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

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

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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.

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