Wednesday, January 20, 2021

January 20 - Genesis 19/Matthew 14

 Happy birthday, Dad!

Key verse: Genesis 19:16

Big idea: In the beginning, God showed mercy.

Mercy is probably not the first word you think of when you think of Sodom and Gomorrah. An entire plain, with two substantial cities, wiped out in a night for their sin because there were not ten righteous people in the entire city (Genesis 18:32). When we last met Lot, his uncle Abram had rescued him and the rest of the inhabitants of Sodom after an invasion, before Abram paid tithes to Melchizedek (Genesis 14). Now, his city is being destroyed and he alone is righteous in God's sight (his wife will turn back in rebellion and his daughters will reveal their character later in the narrative). He tried to convince his sons-in-law to leave, but they thought he was joking. But by verse 16, Lot proves that he is better at giving advice than taking it. He dawdles when he ought to be running; apparently, he feels more secure in a city under God's judgment than he does outside.

What a picture of us! We know that sin will be judged, but we can't bring ourselves to give up our creature comforts. The city may be about to burn (2 Peter 3:10-12) but it is still home. How like a human being to hesitate to leave what we know we cannot keep anyway. But how like God to grab him by the hand and pull him out anyway. "The Lord being merciful unto him" pulled him, his wife, and his daughters out before the destruction came. 

Older kids: Has God ever pulled you out of a friendship or situation "kicking and screaming"? How does mercy sometimes mean he protects us from ourselves?

God pulled Lot out of Sodom and has promised to pull us out too. When Jesus returns, He will send his angels out with the trumpet blast and they will gather His children from the ends of the world (Matthew 24:31). He is the Good Shepherd, who will not leave His flock scattered or forgotten but will gather them wherever they have wandered to bring them back home (Ezekiel 34:11-16, John 10:11-18). If you have lost sight of where He wants you to be, He is taking you by the hand to bring you back. If you have never trusted Him as your Savior, His arms are open and He is ready to pluck you from your own sin and shame. The God who showed mercy to Lot will show mercy to you too.

Discussion idea: Even though his family was not righteous, God rescued them for Lot's sake. If there had been ten righteous people, the entire city would have been saved. Do you think that families and nations are spared judgment today because of the righteousness of a few? If so, what are the limits?

Prayer focus: Sing or read the hymn "Come Thou Fount" and pray in response to the third verse.

Key verse: Matthew 7:24 

Big Idea: When we submit to Jesus the King, we build our lives on the solid rock.

When I was a teenager, I worked at a local horse ranch. I made a little money, but mostly I was paid in the lease of a beautiful Paint Horse. One evening, I was unloading bales of hay from the back of a pickup truck in the rain. I braced my foot on the toolbox and pushed when I learned that my foot was not as secure as I thought it was. Loose, wet hay on metal made a slick surface, and my Ariat boot went straight through the rear windshield. I think it cost my dad more to replace that window than I ever made working there. Hopefully, you have never had that exact experience, but you have probably tried to push something while standing in the mud. The more you struggle, the deeper you sink, and no amount of slipping and sliding will get you anywhere. You need a firm footing.  

In the final chapter of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus warns us about the hypocritical life. Jesus begins with a vivid word picture about trying to remove a speck from your brother’s eye with a log sticking out of your own. He goes on to describe wolves wearing sheepskin and the insanity of expecting a thornbush to grow grapes. Superficial change may fool some people for a while, but no amount of work will ever deceive the Lord on the Day of Judgment. 

He concludes the Sermon with a story about two houses. If we genuinely answer Christ’s call, we are like a wise man who dug deep and built his house on solid rock, unshaken by any storm. But if we do not, our life is a house built by a fool, which for all of its crown molding and fresh paint is founded on mud and is sure to collapse catastrophically. Jesus is not impressed by the behavior of a hypocrite with a rotten heart. He calls us to choose the narrow way of faith and transformation from within. Trying to do good deeds without a relationship with Jesus is like trying to push a hay bale out of a truck with insecure footing: a mess and a failure. It is like grapes falling into a thornbush, destined to rot without ever affecting the roots of the plant. But if our life is founded on a broken heart submitted to Him by faith, we will stand.

Discussion Idea: When we look at another person’s life, we cannot see the foundation. Could a person have a deep, solid foundation, but appear like a shack to others? How should that affect the way we evaluate other people’s lives?

Prayer Focus: The reality of our heart will inevitably be exposed eventually. Ask God to help you have the humility to recognize it and the wisdom to repair it with His strength. 

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