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Old Testament: Joshua 19:1-20:9
Cities of Refuge allowed the accused to be free and later they could make their plea.
Joshua 19:1-51 Taken For Granted
Seven tribes had not picked out their land yet. They all sent reps out to the remaining land and brought back reports to Joshua. Joshua distributed what was left by casting lots (Josh. 18:10).
I guess this is why they have websites today for unclaimed money. These tribes were promised an inheritance but dragged their feet claiming it.
Finally, Joshua was given a portion. He let everyone have the best places. He chose the worse. It’s hard to believe that Ulysses S. Grant was destitute in his later years. Mark Twain wrote extensively in his biography about how he helped Grant survive and provide for his family. Yet many churches do not provide at all for their pastors in old age. Perhaps, they are following the example of Israel here. Joshua chose the worst barren area in Israel. No one seemed to notice. McGee states, “Cold blooded business corporations take care of their employees when they retire, but God’s people often fail to do this.”
Joshua 20:1-9 Resort Towns
Actually the Cities of Refuge should be called Last Resort towns. Moses commanded that Israel set up these areas (Num. 21:13; 35:11). Gen. 9:5-6; Lev.. 24:17; Num. 35:16-20 all command capital punishment for murder. The problem occurs when a couple guys are out chopping down trees and an ax head flies off and nails a guy in the head. Then the dead man’s brother starts rumors that the other ax man was considering murder anyway. The innocent party can then flee to a City of Refuge and be safe from his fellow workman’s family. The elders of the town would investigate and if the killer was found guilty of murder, he’d be stoned. If he was innocent, he could live in the town until the high priest died. Then he could go home. He was essentially trading his freedom for his life.
We do the same when we trust Christ. Apparently the way to these cities were clearly marked for the fleeing killer. We are responsible for Christ’s death since we all sinned (Rom. 5:12). But we can flee to our City of Refuge in Christ and be safe through eternity in Him.
Wiersbe points out an illustration based on the names of the six cities in Joshua 20:7-8:
Kedesh = “righteousness”
Shhechem = “shoulder”
Hebron = “fellowship”
Bezer = “fortress”
Ramoth = “heights”
Golan = “exile”
He sees Christ as our “righteousness” who as Shepherd takes us on His “shoulders” so that we can have “fellowship” in Him as a “fortress,” taking us to His “heights” even though we are “exiles” in this world.
What a great picture of what Christ has done for us through His death. The very things we celebrate at this Easter time.
New Testament: Luke 19:28-48
Some in the Temple were crooks without a doubt so eventually Jesus had to kick them out.
Luke 19:28-10 An Old-Fashioned Ticker-tape Parade
I’ve written on the Triumphal Entry already here: An Old-Fashioned Ticker-Tape Parade.
Luke cites Ps. 118:26, a Messianic saying. Matthew cites more OT Scripture because it would have been meaningful to his Jewish readers. Luke is pointing out that Jesus is the Messiah. Jesus is forcing the religious leaders to act. The Lamb must be sacrificed on the Passover. The Jewish leaders want to wait till the people leave town so the crucifixion will not create such a fuss. They try to shush Jesus and His followers but Jesus tells them if the people were quiet, the stones would start proclaiming His Messiahship.
There is a lesson in the Gospel writers each taking a different tact in their presentations. When we reach out to others about the gospel, we should consider their personalities and individuality. The message may be the same but the approach should fit the situation and the people we’re trying to reach.
Luke 19:45-48 Old-fashioned Crooks
I’ve written on the Triumphal Entry already here: An Old-Fashioned Ticker-Tape Parade.
People traveling from all over Israel came to Jerusalem for the Passover celebration. According to the law of Moses, they were allowed to pay for offerings rather than have to herd them all the way across the nation. The money changers, therefore, served a useful purpose. The problem is they set up in the space set up for the Gentiles to come to the Temple and pray and learn about Judaism. That is why Jesus had to drive them out a second time (cf. John 2:12-16 for the first time Jesus chucked out the crooked businessmen). The moneychangers were marking up the value of their money and making an even larger profit than they should have. As Wiersbe says, the Gentile court was for the outsiders to pray but instead they were being preyed upon.
Speaking of crooks, the religious leaders were listening to Jesus, not to learn but build a case against Him to have Him destroyed.
Psalm 88:1-18 A Lament By Heman
Heman was extremely sad, he thought everything about life was bad.
Psalm 88:1-18 My Hero
Psalm 88 is acknowledged to be the saddest psalm in the Psalter. You’ve been warned. It was written by Heman. And I know your response. Which Heman? Heman, the son of Joel, who was a temple musician during the reign of David (1 Chron. 6:33, 37; 15:17; 16:41–42; 2 Chron. 35:15) or Heman, the son of Mahol, a wise one during the reign of King Solomon (1 Kings 4:31; 1 Chron. 15:19; 16:41-42; 25:1, 6)? My answer is I don’t know and neither does anyone else, I don’t think. But it was Heman, who if he suffered as bad as he says he did, he was a quite a “he” man because he survived. He is a model to us of courage and perseverance.
McGee calls this psalm, “It is the darkest wail of woe in the Book of Psalms.” It begins with a statement that he, Heman, has “cried out by day and in the night” (v. 1). I hope whenever we are in great pain that we go to the Lord with such earnestness. That is the kind of prayer the Lord hears (v. 2, cf. James 5:17-18).
Heman had been close to death (vv. 3-6, “Sheol,” holding tank of the dead in the OT). Jonah felt the same way as Heman when he was in the great fish (cf. Jonah 2:1-6).
Heman thought he was bearing God’s wrath (v. 7). Don’t we usually feel that way when we are down? We must have done something to incur God’s anger (cf. v. 16a). But that’s not always the case. And isn’t it always the case that when we are most depressed, we feel like we don’t have any friends (v. 8, cf. entire book of Job, Job and his “friends,”Ps. 38:11; 41:9; 55:13 ).
Heman is so depressed that he can’t even see straight (v. 9). But just like Jonah, he turned to the Lord in his distress (v. 9c). Do you?
David made the same appeal to God as did Heman in verse 10 (cf. Ps. 6:5, 30:9). The dead can’t praise God, so why not let me live? Good logic. Heman wouldn’t be able to show forth God’s glory from the pit (vv. 11-12). Abaddon is “the place of destruction.” The word comes from a root meaning of “to perish,” or “to die.” No one would want to end up there. It is death on steroids. Can you really put death on steroids? If you could, it would be Abaddon. Siri keeps trying to change Abaddon to Abandon. Maybe she’s on to something.
Heman is diligent in prayer. He prays first thing when he arises (v. 13). Siri keeps trying to change the name Heman to Human. Maybe she’s on to something again. Has Siri ever done a Bible commentary?
Heman feels rejected by God and it is like God has turned His face away from him (v. 14). Someone has coined an expression for that feeling, “The Heavens are like brass.” Well, it was Moses actually (cf. Deut. 28:23).
Heman already feels like he has been “destroyed” (v. 16b). He feels already like he is in Abaddon. He has been sick for a long time, ever since his youth (v. 15). He’s felt like he was going to die and had suffered God’s “terrors.” I have felt “overcome.” Billy Graham said that he liked to read the psalms because no matter how bad he felt, it seemed the psalmist felt worse. Are you cheered by this psalm for the same reasons? I am.
Water in Scripture is often symbolic of chaos. Heman can’t make sense of his life. It’s like chaos has washed over him and swallowed him up (v. 17). That is the time we really need to cling to the promises of Scripture in faith!
Heman feels like he has no friends at all. I believe God sometimes can remove everything from us that would get between us and Him, even our closest friends or even family members (cf. Ps. 41:9, Matt. 12:46-50). He is a jealous God (cf. Exod. 20:5; 34:14). He wants you all to Himself.
Heman closes with the word “darkness” as in the NASB. Perhaps, NIV is correct in rendering the last line, “darkness is my closest friend.” Did Simon and Garfunkel steal this, “Hello, darkness my old friend.” They may have. Have you ever felt like everything and everyone around you is darkness? That is called a “Dark Night of the Soul” by medieval mystics. I experienced years of this kind of darkness. It is a time to prove to God that you can trust Him by faith alone. After all, Jesus is the One who said to Doubting Thomas, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29, also see 1 Pet. 1:8).
Are you like those who just mope like Eeyore? Or can you believe in the midst of pain and suffering and darkness like Heman (see Flying On Instruments)?
Many only see misery in this poem. I find it to be heartening. Heman is truly a he-man (compare him to Samson, e.g. Judg. 14-16). He is my hero, an example of perseverance in the face of extreme suffering. He is a model for all of us. Being a Christian is not always a bed of roses or a bowl of strawberries. I believe those who are suffering with the Lord’s approval can find much solace and encouragement in this psalm (cf. 1 Pet. 3:17; 4:19; 5:10).
It is always best on God to wait, then everything afterward will be great.
If you are trusting God for something and waiting and waiting, it can make you feel sick (v. 12a, cf. Ps. 25:5; 62:1, 5; 69:3, 6). But remember that there is often a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow (v. 12b) that will make you feel alive again (cf. Ps. 1:1-3; John 10:10). Keep trusting Him with all your heart and He will show you what to do (cf. Prov. 3:5-6).
I sometimes get Siri to read J. Vernon McGee’s commentaries to me. She has less of an accent. But she pronounces “ignorance” as “ig-norance.” It changes the meaning. (She is a genius.) If you ignore the Word, you will be judged by it (cf. John 12:48). But if we are truly disciples, we will study and apply the Scripture (cf. John 8:31-32). The end result will be rewards at the Bema Seat Judgment (v. 13b, cf. Rom. 14:10, 1 Cor. 3:10-15, 2 Cor. 5:10, Bema Me Up Scotty!).
Those who know the Bible and teach it, being subservient to the Holy Spirit, will be “a fountain of life” to their hearers (v. 14a). Conversely, if you are teaching and people aren’t being blessed, you should go back to the drawing board and see what you’re doing wrong. Blessing can also amount to ticking off people who don’t want to hear the Word, by the way.
True Bible teachers lead others to eternal life as well as a deeper spiritual life on earth. Those who “ignore” them will end up in eternal death. There is no middle ground. We are all immortal. The difference is our destination and the kind of rewards we receive.
Scripture: Luke 19:31 NASB “A Colt Fan”
“‘If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ you shall say, ‘The Lord has need of it.’” Luke 19:31
As a pastor, this is a great perk. If I ever need anything, a car for instance, I just go the dealer and tell them, “The Lord has need of it.” It works like a charm. Never had any problems. Oh, wait. No, that’s not right. I’ve never been able to do things that way.
However, I have used promises like this one, “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matt. 6:33). If I’m ministering faithfully and doing God’s will I think I can trust Him for that one.
Here’s another, “And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4: 19). Of course, that promise was in the context of the Philippian church stretching to give God whatever they could for His work. So I usually feel like I can trust Him for that one, too.
What are needing to do God’s will today? Is there a promise you can claim that indicates God will supply your needs?
If you can, you will find that you are choosing life (Deut. 30:19)!
Many Promise books have verses listed for all kinds of things. They always have a section on verses that promise provision. Here’s one one for example, God’s Promises For Your Every Need. You can find others. Check out some others to find the verses you need.
The purpose of the “Choose Life” is to pick a positive help out of the One Year Bible (OYB) reading plan for the day. There is always something positive in the Word of God to cheer us and give us strength. For more on today’s reading, check out my One Year Bible blog: Taken For Granted