We keep reading about blessings and curses in the Old Testament, but are they really necessary? And do they mean that God is mean?
Like the argument of the chicken and the egg, one of the biggest points of conflict between Jesus and the Pharisees was whether Sabbath laws trumped human need or vice versa. Today, in our Luke section, Jesus heals on the Sabbath. He clearly chooses human need over Sabbath Law.
- Moses offers blessings to each of Israel’s tribes based on the role they tended to play. Some were larger, some had great warriors, some were set aside for teaching God’s law to the rest of the people.
- 29 – He rounds out his blessing with a reminder of how adeptly God cares for them and that they are truly set apart.
- 10-17 – The synagogue’s authorities yet again become enraged by Jesus’ actions because he “does work” by healing on the Sabbath. Jesus reminds them that they do too do work on the Sabbath, but have found a way to justify it, while he does work on the Sabbath to bless and love people.
- 18-19 – There are many interpretations of why the mustard seed is a good comparison for the Kingdom of God. Some say that it’s because a mustard seed is tiny and grows quickly into something great. Others say it is because a mustard seed grows in a wild, uncontrollable fashion. Others say it is because the birds make nests in the mustard tree just like we can make a home and be welcomed into the kingdom of God.
- 20-21 – Leaven activates ingredients do to what they’re supposed to do. Leaven also makes dough rise.
- There are several times in Scripture where it describes God as silent. Before he calls Samuel and when there were no prophets for 400 years before John the Baptist arrived are some examples.
- 68 – Judah was the tribe that both David and Jesus came from.
- Anxiety is normally equated with worry. The Bible often equates worry with a lack of trust. God continually gives us reason to trust as he continually proves himself faithful.
Do you know what can make a decision clear quicker than anything? Knowing the consequences of your decision before you make it. You may notice a strong emphasis in this week’s Deuteronomy readings on blessings and curses. Basically, through Moses, God gives the Israelites a scenario and explains that they can choose blessings or curses. One decision leads them down one path and the other down a different path. Whether they didn’t believe him, doubted the severity, or the temptation was just too strong, they unfortunately frequently chose curses. Just to give you a little cheat sheet – faithfulness to God leads to blessings; being unfaithful leads to curses. It’s pretty simple overall.
Starting today, and for the rest of our time in Luke, Jesus is definitively headed toward the cross. In the first verse of today’s Luke reading it says, “When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem.” Throughout the rest of our readings until Palm Sunday, we will read over and over that he is headed to Jerusalem. He know his earthly ministry would end and his purpose would be fulfilled in Jerusalem with his death and resurrection.
This week, as we finish up Lent and prepare for Palm Sunday, Holy Week, and Easter, take time to thank Jesus for his resolute dedication to heading towards the cross.
Numbers 6:24-26 is a beautiful blessing Aaron told the priests to pray over the Israelites. It is a great one for us to pray over those whom we love.
- 1-21 – Nazirites, by taking a vow into the priesthood were set apart with specific regulations. They couldn’t drink alcohol, cut their hair, or be near a dead person. Levites were priests who were born into it. Nazirites were priests who chose to be.
- 24-26 – This is often used as a blessing or benediction at the end of church gatherings. Many youth groups use it.
- 38-40 – Jesus puts the scribes’ desire to be in places of honor and noticed for their holy actions in contrast with what he has instructed his followers to do – humble themselves and let the last be first.
- 41-44 – It’s not the amount but the sacrifice that God values.
- 11 – An example of how God provides exactly what we need.
- 8-11 – Jacob expresses his excitement and gratitude for not only seeing his long-lost son again, but also for getting to meet his grandchildren.
- 14-22 – In an interesting twist, like in his own life, Jacob assures that the younger brother receives the greater blessing. Manasseh was the older brother, but Jacob blesses his Ephraim with carrying on the line of Israelites.
- 21 – Jacob assures Joseph that his family will not always remain in Egypt, but will return to the land God gave them. This won’t happen for a while, but will happen.
- 1-28 – Jacob, before dying, offers specific blessings to each of his sons. Though he blesses the actual sons, their blessings come to, in part, define the tribes they will become.
- 29-31 – We often want to receive recognition for the good things we do. Jesus did miracles in order to give God glory. When we recognize where our strength and abilities come from, it is easier to give God the glory since it is his already.
- 32-39 – A very similar story to the feeding of the 5,000. It would seem that the disciples should have assumed Jesus would perform another miracle and yet they still seem to look for logical solutions from him.
- 1-4 – The religious leaders ask Jesus for a sign to prove his identity even though he has just healed, exorcised, and performed a variety of miracles.
- 4 – The sign of Jonah relates Jonah’s story with Jesus’ upcoming plight. Jonah was in the whale for 3 days and Jesus will be in the tomb for 3 days. Both exited.
- 5-12 – Once again, the disciples are somewhat dense. They’ve just seen Jesus feed multitudes with meager amounts of food and they’re worried about his provisions for them. Jesus, in the midst of this, warns them against a greater danger, the Pharisees’ and Sadducees’ teachings.
- 7-8 – Where this verse lists horses and chariots as things they trusted in over the Lord, we could probably fill those blanks differently. Verse 8 reminds us who is forever in control.
- These wise words sound like the verse of every parent giving sound, solid wisdom that could keep their children away from a multitude of heartache. Like the hearers of this proverb, we too struggle to take them at face value.
- 1-29 – Rebekah and Jacob tricked Isaac to bless him instead of Esau. Jacob had already tricked Esau out of his birthright and now he attempts to steal his father’s dying blessing. Jacob is sneaky and a liar and yet, he seems to be blessed over and over.
- 30-42 – When Esau lost his birthright, it was, in large portion, his own fault. In this case, however, he was simply obeying his father and due to his mother and brother’s trickery, he loses his blessing as well. Esau’s anger is understandable.
- 46 – Jacob has to flea because of his and his mother’s deceitfulness. Rebekah is afraid Jacob will marry a Hittite woman while he is among them, but if that were to happen it would be a consequence of her sin.
- 1-8 – The Pharisees think Jesus is blaspheming because they don’t realize his divinity and think forgiveness is not something he can offer.
- 10-13 – The Pharisees were far more concerned with the practices of holiness while Jesus was focused on redemption. Jesus quotes the prophet Hosea saying, “I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.” In other words, God desires for us to offer love and grace that lead to change rather than simply going through the motions.
- 16-17 – The new emphases of the faith Jesus brought could not be contained by the constraints of the old law and practices.
- 17 – There are a number of times when Scripture mentions God hearing the cries of the afflicted. Most notably, God hears the cries of the Israelites in Egypt, which starts the process of a mass exodus.
- 9 – It is easy to give from the leftovers of our abundance, but it takes real trust to give God your first and bust.