Thursday, April 20, 2017

April 20: Joshua 21 – 22:20; Psalm 89:1-12; Proverbs 13:15-16; Luke 20:1-26


            Joshua: After all the tribes had divided the land, the Levites were allotted cities and pastureland among the tribes. The cast lots to see where the different clans would dwell. The people settled in the land and the Lord gave them rest on all sides. All of his promises came to fruition.
            Joshua told the men of the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and half-tribe of Manasseh that they could return to their territory because their brothers had received their land. They had kept their promise to fight until their brothers had rest. He warned them to be careful to observe the commandments of the Lord, to love him, walk in his ways, cling to him, and serve him with all their being. Joshua blessed them and they returned taking with them all the booty they had collected.
            Before they crossed the Jordan, they made a large altar. When the people on the west side of the Jordan heard it, they gathered at Shiloh to make war against Reuben, Gad, and half-tribe of Manasseh on the east side.
            Before making war, the tribes on the west sent a delegation to those on the east to ask why they had broken faith with the Lord by making the altar. They accused them of rebellion and believed that the Lord would be angry with all of Israel. They reminded them of the problems caused at Peor and by Achan when he took the devoted things. They offered land among themselves if the east side was unclean.
            Psalm: Ethan the Ezrahite says he will sing of the Lord’s love forever. He will praise the Lord because of what he knows about the Lord and what the Lord has promised to David and his descendants. He extols God who is faithful and is mightier than all the angels; they fear him. No one is like the Lord who controls nature and nations. Everything in heaven and earth belong to him because he made them. All his creation praises his name.
            Proverbs: A sensible person usually is prudent and wins favor because he is acting with knowledge. However, a fool is the opposite and he will end in ruin like a treacherous person.
            Luke: The chief priests and scribes challenge Jesus’ authority to teach and clean the temple. Jesus turns it on them and asks if John’s baptism came from heaven or man. They don’t answer for fear of Jesus exposing their hypocrisy or getting in trouble with the people. So Jesus doesn’t answer them either.
            Jesus tells a parable about a man who planted a vineyard and rented it out. When he sent servants to get some produce, the renters beat the servants. He sent his son and they killed him hoping to inherit the vineyard. Jesus said the man will come, throw out the renters and give it to someone else. The people didn’t agree but Jesus then quoted from Psalm 118:22 about the stone being rejected but becoming the cornerstone.
            The scribes and chief priests knew the parable was about them so they wanted to kill Jesus but couldn’t because of the people. So they sent spies to try to trick Jesus so they could turn him over to the authorities. They asked if it was lawful to pay taxes to Caesar. Jesus knew they wanted to trap him so he asked for a coin then asked whose inscription was on it. It was Caesar’s so Jesus told them to give to Caesar what belonged to him and to God what belongs to him. They marveled at his answer and shut up.

What Stood Out

            Joshua: “And when the people of Israel heard of it, the whole assembly of the people of Israel gathered at Shiloh to make war against them” (Josh 22:12).
            Psalm: “For who in the skies can be compared to the Lord? Who among the heavenly beings is like the Lord” (Ps 89:6).
            Proverbs: “A fool flaunts his folly” (Prov 13:16).
            Luke: “Tell us by what authority you do these things, or who it is that gave you this authority” (Luke 20:2).


            Joshua: The men of Reuben, Gad, and half-tribe of Manasseh had been faithful to battle the inhabitants of Canaan until the other tribes were settled in the land. Joshua gave them clear instructions to obey the Lord’s commandments and to love the Lord and serve him with all their hearts and souls. Imagine the surprise of Joshua and the tribes on the west side of the Jordan when they found out that their faithful brothers had just build an altar before going home. It was an abomination, a scandal; it was sacrilegious. They were ready to go to war to cleanse this sin from the land and keep themselves from suffering God’s wrath.
            What would you do if you had been in their place? They had a very clear command from the Lord to investigate and find out if a city was going after other gods. If it was true, then they were to destroy the whole city (Deut 13:12-17). Building any altar other than the one at Shiloh was essentially a proclamation that they were going to worship in a way that the Lord had prohibited and was a serious breach of the commandments.
            Granted, because of Jesus’ sacrifice for our sins, we don’t have the same laws and regulations that we must follow. But we have the same principles given in the New Testament. We are to investigate allegation of this sort and seek to bring the person back into fellowship; if they persist we don’t slaughter them but we do remove them from fellowship (Matt 18:15-17; 2 1 Cor 5:1-2; Thess 3:14 -14; Titus 3:10 ; James 5:19-20). Israel was afraid of what the Lord would do to them if they didn’t take care of the matter quickly. The problem we face today is in the church. When we don’t address sin and heresy quickly, it sends a message that it is OK and the whole church is affected. Over time, the church becomes something that the Lord didn’t intend. You can read about the results in Revelation 2 – 3. The church in Pergamum was warned what Jesus would do if they didn’t repent from letting people practice immorality. He said, “I will come to you soon and war against them with the sword of my mouth” (Rev 2:16). This is something we should take seriously.
            Psalm: Who is like the Lord? No one is like him. In comparing his attributes to anyone or anything else demonstrates this. Examine his attributes of steadfast love or faithfulness both of which are emphasized in the first part of this Psalm. It is clear that no one has a love that can be consistent and steadfast forever. Our love grows cold or we fail when we put ourselves first. We don’t have perfect unconditional love. But God does. His love is perfect and therefore, it can’t be improved nor can it fail. His faithfulness is in the same way perfect. It is seen in his promise to David, which will be finally fulfilled in Jesus after he comes back. He is worthy of all praise and worship.
            His omnipotence is perfect as well. He has control over all nature because he has made it. The holy ones, his angels, fear him because they understand that they are created being just like us. We don’t have the power to create anything and we certainly have minuscule control over physical objects. Any tornado should convince us if we think otherwise. We fear him, not because we think he may not be loving or faithful, but because we recognize his power over all he has created.
            Proverbs: What is more foolish than saying there is no God? A person may say there is no God but when they act on that, they become treacherous. They have no reason, other than getting caught, to behave in a socially acceptable way. We are seeing this more and more in our society as fewer and fewer people believe there is a God and even fewer see that Jesus is the way to him. I read in the paper that the litter building up alongside our highways is blamed on non-enforcement of the litter laws and no funds for cleanup crews.[1] Wrong! It is a result of a belief that there is no God and therefore it is OK to toss trash in his creation. That is the tip of the iceberg of sin. I read in the paper that a man was going to punch a 67-year-old woman in the face because she told his son to behave in a restaurant and not cough in her food.[2] When we act foolishly and without knowledge of our Lord, then all of society suffers, whether it is trashing our streets or willing to do despicable things in public. It’s what happens when we ignore or condone those who don’t obey the commandments and let them think there is no God. (Enough of my ranting.)
            Luke: The chief priests and scribes asked Jesus by what authority he was doing these things. The immediate context was teaching the people. The previous thing he had done was to evict from the temple people who were selling things there. He had just come into Jerusalem clearly fulfilling the prophecy of the coming Messiah. Before that, he had healed a blind man near Jericho. These leaders were quite aware of all the things he was doing so the question of his authority should have been beyond teaching the people or driving out moneychangers. However, teaching the people may have concerned them more than the others.
            The Levites were the ones who were charged with teaching the people, especially the priests (Lev 10:8-11). Moses passed on this responsibility to the Levites in his final blessing (Deut 33:10). They were jealous because Jesus was teaching and doing a better job than they had. They were jealous because Jesus had cleansed the temple, something they should have done. They were jealous of their position if Jesus did turn out to be the Messiah.
            Where does that leave us when we see someone teaching the people? Do we challenge their authority? Sometimes we should, as noted above there are reasons we should. But the chief priests were not concerned about obedience to the Lord or giving him glory. They were concerned for their own sinful reasons.
            Since we have the Gospels, it is rather easy to see that Jesus’ authority came from the Father (John 7:16-18, 12:49, 14:10). Even if he didn’t explain it, the miracles he performed should have demonstrated his authority. The chief priests were without excuse regarding Jesus’ authority but they didn’t want to submit to it.
            That’s one of our basic problems. We don’t like authority because we want to be in charge. That’s why we have problems in our own lives, in our churches, and our country. We don’t want to submit to Jesus’ authority.


            I need to be careful about submitting to the authority of our church. It’s easy to think I know better or that some rules don’t apply to me. When I’m like that, I can push the envelope and not submit to authority in other places, even as simple as obeying the speed limit. One thing leads to another and I’m acting just like the world.

[1] “Trash Points to Larger Problem ,” Everett (Washington) Daily Herald, April 19, 2017.
[2] Rikki King, “Fists Fly at Dinner Out,” Everett (Washington) Daily Herald, April 19, 2017.

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