Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Monday, 20 June 2022:
Deuteronomy 16:16-17 — Three times a year all your males shall appear before the LORD your God at the place that he will choose: at the Feast of Unleavened Bread, at the Feast of Weeks, and at the Feast of Booths. They shall not appear before the LORD empty-handed. Every man shall give as he is able, according to the blessing of the LORD your God that he has given you.
“Christians from all theological traditions make at least a passing mention of Pentecost when it arrives during the liturgical year. Yet the small degree of attention Pentecost receives in comparison to Christmas and Easter indicates that most of us probably do not see Pentecost as very important. In truth, Pentecost, or the Feast of Weeks, was among the weightiest festivals of the old covenant.
Today’s passage reveals Pentecost’s importance under the old covenant, making it one of the three festivals each year when every Israelite male had to be in Jerusalem (Deut. 16:16–17). Other feasts could be kept in one’s hometown, but Passover, Pentecost, and Sukkot (the Feast of Booths) all required a pilgrimage to the City of David. Even during the more somber feast of Passover, these pilgrimages were doubtless times of great rejoicing as friends and family would have opportunities to visit together. More important, the covenant people of the Lord gathered together in one place, much as when all Israel received the Law at Mt. Sinai (Ex. 19–24).
Speaking of the old covenant law, in time ancient Jews came to associate Pentecost with the revelation of God’s law to Israel. This does make sense when we consider that Pentecost under the old covenant was primarily an occasion on which to thank the Lord for providing the grain the people needed for survival (Lev. 23:15–22). God’s law is likewise necessary for His people to thrive spiritually wherever they may be, so Pentecost was as good a time as any to rejoice in the revelation of the Torah to Moses. However, since the Mosaic law by itself produced death and not life in the nation (Rom. 7:7–12), it also makes sense that our Creator would later choose Pentecost as the occasion on which He poured out the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:1–10). During a festival when the people thanked God for giving them grain and for giving them His law, the Lord gave the Spirit of life, who alone can enable us to fulfill His holy standard (Gal. 5).
In every era, it is appropriate to thank God for His provision for our needs, whether material or spiritual, through generosity to Him and the poor; thus, Pentecost under the old covenant was a time to feed the hungry alongside the giving of offerings to the Lord (Lev. 23:15–22). May we never fail to be generous to God and to those in need, especially our brothers and sisters in Christ.
Matthew Henry comments that at Pentecost ‘none must appear before God empty, but every man must bring some offering or other, in token of a dependence upon God and gratitude to him.’ It can be easy to think that our blessings are things owed to us and then to forget to thank the Lord for all that His good hand has provided. Let us strive not to fall into this sin but to thank Him for giving us everything we need.” (Ligonier Ministries)
Deuteronomy 16:18-22 — “You shall appoint judges and officers in all your towns that the LORD your God is giving you, according to your tribes, and they shall judge the people with righteous judgment. You shall not pervert justice. You shall not show partiality, and you shall not accept a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and subverts the cause of the righteous. Justice, and only justice, you shall follow, that you may live and inherit the land that the LORD your God is giving you. You shall not plant any tree as an Asherah beside the altar of the LORD your God that you shall make. And you shall not set up a pillar, which the LORD your God hates.
God is a God of justice who cares about justice and demands justice. In fact, the Bible says God “loves justice” and established His throne for eternal justice. (Psalm 9:7; 37:28; 89:14) God has commanded us to seek justice for others and the “cause of the righteous” as a supreme act of worship – “To do righteousness and justice is more acceptable to the LORD than sacrifice.” (Proverbs 21:3) Today, many people pride themselves on being “social justice warriors,” passionately challenging social norms for sake of one cause or another. However, note how our verses today exhorting us to follow justice and only justice conclude with this warning – “You shall not plant any tree as an Asherah beside the altar of the LORD your God that you shall make. And you shall not set up a pillar, which the LORD your God hates.” In other words, to follow “justice and only justice” you must follow God and only God; you must only serve God, and He must be the foundation of your justice system. He is the Author (not institutions or people) of truth, justice, and ethics. Those who do not follow the Lord do not know justice – “Evil men do not understand justice, but those who seek the LORD understand it completely.” (Proverbs 28:5) Christians are called to proclaim the truth, which is that there is no truth, justice, or peace apart from Jesus Christ, and we are called to work for justice in an unjust world while we await Christ’s return when He will restore all justice once and for all. As we work for justice within our respective circles of influence, we must be very careful to keep God at the center of our perception and system of justice and not the world’s shifty morals, values, and norms. When people ask you what you think about a certain matter, make sure you tell them that it isn’t what you think that matters, it is what God says, and God says….
- Isaiah 30:18 — Therefore the LORD waits to be gracious to you, and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you. For the LORD is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for him.
- Isaiah 32:1 — Behold, a king will reign in righteousness, and princes will rule in justice.
- Isaiah 42:1 — Behold my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my Spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations.
Galatians 4:1-6 – I mean that the heir, as long as he is a child, is no different from a slave, though he is the owner of everything, but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by his father. In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world. But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”
Small children must be instructed and punished or rewarded over the most basic things because they lack both understanding and the internal discipline to do what they ought — without internal discipline, they need external discipline. Conversely, one would hope that an adult has grown in maturity to have internal discipline that does not rely on external discipline to do what is right. Mature Christians who have the power of the Holy Spirit and a genuine love for Jesus are no longer spiritual children and no longer need the law because they have understanding and the discipline of a disciple, not to mention a genuine passion to honor God in obedience. Love does what regulations could never do. When an adult surrenders to immature urges, we might say, “Don’t act like a child!” Likewise, we must lovingly rebuke experienced Christians who act like spiritual infants.
Galatians 4:6 – And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”
“The word father conjures up different images for everyone. To some it brings the picture of love, laughter, respect, and acceptance. Unfortunately, others associate the term father with fear, rejection, and disappointment. That is why it is so important not to take your understanding of your heavenly Father from your experience. Take it from Scripture. You undoubtedly had an imperfect earthly father, perhaps even one who brought you harm. But, as in all of your Christian life, the key is not to understand the Bible based on your experience, but to understand your experience in light of the Bible. God is your model of a father in the truest sense of the word.
Your heavenly Father was willing to pay any price in order to save you (Rom. 8:32). Your heavenly Father is always ready to meet your needs (Luke 11:11-13). Your heavenly Father loves you so much that He is willing to discipline you to bring you to Christian maturity (Prov. 3:11-12; Heb. 12:5-10). Even when you rebel against Him and reject His love, your Father continues to do what is best for you (Rom. 5:8). He does not make His love for you conditional upon your love for Him. He loves you even when you are not loving Him (1 John 4:19). He has made you His heirs and reserves a home for you in heaven (Rom. 8:15-17).
This is what a father is like biblically. If this has not been your experience, it can be now. There is One who has adopted you and who wants to love you in a way you have never experienced. Take comfort and strength from Him–your heavenly Father.” (Henry T. Blackaby)
Galatians 4:9 – But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more?
Religion tends to focus on rules and duty. God wants us to focus on love, beyond mere duty. The more we know God, the more we are compelled to love Him and obey Him, not because of the rules, but because His desires are what we desire from the heart. Love makes obedience to rules a given, no longer a consideration because it is inevitable.
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 20 June 22: Today, serve God as a “social justice warrior” by proclaiming the Gospel and that Jesus Christ is the only Way to Truth, Life, Justice, and Peace.