured it. And some fell upon a rock; and as soon as it was sprung up, it withered away, because it lacked moisture. And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprang up with it, and choked it. And other fell on good ground, and sprang up, and bare fruit an hundredfold. And when he had said these things, he cried, He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.” Luke 8:5-8

Suggested Further Reading: Colossians 1:1-10

The ground was good; not that it was good by nature, but it had been made good by grace. God had ploughed it; he had stirred it up with the plough of conviction, and there it lay in ridge and furrow as it should be. And when the Gospel was preached, the heart received it, for the man said, “That’s just the Christ I want. Mercy!” said he, “it’s just what a needy sinner requires. A refuge! God help me to fly to it, for a refuge I sorely want.” The preaching of the gospel was the vital thing which gave comfort to this disturbed and ploughed soil. Down fell the seed; it sprung up. In some cases it produced a fervency of love, a largeness of heart, a devotedness of purpose, like seed which produced a hundredfold. The man became a mighty servant for God, he spent himself and was spent. He took his place in the vanguard of Christ’s army, stood in the hottest of the battle, and did deeds of daring which few could accomplish,—the seed produced a hundredfold. It fell in another heart of like character;—the man could not do the most, still he did much. He gave himself, just as he was, up to God, and in his business he had a word to say for the business of the world to come. In his daily walk, he quietly adorned the doctrine of God his Saviour,—he brought forth sixtyfold. Then it fell on another, whose abilities and talents were but small; he could not be a star, but he would be a glow-worm; he could not do as the greatest, but he was content to do something, even though it were the least. The seed had brought forth in him tenfold, perhaps twentyfold.

For meditation: Quantity of fruit is desirable, but quality of fruit is essential—fruit that has gone mouldy is useless. The Lord Jesus Christ is looking for fruit in quantity and fruit which lasts (John 15:5,16).

Sermon no. 308
15 April (1860)

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Comeuppance?

Today's reading: Micah 2:1-5

God's plans will override those of the swindlers Micah describes. And that sounds only fair, doesn't it? In fact, we get a certain sense of satisfaction when we read about the just deserts coming to these terrible individuals. It goes without saying that we can identify with the swindled, or at least that we stand with them in our righteous disgust over the injustice they are experiencing.

Pastor and author Bill Hybels points out in a sermon that each of us is born with closed fingers. He goes on to describe ways in which that grasping response stays with us until finally, in death, we relax our grip. That sounds pretty consistent with Micah's oppressors. But Hybels is talking about you and me.

When we get to the Gospels, we see Jesus responding to peoples' greed and oppression in a different manner than the judgment described in Micah 2:1-5. Hybels envisions a scene between Jesus and a certain swindler named Zacchaeus (seeLk 19:1-10):

Zacchaeus was a clutcher ... until he had dinner with Jesus ...

Here is what I imagine Jesus might have said over dinner: "Hey, Zacchaeus. What your heart yearns for will never be satisfied by that which you are hanging on to so tightly. Your heart was meant to be in deep communion with God and in loving community with other people in the Family of God. You have walked away from that kind of communion and are settling for something far less. You are settling for trying to meet the needs of your heart by clutching stuff."

I think Jesus might have gone on, "You know what I am going to do for you? In the not too distant future, I am going to open up my hands and they are going to receive steel spikes so that guys like you with hands like yours can be changed. I am going to be so generous to you, Zacchaeus. I am going to take your sin and greed and lack of love and I am going to pay for it on the cross and present salvation to you as a gift.

"And I won't stop there. I am going to adopt you into my family. I am going to answer your prayers. I am going to give you strength through the storms of life. And I am going to give you heaven on top of all."

At a certain point in the conversation, I think the enormity of Jesus' generosity melted Zacchaeus and something changed on the inside. Zacchaeus emerges with his voice trembling with excitement and newfound conviction ...

When your heart gets transformed by generous grace, your hands have a way of opening up.

Maybe it isn't so hard after all to see ourselves on the negative side of justice, at least some of the time. None of us looks forward to comeuppance, but "Come to me, ... and I will give you rest" (Mt 11:28) sounds inviting.

Think About It

  • What weighs most heavily on you?
  • Are you ready to let it go?
  • Are you willing, like Zacchaeus, to allow your life to be transformed?

Pray About It

Lord, transform my life by your power and presence. Help me to fully realize the extent of Jesus' gifts to me.

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