Sunday, April 9, 2017

April 9: Deuteronomy 33 – 34; Psalm 78:65-72; Proverbs 12:25; Luke 13:1-21



Overview

            Deuteronomy: Before Moses dies, he blesses Israel. He first describes the time when the Lord came and gave the Law through Moses. He calls Israel God’s beloved ones and the Lord became the king over Israel.
            Moses then pronounces a blessing over each of the tribes of Israel. Some are prophetic but some are hard to understand especially the shorter ones. Levi’s blessing recounts his Aaron’s trouble at the waters of Meribah but the rest of the blessing promises the tribe to be teachers of the law and to perform the priestly duties. Joseph’s blessing is also long promising prosperity and to be a prince among his brothers. The blessing ends with a general blessing for all Israel exalting God who will drive out the enemy but he will be their true dwelling.
            Moses then goes up the mountain and is able to view all the land that the Lord is giving Israel. Moses died and the Lord buried him somewhere in the valley but no one knows where. He was still vigorous and strong at 120 years old. Israel mourned for him thirty days.
            Joshua was filled with the spirit of wisdom and the people obeyed him. But there was never a prophet like Moses with whom God spoke face-to-face. No other prophets did the signs and wonders in the sight of Israel that Moses did.
            Psalm: Asaph ends his indictment of Israel by describing how the Lord ended this time when Israel was forsaken. Rather than choosing the tribe of Joseph or Ephraim, he took David of Judah from being a sheep shepherd and made him the shepherd of all Israel.
            Proverbs: If you see someone weighed down with anxiety, say something kind to him and it will cheer him up.
            Luke: Some people were killed by Pilate while presenting sacrifices. Others were killed when a tower fell on them. Jesus asked if any of them suffered because of their sins or were worse sinners than others. Then he said that all people need to repent or they will perish.
            He told a parable about a man who had a fig tree that didn’t produce and wanted to cut it down. The vinedresser asked to let him take care of it another year and then cut it down if it didn’t produce.
            On a Sabbath, in a synagogue, Jesus heals a woman who was bent over and crippled. The synagogue ruler was upset and told people not to come on the Sabbath to be healed but come on other days. Jesus told him he was a hypocrite because they rescued animals on the Sabbath so why not a woman bound by Satan.
            His opponents were humiliated but the people were delighted. Jesus then compared the kingdom of God to a mustard seed that grows into a huge bush and to leaven that permeates a whole lump of dough.

What Stood Out

            Deuteronomy: “Happy are you, O Israel! Who is like you, a people saved by the Lord” (Deut 33:29).
            Psalm: “He rejected the tent of Joseph; he did not choose the tribe of Ephraim” (Ps 78:67).
            Proverbs: “Anxiety in a man's heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad” (Prov 12:25).
            Luke: “‘Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and put on manure. Then if it should bear fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down’” (Luke 13:8-9).

Insight

            Deuteronomy: In all of the blessings the Lord had conferred on Israel, the greatest is salvation. Israel should be happy in their salvation. At that time, they viewed salvation in terms of prosperity, rescue from their enemies, and having posterity. Reviewing Deuteronomy reveals that all talk of salvation is for the betterment of the nation. It is seldom seen as an individual goal. Speaker and Pastor David Sedaca explains it this way: “Based on God's unique relationship with the people of Israel as presented in the Tanakh, salvation is almost always understood as collective and national, not personal and individual.”[1] An example is when David wanted to build a temple for the Lord and the Lord told him, “No.” Instead, the Lord told David about his future descendents. The idea that David’s posterity would last forever blew him away. In his prayer of gratitude, the same concepts of salvation for the nation, redeemed from Egypt, appears (2 Sam 7:18-29).
            According to Jews for Jesus, current Judaism has a slightly different view of salvation. They presume a relationship with God so there is no reason for salvation and Jesus is irrelevant. “’Salvation’ is obtained through the betterment of self and society. It is social improvement.”[2]
            If ancient Israel was able to be happy in a national salvation or salvation of their lineage, how much more should we be happy in our salvation from sin? It should be our greatest joy to know that eternity is ours; it should not come from knowing that we will always have descendent living and carrying on our name. The gems of personal salvation were always in the Bible, but they were obscured before Jesus came. They can be seen in Job when he says he will see his redeemer on the earth and in the flesh (Job 19:25-27). David calls the Lord his redeemer (Ps 19:14). He knew that when he died, he would go to be with the Lord (2 Sam 12:23).
            We are blessed with knowing that our personal salvation is secure in Jesus. He said we have eternal life when we believe in him (John 5:24) and that no one can take that away from us because we are held in his and the Father’s hand (John 10:27-30).
            Psalm: Joseph has often been described as a type of Christ. Symbolically, he was killed when he was sent to Egypt as a slave because of his brother’s sins. He rescued his family from starvation and provided for them in Egypt symbolically redeeming them from their sins. Because of his leadership at this time in their history, it may have seemed natural to bring salvation from their enemies and rule of the nation by the tribe of Joseph. Moses blessing also calls him a prince among the people (Deut 33:16). However, God had already prophesied through Jacob that Judah would produce the king, in fact it also extends to the Messiah (Gen 49:10).
            Things don’t always turn out the way we expect and when Saul was made king, I’m sure the people thought his leadership would endure. But the tallest and best looking man in Israel was not devoted to the Lord the way David was. That’s a good lesson for us. It’s what is in our hearts that counts, not our exterior.
            Proverbs: What are anxiety and worry? They are negative emotional states caused by a lack of trust in God. They come because of seeking satisfaction from something or someone other than God (Matt 6:25-34). Paul tells us how not be anxious. It takes prayer, petitions, and thanksgiving to get out hearts in line with God’s so that we won’t be anxious (Phil 4:6-7).
            Unfortunately, when people are anxious or worried, telling them these things doesn’t help because they are too deep in their problems. So, a kind word will help and hopefully bring them to a place where they can get a better perspective on their problems.
            Luke: Today is Palm Sunday and we’ve learned that today, there were bombings of Christians services in Egypt, killing many.[3] Similar things happened in Jesus’ day. Someone told Jesus about some Galileans whom Pilate killed while presenting their sacrifices. We immediately want to make some sense out of these kinds of events. That may be the reason they told Jesus, hoping that he would explain why it happened. Jesus’ response must have been confusing to them. People still believe in karma, that their future is dictated by their behavior. If something bad happens to them, it is because of their sin.
            Jesus had a lot of misconceptions to correct in his ministry. This is one of them. He points out that these people didn’t die because their sins were any worse than anyone else’s sins. We will all die eventually, but if we die while sinners, then we will really perish. The only way to get rid of our sins is to let Jesus have them. He paid the price and we need to accept that we can’t do anything other than ask for forgiveness, repent, and trust in Jesus for our salvation.
            The parable of the tree is a picture of God’s grace. He gives us time to repent and produce good fruit. However, he doesn’t wait forever.
            Regarding the Christian killed in Egypt; it is evident that we live in a world trapped in sin. From what I understand, they were singled out for their faith in Jesus. There was no other reason for their suffering. There are people in this world who will kill rather than accept the message of Jesus Christ and salvation in him alone.

Application

            Kind words are always appropriate, whether a tragedy has struck or a person is simply anxious. In the case of our brothers and sisters in Egypt, we can’t say anything directly to them, but we can pray that they will be able to someday realize and be glad that they are persecuted for Jesus’ sake. Their reward in heaven will be great (Matt 5:11).


[1] David Sedaca, "Salvation and the People of Israel - Harmonizing a Soteriological Dilema," Salvation and the People of Israel - Harmonizing a Soteriological Dilema, , accessed April 09, 2017, http://www.kesherjournal.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=85&Itemid=.
[2] Rich Robinson, "Judaism: An Overview," Jews for Jesus, January 26, 2012, , accessed April 09, 2017, https://jewsforjesus.org/judaism-an-overview/.
[3] Magdy Samaan and Declan Walsh, "Two Explosions Kill at Least 31 at Egyptian Coptic Churches on Palm Sunday," The New York Times, April 09, 2017, , accessed April 09, 2017, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/09/world/middleeast/explosion-egypt-coptic-christian-church.html?_r=0.

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