Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Friday, 23 November 18:
1. Ezekiel 45:1-8 – “…but they shall let the house of Israel have the land according to their tribes.” God is concerned about people’s right to own and control their own piece of land.
2. Ezekiel 45:7-9 – “Cease your evictions of my people, declares the Lord God.” God gave the ruler enough land that he did not need to tax the people or mistreat them in order to have the resources to run the country.
3. Ezekiel 45:10 — “You shall have just balances.” God is a just God who demands that all people and especially His people treat all others justly but also mercifully and graciously. People expect God to treat them with mercy and grace but to administer justice to those who offend them. God
4. Ezekiel 45:17 — “It shall be the prince’s duty to furnish the burnt offerings.” God expected the government to support worship of God.
5. Ezekiel 46:8 — “When the prince enters, he shall enter by the vestibule of the gate, and he shall go out by the same way.” The Bible emphasizes the Holiness and Sovereignty of God and the subservience of all governments and rulers to God. We are commanded to obey earthly authorities which are all ordained by God (Romans 13), but the authorities are commanded to obey God, and we are commanded to obey God above all earthly authorities. “Jesus said to them, ‘Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.’” (Romans 12:17) Our allegiance is first and foremost to the KING of Kings and to the Kingdom of God. People are just people, and God is God.
6. Ezekiel 46:18 — “The prince shall not take any of the inheritance of the people, thrusting them out of their property. He shall give his sons their inheritance out of his own property, so that none of my people shall be scattered from his property.” Again, God is very concerned about property rights and specifically directs that the powerful not add to their family’s property by taking from others.
7. Proverbs 23:4 — “Do not toil to acquire wealth; be discerning enough to desist.” Many people are wearing themselves out doing what God never wanted them to do because they are not satisfied with God’s provision in their lives.
8. Proverbs 23:17, 18, 23 — “Do not let your heart envy sinners, but always be zealous for the fear of the Lord. There is surely a future hope for you, and your hope will not be cut off…. Buy the truth and do not sell it; get wisdom, discipline and understanding.” The Bible tells us to be zealous for the fear of the Lord, to put all of our effort, non-stop, into fearing the Lord; to invest everything we have into fearing the Lord. One definition for the word zealous is fanatical. Of course, the word fanatic is used in a negative sense today, but the devotion a Christian expresses for God will always appear excessive and extreme to the non-believer. To the non-believer, living in complete reverence, awe, and submission to the Lord is ignorant and foolish; however, the Bible reminds us that “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Psalm 111:10; Proverbs 9:10). All creation is commanded by God to fear Him, both believer and non-believer. “Blessed is the man who always fears the Lord, but he who hardens his heart falls into trouble.” (Proverbs 28:14). As Proverbs points out today, the fear of the Lord and the wisdom and understanding that comes from fearing the Lord requires discipline – hence the word disciple. It’s not just a feeling; it is fervent, consistent action — it is radical and fanatical; it’s true love demonstrated by faithfulness.
9. Proverbs 23:22 — “Listen to your father who gave you life, and do not despise your mother when she is old.” Character is taught in the home, and God’s way is for a man and woman, united in marriage, to teach their children to fear the Lord.
10. John 18:1-11 — Following God’s way, Jesus knew what would happen to Him and remained in obedience regardless from a purely submission heart of love.
11. John 18:10, 11 — “Then Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant and cut off his right ear. (The servant’s name was Malchus.) So Jesus said to Peter, ‘Put your sword into its sheath; shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?’” Many have used the story of Peter’s sword wielding to preach pacifism, but bear in mind that Peter had a sword, and Jesus knew it. It wasn’t that Peter sought to defend Jesus with his sword that was the issue, it was that Peter sought to defend Jesus at the wrong time, against the will of God at the moment. In fact, In Luke 22:35-38, Jesus tells His disciples that if they lack swords they should buy them. Self-defense is a God-given right and responsibility which can’t be abrogated.
12. John 18:14 – “It was Caiaphas who had advised the Jews that it would be expedient that one man should die for the people.” God’s way included Christ’s death for the sins of the people.
13. John 18:15-18 – “Simon Peter followed Jesus, and so did another disciple. Since that disciple was known to the high priest, he entered with Jesus into the courtyard of the high priest, but Peter stood outside at the door. So the other disciple, who was known to the high priest, went out and spoke to the servant girl who kept watch at the door, and brought Peter in. The servant girl at the door said to Peter, “You also are not one of this man’s disciples, are you?” He said, “I am not.” Now the servants and officers had made a charcoal fire, because it was cold, and they were standing and warming themselves. Peter also was with them, standing and warming himself.” Pride and fear are opposite sides of the same coin. Peter was willing to fight in garden when it wasn’t appropriate but not willing to stand up for Jesus in the courtyard when it was appropriate.
14. John 18:17 – “The servant girl at the door said to Peter, ‘You also are not one of this man’s disciples, are you?’” He said, ‘I am not.’” Disciples of Christ must be ready to deny self, take up their crosses, and follow Jesus. (Matthew 16:24, Mark 8:34, Luke 9:23, Luke 14:27) Jesus had previously warned overconfident Peter that he wasn’t there yet, but Peter did not believe Him. Here Peter faces the truth of himself which has been exposed, not by an attacking army but rather by a mere servant girl sitting at a campfire. It is in the little, seemingly insignificant moments that we reveal what we really believe about Jesus, in our conversations with others around ‘campfires,’ in our homes, in our workplaces, in the marketplace, in social settings, and on social media. While it may be true that actions often speak louder than words, don’t believe the popular lie that words are secondary. The true test of your courage is in how, as an ambassador for Christ, you purely proclaim the Gospel to others right where you are. Those of us who have failed to proclaim the Name of Jesus to others when we should have can find hope in the story of Peter who failed miserably but later went to the cross literally for Jesus.
15. John 18:27 – “Peter again denied it, and at once a rooster crowed.” Remember what Jesus had said to Peter and Peter’s response: “Jesus said to him, ‘Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.’ Peter said to him, ‘Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you!’” (Matthew 26:34, 35) Mark 14:72 tells of Peter’s reaction after he denied Jesus just as Jesus said he would: “And Peter remembered how Jesus had said to him, ‘Before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.’ And he broke down and wept.” Have you ever felt the guilt of failing Jesus? Remember, Jesus knows your weaknesses better than you do. Your failures are not a surprise to Him. When you are tested, it is not so that God can see the truth of your sinful hearts, it is so you can see it. God’s will in your failures is to bring you to humble repentance, to draw you closer to Him, to sanctify you, to conform you to the image of His Son, and to prepare you for greater faithful service in love. His goal is not to condemn you and destroy you. Judas denied Jesus, couldn’t bring Himself to repent and accept the forgiveness of God, and killed himself. Peter repented, accepted forgiveness, and was used mightily by God. Paul, formerly Saul who had made a career of persecuting Christians, repented and went to his death boldly proclaiming Christ and glorifying Him. Have confidence in grace, and glorify God boldly.
— Acts 5:40-42 – “…when they had called in the apostles, they beat them and charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name. And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching that the Christ is Jesus.”
16. John 18:33-37 – “Pilate entered his headquarters again and called Jesus and said to him, ‘Are you the King of the Jews?’ Jesus answered, ‘Do you say this of your own accord, or did others say it to you about me?’ Pilate answered, ‘Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered you over to me. What have you done?’ Jesus answered, ‘My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.’ Then Pilate said to him, ‘So you are a king?’”
– Most people, including Christians, prefer the earthly kingdoms they can see over the Kingdom of God they cannot see. Someone once said, “In theory there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice there is.” In church, Christians often proclaim their ultimate allegiance to the KING of Kings and the Kingdom of God, but daily, in practical ways, the fear of man prevails in their lives. What has the greatest influence over you at the moment of decision? Every day, perhaps in seemingly small ways, we will take a side. And remember, silence is consent. When you choose to say or do nothing where sin is present, you have made a choice to capitulate.
– Jesus’ kingdom does not depend upon politics.
17. John 18:37, 38 — “‘In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me’. ‘What is truth?’ Pilate asked.”
– The truth is revealed through Jesus and Jesus alone. In fact, Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6) Those who listen to Christ understand truth. Those outside of Christ, like Pilate, have no way to determine truth or to truly know God. Regardless their intellect or religiosity, they navigate without map and compass on a journey to nowhere. Jesus said that He came to testify to the truth. Jesus stayed true to the mission God gave Him until the end. Now that mission has been given to you. How are you doing? Don’t lose sight of the fact that your message is the Gospel of Jesus Christ, not a message of ethics, morality, or better living. If the “truth” or “salvation” message you are proclaiming to others is about fixing their earthly problems rather than saving their souls, and if your message doesn’t start and end with Jesus, you are likely leading others astray. Ambassador, Priest, Saint, How many times will you say the Name, Jesus to others today?
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 23 Nov 18: Testify to the truth of Jesus today, regardless the personal cost. Don’t be like Peter and act as if you do not know Him when faced with the scrutiny of popular opinion or social acceptability. (John 18:37)