Wednesday, March 17, 2021

March 17 - Numbers 20, Luke 7

 Key verse: Numbers 20:10

Big idea: We must follow God's leadership to move forward.

Yesterday's text reminded us of the importance of human leaders, but Numbers 20 immediately provides an essential corrective: the human leaders must follow God's leadership, and because of their responsibility must be held to an even higher standard. God gave Moses a simple instruction: strike the rock once and it would bring forth water, then speak to it and it would bring forth more water (see Exodus 17). After an extended time in the desert, the Israelites began to grumble again. But instead of following God's instructions, Moses lost his temper. "Must we fetch you water out of this rock?" he asked, as if he and the Lord were partners. Then he struck the rock twice, instead of following God's instructions.

God's response was swift and sharp. Moses would not be allowed to enter into the Promised Land - he could not go forward any farther than the wilderness - because he had failed to set God apart as holy. God told him, "because you believed in Me not." Moses did believe God would bring water from the rock, but he failed to have the kind of relational faith which recognized God for who He is. Because he lifted himself up to the same level as God, and failed to follow the instructions he was given, he lost the honor of entering into the Promised Land. It seems that Moses never stood in the land he had longed for, until his Spirit stood on the Mount of Transfiguration with Jesus and Elijah. He will not stand there in the flesh until he is resurrected at the last day.

We know from 1 Corinthians 10:4 that this rock represented Jesus, so striking it twice was a blasphemous breakdown of the symbol. Jesus died once and for all, and we simply call on Him to be saved. Moses probably didn't know that. But there is a lesson there too. Just because we do not know why God gives us an instruction does not excuse us from following it. He knows best, and so submitting to Him is always right.

Discussion idea:  Which extreme do you think our culture tends to fall into: rejecting leadership altogether, or putting leaders on a pedestal and realizing that everyone is ultimately under God's authority? What about you personally?

Prayer focus: Ask God to help you live with the kind of faith that follows Him, even when you don't know the why, and leads others to do the same.

Key Verse: Luke 7:47

Big Idea:  We love the Son of Man because He first loved us.

As human beings, we are not very lovable. We are sinners, who often bite the hand of the One who feeds us. Yet God, because of His incredible mercy, has chosen to love us and to forgive us. Luke 7 describes a series of incredible events, where those who were outcasts from the Jewish social world were received by Jesus. First, a Roman centurion, directly responsible for leading a unit of troops that occupied the Israelite territory, was praised by Jesus for his faith and saw his servant healed. A widow who lost her only son, and thus her economic security, stood by as Jesus touched the (ceremonially unclean) dead body and raised him to life again. John the Baptist, in prison and soon to be executed, was described by Jesus as the greatest prophet that had ever lived. 

Finally, in the text from which our key verse is drawn, Jesus was sitting at dinner with a Pharisee, and a notorious sinner came up behind him and began weeping. She took the water from her tears and used her hair to wash the grime of people, animals, and earth from His feet. She loved Jesus so much that the most disgusting part of His body was precious to her. Then she took an expensive jar of perfume, although she was likely poor, and broke it over His feet in what seemed like an extravagant waste to the rest of the table.

The host, Simon, failed to offer any of the normal components of hospitality. He offered Jesus no cooling oil for His head or water for His feet. He believed that his own doubts about Jesus were confirmed: a true prophet would have known who this woman was and would have rejected her. He was half right, of course, God's True Prophet knew this woman's heart was broken by her sin in a way that all of Simon's external righteousness could not compete with. She had experienced God's love when she was unworthy and loved Him in return. Simon knew self-righteousness and loved only Himself. 

To illustrate the point, Jesus told a simple parable. Two people are forgiven sizable debts, but one is much larger than the other. Who loves more? The answer is obvious. In the same way, God's love for those the deepest in sin often results in the greatest love when they have been redeemed. Luke, the companion of Paul who had persecuted the church, knows this better than most. We ought to know it too. The more we realize our dependence on God, and our inability to earn His love by anything we do, the more we will actually love and serve Him.

Discussion Idea: How does Jesus' ministry as a friend of sinners actually help Him to reach the people who will do the most? How does being "good" come between us and godliness?

Prayer Focus: Pray for God to reveal the hidden sins of self-righteousness and pride, and replace them with gratitude. 

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