WEEK 5, Day 1, Monday, 31 January 2022

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Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Monday, 31 January 2022:

Genesis 29:25 – “Why then have you deceived me?”

Throughout the Bible you will notice that God often allows people to be treated the same way they treat others. Jacob deceived others, and now he is the victim of deceit. Ironically, the deception he committed was very similar to what he experienced – both involving misrepresentation of identity.

  • Galatians 6:7 — Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap.
  • Job 4:8 — As I have seen, those who plow iniquity and sow trouble reap the same.
  • Psalm 7:16 — His mischief returns upon his own head, and on his own skull his violence descends.
  • Proverbs 26:27 — Whoever digs a pit will fall into it, and a stone will come back on him who starts it rolling.
  • Matthew 7:2 — For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.

Genesis 29:26 – “Laban said, ‘It is not so done in our country, to give the younger before the firstborn.’”

Another theme throughout the Bible is a warning not to confuse traditions, customs, social norms, or even morality (what society says is right and wrong) with God’s commands and will. Colossians 2:8 says, “See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ.” Laban followed worldly principles and practices over what he should have done, and it would contribute to the breakup of his family.

Genesis 29:30 – “So Jacob went in to Rachel also, and he loved Rachel more than Leah, and served Laban for another seven years.”

Jacob’s polygamy caused great pain and suffering which would have an impact for generations. God’s plan for marriage is that one man and one woman would marry, become “one” in spirit, and raise up godly children, passing faith from generation to generation. (see Genesis 2:24; Matthew 19:3-9; Ephesians 5:31; 1 Timothy 3:2; 1 Timothy 3:12; and Malachi 2:13-16)

Genesis 29:35 — “’This time I will praise the Lord.’ Therefore she called his name Judah.”

Only God can fill the love void in your heart and satisfy your needs. Leah wasn’t loved by her husband Jacob as she should have been. So, she had children hoping they would cause Jacob to finally love her. However, seeking to earn Jacob’s love was a hopeless endeavor. Eventually she realizes it is God who truly loves her and deserves her affections and praise, and she dedicates her last son, Judah, to the Lord. Jacob loved Rachel more that Leah and mistreated Leah but notice that it is Leah’s son Judah who becomes part of the lineage of Jesus (Matthew 1:3) rather than a child from Rachel. Though Leah was not honored by Jacob, she was honored by God in a way no one could imagine. Seek the Lord with all your heart, and trust Him through your circumstances to bless you beyond your imagination. He loves you more than you can comprehend. What He has in store for you is so much greater than what you have been asking for Him to give you.

Matthew 21:12, 13 — “And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. He said to them, ‘It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you make it a den of robbers.’”

The only time it is recorded that Jesus used physical force against anyone was to throw the money changers out of the temple (John says he even whipped them). According to historians, when Jews came to Jerusalem to pay their Temple tax, they could only pay it with a special coin, the half-shekel. This was a half-ounce of pure silver, about the size of a quarter. It was the only coin at that time, which was pure silver and of assured weight, without the image of a pagan Emperor, and therefore to the Jews it was the only coin acceptable to God. The money changers had cornered the market on these approved coins, and so they raised the price of them to whatever the market would bear. They used their monopoly they had on these coins to make exorbitant profits, forcing the Jews to pay whatever these money changers demanded. Also, these ‘money-changers’ sold livestock (and doves to the poor) at unfair rates. Jesus was particularly sensitive to the impact of this extortion on the poor (Mark 12:40-42; Luke 20:47; Luke 21:2). According to Mark 11:16, Jesus shut down the whole temple exchange system – “And he would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple.”

It is a terrible sin to take advantage of the poor, the needy, the ignorant, and the weak. Yet, the banking industry, the insurance industry, the gambling industry, the food industry, and the retail industry often use very complex schemes to trick the ignorant into unneeded financial loss. I see this happen every day to young adults who are convinced by someone that their six or seven-year loan on that brand new car is a great deal because they can afford to make the monthly car payments. Today, even the government uses state lotteries to supplement their income, institutionalizing the manipulation of the poor and ignorant (first state lottery, 1964; now in 45 states and 3 districts; no major church resistance). In some states, lottery income exceeds revenues from corporate income taxes. Often you will hear Christians compare today’s sexual immorality to that of Sodom and Gomorrah, but they forget about the similarities in economic manipulation –

  • Ezekiel 16:49 — Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy.
  • Ezekiel 22:29 — The people of the land have practiced extortion and committed robbery. They have oppressed the poor and needy, and have extorted from the sojourner without justice.
  • Psalm 10:2 — In arrogance the wicked hotly pursue the poor; let them be caught in the schemes that they have devised.

A Christian must never be advantaged by taking advantage of others. Job defended his righteousness by pointing to his treatment of the weak — “If I have withheld anything that the poor desired, or have caused the eyes of the widow to fail, or have eaten my morsel alone, and the fatherless has not eaten of it (for from my youth the fatherless grew up with me as with a father, and from my mother’s womb I guided the widow), if I have seen anyone perish for lack of clothing, or the needy without covering, if his body has not blessed me, and if he was not warmed with the fleece of my sheep, if I have raised my hand against the fatherless, because I saw my help in the gate, then let my shoulder blade fall from my shoulder, and let my arm be broken from its socket. For I was in terror of calamity from God, and I could not have faced his majesty.” (Job 31:16-23) Consider our economy and market from God’s perspective. Never advantage yourself at the expense of others beyond what fair and equitable.

  • Psalm 72:4 — May he defend the cause of the poor of the people, give deliverance to the children of the needy, and crush the oppressor!
  • Proverbs 14:31 — Whoever oppresses a poor man insults his Maker, but he who is generous to the needy honors him.
  • Proverbs 19:17 — Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will repay him for his deed.
  • Proverbs 22:7 — The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is the slave of the lender.
  • Proverbs 22:9 — Whoever has a bountiful eye will be blessed, for he shares his bread with the poor.
  • Proverbs 22:16– Whoever oppresses the poor to increase his own wealth, or gives to the rich, will only come to poverty.
  • Proverbs 22:22– Do not rob the poor, because he is poor, or crush the afflicted at the gate…
  • Proverbs 28:3– A poor man who oppresses the poor is a beating rain that leaves no food.
  • Proverbs 28:6 — Better is a poor man who walks in his integrity than a rich man who is crooked in his ways.
  • Proverbs 28:8 — Whoever multiplies his wealth by interest and profit gathers it for him who is generous to the poor.
  • Proverbs 29:7 — A righteous man knows the rights of the poor; a wicked man does not understand such knowledge.
  • Proverbs 30:14 — There are those whose teeth are swords, whose fangs are knives, to devour the poor from off the earth, the needy from among mankind.
  • Proverbs 31:9 — Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy.
  • Ecclesiastes 5:8 — If you see in a province the oppression of the poor and the violation of justice and righteousness, do not be amazed at the matter, for the high official is watched by a higher, and there are yet higher ones over them.
  • Isaiah 3:14 — The LORD will enter into judgment with the elders and princes of his people: “It is you who have devoured the vineyard, the spoil of the poor is in your houses.
  • Isaiah 3:15– What do you mean by crushing my people, by grinding the face of the poor?” declares the Lord GOD of hosts.
  • Isaiah 10:2– to turn aside the needy from justice and to rob the poor of my people of their right, that widows may be their spoil, and that they may make the fatherless their prey!
  • Isaiah 32:7 — As for the scoundrel—his devices are evil; he plans wicked schemes to ruin the poor with lying words, even when the plea of the needy is right.
  • Ezekiel 16:49 — Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy.
  • Amos 4:1 — “Hear this word, you cows of Bashan, who are on the mountain of Samaria, who oppress the poor, who crush the needy, who say to your husbands, ‘Bring, that we may drink!’
  • Amos 5:11 — Therefore because you trample on the poor and you exact taxes of grain from him, you have built houses of hewn stone, but you shall not dwell in them; you have planted pleasant vineyards, but you shall not drink their wine.
  • Luke 14:13 — But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind….

Matthew 21:31, 32 — “I say to you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him. And even when you saw it, you did not afterward change your minds and believe him.”

Addressing the chief priests and the elders, and presumably others, Jesus tells The Parable of the Two Sons, one son who says he won’t do the work of the father but “change[s] his mind” and does it, and one who says he will do the work of the father but actually doesn’t. In concert with the parable of The Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11–32), it is the previously wayward son who is accepted and restored.

Jesus then compares the chief priests and elders to the disobedient son whose heart and deeds did not match his lips. Most shockingly, Jesus says, “The tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you.” How could this be? Jesus gives the answer – “For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him. And even when you saw it [the way], you did not afterward change your minds and believe him.”

The chief priests and elders rejected “the way of righteousness” while the tax collectors and prostitutes accepted “the way.” What is the way of righteousness? Matthew 3 says that John the Baptist only “prepare[d] the way.” And John said to the Pharisees and Sadducees, “After me comes he who is mightier than I, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit (Mark 1:7, 8).”

Jesus revealed the way of righteousness, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6) It was Jesus these religious leaders could not accept. These religious leaders “presumed” that their heritage and obedience to the Law was the way of righteousness, but John the Baptist said to them, “Do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’” and the Bible adds, “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” (Romans 3:10-11) “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 3:23-24) “For by grace [people are saved] through faith. And this is not [their] own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2:8, 9)

  • Romans 3:20-24 — For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin. But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus….
  • Romans 10:4 — For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.
  • 2 Corinthians 5:21 — For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Jesus further explains to the religious leaders, “Even when you saw it, you did not afterward change your minds and believe” — even after seeing Jesus face-to-face and observing first-hand His works and miracles, these prideful people simply wouldn’t “change their minds” about Jesus. On the contrary, today’s readings say “they were indignant.” (Matthew 21:15)

Another word for “changing your mind,” is repentance. Remember John’s warning to the Pharisees and Sadducees — “Bear fruit in keeping with repentance…. (Matthew 3:8) Repentance is not just changing your behavior, repentance is changing your mind about “the way of righteousness,” rejecting all notions of self-righteousness and trusting solely in the righteousness of Jesus and the gift of salvation through Him alone, being “poor in spirit,” and receiving the riches of Christ. In the days of the early church, followers of Christ were known as followers of “The Way” because of their faith in Jesus, and Jesus alone, as “The Way, The Truth, and The Life.” (Acts 9:2, 22:4, 24:14)

Today, Jesus says the kingdom of God is for “a people producing its fruits.” (Matthew 21:43) Only after repentance and salvation through Christ and a new life in Christ can anyone bear good fruit. And those who have a new life in Christ will bear fruit:

  • Matthew 7:16-23 — You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits. Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’
  • John 15:1-16 — I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. These things I command you, so that you will love one another.

Good deeds, or works, are not the means to salvation but rather the natural product of salvation, the evidence of salvation, the expectation of salvation. As an object lesson and metaphor to His teachings, Jesus curses a fig tree that had not produced fruit. (Matthew 21:18, 19) As Jesus, said in John 15, a branch cannot bear fruit by itself. It must abide in Him, and a branch that does abide in Him will bear fruit (in keeping with repentance) – “Apart from [Him] you can do nothing.” In Christ, the Way of righteousness, we have life.

  • Ezekiel 36:26 — And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.
  • 2 Corinthians 5:17 — Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
  • Galatians 2:20 — I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
  • 1 John 2:29 — If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him.
  • 1 John 3:7 — Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous.
  • Colossians 1:9-14 — And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy; giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

The fruit of the Spirit stands in stark contrast to the fruit (seemingly good deeds) of the world, which the Bible says is deception. Even the best works of men are grounded in sin and doomed because of sin. The world’s ideas of love and charity are ultimately self-centered. Doesn’t it seem that every celebrity has a charity in their name? Why? It makes them feel good about themselves and brings them the praise and validation of others. But self-centeredness and selflessness are opposites. True love isn’t about achieving a fulfilled life, it is about surrendering self and giving up or lives for God’s glory and for the sake of others:

  • Hosea 10:13 — But you have planted wickedness, you have reaped evil, you have eaten the fruit of deception. Because you have depended on your own strength….
  • John 15:13 — Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.

John the Baptist prepared the way for Jesus’ work on earth by proclaiming, “Produce fruit in keeping with repentance (Matthew 3:8).” As mentioned above, repentance (metanoia) means “change of mind.” In our love for the Lord and appreciation of the mercy and grace he has given us through His Son, our minds are changed and we no longer approve of the wickedness and bad behavior the God hates; we choose to reorient our lives away from self and towards God. John Calvin said, “Repentance is an inward matter, which has its seat in the heart and soul, but afterwards yields its fruits in a change of life.” Fruitfulness is the natural product of genuine repentance and faith in Jesus.

There are many important verses which describe the elements of the fruit of the spirit – quietness, confidence, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Isaiah 32:17; Galatians 5:22; – but the many parts of the fruit are wrapped up in one word – love (Hosea 10:12). God is love, and the more connected we are to Him, the more love flows from us. The proof of our love for God and others is revealed in our obedience to God’s commands (John 14:15). However, the “false prophets” described by Jesus in chapter 7 give the impression of “obedience” but perform their “good deeds” with the wrong heart, not for the love of God and others, but rather to promote their own SELF-righteousness. For some religion can be a substitute for a real relationship with Jesus. Paul says that no matter what incredible, even miraculous, things you do that seem good to others, if they are not done from a heart of genuine love, first for God and then others, they are of no value (1 Corinthians 13).

The final aspect I would mention concerning fruitfulness is that fruit, which has no benefit to the tree which produces it, bears more fruit. For example, when a healthy apple “gives its life” it ultimately produces more apples. Likewise, Christians who are truly “remaining” or abiding in Jesus, cannot help but influence the lives of others around them whom the Father is drawing towards Jesus. Jesus commanded his followers to go into the world and make disciples. The Bible says that when we present the gospel to the world in truth, it WILL bear fruit (Colossians 1:6). Proverbs 11:30 says it this way: “The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and he who wins souls is wise.” Are you wise?

  • Colossians 1:9-14 — And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy; giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) — 31 Jan 22: Pray the prayer of Colossians 1:9-14 for yourself and for your brothers and sisters in Christ.

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