Some things just don’t make sense…to us. In today’s reading in Joshua we read a verse that we could read over quickly and never think about it again. It says, “And the Lord gave them rest on every side.” The context, however, is that they had just taken over lands from other nations and normally this would have caused an uprising somewhere. The other context, though, is that God promised them peace, which trumps everything. God makes crooked paths straight.
- 1-3 – The Levites, which were the priests, were given no inheritance by God, but they were instructed to take what was given to God as theirs. The Israelites pony up cities and pasturelands to fulfill this stipulation.
- 44 – Nations were at war over borders, property, and power constantly. It is very unusual that Israel would have taken land from a number of nations and then had a time of complete peace.
- 45 – We can trust that the promises God makes us are true. He does not fail.
- 1-6 – Joshua commends these tribes for obeying God’s commands well and clearly the tribes are blessed because of it. God’s requests of us are simple, but it is up to us to choose to follow or not.
- 16 – The sin they’re referring to building an altar that would compete with the one God commanded. God had designated where he wanted to receive offerings and this was not it. Though the Israelites may have built it with good intentions, they did not seek God in their decision.
- 1-8 – Jesus frequently answers a question with a question to avoid falling into the traps of religious leaders.
- 9-18 – This parable represents God sending multiple prophets to try and bring the Israelites back to God, but each was rejected. Finally God sends his Son, Jesus, and he is not only rejected but killed.
- 21-26 – Jesus shows that Caesar’s image was on the coin so it’s fine to give Caesar the coin, but God’s image is on each of us so we are to give ourselves fully to him.
- 3-4 – David’s throne through all generations was fulfilled when Jesus, from the line of David, filled the throne forever.
- 16 – This is reminiscent of the saying, “If someone tells you they’re crazy, believe them.”
Though Luke is doing a great job of telling the story, here are a few things to think about as you finish up the third gospel.
What are you afraid of? Once again, even though they’d already gotten in trouble and punished for it…not to mention that God had assured them there was no reason to be afraid, the Israelites are afraid of people inhabiting the land God promised them. Though are definitely scary things in life, please don’t ever be afraid of whether or not God will be faithful to his promises to you.
- 10 – The Canaanites were descendants of Noah’s son Ham who was sent away after he dishonored his father.
- 3-4 – In Numbers 26:33 and 27:1-11, Zelphehad’s daughters initiate an agreement so that they too can receive inheritance since their father had no brothers. This is that agreement being enacted.
- 14-18 – Yet again, the Israelites are fearful of the people who already possessed the land. God gave them authority to oust all the inhabitants, but the tribe of Joseph is afraid of the Canaanites because of their fancy chariots.
- 1-6 – The tribe representatives took account of what there was in the various territories of land still left to be distributed. Though casting lots is normally considered a bad thing, Joshua casts lots before the Lord to distribute the remaining land to the remaining tribes. Presumably, because it was done “before the Lord”, it’s an acceptable practice.
- 1-10 – Tax collectors were hated figures because they collected taxes required by the Roman government (already disliked) and added considerable charges on top of the taxes for their own profit. It felt like betrayal to the Jews for Jesus to befriend a tax collector. Note that an encounter with Jesus was all it took for Zacchaeus to change his ways and repent double and even fourfold.
- 11-27 – There is a lot going in this parable. A few key things to note are 1) The parable parallels the coming of the kingdom. Because the king goes away for a while, this explains that Jesus will be gone for a time and the kingdom of God will not be immediate on earth. 2) The nobleman represents Jesus. 3) All followers of Jesus are given callings/commissions and some day we will have to answer for what we did in those realms.
- 2 – Zion is the hill that Jerusalem was built on.
- Most often, wealth gained little by little takes time and effort to grow. This inevitably grows the wealthy person’s appreciation for it.
Do you ever wonder if God answers prayers? In today’s Luke reading there is a parable that reminds us that God does hear us. Don’t make the make mistake of equating God with the judge. But if even the unrighteous judge hears persistent requests, how much more will God?
- 13 – It is unclear why the Geshurites and Maacathites were allowed to stay on Israel’s land while all others are driven out. It could be that they didn’t pose a threat of causing the Israelites to be unfaithful to God.
- 8-12 – Caleb and Joshua were the only two who trusted the Lord to give them the land like he promised even though it looked impossible. Because Caleb “wholly followed the Lord” he was blessed with an inheritance and good health.
- 12 – The Anakim were legendary people and are believed to have been giants.
- 1-8 – As is explained in verse 1, this parable encourages the hearers to pray and not lose heart, but it should not be mistaken that the judge represents God. The judge is meant to be an unrighteous man, but the comparison is made that if even he can be persuaded to do the right thing with persistence, how much more will God hear our prayers?
- 9-14 – This is a warning against self-righteousness, which is an easy trap for those of us who do our best to faithfully follow Christ. It is far easier to see ourselves as the justified tax collector than the Pharisee.
- Based on the first 3 verses, this is most likely written about the beginning of the Israelites’ return from exile. They can begin to see God’s goodness being restored to them, but they have still have not fully returned to the prosperity they once knew. They’re still asking if God is angry, but they’re aware of his faithfulness.
- This is similar to a comparison made in Proverbs 12:9. Because of the honor/shame society the Israelites lived in, they would much rather be seen as honorable or as having wealth, whether it was true or not, so they would not receive shame.
Today’s Luke, Psalm, and Proverbs reading all have a similar theme. There is wise instruction, which would offer protection, but the hearer refuses to listen. In the Prodigal Son parable, the young man squanders his inheritance and leaves his father’s home. In the psalm, the Israelites are finally allowed to feel the consequences of their wayward ways, and the proverb reminds us that when we are wise we listen to the faithful instruction of those who love us. Seems like God might be trying to tell some of us something…
- 1 – Clearly other nations had heard of the power of the God of Israel. Though they worshipped other gods, they knew of the wonders God had performed.
- 10-12 – A powerful illustration that God provides for us in different ways, but he always provides.
- 15 – The parallels between Joshua and Moses continue. When God called Moses from the burning bush, he also told Moses to take off his shoes because he was on holy ground.
- 1-25 – Joshua toppling the walls of Jericho is a fairly familiar story, but often we don’t know why or when it happened. Now we see that Jericho was part of the Promised Land that Israel was to take it over.
- 25 – Phrases like, “to this day” in Scripture remind us that the stories of the Bible were told by actual people about actual events. This culture had an oral tradition meaning they passed down their history and faith through telling stories to one another. These stories were repeated again and again. Clearly, when the book of Joshua was written down, Rahab was still living under Israelite protection.
- The three parables in this section all have to do with God’s willingness to pursue anyone who is sinning and straying. It also describes the joy that occurs when anyone repents from their sins and chooses to follow Christ.
- 12 – This is the younger son basically telling his father he wishes he was dead because inheritances were not normally distributed until the father was dead.
- 15-16 – This would have been detestable to the Jews listening to Jesus because Jews viewed pigs as unclean animals.
- 22 – The ring the story speaks of is a family ring designating that the son is fully embraced back into the family.
- 11-32 – This familiar parable, often called, “The Prodigal Son,” is easy to relate to. A wayward child sins and then returns and is welcomed back by a gracious, loving father. The older, faithful brother is angry because the younger son’s shortcomings are seemingly being celebrated simply because he’s returned home. It is easy for us to relate to the father or the younger son. It is hard for us to relate to the older son, though most likely, that’s the role that many of us play.
- 12 – It is explained that God finally gave the Israelites what they wanted. They didn’t want to obey God’s commands, but they didn’t think about how that meant God could no longer protect them. This is like when a parent finally allows their disobedient child to experience the consequences of their actions.
- This Proverb relates perfectly to the parable of the Prodigal Son as well as the Psalm. Both the father to the son and God to the Israelites gave wise counsel on how to live. They had the choice to listen or to choose their own way. When we choose our own way, we suffer the consequences.
What stories do/will you tell your kids? Are they stories about how your grandpa used to always take you to the same river to fish on weekends? Or how you got your first crush? Or how your mom used to celebrate your birthday with a special dessert? Without fail, we pass down memories to our kids, but we’re not always intentional about which memories we pass down. In this week’s Joshua reading (hooray! A new book!), God instructs the Israelites to build a monument so generations of their offspring will see it and ask why it’s there.
This is the week when Moses dies and Joshua officially takes over. Though Moses’ death was certainly sad because he had been the leader of the Israelites for decades, his death was necessary for them to move into the Promised Land. The monument the tribes of Israel built commemorated God’s faithfulness in bringing them out of Egypt, through the desert, and into the Promised Land.
This week in Luke, we read a great deal of Jesus’ teachings. Some to pay particular attention to are found in Wednesday’s readings. These three parables teach us the lengths to which God will go to welcome a sinner into his fold. Maybe you need to hear this personally or maybe you know someone who does. Take a second or two and send it if there’s someone who needs to hear that hopeful message today.
Also, this week’s Psalms can teach us a lot about faithfulness and what happens when we’re not. The Israelites rebelled against God over and over expecting him to keep his end of the bargain when they refused to. As it turns out, when we don’t hold up our end of the deal, we have to face the consequences on our own.
This week will lead you right up to Easter! I’d encourage you to read the story of Jesus’ sacrifice in addition to your daily readings to be prepared for the greatness of the resurrection.
Want to know what else happens in Luke? Great stories! Healings! Betrayals! Well…watch this and they’ll explain it all.
Some of the laws Moses is sharing with the Israelites in today’s Deuteronomy reading may sound repetitive…because they are. We’ve heard them in Leviticus when he originally gave them the law. And while it may seem redundant, I know I sometimes have to hear things more than once to get it right. How about you?
- Not being allowed to enter the assembly of God is the focus of the first part of the reading. There are two explanations of what this might refer to. Some people say the phrase means that those are the people who are not allowed to marry, but more likely, this is describing the people who are not allowed to participate in Israel’s cultural practices such as military and legal affairs.
- 1-4 – This should not be read as encouragement to divorce. In the New Testament Jesus explains that Moses gave instructions for divorce because the Israelites’ hearts were hard. In other words, they were doing it anyway so Moses gave them parameters. These are Moses’ parameters.
- 16 – Certain parts of Scripture explain that sins are passed down through generations and/or certain consequences (like not being a part of the assembly of God) can be passed down. This, however, prohibits a father being killed for his son’s sins and vice versa.
- 19-22 – The Israelites are continually reminded to provide for travelers, orphans, and widows because they were once in a position where they could not provide for themselves.
- 7-10 – One of the few times in Scripture where a woman disrespects a man. And it’s funny that the man’s house is now called “the house of him who had his sandal pulled off” (though it wasn’t funny at the time).
- 13-16 – Weights were used for buying and selling agricultural products. Some people would try to cheat by using an unfair weight and causing others to pay too much for what they received.
- 13-15 – Tyre and Sidon were gentile cities while Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum were all Jewish cities who had seen miracles and heard Jesus’ preaching. The Jewish cities, despite their exposure to Jesus refused to repent. Jesus uses these gentile cities, who the Israelites looked down upon because they were not God’s chosen people, to show the unrepentant cities that his message trumped their heritage and self-righteousness.
- 25-37 – This is the parable of the Good Samaritan. Samaritans were despised by the Jews. In our context it might read that a pastor, and a prominent church member passed by the injured man, but a drug dealer took care of him.
- 12 – We often want the wealth and success of someone who gained it illegitimately because it seemed easy, but we should find joy in the fruit born by righteous efforts.
To us circumcision is something that happens and basically is never spoken of again. To the Israelites it was an outward sign of their commitment to the God of Israel. In today’s Deuteronomy reading, Moses takes it a step further. He asks the Israelites to circumcise their hearts and get rid of their stubbornness. He lets them know that an outward symbol is no longer enough, there commitment to God must be in their hearts as well.
- 4-5 – Self-righteousness is always a struggle for people who consider themselves “good people”. The Israelites could have easily started to see they’re blessings as based on their own skill and righteousness instead of because of God’s faithfulness.
- 6-21 – Moses recounts the unfaithfulness of the Israelites in making a golden calf as God was making a covenant with them through Moses up on the mountain.
- The Ark of the Covenant, which the Israelites carried around with them, contained the 10 Commandments tablets.
- 12-13 – A good goal for anyone who wants to follow God.
- 16 – The Israelites used circumcision as an outward sign of their connection with God. Moses now calls them to an inward commitment to God.
- 1-18 – The parable of the four soils is told and then explained to the disciples. We will all hear the good news of Jesus, but each of us will receive it differently.
- 10 – Jesus quotes Isaiah here. This sounds as if Jesus told parables so people wouldn’t understand. Instead, Jesus told parables to give people opportunities to search for the truth, like the disciples, if they wanted to. For those who didn’t care to try, they didn’t receive the condemnation of willfully disobeying God’s instructions because they simply did not understand.
- 16-18 – When we hear and understand the good news, we share it.
- This Psalm seems very vengeful, which does not seem like it fits with God’s loving character. Remember, though, that this is David, a human, writing to God. This shows how honest we can be with God.
Do you ever long for something you used to complain about? Like naps as little kids, now we would die for one in the middle of a long afternoon! In this week’s Numbers readings, the Israelites continue to long for what they begged to get out of. Their wanderings in the desert prove difficult and they think they’d rather be back in Egypt. You’ll also hear a talking donkey, learn the purpose of the Levites, and much more!
This week we also start a new gospel! Luke begins his gospel by explaining that he will provide an orderly, organized account of Jesus’ life and ministry. You’ll recognize his birth narrative from every Christmas Eve service you’ve ever been to. But you may never have noticed that there’s something different from the birth narrative in Matthew. Matthew focuses more on Joseph’s perspective while Luke focuses more on Mary’s.
Some other cool fun facts about Luke:
- Luke also wrote Acts, which we’ll read after John.
- Luke is known for its wide array of Jesus’ parables. Parables are found in Matthew, Mark, and Luke, but Luke has the most.
- In Luke, women play a larger role than in any other gospel.
- Luke contains both Mary’s Magnificat and Zechariah’s song – both beautiful praise pieces.
Enjoy this week! We’re making great progress! This is the 9th book we’ve started, so we’re doing great!!