Key verse: Joshua 5:14
Big idea: God determines what victory means.
In our hyper-divided age, it seems that we cannot have an opinion without finding out whose side someone is on. If we hear a political speech, we need to know if the person has an R or a D next to their name to decide if we agree with them or not. When watching a baseball game, our opinion of the umpire's calls has a lot to do with which team is affected. When someone does not fit neatly into our categories, we are suspicious: are they on our side, or the enemy's? We often try to put God into the same kind of box, as if He would be neatly on the side of our culture, our nation, and our preferences, and against those who disagree with us. But it is a deep error.
Before entering Jericho, Joshua saw a man with a drawn sword and started to interrogate him. "Are you on our side or our enemies' side?" The man answered: "No." He rejected the whole setup, and announced instead that He was the captain of God's angel army. He was neither an Israelite not a Canaanite, but was above their conflicts: the King of all the Earth. "Take off your shoes," He told Joshua as He had told Moses almost a century earlier. The same God was with him, and would protect and defend him, but should never be mistaken for Joshua's employee. God is His own master, and we should not be concerned about getting Him on our side but about getting on His. Victory is not our team winning, but God's triumph.
Discussion idea: Why do you think Jesus appeared to Joshua in this way before they conquered Jericho? How does God reassure of us His constancy and presence?
Prayer focus: Lord, help me to see that you transcend my categories and conflicts. Help me to find Your plans and Your ways to walk in them, not to try and have you bless my own ingenuity. Bring me on Your side, where I will find Your victory.
Key Verse: Luke 20:14
Big Idea: The Son of Man is the Heir of all creation, but invites us to share as joint-heirs with Him.
The parable of the tenants in Luke 20:9-18 is essentially a history of the world and of Israel in particular. God is the landowner, who planted a garden for mankind (and put Israel in the land that flowed with milk and honey). Everything we have really belongs to Him, and He sent His servants (Moses, the prophets, the apostles) to ask us for a portion of what was all His. Imagine! God lets us live in His world and experience His blessings, and all He asks in return is that we return a small portion of what is already His. But, the tenants beat the servant and sent him away empty-handed.
So the Master sent others, but they were mistreated too, one after the other. Finally, He decided to send His own Son: if they would listen to anyone, it would be Him. Instead of obeying, they cast Him out and killed Him. If they had accepted the Son, they would have had mercy. But if they rejected the Son, there is no later messenger of grace. Time is up. The tenants who destroyed His Son will find themselves destroyed, and find the vineyard given to others instead.
In the immediate sense, because the nation of Israel finally rejected Jesus' plea, God offered the Kingdom to the Gentiles. More generally, the wise and the "righteous" of this world are rejected and those who come to Jesus with simple faith are the ones who inherit the Kingdom. When God comes to us, demanding what is rightfully His, do we respond with gratitude or entitlement?
Discussion Idea: Compare the way they treated the servants to the way they treated the Son. Who was treated worse? Why?
Prayer Focus: Thank God for some specific blessings in your life, and ask Him to show you some ways to give a portion of them back to Him.