If You Believe, You Will Receive What You Ask for in Prayer

Click Here For Today’s Reading

EXODUS 12:14-13:16 | MATTHEW 20:29-21:22 | PSALM 25:16-22 | PROVERBS 6:12-15

Click on the link below to listen to an audio recording of this post:

430 years.  That is how long the people of Israel had lived in the land of Egypt since the days of Joseph, son of Jacob.  But it was now time to go home. 

And so, the exodus begins.  The account says there were about 600,000 men not counting their wives and children, so the number must have easily been three or four times that.  Led by Moses, the people of Israel have finally been let go by a recalcitrant Pharaoh, and they are now on their way.

So great was this ordeal of gaining their freedom, that God instructs them very carefully on the aspects of observing the Passover to commemorate this liberation from slavery.  The covenant that was made of old is being renewed, and they are soon to see for themselves the “land of milk and honey” promised to their forefathers.  And regarding the celebration of the Passover, they are instructed to observe it each year and to explain to their children the meaning of it. 

God says to them: 14 “In days to come, when your son asks you, ‘What does this mean?’ say to him, ‘With a mighty hand the LORD brought us out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. 15 When Pharaoh stubbornly refused to let us go, the LORD killed every firstborn in Egypt, both man and animal. This is why I sacrifice to the LORD the first male offspring of every womb and redeem each of my firstborn sons.’ 16 And it will be like a sign on your hand and a symbol on your forehead that the LORD brought us out of Egypt with his mighty hand.”

Turning next to our reading in the Book of Matthew, we find the account of Jesus’ last days is fast approaching.  Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem is not on a horse but on a most lowly animal, the donkey.  He is welcomed by the people who put down palm branches in the street, and it is from this incident that the Christian tradition of Palm Sunday is observed — usually four weeks before Easter.

And finally, on another note, we see both a human and divine side to Jesus in the story of the fig tree.  Physical hunger causes Jesus to reach for fruit, but when there is none, it is his divine powers that cause him to curse the tree. 

He says to his disciples, “I tell you the truth, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, ‘Go throw yourself into the sea,’ and it will be done.  If you believe, you will receive what you ask for in prayer.”

Next, we turn to the Psalms, and David’s psalm for the day seems to echo the mood that Jesus finds himself in at present.  Jesus knows the plight that lies in store for him, and yet, the human side within him cries out just like David did:

16 Turn to me and be gracious to me,
   for I am lonely and afflicted.
17 The troubles of my heart have multiplied;
   free me from my anguish.
18 Look upon my affliction and my distress
   and take away all my sins.
19 See how my enemies have increased
   and how fiercely they hate me!
20 Guard my life and rescue me;
   let me not be put to shame,
   for I take refuge in you.
21 May integrity and uprightness protect me,
   because my hope is in you.

Finally, a few verses from the Book of Proverbs, in which Solomon, wise king of Israel, speaks to the fate that awaits a schemer and an evil person:

12 A troublemaker and a villain,
who goes about with a corrupt mouth,
13 who winks maliciously with his eye,
signals with his feet
and motions with his fingers,
14 who plots evil with deceit in his heart—
he always stirs up conflict.
15 Therefore disaster will overtake him in an instant;
he will suddenly be destroyed—without remedy.

May God bless the reading and reflection of His Word.  Amen.

According to Your Love Remember Me, For You Are Good, O Lord

Click Here For Today’s Reading 

EXODUS 10:1-12:13 | MATTHEW 20:1-28 | PSALM 25:1-15 | PROVERBS 6:6-11

Click on the link below to listen to an audio recording of this post:

A plague of locusts and a plague of darkness are the two terrible things to befall the land, but the Pharaoh changes his mind each time the plague has been ended and will not let the people of Israel go.  I suppose all this must have been getting a little old for Moses and Aaron by now, but God then tells them that there is one last thing that is to befall Pharaoh:  the plague of the death of the firstborn. 
In all the land, the firstborn of male and female, even the firstborn of the livestock will come under the shadow of the angel of death, and yet, not a man, woman or child of the Hebrew children will suffer from it.  This is the origin of the festival of Passover for the Jewish people. 
They do just as they are instructed by Moses who is the mouthpiece of God.  They sacrifice the perfect lamb, one for each household, and apply the blood of the lamb on the doorposts of their houses so that the angel of death will not touch them.  That is the sign of life:  the blood of the lamb.  Sound familiar? 

This was the original covenant made by God to the people of Israel to serve as a symbol of life and salvation, and many centuries later, God continues with the very same symbolism in sending his son Jesus Christ to be the perfect sacrifice — and not just for the chosen people of Israel but for all who will believe in the power of the blood of the sacrifice of God himself.Death has no power over those who believe in the saving grace and power of the blood of Christ because just as the blood on the doorposts warded off the Angel of Death — who passed over the houses (thereby giving the event its name) — so also the blood of Jesus Christ has the power to save us from everlasting death. 

We have no perfect lamb to offer, and therefore, God has provided the perfect lamb for us in the person of Jesus who has taken upon himself all of our sin, and in his death and resurrection we have been offered redemption.  We could not save ourselves, which is why God provided the perfect lamb for us:  Himself. 

What a concept!

Turning next to our reading in Matthew, we continue with the account of Jesus’ ministry in his last days.  There is the parable of the workers in the vineyard.  This is a most unique and fascinating story that exemplifies the concept of grace. 

Grace is unfair — we get what we do NOT deserve!  The workers who came last got the same wages as those who toiled all day.  There is justice in paying those what was promised to them — regardless of who else might have been hired after them — but there is sweet grace to those who might not be deserving of a full-days’ wages. 

Such are the mercies of the Almighty — and it is not our place to question or grudge our brother for the grace that is shown to him.  Tomorrow, it might be that we are in his shoes in want of mercy and grace.  Isn’t it comforting to know that the quality of mercy is not strained no matter the person who asks for it, or the time at which it is asked?  It is available to one and all — freely, at that.  All we need do is ask.  Humbly, sincerely, and with a thankful heart.

Finally, in response to a mother’s request to appoint her two sons in high places in Heaven, Jesus gently explains that it is not suitable to want to be the first, because, He says, “…whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— 28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Next, we turn to the Psalms, and find that Psalm 25 is a wonderful psalm of praise.  We see David engaging in intimate conversation with God.  He says:

4 Show me your ways, O LORD,
teach me your paths;
5 guide me in your truth and teach me,
for you are God my Savior,
and my hope is in you all day long.
6 Remember, O LORD, your great mercy and love,
for they are from of old.
7 Remember not the sins of my youth
and my rebellious ways;
according to your love remember me,
   for you are good, O LORD.

Finally, in the readings for the day in Proverbs, Solomon offers an exhortation for industriousness and resourcefulness, and cites the lowly ant to serve as an example:

6 Go to the ant, you sluggard;
consider its ways and be wise!
7 It has no commander,
no overseer or ruler,
8 yet it stores its provisions in summer
and gathers its food at harvest.

May God bless the reading and reflection of His Word.  Amen.

But Many Who Are First Will Be Last, And Many Who Are Last Will Be First

Click Here For Today’s Reading

EXODUS 8:1-9:35 | MATTHEW 19:13-30 | PSALM 24:1-10 | PROVERBS 6:1-5

Click on the link below to listen to an audio recording of this post:

The age of the plagues has come upon the people of Egypt.  Pharaoh does not wish to let Moses lead the people of Israel out of Egypt because they are too valuable to him for all the architectural marvels that are being created in the desert.  He needs them for the grand pyramids, the temples and the palaces, of course.

And so, there is a series of threats and promises — the former by Moses, the latter by Pharaoh.  And insofar as the promises are being broken, the plagues come with a vengeance:  first the frogs, then the gnats, then the flies.  Horrific in every way, but not fatal—at least not yet.  And so, Pharaoh breaks his word as soon as they are gone. 

Then comes death to all the livestock, and more death when the land is afflicted with boils.  And finally, a deathly hailstorm that eventually has Pharaoh on his knees. 

He says to Moses:  This time I have sinned,” he said to them. “The LORD is in the right, and I and my people are in the wrong. 28 Pray to the LORD, for we have had enough thunder and hail. I will let you go; you don’t have to stay any longer.” 

But, that was only a ruse, and Pharaoh soon changes his mind.  It is to be seen how and when the man will relent.

Until then, we’ll turn our attention back to the book of Matthew.  Matthew continues to recount Jesus’ ministry to the people.  We see a glimpse of Jesus’ personality in a moment of repose when he is not busy healing this one or raising that one from the dead.  We see how Jesus’ invites little children to himself, and rebukes his disciples for turning them away from him. 

He says to them:  “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” 

Would that we would remember that!

The story of the rich young man is an interesting one.  How can one so earnest in keeping the Law not be eligible to enter the Kingdom of Heaven?  Jesus speaks to the young man tongue-in-cheek when he tells him that he must keep the Law.  Of course, he knows that this youth has kept every single law there is, and most likely has made a few more along the way and kept those as well.  But when Jesus says to the young man to give up all his riches and follow him, the young man is not able to do that.

So burdened is this young man with all his wealth and possessions that it is impossible for him to give them up even if it is in exchange for a permit into the Kingdom of Heaven!  What was the man thinking?!  Alas, if he only knew that all his riches on earth paled in comparison to those in the Kingdom of Heaven.  And if he only knew that the utmost poverty in the love and service of Almighty God is richer than any earthly possession.

Would that we might be the beneficiaries of this knowledge.  Would that we might be willing to make any sacrifice if we are so asked. 

Jesus says very plainly:  29 And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life. 30 But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first.” 

Next, we turn to the Psalms.  Psalm 24 is a magnificent psalm of praise.  The imagery of God the Almighty who owns everything is a large and looming one, and how trivial it then seems to think that God might have need for any of our small earthly riches.  Did that rich young man actually think God needed any of his wealth?!  This is the God of the universe who is to be welcomed into our lives and hearts in the way in which David proclaims:

7 Lift up your heads, O you gates;
   be lifted up, you ancient doors,
   that the King of glory may come in.
8 Who is this King of glory?
   The LORD strong and mighty,
   the LORD mighty in battle.

Finally, a verse from the Book of Proverbs, in which Solomon, the wise king of Israel is exhorting one to do everything possible to extricate oneself from wrongdoing:

5 Free yourself, like a gazelle from the hand of the hunter,
like a bird from the snare of the fowler.

May God bless the reading and reflection of His Word.  Amen.