NUMBERS 33:40-35:34 | LUKE 5:12-28 | PSALM 65:1-13 | PROVERBS 11:23
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Forty years they have drifted in the wilderness, and now the children of Israel have arrived on the banks of the river Jordan and are preparing to enter it and take possession of the land. This is how the possession and inhabitation of the land first took place, and the Hebrew children who were called Israel established this country of theirs promised to them by God. The boundaries of this country were first defined here by God, and this is the claim that the people of Israel make to this day.
Unfortunately, the same rules don’t apply any more. The Old Covenant had a number of things that are no longer practiced either—things such as stoning by death, and having cities of refuge for those accused of murder. Likewise, driving out the original inhabitants of the land is also a relic of the past that can no longer be enforced in the manner in which it was originally practiced.
That was another day and age in which no compromises were made, and the lines when drawn, were drawn in blood, not sand. Today is another day, but we shall talk about current political affairs in the Middle East another time and in another place. Right now, we have learned of the very first time that the children of Israel cross over the Jordan and possess the “promised land.” The people finally have a land that they will forevermore call home.
And yet, these are a strange people. They don’t seem to recognize a good thing when they see it. However, we do have the benefit of hindsight wherein history shows us how they were conquered and oppressed by the Romans and others, and eventually driven out of their homeland to every corner of the globe. But if we think that they are a strange people, they are perhaps strange in order that God’s greater plan and mission for mankind be accomplished.
Every prophecy regarding them over the course of history has been fulfilled, even in the establishment of the modern state of Israel in 1948. I therefore have no doubt that everything else that has been foretold about this people will also come to pass. This is how it is: the Messiah has come and gone. But he will come again one last time, and he will rule the world for a thousand years and his earthly kingdom will be in Jerusalem.
Get on board, Gentle Reader. The plan includes every person, dead or alive; and each will be aware of this great event when it occurs.
We turn now to our reading in the gospel according to Luke, and learn of Jesus’ ministry among the people. He preaches foremost, but beyond that, he stops to provide relief to the physical pain and suffering of those around him. Miracles, you might call them, these inconceivable acts of healing. Such as the case of the paralytic man whose faith was so great that he allowed himself to be lowered down through an opening in the roof of a house where Jesus was.
Evidently the crowd was so large that this was the only way for him to reach Jesus! And yet, Jesus tells him something completely unexpected: your sins are forgiven, my friend, Jesus says to him.
Notice, there is no atonement made by the man to be granted such forgiveness. And, yes, those learned men and scholars are quick to point this out!
This is only the beginning of the execution of the New Covenant—a covenant that is a one-on-one agreement between an individual and his God, based solely on faith. If the people don’t understand what Jesus means by all this, they soon will.
But in the meantime, Jesus humors them all, and seeing how they aren’t too impressed with what he has just said about the forgiveness of sins for this paralytic man, he goes one step further and tells the man to pick up his mat and walk! How about them miracles, eh? Happy, now? Is this what will make you believe in the kingdom of God? Will this jumpstart your faith in the Almighty?
“We have seen remarkable things today” is what the hoity-toity people say.
And in such a way, Jesus continues with his ministry. Along the way, he recruits another very improbable man for a disciple: Levi, the tax-collector. One of the most despised of all men because of their dishonest and unscrupulous ways, the tax collectors of the day were intensely loathed, and the tax-collecting profession was considered anything but noble.
And yet, Jesus considers this man to be worthy of notice, nay, to go down in history as one of the twelve apostles. If this is Jesus not making a point—a point about how this is a new day, a new era, and a new covenant to come, then I don’t know what he is doing!
The Psalm for the day is one in which David is singing the praises of the Almighty, and he points out the many bounties of nature which he acknowledges to be a gift from God. For an ancient people whose sustenance was dependent on their agricultural prowess, it is a matter of note that these verses are a tribute to the hand of the Almighty in viewing the changes in the seasons as nothing less than a blessing and a gift from God. David says:
9 You care for the land and water it;
you enrich it abundantly.
The streams of God are filled with water
to provide the people with grain,
for so you have ordained it.
10 You drench its furrows
and level its ridges;
you soften it with showers
and bless its crops.
11 You crown the year with your bounty,
and your carts overflow with abundance.
12 The grasslands of the desert overflow;
the hills are clothed with gladness.
13 The meadows are covered with flocks
and the valleys are mantled with grain;
they shout for joy and sing.
Finally, a verse from the Book of Proverbs worthy of record and rumination:
23 The desire of the righteous ends only in good,
but the hope of the wicked only in wrath.
May God bless the reading and reflection of His Word. Amen.