Reading #1 – Deuteronomy 16:21 – 17:7
Reading #2 – Psalms 31:14-18
Reading #3 – Proverbs 2:1-15
Reading #4 – John 21:15-19
Reading #5 – 1 Samuel 7
Deuteronomy 16:21-17:7 – Forbidden Forms of Worship. An Ashera pole was erected near all of the Canaanite worship centers in honor of Ashera who was the fertility goddess a mistress to the gods (Ashera Pole). When the people entered the land, one of their many guiding principles was, “destroy every place of worship, every idol, and every item used in worship”. When the people erected the “One Place of Worship”, they were forbidden from planting any trees near it because of what it could engender (21). In the same way, erecting pillars for whatever reason could also in time be misused or misconstrued as an Ashera pole (22). When the people sacrificed animals to the Lord G-d, they were to be the best of their flock, without blemish, and/or illness (17:1). People that appeared to be committing an evil practice were to be confronted by two or more witnesses. If that individual is found guilty, he/she must be put to death. While it would certainly seem more gracious to overlook a fault, at issue is, the people would learn to follow this person’s ways (17:2-5). The person who engendered the charge(s) would be the first person to throw a stone (17:6-7, John 8:1-11).
Psalms 31:14-18 – I Trust In You. Trusting in the Lord G-d is my personal choice and I hope and pray it is yours also. When we trust in the Lord, we must prepare ourselves to face the reality that storms of trouble will crop up but whatever happens or, “come what may”, the Lord has a plan (14-15). When adversarial situations occur, the Lord G-d will listen to us and help us to make it through the storm (). When we have been obedient and faithful in all of our dealings, those that bring fake charges against us will fail in their endeavor(s) (18). The Devil will tell us, “If you really want to please the Lord, you need _____ and, coincidentally I just happen to have a _____”.
Proverbs 2:1-15 – The Value of Wisdom. Listening to wise words and regurgitating them has about as much effect as putting medication in your mouth and spitting it out. For this reason, the wise father admonishes the son to receive and treasure wisdom (1-2). Receiving wise words into our hearts is likened to planting crops, you would not plant say, mushrooms in a corn crop nor corn in a strawberry patch. In the same way, whatever we do in life, we need wisdom as an integral part of our life. When we listen to wisdom’s counsel, we will make better decisions about those things that affect us. We may not always know why wisdom tells us to change course until we do as she suggests (3-15).
John 17-21:14 Have been purposely skipped as I will come back to them during the Lenten and Easter time frames.
John 21:15-19 – Jesus and Peter. That day on the beach, Peter was surprised to see Jesus but Jesus was not surprised to see Peter. Jesus had faith in Peter and it was not misplaced. Unfortunately, Peter didn’t have the same faith in himself. Peter had proudly boasted “I love you more than any of these men” (Matthew 26:33-35). So after the fearful night, Jesus asked him three times “Do you love me?”. In Greek, the first two times Jesus used “Agapas” which means “Unconditional”, and the third time he used “Phileis which means “friend”. So when you put this all together, it comes out like this: “Peter do you love without conditions or, ‘no strings attached?’ Peter do you love me even if I send you to places you would rather not be? Peter, are you truly my friend? Then feed and care for my lambs!” (15-17). Peter was being asked to lead the people which would eventually earn the disparity of the religious and the mark of the temple guards. History says that Peter was crucified upside down but there is no historical documentation to prove it (18-19).
1 Samuel 7 – Samuel Judges Israel. After the incident with the Philistines, the subsequent return of the ark, and the death of the 70 men who decided to take a peek in the ark, the people went to Samuel to seek the Lord’s favor (1-2). Samuel’s admonishment was for the people to get rid of their foreign idols and gods and seek the face of the true G-d. The people responded immediately (3-4). Samuel’s prayer for the people was that they would cleanse themselves from sin with all of their hearts. When the Philistines heard about the gathering at Mizpah, they decided to use the opportunity to attack. The difference between this time and the one at Ebenezer was that the peoples’ heart was for the Lord G-d something Philistia did not take into consideration (5-11). After the battle, Samuel took a stone, placed it between Mizpah and Shen, and called it “Ebenezer” (12-14). Ebenezer was the place of Israel’s greatest humiliation but now it would be the place of Israel’s greatest overcoming power. The difference between them was the heart of the people and the G-d they served. Samuel was a circuit judge and toured towns from Bethel to Mizpah but his home was in Ramah (15-17).