Monday, April 5, 2021

April 5 - Joshua 4, Luke 19

 Key verse: Joshua 4:23

Big idea: The same God gives us the victory in the mountains and the valleys.

The ancients believed that there were many gods, who each had narrowly specified domains. There might be a sea god, a sky god, a harvest god, and so on. The authority of the god might be tied to a specific city or place, and outside of that realm they were impotent. God had brought the Israelites out of Egypt, but was His power tied to that place? Was it tied to Moses, now dead and buried? Or could He still lead the Israelites into the future? 

At the Jordan River, the boundary of the Promised Land, the Living God revealed that no Canaanite idols could keep His people out. The same God who had parted the Red Sea under the time of Moses went before His people with the Ark of the Covenant, and stopped the Jordan River. Their parents had walked on dry ground out of their old home, and now they walked on dry ground into their new one. The same God was Lord of all the Earth, and was with them. 

Yesterday, we celebrated Easter. The same God who raised Jesus from the dead works powerfully in your life and mine, so that we can live for Him. You may be a long way from Egypt and Jericho but God is still in control wherever and whenever you are. He proved Himself to be faithful, and capable of delivering His people over and over again, and He can do the same for us.

Discussion idea: Where/when have you felt God the most clearly? Where/when have you felt Him the least? What does it mean that God was equally present in both?

Prayer focus: Lord, help restore my wonder at your infinity. Teach me to worship You as King of Kings and Lord of Lords, who reigns over every place and every moment.

Key Verse: Luke 19:10

Big Idea: The Son of Man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.

In the last chapter, Jesus told us a parable about a tax collector. Today's reading introduces us to a real tax collector - the chief one! Tax collectors were franchise operators for the Roman government, which was occupying the land of Israel. Zacchaeus, the tax collector in our narrative, would likely have collected tariffs on merchandise carried through Jericho, with the aid of other subcontractors he would recruit. He was hated for the strain that taxes put on daily life, for his aid to the oppressive Roman regime and for his own personal immorality - defrauding people of taxes beyond what they actually owed to line his own pockets.

If there was anyone to condemn, it was Zaccheus. If there was anyone to walk past without slowing down, it was Zaccheus. But that is not what Jesus did. Luke reminds us time after time that the gospel is for the sin-enslaved and the outcasts. It is good news for those with no other good news. Jesus did not come to condemn these people, but to rescue them by dying in their place. As the rest of the chapter makes clear, this does not last forever. Eventually, the time to repent is up, and we will be judged for whether or not we submitted to Jesus. We must turn to Him now, because now is the hour of salvation.

Some parts of this narrative, although it was very real, seem almost allegorical. The man who was too short physically to see Jesus climbed up in a tree, but spiritually, he still could not reach high enough. The only way to truly go up was to come down the tree to Jesus, like the tax collector in the parable who humbled himself. Ultimately, Zaccheus looked like an unlikely candidate to be a friend of God, but because he answered Jesus' call, he was. Many others who looked more promising would be rejected (Luke 19:42-44) because they did not recognize Jesus' voice when He called them down.  Will we?

Discussion Idea: Why did major sinners like Zaccheus seem to have an easier time accepting Jesus than the scribes and Pharisees?

Prayer Focus: If Jesus came to seek and save the lost, that must be our same goal. Pray for an opportunity to share the gospel with someone and the courage to take that opportunity.

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