Reading #1 – Deuteronomy 9
Reading #2 – Psalms 104
Reading #3 – Lamentations 1
Reading #4 – Mark 12
Reading #5 – 1 Samuel 5
Deuteronomy 9 – Not Because of Your Righteousness. When it comes to the victories in our life, it is seldom because of “us” but because of G_d’s provision in our life. “After the LORD your God has done this for you, don’t say in your hearts, ‘The LORD has given us this land because we are such good people!’ No, it is because of the wickedness of the other nations that he is pushing them out of your way. 5 It is not because you are so good or have such integrity that you are about to occupy their land (4-5). Because of this, we must always keep it in the back of our minds that G_d does not bless us because “we are the best and/or the strongest” but because G_d wants the best for us and as long as we keep our eyes on him, he will help us to navigate the waters. Each of us has failed at many points in our lives and we must remember this or we will become arrogant in our spiritual life. If Moses had not interceded for the nation, it most certainly would not have bee around to this very date; in the same way, if someone had not interceded for us we too might not be where we are today.
1 Samuel 5 – The Ark in Philistia. Previously, the ark was stolen by the Philistines which led to the death of Eli, Hophni, Phineas, and Hophni’s wife. In her dying breath, Hophni’s wife called her newborn son “Ichabod” which translates as “Where is the glory? It is gone”. While it was a tragic situation that day in the mountain, it was also proof that G_d knows how to take care of that which belongs to him. Stealing the ark was the easiest part of the ordeal, dealing with the consequences was the hardest part. G_d never gets bent out of shape when bad things occur in our lives and nor should we. I will climb up to my watchtower and stand at my guardpost. There I will wait to see what the LORD says and how he will answer my complaint (Habakkuk 2:1). For Israel, this was a time of loss and wonder what is the next step as Eli their leader was dead and the young but venerable Samuel was in charge. For Philistia, it was a tragic time and fear was rampant especially when their god was laying on the floor before the ark of G_d’s covenant. Then the LORD’s heavy hand struck the people of Ashdod and the nearby villages with a plague of tumors. 7 When the people realized what was happening, they cried out, “We can’t keep the Ark of the God of Israel here any longer! He is against us! We will all be destroyed along with Dagon, our god.” 8 So they called together the rulers of the Philistine towns and asked, “What should we do with the Ark of the G_d of Israel (6-8)?”
Psalm 104 – A G_d for All Seasons. In the spring of our lives, the vegetation is just coming to life and so we must water it and care for it. Despite our best efforts some of the vegetation dies and we wonder “what did I do wrong”. Yet, given time, persistence, and patience even the dead stuff comes back to life as we hold no power over the ground, air, or waters. In the same way, when areas of our lives such as jobs, positions, and power are not under our control as the only thing we can ever control is our attitude and behavior. For this, we must put our trust always in G_d and that just as the ark was cared for in the heathen country of Philistia, so also are the things that concern us. Though I am surrounded by troubles, you will protect me from the anger of my enemies. You reach out your hand, and the power of your right-hand saves me. The LORD will work out his plans for my life—for your faithful love, O LORD, endures forever. abandon me, for you made me (Psalms 138:7-8). The earth does not belong to us as we only possess the power to watch over it like the good steward. Because G_d owns this world, he also knows what it is going to take to keep it rotating in the right direction, how to deal with famine, pestilence, and the like. The problem is, we as humans do not always like how G_d takes care of the land because it often means we are negatively affected even if we are doing the right thing. The hardest part for the child of G_d to come to grips with is that we not immune to the problems nor are we excused from them. I will sing to the LORD as long as I live. I will praise my God for my last breath! May all my thoughts are pleasing to him, for I rejoice in the LORD. Let all sinners vanish from the face of the earth; let the wicked disappear forever. Let all that I am praise the LORD. Praise the LORD (33-35)!
Lamentations 1 – Sorrow in Jerusalem. For over 400 years, the nation was admonished about their behavior and they did little to quell it. So the nation was destroyed after Josia the last righteous king died in battle. The nation enjoyed a lengthy period of predominance and partook in sinful practices at the bequest of the nations catering to the kingdom. Being “oppressed” was not what the nation wanted to be but by their actions, they asked for it and they got it. Judah has been led away into captivity, oppressed with cruel slavery. She lives among foreign nations and has no place of rest. Her enemies have chased her down, and she has nowhere to turn (3). When we have no place to turn to, all we can do is lay prostrate before G_d and ask for his forgiveness and deliverance. Although we ask for deliverance, we do not get it immediately nor will our pains and sorrows disappear in a moment. What we do in these times will greatly depend on how long we stay where we are. Jerusalem has sinned greatly, so she has been tossed away like a filthy rag. All who once honored her now despise her, for they have seen her stripped naked and humiliated. All she can do is groan and hide her face (8).
Mark 12 – Parable of the Evil Farmers. This parable was spoken against the religious leaders who exercised stolen authority. when the rightful heir comes to town, the wrong leaders feel that their authority is under attack and will do whatever it takes to keep the power. The leaders were following the Devil’s plan for their lives as he too holds stolen authority and will not easily nor quickly let it go. There can only be one king in any kingdom so where there is a conflict, one person has to go and for Jerusalem, it had to be Jesus because the leaders knew what would happen if they lost power as the events of the first century had occurred previously in the history of Israel/Judah. Although Jesus was be hung on a cross like a criminal, his spirit never left the earth and is alive in the hearts and minds of those who serve him. “What do you suppose the owner of the vineyard will do?” Jesus asked. “I’ll tell you—he will come and kill those farmers and lease the vineyard to others. Didn’t you ever read this in the Scriptures? ‘The stone that the builders rejected has now become the cornerstone. This is the LORD’s doing, and it is wonderful to see (9-11)!”